Child Soldiers | Transcript | MP3
UN Reform Series: Humanitarian Challenges | Transcript | MP3
US Immigration Changes | Transcript | MP3
China Education | Transcript | MP3
Chinese Herbal Remedies Follow-Up | Transcript> | MP3
The New Georgia | Transcript | MP3
Kevin Phillips | Transcript | MP3
Human Cloning Debate | Transcript | MP3
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UNITED NATIONS CHILDREN’S FUND HEAD CAROL BELLAMY: In my travels I’ve often witnessed the horrific impact of war on children. We can only begin to imagine how it must feel for a child to experience the fear and the uncertainty that comes with the threat war, the horror of war and the long aftermath—loss of family, homes, and community.
KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, the United Nation’s plea to end the use of child soldiers.
KEITH PORTER: Plus, the United Nations re-examines global security and humanitarian concerns.
ROBERT ORR: Failed states aren’t just a security threat; they are absolutely a humanitarian crisis.
PORTER: And China’s education funding problems.
UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR KATARINA TOMASEVSKI: Most parents will do whatever they can to provide the best possible education for their children, which makes the life of the government very easy. Because parents will step in and provide as much as they can.
MCHUGH: These stories—coming up next.
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MCHUGH: Common Ground is radio’s weekly program on world affairs. I’m Kristin McHugh.
PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. The United Nations Security Council is being urged to name and punish warlords that use child soldiers. The move is a response to the growing use of child soldiers and the exploitation of children during conflicts across the world. However, a recent hard hitting report from the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on Child Soldiers, Olara Otunnu, suggests some concrete steps that can be taken to right the wrongs being inflicted on children facing war. Nathan King reports from New York.
[The sound of child soldiers at a checkpoint in Sierra Leone]
NATHAN KING: These child soldiers are manning a checkpoint in Sierra Leone. Here, boys and girls as young as 10 have been abducted from towns and villages and used by rebel groups as cheap soldiers or workers behind the front lines. Former rebel leader Foday Sankoh in Sierra Leone used hundreds of children in his war. Both Charles Taylor and the LURD rebels in Liberia used them also. In wars from Afghanistan to Sudan, thousands of young lives have been shattered by direct exposure to war. The statistics make grim reading. The latest United Nations figures say there are 300,000 child soldiers currently fighting in wars around the world. Six million children have been injured world wide in wars over the last decade; two million have died during that time.
Ironically the increased exploitation of children in war has come as the international community has been stepping up the pressure, since Mozambique’s Gracha Machel, who is now married to Nelson Mandela, made the issue her own back in 1996, four separate Security Council resolutions have been passed against the use of children in armed conflicts. The United Nations also has it’s own Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu. But up until now many Security Council resolutions have lacked teeth. At a recent annual Security Council debate on the issue, Head of United Nations Children’s Fund Carol Bellamy detailed her experiences.
UNITED NATIONS CHILDREN’S FUND HEAD CAROL BELLAMY: In my travels I’ve often witnessed the horrific impact of war on children. We can only begin to imagine how it must feel for a child to experience the fear and the uncertainty that comes with the threat war, the horror of war and the long aftermath—when schools are closed, when routines of daily life are destroyed, and children must try to cope with the loss of family, homes, and community.
KING: Currently groups that use child soldiers are put on a dedicated watch list which is updated annually and presented to the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. However, the Security Council has been slow to act against countries and warring factions who use children to fight their conflicts. Countries such as Rwanda have also been slow to prosecute children charged with war crimes. Many often languish in jail for months or years without legal help or any help to reintegrate back into society. But there has been some progress, though as Sierra Leone’s bloody civil war came to end specific measures to reintegrate children back into society and reunite them with their families were written into the Lome peace accords. But despite isolated successes child advocacy groups want the United Nations to add weight to it’s monitoring project. Many are insisting that those who hire child soldiers or abuse kids in conflict not only be named but face international travel bans, be barred from holding government posts, and be excluded from any amnesties. Kathleen Hunt from CARE International says groups found to be using children need to be told right way and pushed to act.
KATHLEEN HUNT: Once listed they need to be notified immediately within 30 days that they’ve been listed and they need to start taking action to develop their own plan for measures they will take to immediately stop recruiting and using children, immediately stop other violations against children, and also work together with, you know, reintegration, rehabilitation and other community based activities that are essential to thee rehabilitation of children and the restoration of normalcy, particularly if a peace agreement has been signed.
KING: Advocates are also pushing many more developing countries to sign onto a UN protocol which bans the use of soldiers under the age of 18 and to classify crimes against children as war crimes. While prisoners of war are protected by the Geneva Convention, children exploited by war or denied basic treatment are not protected. Andrew Sullivan is from Save The Children.
