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TAHA HASHEMI: [via a translator] Because of the similarities of religion and belief between Iran’s and Iraq’s Shiites, these two countries have always affected each other.
KEITH PORTER: This week on Common Ground, what role will Iran play in the new Iraq?
KRISTIN MCHUGH: Plus, new life for Iraq’s horse tracks.
KASIM DAOUD: [via a translator] Now there is freedom in riding. In the past, there were times when we were forced to lose or to let someone else win. Today, we ride freely.
MCHUGH: And Cuba’s sophisticated drug industry.
DR. PEDRO LOPEZ: The pharmaceutical industry developed in the ’60s and ’70s. And the main reason for this was to make drugs at low costs in order to give them to the people at low prices.
PORTER: These stories—coming up next.
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PORTER: Common Ground is radio’s weekly program on world affairs. I’m Keith Porter. Kristin McHugh is off this week. As Iraqi leaders try to draw up a constitution that balances the country’s competing ethnic and religious factions, neighboring Iran is watching to see how the process will affect its own future. The majority of the people in both countries belong to the Shiite Muslim sect, which Saddam Hussein had suppressed in Iraq. Now that the former Iraqi president is no longer in power, Iranians are debating whether the Shiites of Iran and Iraq will cooperate or compete. Roxana Saberi reports from Tehran.
[The sound of a busy city street]
ROXANA SABERI: About 90 miles southwest of Iran’s capital sits the dusty city of Qom. Its several seminaries and mosques attract thousands of students and pilgrims from all over the world. The city offers Internet cafés and movie theatres. But what stands out most are the city’s 35,000 or so clerics, and women mostly wearing head-to-toe black chadors. Now that Saddam Hussein has been removed from power in Iraq, many here are pondering their future relations with their fellow Shiite Muslims next door. The large majority of Iran’s 70 million people are Shiite Muslim, as are around 60 percent of Iraqis. This 21-year-old student believes the time is now ripe for the two groups to strengthen the bonds they have been forming.
UNNAMED IRANIAN STUDENT: [via a translator] During these two years that I have been in Qom, I have seen many Iraqi students. Some of them are still my friends, and some have left for Iraq. Before and after Saddam, I never feel that they were from a foreign country.
SABERI: Since Iran’s Islamic Revolution swept clergy into power in 1979, Shiite Islam has largely been identified with Iran, though not all Shiites have supported the Islamic Republic’s version of Shi’ism. Qom rose to the forefront of Shiite learning under Saddam Hussein’s leadership. The former Iraqi president, whose regime was dominated by Sunni Muslims, viewed the rival branch of Islam—Shi’ism—as a political threat. His rule pushed the Iraqi city of Najaf, which had been a dominant Shiite center of learning, into the background as Qom gained in spiritual status. The leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, studied and taught in Qom for decades. And missionaries here spread the message of Iran’s Islamic revolution through the country’s mosques.
TAHA HASHEMI: [via a translator] Because of the similarities of religion and belief between Iran’s and Iraq’s Shiites, these two countries have always affected each other.
SABERI: Taha Hashemi, who heads the moderate-right-wing Entekhab newspaper, believes Shiites of Iraq and Iran now have the chance to cooperate with one another.
TAHA HASHEMI: [via a translator] We need religious schools to promote Islamic and Shiite thought. If any place around the world can produce this thought, it should be welcomed.
SABERI: But others believe this type of cooperation is not likely to happen. Instead, they predict a more liberal environment for Shiites in Iraq could threaten Iran’s Islamic Republic. Indeed, many Shiites in Iraq and Iran have advocated the separation of religion from politics or have called for a religious government that’s more democratic.
MOHAMMAD JAVAD AKBAREIN: [via a translator] Iran’s government does not like this subject because it is certain that these seminary students’ way of thinking will change due to the new government of Iraq.
SABERI: Mohammad Javad Akbarein, an Iranian journalist and researcher at Qom’s Seminary School, says once security is established in Iraq, Shiite students from Iran will travel to Iraq and experience a more liberal interpretation of the faith.
AKBAREIN: [via a translator] But this question cannot be limited only to Iraq. The Qom Seminary School doesn’t even like a young seminary student to go to Tehran because it is not difficult to realize what people want and to see realities. A seminary student can simply go beyond the framework that has surrounded Qom today. Qom even fears Tehran, let alone Najaf.
SABERI: Saddam’s departure has taken place as powerful hard-line leaders in Iran have been accused of blocking efforts of the country’s reformist clerics, who hold little real political power. Washington has accused Tehran of interfering in Iraq by trying to create a clerical regime based on its Islamic Republic, which the US has claimed supports terrorism and pursues nuclear weapons. Iran has denied these charges and says it simply wants Iraqis to choose their own form of government. Many Iranians expect the outcome to be a religious, Shiite-dominated government. But some analysts predict Iraq will have a secular democratic system.
