Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Shining Path: A Brief History

Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso in Spanish) is a Maoist insurgent guerrilla organization in Peru. The group never refers to itself as "Shining Path", and as several other Peruvian groups, prefers to be called the "Communist Party of Peru" or "PCP-SL" in short. The Shining Path initiated the internal conflict in Peru in 1980, with the stated goal of replacing what it saw as bourgeois democracy with "New Democracy". The Shining Path believed that by imposing a dictatorship of the proletariat, inducing cultural revolution, and eventually sparking world revolution, they could arrive at pure communism. The Shining Path said that existing socialist countries were revisionist, and that it was the vanguard of the world communist movement. The Shining Path's ideology and tactics have been influential on other Maoist insurgent groups, notably the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and other Revolutionary Internationalist Movement-affiliated organizations.
Widely condemned for its brutality, including violence deployed against peasants, trade union organizers, popularly elected officials and the general civilian population, the Shining Path is described by the Peruvian government as a terrorist organization. The group is on the U.S. Department of State's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, and the European Union and Canada likewise describe it as a terrorist organization and prohibit providing funding or other financial support.
The Shining Path was founded in the late 1960s by former university philosophy professor Abimael Guzmán (referred to by his followers by his nom de guerre Presidente Gonzalo)[citation needed], whose teachings created the foundation for its militant Maoist doctrine. It was an offshoot of the Communist Party of Peru — Bandera Roja (red flag), which in turn split from the original Peruvian Communist Party, a derivation of the Peruvian Socialist Party founded by José Carlos Mariátegui in 1928.
The Shining Path first established a foothold at San Cristóbal of Huamanga University, in Ayacucho, where Guzmán taught philosophy. The university had recently reopened after being closed for about half a century, and many students of the newly educated class adopted the Shining Path's radical ideology. Between 1973 and 1975, Shining Path members gained control of the student councils in the Universities of Huancayo and La Cantuta, and developed a significant presence in the National University of Engineering in Lima and the National University of San Marcos, the oldest university in the Americas. Sometime later, it lost many student elections in the universities, including Guzmán's San Cristóbal of Huamanga. It decided to abandon recruiting at the universities and reconsolidate.
Beginning on March 17, 1980, the Shining Path held a series of clandestine meetings in Ayacucho, known as the Central Committee's second plenary. It formed a "Revolutionary Directorate" that was political and military in nature, and ordered its militias to transfer to strategic areas in the provinces to start the "armed struggle". The group also held its "First Military School" where members were instructed in military tactics and weapons use. They also engaged in the "Criticism and Self-criticism", a Maoist practice intended to purge bad habits and avoid repeating mistakes. During the First Military School, members of the Central Committee came under heavy criticism. Guzmán did not, and he emerged from the First Military School as the clear leader of the Shining Path.
Continued in Part 2: “The triumph of the Revolution will cost a million lives”
Information and image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Release of Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, Volume XIII, Soviet Union, October 1970-October 1971

The Department of State released today Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, Volume XIII, Soviet Union, October 1970–October 1971. Continuing the practice established in recent Foreign Relations volumes on the Soviet Union, this volume places Soviet-American relations in the global context of the Cold War, highlighting the conflicts and collaboration between the two superpowers. Beginning with Richard Nixon’s meeting with Andrei Gromyko in October 1970—the President’s first with the Soviet Foreign Minister—the volume documents a pivotal year in the administration’s foreign policy, culminating in the announcement in October 1971 of the summit meeting in Moscow.
During the year covered in this volume, the two sides held a series of secret talks, eventually resulting in agreement not only on the summit but also on strategic arms limitation (May) and Berlin (August). These secret talks, which constitute the backbone of the compilation, were conducted in the so-called “confidential channel” between Henry Kissinger, the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs, and Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin. The confidential channel became the crucible in which the possibilities and limitations of détente between the superpower were initially tested. In addition to diplomatic agreements, Kissinger and Dobrynin regularly discussed potential areas of disagreement between Washington and Moscow, successfully managing differences over Vietnam, the Middle East, Cuba, and Jewish emigration.
The volume also closely examines the impact of developments in Sino-American relations, in particular the announcement in July of Kissinger’s secret trip to Beijing and of Nixon’s upcoming visit to the Chinese capital.
This volume was compiled and edited by David C. Geyer. The volume and this press release are available on the Office of the Historian website at Copies of the volume will be available for purchase from the U.S. Government Printing Office online at (GPO S/N 044-000-02617-1; ISBN 978-0-16-079136-9), or by calling toll-free 1-866-512-1800 (D.C. area 202-512-1800). For further information, contact

