Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pakistan Uncovers Lashkar-e-Taiba Involvement in Mumbai Bombings

Pakistani officials disclosed that they discovered, through their own investigations, connections between Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Mumbai attackers. This confirms what has been suspected for over a month since the November attacks.

While the revelation may not prove significant to those who had been following the crisis closely, what it may mean is that Pakistan and India may agree on the basis of the cause of the attacks, and thus may begin to thaw in terms of working towards a common resolution of the investigation and a mutual diffusion of hostilities.

Much remains to be seen regarding how far and deep the investigation will go into the LeT organization and, possibly, the Pakistani military and intelligence branches which allegedly supported their operations.

Monday, December 29, 2008

"India: Let Kashmir Go" (Bennett Ramberg in Christian Science Monitor)

“The Disuted Territory” Shown in green is Kashmiri region under Pakistani control. The dark-brown region represents Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir while the Aksai Chin is under Chinese occupation. Source: Wikipedia citation of the CIA World Factbook

Bennett Ramberg, in an opinion piece for the Christian Science Monitor, suggests for India to let Kashmir go: “options include independence, division along communal lines, comanagement by both India and Pakistan, [or] a UN trusteeship.”

It is generally easy for an outside observer to discuss giving away someone else’s percieved property, rights and claims. How easy it can be for us to tell someone else, “All you need to do is give up what you’ve been struggling over for generations.” The more difficult thing to do is for each party to consider what is best for the other parties involved, as well as consider their own interests. New equilibrium outcomes can only be likely when opinions are open to new considerations. Otherwise, mentalities and opinions will likely go back to pre-existing expectations and de facto schemas.

Kashmir: A Reverse Land for Peace Deal?

“Let it go.” This simple-sounding axiom, couched by the citation by Ramberg of the amicable division of Czechoslovakia, and the mostly peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union, is not so easily cut-and-dried. The Czech Republic and Slovakia were both swept into a ready-and-waiting strong neighborly brotherhood of the EU and NATO. There were extremely wealthy vested interests in seeing this be a friendly, happy, and amicable divorce. The same was certainly not true for nearby Yugoslavia, which, once the pins were pulled out of its national structures, turned into a decade-long tragedy.

Having India let Jammu and Kashmir go would be far more akin to the Arab-Israeli “Land for Peace” consideration. Which, like the Kashmir question, has historical roots in conflicts that broke out in the post-World War II division of lands between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Yet as Ramberg himself points out, Indian wargaming strategies show a reverse “land for peace” deal is more likely. Under the Indian “Cold Start” strategy, India would seize Pakistani border territory in a rapid strike. Then, it would put pressure on Pakistan to meet its demands for the withdrawal from Pakistani territories.

In other words, the same sorts of territorial disputes that followed the Arab-Israeli 1967 war might await the region in a future Indian-Pakistani conflict. It would be an inverse of the 1999 Kargil War, where Pakistani units infiltrated and held onto territory in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Yet that conflict pushed the prospects of nuclear war to the brink. Pakistan’s government is still extremely unstable. Such conventional warfare might result in utterly horrific casualties if violence spiralled out of proportion.

Does It Matter Who Runs Kashmir?

Yes. Apparently.

Both the Indian government and Pakistani government are infamous for corruption, negligence, self-serving deals, fratricidal political infighting, veiled (and not-so-veiled) use of violence, and, of course, crass nepotism. Pakistan is ranked as low as #134 out of 180 nations in the world in terms of corruption; India at #85, though mis-management in Jammu and Kashmir is specifically noted as extreme. It is the most-corruptly administered area of the Indian nation.

Index of perception of corruption. Source: Wikipedia, based on data from Transparency International

Mind you that the governments of India and Pakistan are seen, regionally, to be some of the less-corrupt governments in south Asia. Add to that the numerous wars fought between the two nations since 1947, and you can see the reasons for distrust.

Thus, to a great degree, much of the lack of trust boils over into not wanting the other side’s corrupt politicians getting their greedy hands on the territory. Instead, both nations feel comfortable that their own corrupt political machines can rule over Jammu and Kashmir, while the other nation’s bureaucracy is exoriated and derided.