ANDREW SULLIVAN: The violations to children in wars don’t stop at the use of child soldiers. There’s killing and maiming, sexual exploitation and abuse, abduction of children, exploitation of natural resources, and the denial of humanitarian access. On that last point, more children die from the denial of human, humanitarian access, basic services, than from bullets in war.
KING: Even if tougher measures are adopted in the near future, the question of how to implement the measures remains. But as Olara Otunnu says, children have very few protectors in the world except the United Nations.
SPECIAL UN ENVOY OLARA OTUNNU: All these children are victims of armed conflict all these children look to the Security Council for protection.
KING: Nathan King for Common Ground at the United Nations in New York.
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MCHUGH: Humanitarian concerns play an important role in dealing with global security threats. United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan late last year appointed a high level panel to recommend UN reforms. In the second of his three-part series on the UN reform effort, Common Ground‘s Cliff Brockman talks with Johanna Mendelson-Forman of the United Nations Foundation and Robert Orr of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government about major humanitarian reforms they think should be included in the panel’s proposals.
ROBERT ORR: This panel is designed to focus on security threats. And one of the key security threats that we all woke up to after 9/11 was the fact that failed states, the weakest among us, could reach out and touch in ways that we didn’t expect. Afghanistan was not on anyone’s radar screen. But that weakened failed state affected us in very direct ways. This panel has to confront the question of failed states. That will have huge humanitarian impact. Because failed states aren’t just a security threat; they are absolutely a humanitarian crisis. There is no such thing as a failed state that doesn’t have a humanitarian crisis to mention.
A second piece of the humanitarian puzzle I think is the question of disease and health. We’ve all gotten much more savvy about HIV/AIDS and how that affects us and how health infrastructures around the world, whether it’s SARS or HIV/AIDS, are an important part of increasing the security of all people around the world, including US citizens. So if this panel addresses HIV/AIDS and more broadly health infrastructure around the world, it will have a positive security impact for all of us.
CLIFF BROCKMAN: The international community has had some successes in the past decade with humanitarian intervention—for example East Timor and Kosovo. But there have been some, some failures, like Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia. How should the international community decide when they should get involved in humanitarian intervention? Is there a threshold?
JOHANNA MENDELSON-FORMAN: I think the international community has turned around on this issue in a 180 degree way. If we look at what happened in Kosovo, for example, there was a recognition that you needed to protect people in the wake of a military operation. So I think there have been by ad hoc major certain abilities to use force bilaterally or in a coalition outside the UN, coupled with a strong UN response to protect once that particular military action has taken place. The other standards that could exist obviously relate to the political will of different nation states. We all remember the sadness of Srebrenica, where there was a peace operations going on there and yet hundreds of people were murdered as a result of the inaction. So the standards are still not clear but the movement of the global community towards the ability to protect and defend is certainly happening. And I think we see it each day at the United Nations, this growing will to do this.
ORR: I think we should avoid the temptation to define triggers too specifically. We don’t want threshold of 500 lives or a thousand lives forces us to act. I think we have to look for developing norms that give us guidelines but that don’t kind of tie our hands to when we have to move. That could be used, as it was in the case of Rwanda as a reason not to intervene. And then address the capacity issues for do we have the capacity to do something when we deem it necessary. In the case of Rwanda we’ve debated endlessly over, you know, would a thousand troops have been able to stop this. We won’t know that.
BROCKMAN: Often a major step for intervening on humanitarian issues is the use of sanctions but critics say sanctions often hurt the people they’re meant to help or to assist and that the government leaders don’t really suffer when sanctions are applied. Are sanctions still a good idea, Johanna?
MENDELSON-FORMAN: There has been a movement discussed recently about smart sanctions—sanctions that actually address the leadership as opposed to the population. But often they’re not done in any effective or sequential way. And I think one of the most evident cases was in the past, was in Haiti, where we imposed sanctions on a country that was already in a terrible state of poverty. It was probably the worst in the western hemisphere and among the worst in the world. And there the population continued to suffer. When sanctions began to shift towards the leadership by withholding visas, withholding access to the United States, with freezing bank accounts, we began to see movement and pressure on those people who actually controlled policies. Similarly, in the case of Iraq, we did have sanctions which of course were in Security Council resolutions and were the rationale for going after Saddam Hussein in the war that was fought last spring. And at the same time those sanctions for Bob and myself, who both witnessed the impact of those sanctions, they were horrific. Because the people of Iraq, who were an educated and fairly well-to-do country in the Middle East, became an impoverished country over the course of these sanctions.
ORR: One case of smart sanctions is that of Liberia. A very targeted set of UN sanctions on the leadership of Liberia that did help turn around the situation in neighboring Sierra Leone. It hit very hard on the government of Liberia when Liberian leaders and their families could not travel to the United States, that they had their bank accounts in the United States frozen. It did help to modify their behavior with respect to neighboring Sierra Leone. So I think smart sanctions, we still need to continue development in this area, but there is reason to think that, that we can do this.