DR. DAVOUD HERMIDAS BAVAND: So if it’s going to be a secular political system, it means the Shiites have compromised with other Sunni group to build up a kind of social-political system satisfactory to all religious, racial, and linguistic groups.
SABERI: Dr. Davoud Hermidas Bavand, a political analyst in Tehran, believes another indicator that Iraq’s future government will be secular is that many Iraqi Shiites see themselves more as Arabs than as a member of their specific faith.
DR. BAVAND: If they are going to build up a new political system [that] could be satisfactory to people of Iraq and also satisfactory to the foreign powers—America—they have devolved themselves from Iranian Shiites or another, even as a matter of political necessity.
SABERI: No matter what the outcome at the governmental level, however, many Iranians believe the future of Shiite relations rests in the hands of the people. They believe bonds will be strengthened through pilgrimages to each other’s countries and through personal connections. For Common Ground, I’m Roxana Saberi in Tehran.
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PORTER: In Iraq today there are few areas of life that have been unchanged by the overthrow and capture of Saddam Hussein. And beyond the headlines about the violence and uncertainty that has marked the US-led occupation of the country, many Iraqis are slowly adjusting to their new freedoms and rediscovering some age-old past times. Simon Marks spent a day at the races in Baghdad.
[Sounds from a crowd at a Baghdad horse racing track]
SIMON MARKS: It is not a scene that outsiders immediately associate with Baghdad. But at the Baghdad Equestrian Club, horses and their riders slip themselves into a set of stalls, are placed under starters’ orders…
[The sound of a bell at the start of a horse race]
MARKS: …And they’re off.
[The sound of pounding horse hooves]
MARKS: Three times a week the dusty track comes alive in Baghdad, as some of the finest Arab steeds battle it out for racing supremacy. Iraq, like many Arab states, has a rich horse-racing tradition, and the animals are in world-class shape—making good time and glistening in the sun as their jockeys urge them on.
[Sounds from the crowd at the track]
MARKS: Urging them on from the stands, hundreds of racing enthusiasts who have come to the club for years to while away a few hours—and more than a few Iraqi dinars. Hassan Karra—a housepainter by trade—has been putting money down on the horses here for 40 years.
HASSAN KARRA: [via a translator] I bet a few thousand dinars each time, depending on my financial situation. Maybe 50 or 60 thousand dinars. Twenty-five or thirty dollars. I make a little money, and then I gamble it.
MARKS: Not all the race fans were happy to talk. The Koran says gambling is a sin, and there’s still some embarrassment and discomfort here about the racetrack’s success. But there’s also a new atmosphere at the club. For the first time in decades, those watching the races know that the outcome will be fair. In the old days, more than 100 horses that raced at the track were owned by Saddam Hussein’s sons, Uday and Qusay. And when they raced, they always won. Even when they didn’t. Kasim Daoud is a jockey, a veteran of the Iraqi track.
KASIM DAOUD: [via a translator] Now there is freedom in riding. In the past, there were times when we were forced to lose, or to let someone else win. Today, we ride freely.
[Sounds from the crowd at the track]
MARKS: And ride they do, carrying with them not just the hopes of a few nearby gamblers, but perhaps also the hopes of a nation that is chomping at the bit to explore all aspects of life unscarred by Saddam. For Common Ground, I’m Simon Marks in Baghdad.
PORTER: Defining democracy, next on Common Ground.
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PORTER: In the aftermath of the Taliban of Afghanistan and the Ba’athist regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, new governments must be formed, something that’s also true for the Palestinians and other nascent nations. For the Bush administration, when it comes to writing a new constitution, there’s only one kind of government possible—democratic. But democracy itself comes in several forms, each of which has their own advantages and disadvantages. Priscilla Huff examines the differences between America’s presidential system of democracy and the parliamentary system, with its foundation in Britain.
[The sound of applause]
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: [giving a speech] Therefore the United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. This strategy requires the same persistence and energy and idealism we have shown before. And, it will yield the same results. As in Europe, as in Asia, as in every region of the world, the advance of freedom leads to peace.
[The sound of applause]
PRISCILLA HUFF: In President George Bush’s November 6, 2003 speech to the National Endowment for Democracy, he expressed his belief that there is only one political system for the 21st century.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: In fact, the daily work of democracy itself is the path of progress. It teaches cooperation, the free exchange of ideas, and the peaceful resolution of differences. As men and women are showing from Bangladesh, to Botswana to Mongolia, it is the practice of democracy that makes a nation ready for democracy and every nation can start on this path.