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Panetta Pledges Security Support for South Korea

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
SEOUL, South Korea, Oct. 26, 2011 – The United States remains steadfast in its resolve to provide security support for South Korea, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told service members here today.
The secretary outlined his objectives for his visit and responded to troops’ questions during a town hall meeting at U.S. Army Yongsan Garrison featuring an audience of U.S. and South Korean service members.
The secretary said the message he brought to South Korea is simple.
“The United States of America is committed to the defense of the Republic of Korea,” he said.
Panetta said the message he has brought this week to leaders throughout the region -- in Indonesia in meetings with defense ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and in Japan -- is that the United States is a Pacific nation, and will remain a Pacific power and a force for regional peace and prosperity.
“The only way we can do that is, frankly, with men and women like you -- willing to serve, willing to help defend our nation and willing to defend [South Korea],” the secretary said.
A lot of blood was spilled by U.S. and Korean forces during the 1950-1953 Korean War that established today’s alliance, Panetta said.
“As a result of that, we have a South Korea that is a nation that has grown strong and independent, and really represents the kind of nation that will be an important ally to the United States in the Pacific region,” he said.
Panetta told the troops that they and their counterparts have accomplished much in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
“Bottom line, the successes in those areas are because of you,” the secretary said.
The United States will maintain a strong presence in the Middle East to deter aggression from Iran and other nations who seek to destabilize that region, Panetta said. Successes there, he added, create an opportunity to focus on the Pacific region.
“We are a country that wants to promote peace and prosperity in the world,” he said.
America’s military presence in South Korea and the larger Pacific region allows U.S. forces to work with allies and partners, Panetta said, to preserve peace, allow for free and open congress, and afford young people the opportunity to succeed.
Panetta reiterated that he will not break faith with U.S. military members by cutting benefits promised to them when they signed up. The president and the chiefs of the military services have made that clear as well, he added.
The audience applauded when the secretary said any potential changes in military retirement benefits will not apply to those now serving.
Panetta acknowledged the nation’s budget struggles require that cuts be made, but declared he believes the right budget approach now can result in a better defense force in the future.
The secretary responded to audience questions on troop drawdowns, education benefits and the possibility of future military retirement options for those who serve less than 20 years.
Reductions in force will take place, Panetta said, noting they would have occurred even without a budget crisis, as combat forces leave Iraq and troop numbers decrease in Afghanistan. Over the next few years, he said, the Defense Department likely will see troop decreases of 10,000 to 15,000 a year.
“We’ve got to be concerned about that … [and] make sure that those who have served … make that transition back into [civilian life] in a way that preserves their dignity,” the secretary said.
Panetta said the president and first lady, as well as officials in the Pentagon and elsewhere, are involved in helping transitioning veterans reintegrate successfully to the civilian sector.
The GI Bill, small-business incentives for veterans and private-sector agreements to hire returning service members are avenues that can help reintegrate today’s troops when they leave the military, he noted.
“There’s a lot of effort to reach out to the private sector, [and] this is a time when we’ve got to ask America to support those that have supported our country,” he said.
Panetta said that while he believes no new fees will be attached to GI Bill benefits, health care and other areas may see some fee increases.
Partial retirement may be an option for those in the future who serve less than 20 years in the military, the secretary said, but those currently serving will not see a change to the benefits they signed up for.
Before the town hall, Panetta met with Army Gen. James D. Thurman, U.S. Forces Korea commander. The secretary also participated in an hour-long roundtable discussion with three enlisted and three junior officer service members and their spouses, as well as a Defense Department civilian and spouse.
Panetta’s South Korea visit will continue through Oct. 28. The secretary has meetings scheduled with South Korean Minister of Defense Kim Kwan-Jin and Foreign Minister Kim Sung-Hwan.
Panetta also will take part in the executive session of the 43rd Security Consultative Meeting. The meeting is an annual conference of U.S. and South Korea government defense leaders and delegations.