BROCKMAN: Robert Orr is with the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Johanna Mendelson Forman is a Senior Program Officer with the UN Foundation. Next week I’ll talk to Sweden’s UN ambassador about the high-level panel and peacekeeping issues. For Common Ground, I’m Cliff Brockman.
PORTER: Mixed reaction to proposed changes in US immigration policy, next on Common Ground.
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PORTER: In January, President George Bush proposed a radical change to America’s immigration policy. Under a series of proposals before Congress, President Bush wants to make it significantly easier for illegal immigrants to be awarded temporary legal status provided they can find jobs. But the plan has provoked an outcry from immigration activists and politicians, and a mixed reaction from immigrants themselves. Nina-Maria Potts reports.
NINA MARIA POTTS: Under Mr. Bush’s new proposal, undocumented workers in the United States could apply for temporary worker status for three years and then renew that for an unspecified number of times. All the illegal immigrant would have to do is get their US employer to confirm their work. The newly legal immigrants would get a social security card and could get a driver’s license in most states. They would also be able to travel freely between their country and the US and would receive US employment rights such as the minimum wage. US President George W. Bush says his plan will make America a more compassionate, humane, and a stronger country, noting the US is already a nation of immigrants.
US PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: America is a stronger and better nation because of the hard work and the faith and the entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants.
POTTS: The President also points to America’s long history of welcoming those from other nations, saying an open immigration policy has strengthened America in the past.
US PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We have received energetic, ambitious, optimistic people from every part of the world. By tradition and conviction, our country is a welcoming society.
POTTS: But the Bush administration’s plan to give millions of illegal immigrants new legal rights is being touted by its critics as an effective amnesty. They say the last thing America needs is a guest worker program. David Ray is Associate Director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform. He says there is no sense to the argument that foreign workers should fill American jobs.
DAVID RAY: Employers and the Wall Street crowd have become addicted to foreign labor like crack cocaine. At a time when there are nearly nine million unemployed Americans with more than 2,000 jobs being lost during the Bush administration so far, and in the midst of a largely jobless economic recovery, I think most people agree that this country needs a massive foreign guest worker program like we need a hole in our heads.
POTTS: David Ray says the proposal fails to address border security, which he argues, is the root of the problem.
RAY: People come to the United States illegally because they think they can get away with it. They think that if they can get past that thin line at the border that’s sparsely populated with border patrol agents, that once they get into the interior of the country, they’re home free. They can get a job, they can set up a savings account using fake documents, they can wire money back home if they need to, they can set up shop in America. And the reason that that, that idea exists is because it’s largely true. This country has totally failed to enforce our immigration laws both on the border and in the interior of the country.
POTTS: President Bush’s proposal is also seen by some as a cynical attempt to gain support from Latino voters in this year’s presidential election. The vast majority of the illegal immigrants now in the US come from Latin America with nearly half coming from Mexico alone. This woman, who doesn’t want to share her real name, is from Trinidad and works as a nanny in the Washington, DC area. She’s been working in the States for five years and has a social security number, plus a multiple entrance work visa, good for 10 years.
UNIDENTIFIED TRINIDADIAN IMMIGRANT: It’s mostly, he’s talking, he’s only, these Hispanic people he’s talking about because they are the ones here illegal because they don’t have a green card or visas or nothing. They come over just from boat or whatever, so I think that’s the ones he’s really, you know, thinking about. Well, it’s not fair but you know, I think he’s just thinking about himself, because I think if you do that, he’s gonna get a lot of votes, from these people who he’s going to give the, their green card. I think he’s gonna get their votes..
POTTS: She also believes there are always going to be jobs Americans don’t want to do:
UNIDENTIFIED TRINIDADIAN IMMIGRANT: The American people are very lazy people. There is some truth in that. Because these, these immigrants, when they come over here, they gonna work for like, okay American may want to work like for say $10 an hour and they may not want to work for less, where immigrant will work for five. If they will do, like send five dollars home, it may not value over here but in their country it will, so that is why they don’t mind working for less. Because it will value in their country.
POTTS: Some who favor legalizing more immigrants are criticizing the Bush proposal as creating second class citizens who can’t become US citizens. Democratic Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico says the plan doesn’t go far enough.
NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR BILL RICHARDSON: The problem is that those that want to be with the President on this, had wanted something substantial, you know, we’re a little disappointed. Now, it’s a mild step forward but at the same time it’s not a legalized status that I think many of these individuals deserve.
POTTS: Others who oppose more immigration, such as Republican Congressman Thomas Tancredo of Colorado, say this is legalizing illegal immigrants and rewards those who break the law.
US REPRESENTATIVE THOMAS TANCREDO: It’s lousy public policy. You should never, ever, ever reward people for breaking the law. The President says that the law is not working. Well you know, I gotta tell you Mr. President, it’s not the law that’s the problem, it’s the lack of enforcement.
