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Week of December 31, 2002

Program 0253


Kabul’s Peacekeepers | Transcript | MP3

Chinatown | Transcript | MP3

International Criminal Court | Transcript | MP3

Plan Colombia | Transcript | MP3

Russia’s War on Terror | Transcript | MP3

Chicken Fight | Transcript | MP3

Zimbabwe Torture | Transcript | MP3

This text has been professionally transcribed. However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR: So I think if we were to look back on the past, I don’t know eight or nine months, in relation to Afghanistan, my goodness, we’ve come a lot further than people could have possibly thought.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, a review of the top global news stories in 2002, from Afghanistan to South America.

KEITH PORTER: Plus, Chinatown struggles to rebuild its economy.

PAUL LEE: I’ve often wondered what this store has seen over 111 years. The Depression in 1929, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War. If it’s not the worst this has got to be really, really bad.

PORTER: And Colombia calls on neighbors to help fight South America’s drug war.

SANTIAGO Tanguila: [via a translator] This liquid comes out and covers everything. It’s drifting over from the Colombian side. It wrecks our agriculture. It affects everything we grow.

MCHUGH: These stories—coming up next.

MCHUGH: Common Ground is radio’s weekly program on world affairs. I’m Kristin McHugh.

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Kabul’s Peacekeepers

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PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. The post 9/11 fall-out dominated much of the US news in 2002. From Afghanistan to Manhattan, the US-led global war on terror was, by far, the top story of the year. But outside of the US, a host of other issues generated headlines. This week, we reflect on a few of the top stories from around the globe in 2002. We begin in Afghanistan.

MCHUGH: Every six months the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan rotates leadership. In June, Turkey assumed responsibility of the nearly 5,000 foreign soldiers in Kabul. Transfer of power was more than ceremonial—Turkey is the only Muslim nation of the nearly 20 countries with peacekeepers in Afghanistan. Alastair Wanklyn visited Afghanistan earlier this year and filed this report on the tasks and challenges facing the peacekeepers as the nation returns to self-sufficiency.

[The sound of a busy bazaar.]

ALASTAIR WANKLYN: In the bustling, dusty streets of Kabul’s central bazaar, shops are piled high with kitchenware, folded cloth, and baskets of children’s toys. And in the narrow, muddy streets, a crush of people. Swept along are three Dutch soldiers. They have radio earpieces and look like they could mean business. But shopkeepers smile as the soldiers pass, and chattering youths push round them in a show of amusement and welcome. Six months into the life of the international security assistance force in Kabul, people respect the ISAF soldiers, according to the Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, speaking at a military parade.

Hamid Karzai [speaking through a megaphone] That is a big tribute. The Afghan people feel secure with them and I congratulate ISAF for that kind of tremendously nice work.

WANKLYN: Nations contributing troops are monitoring efforts to keep the peace. So far, there’s positive progress to report. Afghanistan has a government, and aid is reaching the people that need it. Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair said ISAF’s stabilizing presence has allowed Afghans to make greater progress than expected.

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR: I think if we were to look back on the past, I don’t know eight or nine months, in relation to Afghanistan, my goodness, we’ve come a lot further than people could have possibly thought.

WANKLYN: But six months of stability doesn’t mean things will stay this way. There’s tension in some areas as warlords are jockeying for influence in towns and along the country’s few, but lucrative, truck routes. Worldwide, some states and organizations argue the security force should extend now to roads and cities beyond Kabul. But under its current mandate and size, ISAF is restricted to the capital.

ROY ALLISON: The ISAF force at about 4,700 is simply insufficient to extend security further in the country.

WANKLYN: At Britain’s Royal Institute of International Affairs, Security Analyst Roy Allison says expanding ISAF and giving it more of an enforcing role would cost host nations financially and, perhaps, politically.

ALLISON: The requirements would be for a force at least 30,000 strong. And the United Nations itself and a number of countries have wished an expansion of the force to such numbers, but the United States is strongly opposed to this. And in practice, I think, European countries also are not prepared to commit the troops.

WANKLYN: Yet some of those nations that don’t want to commit their troops to a broader deployment are contributing in other ways.

[The sounds of a military parade ground.]

WANKLYN: By helping to train, equip, and pay the soldiers and policemen in Afghanistan’s own nascent security structures. On the military parade ground foot soldiers are encouraged to develop an allegiance to the state. That’s a big leap for many of these young men, whose identity and values were shaped in childhood less by schoolbooks and more by whichever warlord was dominant locally. It’s hard work converting fighters more accustomed to tribal or factional politics, into servants of the Afghan state. But the progress is there, according to the former commander of ISAF, General Sir John McCall.

General Sir John McCall: I think we do need to remember that only a few months ago this was a country at war. It has had 23 years of conflict, so we’re not going to move from a situation of extended conflict to peace and stability overnight. This is going to take some time. And to expect anything else I think is unreasonable.

