BBC Tactics in Covering North Korea Are Faulted


By 
Published: April 14, 2013, NYT
BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place at the ...

BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place at the head of Regent Street, London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As tensions escalated between North Korea and the world late last month, a small group of students from the prestigious London School of Economics crossed the border into the reclusive country for what was described by organizers as a government-sanctioned “week of sight seeing, meeting with ministers, government officials” and academics.

 But among the students, the university announced in an outraged statement over the weekend, were three BBC journalists filming an undercover documentary. The BBC, the university said, “deliberately misled” the group to underplay the scope of the reporting, placed the students in danger and jeopardized its work in politically fraught nations. It demanded that the BBC pull the film, set for broadcast on Monday, and issue an apology.

The BBC declined, saying that the documentary on a country so few people understand was in the public interest. And in a statement released Sunday, the BBC disputed the university’s account. It said the students had been told that a journalist would be present “and were reminded of it again, in time to have been able to change their plans if they wanted to.”

But the BBC, which the university says actually sent three journalists, also later acknowledged that it had not told the students of the nature of the documentary, in what it characterized as a bid to keep them safe if the journalists were found out and the students were questioned about what they knew.

Although at least some tourists are now allowed into the police state, reporters need government permission to work there and are assigned minders. In 2009 two American journalists, Laura Ling, then 32, and Euna Lee, then 36, were arrested and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor after being accused of illegally entering North Korean territory while researching a report on women and human trafficking. They were spared the prospect of years in a brutal gulag when former President Bill Clinton flew to Pyongyang and negotiated their release four months later.

Alex Peters-Day, the lead student representative for the university, said Sunday that students had received e-mails from the North Korean government on their return saying that it had learned that reporters were with the group and was very angry. Ms. Peters-Day disputed the BBC version of events, saying the students had not been given enough information to give informed consent.

Craig Calhoun, the university’s director, said in a post on Twitter that the trip “was not an official LSE trip.” He said the BBC had essentially recruited some students in a university-affiliated student international relations group, the Grimshaw Club, and had “passed it off” as a student trip.

Ms. Peters-Day said that students had received an e-mail suggesting the trip from one of the BBC journalists, Tomiko Sweeney, who is married to the lead reporter on the documentary, John Sweeney, and is a former LSE student. Mr. Sweeney did not respond to a message left on his cellphone, but said, in a BBC radio interview and on Twitter that he disputed the school’s allegations. There was no answer at a London number listed for the couple.

Ceri Thomas, the BBC’s head of news, said Sunday that though the trip had been organized by Mr. Sweeney’s wife, it “was going to happen before the BBC got involved.” The students were warned of the dangers in two meetings in London and again in Beijing, he said. “The only people we deceived,” he said of the documentary, “was the North Korean government. And if the students were in on that deception they were in a worse position.”

The public interest argument for the documentary was “overwhelming,” Mr. Thomas said. North Korea is “a country that is hidden from view, where we suspect that brutal things are happening, one of the most oppressive regimes on the planet which is threatening nuclear war in the Korean Peninsula.”

The standoff marks the second time this year that the world’s delicate diplomatic dance with North Korea over its escalating nuclear threats has been disturbed by a television crew. In late February, the magazine Vice sent the former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman to Pyongyang to meet the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, an avid basketball fan, for a documentary series it is producing in collaboration with HBO.

That heavily covered visit, after the country’s latest nuclear test in defiance of world powers, allowed the young Mr. Kim to present himself — at least to his people — as someone who is respected outside his country.
The BBC’s Mr. Sweeney is a veteran television reporter famed for his tangles with the Church of Scientology. The North Korean guides, the university said, called him “professor.”

The documentary, titled “North Korea Undercover” and part of the BBC’s flagship Panorama series, shows a “landscape bleak beyond words, a people brainwashed for three generations and a regime happy to give the impression of marching towards Armageddon,” according to the BBC’s Web site. Unlike Mr. Rodman, Mr. Sweeney appears not to have gained access to the North Korean inner circle.

Stephen J. A. Ward, director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, expressed surprise that the BBC had chosen to report the story as it did, though he acknowledged that undercover journalism is a widely accepted practice in Britain. “You have to be able to say ‘there is no other way we can get this story,’ and that you’re not putting other people in danger,” he said.

The Associated Press has had a bureau in Pyongyang since 2012.

Universities UK, a body that represents British universities, criticized the BBC on Sunday.

“The way that this BBC investigation was conducted might not only have put students’ safety at risk,” Nicola Dandridge, the group’s chief executive, told reporters, “but may also have damaged our universities’ reputations overseas.”

Late last year, the BBC’s ethical standards were questioned when it emerged that one of its presenters, Jimmy Savile, had faced accusations of sexual abuse spanning his long career. The BBC had declined to broadcast a news investigation into the accusations, but did broadcast two glowing tributes to Mr. Savile after his death in 2011.

The London School of Economics became embroiled in difficulties of its own with an oppressive regime when it emerged in 2011 that it had close links with the government of Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, including accepting training contracts worth millions and a donation from the dictator’s son Seif al-Islam Qaddafi. It eventually diverted the money to a scholarship fund for North African students.

#Meghalaya Gangrape – A cry in the dark #Vaw


Esha Roy : Sun Apr 07 2013,  IE
The Sunday StoryThe victim’s closest friend Rabolin, who was with her when she was attacked
She was gangraped by 16 boys, nine of them juveniles. She was beaten, cut up and her genitals mutilated. She made it to hospital, but was sent home with first-aid. When she survived to fight, she ran into an indifferent administration and influential accused. Schools denied her admission, and others mocked and threatened her.Chances are you haven’t heard this 16-year-old’s story. Three days after the brutal attack on her, the Delhi bus gangrape would happen, and a grieving nation’s conscience would not find time or space for this distant town in remote Meghalaya.***

It was a dark, moonless night on December 13, 2012, in Williamnagar in East Garo Hills district. Most of the houses in the town were empty as people had gathered for the annual winter ‘Simsang’ festival. Like every year, the star attraction was a fashion show-cum-beauty pageant. That evening, among the jostling audience of youngsters were three teenage girls. They were excited, having convinced family members to let them go without male relatives.

