Chemical Weapons in Iraq

Recently, an investigation was conducted that discovered stockpiles of chemical weapons have been found in Iraq. These are chemical weapons dating from the 1970s and 1980s. They were used by Saddam Hussein in a war against Iran from 1980-1988. Because these weapons are outdated, troops lack the training on how to deal with them. Several American and Iraqi soldiers have suffered wounds or been exposed to mustard gas.

The investigation exposes shocking failings by the Pentagon, among them a callous disregard for the safety and care of American and Iraqi troops and a disturbing pattern of secrecy that can only erode public confidence in government.

There is concern that these weapons can fall into the hands of ISIS. In fact, there is evidence that chemical weapons have already been used by ISIS to kill three individuals in Syria. How do you respond to this dilemma? Does the risk that weapons may fall in to the wrong hands outweigh the potential benefits of aiding our allies?

Read more from this article here. 

North and South Korea Hold High-Level Military Talks

For article click here

The struggle between North and South Korea, much like the Israeli Palestinian conflict, appears as if it will not be resolved within our lifetimes. Of course almost no one predicted that the Berlin Wall would collapse, so perhaps there is really no way to know. The current talks stem from some antipropaganda leaflets being sent across the border from South Korea to North Korea by activists and the continued conflict of defining oceanic borders. North Korea contests the validly of the borders set by the United Nations in the 1950’s.

South Korea responded by stating that in a democracy they cannot impede the rights of the media or activists. The North Koreans left with none of their demands met and the South Koreans left the same way. If can only be hoped that some sort of reform or change will occur in North Korea, not for their leaders sakes but for the people who live there. South Korea is apprehensive of any sort of reunification given the enormous costs this has imposed on Germany and would likely impose on them. Only time will tell though.

‘Death Fields’ Uncovered in Poland

For the past year, workers have been digging up over 280 skeletons at a 100-year old Polish prison site called the Bialystok Detention Center of 1912. These people are all anonymous victims of the German Nazis, Soviets, or the Polish secret police during their postwar Communist era. During this time Poles were killing Poles. Recently, workers have discovered another mass grave at a nearby apartment complex built on what was previously part of prison grounds. The prosecutor in charge of the case, Mr. Kulikowski, said

These are not burial grounds, these are death fields.

There are several other sites that have been discovered across Poland revealing a horrifying past resulting from conflicting armies and ideologies of the 20th century. The current open, democratic Polish society is still trying to come to terms with this terrible past. The Bialystok Detention Center is still in use today housing 680 prisoners.

The discovery of these skeletons is a bit worrisome because of the recent rising of many extremist ideologies in Europe. It is feared that some of Poland’s far-right parties who were probably members of the anti-Communist party in the past, may want to make use of the newly discovered victims as heroes to stir nationalist emotions. They may talk about these victims as “forsaken soldiers” and anti-Communist guerrillas who have been forgotten in Poland’s rush to free-market prosperity.

Other Poles may not want to dig too deep into what happened because it is not part of mainstream Polish conversation. Many people are ignorant of this chapter in history while others don’t care and others don’t want to be reminded. Some feel it is still not safe to talk about what happened because it may reveal negative things about people’s own families and neighbors.

Consequently, investigations of some of these death fields have been denied and restricted sparking a debate between those who want to dig deeper and those who want to forget. Some sites however are being investigated and many victim identifications have been made. The question still remains as to why these people were buried by the Soviets, Nazis, and Communist Poles in these places secretly starting in 1939 until 1956. There is still so much ground to be excavated.

Many other countries with a horrifying past have similar issues as to whether or not to keep searching for bodies of victims and dealing with the political consequences of doing so. In Cambodia, for example, the communist Khmer rouge brutally killed thousands of its own people in the late 1970’s and threw the bodies in mass graves. It is a painful part of Cambodia’s past but one that they must face.

Rick Lyman. “‘Death Fields’ at Prison Grounds Attest to Horrors of 20th Century”, New York Times. October 2014. Print version.

There is so much going on in Syria and Iraq right in regards to ISIS. The organization will soon take the town of Kobani and the Turks instead of countering the problem — they do the polar opposite and strike at the Kurds inside Turkey which could, at the most extreme imaginings, lead  to a second Middle East Civil War. Not to mention the fact that ISIS is growing closer to taking the Baghdad airport from the Iraqis and that the attrocities are no closer to being solved. However, I assume many people will soon blog about the situation in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq so I will choose instead to focus on an issue that is equally infuriating, but not, in the minds of many, as dire.