WANKLYN: Britain initially commanded the ISAF, but Turkey has since assumed administrative control. Turkey is closer in religion, ethnicity, and language to many Afghans. This means Turkish commanders are a more comfortable fit than say, non-Islamic British officers. Roy Allison, of the UK Royal Institute of International Affairs, says western nations have high expectations for the Turkish administration.

ALLISION: I think the Turks, representing a model of secular Muslim government, provides also the degree of Muslim identity that, in a force of that kind, that is considered to be safe by the outside community. At the same time, that Turkey is far enough away not to be able to directly meddle in the internal affairs of Afghanistan, which might be a worry with some directly adjacent countries.

[The sounds of a busy bazaar and Muslim call to prayers.]

WANKLYN: Back in the Kabul bazaar, the smartly-clothed western peacekeepers continue to keep a watchful eye for signs of trouble. Worldwide many nations agree that it was a mistake to abandon Afghanistan once, after the Soviets pulled out at the end of the 1980s. The ISAF brigade is one pledge to avoid repeating the same mistake. I’m Alastair Wanklyn for Common Ground in Kabul, Afghanistan.

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MCHUGH: As our nation mourned the one year anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, many stopped to reflect on the innocence lost that fateful day in September 2001. And in a neighborhood once shadowed by the World Trade Center, a community searched for hope among the ruins.

[The sound of a busy street in New York City’s Chinatown.]

PORTER: A year after the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center, the US economy is slowly on the rebound. But for one community, just blocks from ground zero, the effects of the tragedy are still being felt. The economy of New York’s Chinatown depended heavily on the workers of the World Trade center and the tourists drawn by the sheer magnificence of the Twin Towers. And now Manhattan’s highest concentration of East Asians is struggling to make ends meet.

[The sound of people speaking Chinese at a busy shop.]

PORTER: Just after the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Asian community in Chinatown was raising money for the victims and their families. Now, the focus is on rebuilding their neighborhood’s faltering economy. Chinatown has been one of the biggest gateways for East Asian immigration into the US for over a hundred years.

[The sound of Chinese music being played over the sound of a busy Chinatown street.]

PORTER: It’s a culturally vibrant neighborhood and a tight knit community that seems on the surface to be self contained.

[The sound of a store owner talking to a customer in Chinese.]

PORTER: Paul Lee is the manager of the Mott Street General Store, which has operated in Chinatown for over a century and was, until last year, doing a thriving business.

PAUL LEE: I’ve often wondered what this store has seen over 111 years. The Depression in 1929, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War. If it’s not the worst this has got to be really, really bad.

[The sound of vehicles and street traffic.]

PORTER: On the streets of Chinatown it’s easy to see the effects of 9/11. Many of the restaurants remain half empty, over 40 garment factories have closed, and because of the added security measures much of the area remains inaccessible. That’s a big problem for a community that boasts over 250 restaurants, all dependent on outside customers. And restaurant trade is down as much as 70 percent.

Nearly a quarter of Chinatown’s workers were laid off in the three months after the attacks, many are still working reduced hours or taking home less money. Shao Chee Sim from New York’s Asian American Federation says Chinatown residents are having difficulties adapting to the new reality.

DR. SHAO CHEE SIM: We all know very well that a typical Chinatown worker is usually in their mid 40’s and 50’s—female garment workers with very little English language skills and job skills. So in a way they are kind of stuck right now.

PORTER: For that reason, Chinatown’s residents have a vital interest in what will eventually replace the World Trade complex. Again, Paul Lee of the Mott Street General Store.

PAUL LEE: We do respect the victims and their families, okay? And we want a memorial for them, no question. At the same time we need it to be the economic engine that it was. The details to me personally are not that important.

PORTER: Even though the largest terrorist attack in history took place in their backyard, this community still has hope for the future. Dr. Shao Chee Sim says the attacks have forced the rest of the city to pay attention to Chinatown’s needs.

DR. SHAO CHEE SIM: Chinatown community, there has always been located in the background of City Hall and the major financial institutions in lower Manhattan—a community that has long been ignored by policy makers and as well as the mainstream media. With the tragedy of 9/11 a lot of attention has been paid to Chinatown.

[The sound of Chinese music being played over the sound of a busy Chinatown street.]

PORTER: Chinatown is now set to become a special economic zone, and with that will come tax breaks and investment incentives. But the new designation comes a full year after the attacks, and this community hopes the help won’t turn out to be too little too late.

MCHUGH: The world’s newest court—next on Common Ground.

[Musical interlude]

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International Criminal Court

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PORTER: 2002 marked the formal establishment of the world’s first permanent court for trying individuals accused of committing genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity. But the International Criminal Court—or ICC—is moving forward without the United States. Earlier this year Kristin discussed the US position with William Pace, the Convener of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court.