Rabolin K Sangma, 16, says it was she who had convinced the other two, her closest friends, to come along. “We weren’t really interested in the festival. But I had to see the fashion show,” she says.

They left at 8.30 pm, before the show had ended. Fog had crept in by then and turned the trees on the isolated stretch they took past the Sacred Heart Church to soft shadows.

They had walked just a short while when they saw a group of boys coming towards them. “They were behaving strangely. I thought, this is not okay… but I didn’t say anything,” says Rabolin. Seconds later, the boys charged at them. “We started running and turned into a narrow lane. We cried for help,” Rabolin says.

One of her friends, also her cousin and neighbour, fell down and got left behind. “She got up but the boys had by then started pelting stones. One hit her and she fell down again. When they got her, they stopped chasing us. We hid inside a garage for hours. We heard her screaming but we were too scared to go back.”

***

Sixteen boys are believed to have proceeded to rape the victim, nine of whom were minors. The victim can’t say as she blacked out. The oldest of the rape accused is 19 years old, the youngest 12. Six are 18.

Defence counsel M L Thangal admits some of them participated directly in the assault, but adds others “just hung around to watch it”. “According to the FIR and the statement of the victim, the leader was 19-year-old Laston Marak, who told the others what to do. Laston was the victim’s brother’s friend but apparently did not recognise her. She was pinned to the ground, kicked and hit. They tore off her T-shirt and started knifing her through her jeans, only later taking it off. The victim remembers the first three boys who raped her, after which she lost consciousness,” says Thangal.

When she stopped responding, the boys stuck a knife into her vagina repeatedly to get her to react.

The victim regained consciousness at some point and realised she was lying naked. Laston allegedly started to rape her again, at which point she called out his name and asked him why he was doing it. “When she said his name, he asked, ‘Who are you?’. She told him and he realised he knew her brother. By then, there was just Laston and another boy there. They helped her put on her jeans and gave her a T-shirt and they dropped her back home,” says Thangal.

Meanwhile, as an eerie quiet fell again over the lane, the victim’s friends came out of hiding and stopped a biker for help. “He took us to the spot but by then she had disappeared and so had the boys. He then dropped us home,” says Rabolin.

***

All 16 accused have since been arrested and booked for rape, “common intention” and criminal conspiracy. On April 3, the trial commenced in a fast-track court with the examination of five witnesses. Interestingly, the police are not showing the FIR to anyone, including the victim’s family.

What has since emerged about the accused’s alleged behaviour has only added to the shock. According to the police, like the girls, the accused were present at Simsang. At the festival, they attacked a schoolteacher (no one knows why) and were carrying him to throw him into the nearby Simsang river when they spotted the victim and her friends. As they got distracted, the teacher fled. He was present at the hospital when the victim’s family brought her there later that night. He told the family about the attackers. The teacher has since disappeared.

The hospital medical report lists injuries on her neck, face and back as well as cigarette burns on her right hand. Her vagina had been mutilated. However, the attending doctor, says the family, just gave the victim an i-pill, eight stitches, some first-aid, a few painkillers, and sent her home.

The next day, a women’s rights activist, Jaynie N Sangma, took the victim back to the hospital. She would remain there for two weeks.

“She hadn’t been eating or drinking and couldn’t pass urine. I asked the doctor why she hadn’t been admitted and she said she had administered first aid. Initially, even the administration took the incident lightly and only after we held protests did they take up the case,” says Jaynie.

When the victim’s mother, who stays in Rongongre village, heard what had happened, she fainted. “I couldn’t recognise my own daughter. Her body was swollen. I asked what had happened to her. She started crying.”

“I expect to get 100 per cent conviction,” says public prosecutor P L Sebastian.

***

The victim has since moved out of Williamnagar. She had left her parents’ home in Rongongre, on the other side of the Simsang river, to attend school in the town, staying with her married older sister and her in-laws. A Class IX student, she had failed her final examinations and was looking to switch schools.

Rabolin prefers that her friend keep away. “One day in February, the two of us had gone to the market and the family of one of the accused started abusing her. Another day, the sister of another of the accused took her photo,” says Rabolin.

“When I realised the danger to her and us, I asked Jaynie to take her to Tura. One of the accused’s father is a surrendered militant and had threatened to take up arms again,” says the victim’s mother.

Jaynie took the girl to her home in Tura. “After several weeks, child protection officers came and took her away,” she says.

***

On March 25, the State Women’s Commission took up the case and took the girl into “protective custody”. Member Gamchi Tamre insists the commission acted for “the girl’s own protection” and to ensure her identity wasn’t exposed. “I couldn’t go the day of the incident, but I went as soon as possible,” Tamre says.

However, even the victim’s mother found it difficult to meet her in the commission’s custody. “I went to the shelter but after I had waited four hours, they told me I couldn’t meet her… I was never allowed to meet her alone,” she says.

The mother also claims that Tamre warned her that should she take the girl out of their custody, the government would not support the family. “I am a vegetable vendor and my husband doesn’t work. What option did we have?” she says.

Women’s groups say the reason for the commission’s actions was that one of the accused—a juvenile—is the nephew of Williamnagar MLA and Cabinet Minister for Social Welfare and Justice in the Meghalaya government Deborah Marak.

Asked who the Women’s Commission reports to, Tamre says, “We are a branch of the National Commission for Women… but we report to the social welfare department.”

***

On March 28, after much pressure, the victim was brought to Tura and allowed a five-minute interaction with a woman activist from Shillong, Agnes Kharsiing, and this journalist. “You can see she’s doing fine,” Women’s Commission member Angela Ingty said, ruling out any questions for the victim. “What is the need for talking?”

The victim was accompanied by three women protection officers. Her head covered with a dupatta, she sat huddled in a chair in a guesthouse in Tura, eyes downcast.

Looking small and frail, she said she was okay. “I like going to school. My favourite subject used to be science and I wanted to grow up to be a doctor,” she added nervously. She only looked up once and broke into a smile when she was told that Kharsiing had come from Shillong to meet her.