Index of Corruption in Indian states in 2005;
Note Jammu & Kashmir in the north is the most corrupt.
Source: Wikipedia

Pluralism: It Begs the Question

At its heart, there lurks the fundamental issue of pluralism: whether there can be peaceful co-existance of different religions and ethnicities in these territories. It would matter less which nation administered these territories if the rights of various populations were respected, and services guaranteed on a basis of civil equality.

So long as there is distrust, and indeed, a fair basis for the common people of the region to believe there is good reason to not trust politicians of either government, there will be the resultant undermining from below, oppression from above, forces exploding out from the middle, or a society collapsing in upon itself. There can be no stability regardless of which national government seeks to establish suzerainty over the territory. Furthermore, a region left in “free fall” will find neighbors pumping in money, leadership, and elements of control to seize power.

It should be noted that a strong external government cannot necessarily enforce a strong local result. For instance, since the United States intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq, their national institutions have floundered horrifically. Afghanistan ranks #176, and Iraq at #178 on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index for 2008, out of 180 nations ranked. They are in the company of such basketcase nationstates as Somalia, Haiti and Sudan.

Pulling out a strong national government does not necessarily equate to peace and stability in terms of residual institutions. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a few former republics have fared well, yet Tajikistan (tied for #151 place), Azerbaijan (#158), Kyrgyzstan (#166), Turkmenistan (#167), and Uzbekistan (#168) have fallen precipitously and become very corrupt states.

It is no guarantee a simple pullback of India from the area would guarantee peace and stability. Much the same way that a pullout of Lebanon by Syria and Israel did not guarantee, immediately, a functional state. While Lebanon is waveringly rising from the impoverished state it was reduced to by decades of civil war, much violence and tension remains. Further, there was never a consideration of Lebanon being a province of Syria or Israel.

Instead, Kashmir might be more likened to the Palestinian territories, which were once claimed by Israel. Yet this is not precisely a model of a stable, friendly independent state along the withdrawing power’s borders. Such models bode poorly for India’s northern border were Kashmir made independent.

What Do Indians Want?

According to a Times of India article, dated 23 August 2008, 59% of Indians believe “India should hold on to Kashmir despite the economic cost of doing so.” 11% were undecided. 30% said the cost of doing so was already too high.

The most telling statistic was that 68% of Indians believed Kashmir should not be allowed to secede from India even if it wanted to. To them, alienating Jammu and Kashmir would be akin to the United States allowing one of our own fifty states to withdraw from the nation.

This survey showed that about 30% believe the cost of holding on to Kashmir is already too high. A minority opinion of about that proportion might theoretically support Kashmir’s independence from India. According to the Times of India: “At one level, it indicates that what was simply not thinkable until now - whether Kashmir could secede from the Indian Union or not - has possibly become a matter of debate, even if it is within a small section of our urban society.”

However, the same study also showed that only 19% felt such a move would make the country more secure. 31% felt it would make no difference to Indian security—threats, such as terrorism, would remain regardless of whether Kashmir went its own way or not. “As for fear, a clear half said India would become a less safe place if Kashmir were allowed to secede. In other words, the terror threat to the country would only increase if the northern border were to come closer to the country's heartland.”

Instead, the predominant opinion, held by more than 75% of those surveyed, felt Kashmir could still be integrated into the mainstream of Indian governmental organization and social structure.

Amongst these surveyed Indians, 41% felt that Kashmir had been neglected by government. 30% felt Kashmir had been treated fairly, and an almost equal number, 29%, felt it had been pampered.

Pakistani Concerns

Pakistani opinions are very fractious now, far more than India. The nation is facing a low-grade internal civil war, or at least, autonomous state withdrawal from central administration. It is possible India might need to intercede along the Pakistani border for better security if military or paramilitary organizations went rogue and decided to spill violence over the border into India.

Pakistani military involvement, though denied, has been detected in schemes using now out-of-control paramilitaries from the Kargil War to the recent Mumbai bombings. It calls into question how much respect there is for civil government, versus the state of “vae victus” — Might Makes Right.

India’s internal impetus to public opinion is increasingly calling to cross the Pakistani border to seek vengeance for what happened in Mumbai in November, and in other attacks over recent years. So far, India has shown some restraint in light of repeated attempts of provocation by Pakistan going back to the strategically-planned Kargil War of 1999. Though the Kargil War was a devastating set-back for Pakistan, the persistance of provocation is not lost on India.