U.S. Policy Toward Cuba

Explanation of Vote by Ambassador Ronald Godard at the UN General Assembly Meeting on the Cuba Embargo, October 25, 2011
Ambassador Ronald Godard
New York, NY
Mr. President,
For yet another year, this Assembly is taking up a resolution designed to confuse and obscure. But let there be no confusion about this: the United States, like most Member States, reaffirms its strong commitment to supporting the right, and the heartfelt desire, of the Cuban people to freely determine their future. And let there be no obscuring that the Cuban regime has deprived them of this right for more than half a century.
At the same time, the United States strongly asserts its sovereign right, on the same basis as other Member States, to determine its bilateral policies, including its economic relationships with other countries, in accordance with its own national interests and values. This includes our economic relationships with other countries. The U.S. economic relationship with Cuba is a bilateral issue, and is not appropriately a concern of this Assembly. The embargo represents just one aspect of U.S. policy toward Cuba, whose overarching goal is to encourage a more open environment in Cuba and increased respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms - principles to which this organization is also dedicated.
Mr. President,
This annual exercise attempts, to no good end, to obscure some fundamental truths. The Cuban government's own policies - not any action of the U.S. government - are the greatest obstacle to Cuba's economic development. These policies concentrate political and economic decisions in the hands of the few, stifling economic growth. They ignore the basic principle, so effectively demonstrated in many countries, that policies that allow individual freedom unleash the creativity of people, foster innovation and entrepreneurship, and are the best means to achieve sustainable economic development.
This exercise conceals the fact that the United States is a leading source of food and humanitarian aid to Cuba. The United States does not restrict humanitarian aid to Cuba. Cubans receive food, medicine, other forms of assistance, and remittances from the United States. In 2010, the United States government authorized $3.5 billion in total sales to Cuba of U.S. goods. In agricultural products alone, the United States exported $361.7 million in goods to Cuba in 2010, including poultry, soy bean products, corn, wheat, feed products, pork, and other items. Indeed, as the Cuban government itself has repeatedly indicated, the United States has for years been one of Cuba's principal trading partners. In total, the United States in 2010 also authorized $861million in private humanitarian assistance in the form of gift parcels filled with food and other basic necessities, as well as non-agricultural and medical donations. These figures alone are sufficient to rebut the spurious allegations of genocide against the Cuban people in previous resolutions recalled in the current draft, and to demonstrate that this calumny greatly misuses this important term and insults the true victims of genocide.
Mr. President,
This resolution, and much of the stale rhetoric surrounding it, ignores some basic facts. As President Obama made clear last month, the United States is "open to a new relationship with Cuba" if the Cuban government starts taking proper steps to open up its own country and provide the space and the respect for human rights that will allow the Cuban people to determine their own destiny. The Cuban government also needs to release unconditionally and immediate the 62-year-old American citizen Alan Gross, whom it sentenced to 15 years in prison for the crime of trying to connect Cuba's Jewish communities to the Internet.
The President in January 2011 implemented several significant changes to U.S. policy toward Cuba aimed at increasing people-to-people contact; supporting civil society in Cuba; enhancing the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people; and helping promote their independence from Cuban authorities. These changes build upon the President's previous actions in April 2009, and demonstrate the strong commitment of the United States to the Cuban people, contrary to the picture painted in this resolution.
The United States looks forward to a still greater broadening of contacts and exchange with Cuba, and it is prepared to do its part to this end. But improving the situation requires efforts by the Cuban government as well. It must ensure that the Cuban people enjoy the internationally recognized political and economic freedoms to which this body is committed, and on which it has insisted with regard to other countries.
Mr. President,
Because this resolution does not reflect present realities, my delegation will vote against it. We strongly believe that this body, instead of engaging in such meaningless exercises, should dedicate itself to supporting the efforts of the Cuban people to freely determine their own future. Only by this course can this body truly advance the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Zambia’s National Day

