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Saturday, May 17, 2014

America Lost: Confused Champion of World Peace

The Merry Minuet

By The Kingston Trio

They're rioting in Africa
They're starving in Spain
There's hurricanes in Florida
And Texas needs rain.

The whole world is festering
with unhappy souls.
The French hate the Germans
The Germans hate the Poles.

Italians hate Yugoslavs,
South Africans hate the Dutch.
And I don't like
anybody very much!

But! We can be thankful
and tranquil and proud
that man's been endowed
with a mushroom-shaped cloud.

And we know for certain
That some lovely day
Someone will set the spark off
and we will all be blown away!

They're rioting in Africa
There's strife in Iran.
What nature doesn't do to us
Will be done by our fellow man.

This old folk song dates back to the early '60s. It seems to hold perspective for the world of 2014. We still live in a world of turmoil and intense hostility. The hottest news story now is the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls by the Boko Haram in Senegal. The act has drawn outrage from human rights activists all over the world, especially from those in the United States and from government officials of this country.

I despise Boko Haram, yet I question our nation's ability to rectify a situation in Africa and insure no further insanity takes place.

We envision America as the leader of the free planet, often the metaphorical "good guy in the white hat" ready to fight injustice and human rights violations everywhere on the world stage. I understand the concept, and I appreciate the intended moral obligation; however the world is full of terrible deeds, prejudice, oppression, and war. I don't understand how we Americans can right even a handful of the major wrongs in foreign lands.

Yet, the United States continues to play the role of mediator and protector of the world. Although the country is in a huge crisis in many areas of the economic sector and in a difficult battle with terrorism, it still tries to maintain its role as one of the superpowers capable of making peace in most every other nation. Perhaps the United States should work more to solve problems on its own soil before stepping out to attempt to take care of issues elsewhere.

This does not necessarily mean America should practice isolationism. Instead, the country should consider not only the real gains from getting involved in the affairs of foreign countries but also the possibility of negotiating lasting outcomes before committing any resources -- monetary, military, or diplomatic -- to the aid of those struggling from within.

Here are Woodrow Wilson's words about America's role as a peacemaker from his 1914 State of the Union Address:

"We are, indeed, a true friend to all the nations of the world, because we threaten none, covet the possessions of none, desire the overthrow of none. Our friendship can be accepted and is accepted without reservation, because it is offered in a spirit and for a purpose which no one need ever question or suspect. Therein lies our greatness.

"We are the champions of peace and of concord. And we should be very jealous of this distinction which we have sought to earn. just now we should be particularly jealous of it because it is our dearest present hope that this character and reputation may presently, in God's providence, bring us an opportunity such as has seldom been vouchsafed any nation, the opportunity to counsel and obtain peace in the world and reconciliation and a healing settlement of many a matter that has cooled and interrupted the friendship of nations."

Woodrow Wilson -- December 8, 1914

Do those words ring true today? I believe American history since the end of 1914 shows both examples of noble, needed commitments as well as many examples of misguided, dismal failures. Lately, America's posturing and direct actions are leading to even more questionable foreign policy decisions concerning peacemaking and maintaining a balance of power.

Please, read these brief summaries of headline stories that appeared in American newspapers recently to better understand this crazy world and its savagery.

Akar, Senegal

Boko Haram is one of Africa’s most brutal insurgent groups. Its bloody rampages even earn negative ratings from some wings of Al Qaeda and from radical militants in Nigeria's own Delta region.

In 2014 alone, some 1,500 people, mostly civilians, have been slain. Villages in the northeast have been decimated or burned. Nigerian forces, poorly equipped and manned, have done little to help.

It is an overwhelmingly local and parochial movement, that has some ties to parts of Al Qaeda. Of course, the group’s brazen kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in April catapulted it into global notoriety. Amnesty International this month documented that police knew in advance of the plan to kidnap the girls from Chibok, where they had gathered for exams, but took no action.

In a video message apparently made by the leader of the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls nearly three weeks ago, called them slaves and threatened to “sell them in the market, by Allah.”

“Western education should end,” Mr. Shekau said in the 57-minute video, speaking in Hausa and Arabic. “Girls, you should go and get married.” The Islamist leader also warned that he would “give their hands in marriage because they are our slaves. We would marry them out at the age of 9. We would marry them out at the age of 12.”

One possibly overlooked catalyst for Boko Haram’s evolution occurred in 2000 when Ahmed Yerima, the governor of Zamfara state in Nigeria's north-west, extended the jurisdiction of Muslim sharia law to criminal cases, prescribing punishments such as stoning for adultery, amputation for theft and flogging for drinking alcohol.


Nigerian forces believe they are zeroing in on Boko Haram, but the Islamic terror group behind a wave of murders and abductions has long tentacles that reach into the Central African nation's neighbors.

In Cameroon, which shares much of Nigeria's northeastern border, officials say militants from the group led by Abubakar Shekau have sneaked in with a tide of refugees, causing a rise in kidnappings, fighting and criminal acts just across the border from Nigeria’s Borno state.