Cloudy with a Chance of Peace

Both Indian and Pakistani zealots are pushing for war with each other. Both Indian and Pakistani moderates and doves are attempting to broker peace. Right now, much hangs in the balance. The militants on both sides know this, and they are, in a way, allies in encouraging violence. India continues to back independence-minded rebels in Baluchistan, while Pakistan continues to sow seeds of dissent over Kashmir. How far might both sides push each other?

A Reuters article today outlines some of the possible effects such a conflict might cause. Pakistan has been considering counters to the Cold Start scenario for years. The recent movement of tens of thousands of troops to the Indian border is likely a preventative measure to ensure territorial sovereignty in light of such a policy.

Yet all these actions and responses seem practically polite compared to the nuclear exchange scenario written about by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which authored a study in 2002 about The Consequences of Nuclear Conflict between India and Pakistan. Numbers killed by nuclear exchange ranged between 3 million (using Hiroshima-sized bombs) to 30 million.

Such conflict would not likely be limited to nuclear exchange. Such a catastrophe might lead to full-scale conventional war as well. It could also lead to internal civil war or insurrection inside both Pakistan and India. Hence why both nations are hesitant, even as radical elements of both nations call for responses. Both nations are already facing increasing internal chaos, such as that which Pakistan faced during the aftermath of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

The burden of solutions now rests squarely in the shoulders of moderates in both nations. If they are able to navigate a path to peace, between Pakistan and India on a broader scale, only then can the Kashmir question be raised for conclusive resolution. Otherwise, it will remain a pawn on the board of geopolitics, never truly free because the two states that determine its fate will claim it, or portions or whole swaths of it, when their sovereignty or security are threatened.

Sunday, December 28, 2008's Gaza Campaign: A Time for Peace

Avaaz is currently initiating a campaign to bring about an end to the Gaza crisis. Avaaz is no stranger to this particular situation, having been involved in helping ameliorate the Israel-Palestinian conflict for some time now.

I happen to be in New York City this week, so I wrote to them this evening to see if there would be anything I could do to help prepare a report, an executive briefing, a presentation or any other analysis regarding the crisis. It is, of course, simply an offer to help. They may have their own staff busy at work, and another chef in the kitchen could simply be distracting. Yet the offer stands if they could use me this week while I’m here, or over the longer-term in 2009 and beyond.

For now, I appeal to each reader to help support the Avaaz campaign for “A Time for Peace.”

Relentless News

A number of articles struck me today, just glancing at headlines:

Bomb kills 30 at Pakistan polling station
Suicide blast kills 6, wounds 36 Afghans
Suicide bomber kills 8 in Sri Lanka (17 others were injured)

Each of these attacks is as horrendous as the Southern California “Christmas Santa” rampage. Relentless carnage. Yet all pale in comparison to the strikes on Gaza:

Israeli airstrikes widen scope against Gaza

Over 280 have been killed there, and hundreds more have been wounded. Which is on par, or exceeds, the casualty figures of the November Mumbai attacks. In apparent response and protest, there was a suicide bomber in Iraq who detonated himself in the middle of a crowd. So in response to killing Muslims, an outraged Muslim killed himself and harmed more Muslims. That is an utterly tragic irony.

Such horrific carnage and abject misery of the past sixty years will continue unabated unless peace is allowed to settle on the region. I would join in the call of the United Nations Security Council for Israeli and Gaza leaders to end mutual hostilities. I also call on other world powers to intercede and help broker a lasting accord. Finally, I call on the parents of the region to teach their children the only way to break this cycle of violence is to do well to their neighbors, and avoid acts of malice and cruelty towards each other. Provocation and death will only lead to more provocation and death. If there is injustice, find impartial third parties to broker a just solution.

In a wider call, it behooves us as a civilization to consider deeply the nature of driving people to such extremes that suicide-homicide becomes the de rigeur means to achieve the notoriety of social unhappiness. How can we have governments consider the redress of grievances of minorities without requiring the bi-directional slaughter of majority and minority populations? What sort of century are we setting up for ourselves when malcontented people repeatedly try to pull the society down with them? This sort of destructiveness leads towards the erosion of trust in basic civil society.