HUFF: That begs the question—how does a nation begin to practice democracy? Afghanistan started down that path after the Taliban was chased out of power, in the early days of the war against terrorism. A traditional Afghan assembly, a loya jirga, was called. Delegates expressed their support for the concept of democracy. Mohammed Aman.
MOHAMMED AMAN: [summarized by a translator] He said he supports the one on that respects the Afghan people’s rights and the women’s rights and the democracy in our country.
HUFF: And Nadia, a female delegate.
NADIA: [summarized by a translator] She said, “I want somebody as our president, our leader, to be able to control Afghanistan and disarm all the military people are responsible. And to respect all the rights of the people in Afghanistan, especially the women’s.
HUFF: The model the Afghanis used to draft their constitution was based on the American system of democracy. Jawid Luddin, a spokesman for transitional president Hamid Karzai told the Washington Post, the most important thing Afghanistan needs now is stability. The stability of a strong executive, found in the American system, in contrast to what Luddin sees in the parliamentary system, which would require a strong tradition of democracy and strong political parties. Hamid Karzai expressed something similar, during a May 2003 visit with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
AFGHAN PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI: Afghanistan has gone through 30 years of anarchy, war, and instability. The consequence of that is the considerable weakening of the institutions that govern any state—not just Afghanistan, any state. The reason that Afghanistan is still there is because of the formidable nation that it has. What we have to give this nation are the institutions that will provide it with the administration that it needs.
HUFF: Hamid Karzai sees American style democracy bringing critical elements to Afghanistan. Mark Platner is the editor of the Journal of Democracy, and he describes the American system.
MARK PLATNER: It’s what is considered a presidential system, where the president is directly elected by the people, is the chief executive officer and the Congress is separately elected and the tenure of the president is not in any way dependent on Congress, except for the very rare case of impeachment.
HUFF: This contrasts with the British parliamentary system. Bob Peirce is the Counselor in Charge of Political Affairs at the British Embassy in Washington, DC.
BOB PEIRCE: There is a connection between the executive and legislature, which is different from the American system in that you cannot be a minister—that is a cabinet secretary in American terms—in the British system unless you are an elected politician. So it’s not just Tony Blair who’s elected but the foreign secretary—the equivalent of the secretary of state—and all of the ministers, are members, elected members of the legislature, of Parliament. So when the Prime Minister forms a government, he has to use elected politicians as the ministers in his cabinet. He cannot bring in people from outside.
HUFF: Mark Platner says that being able to plan on a single administration being in power for a fixed period of time can bring stability. However…
PLATNER: With the presidential system you have a problem that you have a president who is elected for a four year term, in some places as much as a six-year term, but totally loses the confidence of the electorate and of the legislature. There is the extreme remedy of impeachment if the president commits a crime, but otherwise, there’s no legal way of getting rid of him when he loses the confidence of the legislature and the country. So, the situation you’ve often had in Latin America, either you have a lame duck president who enjoys no credibility, but often you’ve had situations, recently we had it in Bolivia, we had it in Argentina not long ago, where the president is actually forced out of office before his term ends because he’s no longer capable of governing.
HUFF: The British Embassy’s Bob Peirce says, the executive being rooted in the legislature gives the parliamentary system an advantage in actually accomplishing goals, something a lame duck may not be able to do.
PEIRCE: This means, that there is I think a much stronger executive in the United Kingdom, than there is in the United States, the position of the executive, vis-à-vis the legislature because the members of the executive come from the legislature. The way in which they became the government is because they had the most seats. They were the party that had the most seats in the legislature. So, by definition, the executive has the votes in the legislature to get legislation passed.
HUFF: There’s no guarantee, with an American system of democracy that the Congress will actually pass any individual bill. As a function of government, this might be seen as a problem, but Mark Platner observes for the individual citizen, the American system has its attractions.
PLATNER: One of the advantages that people often cite of the American system is that members of Congress are free to break with, even it’s a president of their own party, when it’s very important to their districts that they vote a certain way. And it’s also said then that the link between the representative and his constituents , the feeling that constituents have that they can go to their representative and make their voices heard is stronger in a presidential system.
HUFF: In the parliamentary system, the Prime Minister is first elected by his district to Parliament, then the majority party selects who will form the government. This contrasts with the American system where voters choose both their local representatives and elect the president as head of both state and government. Bob Peirce says, how the central leader is chosen is a key question to consider.
PEIRCE: Now we have in the British system and in other parliamentary systems, the head of state and the head of government are separate things. Tony Blair is not the head of state, he’s the head of government. The Queen is head of state. She has no executive function, she’s a constitutional monarch, a symbolic, a ceremonial head of state, and I think any country looking at a new constitution might want to ask itself whether it wishes to have the head of state government and head of government functions combined or whether there’s some advantage in having someone who personifies the country, but doesn’t actually run it. I mean, there are strengths and weaknesses in both systems.