POTTS: John Keely for the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington believes the policy ignores those people trying to enter the country legally.
JOHN KEELY: It certainly calls into question fairness, because we have millions of people who are currently in what is known as the backlog, to come to the United States. These are individuals who qualify by virtue of family connections. The claims of these individuals in the backlog can’t get adjudicated, so we think that if the president and if congress wants to parcel out legislative favors to anyone, it certainly ought to be to the people who are obeying the rules, who are following the law and waiting exceedingly patiently to come to the United States.
POTTS: For Common Ground, I’m Nina-Maria Potts.
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MCHUGH: A little known fact of life in China came to light when the diary of a 14-year-old peasant girl made it from a remote town in rural China made it to the bestseller lists in France. The book, which has now been published in 16 countries around the world, tells the story of a young girl who is desperate to stay in school, despite the problem of sky-high school fees, which her parents can’t afford. As Celia Hatton reports from Beijing, the book highlights a much larger problem in China, where rural schoolchildren cannot afford to complete even the most basic levels of education.
[The sound of people speaking Chinese in a busy room]
CELLIA HATTON: Excitement was in the air at a recent book launch in Beijing, as the long-awaited diaries of a 14-year-old girl were released in China. The diary of Ma Yan details the daily life of a schoolgirl from a remote, impoverished part of China who longs to stay in school, despite the fact that her school fees are crippling her parents.
[The sound of Ma Yan crying as she relates her story to the crowd at her book opening]
HATTON: At the launch, Ma Yan wept as she told the audience about a friend who was forced to leave school in the fifth grade and is now married with a baby. Often, parents are forced to choose which of their children will be allowed to continue studying, usually allowing boys to stay in school while girls are forced to marry into other families. Just before Ma Yan’s book fell into the hands of Pierre Haski, a French journalist traveling through her village, she had been told that she would not be allowed to continue with her education. Haski included excerpts of Ma Yan’s diary in the French newspaper Liberation and soon returned to the girl’s village to convince Ma Yan’s family to allow him to publish the entire diary in France.
Although Ma Yan’s story has a happy ending, she is just one of millions of children in rural China who must fight to remain in school, even in the first nine years of China’s supposedly compulsory education system. One Ministry of Education study last year found that five out of seven children in a region of China’s poor Anhui province had dropped out of school because their parents could not afford to pay tuition fees. United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, Katarina Tomasevski, was invited by the Chinese government to rate China’s compliance with its agreed international human rights obligations in education. She explained that the financial obstacles to basic education were her principle concern and criticized the Chinese government.
UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR KATARINA TOMASEVSKI: The government of China is in a fairly comfortable position relying on the fact that most parents will do whatever they can to provide the best possible education for their children, which makes the life of the government very easy. It can mismanage budgetary allocations because parents will step in and provide as much as they can.
HATTON: Education funding was a casualty when China began to liberalize in the 1980s. As the economy began to open up, shrinking government budgets shifted the responsibility for education funding from the central to local governments. Bankrupt townships in rural areas eventually forced parents to cover most school expenses. French journalist Pierre Haski, who discovered Ma Yan’s diaries in rural Ningxia, says that in Ma Yan’s case, the tax-strapped government paid to build the school structure and now, only pays the meager salaries of the teachers who work there.
PIERRE HASKI: Everything else has to be provided by the parents. That means to pay for the electricity, to pay for the maintenance, to pay for the books, to pay for everything, they rely on the fees. And these fees are equal in that case to one year’s income of a villager.
HATTON: Katarina Tomasevski argued to the UN that the Chinese government needed to increase the allocation of funding from just over three percent of its gross domestic product to the internationally recommended minimum amount of six percent. Most developing countries are able to contribute four percent, Tomasevski says. In response to the UN report, the Chinese government issued its own statement highlighting strides that the education system has made in the past few years, including decreased illiteracy rates for women and higher enrollment rates for girls stretching from primary school to university. There are also signs, however, that the Chinese government is beginning to take note of the problem of rural school fees. In September, China’s Education Minister, Zhou Ji, promised to tackle the school fee problem by ensuring teacher’s salaries and eliminating random charges at primary and middle schools.
It will be difficult to improve education much, however, without committing more money. According to China’s state-run newspaper, The China Daily, China uses 1.4 percent of the world’s educational funds to support 22.9 percent of the world’s students. Back in Beijing, the success of Ma Yan’s book continues to grow. A charity, the Children of Ningxia, has been started in France to provide free education to all primary school children in Ma Yan’s village, and full scholarships to 50 middle school students in May Yan’s school, most of them girls. As more publishing houses around the world sign up to print Ma Yan’s book, the hope is that more children in rural China will be able to overcome the problem of sky-high school fees. For Common Ground, I’m Celia Hatton in Beijing.