However, at least three schools in Tura refused to take her. “The headmaster of the Garo Union School said since she was an undertrial, they could not accept her. How can she be an undertrial when she is the victim?” says Jaynie. The headmaster, Stanley Momen, told The Sunday Express admissions in the school had finished by the time they were approached. “Why is everyone targeting me?” he said. “We are a semi-government school. There are government schools which these people should approach—this is a government matter. There is no question of admission in my school.”

***

After a PIL was filed alleging sloppy handling of the case, the girl was taken out of the protection of the Women’s Commission and handed over to the care of East Garo Hills District Commissioner V K Mantri on March 31. Mantri organised for the victim to attend school in Williamnagar.

The victim’s parents, however, felt she wouldn’t be safe in the town. They handed her over to a women’s group. On April 5, the girl finally got school admission with the help of the Garo Students’ Union. For her safety, it is not being revealed where.

***

At Williamnagar, the lane where the rape occurred remains isolated. Moss-covered walls block it from view of both the huts on the left and the government colony on the right.

At her sister’s home, the mother remembers the things her 16-year-old liked. “She is a good girl. She loved cooking, especially dried fish. In the evenings, she would watch Hindi serials on television. She wouldn’t understand the language but she loved them. She also liked dressing up and would save up to buy new clothes.”

Now, she adds, “I want her to study hard, get a job, become independent. There is no other future for her.”

She demands that the culprits be jailed for life and that Laston be hanged. “I have watched him and another accused grow up. They were my younger son’s friends. My eldest son warned me about them. They were the town goondas… I can’t believe that this is the guy who used to accompany my son on his fishing trips.”

Life has changed for Rabolin too. “I have gone out only a couple of times (since the incident), but I never leave home after sundown,” she says.

Talking about her friend, Rabolin says: “She never talked about it… withdrew into herself. Only once she told me, ‘I should have died on that very spot. I should have died right then and there’.”

At her sister’s home, one part of the victim’s past has already been erased. The bedroom that she used has been converted into a kitchen. Two tables with gleaming steel pitchers and a stove stand where her bed once was.

THE ACCUSED

* The oldest, 19-year-old Laston Marak, is alleged to have been the ringleader, instigating the boys to commit the crime.

* He and co-accused Patrick Sangma, 18, were her brother’s friends.

* Five other accused are 18, including Platon Marak, Chengchow Sangma, Rikrak Sangma, Kisen Marak and Chingkam Marak.

* Of the nine juvenile accused, the youngest is 12.

* The gang was known to get into streetfights and rob truck drivers and shopkeepers.

In 2012,

Meghalaya saw 158 rapes

6 were gangrapes

 

North Korea 101: Are We Really Primed for War?


Salon,  By Tim shorrock, Alternet

America’s current policy toward North Korea is an utter failure — here’s how we got here.

We all know it’s a crisis. Every night this week, NBC, CBS and every other media outlet in the country have led their evening newscasts with increasingly grim news out of Korea.

It’s gone like this. A state of war has been declared between North Korea and the United States by Kim Jong-un, the North’s 27-year-old hereditary dictator. North Korea has battle plans to attack Washington and other U.S. cities, including, of all places, Austin, Texas, with atomic weapons. The Kaesong Industrial Zone, the last demonstration of North and South Korean cooperation just above the DMZ, has been temporarily shut down after the North refused entry to South Koreans who work there. Pyongyang has threatened to restart its Yongbyon nuclear power plant, mothballed since 2007 under a nuclear proliferation agreement with Washington and other regional powers, and begin producing bomb-ready plutonium again. And on Thursday, North Korea was allegedly moving missiles to its east coast facing Japan.

The sense of hysteria and impending doom has been magnified by the Obama administration and the Pentagon. In a show of force not seen in East Asia for decades, the United States, as part of a series of war games with South Korea, dispatched B-52 and stealth B-2 bombers capable of devastating nuclear and tactical strikes screaming across Korean skies. F-22 warplanes, perhaps the most advanced in the U.S. arsenal, are there too, along with two guided-missile destroyers. A new THAAD portable missile defense system is being deployed to nearby Guam as a “precautionary” measure against possible North Korean missile strikes, and plans are underway for a massive expansion in U.S. missile defense systems in Alaska and the West Coast. Meanwhile, U.S. and South Korean troops practice simulated nuclear attacks and even regime change in their massive military drills, which both governments described as “defensive.”

The rhetoric has ratcheted up too – to alarming levels. “We formally inform the White House and Pentagon that the ever-escalating U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK and its reckless nuclear threat will be smashed” by “cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means of the DPRK,” a spokesman for the Korean Peoples’ Army (KPA) declared this week, using the formal name for the North – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel responded in kind, calling the DPRK a “real and clear danger and threat” to the United States and its allies. “They have nuclear capacity now,” he added. “They have missile delivery capacity now.”

And then, out of the blue, President Obama and his military leaders came out on Thursday and sought to calm the waters – and the skies. “The White House is dialing back the aggressive posture amid fears that it could inadvertently trigger an even deeper crisis,” the Wall Street Journal reported in Thursday’s editions. It quoted a “senior administration official” explaining that the concern was “that we were heightening the prospect of misperceptions on the part of the North Koreans, and that that could lead to miscalculations.” U.S. officials, the Journal added, didn’t believe the DPRK had “any imminent plans to take military action.”

What the hell is going on? Are we really as close to war as this sounds? Why all the buildup if North Korea was bluffing? What’s up with the “dialing back” of U.S. forces? And what brought us to this point?

Before getting to those questions, everybody should take a deep breath. First, as anyone familiar with North Korea knows, any attack by the DPRK on the U.S. or its allies would be suicide for the country of 30 million: It would be met by a relentless counterattack by the most powerful military force the world has ever seen. Threats sound ominous, but at this point that’s all they seem to be: threats, designed to trigger a response in Washington that, in the mind of Kim and his military advisers, might lead to direct talks. (Remember his plaintive request to Dennis Rodman? “Obama should call me.”)