HUFF: And Bob Platner agrees, especially with the observation that democracy isn’t the easiest path.
PLATNER: One thing you can say is that historically in many cases, countries have tried to build a democracy, failed, but tried again and I think the statistics show, that countries that have had a previous experience generally do better the second time around than ones that haven’t. But of course that’s not the outcome that anyone hopes for, that whether Afghanistan or Iraq, we’re gonna have to go through a failed experiment to get the necessary experience to make it work.
HUFF: As nations proceed down the path toward new governments, and the prospect of democracy, Bob Peirce does have one concrete suggestion.
PEIRCE: Go for quick election campaigns. One of the things about the British system that I would certainly recommend over the American system is that when we call an election campaign, we’ve got six weeks to get it done. So we do not have a perpetual election atmosphere. And it’s also much cheaper that way.
HUFF: For Common Ground, I’m Priscilla Huff.
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PORTER: Cuba has developed a highly sophisticated pharmaceutical industry. So sophisticated, in fact, it has raised eyebrows and red flags in the Bush administration. Reese Erlich reports from Havana.
REESE ERLICH: Last spring Undersecretary of State John Bolton told Congress that Cuba is developing biological weapons. The charge is so controversial that State Department officials will only quote from the congressional testimony without further elaboration. Kevin Whitaker heads the Cuba desk at the State Department.
KEVIN WHITAKER: We continue to believe that Cuba has at least a limited developmental offensive biological weapons research and development effort, and has provided dual use biotechnology to other rogue states. This reflects the consensus on what US government experts believe about Cuba and its biological weapons capability.
ERLICH: Whitaker was asked if the US has provided proof to back up the allegation.
WHITAKER: No and we’re not required to. What we’re talking about here is our analysis. And our analysis is what I just stated. We believe that they have this limited developmental, offensive BW R&D effort. And that’s based on lots of information that is available to us.
DR. PEDRO LOPEZ: This is absolutely false.
ERLICH: Dr. Pedro Lopez is director of clinical trials at the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Havana. He notes that no one else in the world has charged Cuba with developing biological weapons, and that even former President Jimmy Carter dismissed the claim.
DR. PEDRO LOPEZ: Our bio-technology program, our scientific development, has been done to promote health and to promote life, not to promote war or to promote death. So the main reason is the ethnics of our scientists, that will never be involved in such a program.
ERLICH: Dr. Lopez says even setting aside ethical issues, Cuba has very practical reasons not to develop highly risky biological weapons.
DR. PEDRO LOPEZ: It would be silly to launch such a costly program with very little possibility of success.
[The sound of Dr. Lopez giving a tour of his research center]
ERLICH: Dr. Lopez is happy to show reporters around his biotech center. Of course, a casual visit doesn’t disprove the existence of biological weapons. But it does reveal a very sophisticated pharmaceutical industry that is thriving despite a stringent US trade embargo. Under the embargo, which the Cubans call a blockade, the island can neither import hi-tech equipment nor export medicines to the US. So the Cubans go to a lot of trouble to circumvent the embargo. Dr. Lopez shows off an example by opening the door to a highly air conditioned office.
[The sound of doors opening and closing]
DR. PEDRO LOPEZ: This is a computer cluster. It was made by our people to bypass the buying of a supercomputer. That would have been very expensive and impossible to buy because of the blockade. There will be 64 computers working together, basically PCs. But they, they work as one unit. So they have to handle a very large amounts of information, very large data bases.
ERLICH: Although not widely known in the US, Cuba’s pharmaceutical industry is one of the most sophisticated in the developing world.
DR. PEDRO LOPEZ: The pharmaceutical industry developed in the ’60s and ’70s. And the main reason for this was to make drugs at low costs in order to give them to the people at low prices. So that most of the drugs used in Cuba has always, since the ’60s or ’70s, has been made in Cuba. And they only imported the raw materials. But then in the ’80s, what we call the biotechnology program was launched. It started with the production of interferon, at that time looking for a treatment of cancer. And then it spread to other products and other purposes.
[Sounds from the computer room]
ERLICH: After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Cuba sought to earn hard currency by selling its pharmaceutical products overseas. Biotechnology is now the country’s fourth highest foreign currency producer. Glaxo Smith Kline is currently conducting clinical trials for a unique Cuban meningitis B vaccine. But the government-owned industry also runs smack into the US embargo. The Biotech center’s business development head Ernesto Lopez says the embargo makes European drug distributors much less interested in Cuban medicines.
ERNESTO LOPEZ: [via a translator] The US market is in most case 60 percent of the world market for new medicines. If you can’t sell there, it reduces the value of our new technology.