MCHUGH: We know that President Clinton signed the US on to the ICC treaty right before he left office. But that was never sent on to the Senate for ratification. And then in May President Bush basically said the US is going to withdraw. Does that come as a big surprise?

WILLIAM PACE: Well, the United States has been, if not the single most important leader, there’s no other nation that has led over the last 57 years, the efforts to create international law and international justice. President Clinton did sign the treaty. Very, very often nations will sign a treaty and then it will take two years, five years, ten years before they will have adopted national legislation that allows them to ratify a treaty, etc. So the signing was an extension of the legacy of the United States on this. The efforts to renounce the treaty is now a renunciation also of this important legacy of the United States.

MCHUGH: How involved was the US in terms of the creation of the Court up until May?

PACE: Every article in the Rome treaty has contributions from the representatives of the United States, so tremendous contributions from the US. The US always wanted to be exempt. And it’s this exemption that was the cause of the US claims that this is a flawed treaty, not, not the treaty itself, in our opinion.

MCHUGH: As you mentioned, the US considers the ICC, or at least the Bush administration, considers the ICC a flawed document, primarily because there aren’t enough safeguards to protect against American military personnel and politicians from malicious prosecution. Are there enough safeguards in place?

PACE: To be real clear, the United States statement of the Undersecretary of State was that they felt that the Court could be subject to politically motivated prosecutions. And that it should be, therefore the International Criminal Court subordinated to the Security Council, in order to control that there wouldn’t be politically motivated. But this is laughable to almost every international affairs expert in the world. Because the most politicized body in the world is the Security Council. The protections against politically motivated prosecutions are so overwhelming in this treaty that many of the nongovernmental organizations and others would argue that it is much weaker, say, than the ad hoc tribunals that the Council has set up for Rwanda and Yugoslavia. National legal systems will remain primarily responsible for investigations and prosecutions. There are situations where if Americans are accused of committing war crimes or crimes against humanity they could be held responsible. But the safeguards to keep this at national prosecution levels are enormous.

MCHUGH: So what happens now? The treaty came into force earlier this year. Where do we go from here? How soon does this Court become operational?

PACE: In the year 2003 we will see the elections of judges and a prosecutor, selection of a registrar. And by mid-2003 I think you’ll see a Court that’s able to respond to referrals that are coming in from around the world. Again, hopefully most of these can be dealt with at the national level. But sometime in 2003 I think you will see the Court beginning to commence investigations and trials perhaps in 2003 or 2004.

MCHUGH: And remind us where it will be located?

PACE: The Netherlands, which is the home of the World Court, the International Court of Justice, and many other international organizations, asked to be the host country. And in Rome at the time the treaty was agreed to the governments agreed to allow the Dutch to be the host country.

MCHUGH: William Pace is the Convener of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court.

[Musical interlude]

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Plan Colombia

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PORTER: Columbia’s war on drugs is sometimes lost amid the country’s bloody and much larger civil conflict. In October, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe called on fellow South American nations to join the battle. But the effort to wipe out Columbia’s drug crop is causing an uproar in neighboring Ecuador. Ecuadorian farmers say they are victims of aerial spraying designed to eradicate cocaine production in Colombia. Reese Erlich first investigated these charges last July. He began his report in the small village of San Francisco Dos in eastern Ecuador, just one mile from the Colombian border.

SANTIAGO Tanguila: [via a translator] The indigenous cooperative of San Francisco Dos has 25 houses.

ERLICH: With some pride, Santiago Tanguila points to the accomplishments of his small cooperative village. The residents are all Kichwa Indians, Ecuador’s largest indigenous group.

Tanguila: [via a translator] There’s the community sports field. We have a school and a kitchen that’s owned by the community. We have electricity. The only thing we don’t have is drinking water piped into our homes. Before the aerial spraying we had a lot of roosters, cows, everything.

ERLICH: A lot of things have been dying lately in San Francisco Dos—plants, trees, and farm animals. People have gotten violently ill. At US insistence, the Colombian government is spraying herbicides on coca plants inside Colombia in an effort to eradicate cocaine production. But Ecuadoran peasants, who aren’t growing coca, say winds blow the aerial spray across the border.

[The sound of someone walking in the countryside.]

ERLICH: Tanguila takes me on a walk through the lush, green forest, past an occasional withered mango tree and dead coffee plant.

Tanguila: [via a translator] The planes doing the spraying don’t make any noise. We only hear the helicopters accompanying them. Then we know there’s aerial spraying going on. This liquid comes out and covers everything. It’s drifting over from the Colombian side. It wrecks our agriculture. It effects everything we grow.

ERLICH: The Colombian military is spraying Roundup Ultra, an herbicide manufactured by Monsanto. Contacted at corporate headquarters in St. Louis, a Monsanto spokeswoman declined to be interviewed on tape. However, she says Roundup Ultra, when properly applied, is safe both for humans and plants. Someone hit by aerial spraying, at worst, would feel temporary eye and skin irritation, she argues. That’s not what the Kichwa peasants like Tanguila say.

