Not Our Sisters

Our colleague Lakshmi Bai [IntLawGrrl Jaya Ramji-Nogales] recently blogged on the long-awaited establishment of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). Reflecting Cambodia’s colonial past, the ECCC is the first hybrid criminal tribunal to adopt the French civil law model of prosecution. Accordingly, the prosecutors are responsible for compiling dossiers on individuals worthy of prosecution. These are then examined by investigating judges, who call witnesses, assess credibility, and review documents. The investigating judges then make recommendations about who should be indicted and for what crimes. In the hybridity of the ECCC, international and Khmer professionals share each key post.
The ECCC co-prosecutors recently submitted dossiers for five individuals to the court’s co-investigating judges, who will decide whom to indict. Although this list is supposed to be confidential, one of the five names is reputed to be that of Ieng (Khieu) Thirith (above), the wife of Ieng Sary—Brother Number 3 (after Pol Pot and Noun Chea). The Cambodian press has speculated that the other proposed indictees are Ieng Sary himself, the former Foreign Minister; Nuon Chea, Pol Pot’s deputy; and Khieu Samphan, former Chief of State. Kang Kech Eav (“Duch”), head of the infamous Tuol Sleng prison (a.k.a. S-21) in Phnom Penh, has already been indicted for crimes against humanity.
Thirith was educated at the Sorbonne and became the first Khmer to graduate with a degree in English literature (she majored in Shakespeare Studies). Upon returning to Phnom Penh, she established an English-language school and taught at a government lycée. Her sister, Khieu Ponnary, was Pol Pot’s first wife. Once the Khmer Rouge took power in April 1975, she was appointed Minister of Social Affairs & Education, in charge of culture and social welfare. She was also jointly responsible for Foreign Affairs with her husband, Ieng Sary, who was appointed Foreign Minister. If indicted, Thirith would be—by my count—the third woman to be prosecuted for international crimes before a modern international tribunal. Her predecessors are Biljana Plavšić and Pauline Nyiramasuhuko.
Plavšić (right) was a fulltime academic at the University of Sarajevo until 1990, when she became active in politics by joining the Serbian Democratic Party. She was later elected as a Serbian Representative to the Presidency of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and as a member of the Presidencies of Republika Srpska, the self-proclaimed Serbian enclave within Bosnia-Herzegovina. She was reputedly a close associate of Radovan Karadžić and Momcilo Krajisnik. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) indicted her for genocide, complicity in genocide, and the crimes against humanity of persecution, extermination, killing, deportation, and inhumane acts for her role in planning, instigating, ordering, and aiding and abetting, and jointly executing the ethnic cleansing of the Bosnian Muslim, Bosnian Croat and other non-Serb populations of 37 municipalities in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Plavšić surrendered voluntarily to the ICTY in January 2001 and pled not guilty. Almost a year later, she pled guilty to Count 3 of the indictment—persecution. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the Prosecution dismissed the remaining counts of the Indictment. The ICTY sentenced her to 11 years’ imprisonment, which she is serving in a women’s prison in Sweden. The Swedish government recently rejected her appeal for pardon, which was based on her advanced age (she is in her late 70s) and ailing health.
Nyiramasuhuko (left), a lawyer by training, was Minister for the Family and for the Advancement of Woman during the genocide in Rwanda and a leader in the Hutu-dominated National Republican Movement for Democracy (MRND) party. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) indicted her for her participation in organizing massacres of Tutsis during the genocide. In particular, she is accused of drawing up lists of individuals to be eliminated and incited others to exterminate Tutsis. She was also named as the minister responsible for “pacification” for the Butare prefecture. There, she allegedly tricked Tutsis into coming to a Red Cross camp set up in the local stadium, where Interahamwe ambushed the refugees. She also allegedly ordered the rape and murder of 70 Tutsi women and girls who had been abducted by Interahamwe. Once the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front advanced into Kigali, she hid in a refugee camp and then made her way to Kenya, where she was arrested after being in hiding for three years. The ICTR indicted her for conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, public and direct incitement to commit genocide, and various crimes against humanity, including rape. She is the first woman to be indicted for rape under international law. Her trial continues.
If Thirith joins this august group, she has a lot to answer for. The Khmer Rouge destroyed many of the country’s religious monuments and educational institutions in an effort to create a radically egalitarian and agrarian state. Individuals who were not assassinated or worked to death died by the thousands of starvation, malnutrition, and disease. For now, Thirith reportedly resides in the couple’s home in Pailin, near the Thai border. The couple also has a lovely villa in downtown Phnom Penh, in the neighborhood of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which has spent over a decade documenting the crimes of the Khmer Rouge.

The Sorrow and the Pity

While waiting for her plane to refuel in Ireland early this morning, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters that the United States was granting military aid to various nations in the Middle East in order to help them combat extremism. A contract is apparently ready for signature with Egypt (13 billion dollars over the next 10 years), and deals with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates totaling about 20 billion dollars over 10 years should not be far behind . But most new military aid will go to Israel, with a 25% rise in such aid over present levels. Rice claims that cooperation with these states in fighting extremism is nothing new and that the proposed military aid will help support moderates and contribute to countering the “negative influences of Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran”. Curiously, I have not yet read a study of the roots of terrorism or religious extremism that cites a state’s lack of military might as a cause. Lack of democracy, lack of education, poverty, yes; lack of weaponry, no. And then there’s this great report by Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart that explains that “It’s the Women, Stupid”. Surely the bright folks at State can find a better way to spend thirty billion dollars!

