NEWS & VIEWS ROUNDUP: August 3

Southern discomfort

For as long as I’ve been alive the old Confederacy has been a land without closure, where history keeps coming at you day after day, year after year, decade after decade, as if the past were the present, too, and the future forever. Cities grew and populations changed in the South, but the Civil War lurked somehow in the shadow of mirror-sided skyscrapers; the holocaust of slavery and the sweet-bitter victories of the civil-rights movement lingered deep in the minds of people on both sides of the color line. Yes there was change, progress, prosperity, and a lot of it. Southerners put their faith in money and jobs and God Almighty to get them to a better place and better times—and for a lot of them, white and black, those times came. The South got to be a more complicated place, where rich and poor—which is pretty much all there was before World War II—gave way to a broad-spectrum bourgeoisie with big-time aspirations. But as air conditioning conquered the lethargy-inducing climate and Northerners by the millions abandoned the rust belt for the sun belt, the past wasn’t forgotten or forgiven so much as put aside while people got on with their lives and their business.

Now this part of the country, where I have my deepest roots, feels raw again, its political emotions more exposed than they’ve been in decades. George W. Bush and Barack Hussein Obama have unsettled the South: the first with a reckless war and a weakened economy, the second with the color of his skin, the foreignness of his name, the lofty liberalism of his language. Suddenly the palliative prosperity that salved old, deep wounds no longer seems adequate to the task.

Obama central: peace, harmony and deep secrecy

The bustling Obama headquarters on North Michigan Avenue invites comparisons to a start-up, teeming with young people in jeans clutching BlackBerrys as they walk through the halls. Yet in Democratic circles, another, potentially less welcome, parallel is being made: to the tight-knit and tight-lipped organization eight years ago of George W. Bush.

Decisions are guarded with extreme secrecy, none more so than the upcoming vice presidential selection, and that has occasionally irked members of Congress. In recent days, as Republicans publicly accused Sen. Barack Obama of appearing presumptuous during his presidential-style trip to Europe, Democrats privately expressed concerns that Obama has become too Chicago-centric, relying on his inner circle rather than a broader group that encourages input from Washington and elsewhere.

The fog of war-crimes trials

Chief Prosecutor Robert Jackson opened the proceedings at Nuremberg not with a list of Nazi atrocities but with a tribute to the war-crimes court itself: “That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury, stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that power has ever paid to reason.”

The ensuing trials, though not without their flaws, largely fulfilled this lofty promise, standing as a monument to the rule of law and the very idea of conducting public trials for war criminals. As civilized people, we have a natural desire to see criminals held responsible for their actions. The desire is that much stronger in the case of large-scale crimes like genocides or terrorist attacks, which seem to demand not just accountability but a reaffirmation of the moral order — a public enumeration of what is right and what is wrong — that can be delivered only in a courtroom.

As the fighting swells in Afghanistan, so does a refugee camp in its capital

On a piece of barren land on the western edge of this capital, a refugee camp is steadily swelling as families displaced by the heavy bombardment in southern Afghanistan arrive in batches.

The growing numbers reaching Kabul are a sign of the deepening of the conflict between NATO and American forces and the Taliban in the south and of the feeling among the population that there will be no end soon. Families who fled the fighting around their homes in Helmand Province one or two years ago and sought temporary shelter around two southern provincial capitals, Lashkar Gah and Kandahar, said they had moved to Kabul because of growing insecurity across the south.

“If there was security in the south, why would we come here?” said Abdullah Khan, 50, who lost his father, uncle and a female relative in the bombing of their home last year. “We will stay here, even for 10 years, until the bombardment ends.”

Gaza infighting could topple Israel-Hamas truce

Some of the Fatah loyalists who fled from the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority following Hamas’ takeover in June 2007 described Saturday’s events in the Shijaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City – four Hamas dead and 80 others injured – as “poetic justice.”

Ahmed Khiles, a senior Fatah strongman in the Gaza Strip, who was quick to blame another Fatah strongman, Mohammed Dahlan and his men, for Hamas’ violence in the Strip Saturday became the main target of the Islamist group. There is no particular reason for this turn of events, except that Khiles who had allied his clan with Hamas and was allowed to keep their arms is no longer perceived by Hamas as being useful.

Defiant Iran spurns deal over uranium plant

Iran’s President has issued a defiant warning to his country’s “enemies” as Tehran ignored a deadline from world powers hoping to curb Iranian nuclear ambitions.

Iran’s refusal to give a clear answer by yesterday to the offer of technological and political incentives in return for suspending uranium enrichment rekindled tensions with the West and led to fresh warnings from Israel that military strikes remain an option.

But Tehran yesterday accused the West of double standards in the wake of the US’s nuclear deal with India.

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