Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Mladic Arrest

I don't know if it's considered odd or not, but when I logged on to facebook this morning just before 9AM and saw the link a friend posted about the arrest of Ratko Mladic, the author of the Srebrenica genocide in 1995, I let out a small cheer, the kind most people let out when their favorite baseball team clinches the pennant. After 16 years on the run, hiding, like bin Laden, more or less in plain sight, this guy will finally face justice at the ICTY.

Like the capture of bin Laden or Hussein, or the recent decision about John Demjanjuk and others before them, now that Mladic will receive his punishment for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, one hopes it provides some comfort to the heirs of those Muslim males who were annihilated in Srebrenica on that July day 16 years ago, simply because they were Muslim.

This means a lot for Serbia, a place I'll be flying to in 5 days before heading down to Kosovo a few days later. Joining the EU is of high importance to Serbia, with the capture of Mladic representing a very big obstacle. With that out of the way, there remains one more fugitive on the loose, Goran Hadzic, and the very big question surrounding Kosovo. The latter issue is by far the more complicated one, where Serbia simply does not want to let what it calls its "cradle" to fall away to the Albanians.
Talks about the future of Kosovo almost mirror those that keep Israel-Palestine in the news: how do they split the land?

But Serbia is not being a very good sport about all this, as demonstrated by their reluctance to join President Obama in Warsaw this weekend, simply because Kosovo's president will be on hand. Romania will also not be attending, for it does not recognize Kosovo's independence for fear that it could set a precedent for Romania's large ethnic Hungarian population. But for Serbia, if you really want to join the EU, and you want Brussels to view you as a cooperative, modern, Western-leaning state with the values to match, doesn't treating your counterparts in Kosovo with a greater deal of respect play in your favor?

The Mladic arrest is long overdue, but so is solving what is a forgone conclusion. Kosovo is an independent state and should be recognized as such, home to an Albanian majority, but with Serb enclaves. The two parties must reach an agreement on how they can live side by side and work to join the rest of 21st century Europe where disagreements over land have largely become a thing of the past.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Kosovo School for Roma Children

It was brought to my attention a couple of months ago a new make-shift school in Kosovo for Roma children. The school is run by Elizabeth Gowing, who's blog can be seen here. Elizabeth engages in lobbying efforts to change policy that forbids Romani children from attending the 'normal' schools where the majority population attends. This kind of segregation is not unique to Kosovo, as the Czech Republic is well known for putting Romani children in schools that are more appropriate for learning-challenged children. Roma children do not fall into that category, but are put there anyway in order to satisfy the xenophobic moods that permeate the halls of policy makers and the public alike.

A classmate of mine went back to Kosovo in March to continue research on her thesis and visited this school, returning with some photos of the kids taking part in a lesson. The building has no heat or electricity, so wearing coats indoors is the norm for these kids as they go about trying to learn something, so maybe, one day, they can break out of the cycle of poverty that is the norm for Roma throughout Europe.

As the blog explains further, some children have apparently lost there right to go to school because they missed the first two years when registration was open. Now, if they want to get in, they have to pass a test, which they can't pass without going to school. To run these classes, Gowing has calculated that it costs about 18 GBP to educate a child per month. All money is collected through donations, and the school is run by volunteers exclusively.

One would think that if the US can desegregate its society, bringing together Caucasians and African-Americans, then Europe can figure out a way to break out of its discriminatory ways and bring minorities and majorities together. It remains to be seen, after all it has been through with its genocides and campaigns to ethnically cleanse certain areas, if Europe, in this case the Balkans, can accomplish such a lofty goal.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Roma Rights in Kosovo

In about a week I go to Kosovo to complete my MA in International Affairs, where I'll be working with the Kosovo Foundation for Open Society on Roma rights. The more formal name for their mission is the Government Implementation for Integration of Roma, Ashkali, and Egyptian Communities.

I first became interested in Roma rights in 2008 when I was planning a trip to Slovakia. The guidebook mentioned Roma numerous times, and I am convinced I saw them as I drove through the countryside. In August 2009, reported that Madonna was booed in Romania for calling out her fans over their discrimination of the Romani people. The clip can be viewed on youTube, where doesn't receive full support from her fans. Later in 2009, motivated by the Madonna clip and by my trip to Slovakia, I did a research paper on the issue for school, leveraging the ERRC and other European sources, specifically the OSCE.