Second, contrary to Hagel’s assertion about DPRK’s nuclear and missile capabilities, there is no evidence that North Korea has the means to lob a nuclear-armed missile at the United States or anyone else. So far, it has produced several atomic bombs and tested them, but it lacks the fuel and the technology to miniaturize a nuke and place it on a missile (many of which have failed in tests anyway). North Korea’s problems in this area were clarified this week by Siegfried Hecker, one of America’s preeminent nuclear scientists, who has been invited to visit the DPRK’s nuclear facilities several times.

“Despite its recent threats, North Korea does not yet have much of a nuclear arsenal because it lacks fissile materials and has limited nuclear testing experience,” Hecker said this week on a website run by Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, according to the Associated Press. And whatever U.S. intelligence knows about the actual capabilities of North Korea – which is more closely watched by U.S. spy satellites and planes than any country on earth – is highly classified.

Beyond that, the answers to our questions about the current situation lie deep in the history of U.S. involvement in Korea, which dates back to 1945 and the terrible war that engulfed the peninsula from 1950 to 1953. That war, in which over 3 million Koreans and some 60,000 Americans were killed, ended in an armistice, not a peace agreement (signed, incidentally, by the United States and the DPRK). North Korea also remembers it as a hellish time when the U.S. Air Force bombed the country into cinders – literally.

But for now, let’s go back just a few years. We’ll start in the waning days of the Clinton administration.

It’s hard to believe today, but in 2000, Kim Jong-il, dispatched his second-in-command, Vice Marshal Jo Myong-rok, to Washington. There, Jo met in the White House with President Clinton as well as the secretaries of State and Defense. At that time, Clinton officials later said, the United States and the DPRK were on the verge of an agreement in which North Korea was going to end its missile production and testing program in return for guarantees from Washington that the United States would recognize the DPRK and respect its sovereignity. Those talks grew out of Clinton’s 1994 accord with Kim Il-sung – the current leader’s grandfather. North Korea shut down its Soviet-era nuclear power program and the United States, South Korea and Japan agreed to help build a light-water reactor for civilian use and supply fuel oil to fill the gap.

The 1994 agreement, in turn, set the stage for South Korean President Kim Dae-jung – at one point that country’s most famous dissident – to initiate a broad “Sunshine Policy” with the North designed to build political and military trust and lead eventually to normalization and a form of unification. During the sunshine era, Kim’s successor as president, Roh Moo-hyun, reached an agreement with Kim Jong-il to build the Kaesong industrial zone – now the only thread remaining of this brief period of glasnost on the Korean Peninsula. The warming was symbolized in late 2000, when Secretary of State Madeleine Albright flew to Pyongyang and met with Kim Jong-il in the highest-level meeting in U.S.-North Korean history.

But Clinton’s missile agreement was never completed, and in 2000 incoming President Bush declared that North Korea could not be trusted as a negotiating partner and stopped all talks with the DPRK. Then, after the 9/11 attacks, Bush decided to place North Korea in the company of Iran and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as partners in the “Axis of Evil.” That ended any chance of rapprochment. The hostility only deepened when Bush invaded Iraq and installed a pro-U.S. government – a move that Pyongyang understood as a clear statement of Bush’s intentions in Korea. This was followed in 2002 by U.S. accusations, denied at the time by the DPRK, that it was running a secret uranium facility to build bombs. After that, the earlier Clinton agreement completely unraveled. In 2006, North Korea shocked the world by testing its first atomic bomb (for a detailed timeline of North Korea’s program, click here).

By 2007, however, Bush began to rethink his policies as the costs of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan escalated. Prodded by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was edging out Dick Cheney as Bush’s chief foreign policy guru, the administration participated in a series of negotiations involving China, Japan, Russia and North and South Korea. The so-called six-party talks ended in an accord that extended Clinton’s 1994 agreement, shut Yongbyon for good, and set a timeline for deepening U.S.-North Korean ties. That agreement ended what historian Bruce Cumings called at the time “the most asinine Korea policy in history.” The DPRK even broadcast video of the Yongbyon cooling tower being blown up (those images were replayed on U.S. television this week when the North threatened to restart that plant).

A year later, Barack Obama, running in part on a platform that promised U.S. talks with countries like North Korea and Iran, was elected president. Shortly into his administration, a new Korea policy began to evolve under the stewardship of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It was called “strategic patience,” and was designed on the premise that Kim Jong-il was about to die and that the Kim dynasty, torn by internal power struggles, was bound to collapse. Clinton and Obama also made it clear that they would not reopen any talks with the North until it turned away from nuclear weapons and opened itself to change. That policy turned out to be a strategic miscalculation: Kim did die last year, but the transition to his third son, Kim Jong-un, has gone smoothly. The regime is still there, as strong as ever.

One incident from 2010 underscores how little Obama was interested in negotiations. That fall, a delegation of former high-ranking U.S. officials visited Pyongyang and met with senior officials in Kim Jong-il’s government. As I reported shortly after their return, the delegation was told “that Pyongyang is prepared to ship out all of its nuclear fuel rods, the key ingredient for producing weapons-grade plutonium, to a third country in exchange for a U.S. commitment to pledge that it has ‘no hostile intent” toward the DPRK.”  Joel Wit, a former State Department official who was part of the delegation, recalled last week that the offer “would have been a first step toward permanently disabling the [Yongban] facility, making sure the reactor would never again be a threat.” The offer, he added, “was dutifully reported to the Obama administration in briefings for the White House, the State Department, the Department of Defense, and the intelligence community.” But the Obama White House “didn’t even listen,” Wit said.

There was another complicating factor in Obama’s policies. After 2008, South Korea’s president was Lee Myung-bak, a conservative. Lee strongly opposed the “sunshine” policies of his predecessors and began to take a much harder line on military issues with the North. Relations across the DMZ took a nose-dive in March 2010, when Lee’s government blamed the North for blowing up a South Korean warship off Korea’s west coast, killing 46 sailors. The DPRK denied it, but a South Korean commission and an international team of investigators held the North responsible (many in the South still question those conclusions).