Tanguila: [via a translator] The herbicide companies say nothing is happening. They say it’s no more dangerous than taking a vitamin pill. That’s a lie. These “vitamins” are not fit for human consumption. They kill our crops. Little kids suffer stomach infections, headaches, and vomiting. That’s permanent around here. The Red Cross came by. We went to local clinics. They weren’t familiar with this kind of illness. So they didn’t do anything. Then we tried our local, indigenous medicines. Those worked and gave us some relief.

[The sound of dogs barking and a man speaking to a woman.]

SANTIAGO: [via a translator] Here’s a sick woman. She’s been in the hospital.

ERLICH: Tanguila introduces Judith Rodriguez, another Kichwa peasant farmer. She says nobody around here is growing coca, but her little farm has been hit with misty clouds of chemicals numerous times, most recently in January.

Judith Rodriguez: [via a translator] I got sick with a kind of fever. I have body aches. I have intense headaches. My stomach hurts so bad sometimes I just want to die. I was short of breath. At first I had a rash on my skin. The doctors say the problems are caused by the aerial spraying.

[The sound of a machete digging up yucca and then cutting it open.]

ERLICH: Farmer Vincente Calapucha uses his machete to dig up a yucca plant. He says Ecuador has gone through an economic crisis ever since it defaulted on its international debt last year and made the US dollar the official currency. So farmers depend even more on their land for survival. Now, he says, the aerial spraying—part of the US-backed $7 billion “Plan Colombia”—is making things a lot worse.

VINCENTE CALAPUCHA: [via a translator] We can’t afford to buy a lot things right now. So we live off the vegetables and other things on our land. Plan Colombia is hurting us a lot.

ERLICH: Calapucha slices open the yucca with one quick cut. Yucca is a tuber eaten like potatoes here. But this one has an ugly, mottled brown center.

Calapucha: [via a translator] It should be completely white. But it’s spotted and discolored. No one will buy these. One or two years ago, before the spraying, he had the most beautiful yucca you can imagine. I’ve lived here for 27 years and never had any problems. Our crops have been good. Because of Plan Colombia, our crops have died or shrunk in size. Coffee production is way down. The same for plantations.

ERLICH: But there’s a problem with Calapucha’s tale of woe. According to government scientists, herbicide spraying can kill plants but won’t simply discolor them or reduce their size. Those problems are probably caused by micro organisms. Melania Yanez, an official with the Ecuadoran Environment Ministry, says farmers tend to blame the aerial spraying for all their problems.

Melania Yanez: [via a translator] When people see and hear the crop dusters, they get sore eyes and have breathing problems. But we don’t have scientific evidence that their problems are caused by the spraying. We need scientific studies with specialized laboratories, trained technicians, and doctors. We need the same studies in Colombia. Unfortunately, we can’t afford to do such studies.

ERLICH: Yanez says some of the farmer’s health complaints are consistent with herbicide poisoning. Maximo Abad, mayor of Nueva Loja, the largest city in the area, says he has received dozens of complaints about the spraying.

Maximo Abad: [via a translator] There’s a big psychological impact. The spraying is done with airplanes guarded by helicopters. They are violating Ecuadoran air space and scaring children in school. Last December about 14 helicopters crossed into our territory over Puerto Nuevo. The Colombian government never gave an explanation. There’s a lot of fear, a lot of uncertainty. People are asking, “Where is this going?”

[The sounds from a small store, with radio on and the cash register ringing.]

ERLICH: Anselmo Salazar, vice president of a Kichwa Indian organization in Nueva Loja, says people of this impoverished region have taken some steps to fight poverty. His organization, for example, has a pharmacy with lower priced drugs for members.

Anselmo Salazar: [via a translator] We work directly with the pharmaceutical labs. They give us a big discount. So we can provide the medicine much more cheaply to people.

ERLICH: Salazar says, however, that Plan Colombia has slowed some of that progress because it hits the Kichwas particularly hard.

Salazar: [via a translator] The indigenous communities along the river are used to living off the land. They fish in the rivers. The aerial spraying has a huge impact because it poisons the water. It affects everyone who lives in this river valley—indigenous people and Ecuadorans. But Plan Colombia and the aerial spraying make things much worse for Indians. We’ve lived off this land for centuries. We eat the meat and fish here. So we’re the people most affected in our natural environment. The fumigation hits indigenous people much more intensely.

ERLICH: Environment ministry official Yanez says the Ecuadoran government has raised complaints to the Colombians. In fact, she attended a special conference in Bogota in which the Colombian military officials said they strictly adhere to a 10-kilometer buffer zone where they don’t spray herbicides.