ERLICH: But even when Cuba was successful in getting Europeans and Latin Americans interested in its drugs, the inexperienced Cubans must compete with well organized international pharmaceutical companies, according to Dr. Pedro Lopez.
DR. PEDRO LOPEZ: We like to compete in terms of quality and the virtues of our products. And it’s true that sometimes we have to face some, some tricky strategies. And so some people are paid to say bad things of our products or exaggerate an adverse reaction. That can happen with any product, but then when it happened with our product, it’s exaggerated. That has happened in more than one country.
ERLICH: But Cuba’s problems aren’t limited to alleged unfair competition. The domestic pharmaceutical industry now provides almost 80 percent of the island’s medical needs. But that other 20 percent is a problem. A hospital pharmacist named Samuel, who asked not to be identified, says certain drugs used for cancer or other long term illnesses are hard to find because the country doesn’t have the foreign currency to buy them abroad.
SAMUEL: [via a translator] There is not enough to cover all the needs of the patients. There’s been a big effort made in order to provide these drugs to all patients. The thing is, a lot of these drugs are not produced in Cuba. So the supply is based on donations.
ERLICH: So what do doctors and patients do?
SAMUEL: [via a translator] When doctors in Cuba apply a certain treatment to patients they take into account the availability of the drugs. So they would not do for example chemotherapy or radiotherapy on a patient if they are not sure that they will have the availability of the drugs. For example, the radio therapy is sometimes applied directly on the skin of a patient because they don’t have the protecting gel.
ERLICH: But the shortage of drugs has also led some to steal the drugs from hospitals and sell them on the street.
SAMUEL: [via a translator] Yes, there is a black market of drugs in Cuba. There are people who make a living out selling drugs in the street. This is not like it’s really big huge black market. But there is a black market. If these people are caught, then they’re penalized very harshly as if they were selling marijuana or cocaine.
ERLICH: Government officials acknowledge a shortage of certain drugs but say they are rapidly improving the situation. They argue that even with the shortages, all drugs and health care remain free in Cuba, something rare in Latin America these days. For Common Ground, I’m Reese Erlich in Havana.
PORTER: This is Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.
KEITH PORTER: I’m Keith Porter. Kristin McHugh is off this week. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, women lead the way to a new Sierra Leone.
ZAINAB BANGURA: Because a new constitution are being written, you know, elections are going to be held, new institutions are going to be created—that is a time for women to have space.
PORTER: Plus, the National Peace Corps Foundation’s new director. And, a global citizen who speaks her mind in Great Britain.
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PORTER: Last year a 12-year civil war ended in Sierra Leone after causing horrifying losses to civilians, especially women. Now the country’s women are leading a political initiative to bring some good out of that evil. Nina-Maria Potts reports from Washington, DC.
NINA-MARIA POTTS: Of all the weapons wielded against women in war, perhaps shame is the most potent. In Zainab Bangura’s home country of Sierra Leone, many women still will not speak of what they endured during the recent 12 year civil war—abductions, evictions, rape, and amputation. Bangura—the founder of Sierra Leone’s largest indigenous NGO, dedicated to human rights and democratic participation—has a different plan. Her dream is to use shame as a force for women’s rights. If she can coax women out of their silence, this former businesswoman believes they have a chance to win a new place in society. Zainab Bangura argues that post-war reconstruction in any country—be it Iraq, Afghanistan, or Sierra Leone, provides a unique opportunity for women to get involved, and to benefit from funds made available from international aid. She says more than at any other time, post-war reconstruction gives governments the chance to address the gender imbalance and wipe the slate clean.
ZAINAB BANGURA: Because if you cannot benefit for, during the post-war reconstruction, after a long process of war, when a once in a lifetime opportunity is given to rebuild your country, then you cannot fit in. Because a new constitution are being written, you know, elections are going to be held, new institutions are going to be created. That is a time for women to have space.
POTTS: And yet no structures were put in place to help women after the war in Sierra Leone. Zainab Bangura says war widows returning from refugee camps found they couldn’t even inherit property or land. To this day, women in Sierra Leone continue to be victims. Zanaib Bangura says the community sector most affected by the 12-year war in Sierra Leone were women. She argues it was a war of terror against women and girls.
BANGURA: Overnight, women became the heads of household, they formed the majority of refugees and displaced population. Their sons were kidnapped and trained as killing machines and sometimes sons were actually forced to kill their own families, to rape their mothers and sisters. Husbands were slaughtered in front of their wives and their families, and amputated. Daughters were kidnapped and taken as sex slaves from their homes, and communities were destroyed.