That incident kicked off the last big confrontation that had the Koreas and the United States talking of war. In November 2010, the United States and South Korea staged another major naval exercise on the west coast near where the Korean warship had gone down. The DPRK issued a series of warnings, saying that if any shells landed on their side of a disputed North-South maritime border, they would retaliate. Some did, and the North struck back ferociously by shelling the island of Yeonpyeong, killing several civilians.

South Korea, stung by this cruel attack on a non-military target, vowed to continue the exercises; the North issued more strong warnings. With several dozen U.S. soldiers on Yeongpyeong as observers and thousands more participating in the exercises, any clash was bound to draw in the United States. For a few days the world held its breath to see if war would break out. Lights were on 24/7 at the crisis center at the Pentagon (I explained what led up to that crisis in a long interview on “Democracy Now”).

Then something unusual happened. At the height of the crisis, on Dec. 16, 2010, Gen. James Cartwright, the outspoken vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that he was deeply concerned about the situation escalating out of control. In words designed to be heard in Seoul, he made it clear that the Pentagon wanted to ratchet down the situation. If North Korea “misunderstood” or reacted “in a negative way” by firing back, he said, “that would start potentially a chain reaction of firing and counter-firing.  What you don’t want to have happen out of that is for the escalation to be — for us to lose control of the escalation.” Cartwright, and the Pentagon, had no desire to be drawn into a war that was not of their own making.

Few noticed the significance of these words – but I did. Four days later, I tweeted: “When Gen. Cartwright warned of a ‘chain reaction’ that would cause the United States to ‘lose control of the escalation,’ he was talking to SK -not NK.” The morning the military drills were scheduled to restart, many reporters and Korea-watchers on Twitter were predicting that a second Korean War was about to begin. Then, as the time came close for the first live-firing to commence, the South Korean military put out the word that the exercises would be “delayed” because of weather. They were – and then were scrapped altogether. Cartwright’s warning apparently worked. The crisis ended. But a year later little had changed – except that Kim Jong-un was now in charge of the DPRK.

The current crisis began last December, when Kim’s military defied global warnings against his weapons program and successfully launched a rocket that actually placed a satellite in orbit. The move was quickly condemned by the United States and South Korea, but this time the criticism also came from China and Russia. Then, in February, North Korea carried out its third test of a nuclear weapon that was nearly twice as large as its last one. A few days later, the U.N. Security Council imposed deeper sanctions on North Korea. Its government lashed out again, but this time the rhetoric had changed. In the past, the North had always blasted South Korea as its primary antagonist, but early in January it began to frame its problems in the context of its decades-long confrontation with the United States.

As I explained to “Democracy Now” on Feb. 12, in recent weeks North Korea has “increasingly been focused on the role of the United States, the role of the United States military in South Korea and the whole Asian region. And they’ve been talking a lot about these massive war games that the United States and South Korea take that take place almost every year, and which one took place last week. And they see the United States and these war games as very hostile and as a threat to their sovereignty, as they put it.”

In other words, their “primary enemy” had shifted from the South to the United States. Since then, the DPRK has said again and again that Washington is to blame for the ongoing tensions in Korea, and that until those tensions are resolved, the region will remain in crisis. That position was summed up by the KPA official quoted earlier. “The U.S. high-handed hostile policy toward the DPRK aimed to encroach upon its sovereignty and the dignity of its supreme leadership and bring down its social system is being implemented through actual military actions without hesitation,” he said. “The responsibility for this grave situation entirely rests with the U.S.”

And that’s basically where we are today. The Obama administration has a choice: It can continue a policy of sanctions, military pressure and no talks until North Korea agrees to abandon its nuclear weapons; or it can try something that’s been tried, with varying success in the past: negotiate, possibly with the assistance of China and other regional powers, toward a peaceful solution that benefits everyone in the region, including the DPRK. But two things are clear. One: America’s current policy toward North Korea is an utter failure. Two: Another Korean War is unthinkable. With the latest statements from the Pentagon today about “dialing back” tensions, those lessons may be sinking in.

_

 

IPPNW statement on the Korean nuclear crisis


 

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April 5, 2013
tags: International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, IPPNW, North Korea, nuclear disarmament, nuclear war, nuclear weapons, South Korea
by IPPNW

[The co-presidents of IPPNW have sent the following letter to the leaders of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, and the United States, in response to the escalating series of nuclear threats over the past several days.]

The use of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula must be prevented. Regardless of the reasons for the current escalation in tensions, the recent displays of nuclear force by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and by the US, on behalf of its ally the Republic of Korea, can have only one of two outcomes: either both sides will step back from the precipice or deterrence will fail and millions of people will suffer the fate of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The humanitarian consequences of the detonation of nuclear weapons, regardless of who might use them or where, were examined in depth only one month ago in Oslo, at a conference attended by 127 States. The sobering scientific and medical analysis presented in Oslo—millions dead; millions more suffering from injuries, burns, and radiation sickness without hope of medical treatment; social and economic collapse; and the potential for global climate disruption and nuclear-war-induced famine—compelled the participants to call for accelerated action to delegitimize nuclear weapons and to eliminate them from the world’s arsenals. This has been IPPNW’s core message since 1980. The current crisis only underscores the urgency of negotiating a comprehensive, global treaty to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.

As long as nuclear weapons exist, adversaries who own them will be tempted to engage in nuclear threats and counter-threats calculated to make the other side back down. This is why nuclear deterrence is already a bankrupt policy. Should this be the moment when deterrence fails, as it eventually must, both North and South Korea will be devastated. Even if the use of nuclear weapons were confined to the Korean peninsula, unlikely as that would be, the repercussions for the rest of the world would be catastrophic.

Expressions of willingness—or even intent—to use nuclear weapons, either preemptively or in retaliation, provide security to no one and increase the risk of mutual self-destruction. IPPNW urges the DPRK, the ROK, and the US to refrain from further rhetorical provocations and inflammatory displays of force, and to reopen diplomatic channels where cooler heads can prevail.