Yanez: [via a translator] They acted surprised when I told them how the herbicide drifts across our border. They insisted they maintain this 10-kilometer buffer zone. But our Ecuadoran peasants have seen with their own eyes planes cross the frontier into our territory. But the Colombians don’t accept these reports. They say it’s absolutely impossible that it was their planes. They say maybe it was the guerrillas.

ERLICH: Yanez notes wryly that the guerrillas don’t have planes that spray herbicides, or any other planes, for that matter. Yanez says there is a simple way to prevent the herbicide from affecting local farmers. Ecuador has asked the Colombian government to guarantee in writing that it won’t spray within 10 kilometers of the border.

Yanez: [via a translator] What we want now from Colombia is a written guarantee because we need a mechanism to verify if this buffer zone is real. We want the United Nations International Drug Control Program to guarantee that the Colombians won’t cross this 10-kilometer zone.

ERLICH: Colombian officials failed to respond to repeated phone calls asking for comment on this and other issues raised in this story.

[The sound of school children saying “Good day” to Mr. Erlich in Spanish, then Mr. Erlich replies back, and the children resume reciting their school lessons.]

ERLICH: Back in San Francisco Dos, elementary school children eagerly practice their lessons before class starts. Some of these children were sickened by the spraying, says Santiago Tanguila, but most are better now. Tanguila says local residents want compensation for all the problems caused by Plan Colombia.

Tanguila: [via a translator] We’re making demands on the company that makes those chemicals and the company that does the spraying. We want them and the US government to pay us for our damaged crops and health problems caused by the spraying here along the Ecuadoran border. We want money for the losses suffered by each family—lost animals, lost crops. How else can we recoup our losses?

ERLICH: The European company supplying Colombia with Cosmoflux, a chemical used to make the Roundup herbicide stick to plants, has refused to supply more product for aerial spraying because the issue has become too controversial. The Colombian government has announced it will substitute chemicals from local manufacturers and continue the spraying. For Common Ground, I’m Reese Erlich in San Francisco Dos, along the Colombian-Ecuadoran border.

MCHUGH: If you have questions or comments about today’s program, visit our Web site at or e-mail us at [email protected]

ANNOUNCER: Common Ground is a Stanley Foundation production. On the Web at

MCHUGH: This is Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

KRISTIN MCHUGH: I’m Kristin McHugh.

KEITH PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, our review of top global news stories in 2002 continues with Russia’s war on terrorism.

VICTOR KREMENYUK: It has never been an anti-terrorist campaign, because the pretext to call it anti-terrorist was the explosions of the buildings in Moscow.

PORTER: Plus, a trade dispute between Russia and the US has feathers flying, and one African leader uses torture to remain in office.

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Russia’s War on Terror

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PORTER: Russia’s little reported war on terror in Chechnya suddenly found its way to the headlines when a group of Chechen rebels seized a Moscow theater in October. Terror had made its way to the streets of Moscow, and for the first time, residents started asking tough questions on Russia’s role in the breakaway province of Chechnya. More than 120 innocent civilians died as Russian forces stormed the theater. Many in the West criticized Russia’s hard-line response to the crisis. But did the criticism come too late? As Anya Ardayeva first reported in September, many believe the West is looking the other way when it comes to Chechnya.

[The sound of Vladimir Putin speaking in Russian.]

ANYA ANARDAYEVA: On September 11th of last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin was the first to express his condolences to a shocked American nation, calling terrorism the “plague of the 21st century,” and promising Russia’s support.

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: [via a translator] Russia knows what terrorism is. We understand the feelings of the Americans better than others do. And speaking to the American people on behalf of the Russian nation I want to say: we are with you. We fully support you and we feel your pain.

ANARDAYEVA: A few months later, the US launched its war on terrorism, starting in Afghanistan. But Russia has been fighting what it calls a war on terrorism for years—in Chechnya. The war in Chechnya—the second there in the last decade—is about to enter it’s fourth year. Russian troops returned to the breakaway province after a series of apartment bombings, blamed on Chechen rebels, took the lives of more than 300 people. The nation fully supported the move at a time. Vladimir Putin’s popularity soared, helping him to get elected as the country’s new president in 2000.

[A Russian newscast reporting on the war in Chechnya.]

ANARDAYEVA: Three years later, reports from the front-line in Chechnya still lead the news here. Russia has already lost thousands of its servicemen. Last May, President Putin said the conflict was all but over. But last month, nearly 120 people were killed after a helicopter, believed to be shot down by a rebel missile, crashed in a minefield. It was one of Russia’s largest single day losses in the second war. And that’s affecting the mood of the people here. Recent polls suggest that more than 60 percent of Russians no longer support the military action in Chechnya. But the Kremlin insists it’s fighting terrorism there. Russian officials say, the province has become a no-man’s land, flooded with armed individuals who have ties to Al Qaeda. But not everyone agrees.