“The boundaries between Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger are simply lines on a piece of paper that were drawn there by the French and English when they were in the region,” said John Campbell, senior fellow for African Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and former ambassador to Nigeria, told “It’s very hard to know the extent of support for Boko Haram in Nigeria itself let alone neighboring countries.”


In a new report on conditions in Ukraine, the United Nations declared that the human rights situation is continuing to deteriorate in Ukraine, fast. According to the UN, killings, abductions, beatings, and the jailing of politicians, activists, and journalists have continued unabated. “Primarily as a result of the actions of organized armed groups, the continuation of the rhetoric of hatred and propaganda fuels the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine, with a potential of spiraling out of control,” the United Nations said.

Deadly street fighting, helicopters shot down and civilians being used as human shields. That was the picture that emerged early May, 2014, in southern Ukraine as violence escalated amid reports that dozens of people were killed in a fire and still more were shot dead or wounded in street fighting, raising the question of whether the country can stave off a possible civil war.


A pregnant Sudanese woman who married a Christian man was sentenced to death Thursday after she refused to recant her Christian faith, her lawyer said.

North Korea's leadership is committing systematic and appalling human rights abuses against its own citizens on a scale unparalleled in the modern world, crimes against humanity with strong resemblances to those committed by the Nazis, the United Nations inquiry has concluded.

The commission gathered evidence for almost a year, including often harrowing testimony at public hearings worldwide, said there was compelling evidence of torture, execution and arbitrary imprisonment, deliberate starvation and an almost complete lack of free thought and belief.
Soma, Turkey

The image of an aide to Turkey's Prime Minister kicking a man protesting the mine disaster that has claimed nearly 300 lives has prompted outrage -- and has become a symbol of the anger felt against the government.

The incident occurred as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the western city of Soma a day after the devastating mine fire. The man, detained by special forces, can be seen lying on the ground as the suited adviser to Erdogan, identified as Yusuf Yerkel by Turkish media and CNN Turk, aims a kick at him.

Mukallah, Yemen

A suicide car bomber killed 10 Yemeni soldiers and one civilian and wounded many others on Sunday after targeting a military police building in the southern coastal city of Mukallah, state news agency Saba said.

The blast appeared to be a revenge attack by al Qaeda over the Yemeni army's campaign to crush Islamist insurgents in two large southern provinces.


Human Rights Watch has said that Venezuela has violated the rights of opposition protesters through beatings, illegal detentions and failure to follow due process.

In a report released on Monday, titled "Punished for Protesting," the rights group said that troops used excessive force against peaceful protesters, and that state prosecutors and judges tolerated or participated in the abuses.

The report was based on 45 cases of "serious human rights violations" researched in March. The group interviewed more than 90 people, including victims and their families, and more than a dozen lawyers who provided legal counsel.

"In most of the cases we documented, security forces employed unlawful force, including shooting and severely beating unarmed individuals," the report said. "Nearly all of the victims were also arrested and, while in detention, subjected to physical and psychological abuse."

The New York-based group alleged 10 torture cases, with incidents of electric shocks, burns and threats of rape or execution.


March 15, 2014 report: Catastrophic condition of repression exist in Iran: In recent months, at the same time as claims of moderation by Rouhani, the number of executions has reached a new record in the past twenty five years.

According to reports by the United Nations’ independent Rapporteurs, since the beginning of 2014, at least 176 people have been executed. At least four of them were prisoners who were under-age when they were arrested.

Nonetheless, Javad Larijani, a senior official of mullahs’ Judiciary Branch, has stated: “The world must praise Iran for increasing the number of executions.”

Savage punishments such as the gouging out of an eye and cutting off the hands and feet has continued, and the execution of the political prisoners and prisoners belonging to ethnic and religious minorities has escalated in an unprecedented manner.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are reporting a surge in the rights violations of gay people in Uganda following the enactment of a severe anti-gay law.

The rights groups said in a statement Thursday that LGBTI people face "a notable increase in arbitrary arrests, police abuse and extortion, loss of employment, evictions and homelessness."
The groups say scores have fled the country.


With so many human rights violations all over the world, America stands shocked and quite frankly in disagreement about what exactly to do. In my view, Woodrow Wilson's view of the United States "in God's providence" being the "champions of peace and of concord" seem antiquated and false. Albeit many gruesome and despicable acts are committed each day in foreign lands, why continue to burden our government with the responsibility of reforming the uncontrollable internal affairs of places without significant resistance to their own injustices.

I realize this view makes me somewhat of a heartless bastard, but with the wide scope of governments, religions, and accepted philosophies on earth, American attempts to control peace in every corner of civilization are doomed to be fruitless and prone to cause even more vindictive attacks by ruthless criminals.

Recent history shows, ending insurgencies is hard, as are needle-in-a-haystack manhunts in lawless areas where distrust of the government and foreigners runs high.

Hatred, revenge, the lack of simple toleration -- all contribute to a world in turmoil, a word foreign to American ideals. Hey, Mr. Wilson, the U.S. ain't your idealistic "healing" physician. Nice idea, Woody, but much of the world hates us for simply living in a nation that stretches "from sea to shining sea." We have plenty of problems here that need our immediate attention. I say "let's go to work on the home front." If that makes me an isolationist, just call me "Homey" and I can accept the compliment.

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