Posts Tagged ‘Syria

08
Sep
13

the never-ending gitmo

September 8, 2013

The Guantanamo/Fifty Shades of Grey debacle in the last couple weeks unraveled with reports in the AP and the New York Times challenging Representative Moran’s version of events. Here’s the New York Times piece:

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/22/guantanamo-officials-accused-of-inventing-fifty-shades-of-grey-rumor/?_r=4

The attorney from my previous post seems to be dead on: the book was either a joke or planted by a government agent:

“A lawyer for one of the men said that prison guards had placed a contraband copy of the book in the cell of his client, Ammar al-Baluchi, a nephew of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, only after Representative Moran’s comments appeared.”

Either way, it’s a pretty damning display of hubris and callousness on the part of prison officials. With so many eyes on Guantanamo and the attendant geopolitical and human rights concerns, you would think the people in charge would act halfway professional. How do you convince anyone fiascos like Abu Ghraib were anomalies when stuff like this keeps happening?

What I’m most interested in is how events like this redound on the current relevant context. On various social media fora, I’ve seen reams of speculative musings about America’s imminent intervention in Syria. Everything from Iraq III to oil interests to regional politics to military ineffectiveness – it seems everyone is taking a few wild swings at the truth piñata. The reality as seen from these shores, it seems, is no one really knows what the Obama administration will attempt or to what end. But alongside scattershot speculation from American sources, there is a noticeable stream of conspiracy theories from various sources, some dubious and some (shockingly) intelligent. Here are some listed on Foreign Policy magazine’s page:

http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/09/03/meet_the_syria_chemical_weapons_truthers

I think what this points to is not that people outside the West are crazy and illogical about American intentions. Rather, I think theories like these reflect an equally appalling narrative that includes the U.S.’ admission that it orchestrated a coup in Iran or that it facilitated the use of chemical weapons in Iraq in the early 80’s – or that it is holding Muslim prisoners in legal limbo under torture-like conditions with no tenable justification for their continued detention. And for anyone who grew up in the shadow of those real conspiracies that actually happened and are still happening, their logic might lead consistently and, yes, logically, to these kinds of surreal conclusions, even if they turn out to be wrong. Because right now, who really can say with any certainty what the U.S. is trying to do with its imminent Syrian intervention or its long-term strategic plan in the Middle East?

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06
Aug
13

there needs to be an app for that

August 6, 2013

My article about mobile technologies assisting the fight against sexual violence in conflict zones ran in the Global Post a couple days ago. Here are a couple links that I wanted to attach to the article to give it more context.

First, about Syria, there have been two major features of the international community’s (lack of) action that I wanted to highlight: political gridlock and weak leadership. These factors exacerbate or even sustain the ongoing violence against civilians, largely committed by the ruling regime.

On the political gridlock: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42513

On failed leadership: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/07/2013717163831228330.html

The other two links elaborate on the “problematic” U.N. mission in the Congo with specific case examples. The second article cites a damning case of the U.N. not even aware of a mass atrocity 2 km from its base, highlighting a total disconnect from the community it purports to protect.

Peacekeepers gone wild in the DRC: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/second-reading/peacekeepers-gone-wild-how-much-more-abuse-will-the-un-ignore-in-congo/article4462151/

Report of mass rape near U.N. base: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2010/08/201082402724259229.html

I think it’s important to emphasize my article for the Global Post is not a technology-will-save-us-all piece. Rather, this seems a case where technology can and must come in to compensate for larger institutional failures. Ironically, technology could potentially provoke those institutions to act, as with documentation of rights abuses, but its nature as a citizen-driven informal method also guarantees it will encounter major obstacles before it can considered useful to those institutions, either as data or evidence. The fight against sexual violence, especially in conflict zones, can use all the tools and ingenuity it can find, but really, civilians shouldn’t have to resort to that, and agencies like U.N. bodies should consider bolder, even forceful approaches if it wants to really “fight” sexual violence. Smartphones have so many less productive applications that people should be enjoying.




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