Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Who would have thought?

Benjamin Skinner

There are more slaves in the world today than at any point in human history, and A Crime So Monstrous is their story, in full color. For four years, I traveled in over a dozen countries, talking to slaves, traffickers and liberators, going undercover when necessary in order to infiltrate slave trading networks.

The book is a record of evil. I witnessed the sale of human beings on four continents, once being offered a suicidal, mentally handicapped young woman as a sex slave in exchange for a used car.

But it is also a story of survival. A young man in Sudan escapes slavery in the Muslim north, finds Christ, and frees his mother and sisters. A Haitian girl is freed when two Americans of sterling conscience discover her domestic bondage in a suburban Miami home.

And it is a living history of quiet heroism. John Miller, a former Republican congressman appointed to be America's antislavery czar, zealously cajoled foreign governments—friends and foes alike—to bear their responsibility and free their slaves. At the same time, he battled State Department elites in an attempt to convince them that abolition mattered. Thanks to his efforts, the Bush Administration can boast of the most aggressive antislavery record since Lincoln.
Human rights, that Western imperialist notion.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Britishness day

This is embarrassing.

I always thought that one of the prime qualities of whatever -ness we have in this country is that of not crowing about it. Those values that are most loudly stated are generally the ones least acted upon. My recommendations - Study history.
Don't denigrate our achievements; be inspired by them.
Don't apologise for the past; do better.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Two questions

There's a lot I don't understand about what is happening in Gaza.

Firstly, what is Hamas's strategy? It is evident that they have been baiting Israel to react in this way for a long time. The attacks on Sderot and other towns have increased steadily over the last few months, but did not produce a substantial response until Thursday when Ashkelon was hit for the first time. Israel had to do something, and now they have, which is, I can only assume, what Hamas has been seeking. But what do they get from it?

Is it to make sure that Abbas can make no deal with the Israelis? That will certainly be the short-term effect, and has been achieved many times before, the more extreme always having the last word. Is that the idea?

Is it a media event? The rocket launchers fire from Gaza’s school buildings, rooftops, playgrounds and underground pits, using civilians and children as human shields. They make it so that civilians will certainly be killed, especially children, who make the best news photos. Is it to further degrade the reputation of Israel that they make martyrs of their children?

Or is it the start of a hot summer with conflagrations to the south and then to the north? 2006 all over again.

Secondly, what can Israel hope to achieve by large scale military incursions into Gaza? I can't see a feasible military target. Hamas have been preparing for this for some time and, short of a complete occupation, what useful political or military benefit can Israel hope to gain? It might slow the rocket launchers down, but they will start again very soon afterwards.

It's not that I have an alternative strategy. The Israeli government are damned if they do and damned if they don't. They're fighting an enemy with whom they cannot negotiate because any concession they make will merely provoke another demand. I don't know what they should have done or should do. Nonetheless, it is easy to predict what will happen here. There'll be the usual media storm, with world leaders pontificating from the moral heights before international pressure forces the IDF to cease operations, and get out, and so let the whole cycle start again.