VICTOR KREMENYUK: Of course, it has never been an anti-terrorist campaign, because the pretext to call it anti-terrorist was the explosions of the buildings in Moscow. Three years later, now, there is no hard evidence that it was really carried out by the terrorists.

ARDAYEVA: Victor Kremenuyk of Moscow’s USA and Canada Institute says Russia’s relationship with the United States improved so dramatically that the West is now turning a blind eye on the conflict in the northern Caucasus.

VICTOR KREMENYUK: The West has put itself into a very clumsy position. You know, they consider that criticizing Putin and the Russian government for what they are doing in Chechnya means bad relations with Putin.

ARDAYEVA: And this alarms human rights activists in Moscow. Valentin Gefter, the Director of Moscow’s Human Rights Institute, says international pressure is needed to ensure that the Russian military doesn’t violate the rights of civilians and refugees. And he says that pressure has gone away.

VALENTIN GEFTER: [via a translator] Unfortunately, the number of human rights violations and the size of these violations during the army’s so-called mopping up in the villages among civilians have not changed. There are still the same amount of people who suffer from it.

ARDAYEVA: Gefter adds the discrimination extends far beyond the conflict zone. He says people of Chechen origin living in Moscow are subjected to falsified criminal cases, have difficulties finding jobs, and are often refused foreign passports.

GEFTER: [via a translator] Just recently, we again heard about those Chechens who want to immigrate, having to jump off the trains in Lithuania. Of course, these people could be terrorists. But they could also be common inhabitants of Chechnya who aren’t getting a normal life from Russia.

ARDAYEVA: And what is even more dangerous, Valentin Gefter says, is that the lack of law and order in Chechnya—from both rebel and federal sides—is starting to spread throughout Russia.

GEFTER: [via a translator] This has become some sort of black hole for Russia, which absorbs the worst things in the society and the worst things come out of it. After fighting there, people go back and they bring all this lawlessness to their cities and villages. And this is becoming a norm of life. The first war went on for three years, the second for three years, and this is something that is very difficult to deal with for those in power, for those who have let the demon out.

[The sound of Chechen music.]

ARDAYEVA: This hall in one of Moscow’s museums is unusually empty. It holds an exhibition of photographs depicting the medieval architecture of Chechnya and neighboring Ingushetia. They demonstrate the unique buildings and forts built by 17th century nomads in the mountainous, hard-to-reach areas of the two republics. Architect Valentin Kuznetsov organized the exhibition.

VALENTIN KUZNETSOV: [via a translator] Nobody has seen this area, not even on pictures. I wanted to show it. The Caucasus is Russia’s pearl, an absolutely unique place, with a unique nature.

ARDAYEVA: Mr. Kuznetsov says the historic monuments he’s been photographing his entire life are slowly being destroyed.

KUZNETSOV: [via a translator] This war has to end. This was one of the reasons for this exhibition. I wanted to show the people and the military that they will make more money if they bring tourists to Chechnya than if they continue the war. Because the war is mostly about business right now, especially for military.

[The sound of Chechen music.]

ARDAYEVA: Analysts say the conflict will only end if the population starts voicing its opposition to the war. And as the Russian people slowly start to change their opinions about the bloody conflict, that day may not be too far off.

[The sound of Chechen music.]

ARDAYEVA: For Common Ground Radio, I’m Anya Ardayeva, in Moscow.

PORTER: The situation in the Northern Caucuses has continued to deteriorate in the months since Anya first reported this story. Russia launched tough new offenses aimed at wiping out terror cells in Chechnya. The opposition continues to fight back. Half a dozen Russian helicopters have been shot down since September and military losses continue to mount. Meanwhile, the Kremlin’s hard-line policy on Chechnya has effectively stalled a number of Western efforts to end the conflict.

[Musical interlude]

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Chicken Fight

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MCHUGH: 2002 found The United States and Russia talking turkey—about chicken. The two countries, which once used to worry about trading nuclear missiles, spent much of the year embroiled in a trade war over poultry. Some analysts say it’s an illustration of just how far US-Russian relations have moved over the course of the past decade. But as Simon Marks first reported from Moscow in June, the flap over chicken was every bit as fierce as any dispute that has preceded it.

[sounds from a large commercial hen house]

SIMON MARKS: Call it the Great Chicken War. 11 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, Moscow and Washington are at loggerheads over poultry. And in hen houses across America, chicken farmers have had enough.

RICHARD LOBB: All of this is casting a great deal of doubt on their reliability as a trading partner.

MARKS: Richard Lobb with the National Chicken Council in Washington DC—yes, there is one—says the Americans feel, well, henpecked by the Russians.

LOBB: The people at the Ministry of Agriculture have made no secret of their desire to protect the domestic poultry industry in Russia.

