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‘I could see gas masks all around and [the fighters] were all talking about this. Everyone was already having problems with their eyes. One day I did an interview with the commander of the little position. These guys are used to shelling, fighting, snipers. That’s their life. But chemicals, you never know. It has a real psychological effect. You cannot smell it or see it for certain. Sometimes there is not even smoke.
At first I was scared with what I saw and what I was carrying, because we knew it was something that could change everything….My colleague and I had a long argument. Should we release everything when we were stuck in Damascus? Do we run the story and send it to the newspapers right away? But then we would be a bigger target, so we decided to not do it.’

-Laurent Van der Stockt on realizing that Assad’s forces in Syria were using chemical weapons. Read more - The Photographer Who Crossed Obama’s ‘Red Line’
Image by Laurent Van der Stockt/Reportage by Getty Images, from Nerve Gas in Syria


The boneheaded war in Iraq is claiming tens of thousands more lives now that it’s tied the hands of the US and allies from intervening in the Middle East when something really has to be done. There is no win in sight for either side, and even when arms are eventually lain down what will remain but sectarian conflict, a ruined infrastructure, a lost dream of democracy for what had been one of the most stable nations in the region, hundreds of thousands dead and countless lost landmarks and cultural icons from the birthplace of civilization.
Politics don’t matter, the past doesn’t matter, the fact that the US has never properly lived up to the image it likes to display of helping the rest of the world achieve democracy and intervening in atrocities doesn’t matter, that the government wants to pretend this country hasn’t toppled and instated dozens of governments over the years around the world but can’t be involved now doesn’t matter, that this threatens to be a new Cold War like proxy war following the renewed tensions between the US and Russia doesn’t matter, that there is no easy solution in sight doesn’t matter, that the economy isn’t strong doesn’t matter; all that matters is now and what is happening, human to human and talking and politicking has let the worst humanitarian crisis in the world fester, led to the largest conflict migration in generations and continues to allow torture, disappearances and the use of chemical weapons to stand.
It doesn’t have to be boots on the ground to turn the tide, Libya proved that, but more importantly the US should have been using the Arab Spring as an opportunity to live up to the false buzzword of “exporting democracy” and earn back a positive reputation on the world stage through advising and aid. We still can.
Mincing words and debating non-intervention while the bullets flew left a millions dead in Rwanda, the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola, Chile, etc., don’t let more nations join that shameful list. 

reportagebygettyimages:

‘I could see gas masks all around and [the fighters] were all talking about this. Everyone was already having problems with their eyes. One day I did an interview with the commander of the little position. These guys are used to shelling, fighting, snipers. That’s their life. But chemicals, you never know. It has a real psychological effect. You cannot smell it or see it for certain. Sometimes there is not even smoke.

At first I was scared with what I saw and what I was carrying, because we knew it was something that could change everything….My colleague and I had a long argument. Should we release everything when we were stuck in Damascus? Do we run the story and send it to the newspapers right away? But then we would be a bigger target, so we decided to not do it.’

-Laurent Van der Stockt on realizing that Assad’s forces in Syria were using chemical weapons. Read more - The Photographer Who Crossed Obama’s ‘Red Line’

Image by Laurent Van der Stockt/Reportage by Getty Images, from Nerve Gas in Syria

The boneheaded war in Iraq is claiming tens of thousands more lives now that it’s tied the hands of the US and allies from intervening in the Middle East when something really has to be done. There is no win in sight for either side, and even when arms are eventually lain down what will remain but sectarian conflict, a ruined infrastructure, a lost dream of democracy for what had been one of the most stable nations in the region, hundreds of thousands dead and countless lost landmarks and cultural icons from the birthplace of civilization.

Politics don’t matter, the past doesn’t matter, the fact that the US has never properly lived up to the image it likes to display of helping the rest of the world achieve democracy and intervening in atrocities doesn’t matter, that the government wants to pretend this country hasn’t toppled and instated dozens of governments over the years around the world but can’t be involved now doesn’t matter, that this threatens to be a new Cold War like proxy war following the renewed tensions between the US and Russia doesn’t matter, that there is no easy solution in sight doesn’t matter, that the economy isn’t strong doesn’t matter; all that matters is now and what is happening, human to human and talking and politicking has let the worst humanitarian crisis in the world fester, led to the largest conflict migration in generations and continues to allow torture, disappearances and the use of chemical weapons to stand.

It doesn’t have to be boots on the ground to turn the tide, Libya proved that, but more importantly the US should have been using the Arab Spring as an opportunity to live up to the false buzzword of “exporting democracy” and earn back a positive reputation on the world stage through advising and aid. We still can.

Mincing words and debating non-intervention while the bullets flew left a millions dead in Rwanda, the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola, Chile, etc., don’t let more nations join that shameful list. 

Failing to live up to the rules you hold over others

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon claims diplomatic immunity for the UN against the charge that it caused the cholera outbreak in Haiti & will therefore not answer to the case against it. 

They’re not following the very convention they’re invoking.

Article V, Section 20 of the Convention he’s using to shield the UN from answering to it says its his duty to waive immunity in any case where the immunity would impede the course of justice.

And Section 21 reads: “The United Nations shall co-operate at all times with the appropriate authorities of Members to facilitate the proper administration of justice, secure the observance of police regula- tions and prevent the occurrence of any abuse in connection with the privileges, immunities and facilities mentioned in this Article.”

Here’s the convention:

http://treaties.un.org/doc/Treaties/1946/12/19461214%2010-17%20PM/Ch_III_1p.pdf

USAID rabbit hole

In digging into the ratio of grant money awarded by USAID to American organizations vs. local ones I got sidetracked by coming across the internal audit on its own practices to ensure they are not funding individuals/organizations that have been involved with terrorism. The report is eye-opening, and reflects the fact that their policies do not go far enough to prevent such funding (a fact they admit). It’s dated to 2007, now I’m curious if they’ve altered policies since then. The original search was a sidetrack from my original research intent, now this is a sidetrack off a sidetrack. Sigh.

Shockingly, this is one of their “strict” rules for avoiding the funding of terrorist-associates:

  • Grantees are required to sign a certification attesting that they have not provided any material support to terrorists in the past 10 years. 

10 years?! So if I was supporting terrorists back in 2003 (yeah when I was 15) I could be a viable candidate for USAID funding today? Why isn’t the policy zero-tolerance?

The report also cites “the” 2 cases where policies failed to prevent funding supporters of terrorism, this is one of them:

In February 2005, a USAID partner pled guilty to lying to law enforcement officials about his involvement with and support to one of the disciples of Osama bin Laden in a terrorism-related investigation. In August 2005, a U.S. District Court in Louisiana sentenced the former USAID partner to 48 months’ imprisonment and a fine for making false statements to Federal agents in connection with counterterrorism investigations. Before the indictment, USAID officials had provided the partner with approximately $108,000 (of an estimated $1 million) from July 2004 to January 2005 for a program funded out of USAID/Pakistan. Initially, the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan notified USAID about the partner’s arrest in October 2004 pursuant to the indictment. Of the $108,000, USAID paid the partner $25,000 as a termination settlement for the grant that was awarded in July 2004.”

Yeah, now I want to know that whole story as well. US district court in Louisiana hands down the sentence for a grantee for a project in Pakistan, after being informed by the embassy in Pakistan… was this an American? Were they in the US for this sentencing? I’m assuming, I don’t think we really do in absentia verdicts here in public view do we? A LexisNexis search is certainly in order.

More & more things to search out as always.

Take a look at the report for yourself: http://transition.usaid.gov/about/foia/9-000-08-001-p.pdf