Wednesday, June 09, 2010

View on the News-03-06-2010

Germany’s President resigns after revealing colonialist ambitions in Afghanistan


Germany's president, Horst Köhler, resigned without warning this week, after intense criticism of remarks in which he suggested military deployments were central to the country's economic interests. Köhler's departure leaves a vacuum that will only add to Angela Merkel's growing political woes, amid criticism over a lack of decisive leadership, and a four-year low rating for her government in opinion polls. Köhler, 67, was accused of advocating a form of "gunboat policy" after saying that a large economic power like Germany, with its significant global trading interests, must be willing to deploy its military abroad. Though a member of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), he has previously managed to stay out of the political fray. In a radio interview given on his return from a tour of German military bases in Afghanistan earlier this month, Köhler, a former head of the International Monetary Fund, said that the largely pacifist German public was finally coming to terms with the concept that their country could no longer avoid involvement in military missions, which helped "protect our interests, for example, free trade routes, or to prevent regional instability, which might certainly have a negative effect on our trade, jobs and income". The remarks were seized upon by the German left, who accused Köhler of supporting a type of "gunboat diplomacy" and of betraying the thousands of German soldiers who are currently stationed in Afghanistan.

Jewish State asks South Asian Muslims to help bridge gap with Palestine

Facing international backlash over its raid on the Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla, the Jewish state on Wednesday sought help from South Asian Muslims to build bridges between Israel and the moderate Palestinian leadership. At a specially convened press interaction for selected Delhi-based Muslim journalists, Israeli Ambassador to India Mark Sofer asked Muslims to look at the wider picture in Middle East, denying it was a battle between Jews and Muslims. “We respect Islam and the conflict in West Asia is not a religious one. Islam is a religion of peace and beauty. Whoever indulges in violence in the name of Islam, abuses and misuses the religion,” Sofer said. He admitted that Israel had made mistakes, but criticised the international community for shutting eyes to mistakes made by the Palestinians and other Israeli adversaries in the region.

UN official criticises US over drone attacks

The use of targeted killings with weapons like drone aircraft poses a growing challenge to the international rule of law, a UN official says. Philip Alston said that the US in particular was doing damage to rules designed to protect the right of life. Mr Alston, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, feared a "Playstation" mentality could develop. His report to the UN Human Rights Council will also bring renewed scrutiny of Israel and Russia. Both nations are also reported to have carried out targeted killings of alleged militants and insurgents. President Barack Obama has increased the use of Predator drones to attack militants in Pakistan. The UN report comes days after the US hailed news of the death of Sheikh Sa'id al-Masri, al-Qaeda's third in command in Pakistan, who was reportedly killed by a drone strike in May, along with his family. Mr Alston reserves particular criticism for CIA-directed drone attacks, which he said had resulted in the deaths of "many hundreds" of civilians. "Intelligence agencies, which by definition are determined to remain unaccountable except to their own paymasters, have no place in running programmes that kill people in other countries," the report says. Mr Alston also suggests that the drone killings carry a significant risk of becoming war crimes because intelligence agencies "do not generally operate within a framework which places appropriate emphasis upon ensuring compliance with international humanitarian law".

Japanese prime minister resigns under pressure America

When Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of Japan abruptly stepped down Wednesday, largely for his failure to move an American air base off Okinawa, he was essentially admitting he had not won popular support for a prominent campaign pledge: ending Japan’s postwar dependence on the United States for its security. “This has proved impossible in my time,” Mr. Hatoyama said in a teary speech to explain his decision to step down. “Someday, the time will come when Japan’s peace will have to be ensured by the Japanese people themselves.” The Obama administration’s reaction to the resignation suggested that it would not miss Mr. Hatoyama much either. The White House, in its statement, pointedly did not thank or praise him, saying only that the alliance would “continue to strengthen,” regardless of who was in charge. Senior officials often seemed frustrated by his decision-making, and President Obama never developed a rapport with him. In Washington, some analysts even argued that Mr. Obama played a role in Mr. Hatoyama’s downfall, damaging his standing by keeping him at arm’s length and refusing to compromise on the air base. Administration officials denied this, saying they worked with Japan in recent months to resolve their differences. Mr. Obama, they noted, lavishly praised Mr. Hatoyama for his decision not to move the base off Okinawa.

Global military spending soars despite crisis: report

Global military expenditures soared to a record high last year, unscathed by the economic downturn, with the United States accounting for more than half of the increase, a think tank said on Wednesday. In 2009, $1,531 billion were spent worldwide in the military sector, a 5.9 percent rise from 2008 and a 49 percent jump from 2000, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in its report.“Many countries were increasing public spending generally in 2009, as a way of boosting demand to combat the recession,” explained Sam Perlo-Freeman, the head of SIPRI’s military expenditure project. “Although military spending wasn’t usually a major part of the economic stimulus packages, it wasn’t cut either,” he said in a statement. The institute said 65 percent of countries for which data was available had hiked their military spending last year. Top spender: The US remains by far the top military spender, dishing out $661 billion to the industry in 2009, or a whopping 43 percent of the total global military expenditure.Washington thus paid $47 billion more than a year earlier and accounted for 54 percent of the global increase, the SIPRI said.China is believed to be the world’s second largest military spender, the institute said, adding that while it did not have access to the official figures from Beijing it estimated the country had spent around $100 billion in the sector last year.With its $63.9 billion in military expenditures last year, France came in third place, the SIPRI said.

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