Flag of Zambia
Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State
I am delighted to send best wishes to the people of Zambia as you celebrate your 47th anniversary of independence this October 24.
The United States and Zambia have a long history of partnership and cooperation. We have worked to expand access to health care, improve education, stimulate economic growth, and promote greater democratic freedoms. In your recent electoral process, the people of Zambia demonstrated a commitment to peace and democratic transition, inaugurating Zambia’s fifth president since independence. We look forward to working together in even more ways as we pursue our shared goals.
As you celebrate this special day with family, friends and loved ones, know that the United States stands with you as a partner and friend. Congratulations and best wishes on a year of peace, prosperity, and opportunity.

Note: Zambia has come a long way since its independence. The first President, Kenneth Kaunda, was a sponsor of terrorism, especially of anti-Rhodesian militant groups. From 1972 to 1991 the socialist United National Independence Party was the only legal political party, making Zambia a socialist one-party state.  The country in its youth also developed close ties to the Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China, and Baathist Iraq.

In the 2000s, the Zambian economy has stabilized, inflation has lowered, GDP has grown, and foreign investments have gone up.

Flag of Zambia image is in the public domain and was obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Coordination in Combating the PKK

Office of the Spokesperson (State Department)
Washington, DC
Question Taken at the October 19, 2011 Daily Press Briefing
PKK training camp
Question: Is the U.S. engaged in talks with Kurdistan officials about their cooperation with Turkey in regards to PKK?
Answer: The United States Government has a broad and deep relationship with the Governments of Iraq and Turkey. We have encouraged and will continue to encourage cooperation by all sides on this effort. There is a mechanism in place called the Trilateral Security Dialogue that serves as a venue for U.S., Iraqi, and Turkish officials to meet regularly and consult on border issues, including cooperation in combating the PKK, which is a common enemy of Turkey, Iraq and the United States.
We encourage Iraq’s neighbors to respect Iraq’s sovereignty and cooperate closely with Iraq in combating terrorist groups in the border region, but we recognize fully the right of our Turkish ally to take action to defend itself from these terrorist attacks.

Note: The Kurdistan Workers Party is a Marxist Kurdish Nationalist insurgency and designated terrorist organization.  They have waged an armed campaign since 1978 including international bombings and fundraising through drug trafficking.  They have a history for attacking Turkish officials and for undermining Iraqi Kurdistan's efforts for national unity with the other ethnic groups in Iraq.

PKK image property of James Gordon and used via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Image was obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

China: Tibetan Self-Immolations

Protestors protesting in favor of Tibetan
independence during the 2008 Olympics
Office of the Spokesperson (State Department)
Washington, DC
Question Taken at the October 18, 2011, Daily Press Briefing
QUESTION: Have we raised the issue of Tibetan self-immolations with the Chinese government?
ANSWER: Yes, we have, and we remain seriously concerned by reports, since April, of eight Tibetan Buddhist monks and one nun self-immolating at or near the Ngaba Kirti monastery in China’s Sichuan province. These acts clearly represent anger and frustration with regard to Tibetan human rights, including religious freedom, inside China. We again call on the Chinese Government to respect the rights of all Chinese citizens who peacefully express their desire for internationally recognized freedoms; and particularly to respect the rights of Tibetans; to resolve the underlying grievances of China’s Tibetan population. We urge Chinese leaders to address counterproductive policies in Tibetan areas that have created tensions; and to protect Tibet’s unique religious, cultural, and linguistic identity.

Note: Tibet was an independent country until the People's Liberation Army invaded and conquered it in 1950.

Image is the property of Prakhar Amba and is used via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License and was obtained via Wikimedia Commons.

