What an irony: Just after the tsunami's horrific toll has (briefly) focused world attention on Indonesia's grisly counter-insurgency war in Aceh, the US State Department is moving to approve restoration of official Pentagon ties to Indonesia's military. Indonesia's participation in the Pentagon's International Military Education and Training (IMET) program was suspended following atrocities in East Timor in 1999. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is now advocating restoring it, telling key members of Congress "IMET for Indonesia is in the US interest."
On Feb. 5, the eve of Guerrero gubernatorial elections, suspected guerillas of the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) attacked police posts in Acapulco, leaving four dead, including a 15-year-old boy who was making a call at a payphone. (AP, Feb. 5) In the election, former Acapulco Mayor Zeferino Torreblanca of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) was elected governor, ending the long-entrenched rule of the corrupt Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in Guerrero. (AP, Feb. 8)
Guerillas of the Baluchistan Liberation Army threatened to blow up Pakistan's most important oil and gas facility at Dhodak, in the central province of Punjab. The statement, phoned into several newspapers Feb. 6 by a spokesman called Azad Baluch (an apparent nom de guerre meaning Free Baluchistan), was the first threat by the rebels to strike outside Baluchistan province. The previous day, rebels reportedly struck a gas pipeline at Mangrotha in Dera Ghazi Khan district, 90 kilometers west of the central Punjab city of Multan. Bombings of rail lines and other government targets are now taking place nearly every day in Baluchistan, the largest and poorest of Pakistan's four provinces. (AFP, Feb. 7)
Newly-confirmed US Atttorney General Alberto Gonzales may begin his term as an indicted war criminal. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed new documents January 31 with the German Federal Prosecutor looking into war crimes charges against high-ranking US officials, including Donald Rumsfeld. One includes new evidence that the Fay report on Abu Ghraib protected Administration officials--a comprehensive and shocking opinion by Scott Horton, an expert on international law and chair of the International Law Committee of the New York City Bar Association. The second is a letter detailing how Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales’ testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee confirms his role as complicit in the torture and abuse of detainees in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq.
Reporters Without Borders issued a statement Feb. 5 protesting a "smear campaign" against Moroccan journalist Ali Lmrabet, who has been accused of "treason" in numerous pro-government media outlets since he ran a piece in the Spanish daily El Mundo on his visit to bases of the Polisario Front guerilla organization, and an interview with Polisario leader Mohamed Abdelaziz in the UK-based Arabic newspaper al-Moustakillah.
The UN's IRIN news agency reports that Nigerian troops shot and killed four villagers who were protesting at the main export terminal run by ChevronTexaco in the Niger Delta Feb. 4. Over 200 protesters from the village of Ugborodo near Warri occupied the Escravos plant just before dawn to demand a fairer share of revenues from the 300,000 barrels of crude oil that are pumped out every day. "Soldiers shot at them, killing four and injuring three others," said Helen Joe, one of the protest leaders.
The largely invisible suffering of Afghanistan's internal refugees made a rare appearance in the US media Feb. 4 with a NY Times story and front-page (below-the-fold) photo. The article noted that eighteen people have died in the refugee camps outside Kabul since severe cold descended on the country two weeks ago. The most recent death was that of a new-brn boy at the Chaman-e-Babrak tent camp. Temperatures fall as low as 5 degrees F. at night. There are some 4,000 living in the two main camps outside Kabul, described by the Times as "homeless rural people who cannot be relocated to the countryside" and "landless poor from rural areas who have no homes to go back to." The Times did not emphasize that most of these rural areas continue to be controlled by local warlords who persecute and even force out their perceived ethnic enemies.