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PORTER: Last week Reese Erlich took us on a journey to Singapore’s traditional Chinese doctors to see if they could cure his nagging cough. He got some herbal medicine, including one made from fungus and dried worms. Today he tells us the results.
REESE ERLICH: When last we talked, I had this hacking, dry cough. [coughs] My doctor in Oakland had prescribed a nasal spray, which stopped the symptoms temporarily, but the cough kept coming back.
[The sound of Mr. Erlich and other customers visiting with Dr. Johnson Yan in his Chinese herbal medicine shop in Singapore]
ERLICH: So I visited Dr. Johnson Yan at an herbal shop in Singapore’s Chinatown. He took my pulse, but not the way western doctors do it. He spent several minutes, subtly shifting the position of his fingers to read several different kinds of pulses, he said.
ERLICH: [speaking directly to Dr. Yan] What herb will you recommend for me?
DR. JOHNSON YAN: Yeah, we have the natural herbs. One is the cordycep.
ERLICH: It turns out that cordyceps is an medication made from fungus and dried worms. You can actually see the shape of the small worms when the medicine is in its raw form. I consulted with Professor Koh Hwee Ling, who teaches at the Department of Pharmacy at the National University of Singapore. She says her research indicates that some Chinese herbal medicines work, but wasn’t sure what the worms would do for my cough.
PROFESSOR KOH HWEE LING: Well, since you have sought the opinion of the Chinese physician, I think there’s no harm in trying it, and perhaps you can tell the listeners whether they work.
ERLICH: With that sage advice, I went back to get my herbs dried and mixed by Dr. Yan.
[The sound of Mr. Yan pouring the herbs into mixer. Then the mixer starts up.]
DR. YAN: I am grinding the powder from the medicine herbs.
ERLICH: Then, for two weeks, I heated water, mixed in the powdered herbs, and drank the rather chalky tasting mixture.
[The sound of a boiling tea kittle followed by the sound of Mr. Erlich stirring the herbs into his cup of hot water.]
ERLICH: Ugh. [coughing] I wish I could tell you that the medicine cured my cough, but it didn’t. The cough still comes and goes, sometimes with a change in weather. It might be some kind of allergy. But whatever the cause, this mixture of Chinese herbs didn’t work. But then again, I didn’t exactly follow herb shop owner Katherine Chow’s instructions to the letter.
KATHERINE CHOW: You keep away the food that I told you—like chicken, oranges, eggs, and tea or so. You can recover very fast.
ERLICH: I admit, Mrs. Chow, I did occasionally have some of the above items. So like western doctors, Chinese herbalists can explain why their prescription might not work. I didn’t follow directions.
[Sounds from the herbal medicine shop]
ERLICH: For Common Ground, I’m Reese Erlich, Singapore.
MCHUGH: This is Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.
KRISTIN MCHUGH: I’m Kristin McHugh.
KEITH PORTER: I’m Keith Porter. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, the new president of the former Soviet republic of Georgia pledges to rebuild his country peacefully.
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT MIKHAIL SAAKASHVILI: [via a translator] I believe that we will launch good cooperation in the areas of fighting international terrorism and establishing security and peace in the world. And I believe that our cooperation here will prove very productive.
PORTER: Plus, the Bush family dynasty and its effects on foreign policy. And, the international debate over human cloning.
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MCHUGH: In recent months the former Soviet republic of Georgia has seen an unprecedented shift of power—the country’s former president, Eduard Shevarnadze, was peacefully ousted from his post by the opposition, ending decades of rule. Thirty-six-year-old opposition leader Mikhail Saakashvili was then elected as the new president of Georgia and became the youngest head of state in Europe. He is now facing an extremely difficult task of rebuilding his country. Anya Ardayeva reports from Moscow.
[The Georgian national anthem being played at Georgia’s presidential inauguration]
ANYA ARDAYEVA: On January 26th, a new president of Georgia was inaugurated in the country’s capital, Tbilisi. With a rose in his hand, Mikhail Saakashvili took the presidential oath in front of the parliament building, where he led protesters in the so-called Rose Revolution in November.
[The sound of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili being sworn into office]
ARDAYEVA: Placing his hand on the Constitution, Mr. Saakashvili pledged to lead Georgia to a brighter and more unified future. He said he would dedicate his presidency to help the country’s poor and promised to uproot corruption that has plagued the country’s economy for years. The inauguration came on the day of 76th birthday of Georgia’s former leader, Eduard Shevarnadze—a man who ruled the country for decades. Mr. Saskashivli once worked for Mr. Shevarnadze and eventually ousted him from office after a massive public protest movement against fraudulent parliamentary elections.