POTTS: Zaniab Bangura says sexual violation is the country’s secret war crime, even though it was conducted on a much larger scale than the brutal amputations Sierra Leone became famous for. She says this is because women are still too ashamed to speak out or report atrocities. She recently visited a town which served as the rebel movement’s headquarters during the war.
BANGURA: Girls who had been abducted from the age of eight, live there now, they can’t even go back home, because they are so ashamed to go. Some don’t even know where home is. Some have had a series of children from different rebel commanders. How can they go and leave the children? Some are being forced to marry those children.
POTTS: Though the women of Sierra Leone are victims, they are also survivors, sustained, says Zanaib Bangura, by sheer determination. It was that same determination that led Sierra Leone’s women to have an active part in forcing the military to hand over power to the democratically-elected government. The women of Sierra Leone had no formal power to speak of. But Zainab Bangura decided to identify women at the grassroots level who had informal power within their communities, and got them interested in democracy.
BANGURA: We took them into the streets to demonstrate. We used those women, grandmothers who are illiterate from the market, who cannot read or write, who you cannot just try to shoot at, because you can shoot at demonstrators, but you can’t shoot at 80-year-old women standing in front of you. And that’s the strategy we used. And so we fought along and we fought the military at that time because the war was going on.
POTTS: But it soon became obvious the only way to stop the war was to bring about a democratically government to negotiate a peace process—elections before peace. It was while she was working towards this end, that Zainab came across the true horror of war. The youngest victim she encountered was a three-month-old amputee. Zainab credits the success of the women’s movement in Sierra Leone to their willingness to participate by engaging the perpetrators of violence, training them in peace building and reconciliation, and bringing them face-to-face with their victims.
BANGURA: We brought victims of the war to explain how the war affected them. The child soldiers, the children who had been abducted, who had been gang-raped. They sat in front of these commanders and tell their stories and how they felt when they were gang-raped. And the children as young as 11 years, were telling them their stories, how they were captured, what they did, how they fought, and some of the things that happened to them.
POTTS: In that moment shame became the weapon of children and women and—at least for a moment—the commanders felt its sting.
BANGURA: Some of them they could not look these people in the face. Some of them cried and they made a commitment to put down the guns, and that’s how we were able to consolidate peace.
POTTS: For Common Ground, I’m Nina-Maria Potts in Washington.
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PORTER: The National Peace Corps Association is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The association is an alumni group of former Peace Corps workers, and is separate from the Peace Corps. Common Ground‘s Cliff Brockman talked with the Association’s new president, Kevin Quigley about the group’s activities and his vision for the organization’s future.
KEVIN QUIGLEY: The Association has a range of programs that try and advance its mission, its mission being to foster peace through service, education, and advocacy. Service—most volunteers and staff answered the call that President Kennedy made some 40 years ago to see what they could do to contribute to the developing of the less fortunate parts of the world and we want to foster that ethos by highlighting best practices around the country. We do that through an awards program. Another key part of the association and the Peace Corps’ mission is to bring the experiences that we’ve had in other cultures, to bring that back home. We do that through a global education program, which is a program designed to give mainly K-12 schools some sample curriculum, some insights about explaining this very complex world we’re living in.
CLIFF BROCKMAN: You were a Peace Corps worker 25 years ago. What made you decide to do that?
QUIGLEY: Very much, even though I was quite young at the time I remember President Kennedy’s call and I also was fortunate to have a number of overseas experiences as a young person. I was an American Field Service exchange student. I had a chance to volunteer overseas with the Quakers in East Africa. Had a chance to do some graduate study overseas. And I saw how important an opportunity it was to understand our world a little better by living in another country and trying to be of assistance and training their young people to go on and help them develop their countries, as well as the opportunity to bring that, those learnings back to the US in ways that I was hopeful would change how we were in the world.
BROCKMAN: Which country did you go to and what did you do there?
QUIGLEY: I served in Thailand. I served there for three years. And I served as a teacher, first in a secondary school quite close to the Lao border and then in the second year I served at a teachers training college where besides teaching language and literature I was involved in a lot of supervision of the student teaching and working with aspiring teachers in village schools throughout a couple of provinces. And then in my third year I did some in-service workshops for teachers to enhance their skills so that they would be better teachers.
BROCKMAN: What is your vision for the National Peace Corps Association now that you’ve taken over?
QUIGLEY: The National Peace Corps Association, I mentioned has a vision of a world in peace, shaped by understanding and tolerance, with a mission of promoting service, education, and advocacy. And for many of us who’ve had the Peace Corps experience and understand other societies, it’s often at that point that you become an adult—at 25, not 18 or not 21. The Peace Corps agency and what I think of as the establishment of the Peace Corps community was done just a little more than 42 years ago. So it won’t be long before we’re approaching the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps. So I think those milestones, those organizational milestones, give us an opportunity to re-engage, re-vitalize this community of almost 200,000 people who’ve had an experience in another part of the world, and hopefully in ways to help us shape our understanding of other countries and shape the way that the US acts in the world. And I think for me one of the real motivations for taking this position is recognizing that this was a community that had experiences that I think our country really needs at this point in time.