 

 

#India Shameless abstention from the historic Arms Trade Treaty


In the 15th year of its nuclear tests, India has abstained from the just concluded UN Arms Trade Treaty, having become the largest importer of arms in the world last month. What happened to the stability and security that the nuclear bombs were supposed to bestow on us?

P K Sundaram, dianuke.org

Just as the news of adoption of the first-ever Arms Trade Treaty by the United Nations poured in, I tried searching for India’s stance and I found the Times of India’s breaking report silent. This is not surprising as India has abstained from this historic arms trade regulation pact which received the support of 154 out of 180 countries. While 3 countries – Iran, Syria and North Korea opposed this treaty, India abstained along with 23 others like Russia, China and Saudi Arabia etc.

International-Arms-Trade-Treaty-BananaIndia opposed the proposed treaty since the beginning. Pakistan, being a friendly neighbour when it comes to arms race, has been supportive of India’s stance, but it surprised the world by supporting the just treaty at the last moment.

The US under the Bush administration had vehemently opposed the treaty, but President Obama engineered a reversal of the stance and finally got his country to support the pact, despite immense conservative pressures like those from the National Rifle Association.

India’s insatiable arms obsession

Last month, India made it big into two global lists: it came 137th in a list of 186 countries in the global human development index, and it became the world’s largest  arms importer accounting for the 12% of the world’s total arms trade. India’s share in global arms trade has gone up by 25% – in the period between 2003-2008, it purchased 9% of the total arms transferred in the global arms market.

The report titled Trends in International Arms Transfers published by the reputed Stockholm Institute of Peace Research (SIPRI) listed India as the world’s biggest importer of arms between 2008 and 2012. The global trends of arms transfer reveal a lot. While all the 5 biggest important were Asian countries – India (12 per cent of global imports), China (6 per cent), Pakistan (5 per cent), South Korea (5 per cent), and Singapore (4 per cent), all the major exporters of arms were from the West: US, Russia, Germany and France. China replaced the UK as the 5th largest exporter of arms.

Alarmingly, SIPRI’s press release notes that “Several countries in Asia and Oceania have in recent years ordered or announced plans to acquire long-range strike and support systems that would make them capable of projecting power far beyond their national borders”, while mentioning India’s acquisition of nuclear powered submarine from Russia last year. Israel and the US are biggest beneficiaries of India’s military shopping spree, both signalling and resulting in major implications for its foreign policy.

India: Rising Weapons Expenditures After 15 Years of Going Nuclear

India’s increasing arms imports defy the claims of the nuclear hawks since 1998 that induction of nuclear weapons would bring stability and security for the country.  May 11th this year would mark 15 years of India’s nuclear tests in Pokhran. India’s defence expenditures – on both nuclear and non-nuclear weapon systems – have increased dramatically since then. Contrary to the claims of providing stable security to India, the nuclear weapons have pushed India to acquire more death machines. India’s defence budget has gone up from Rs. 35,277 crore in 1998 to a whopping 2,03,671.1 crore in 2013. In 2012-2013, India spent 1.93 trillion, or $40 billion, marking an increase of 17 per cent over the previous year. India has been recently spending much more on naval and air forces compared to the army, a trend indicative of its rising power projections and self-perception. It’s defence expensesbetween 1992 and 2012 have shot up by 1005%. 41% of which goes into acquisition of new weapons. In 2012, while it’s GDP grew by 6.7%, figures on defence expenditure growth varied between  by 13 to 19%.

Unabated Arms Race in South Asia

Arms race – both nuclear and conventional – is going unbridled in South Asia. Both the countries have been upgrading their nuclear arsenals, qualitatively and quantitatively. While India goes on to define its ‘minimal credible deterrence’ maximally, Pakistan has diversified its nuclear arsenals by including tactical nukes January this year. Add to this the frequent missiles tests, of ever increasing ranges and payloads. South Asia is also home to gigantic military exercises on both sides – recently Indian Air Force did its biggest-ever exercise called Operation iron Fist in Pokhran with nuclear-capable missiles. Pakistan, at the start of this year, had conducted a huge military exercise called Saffron Bandits.

Glaring Poverty Amid Super Power Dreams

Compare the facts on military build-ups with the shame of poverty in both the countries. While more than 40% people go to sleep without food in Pakistanmore than 230 million Indians go hungry daily. 37% of Indian deaths are still caused by “poor country” diseases like TB and malaria. A recent Oxford study has suggested that Nepal is reducing poverty faster than India. India’s While our national budget is hijacked by the security establishment, India last year ranked worst place among the G-20 countries for being a women – in terms of female education, health and safety. In terms of gender equality, in fact India fared worse than Pakistan in the UNDP human development report published in march 2013.

Needless to say, this huge stockpile of arms will push India into further belligerence and uglier conflicts. While India-Pakistan border has found place in the Guinness book of world records to be the world’s largest militarized territorial dispute, Indian political elite has been using heavily-armed tactics to subdue the dissenting sections of society – from the adivasis in the midland to the ethnic minorities in the north-east and elsewhere.

It is time to call the bluff of the political leadership in India which has twisted and perverted the peaceful and Gandhian credentials of our country to pay lip service to peace while indulging in worst kind of adventurism and a criminal distortion of national priorities.

 

Nuclear weapons must be eradicated for all our sakes- Desmond Tutu


No nation should own nuclear arms – not Iran, not North Korea, and not their critics who take the moral high ground

(FILES) This file picture taken by North

As an Oslo conference on nuclear weapons starts, we should not accept that a ‘select few nations can ensure the security of all by having the capacity to destroy all.’ Photograph: Kns/AFP/Getty Images

We cannot intimidate others into behaving well when we ourselves are misbehaving. Yet that is precisely what nations armed with nuclear weapons hope to do by censuring North Korea for its nuclear tests and sounding alarm bells over Iran’s pursuit of enriched uranium. According to their logic, a select few nations can ensure the security of all by having the capacity to destroy all.