Deaths of Turkish Soldiers in PKK Attacks

Current flag of the PKK
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
October 19, 2011
The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the recent attacks by the PKK in Turkey’s Hakkari province. I join President Obama in offering our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed and injured in this tragedy. We will continue our strong cooperation with Turkey as we work to combat violent extremism in all its forms and safeguard the security of peace-loving people everywhere.

Note: The PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) is Marxist Kurdish Nationalist insurgency within Turkey and a designated terrorist organization waging an armed campaign since 1978, including international bombings and securing of funds through drug trafficking.

PKK flag image is the property of "Herm" and is used via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  The image was obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

POW/MIA Talks Begin with North Korean Officials

A delegation from the United States will meet in Bangkok on Oct. 18 to begin negotiations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on resuming recovery of the remains of American servicemen missing in action from the Korean War.
Robert J. Newberry, deputy assistant secretary of defense for POW/missing personnel affairs, will lead negotiations with a team including representatives from the Department of State, the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, the U.S. Pacific Command and the United Nations Command-Korea.
The talks will only address the issue of resuming remains recovery of missing U.S. servicemen from the Korean War.  Accounting for Americans missing in action is a stand-alone humanitarian matter, not tied to any other issue between the two countries.
Of the approximately 83,000 Americans missing from all conflicts, more than 7,900 are from the Korean War with 5,500 of those believed to be missing in the DPRK.

Monday, October 17, 2011

U.S. Announces Contribution to Khmer Rouge Tribunal

Note: See Phillip Jennings’ The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War for the facts about how the Khmer Rouge (meaning Red Khmer [Cambodian] people) were armed and trained by the North Vietnamese Army, then how they were supported by the Chinese after 1975.
Stephen J. Rapp, U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues, announced today the delivery of $1.65 million to support the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), also known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. This is the first of three installments of a projected contribution of $5 million during the current fiscal year to fund the international portion of the tribunal's staff and operations.
This donation comes as the ECCC begins the trial of its Case 002 in which the most senior surviving members of the Khmer Rouge government stand accused of crimes that resulted in the deaths of 1.9 million people between 1975 and 1979. “Given the gravity of the alleged crimes and the level of defendants, this is now the most important trial in the world,” said Ambassador Rapp.
The ECCC Trial Chamber began hearings on legal and procedural issues in the trial of Case 002 in June 2011. It is expected to begin hearing witness testimony in November 2011. In July 2010 it rendered judgment in Case 001, finding Kaing Guek Eav, a/k/a Duch, guilty of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, and sentenced him to 35 years in prison. Among other crimes for which he was convicted, Duch acknowledged involvement in the executions of over 12,000 prisoners. Both Duch and the prosecution have appealed the trial judgment and the Supreme Court Chamber is expected to render its decision in December 2011. The International Co-Prosecutor has requested investigations of five additional suspects, and proceedings in these matters, known as Cases 003 and 004, are before the Co-Investigative Judges and Pre-Trial Chamber.
“The United States has been a strong supporter of efforts to bring to justice senior leaders and those most responsible for the atrocities committed under the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia,” said Ambassador Rapp. “For the sake of the victims of these crimes, it is essential that proceedings in all matters over which that tribunal has jurisdiction be conducted fairly, expeditiously, and independently.” The United States calls upon all interested parties to publicly re-affirm their support for the Tribunal’s independence and judicial integrity, free from outside interference of any kind.
The U.S. contributed almost $2 million to the ECCC in fiscal year 2008 funding and $5 million in fiscal year 2010 funding. The installment announced today is a part of the projected $5 million in fiscal year 2011 funding.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Venezuela's Rejection of UNHRC Recommendations

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
Question Taken at the October 12, 2011 Daily Press Briefing
Question: What is our response to Venezuela’s rejecting UNHRC recommendations on judicial independence, freedom of the press, and protection of nongovernmental organizations?
Answer: The United States carefully drafts recommendations for every country as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. We take the UPR process very seriously and therefore work hard to develop meaningful recommendations to improve the human rights situation in the countries under review.
Many countries raised serious and legitimate concerns about the state of human rights in Venezuela at its UPR session last Friday. We urge the Government of Venezuela to reconsider all of the recommendations, including those calling for a fully independent judiciary, an end to official anti-Semitic commentary, adoption of draft legislation on trafficking in persons, increased protection of asylum seekers, and visits by various UN special rapporteurs.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The People’s Republic of China: A Brief History, part 5