It is time that we, as a species, address our addiction to violence, towards ourselves and our neighbors.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Christmas Suicide-Homicide

LOS ANGELES - A distraught man dressed as Santa Claus opened fire at a Christmas Eve party and then set the house ablaze, killing at least eight people, police said.

Several hours later, the shooter killed himself.
Another terrible suicide-homicide here in the United States. Eight people lay dead. Then the killer turns the gun on himself. Socrates, though he committed suicide, would have considered harming others, and such destruction, akrasia. Yet humans all-too-often feel driven, or actively desire to go, to such extreme acts.

As families around the nation celebrated Christmas Eve in love and joy, Bruce Pardo shot an 8-year-old girl in the face as she opened a door. He shot a 16-year old girl in the back as she fled. After killing eight friends and relatives, both with a gun as well as by setting the home on fire, he fled the scene and later turned the gun on himself to commit suicide.

In the background, as I research this story, I am listening to a man doing his best to organize people around the world. He seeks to provide books and libraries to very poor African villages. It is an unrelated story to this Christmas tragedy, yet it is a counter-point to the wide difference in the logic, the humanity, and the morality between examples of humans.

What strikes me is the inversion, indeed, the perversion, of values. How a man in a Santa Claus outfit, the symbol of generosity and goodwill, turned into a monster. How the “civilized” western world is reduced to be as brutal and barbaric as ever. It strikes me how much there is in America that we could take solace and joy in. How so many of us take for granted things like education, reading books, electrical power, and the Internet. Yet, tragically, how miserable we can make ourselves, and each other.

Bruce Pardo could have helped the homeless and needy for Christmas. He could have relaxed and chalked up 2008 as a particularly bad year of his life. He could have called up his ex-wife and simply apologized for anything that went sour between them. He could have called a suicide prevention hotline, or turned himself over for psychiatric care or counseling. He did none of these things. And what he did do was monstrous.

The Greeks would have called this akrasia: acting against our better judgment. It is almost too small a term for his deeds.

James F. Welles, Ph.D. would simply and bluntly call this “stupidity.” Defined in his book Understanding Stupidity as “a normal, dysfunctional psychic phenomenon which is caused when a schema formed by linguistic biases and social norms acts via the neurotic paradox to establish a positive feedback system which carries behavior to maladaptive excesses.

Suicide-homicide surely is a gross example of maladaptive excess. Rather than adaptive behavior, it is destruction of all: taking those otherwise fit to survive, and judging them as unfit to live. The guilty and the innocent. Indiscriminate destruction, followed by self-destruction.

Behaviorally, there is no significant difference between this man or one of the Mumbai attackers. It doesn’t matter, per se, if one is motivated by the perceived social injustice of Hindus and Westerners committed against Muslims, and if another man is motivated to wreak vengeance following a contentious divorce.

Once we condone, or at least simply shrug, at the cause of one act of suicide-homicide, we become inured to other causes and reasons for violence. “Who cares? What can I do about it? All of this is beyond me.”

Is this “beyond us?” In a way, it is. The psychology of these people was so far to the side of anti-social psychopathy that they could not likely be dissuaded from their actions. Yet the conditions which engendered these feelings and allowed for these people to commit their deeds could have been affected by others. There are certainly people who produced guns, and explosives and incendiaries which ended up in the hands of the Mumbai attackers and in the hands of Bruce Pardo. They did not just magically appear out of thin air.

I freely concede these heinous acts are the direct responsibility of those who commit them. Yet it is the responsibility for all of us to deal with the aftermath. And it is the responsibility of society to look to protect each other and to watch out proactively, to minimize such monstrous deadly calamity.

We can all help influence others, throughout our lives, to seek to achieve our ends through healthier, more productive, and less-catastrophic means.

With the increasing stresses of the economy, and the fractious nature of national and international politics, there will likely be more violence. Borne out of frustration, anger and grief. It behooves us to try to ameliorate and sooth social crises. To watch for the warning signs of those who truly do seek to conduct violence against others.

I watched a show on television yesterday. About a man who was divorced and repeatedly told his co-workers about how he planned to murder his ex-wife. They all heard him talk over and over about it. Then one day, his wife disappeared, never to be seen again. She was presumed murdered. In all that time he had bragged and plotted on how specifically he would commit the murder, after all those expressed desires, no one had contacted the police. It baffled me. No one believed him. That he’d actually do it.