BROCKMAN: Do you have some immediate goals?
QUIGLEY: Yeah, some immediate goals are to make our organization more efficient and effective, to do a better job at membership service, to try and grow our members, membership; strengthen our relationships with like-minded organizations who are trying to advance these issues that related to service and education and advocacy.
BROCKMAN: Do you ever wish that you could get back in the field as a volunteer?
QUIGLEY: Oh, I think that’s what every volunteer always dreams about, have an opportunity to go back and particularly at a point in time where we have some more skills and experiences. And Cliff, one of the really remarkable things about Peace Corps over the last 40 years is the changing demographics of those who serve as volunteers. In the period where I was a volunteer many of their volunteers, I think the average age was about 23. So essentially young Americans finished school and then after a year or so joined the Peace Corps for the two year service. Now the average age is 31, reflecting the fact that many Americans at different points in their lives are responding to that call either in their fifties or their sixties. And if I could convince my wife I’d love to do it.
BROCKMAN: Before accepting his current position as president of the National Peace Corps Association, Kevin Quigley was executive director of the Global Alliance for Workers and Communities. He’s also worked for such non-profit groups as the Pew Charitable Trust and the Asia Society. For Common Ground, I’m Cliff Brockman.
PORTER: Coming up next, the global citizenship of Clare Short. You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.
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PORTER: Clare Short is a member of the British parliament who hit the international headlines when she quit Tony Blair’s Labor government over Iraq. As Britain’s Secretary of State for International Development from 1997 to 2003, she traveled the world and spoke passionately about issues like poverty and fair trade. As part of our Global Citizen profile series, Malcolm Brown caught up with Clare Short during a trip she made to Washington. Malcolm started by asking her just how many countries in the world she has visited.
CLARE SHORT: Well, I haven’t added up the number. I guess it would be 60, 80- something; maybe half the countries of the world roughly. Something like that.
MALCOLM BROWN: How many counties have you actually lived in. Has it only been Britain for any period of time?
SHORT: No, I’ve never lived—I’ve been on holiday, or spent time in other countries, but I’ve only ever lived in Britain.
BROWN: And your formal citizenship is British, obviously. Do you have any other nationalities?
SHORT: Yes, I’m entitled to Irish citizenship. My father was Irish and Irish citizenship allows back to grandfather actually, so although I don’t have the passport, some of my sisters and brothers do. I could have both passports, so I’m an Irish citizen, but I’m born and spent all my life in Britain, though visited Ireland obviously many times.
BROWN: And how do you identify? Do you feel yourself to be British, British-Irish or are these not concepts that you really relate to?
SHORT: It’s interesting. I would say, happily, that I am British and of Irish origin; that’s how I would describe myself. And I wouldn’t say I was English. But I think it’s becoming very normal in Britain now for people to claim their origins and the diversity of the origins that are in Britain, in a way that people used to feel they had to sort of suppress a bit in order to be accepted as truly British, so that’s a very nice thing.
BROWN: As you say, you’ve traveled to scores of countries and dealt with some multinational issues. Do you feel yourself to be a global citizen, beyond your British-Irish identity?
SHORT: Yes, I very much feel part of the people of the world. I feel the world it’s shrinking in the sense that we can all travel so much. We can see what’s happening to people in other countries. The, we’re more and more—you, know, the environment, economically dependent on what happens in other countries. We’re more and more interdependent. No country can be safe if the world is in turmoil and in a mess. So, I feel very happily you know my British-Irish identity, my Birmingham—where my constituency is, is where I was born, so that’s a big piece of loyalty. But I’m part of a world that I love and that needs to be just and safe for my country, my family, my city to be safe. I feel that in a very natural, organic way.
BROWN: How do you think people might be encouraged to look at themselves as global citizens on a broader level for the idea to catch on more widely?