New Hampshire State Representative Steve Vaillancourt wrote a blog post that predicted the outcome of another house race in his state and in the process commented on the physical appearance of the two female candidates. His opinion of Representative Anne Kuster reads,

“How ugly is Annie Kuster? Let’s be honest, does anyone not believe that Congressman Annie Kuster is as ugly as sin? And I hope I haven’t offended sin.I think of Annie Kuster whenever I walk by [a local bar]; sad to say, but the drag queens are more attractive than Annie Kuster.”

While his opinion of the opposing candidate Marilinda Garcia was whistled to a happier tune,

“[Garcia is] one of the most attractive women on the political scene anywhere, not so attractive as to be intimindating , but truly attractive”

On behalf of the male sex, I will say to Representative Vaillancourt, “Please, stop talking. You’re making us all look bad.”

I am shocked that men of this unseemly character can get away with these inappropriate comments and somehow get elected. I can’t imagine that this portion of his personality hasn’t risen to the surface before. So that begs the question: Why New Hampshire?! Why?! It is a fact that attractiveness does play a role in elections, but it is hardly Mr. Vaillancourt’s responsibility to be the play by play man in that respect. The physical appearance of a candidate, to a degree, shouldn’t be a driving factor in an electoral decision. So for a man of his political standing I am floored by this man’s lack of decency.

The Secret Casualties of the Iraq War

An eight-part piece, complete with documentary, recently brought to light the secret discovery and secret disposal of decade old chemical weapons during the Iraq War. It is estimated that between 2004 and 2011 troops in Iraq encountered and disposed of 5,000 chemical warheads, shells or aviation bombs. It is also estimated that over 30 American service members and Iraqi police officers were exposed to these chemical weapons. The weapons were assembled in Iraq during the 1990s but plans for the weapons plant, the design of the warhead, and even the warheads themselves were provided by western countries eager to see a resolution to the conflict between Iraq and Iran. The United States government has kept the discovery and disposal secret, at the expense of the soldiers exposed. These findings present an example of the ramifications of western powers aiding in the weapons manufacturing of unstable governments. The western countries were so eager to see a resolution to the conflict that they failed to anticipate what would become of the weapons provided if military power were to change hands, or if the regime were to collapse. Years later they have found themselves in charge of disposing of compromised chemical warheads and worrying that the territory seized by the Islamic State, a Qaeda splinter group, will but these dangerous chemical weapons back into the hands of terrorists.

Hong Kong Police Crackdown Draws Ire

A recent video showed a Hong Kong police officer beating a protester. As reported by the Wall Street Journal,

The video, aired by a local broadcaster, shows half a dozen police officers hauling a person in plastic handcuffs around a dark corner and then taking turns kicking him repeatedly.

Although the police expressed an official concern in the matter, and that they would look into it, it seems that the situation has already progressed beyond mere discussion; violence has entered the equation, and all parties involved will have to take great care in the Hong Kong situation.

It is truly unfortunate that violence occurred in any form. Although a supposedly peaceful “civil disobedience” movement, some protesters have also resorted to violence. Although civil rights of all kinds are invaluable, and violence may seem truly necessary at times, rarely will violence achieve the goals of freedom activists. Surely it is the goal of these protesters to argue for their rights; violence on the part of any involved in their party decreases their legitimacy and throw into question how peaceful their movement really is. Of course, the police violence is even less excusable, seeing as it’s currently against apparently peaceful protesters, and may even end up helping their movement by garnering sympathy both locally and abroad.

Either way, violence is not going to solve anything here, and as long as people will be needlessly harmed, the Hong Kong situation will be in a very unfortunate state.

Can motivational speaking move Iran forward?

Ahmad Hellat is a self-declared “handsome, rich, and powerful”  motivational speaker who is taking Iran by storm.  His magazine “Moavaghiat,” or Success, has an ever-increasing readership in the country; it is not unusual for his followers travel for many hours to attend Hellat’s seminars.