Georgians have placed high hopes on their young and energetic leader, who won 97 percent of the votes in the presidential election. But the new president is facing several extremely difficult tasks. Saakashvili inherited a country where foreign debt equals 60 percent of its gross domestic product and huge parts of its territory are controlled by separatists. Saakashvili pledged to reunite Georgia, which lost two of its provinces, Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the early 1990s when they won de facto independence in bloody wars. Georgia’s former president Eduard Shevarnadze failed to mend fences with the breakaway regions and the new president vowed to bring them back. However, Abkhazia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Shamba, says that promise might be hard to fulfill.
ABKHAZIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SERGEI SHAMBA: [via a translator] Relations between Georgia and Abkhazia do not depend on changing the leader or ideology. They have a different character and eventually they will depend on the people’s will.
ARDAYEVA: But the biggest challenge for Saakashvili is how to reconcile the interests of Russia and the United States, rivals for influence over Georgia, which is soon to be home to a key oil pipeline that will bring Caspian Sea oil to the West. The two countries have grown increasingly wary of each other’s activities in the area. US military instructors have been deployed in Georgia and Russia still has military presence in the region. And while Washington welcomed the new Georgian leader, Moscow has adopted a more cautious, wait and see approach. The presence of two Soviet-era Russian military bases in Georgia still remains a source of friction between the two countries. The Kremlin has accused Georgia of allowing rebel fighters from the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya to launch attacks from inside Georgian territory. And many Russians suspect Mr. Saakashvili, a US-educated lawyer, of using the help of Washington’s hand in his accession to power. The Georgian president says the fact that he studied in the United States has played a major role in Georgia’s development.
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT MIKHAIL SAAKASHVILI: I come from a middle-class family which, at that moment when it that happened, didn’t have any means to send me anywhere. All my education was covered by the US Congress. Certainly, it causes some suspicion in other countries that are kind of jealous about this thing. And I think that has contributed tremendously to Georgia’s development.
ARDAYEVA: US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who attended the inauguration, said the United States guarantees its support to the new president. He said the US will provide $166 million of assistance to Georgia this year in addition to about $1 billion received in the past 10 years.
US SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL: This is a historic day for the Georgian people. I am here to convey to you that the United States will continue to stand with you as we have during these past two months of difficult transition. We will be with you as you form a new government, a government that as you and I discussed a few moments ago, will be committed to economic reform, political reform, protection of human rights, and the elimination of corruption.
ARDAYEVA: Still, Moscow, which dominated the country for more than 200 years, has powerful influence on Tbilisi, as it provides most of Georgia’s energy supplies. In addition, Russia’s large Georgian Diaspora is investing $2 billion into Georgia every year. According to the Kremlin, this sum exceeds all the foreign aid received by the country. In an effort to calm Russia’s fears, Mr. Saakashvili says that although he believes Georgia’s cooperation with the United States will be successful, his country should not be a place of competition between Moscow and Washington.
GEORGIAN PRESIDENT MIKHAIL SAAKASHVILI: [via a translator] I believe that we will launch good cooperation in the areas of fighting international terrorism and establishing security and peace in the world and I believe that our cooperation here will prove very productive. Our position is that Georgia cannot be a battlefield between states and that’s why we want to launch good relations with Russia, with all our neighbors.
ARDAYEVA: However, Mr. Saakashvili has been sending mixed signals to Moscow by calling for the Russian President Vladimir Putin to “understand the realities.” Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he accused Russia of creating problems for Georgia, and said that its place was taken by another state—possibly meaning the United States. Still, despite of his criticism towards Moscow, Mr. Saakashvili repeatedly insisted on improving relations with Russia. And to prove Georgia’s loyalty towards its northern neighbor, Mikhail Saakashvili visited Russia on his first official trip abroad. In Moscow, the Georgian leader said he came to Russia to make friends and his outstretched hand seemed to have been accepted by the Kremlin. Sergei Prikhodko, deputy head of Russia’s Presidential Administration:
DEPUTY RUSSIAN PRESIDENT SERGEI PRIKHODKO: [via a translator] Finally, we have a partner with whom we can openly talk about what’s important. And also, the results of the negotiations allow us to hope for a change in the Russian-Georgian bilateral relations.
ARDAYEVA: Saakashvili’s predecessor, Eduard Shevardnadze, portrayed Russia as an empire, which tries to bend Georgia under its control. While succeeding in building anti-Russian sentiments in the country, he failed to retain public support as his misguided domestic policies brought Georgia to the brink of collapse. His departure last November has opened a window of opportunity for the country. And Mikhail Saakashvili underlined his intention to unify his fractured country by praying at the tomb of its 12th-century founder, King David the Builder, on the eve of his official inauguration. Many Georgians say they are proud of their new leader, who speaks five languages and is the youngest president in Europe. Mr.Saakashvili helped his country to get rid of its Soviet past. Whether he manages to make Georgia a truly democratic European state is still to be seen. For Common Ground, I am Anya Ardayeva in Moscow.