Continued from Part 4
Protest against the PRC/CCP/
PLA massacre of Uighurs in
Xinjiang "Autonomous"
Region, 2009.
Human Rights
The State Department's 2010 Human Rights Practices and International Religious Freedom Reports noted China's continuing abuses of human rights in violation of internationally recognized norms, stemming both from the authorities' intolerance of dissent and the inadequacy of legal safeguards for basic freedoms. The government has increased its efforts to reign in civil society, particularly non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in rights advocacy and public interest issues, and has stepped up attempts to limit freedom of speech and freedom of religion and to control the press, the Internet, and Internet access. Abuses increased around high-profile events in 2010, such as the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to democracy activist Liu Xiaobo and the anniversaries of the 1959 Tibetan uprising, the Tiananmen Square incident, and the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The government continued its severe cultural and religious repression of ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and Tibetan areas. Other reported abuses included arbitrary and lengthy incommunicado detention, extrajudicial killings, executions without due process, forced confessions, torture, and mistreatment of prisoners as well as severe restrictions on freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association, religion, privacy, worker rights, and coercive birth limitation. China continues the monitoring, harassment, intimidation, and arrest of journalists, Internet writers, defense lawyers, religious activists, and political dissidents. The activities of NGOs, especially those relating to the rule of law and public interest work, continue to be restricted. The Chinese Government also seeks to regulate religious groups and worship. Religious believers who seek to practice their faith outside of state-controlled religious venues and unregistered religious groups and spiritual movements are subject to intimidation, harassment, and detention. Chinese Communist Party members are discouraged from participating in religious activities.               
Since 1999, the Secretary of State has designated China a "Country of Particular Concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act for particularly severe violations of religious freedom.               
Flag of the Uighurs
China's economic growth and reform since 1978 have improved economic conditions for hundreds of millions of Chinese, increased social mobility, and expanded the scope of personal freedom. This has meant greater freedom of travel, employment opportunities, educational and cultural pursuits, job and housing choices, and access to information. In April 2009 the government unveiled its first National Human Rights Action Plan. The document outlined human rights goals to be achieved in 2009 to 2010 and addressed issues such as prisoners' rights and the role of religion in society.               
The U.S. has conducted 14 rounds of human rights dialogue with China since the Tiananmen massacre. The most recent round took place in April 2011, led by Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner and Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General for International Organizations Chen Xu. Discussion topics included, but were not limited to, freedom of expression, rule of law, religious freedom, labor rights, minority issues, and multilateral cooperation.               
On July 5, 2009, ethnic violence erupted in Urumqi and other parts of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. The unrest continued in the following days, with Chinese state media reporting over 150 deaths and more than 1,000 injured. There was a significantly increased security presence in Urumqi and its surrounding areas and subsequently some mosques in Xinjiang were closed. Urumqi remains under a heavy police presence, and most Internet and international phone communication was cut off through early 2010.                
On October 8, 2010 the independent Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China." He was the first Chinese citizen awarded a Nobel Prize of any kind while residing in China. Liu Xiaobo was arrested in China in December 2008 and convicted of “incitement to subvert state power” in December 2009. He remains in prison. Since the announcement of the award of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, there have been consistent reports that his wife, Liu Xia, has been under de facto house arrest, with her movements and communication controlled by the authorities. The United States has repeatedly called for the immediate release of Liu Xiabo, as well as other political prisoners in China, including those under house arrest, such as Liu Xia, and those enduring forced disappearances, such as Gao Zhisheng.               
In late 2010 and early 2011, dozens of people, including public interest lawyers, writers, artists, intellectuals, and activists were arbitrarily detained and arrested. Among them was the prominent artist Ai Weiwei, whose detention in early April 2011 signaled an expansion of the Chinese Government’s crackdown on the activist community. While Ai Weiwei was released on bail in late June, the trend of forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and arrests, and convictions of dissidents and activists in China for exercising their internationally recognized human rights continues.