We have to face the reality of violence in our world. It may be chaotic, but it is not random. It is often predictable in personal relationships, and at the higher level in gross demographic terms: incidents per hundred thousand. While each actor has non-rational, non-predictive choices they make each day, we can consider what helps calm people, and makes for more sane, socially healthy individuals. And what is less-likely to produce wholesome individuals.

My heart goes out to those who, in this holiday season, were or are still being brutalized by physical and emotional violence. Those for whom there is little joy in Christmas. Little solace or hope. I pray they find peace again.

To those who are considering committing violence, I pray you change your hearts and avoid causing grief. For every rational or irrational reason drummed up in someone’s head for why they “have to” commit violence, there is another, stronger, more wholesome and more ethical reason as to why they could avoid committing harm.

The final term I ponder over this morning is that of malice. The phrase from the Wikipedia definition that resonates strongly with me is “an abandoned or malignant heart.” Merriam-Webster defines malice as “desire to cause pain, injury, or distress to another,” or “intent to commit an unlawful act or cause harm without legal justification or excuse.”

While this is so, what it leaves out is the cause of such desire or intent. As I said above, the specific motive almost doesn’t matter. I seek to go beyond the instances of what keyed off each of these suicide-homicides, and consider the more general theory of what drives a person to commit such. What is in the “stupidity” of the maladaptive schema that provides “suicide-homicide” as a supposedly-rational solution to a socio-political or interpersonal problem.

I’ve been up for hours thinking about this issue tonight. Not that I can single-handedly “solve” this sort of problem in a blog. But I keep thinking about this sort of psychological trauma. The kids getting shot on Christmas Eve. A party ending in mass-murder and a house in flames. I am relating it to Mumbai, and 9/11. To Columbine. And Jonestown. All over Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Palestine. The thousands of other suicide-homicide attacks around the nation and the world in recent decades.

I keep wondering what sort of social or psychological motivation can be applied to make people who would consider committing this sort of crime less-likely to do so in the future.

Christ would say we must love one another. Turn the other cheek. Seek not to judge, lest we be judged. Forgive.

Others would derisively mock people who would do this sort of malicious act as losers. Idiots. They’d heap excoriation and exasperation on them. Dismiss their motives as insane and asinine. And, most likely, deride Jesus of Nazareth as a liberal loser soft on crime.

How do we encourage people to be on their best behavior? What do we do when we have hints and indications they will purposefully act with malice and forethought to do as much harm as possible? When do we consider a person devoid of ethics, or beyond the bounds of sanity or morality? What do we do when a person is unrepentant and unstoppable by social persuasion alone?

Still others, I know, just don’t care, and have already switched the channel to a favorite holiday movie.

What is your reaction to this situation, and what do you believe can, or should, be done about such domestic violence, as well as international violence, and the issue of suicide-homicide?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Truce

Peace on Earth
Goodwill Towards Men (And Women)

Here is a story of how peace almost spontaneously broke out in World War I. Which might have caused the end of three years of gruesome war. Yet leaders forced war upon the common people.

There’s a lesson here for the modern world.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mumbai Survey Project

Harshawardhan (“Harshi”) Lanjewar will be leaving for India today for his year-end holidays. Yet while he is there, he has committed to conducting a survey in Mumbai and elsewhere in his travels regarding the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. The survey will help us better understand the personal experiences of those that witnessed and survived the attacks, as well as the general mood of both residents and travelers.

As well as a written survey, Harshi will be taking with him the Flip video camera which was awarded to me as Second Prize in the 2008 Mountain View Reads film contest for Three Cups of Tea. The 10-minute video produced for the contest is posted on YouTube: Three Cups of Tea for Global Understanding.

When he returns in January 2009, we will compile his survey results and video work with other emerging information regarding the conflicts and crises faced by India and Pakistan. Both what the present problems are, and what solutions are emerging, or waiting in the wings of possibility for the new year.

Best wishes to Harshi and his family, and to all travelers and stay-at-home over this year-end holiday season.


-Peter Corless.
650-906-3134 (mobile)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

Today, 10 December, is the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Today, around the world, people are reviewing, renewing their commitment to, and celebrating this landmark document.
“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world…”
When it was drafted and authored in 1948, it was a visionary proposition: to guarantee the rights expected in the most modern, cosmopolitan nations in the world for all human beings on the planet, regardless of their race, religion, gender, political or sexual preference, age, infirmity, or handicap.

