01 Aug

Events of Interest and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

Afghanistan: The unsustainable in pursuit of the unbeatable

David Randall and Jonathan Owen: Nine years after the invasion, US-led forces are still trying to pin down and defeat the elusive Taliban


All frontline soldiers ‘to get psycho-screening in bid to cut combat stress’

Matt Chorley: The long-term impact of experiences in battle is not fully known and could leave veterans vulnerable………………..


A country of immigrants turns upon itself

The ruling this week by a US federal judge that blocks the most objectionable parts of Arizona’s new immigration law is a victory for the Obama administration, for the proper functioning of the US constitution and for elementary justice.

 Clearly the provisions in the original law allowing police to question people they had a “reasonable suspicion” might be illegal immigrants, and requiring them to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws, were a violation of individual liberties. Not only would these powers be an invitation to de facto racial profiling, they would also create a climate of fear between immigrants, legal as well as illegal, and other sections of the population.

America, like many European countries, has a real and growing problem of immigration, obviously most keenly felt by southern border regions like Arizona. But the solution does not lie in a mishmash of separate and conflicting laws passed by individual states. As the Justice Department argued in its lawsuit against Arizona’s measure, immigration policy is a federal responsibility, to be addressed by a common federal law. The decision by Judge Susan Bolton is only an early shot in a legal fight that is likely to last for years. Arizona’s governor has vowed to carry the struggle to the Supreme Court – which, given its current conservative bent, will almost certainly agree to hear the case. And then who knows? In the meantime, the original law enjoys the support of most Republicans and a clear majority of ordinary Americans. Such is the dismal spectacle of a country of immigrants turning upon itself.

How much better if Congress used those years to craft a comprehensive immigration reform bill that both meets the legitimate concerns of Arizona, and sets out an orderly path to citizenship to those who are already long there. But the omens are not good. Three years ago, sensible legislation backed by then President George Bush came to grief. Since then, the climate on Capitol Hill has become even more partisan, while recession has made illegal immigrants natural scapegoats for rising unemployment. Demagoguery may score political points. But it will not make the problem go away.


Cluster bomb ban comes into effect


The United States, the world’s largest producer with the biggest stockpile of 800 million submunitions, has refused to sign the treaty so far, although it says it will ban the weapon from 2018.

The treaty prohibits signatories from using,
producing and stockpiling the weapons [AFP]

A global treaty banning cluster munitions has gone into force.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions, which became binding international law on Sunday, prohibits the use, production and stockpiling of the weapon, which is blamed for killing and maiming tens of thousands of civilians.

Thomas Nash, from the Cluster Munition Coalition, a network of 200 civil society organisations, hailed the ban.

“This is the most significant piece of international humanitarian law to enter into force since the land mine ban 10 years ago. From this moment on, countries have a legal obligation to assist the victims,” the Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.

The treaty requires signatories to destroy stockpiled cluster munitions within eight years, clear contaminated areas within 10 years and help affected communities and survivors.

The Convention on Cluster Bombs was first adopted in May 2008 and ratified by 37 states including Britain, France, Germany and Japan, which all have significant stocks.

Deadly ‘toys’

Cluster bombs are dropped from planes or fired by mortars before the canisters open mid-air, releasing bomblets that scatter over a wide area. Most explode immediately, but those that fail to detonate on impact can claim victims many years after the end of the conflict.

Unexploded landmines pose a humanitarian and financial hazard in Egypt

More than two dozen countries have been affected by cluster bombs and activists say three out of five casualties occur during day-to-day activities.

Most of the victims are children and some are killed when they mistake the bomblets for toys.

The United Nations estimates almost half of all casualties are from Laos, where people are still at risk of being injured from unexploded bomblets.

Between 1964 and 1973, at the height of Vietnam War, the US military dropped more than 2 million tons of explosive ordnance, including an estimated 260 million cluster munitions, mainly to disrupt enemy supply lines that passed through Laos.

It is thought that around 30 per cent of bomblets failed to explode on impact, and over two-thirds of the country is still contaminated. Experts say they kill or injure about 300 people a year.

Significant stocks

Countries that have signed the treaty into law include the UK, France, Germany and Japan, all of which have significant stocks of the weapon.

But the Cluster Munition Coalition said it needs to persuade more states to sign.

The United States, the world’s largest producer with the biggest stockpile of 800 million submunitions, has refused to sign the treaty so far, although it says it will ban the weapon from 2018.

China, Russia and Israel have also stayed away and do not disclose their stocks.

Lou Maresca from the International Committee of the Red Cross told Al Jazeera: “We’ve often seen that the establishment of a new international humanitarian law treaty can nevertheless impact on states which are not a party to it.

“We’ve already seen that the existence of this treaty has helped change the practice and provoke a re-evaluation of the role of cluster munitions even in major military powers.”


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