Mr. Hellat’s speeches focus on cultivating positive psychology within his audience; he teaches his adherents to believe that they can be successful, and to adjust their daily lives in small ways that will set them on the road to success.

Mr. Hellat’s seminars and his positivist teachings are a welcome relief for beleaguered Iranians, who have seen positive prospects vanish from their nation’s future increasingly during the past decade.  Current official statistics state that a full 25% of the Iranian population is suffering from depression, with rates being up past 35% in some areas.  Divorce has increased 135% since 2001. Marriages and births are on the decline while drug and alcohol addiction is on the rise.

Government seems to be making little progress in raising spirits.  Could a motivational speaker possibly do more for Iran than any political movement? Could Mr. Hellat’s teachings turn Iran around?

Motivational Speaker Finds Eager Audiences in a Struggling Iran

Cyclone Hits Eastern India

In an article on Monday, the New York Times described the effects of a massive cyclone that is traveling through South East Asia.  Around 300,000 people in India had to be evacuated from their homes.  While the comparative tally of deaths and casualties is fairly low, the damage is extensive and many are in need of help.

Though we face epidemics and terrorism across the world, we will continue to face natural disasters and the other more traditional challenges on the earth.  We are more used to them, but they are just as serious and devastating as always.  We need to remember those struggling with these situations as well.

A Thawing U.S. – Russian Relationship?

While the White House has hinted in the past several months that it will seek to isolate Russia due to its actions in Ukraine, Secretary of State John Kerry has moved to strengthen the relationship between Russia and the United States as he spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov today in Paris. The two sides primarily focused not on Ukraine, but on issues such as Afghanistan, Ebola, and ISIS, issues that both sides felt that they could reach common ground on. Mr. Kerry spoke on his hopes for the Russo-American relationship:

It is no secret that the United States and Russia have had our differences over Ukraine,” Mr. Kerry told reporters. “We came together today in order to try to focus on those issues where we can find the capacity to be able to make a difference to other countries, to the world in general, and certainly to the relationship between Russia and the United States.

While tensions certainly exist between the two countries, it is relieving that there has been a shift of focus in dialogue. While Ukraine certainly is an important issue, it’s important that the two countries focus on common issues that they can work to solve together, and not just bicker over Ukraine. Issues of note discussed between Kerry and Lavrov included the increased sharing of intelligence on ISIS, as well as the Iranian nuclear program. Mr. Kerry insisted that a solution to this issue in particular is not out of reach.

Mr. Kerry was also careful to note that economic sanctions on Moscow have not been lifted, and will continue to remain in force until Russian troops and equipment are removed completely from Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula, a process which has been slowly advancing. This suggests that the administration is both keeping a firm hand when it comes to Russia, but is also willing to cooperate on mutual issues. Particularly heartening was that Lavrov agreed that both the United States and Russia were global powers with global responsibilities. This has sparked hopes that, while Russia and the United States may not agree and cooperate on every issue, there is certainly room for cooperation as both sides take responsibility for global issues.

Mexico’s Deadly Narco-Politics

On September 26, 2014, a group of students demonstrating were killed in Iguala, Mexico. The students were shot by a group of local police officers, though one of the casualties was skinned and marked as a victim of “los narcotraficantes,” or drug lords. It has been reported that local police stations and even government officials have been infiltrated by drug lords around the country. It is thus very difficult to seek justice and to enforce the law in the land. The President, Enrique Pena Nieto has sent troops to Iguala to investigate the matter. The local mayor has fled the premises and is nowhere to be found. There is no doubt that there is corruption in Mexico. It is hard however to decide what to do when drug lords are controlling – or even are elected – government officials.

A comparable, yet different, situation exists in China as well. The new President, Xi Jingping has pledged to rid China from corruption. It is very difficult to do. One thing he has been doing is having third party group (affiliated with the Party) to respond to corruption calls across the country. Another approach has been to have rotations of leaders around the country to ensure that the same local corrupt leaders do not stay in power for years, or worse, rise through the ranks in the Chinese Communist Party. The Catholic Church has also been addressing corruption in the recent years. They are relying on clergy members and patrons to report any allegation. In both instances, China and the Catholic Church has relied on a third party (even from within) to hold leaders accountable for their deeds. Mexico will need support from its national police and even international support to fully suppress its country from corruption.


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