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Events: (Note that this is not the preferable method of finding events because not all events have been assigned topics yet)
The Times of London uses the recently released intelligence “dossier” from British intelligence (see September 24, 2002) to report that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has sent agents into Africa to find uranium for Iraqi nuclear weapons. The Times does not inform its readers that many British journalists were shown evidence contradicting the British intelligence claims (see September 24, 2002). It focuses on the dossier’s claim that Iraqi “agents” have secretly visited several African countries in search of uranium. Thirteen African nations produce uranium to one extent or another. A Whitehall source tells The Times that while Hussein may have attempted to find African uranium, those alleged efforts were unsuccessful. “If Iraq had succeeded in buying uranium from Africa, the dossier would have said so,” the source says. The Times reports that Iraq attempted to purchase uranium from, among other sources, the Democratic Republic of Congo, though at least part of that nation’s uranium mines are currently under the control of troops from Zimbabwe. The dossier does not specify any other countries that may have been contacted by Iraq. The Times also repeats the dossier’s claim that Iraq has biological and chemical weapons that can be launched against targets in as little as 45 minutes (see Late May 2003, August 16, 2003, December 7, 2003, January 27, 2004, and October 13, 2004), that Iraq is developing missiles with ranges of 600 miles (see January 9, 2003, January 16, 2003, February 27, 2003, March 7, 2003, and June 2004), and that Hussein may have given his son Qusay the power to order the use of those weapons. It also reports that the dossier specifically downplays suspected links between Iraq and radical Islamist groups such as al-Qaeda. Hussein has little sympathy for Islamist fundamentalists, The Times reports. [London Times, 9/25/2002]
Incoming Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, during her confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, calls North Korea one of the world’s six “outposts of tyranny.” (The others are Cuba, Myanmar—which Rice identifies by its old name of Burma—Iran, Belarus, and Zimbabwe.) In 2008, author J. Peter Scoblic will cite Rice’s characterization as another example of overheated Bush administration rhetoric that makes it all the more difficult to negotiate with the obstinate North Koreans over their nuclear program (see August 2003). [US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 1/18/2005 ; BBC, 12/2007; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 243]
On July 28, the Los Angeles Times is the first to report that Haroon Rashid Aswat, the alleged mastermind of the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), was arrested in the African country of Zambia about a week earlier. He is said to have been arrested while trying to enter Zambia from the neighboring country of Zimbabwe. Aswat is a British citizen but is wanted in the US on charges of setting up a training camp there. US and British officials vie to extradite him; Zambia soon announces they will extradite him to Britain. [Los Angeles Times, 7/28/2005; London Times, 7/29/2005]
Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen implictly advocates the assassination of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe. Cohen details the crimes that Mugabe and his cohorts have committed against his political opponents as well as the people of Zimbabwe, and says the US should “have a Predator drone circle over Robert Mugabe’s luxurious villa until this monster of a dictator who has brought such misery to Zimbabwe runs screaming from his home and into the arms of his own people. What happens after that is none of my business.” No nation, nor any international organizations, seem willing to do anything about Mugabe except criticize his harsh treatment of his people, Cohen writes. “[T]he man’s a thug, and thugs should be dealt with,” he writes. “[Secretary of State] Condi Rice routinely condemns Mugabe. Much of the rest of the world does, too. Yet he persists, using his security forces and the wise dispersion of graft to remain in power. The example of Iraq forbids the United States to act. We are all realists now. Our grand cause is to have none at all. Still, a single Predator could do wonders. At the very least, it would lift the shame.” [Washington Post, 12/9/2008; Foreign Policy, 10/22/2010] Shortly after Cohen’s editorial, a progressive human rights advocate calls for the US to overthrow Mugabe’s regime by military force (see January 16, 2009).