[The sound of a jet airplane]

MARKS: To understand the story, you have to go back to 1991. On a freezing February morning at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, an enormous cargo plane brought the first shipment of American humanitarian aid to Russia.

[sound of people unloading a cargo plane]

MARKS: Boxed up among the medicines, the vitamins, the soups and the candies, were portions of American chicken. Chicken legs to be precise, that Russian consumers rapidly found they liked. The “Bush legs” as they became known, named after the former US President who authorized that first aid shipment, became so popular that by the time Russia no longer needed humanitarian aid, America’s chicken farmers had a valuable new export market on their hands. Russia took 40 percent of America’s chicken exports last year. But this year, the country has suddenly taken nothing. President Vladimir Putin slammed the door to American chicken, claiming he needed proof that it was produced in hygienic conditions before he would allow any more to cross Russia’s borders.

[The sound of a consumer grocery market]

MARKS: So, visit a market in Moscow today and the only chicken you’ll find on sale is Russian chicken. And shoppers who once gleefully consumed American chicken by the pound, have clearly heard allegations widely publicized here that the US chicken industry is infected with salmonella, avian influenza, and a variety of other horrible problems.

[The sound of a consumer grocery market]

FEMALE RUSSIAN CONSUMER #1: [via a translator] I used to buy American chickens a very long time ago. It was in the early ’90s, when everyone was crazy about them. But I haven’t done it in a very long time

FEMALE RUSSIAN CONSUMER #2: [via a translator] I buy Russian chickens only, they are much tastier. I don’t care about the price, but I know for sure that Russian chicken has more flavor. Especially when you fry it or barbecue it.

MARKS: Earlier this year, it seemed the two sides had found a solution to the dispute. The Russians announced that American chicken could return to the market, provided that every importer had a permit. But then it turned out permits were almost impossible to obtain. American producers say the Russians set conditions that they knew the US farmers couldn’t meet: like requiring original copies of the same paperwork to be literally in two places at the same time. So with farming jobs at home on the line, President Bush found himself calling foul.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We made it pretty darned clear to them that I think we’ve really got to get this chicken issue resolved and get those chickens moving from the United States into the Russian market. We laugh, but nevertheless it is a problem, that we must honor agreements.

MARKS: The Russians say they’ll be happy to talk about chicken, but only if the Americans talk about steel. President Vladimir Putin appears to want alleviation from US steel tariffs that were imposed by the White House earlier this year before he’ll allow chicken to return to Russia, according to analyst Lilia Shevtsova of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Lilia Shevtsova: The problem is that Russians are connected this poultry issue with the steel issue, and so far Americans’, their higher tariffs, well is a really severe blow for Russian steel industry.

MARKS: Despite being cooped up together in Moscow at their recent summit meeting, even the countries’ two Presidents couldn’t resolve the flap. And so the dispute continues, leaving the future uncertain for America’s chicken industry and the workers who rely on it. For Common Ground, I’m Simon Marks in Moscow.

MCHUGH: The poultry dispute continued for nearly two months after Simon’s report first aired. The issue was resolved at the end of August when both countries approved a new veterinary certificate allowing chicken exports to Russia to resume.

MCHUGH: You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

[Musical interlude]

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Zimbabwe Torture

Listen to This Segment: MP3

PORTER: Headlines from Africa in 2002 were dominated by the ongoing strife in Zimbabwe. The Amani Trust, a human rights group estimates, 20 percent of Zimbabwe’s citizens have been physically tortured, with many thousands more traumatized by witnessing torture. And yet, under the harsh government of President Mugabe and the ruling ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front) political party, the average Zimbabwean has almost no recourse. Now, some are turning to the international community for help. Priscilla Huff first reported in August on the toll of impunity on Zimbabwe and its tormented citizens.

[The sound of a toilet flushing.]

PATRICIA HUFF: Imagine being forced to stand upside down, with your face in a toilet bowl, while it’s being flushed repeatedly. Imagine being having the side of your head hit so many times, your ear drums burst. Imagine having the soles of you feet beaten until you can’t walk.

[The sound of a diplomatic party or reception.]

HUFF: In contrast, imagine discussing death and destruction, torture and famine, at a reception at Zimbabwe’s embassy in Washington, DC. Dr. Simbi Mubako, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the United States, says his is a peaceful nation.

Dr. Simbi Mubako: The government of Zimbabwe does not torture anybody.

HUFF: But Ray Choto, an independent journalist from Zimbabwe, tells a different story. He and his editor, Mark Zambuka, were tortured after publishing a story in The Standard, a weekly newspaper in the capital, Harare, about the arrest of 23 military officials. The government claimed this violated Zimbabwe’s strict press laws. Choto says, to begin with, President Mugabe’s government won’t even investigate.

