7 Jun. 2007

Though It May Seem So Far From Where We All Are...


"They unzipped his pants and attached pliers to his penis and to all of his fingers and toes. They put candle wax on the wounds and then they put hot water mixed with dried chilli and salt and poured it all over his body and through his nose and ears."
No, that's not describing US practices at Gitmo or some other gulag (though it could be). It comes from Bangladesh, where the new "caretaker" military leaders have already arrested over 200,000 people. At least 100 people have been murdered this year, and many more are missing.
Bangladesh was on a knife edge in January. As political rivalries were being played out in violent street clashes, western diplomats were shuttling around the capital trying to mediate.

Just before the Army hit the streets, the British and American ambassadors each held private meetings with the military chief. Some suspect General Moeen was given a green light to take over.

Influential newspaper editor Nurul Kabir says a clique of western diplomats known as the Tuesday Club interfered in his country's internal affairs.

The club is an informal caucus of the big donor nations that meets every week. Its core members are ambassadors from the US, Britain, Japan, Canada, the European Union and Australia.
None of those ambassadors will talk about their role.

The Federal Government is now preparing to increase (ahem!) "foreign aid" to Bangladesh from $43 million to around $57 million, a 33 per cent increase. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says that is entirely appropriate:
"I think it's so wrong to take necessary assistance from the poorest people in society. We shouldn't ever consider doing that. If I'm criticised for helping the poor, I don't mind that."
The parliamentary secretary for Foreign Affairs, Greg Hunt, says Australian aid goes to charities like UNICEF. But as Bangladesh's Foreign Minister heads to Canberra to collect the aid cheque, "it remains unclear what, if any, conditions are attached". Surely Downer can provide a few more details?

Meanwhile, Australia continues to provide training to the Bangladesh armed forces. Like they say, war is a racket. And this is all tied in to Bush's "war on terror", of course.

Regimes like Musharraf in Pakistan have seized on the West's double standards to legitimize whatever they do as part of this "war". The West has lost the moral authority to stop such atrocities. If it's OK for Bush, why not everyone else? If Musharraf's military dictatorship is tolerated, why not Bangladesh's farcical "civilian" government (all appointed and controlled by the military)?

You can watch the full video from the ABC's 7:30 report, or read the transcript, here.

This Bangladeshi human rights site has mixed reaction to the program from readers. One wonders what socio-economic portion of Bangladesh's youth spends time at such sites. Or maybe their perceptions have been tempered by endless exposure to corruption and violence, coupled with hypocritical or simply ineffective efforts from supposedly enlightened bodies like the UN.

By the way, the photo above was taken on the opening day of Australia's Test Match against Bangladesh last April.