Protest images are the property of Malcolm Brown and are used via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Uighur flag is in the public domain. All images were obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Llano Del Rio: Socialism Failed in California, part 2

Llano Del Rio ruins as of 2009
Continued from Part 1

The political stability of Llano was threatened by internal power struggles between the Board of Directors, which was composed of seven (and eventually nine) members and the General Assembly, which was composed of all of the Llano Company’s stockholders, the members of the colony. Though the Board was efficient, it caused political dissent. Llano’s “Declaration of Principles” proclaimed: “‘equal ownership, equal wage, and equal social opportunities’”. However, Llano was not run in a democratic manner. The Board dictated all rules and regulations. Eventually groups developed, such as the “Brush Gang”, opposing the authoritarian rule of the Board (Shor 167). Some members also believed that Harriman lacked strong socialist principles. One of the founders of the “Brush Gang,” Frank Miller, believed Harriman to be “Czar-like” and against the democratic election of Llano’s leadership. Additionally, many “Brush Gang” members believed that not only the political, but also the economic layout of Llano was counter to socialist ideals.

However, rule by the General Assembly was also problematic. Its decisions were influenced by personal disputes, which created an ineffective political environment. Resolutions were disputed for hours, made, and then rebuked at the next meeting. In response to dissenters, one of Harriman’s supporter’s, R.K. Williams wrote, “‘Newcomers arrived here filled with idealism and notions of a weird form of democracy that are utterly out of place in an institution dealing with…practicalities. It must be insisted that if this colony is to exist we must allow the well tried and wrought out formulas of corporations organized under capitalism…We are not attempting an Utopian phantasmagoria’”. Supporters felt that unseating the Board would result in anarchy and chaos, and that central control was essential to the formation of a flourishing socialist colony.

World War I
Although Llano supported the Socialist Party’s pacifism, the threat of the draft was real. Llano attempted to ensure that all members were conscientious objectors, still the colony lost young men to the draft. WWI also posed an economic threat, because the wartime industry created jobs with greater wages and many less committed members of Llano left to work in the newly booming economy.

During the early period of Llano, Harriman had secured large amounts of water for the growing colony. Though in theory Llano had enough water to sustain itself and to grow, much of the water could only be accessed by building a dam. Llano applied to California for a permit to build a dam. However, California Commissioner of Corporations denied Llano’s application to construct a dam saying, “‘Your people do not seem to have the necessary amount of experience and maybe the sums of money it will involve’”. Though planners were aware of Llano’s water shortage, they continued to deny the crisis to potential buyers until May of 1917.

The move
During November of 1917 The Western Comrade newspaper announced that the majority of the colony was going to relocate to an alternative site in New Llano, Louisiana. Despite the impending relocation of Llano, Harriman asserted that Llano had, “progressed from a ‘Utopian, chimerical idea’ to a concrete practicality— from a dozen dreamers to a thousand determined doers”. New Llano never attained the same size or level of productivity as the original colony. This failure was most likely due to cultural clashes with the greater culture of Louisiana and the Great Depression. The remaining Llano community in California ended due to faulty legal maneuvers. During 1918, Llano filed for bankruptcy.

Llano is given tribute at Twin Oaks, a contemporary intentional community of 100 members in Virginia. All Twin Oaks' buildings are named after communities that are no longer actively functioning, and "Llano" is the name of one of the communal kitchens.

Ruins images are the property of Binksternet and are used via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license and were obtained from Wikimedia Commons. Historical information on the commune was obtained from Wikipedia.

U.S. Soldier MIA from Korean War Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a serviceman, missing in action from the Korean War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Army Cpl. Edward M. Pedregon of El Paso, Texas, will be buried on Oct. 6 in Arlington National Cemetery.  A memorial service was held in San Elizario, Texas, on Oct. 1.  In late November 1950 Pedregon and the Heavy Mortar Company, of the 31st Regimental Combat Team – known as Task Force Faith – were overrun by Chinese forces near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea.  After several days of heavy attacks, Task Force Faith was forced to withdraw, but was stopped by enemy blockades that overpowered them on Dec. 2, 1950.  Pedregon was reported missing in action on Nov. 30, 1950.

