Latest Developments, March 28

In the latest news and analysis…

Syrian math
Embassy Magazine’s Scott Taylor compares fatalities in Arab-Spring Syria and US-occupied Iraq.
“According to the US State Department, approximately 10,000 Syrians have been killed in the fighting over the past 12 months (this figure includes both pro-regime security forces and rebel fighters).
As a counterweight to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s moral outrage at the Syrian violence, one need only look at the previous nine years, during which America occupied Syria’s neighbour.
In the US response to armed uprisings and inter-ethnic violence in Iraq, the lowest official estimate of casualties published by the Iraqi Body Count Project puts the death toll as of January 2012 at over 272,000.
While the death toll fluctuated during those years, the rough math brings us to an annual loss of 30,000 Iraqi lives per year—three times that of the current ‘unacceptable’ level of civil war violence in Syria.”

Pakistan’s drone opposition
The Associated Press reports Pakistan recently rejected concessions offered by US officials scrambling to save their drone campaign after “a series of incidents throughout 2011” damaged the two countries’ relationship.
“CIA Director David Petraeus, who met with Pakistan’s then-spy chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha at a meeting in London in January, offered to give Pakistan advance notice of future CIA drone strikes against targets on its territory in a bid to keep Pakistan from blocking the strikes — arguably one of the most potent U.S. tools against al-Qaida.
The CIA chief also offered to apply new limits on the types of targets hit, said a senior U.S. intelligence official briefed on the meetings. No longer would large groups of armed men rate near-automatic action, as they had in the past — one of the so-called ‘signature’ strikes, where CIA targeters deemed certain groups and behavior as clearly indicative of militant activity.”

Global Compact housecleaning
The Guardian reports that the UN Global Compact – “the world’s largest voluntary corporate sustainability initiative” – is set to kick out more than 750 businesses over the next six months.
“Non-governmental organisations have long criticised the Global Compact, which promotes 10 principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption, because it has no effective monitoring and enforcement provisions.
They also accuse businesses of using it to oppose any binding international regulation on corporate accountability and for benefitting from the Global Compact’s logo, a blue globe and a laurel wreath, which is very similar to the UN logo, while continuing to perpetrate human rights and environmental abuses.”

Climate change ruling
Reuters reports that an Australian court has ruled Swiss mining giant Xstrata can proceed with developing a massive coal mine despite arguments that it will contribute to climate change.
“The case against the 22 million metric tons (24.2 million tons) per year open-cut Wandoan coal mine is the first to use climate change as the primary argument against the development of a mine, according to Friends of the Earth.
Xstrata argued in the case that stopping the Wandoan coal project would not affect the total amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, since the coal that it would have produced by Wandoan would be replaced by coal produced elsewhere.
The Land Court agreed, saying in its ruling, ‘It is difficult to see from the evidence that this project will cause any relevant impact on the environment.’ ”

ICC’s Africa problem
Harvard Law School graduate student Nanjala Nyabola argues that the International Criminal Court has yet to earn the confidence of Africans, a problem that is especially troubling because all 28 people indicted by the court so far come from Africa.
“The answer may lie in investing universal jurisdiction in various African supreme or high courts, simply by passing statutes that give these courts authority to try cases related to the most egregious violations of human rights on the continent.
Using the judiciaries of smaller states in Africa that have succeeded in earning the confidence of their people provides an alternative that takes alleged offenders out of the immediate context of the crimes but still respects the idea of ‘African solutions for African problems’. Mauritius, Namibia, Botswana, Ghana – these are all nations with the capacity (albeit with significant assistance) to set up special chambers akin to those in Cambodia to try such cases.”

Misguided Principles
The University of Ottawa’s Penelope Simons argues that the UN’s current framework on addressing corporate human rights impunity is “misconceived.”
“[This article] seeks to demonstrate the problems with the [UN secretary-general’s special representative for business and human rights (SRSG)]’s approach by arguing that, along with the interventions of international financial institutions in the economies of developing states, one of the most significant impediments to corporate human rights accountability is the structure of the international legal system itself… It is argued that powerful states have used international law and international institutions to create a globalised legal environment which protects and facilitates corporate activity and, although the SRSG identified symptoms of this reality during his tenure, he did not examine the deep structural aspects of this problem. This article demonstrates that such an examination would have revealed the crucial need for binding international human rights obligations for business entities in any adequate strategy aimed at addressing corporate impunity.”

Third British Empire
Author Dan Hind argues that although its days of colonization and slave trading are over, Britain is now at the centre of a new imperial enterprise whose “signature crime is tax evasion.”
“Nowadays, if you believe what you’re told by respectable historians and broadcasters, Britain has turned its back on its imperial past and is trying as best it can to make its way as an ordinary nation. The reality is somewhat more complicated. One day, perhaps history will describe a third British Empire, organised around the country’s offshore financial infrastructure and its substantial diplomatic, intelligence and communications resources. Having given up the appearance of empire, the British have sought to reclaim its substance.”

Symmetry of slaughter
Syndicated columnist Gwynne Dyer contrasts the public discourse surrounding recent mass murders committed by a Muslim man in France and an American soldier in Afghanistan.
“Predictably, Marine Le Pen, leader of the extreme right National Front, called on French voters to ‘fight…against these politico-religious fundamentalists who are killing our Christian children, our Christian young men.’
The incumbent right-wing president, Nicolas Sarkozy, says much the same thing, but less bluntly.

As for the Bales atrocity, it is already being written off by the American media and public as a meaningless aberration that tells us nothing about US foreign policy or national character.”

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