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07.25.03 - 11:53 a.m.

Reading Problem From Hell is really affecting how I process the daily news. When I see Cheney fulminating about Iraq's human rights violations, I think of the Kurdish genocide and how the US not only did nothing to stop it, but actively supported it. When I see Powell arguing with Pentagon officials about intervention in Liberia, I think of our failure to stop genocide in Rwanda and the justifications for doing nothing (jeopardy, perversity and futility). It's all terribly discouraging but it does drive home the importance of learning from our mistakes. It heartens me that despite Bush's opposition, the International Criminal Court is setting up shop. It's a sign of progress that articles about Liberia constantly mention Charles Taylor's indictment for war crimes. Sovereignity is just a sick joke when it's used as an excuse to ignore mass slaughter. I'm not saying the US has to be the world's policeman but it would be nice if we at least acknowledged that international justice is the first step to ending the atrocities that occur routinely when warlords and dictators "clean up their internal affairs".

Some steps I would like to see the U.S. take:

1) Sign on to the ICC -- there are already plenty of out clauses to prevent frivolous prosecution of peacekeepers and US military (not that I think we always deserve such exemptions, but realistically without them it's dead in the water)

2) Pay the UN all the money we owe them, because it's ridiculous that we refuse to pony up for what we said we'd pay.

3) Bump up our foreign aid as a percentage of GDP -- make a corresponding cut in subsidies to farmers/corporations doing business abroad. How can we seriously pretend we're for free trade when we have all these tariffs protecting our farmers (and if you think we're talking mom n pop operations with a few chickens, get real-- agribusiness is overwhelmingly corporate) from foreign competition? If you want to stop wars in Africa it would probably help to lift African countries out of poverty, and letting them ship food to us would be a great start.

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