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America: Guantanamo Bay

Guantanamo Bay on the South-East of Cuba is one of the worlds best natural harbours. It was conquered in 1898 by US forces during the Spanish-USA war and has been under an open-ended lease agreement from the Cubans since 1903.

The Cubans have long since repudiated the lease and do not cash the annual lease cheque from the Americans (now around $4,000). (Question: If the Cubans had such a base on mainland USA, how long would it take the US to kick them off? So how can the US pretend to be ethical? An interesting question).

The real issue bothering the world is the behaviour of the US to prisoners it captured in Afghanistan (and possibly elsewhere). The basic fact is that the US is playing clever legal games to prevent the detainees having any meaningful legal rights:

  • The US says the prisoners are not “lawful combatants” and so aren’t entitled to treatment as Prisoners of War, making the provisions of the Geneva Conventions irrelevant.
  • The US holds that the prisoners aren’t held on US soil, so they aren’t entitled to the protection of the US courts.

If there are no legal rights under either the Geneva Conventions or the US Courts it means that the US Government is under no requirement to refrain from torturing or killing the detainees. There are a number of reports of prisoners dying whilst being “questioned”... But isn’t that what Saddam used to do in Iraq, or what the North Koreans do?

Another challenging question: If the Chinese or Russians were playing a similar game with Americans, how would the USA feel?

Links

Red Cross report: http://www.voanews.com/article.cfm?objectID=CB882D96-4966-437B-9BD102997BEF2AAC

America: Iraq

1990-present: Iraq

I have considerable sympathy (as a white English man) with the reasons for the United States being involved in Kuwait and Iraq, but I would like to point out some issues that cause people to hate the United States of America.

a. Gulf War I Contracts
I personally know a British man running a company working in the Middle East. After the first Gulf War, he and other signed up to the process to obtain contracts to rebuild Kuwait. The process was such that almost all the work went to American companies.

b. Gulf War II Contracts
The news is currently reporting that companies are able to bid for contracts in Iraq to install a mobile phone network. This is very noble... except that bidders need to currently hold at least 5 mobile phone licences. The reason that this is a problem is that US licences are issued regionally, so lots of US mobile phone companies have 5 licences or more. Other operators (e.g. those serving the whole of the UK) might have more users, revenues, and base stations, but might not be eligible because they only own 1 or 2 licences. No-one seems too bothered about ensuring that Iraq gets the same (European) GSM mobile phone system as its neighbours as there is the chance for US companies to make money by selling incompatible CDMA equipment.

c. Iraq Behaviour: Kids
The behaviour of the Americans in their 2003 Iraq campaign, in terms of the care they took to avoid civilian casualties when bombing, was extraordinary and the world must applaud the care they took. There are, however, reports that the Americans have been hurting little kids that beg them for food or who offer to have sex for money... These are effective ways to make sure the Americans become unpopular.

d. Iraq Behaviour: “Cosmopolitan” magazine
When the US troops first went into Iraq, some US soldier was stupid enough to give out a copy of Cosmopolitan. The insensitivity of this in a Muslim country is quite appreciable. The equivalent would be Iraq invading the USA and handing out “Playgirl” to the local women and girls. The real issue here is not Cosmopolitan but the insensitivities of the US citizens to the fact that other peoples in the world view things differently to them. The implication of this insensitivity is that lots of people are unnecessarily upset and this causes the US problems that could be easily avoided. The cure is for the US to bomb fewer countries and for their citizens to “get out more” by holidaying in other countries and getting to know the natives a bit better!

The United States and Britain operated a no-fly zone over Iraq from 1991 to 2003. Whilst the Iraqi leadership was far from pure, there are many Arabs who are pretty upset about having "infidels" in their holy land. The current reckoning is that around 500,000 children died because of the introduction of sanctions in Iraq with a total of 1,000,000 premature deaths. (Please compare this to 911 when “only” 3000 were killed).

If you find this too complex, you might appreciate a simpler explanation in the form of a Bedtime Story and if you think that Bush’s actions set a precedent then you should try this Iraq Letter too.

America: Afghanistan

In 1979 the Soviet Army were “invited” into Afghanistan by the leader of Afghanistan.

 

The Americans, concerned to prevent the Russians from getting access to the Arabian Sea through either Pakistan or Iran, supported various groups (such as the Taleban) in their fight against the Russians. The Americans provided training, funds, and equipment to the Freedom Fighters (Or, from a Russian perspective, to the Terrorists).

I don’t have any opinions (please email me!) on whether the Afghans appreciated the American intervention or not, but this funding helped the formation of the Taleban whom America now hates

America: Iranian Airliner

CNN have a discussion on the shooting down of a Civilian Iranian aircraft in 1988 on their page http://www.cnn.com/resources/video.almanac/1988/. The text reads

“U.S. cruiser downs Iranian airliner -- July 3, 1988

The American cruiser U.S.S. Vincennes shot down an Iranian commercial airliner, killing 290. The Iranian Airbus had followed airport takeoff instructions, was within the commercial-air corridor and was climbing -- not diving -- toward the Vincennes. Shipboard officials claimed to have mistaken the plane for an F-14 fighter. Initially the military claimed the shooting was justified, but subsequent disclosures suggested otherwise. The U.S. government apologised and offered compensation. A Navy probe blamed the crew, citing combat stress.”

There is a short film on the incident on the site.

Question: If the Iranians had shot down an aircraft with 290 American passengers, what would have happened to Tehran?