RAY CHOTO: I mean in our case, the government cannot convince us that they are still investigating when, I in my case, I handed over personally myself to the police and it was the police who handed me over the military, where I and my editor, Mark Zambuka, were subsequently tortured. I mean, what are they investigating? They know exactly whom they handed us over to.

HUFF: Tony Reeler is a human rights activist with the Amani Trust. The Trust provides medical treatment for victims of torture and documents the cases. He estimates at least 400,000 Zimbabweans are victims of torture. Reeler says Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and his government use torture to achieve political goals.

TONY REELER: What you’re doing is your trying to force people to behave in a way that they don’t want to. Very simply, not to vote for this particular party, not to support that political party, not to do it. Or, to create a climate of terror so that people wouldn’t vote. So, it’s very specifically to terrorize people into supporting them and not supporting another political party.

HUFF: The most vocal opposition is the Movement for Democratic Change, the party that presented Morgan Tsvengerai as an alternative to the reelection of Robert Mugabe. Zimbabwe’s white farmers, who’ve historically produced most of the nation’s food, have also been caught in the crosshairs. Journalist Choto has seen how Mugabe’s government is using Zimbabwe’s constitution against its own citizens.

CHOTO: There is this, I mean selective application of the law in Zimbabwe. As long as you are a member of the opposition, if you break the law, the law will be used to arrest you. But then sometime again, members of the ruling ZANU-PF, party, you know, have been committing offenses on a daily basis, and no arrests have been made.

HUFF: And Tony Reeler says, that’s the trick. Mugabe’s government has passed laws so there’s no recourse when it comes to politically motivated torture.

REELER: What they do then is this double step, where they do that; and then they pass a formal statute of impunity, which basically excuses all the people who do that from any kind of criminal prosecution.

HUFF: Zimbabwe’s Ambassador, Dr. Simbi Mubako, flatly denies the government tortures anyone.

Ambassador Mubako: There might have been some violence, but this violence is committed by individuals, who are punished if they are found by the government of Zimbabwe itself. So this is ridiculous to say the government is, itself tortures people. It does not.

HUFF: But, a report from Amnesty International on the toll of impunity and the cost of torture contradicts that claim. The report points to militia members, who kidnap supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change, Zimbabwe’s opposition. Amnesty cites rape, electric shocks, and beatings as just a few of the tools of torture used by the militias. But, the government officially disavows any ties to these militias, which Amnesty says helps to obscure the role President Robert Mugabe or the ZANU-PF might have in torture. Amanda Blair monitors Africa for Amnesty International.

AMANDA BLAIR: Impunity is one of the main reasons why human rights abuses, like torture, are still being perpetrated. The ZANU-PF supporters—government officials, police, military—use torture with impunity all the time. And they’re not held accountable by it, and they just keep going and going. Arresting opposition or suspected opposition members, torturing them, detaining them, sexually assaulting them.

HUFF: Ambassador Mubako insists that violence and torture are not part of Zimbabwe’s political policies.

Ambassador Mubako: The Government is against any violence and wants peaceful conduct of any political campaigns.

HUFF: Ray Choto suspects President Mugabe may believe that he’s above the law.

CHOTO: The laws are being changed on a daily basis. I mean, he is simply, I mean, exercising, his presidential powers, which I also see as they are unconstitutional. I mean, its like he’s the court unto himself.

HUFF: Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe also has a crisis on his hands, a crisis that begs for international help. Half of the nation’s population of 11 million are facing starvation, according to the United Nations World Food Program, and Zimbabwe’s economy is stumbling towards collapse. The crisis comes as African leaders, including Zimbabwe’s neighbor, South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki, have been trying to sell the West on a proposal, the New Program for African Development, or NePAD. NePAD includes a peer review function to build on the African tradition of collectivity, for African leaders to decide if their fellow presidents and prime ministers are meeting the goals—including democracy, economic growth, and improved health and education. White House officials and top Congressmen, like Representative Ed Royce who chairs the Africa Subcommittee, have been open about Zimbabwe serving as a test case for NePAD. Tony Reeler of the Amani Trust says the test is already over.

REELER: We sure as hell don’t like peer review and actually we think the case example has already been proven. Zimbabwe proves peer review fails.

HUFF: Other tests have already made their way through the courts. A US federal judge is reviewing a 32-page ruling which fines the ZANU-PF $73 million dollars for torturing and killing eight Zimbabweans. The suit was brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act, a 200-year-old American law. Ray Choto, the journalist, wants to return to his native Zimbabwe, because he feels he has a duty to contribute to his nation. But, the future of his nation remains bleak at best, while the international community struggles with how to help the average Zimbabwean. For Common Ground, I’m Priscilla Huff.

PORTER: Latest estimates say 7-million Zimbabweans are facing hunger, while hundreds of white farmers are being driven from the country. A growing number of countries are now using sanctions in an effort to force President Robert Mugabe from office.

Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.

Copyright © Stanley Center for Peace and Security

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