The plight of Myanmar

CNN reported: “The death toll from the cyclone that ravaged the Irrawaddy delta in Myanmar may exceed 100,000, the senior US diplomat in the military-ruled country said on Wednesday.

“‘The information we are receiving indicates over 100,000 deaths,’ said the US charge d’affaires in Yangon, Shari Villarosa…

The Rule of Lords blog carries first hand testimonies of the plight of survivors on the Irrawaddy delta, as told to the Yoma 3 television channel in Thailand: “Along every road … whatever road, there are so many dead they’re uncountable. For this reason many more in the villages could die. My mother, father, brothers and sisters are all dead. I can’t do anything. I’m left all alone.”

A terrible crime – the punishment of a whole population

The world is witnessing a terrible human rights crime in Gaza, where a million and a half human beings are being imprisoned with almost no access to the outside world by sea, air, or land. An entire population is being brutally punished.

This gross mistreatment of the Palestinians in Gaza was escalated dramatically by Israel, with United States backing, after political candidates representing Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Authority parliament in 2006. The election was unanimously judged to be honest and fair by all international observers.

Born at the dawn of a new state

Sixty years ago, Dror Gurel and Nabil Zaharan were born into a land at war.

Sons of middle-class families, they entered the world during the same week and along the same stretch of sun-splashed Mediterranean coast. Gurel was born in Jewish Tel Aviv; Zaharan’s mother gave birth just down the road, in Arab Jaffa.

Yet it was a third birth that week that, more than anything, has shaped their lives.

Clinton enters the twilight zone

End the dynasty!” a young man holding an Obama poster shouted when Chelsea Clinton stepped to the microphone.

All the while, a smile was fixed on Mrs. Clinton’s perfectly made-up face — not a hair was out of place — and she betrayed only an occasional glimmer of recognition of the exceedingly narrow straits she must now navigate.

Government in secret

The Bush administration recently announced it will allow select members of Congress to read Justice Department legal opinions about the CIA’s controversial detainee interrogation program that have been hidden from Congress until now. But as the administration allows a glimpse of this secret law — and it is law — we are left wondering what other laws it is still keeping under lock and key.

It’s a given in our democracy that laws should be a matter of public record. But the law in this country includes not just statutes and regulations, which the public can readily access. It also includes binding legal interpretations made by courts and the executive branch. These interpretations are increasingly being withheld from the public and Congress.

Ex-Guantanamo detainee joined Iraq suicide attack

A Kuwaiti man who complained about maltreatment during a three-year stay in the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was involved in a deadly suicide bombing in northern Iraq last month, the U.S. military confirmed yesterday.

Abdallah Salih al-Ajmi, 29, whom the U.S. military accused of fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan and wanting to kill Americans, was involved in one of three suicide bombings that killed seven Iraqi security forces in Mosul on April 26, Defense Department officials said.

Editor’s Comment — There are a series of questions here that can be peeled away like the layers of an onion. On the outside, the one that Gitmo fans will say has an obvious answer: Was it a mistake for al Ajmi to have been released? Next: Would he have been likely to become a suicide bomber had he never been detained? Would he have become a suicide bomber had he not been tortured?

But most important of all: How many suicide bombings would there have been in the last seven years had Guantanamo never become the globally recognized emblem of American vengeance?

The next big mistake in Iraq: trying to shut out Moqtada al Sadr

In hindsight, it is easy to see the mistakes that the United States made in Iraq: the disbanding of the Iraqi army and the whole-scale purge of Ba’ath Party members that crippled any effort to build a new government. It is harder to see mistakes about to be made. But there’s one major error unfolding right now, and it’s not too late to prevent it: the exclusion of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr from the political process.

The consequences of trying to isolate Sadr and his political movement are profound: he will lash out further at the Iraqi government and US troops, his supporters will completely abandon the ceasefire he imposed last August, and violence will spiral out of control once again. US commanders credit Sadr’s ceasefire with a significant drop in both attacks on US forces and sectarian bloodletting. Those highly touted gains made during the “surge” of US troops will evaporate.

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