Robert Mugabe. [Source: Desmond Kwande / AFP / Getty Images]Former US diplomat and current human rights advocate John Prendergast calls for the US to oust the dictator of Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe, either by international isolation or by military force. Prendergast’s column in the Christian Science Monitor follows an earlier op-ed in the Washington Post calling for the US assassination of Mugabe (see December 9, 2008). Prendergast, who has worked in Zimbabwe to alleviate the suffering of its people, details Mugabe’s crimes against his populace, then details the advantages of each of his recommended strategies. International isolation—including other nations closing their borders with Zimbabwe and sanctioning Mugabe and other officials—is a dangerous tactic, as it might precipitate the starvation of millions of citizens. Prendergast harks back to 1979, when Tanzania intervened to overthrow the murderous regime of Uganda’s Idi Amin; to 1997, when a coalition of nations supported the rebel overthrow of Congo’s Mobute Sese Seko; and to 2003, when an international effort forced Liberia’s Charles Taylor out of office. “[T]he time has come for neighboring governments to expedite Mugabe’s departure,” Prendergast writes. “[T]he international community should not delay putting the wheels in motion to oust Mugabe. It will probably be messy in the short run and not without unintended consequences. But the status quo will guarantee that any hope for Zimbabwe—and huge numbers of its people—will eventually cease to exist.” [Christian Science Monitor, 1/16/2009; Foreign Policy, 10/22/2010]
UN Human Rights Council logo. [Source: China Human Rights Net]The Obama administration announces that the US will seek a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. The Bush administration had chosen not to participate in the council, saying that it would not countenance the influence of nations who repress their populations. “Human rights are an essential element of American global foreign policy,” says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “With others, we will engage in the work of improving the UN human rights system.… We believe every nation must live by and help shape global rules that ensure people enjoy the right to live freely and participate fully in their societies.” Elections for three seats on the 47-member council will take place in May. The other countries on the ballot are Belgium and Norway. New Zealand agreed to withdraw from the ballot in favor of the US candidacy; New Zealand’s Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, explained, “Frankly, by any objective measure, membership of the council by the US is more likely to create positive changes more quickly than we could have hoped to achieve them.” A human rights advocate tells the Washington Post: “This is a welcome step that gives the United States and other defenders of human rights a fighting chance to make the institution more effective. I think everybody is just desperate to have the United States and Barack Obama run for the human rights council, and countries are willing to bend over backward to make that happen.” Human rights activists have pressured the US to join the council since its inception in March 2006. The council took the place of the UN’s Human Rights Commission, which lost credibility when it allowed nations such as Sudan and Zimbabwe to join and thus thwart criticism of their treatment of their citizens. Bush officials had refused to join the new body, saying that they did not believe the new organization represented any improvement over its predecessor. Then-US ambassador to the UN John Bolton explained that the US would have more “leverage in terms of the performance of the new council” by not participating in it and thus signaling a rejection of “business as usual.” Bolton says of the Obama administration’s decision: “This is like getting on board the Titanic after it’s hit the iceberg. This is the theology of engagement at work. There is no concrete American interest served by this, and it legitimizes something that doesn’t deserve legitimacy.” Obama officials concede that the council has failed to do its job adequately, and focused too much on abuse allegations by Israel to the exclusion of allegations against nations such as Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Sri Lanka. US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice says: “Those who suffer from abuse and oppression around the world, as well as those who dedicate their lives to advancing human rights, need the council to be balanced and credible.” The US intends to join the council “because we believe that working from within, we can make the council a more effective forum to promote and protect human rights.” [Washington Post, 3/31/2009]
The US spends more than any other nation in the world on health care, but ranks only 50th among 224 nations in life expectancy, according to the 2009 CIA World Factbook. Experts say that this fact could raise serious questions in the debate over health care reform. Americans have an average life span of 78.1 years; the populations of 49 other nations live longer, on average. Japan is first in life expectancy, at 83 years; Australia, Iceland, Italy, San Marino, Switzerland, Andorra, Canada, and France round out the top 10 countries. Other countries, such as Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Singapore, Greece, Spain, and Portugal also do better than the US in life expectancy. The bottom 10 nations are, in reverse order, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Zambia, Chad, Uganda, Swaziland, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau, with life spans ranging from averages of 41 to 48 years. Some experts note that the US is the only developed nation to have a virtually completely privatized health care system. “What we are able to find in the industrialized world is that life expectancy will be influenced in a beneficial manner to the extent that health care expenditure is publicly financed,” says public health professor Harvey Brenner. “The higher the government expenditure on health care, the lower will be the mortality rate.” A study from the University of Chicago shows that a single-payer system—government-run health care—may be associated with higher life expectancy. The governments of such nations as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, and Canada have government-run health care, and their citizens have some of the longest life spans in the world. The author of the study, Bianca Frogner, writes: “Inevitably the conversation about reforming our health care system focuses on the question of what are we getting for our money and how are others doing with their health care dollars. Life expectancy, along with mortality and morbidity rates, are fairly straightforward numbers to rely on.” Other comparisons show that Scandinavian and other European countries have lower birth mortality numbers than the US, though babies born with abnormally low birth weights tend to fare better in the US system than in the Scandinavian systems. [CNN, 6/11/2009]
The Guardian publishes a US diplomatic cable about the situation in Zimbabwe. [Guardian, 12/8/2010; Atlantic Monthly, 12/28/2010] The newspaper obtained the cable, dated December 24, 2009, from the whistleblower organization Wikileaks. The text, drafted by the US embassy in Harare for the State Department in Washington, is based on a conversation with Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and relates attempts by forces opposed to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to ease him out of power. Tsvangirai complains about Mugabe dragging his feet over the implementation of agreements, admits that “his public statements calling for easing of sanctions” have come into conflict with “his private conversations saying they must be kept in place,” and observes that Mugabe “appears old and very tired.” The Guardian appears to think this last quote is the most interesting, as it is highlighted in yellow in the text of the cable and is also incorporated into the headline. [Guardian, 12/8/2010]
Wikileaks publishes a leaked US cable about the situation in Zimbabwe that will later become the subject of controversy. The cable is first published in the form of a bit torrent file and then on the organization’s website. Approximately one hour before Wikileaks publishes the cable, it had been published by The Guardian (see 9:30 p.m. December 8, 2010). [Atlantic Monthly, 12/28/2010]
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