In 1953, following the exchange of all prisoners of war by both sides of the conflict, no further information was gained to indicate that Pedregon had been held as a prisoner of war, and he was declared dead.

In 2004, a joint U.S./Korean People’s Army team excavated several sites in the Chosin Reservoir area and recovered the remains of at least nine individuals and military equipment.  The location of the remains corresponds to the positions temporarily held by elements of Task Force Faith in late November 1950.

Among forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used dental records, and mitochondrial DNA – which matched that of Pedregon’s mother and brother—in the identification of the remains.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for missing Americans, visit the DPMO website at or call 703-699-1169.

Official Cites Importance of Stability in Taiwan Strait

The flag of the Republic of China,
commonly known as Taiwan.
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 4, 2011 – The United States remains committed to Taiwan and to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, a Pentagon official told the House Foreign Affairs Committee today.

“Stability in the Taiwan Strait is critically important to the Obama administration, and has a strong bearing on our enduring interests in and commitments to peace and stability in the Asian-Pacific region,” said Peter Lavoy, principal assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs.

“The Obama administration is firmly committed to our ‘One China’ policy, which is based on three joint U.S.-China communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act,” he added.

The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 has governed policy in the absence of a diplomatic relationship or a defense treaty with Taiwan. Additionally, key statements that guide policy are the three U.S.-China Joint Communiqués of 1972, 1979 and 1982 and the “Six Assurances” of 1982.

“This policy has endured for over three decades and across eight administrations,” Lavoy noted. “Today, the United States has a deep security relationship with Taiwan, as indicated by the administration’s strong record on arms sales.”

Congress has approved more than $12 billon in defense aid for Taiwan in the last two years, Lavoy said. “We will continue to make available to Taiwan defense articles and services to enable it to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability,” he told the panel.

Lavoy said the administration’s relationship with Taiwan “encompasses much more than arms transfers.”

“The Department of Defense has a responsibility to monitor China’s military developments and to deter aggression and conflict,” he said, noting that China’s armed forces have made significant advances in technology and strategic ability.

“China’s economic rise has enabled it to transform its armed forces from a mass army designed for wars of attrition on its own territory to one capable of fighting short-duration, high-intensity conflict along its periphery against high-tech adversaries,” he said.

China’s ability to sustain military power at a distance remains limited, he said, but its armed forces are developing and fielding advanced military technologies to support attacks and anti-access and aerial denial strategies. China also has positioned advanced equipment opposite Taiwan’s military regions, Lavoy said.

“Beijing fields advanced surface combatants and submarines to increase its anti-surface and anti-warfare capabilities,” he said. “Similarly, advanced fighter aircraft and integrated air defense systems deployed to bases and garrisons in the coastal regions increase Beijing’s ability to gain and maintain air superiority over the Taiwan Strait.”

These systems would enable China to conduct offensive counter-air and land attacks against Taiwanese forces and critical infrastructure, he explained.

“In response to this growing threat, Taiwan authorities have undertaken a series of reforms designed to improve the island’s capacity to deter and defend against an attack by the mainland,” he said.

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Pointing to investments in infrastructure, war reserve, crisis response and other reforms, Lavoy said these improvements would help to secure the island.

“[These reforms] have reinforced the natural advantages of island defense,” he said. “Taiwan’s defense reforms today are important and necessary, and further efforts are needed.”

Lavoy referred to the Taiwan Relations Act as “a good law that makes for good policy,” and said it has created the conditions for the two sides to engage in peaceful dialogue.

“Our strong security commitment to Taiwan has provided them the confidence to intensify dialogue with the mainland and has resulted in improved cross-strait relations,” he said. “A Taiwan that is strong, confident and free from threats or intimidation is best postured to discuss and adhere to whatever future arrangements the two sides of the Taiwan Strait may peacefully agree upon.”