They were, and are, universal rights. Not limited to any nation. Or any government. Such rights are not the special and proprietary purview any specific faction, party, or political movement. They would apply anywhere from Antarctica to the North Pole. From the bottom of the Mariana Trench to the top of Mount Everest. Anywhere subterranean, suborbital, or even beyond our planet’s gravitational pull. They would apply just as equally on the moon or Mars, or outside of our Solar System, if we ever went there as a species.

They were authored in 1948, in the aftermath and shadow of World War II, when the world managed, through six tumultuous years, to slaughter 72 million human beings out of the 2.3 billion people living on the planet at the time. About 3 out of 100 people on the planet were dead. Untold numbers were left in shock and states of injury. Out of this, the United Nations was born, in the hopes that humanity would never plunge themselves into such globally genocidal bloodshed again.

The world at the time was quite sincere, hopeful yet fearful. These were the years when the atomic bomb was still brand new. Though its advanced physics were not well understood by most of the populace, it was clearly to laypersons around the world to have, in theory, the power to exterminate all life on the planet. Two such bombs had slain over 100,000 people and had left about another 100,000 wounded. Though it would take 50,000 such bombs to destroy the global population, the size and scale of atomic bombs was going to grow alarmingly. The original bombs for Hiroshima and Nagasaki had, respectively, a yield of 15 and 21 kilotons. Weapons developed by the United States and the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War would theoretically yield a destructive force between 25-100 megatons. If a weapon of 12.5 megatons were to be exploded in New York City, scientists estimate it would kill 260,000 people within 24 hours of blast, radiation exposure, and fallout.

At the time, in 1948, the United States was the only nation on earth to possess such weapons. The year afterwards, in 1949, the USSR would declare to the world their successful creation of such a weapon. By 2008, nine nations are known or are suspected to have nuclear weapons, including India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel, who have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Other states around the world are known to be working on such weapons, or suspected to be able to assemble such a weapon given a well-funded secret operation or war mobilization.

Yet the specter that continues to raise its head in the post-9/11 world is the possibility of non-state actors — terrorists, separatists, or agents provacateur — using such weapons to alter the global economic and political landscape of the 21st Century. The Aum Shinrikyo cult in 1995 used chemical weapons to injure over 1,000 people and kill 12 in the Tokyo subways.

Yet conventional weapons are deadly enough. Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) regimes seek to curb the proliferation of the typical killers of the post-Second World War era: assault rifles, machine guns, grenades, mortars and rocket launchers, and all manner of portable anti-personnel, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles explosive weapons.

In the years since the Second World War, approximately 55 million people have died in Cold War, Post-Colonial Era wars of independence, civil wars, rebellions and insurrections, and violent terrorist attacks. Though there were some who died of heavy weapons (tanks and artillery) or by disease and deprivation, the vast majority have died because of small arms and light weapons.

Practically every single death is the result of a violation of humanitarian law and/or criminal law. Even if we invoke the “laws of war,” and the rights of states to conduct war against each other, tens of millions have died in a form of killing which has coined its own term: democide. According to R. J. Rummel, the political scientist who coined the term, 262 million people died in the 20th century due to governments forcibly exterminating populaces. This is far beyond the casualties of war. Deprivation and starvation, pogroms and clandestine murders are included.

The stakes for the 21st Century are enormous. If we can commit to guaranteeing the human rights of every human, from every people on the planet, hundreds of millions or even a billion or more humans can be saved from death. If we partially or even just “mostly” succeed, it is likely we are going to effectively concede to the deaths of tens or hundreds of millions of people.

Beyond the right to exist on Earth, the other Universal Rights guarantee a person’s individual rights towards a great range of activities: expression, spiritual belief, the fruits of one’s creativity, due process before the law, and so on. For what good would such a life be if it were merely a hell on earth?

Thus in the same year that George Orwell was writing the pivotal novel 1984 to parody the out-of-control bureaucracy of the United Kingdom, and to bring to mind the nature of the rightful limits of intrusive government, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was authored to express the human, individual nature of the basis of society.