Today I came across this article on, about a Roma woman in Kosovo fighting for Roma rights. I've since tried to reach out to her through facebook in the hopes of meeting with her once I arrive in Pristina. My vision for what I would like to do in Kosovo is a big one.  I'm a strategic thinker, someone who likes to make a big splash and see outcomes from my work. My hope is if she'll meet with me, she can provide some guidance on whether or not I can make happen what I would like to make happen there. It would be tough for sure, being there for only eight weeks, but I am going in determined and optimistic.

The plight of Europe's Roma population is one of great interest to me and something I can see working on as a career. Fighting to help people rise out of poverty, gain access to health care and education; and their right to live as people among people, is a noble cause. It's one I hope to be a part of as I make my way through the final six credits of this degree and hopefully begin a new, fulfilling career in the international affairs/social justice field.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Disagreeing with Moore

Michael Moore is one of the most valuable voices in America, in my view. Some, especially on the right, like to call him controversial. I think it's an interesting dichotomy: America is said to welcome disagreement and dissent, but when someone from within criticizes the country, people lash out and label that person unpatriotic and other words not suitable to print here.

American society is a violent one when compared to other advanced nations. Moore's Bowling for Columbine showed that and backed it up with evidence, the way Moore backs up all his documentaries with evidence. And yet, Americans seem to have a difficult time confronting the wrongs in our society; they don't seem to like hearing the absolute truth, probably because they are uncomfortable with the truth. So when someone like Michael Moore or Samantha Power criticizes the American Way, they are labeled controversial, unpatriotic, and so on.

I agree with Michael Moore on almost everything. Is the American health care system not a serious problem? Has predatory capitalism not driven many Americans, and the country itself, into a serious hole? Did the government not lie the country into an unnecessary war in Iraq? Is America not a violent country compared to Canada and other advanced nations when you take into account all the numbers on gun ownership per capita and gun murders per capita?

With all that said, Michael published an article this past week about OBL, and his belief that OBL should have been captured and put on trial. It's not his point of view that I disagree with, although I do think putting OBL on trial would have been a circus we can all do without; it's his comparisons to the Nazis and the Japanese that bother me - they were put on trial, given their time in court, and put to death or in prison for their crimes. Using that logic, OBL should have been treated the same way.

Putting the Germans and the Japanese on trial, in my view, is entirely different than putting OBL on trial. First, the governments of Germany and Japan were legitimate governments. They were bad governments, but there are bad governments today; the US, one way or another, still manages to deal with bad governments, even Iran, done through the Swiss. OBL was a terrorist. The US does not negotiate with terrorists. But the US does negotiate with governments it doesn't like (I realize that can be argued. The Bush Admin chose to ignore governments it didn't like, using the 'silent treatment' as a form of punishment. That got the US nowhere).

So if the US treats terrorists different diplomatically, doesn't it stand to reason that the US should treat terrorists differently when faced with the dilemmna of kill or capture? It is here that I disagree with Moore - he's equating bad guys with bad guys, but terrorists are not considered just bad guys by the US, they are considered barbarians, not worthy of diplomacy, negotiation, or consideration. While the US should work within the frameworks of international law when dealing with terrorists (in other words, torture is wrong and useless no matter who the bad guy is), it also must function with some degree of ruthlessness as if it were at war. The attack on the US was an act of war (if it were a government doing the attacking on 9/11/01, you have Japan attacking Pearl Harbor as the precedent), so the response, killing OBL, was carried out viciously, as a means to save future lives (think: bombs dropped on Japan) from further attacks.

This latter point is another reason why drawing a parallel relationship between WWII and OBL doesn't work: dropping the bombs on Japan was done to save American lives, those troops who would have had to invade Tokyo to force a surrender, and to end the war once and for all. It accomplished both ends. Because OBL and his ilk are not a regime, killing him hasn't ended anything. While it may help to save lives in the near term, no doubt his buddies are continuing to find aways to attack the US without his presence, and sometime in the future, either here in the US or overseas, they will succeed at killing Americans. This 'war' is not over, because it's not a war between governments, there will be no surrender, no V-J/V-E Day. As such, the killing/capturing of OBL should not be viewed through the WWII lens. I respect Moore a great deal; we need his voice in a country that leaves people behind in favor of profits, but I do not agree with the comparison he has drawn on this topic.