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PORTER: Kevin Phillips has been a political commentator and author for more than 30 years. A former Republican strategist, he grew so disheartened by Washington politics he became an Independent and left the capital for Connecticut, where he focuses on history. He has written 11 books, including The Politics of Rich and Poor, The Cousins’ War, Arrogant Capital, and Wealth and Democracy. His latest book is called American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush. In it, Kevin Phillips argues the Bush family has been a major beneficiary of America’s ever-growing military-industrial complex for generations. Kevin Phillips recently talked to Nina-Maria Potts about what makes the Bush family so unique and how it affects US foreign policy.
NINA-MARIA POTTS: The Bush family as dynastic does not, perhaps, come as much of a surprise. But according to Kevin Phillips, what sets the Bushes apart from say, the Kennedy’s, is that they’ve had two presidents from the same party, a father and son with the same name and face, separated by only eight years. Kevin Phillips says he didn’t completely expect to find what he found when he set out to write his American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush. He says he thought it was simply going to be about the meaning of the Bush dynasty.
KEVIN PHILLIPS: As I got into the book and saw the backdrop of the Bushes, in terms of the family’s money and early connections and ties to the intelligence agencies and so forth, then it became clear that this was a larger question, not just about antecedents, but about connections and the whole role of the family in the rise of the United States and its military-industrial complex during the twentieth century.
POTTS: He says his greatest concern is the growth of that military-industrial complex.
PHILLIPS: Now we face a very difficult future in terms of terrorism with beginning hints of what people have called a garrison state, where you get a mobilization and civil liberties begin to suffer and the distinction between the military and civilians gets blurry, and things change in terms of where the power is and where the individual is. I think that could happen especially if there’s another terrorist attack of anything resembling the size of 9/11.
POTTS: The Bush family has obviously had a major impact on US foreign policy for the last two decades. Another theme in Kevin Phillips’ book is the Bushes’ long-running financial interests in oil, which he says has given them a disinterest in domestic and global environmentalism among other things.
PHILLIPS: That includes paying a lot of attention to the Middle East, especially Iraq as an alternative to Saudi Arabia.
POTTS: Kevin Phillips paints the picture of a family with royal aspirations, pointing to their somewhat tenuous historical links to the British monarchy. But of the long-standing Bush relationship to another royal family—that of Saudi Arabia—Kevin Phillips is certain.
PHILLIPS: If you look at the connections of the Bushes to Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf, they go way, way back. The current president’s father was drilling off shore for the Sheik of Kuwait in the early 1960s. When he was head of the CIA in the 1970s, they were closely involved with Iran and Saudi Arabia, because of the rise of the oil producers and their importance.
POTTS: Kevin Phillips believes the four-decade relationship with the Gulf has inhibited George W Bush’s presidency, making it impossible for him to crush rumors and suggestions which try to link his family to the bin Laden family. Kevin Phillips reserves some of his criticism for the American media, which he says has treated the Bush family with kid gloves.
PHILLIPS: Possibly that represents since 9/11 a concern about not undermining the president in the context of terrorism and global difficulties. But I think it goes back to 2000. I don’t think he really got the scrutiny that should have been given to somebody who came out of a context where his family had had the presidency before, where there was a lot of continuity and a lot of questions about the propriety of various business transactions.
POTTS: Kevin Phillips hopes his book will inspire a larger discussion about the US role in the world.
PHILLIPS: We have a president whose whole roots, and connections and biases and interest groups go back through his family and to his father’s presidency and all of these point to very dubious and controversial ties to the Middle East, to the origins of the Iraqi war, to the Saudi royal family, and to the oil sheiks in the Persian Gulf. And it really is time to look at all of this stuff in much more detail, and if the media will help, I think the public will be interested.
POTTS: For Common Ground, I’m Nina-Maria Potts in Washington.
MCHUGH: Coming up next, the global community’s argument over human cloning. You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.
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MCHUGH: While the international community’s divisions over the US-led war on terrorism are well known, there is another issue which is proving equally divisive. The debate over human cloning is pitting America against some of its traditional allies like Britain, while uniting Washington with some of its foes in the Middle East. The United Nations has already found the subject too hot to handle, postponing discussions on the controversy until December this year. Steve Mort reports from the UN on an issue that is proving as polarizing as matters of war and peace.
[Sound track from the movie Gattaca: “Genetics—what can it mean? The ability to perfect the physical and mental characteristics of every unborn child…”]
STEVE MORT: The 1997 movie Gattaca, about a world in which people’s future is decided at birth by their genetic make up. The film’s makers address the question of whether man should, as some see it, play God and if so, whether the result would be a better or worse society.
[Sound track from the movie Gattaca: “Our DNA will determine everything about us.”]