 

Until we overcome this double standard – until we accept that nuclear weapons are abhorrent and a grave danger no matter who possesses them, that threatening a city with radioactive incineration is intolerable no matter the nationality or religion of its inhabitants – we are unlikely to make meaningful progress in halting the spread of these monstrous devices, let alone banishing them from national arsenals.

 

Why, for instance, would a proliferating state pay heed to the exhortations of the US and Russia, which retain thousands of their nuclear warheads on high alert? How can Britain, France and China expect a hearing on non-proliferation while they squander billions modernising their nuclear forces? What standing has Israel to urge Iran not to acquire the bomb when it harbours its own atomic arsenal?

 

Nuclear weapons do not discriminate; nor should our leaders. The nuclear powers must apply the same standard to themselves as to others: zero nuclear weapons. Whereas the international community has imposed blanket bans on other weapons with horrendous effects – from biological and chemical agents to landmines and cluster munitions – it has not yet done so for the very worst weapons of all. Nuclear weapons are still seen as legitimate in the hands of some. This must change.

 

Around 130 governments, various UN agencies, the Red Cross and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons are gathering in Oslo this week to examine the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons and the inability of relief agencies to provide an effective response in the event of a nuclear attack. For too long, debates about nuclear arms have been divorced from such realities, focusing instead on geopolitics and narrow concepts of national security.

 

With enough public pressure, I believe that governments can move beyond the hypocrisy that has stymied multilateral disarmament discussions for decades, and be inspired and persuaded to embark on negotiations for a treaty to outlaw and eradicate these ultimate weapons of terror. Achieving such a ban would require somewhat of a revolution in our thinking, but it is not out of the question. Entrenched systems can be turned on their head almost overnight if there’s the will.

 

Let us not forget that it was only a few years ago when those who spoke about green energy and climate change were considered peculiar. Now it is widely accepted that an environmental disaster is upon us. There was once a time when people bought and sold other human beings as if they were mere chattels, things. But people eventually came to their senses. So it will be the case for nuclear arms, sooner or later.

 

Indeed, 184 nations have already made a legal undertaking never to obtain nuclear weapons, and three in four support a universal ban. In the early 1990s, with the collapse of apartheid nigh, South Africa voluntarily dismantled its nuclear stockpile, becoming the first nation to do so. This was an essential part of its transition from a pariah state to an accepted member of the family of nations. Around the same time, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine also relinquished their Soviet-era atomic arsenals.

 

But today nine nations still consider it their prerogative to possess these ghastly bombs, each capable of obliterating many thousands of innocent civilians, including children, in a flash. They appear to think that nuclear weapons afford them prestige in the international arena. But nothing could be further from the truth. Any nuclear-armed state, big or small, whatever its stripes, ought to be condemned in the strongest terms for possessing these indiscriminate, immoral weapons.

 

A day before Kasab’s hanging, India voted against abolition of death penalty at UN


NDTV, Nov 21. 2012
United Nations: A record 110 countries backed a resolution voted every two years at a UN General Assembly committee calling for the abolition of the death penalty.
The vote tears apart traditional alliances at the United Nations. The United States, Japan, China, Iran, India, North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe were among 39 countries to oppose the non-binding resolution in the assembly’s rights committee.
Thirty-six countries abstained.
Israel voted against its strong US-ally to join European Union nations, Australia, Brazil and South Africa among major countries backing the motion.
Norway, which played a leading role campaigning for the resolution, said on its Twitter account that the increased support was a “great result”.
At the last vote in 2010, 107 countries backed the resolution.
France’s new Socialist government has launched a campaign with other abolitionist states to get the full General Assembly to pass a resolution in December calling for a death penalty moratorium. Though such a resolution would be non-binding, diplomats say it would increase moral pressure.
A world congress against the death penalty is to be held in Madrid in June.
According to the United Nations, about 150 countries have either abolished capital punishment or have instituted a moratorium.
Amnesty International says that China executed “thousands” of prisoners in 2011 though exact figures are hard to determine. It says that other countries put to death at least 680 people with Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia major users of capital punishment.
Amnesty says that progress is slowly being made however.
Even in the United States, Illinois last year became the 16th US state to abolish the death penalty.

 

Police raid activist’s home for ‘criminal’ posts on Facebook. China? No – Wales


Pride's Purge

27SaturdayOct 2012

(Not satire – I’m sorry to say.)

A female disability activist had her home raided yesterday by South Wales Police who attempted to intimidate her into stopping posting comments on Facebook critical of government cuts and specifically the Department of Work and Pensions and their attacks on the rights of disability claimants.

In her own words:

I’ve just had the police forcing their way into my flat near midnight and harrassing me about my “criminal” posts on Facebook about the DWP, accusing me of being “obstructive”. I didn’t know what in f**k’s name they were on about. They kept going on and on at me, it was horrifically stressful, and they only left after I started crying uncontrollably.

The police officers did not charge her. They clearly were just attempting to scare her into stopping her political activities.

The woman was alone in her own home. She was left feeling frightened and vulnerable – by the very people who should be protecting her.

If the police wanted to talk to her, why did the officers choose to enter her home at midnight on a Friday? Why didn’t they inform her in writing or interview her at a police station so she could arrange for a lawyer to be present?

At best this is unprofessional behaviour on the part of South Wales Police, at worst it is political harassment of an individual worthy of a dictatorial state such as China or North Korea.

Well done South Wales Police. You must be very proud of yourselves.

.

I’ve kept the identity of the woman secret for obvious reasons but if anyone would like more information about what happened to her, leave your email address in the comments below and I’ll ask her to contact you. Thanks.

 

Original post here http://tompride.wordpress.com/

Immediate Release–New list of Enemies of the Internet


English: A map showing the level of Internet c...

Image via Wikipedia

REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS

Beset by online surveillance and content filtering, netizens fight on

Eritrea is among the list of “countries under surveillance”

Read more on Eritrea on http://en.rsf.org/eritrea-eritrea-12-03-2012,42060.html

More information on the full report on 12mars.rsf.org

To mark World Day Against Cyber-Censorship, Reporters Without Borders is today releasing its new list of “Enemies of the Internet” and “countries under surveillance.” This report updates the list released in 2011.