SHORT: I actually think that it is catching on that, because of, I mean, the big technological revolution is communications and people are seeing each other in a way they never did before. If you think of Tiananmen Square, I mean to my grandparents, China must have seemed like a mystery far, far away. Do you remember that lad on the bicycle in Tiananmen Square, with the tank coming behind him? All over the world people saw that lad and thought, “Oh!,” and felt some sympathy or concern. When I was Secretary of State, when there was a sort of crisis in Kosovo or East Timor or something coming on the television, people would come up to me in the street and say “What are you doing, Clare, about this ?” These are countries wouldn’t have even heard about 10 years ago, so I think it’s naturally happening. People are just seeing the world. I noticed it with the millennium, when we all had those television programs, “And the dawn has broken here, and it went across the world.” That sense that it’s one world. I think, when you’re going to school, certainly in Britain, children are just very naturally look at the planet as whole and look at it as being—you know, of all of us being dependent on each other. So I think the political class in Britain and across the world have got a rather old-fashioned sense of the nation-state. The people of the world are globalizing quite sort of sensibly and they’re traveling more and people are going on holiday to more and more countries and people have a kind of uncanny understanding that we have to look after the whole planet to look after our own countries. But I think a lot of the politicians are still in an old-fashioned, “I must put whatever my country is first and that’s a different interest than everybody else.” And I think the elite are behind the people worldwide.
BROWN: You talk about communications. How do you get your news when you travel around? Do you use newspapers, the Web, television, radio?
SHORT: I tend to… I’m a big radio user. But when I travel, then I look at the local paper. I am not good at languages, but you can get around the world on English really well. The BBC World Service, I would use a lot and then I’ll use whatever the local telly is. Like, I’ve been watching CNN and so on in my bedroom, but it is noticeable how the snippets of information are so little. It doesn’t give you much depth. So, I sort of greedily go around, grabbing the bits of news I can get. When I am traveling, I tend to be moving quite fast. So and then of course up until recently, when I was in the government I had people providing me with information. So, they would get stuff off the Web for me and give it to me in paper form, because I was always moving, moving, moving. Now, I am learning to service myself and therefore I go to the Web more often.
BROWN: Have you read any great books recently, that you know, titles of which you’d want to share?
SHORT: The books I’ve read recently have been about Iraq and Britain really. Sir John Kampfner has just written a book called Blair’s Wars, which I’d recommend, which ends up with Iraq but also looks at Afghanistan and Kosovo and Sierra Leone. I am reading a book on Gordon Brown at the moment by a guy called William Keegan, who’s a economic journalist in Britain. Peter Stothard, who used to be editor of The Times, wrote a book called Thirty Days about what Blair and his entourage were doing during the Gulf War. I read—I am very moved by Rwanda and the genocide and our failure to prevent it and how that country has struggled to make progress since and is making progress. And I read a couple of books on Rwanda in recent years; one by a guy called Prunier—I can’t remember the title. And another, it’s got a title like Tell Them They’re Coming To Get Me Tomorrow. Something. I’d really recommend that to people, to think about what happened and how we all signed up to the Genocide Convention after the Holocaust in Europe and how there was a complete failure to act when it was clear a genocide was about to take place. But I read quite a lot. So there’s a lot of good books out there.
BROWN: On more topical issues, where do you think the whole debate about Iraq, the eventual decision to go to war in Iraq and the aftermath; where does all of that leave the world order, the United Nations and so on ?
SHORT: Well, clearly the US and the UK trailing along behind, going to the UN and saying “We want to act in the UN,” but then failing to get agreement and turning round and blaming the UN, in a way I think was rather dishonest. It’s like saying, “This institution doesn’t work because I can’t bully everybody into letting me have my way,” rather than respect the agreement that had been made to get the weapons inspectors back and see if they could make progress. I really think it’s wicked the way the French position has been misrepresented. When President Chirac said “Let Blix have his time and if he fails, then I think we’d have to authorize military action,” and we were told the French said they would never, ever support any action through the UN. Anyway, but that divided the world badly and the UN can only work through the Security Council, if the big powers work together. If they block each other in the way they did that weakens—it doesn’t weaken the UN, it weakens international cooperation and the international rule of law. And I think that was worrying and the thought of the biggest power in the world thinking it can act unilaterally whenever it feels like it and preempt threats and therefore it just has to say it feels there’s a threat and it thinks it can take military action and it’s even implied that could be use of nuclear weapons, I think the threat of that for a world of disorder and danger and might-is-right is very great. But, I think, the mess that is in Iraq, which is a tragedy for Iraq, which is a danger for the US—the continuing suffering of the people of Iraq, but the killing of the American soldiers and the massive cost, because Iraq isn’t stable enough to use its own oil—is actually forcing even this great, rich country to think, “We need the international community.” So, I think in an awful way lessons are being learned that even America needs multilateralism, needs a strong United Nations, or it’s going to end up bogged down in Iraq, spending a lot of money in a way that it would prefer not to.
PORTER: And the books on Rwanda that Clare Short was just referring to are: The Rwanda Crisis, by Gerard Prunier and the harrowing account of the genocide, written by Philip Gourevitch titled, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda. And if you’re not sure who Gordon Brown is, he’s Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer—the equivalent of the US Treasury Secretary—who’s widely seen as a possible successor to Tony Blair.
Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.
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