1948 was a key year in many ways. Post-colonial wars of independence were changing the world from Asia to Latin America. The Treaty of Brussels was signed, as a precursor to NATO. The Marshall Plan was signed into effect to help reconstruct Europe. The Arab States and Israel went to war for the first time that year, with the conflict beginning on New Year’s Day with the siege of the Old Quarter of Jerusalem by Arab Muslim militants. The first casualty of the United Nations was suffered in trying to establish peace in the region. The split of India and Pakistan was still violently being fought over, and Mahatma Ghandi was assassinated. Both the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) were formally declared, which would lead to a desperate war on the peninsula. Venezuela overthrew its president by the armed means of a military junta.

In the United States, Harry S. Truman, concerned with the propogation to democratic principles and values, sent the key documents of the United States around the country on the first Freedom Train between 1947-1948. He also signed Executive Order 9981, ending the racial segregation of the U.S. armed forces.

It was in this global condition that Eleanor Roosevelt and her colleagues (John Peters Humphrey, Rene Cassin, P.C. Chang, Charles Malix, and others) proposed and had adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). It is a remarkable, clear, and bold document which guaranteed many of the rights which many people in democratic states take as de facto ways the world should work. A thorough reading of it is always illuminating. How far we have come as a species. How how far we fall short. How much we have more to achieve on a global basis, even in our “advanced” nation states and civilizations.

So this evening, as I sit here in Books, Inc., in the city of Mountain View, California, I am raising a cup of iced tea to celebrate my freedoms: social, political, economic, spiritual, cultural, civil, humanitarian, and so on. There is an entire body of law, ratified by most nations on the planet, to uphold my rights to be.

That’s a powerful concept! And a compelling goal. To uphold those rights. To ensure we do not deprive them of others, even as we demand them for ourselves.

There are also implicit responsibilities when rights are asserted. Responsibilities to each other to respect and honor each other. To “first do no harm.” To then see what we need to improve most urgently and critically. I also have a cautionary mind, to consider what needs to happen here in our own neighborhood and around our own country, long before we lecture or demand of the rest of the world. Lest we come across as hypocrites. In a way, it will be inevitable. For it is often true about humans that we can more easily talk to others about what they have to improve before we face what is wrong with ourselves. Sometimes we will fail to see our own faults. Sometimes we will ignore what we know to be wrong, putting it off for a future day’s project.

For me, I’m committed to paying attention. Whether it is addressing the problem of homelessness in Mountain View and the Bay Area, education and healthcare around the world from here to the schools of Ikat in central Asia, or the Mama Maria Clinic in Kenya, or whether it is documenting the world on Wikipedia.

From these historic movements, and through these historic organizations in these historic times, we’ll see what happens in 2009 and beyond.

Onwards to adventure!

-Peter Corless.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008

False Flag Claims for Responsibility for the Mumbai Attacks

Today, I had a difficult time documenting the false flag

As of 1 December 2008, "false flag Mumbai attack" matched 82,600 results on a Google search, and 18 videos on YouTube.

I also made what I consider a large and loathsome caveat for the article:

Caution: Citation of false flag claims in this article does not constitute admission of a factual basis for these claims, but to show the range of different claims being made. Nor does a citation conversely mean the false flag claim is false, since there may be an actual misdirection of various actors and supporters of the attacks to distract authorities from their identity and motives.

Because of similarities to factual news, journalism and communications methods, actual false flag operations, as well as external parties incorrectly claiming a false flag, are often difficult to distinguish. Many motives or reasons are possible: truthful though partial identification of a false flag operation, utterly fictitious and spurious propaganda, various levels of factual or fictional conspiracy theory, deliberate disinformation, or unwitting misinformation based on partial fact.

I felt this was important to put into the page because people already tried to edit out my citations. I am not claiming these “false flag” allegations to be true or false. But it is vital we see how quickly people who have access to the Internet may try to take the facts as presented and make them conform to their desired beliefs of the world.

It is patently dangerous to try to conform facts to beliefs if one makes false assertions. This is how wars begin and mob rule leads to vigilantism.

This is not to discount that there may have actually been a false flag operation as part of the terrorist strategy. Yet even if there was, not all of these directly conflicting claims can be correct.

Caveat emptor!

-Peter Corless.
650-906-3134 (mobile)