MORT: UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, speaking recently at a lecture on the ethics of modern genetics, raised the specter of a world in which human embryos could be cloned to create so-called designer babies.
UN SECRETARY GENERAL KOFI ANNAN: Are we moving closer to a world dominated by eugenics, like that imagined by Huxley in his famous novel Brave New World. If so, would not the dangers outweigh the benefits?
MORT: Nowhere in the world is the issue of genetics and, more recently, human cloning, more passionately debated than here in the United States.
SOUND TRACK FROM A RADIO ADVERTISEMENT: I see that President Bush urged the US Senate to pass the Brownback bill to ban the cloning of human embryos. The President warned that unless this is done quickly, we’ll end up with human embryo farms.
MORT: This radio commercial produced by the National Right To Life Committee, aired in eight states and calls on senators to support a comprehensive ban on human cloning.
SOUND TRACK FROM A RADIO ADVERTISEMENT: “Yeah, but senators like Ted Kennedy are fighting hard to defeat the Brownback bill. They want to allow biotech firms to clone human embryos to be sold and used in experiments.” “My goodness, can’t they see it’s just not right to make human embryos and then harvest them like crops?”
MORT: The subject divides not only politicians, but also nations. The UK, for example, has been much more open to discussion of allowing so-called therapeutic cloning, or stem-cell research. In August 2001, President Bush approved federal funding for limited and specific types of stem-cell research on discarded human embryos but most work will not receive government cash.
US PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: This issue forces us to confront fundamental questions about the beginnings of life and the ends of science. It lies at a difficult moral intersection, juxtaposing the need to protect life in all its phases with the prospect of saving and improving life at all its stages.
MORT: But it’s the issue of cloning human embryos that has most outraged critics. Last year, the UN General Assembly put off a debate over human cloning. All 191 member states agreed on a treaty that would prohibit the cloning of human beings but are divided over the issue of whether to extend such a ban to stem-cell research.
DR. ERIC WIESCHAUS: I know that a fertilized egg doesn’t always give rise to a single individual.
MORT: Dr. Eric Wieschaus, a professor at Princeton University and the winner of 1995 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine, is an advocate of cloning human embryos. He believes killing a human embryo for research is not the same as killing a living person.
DR. WIESCHAUS: While it might be natural to assume that individuality begins at fertilization, it seems to me, one could argue, that a new combination of genes in the nucleus doesn’t mean that the fertilized egg, necessarily the fertilized egg is an individual.
MORT: Experts say human cloning can help medical advances in treating cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, diabetes, spinal cord injuries and other debilitating conditions. But the science of the subject is not enough to silence countries that are critical of human embryo cloning. The US, many Islamic countries, the Catholic church and others are urging the UN to come up with a tougher treaty, banning not only cloning, but much stem-cell research too. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says there are deep concerns within the General Assembly about the direction that science is taking.
UN SECRETARY GENERAL KOFI ANNAN: Where should we draw the line between what is feasible and what is desirable or ethical? The greatest fear is that we may be trying to play God with unforeseeable consequences, in the end precipitating our own destruction.
MORT: The issue of human cloning just recently caused controversy in the UK following an announcement in London by a US fertility specialist.
DR. PANOS ZAVOS: I’m not afraid. I, this is one thing that doesn’t enter my mind. Afraid I’m not.
MORT: Panos Zavos, a fertility doctor from Kentucky, claims to have implanted a cloned embryo in a 35-year-old woman. He’s confident that cloning will eventually be accepted as a standard medical practice.
DR. ZAVOS: When we did the first heart transplant—it’s almost 30 years ago—the people said, you know, “How can you take the heart from one person and put it in another? It’s not doable; it’s against God’s will.” The same thing with the kidney transplant, the same thing with the first test-tube baby. “How can you make babies in a test-tube?” But today it’s becoming a common thing, where people need a heart transplant they get one.
SOUND TRACK FROM A RADIO ADVERTISEMENT: “Lilly, did you see that ad on TV about cloning?” “The one with the couple who looked just like us?” “Spooky, huh?”
MORT: But the arguments of Dr Zavos and others do not convince organizations like Stop Human Cloning which took out this TV advertisement disputing the medical usefulness of the practice.
SOUND TRACK FROM A RADIO ADVERTISEMENT: “But their ad says they’re only using a human egg and skin cell.” “Well that’s how you make a clone.” “But they also say cloning is needed to cure terrible diseases.” “Look, if they were really interested in cures they’d be talking about adult stem-cell research which shows far more promise.”
MORT: US diplomats are now spearheading efforts at the UN to pass a complete ban. But despite the urgency of the debate the world’s leading geneticists say it’ll be many years, if ever, before the stuff of science fiction becomes science fact.
[Sound track from the movie Gattaca: “Welcome to Gattaca.”]
MORT: For Common Ground, I’m Steve Mort at the United Nations in New York.
Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.
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