Two countries, Bahrain and Belarus, have passed from the “countries under surveillance” to the “Enemies of the Internet” category. Venezuela and Libya have been dropped from the “under surveillance” category while India and Kazakhstan have been added to it.

“The changes in this list reflect recent developments in online freedom of information,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Netizens have been at the heart of political changes in the Arab world in 2011. Like journalists, they have tried to resist censorship but have paid a high price.

“Last year will be remembered as one of unprecedented violence against netizens. Five were killed while engaged in reporting activity. Nearly 200 arrests of bloggers and netizens were reported in 2011, a 30 per cent increase on 2010. These unprecedented figures risk being exceeded in 2012 as a result of the indiscriminate violence being used by the Syrian authorities in particular. More than 120 netizens are currently detained.

“On World Day Against Cyber-Censorship, we pay tribute to the ordinary citizens who often risk their lives or their freedom to keep us informed and to ensure that often brutal crackdowns do not take place without the outside world knowing.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “As online censorship and content filtering continue to accentuate the Internet’s division and digital segregation, solidarity among those who defend a free Internet accessible to all is more essential than ever in order to maintain channels of communication between netizens and to ensure that information continues to circulate.”

Social networks and netizens versus filtering and surveillance

The last report, released in March 2011, highlighted the fact that the Internet and online social networks had been conclusively established as tools for organizing protests and circulating information in the course of the Arab world’s mass uprisings. In the months that followed, repressive regimes responded with tougher measures to what they regarded as unacceptable attempts to destabilize their authority.

At the same time, supposedly democratic countries continue to set a bad example by yielding to the temptation to put security above other concerns and by adopting disproportionate measures to protect copyright. Technical service providers are under increasing pressure to act as Internet cops. Companies specializing in online surveillance are becoming the new mercenaries in an online arms race. Hactivists are providing technical expertise to netizens trapped by repressive regimes. Diplomats are getting involved. More than ever before, online freedom of expression is now a major foreign and domestic policy issue.

Two new Enemies of the Internet – Bahrain and Belarus

Bahrain and Belarus have joined Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam in the “Enemies of the Internet” category. These countries combine often drastic content filtering with access restrictions, tracking of cyber-dissidents and online propaganda.

Bahrain offers an example of an effective news blackout based a remarkable array of repressive measures: keeping the international media away, harassing human rights activists, arresting bloggers and netizens (one of whom died in detention), smearing and prosecuting free speech activists, and disrupting communications, especially during major demonstrations.

As Belarus sinks further into political isolation and economic stagnation, President Lukashenko’s regime has lashed out at the Internet in response to an attempted “revolution via the social media.” The Internet was blocked during a series of “silent protests,” the list of inaccessible websites grew longer and some sites were the victims of cyber-attacks. Internet users and bloggers were arrested or invited to “preventive conversations” with the police in a bid to get them to stop demonstrating or covering demonstrations. And Law No. 317-3, which took effect on 6 January 2012, gave the regime additional Internet surveillance and control powers.

India and Kazakhstan added to “under surveillance” list

Since the Mumbai bombings of 2008, the Indian authorities have stepped up Internet surveillance and pressure on technical service providers, while publicly rejecting accusations of censorship. The national security policy of the world’s biggest democracy is undermining online freedom of expression and the protection of Internet users’ personal data.

Kazakhstan, which likes to think of itself as a regional model after holding the rotating presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2010, nonetheless seems to be turning its back on all its fine promises in order to take the road of cyber-censorship. An unprecedented oil workers strike helped to increase government tension in 2011 and led to greater control of information. The authorities blocked news websites, cut communications around the city of Zhanaozen during unrest, and imposed new, repressive Internet regulations.

Venezuela and Libya dropped from “under surveillance” list

In Libya, many challenges remain but the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime has ended an era of censorship. Before his removal and death, Col. Gaddafi had tried to impose a news blackout by cutting access to the Internet.

In Venezuela, access to the Internet continues to be unrestricted. The level of self-censorship is hard to evaluate but the adoption in 2011 of legislation that could potentially limit Internet freedom has yet to have any damaging effect in practice. Reporters Without Borders will nonetheless remain vigilant as relations between the government and critical media are tense.

Thailand and Burma may be about to change places

If Thailand continues further down the slope of content filtering and jailing netizens on lèse-majesté charges, it could soon find itself transferred from the “under surveillance” category to the club of the world’s most repressive countries as regards online freedom.

Burma, on the other hand, could soon leave the “Enemies of the Internet” list if takes the necessary measures. It has embarked on a promising period of reforms that have included freeing journalists and bloggers and restoring access to blocked websites. It must now go further by abandoning censorship altogether, releasing the journalists and bloggers still held, dismantling the Internet surveillance apparatus and repealing the Electronics Act.

Other subjects of concern

Other countries have jailed netizens or established a form of Internet censorship. They include Pakistan, which recently invited bids for a national Internet filtering system that would create an Electronic Great Wall. Even if they are not on these lists, Reporters Without Borders will continue to closely monitor online freedom of information in countries such as Azerbaijan, Morocco and Tajikistan.

UN appeals to India to ratify global nuclear test ban treaty


Ban Ki-moon

Image via Wikipedia

7TH FEB, 2012

United Nations: UN chief Ban Ki-moon has appealed to eight countries, including India, to ratify the CTBT to bring the global nuclear test ban into force.

The UN secretary general made the appeal after Indonesia became the 157th country to adopt the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Besides India, China, North Korea, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the US are the other nations in a core group of 44 nuclear countries which did not ratify the treaty.

The 44 nations which must ratify the CTBT to bring it into force all have nuclear weapons or atomic programmes.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has appealed to eight countries, including India, to ratify the CTBT to bring the global nuclear test ban into force. AFP

This would accelerate the entry of CTBT into force, Ban said after his meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa at the UN headquarters.

During their meeting, Ban stressed the importance of Indonesia’s ratification of the CTBT given that the country is one of the so-called Annex 2 States, whose endorsement is required for the treaty to enter into force, a UN release said.

PTI