On July 31, ...

... 1968, Barbara M. Watson became the 1st African-American woman to serve as a U.S. State Department bureau chief when she was appointed Administrator of the Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs. She held the post until 1974, then again briefly in 1977 before being appointed Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, serving in that position until September 11, 1980.
...1963, U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) was born in Barberton, Ohio.

Read On! ... "The Invisible Cure"

(Read On! ... occasional posts on writing we're reading) OK, haven't actually read this book, but John Donnelly's review compelled passing the word about The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West, and the Fight Against AIDS by scientist-author Helen Epstein (below). Donnelly tells of Epstein's rediscovery of forgotten research, by Maxine Ankrah, on a drop in Uganda's HIV rate a couple decades ago. The decrease had been attributed to increased condom use, but Ankrah linked it instead to increased faithfulness between sexual partners -- an "invisible cure" that leads Epstein to contend that "[w]hen it comes to fighting AIDS, our greatest mistake may have been to overlook the fact that, in spite of everything, African people often know best how to solve their own problems.”
Donnelly writes of Epstein's book:

[T]he evidence she puts forward could provide a roadmap for comprehensive prevention programs that incorporate teaching abstinence, using condoms and, most critically, emphasizing fidelity. Indeed, Epstein’s animated consideration of debates on fidelity leaves me to wonder, and not for the first time, about the virtual silence on this issue by most African leaders. (Then again, a ruler like King Mswati III of Swaziland, who has something like 13 wives and whose country has an adult H.I.V. rate of greater than 30 percent, is not about to speak up.)

On July 30, ...

... 1974, negotiators from Greece, Turkey, and Britain announced that they had reached an agreement ending weeks of fighting in Cyprus. Further talks would fail, however, and by August Turkish troops would seize 40% of the island. The Republic of Cyprus (flag at right) became a member state of the European Union in 2004 notwithstanding continued disputes over that part of the island.
... 1980, Vanuatu (flag below), a South Pacific island state about the size of Connecticut, became an independent of the British-French New Hebrides "condominium" that had ruled it since 1906. It became a member state of the United Nations a year later.

CWL --- Brawner's Farm: Manassas Inaugural Event, August 25th, 26th

My understanding of 2nd Bull Run is that it is a four day battle:
August 28th, Brawner's Farm: Iron Brigade vs. Stonewall Brigade
August 29th, The Unfinished Railroad: Pope vs Jackson
August 30th, The Unfinished Railroad & Chinn's Ridge: Pope vs. Jackson &
September 1st, Chantilly/Ox Hill

In July 2002, as my daughter was being oriented to George Washington University in D.C., I drove down the road to Manassas National Battlefield Park. In the morning I hiked the plateau from the Stone Bridge to Henry Hill House. In the afternoon I walked the Iron Brigade's route to Brawner's Farm and climbed around the railroad bed's famous 'cut' where Jackson's men stoned Federal soldiers. Last year, I had the privilege to camp, as a reenactor, in the Manassas Battlefield Park. The Pennsylvania Reserves reenactment group encamped on Stuart's Hill and I with several other hardy souls marched to Chinn Ridge.

Of course, after reading several books on 1st and 2nd Manassas since the 1960s, my ideas changed whenever I walk the ground. The Iron Brigade had to march uphill to reach the Stonewall Brigade. Longstreet's Assault did not roll over a flat Virginia plateau, but went up and down dry gullies with thickets that broke up the ranks. I had mentally pictured Longstreet's Assault as being similar to the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble Assault at Gettysburg. No so in the least bit.

This August, I'll again march in the steps of the soldiers. As a Civil War infantryman and as a Signal Corps officer I'll be with my unit, encamped on Stuart's Hill but marching to Brawner's Farm. John Reid, NPS Ranger at Manassas National Military Park sent the following remarks to Pennsylvania Reserve event co-coordinator Joe Sodomin.

". . . the demonstrations [are] concentrated at Brawner Farm, and we are looking to really inaugurate the site with its renovated house and the grounds where the first combat of the second battle occurred with a grand finale to the summer. We are expecting 120 from the Stonewall Brigade and the 3rd U.S. and 3rd Maine (who will portray the 19th Indiana and the 2nd Wisconsin); with your 40 Pennsylvanians [Pennsylvania Reserve Division, a reenactment group,] we can really represent Brawner with both Black Hat and Doubleday's reinforcement to Gibbon (56th Pennsylvania). This is shaping to be the largest single event we have ever contemplated here, let alone presented! The troops will be like "sardines in a barrel" but we have enough room at Stuart's Hill and Brawner for camp bivouacs and demonstrations."

¿Comisión contra la Impunidad, sí o no?

The Los Angeles Times reports that establishment of a Comisión Internacional contra la Impunidad en Guatemala "hangs in the balance" as legislators mull whether to go forward or "scrap" the plan.
Agreement between the Guatemalan government and the United Nations was reached 7 months ago at U.N. Headquarters in New York. It would set up an International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, through which U.N.-selected commissioners would work for 2 years. In December the Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre reported that "among its functions would be to determine the existence in Guatemala of illegal security forces and clandestine apparati, in order to promote criminal punishment."
The plan has the support not only of the United Nations, but also of the United States. Within Guatemala, supporters include representatives of the Supreme Court, prosecutor's office, and civil society. Among them is the sister of Guatemalan anthropologist Myrna Mack Chang, who, as Human Rights First reported, was killed in 1990 after having "been stalked for two weeks prior to her death by a military death squad" that'd "targeted her in retaliation for her pioneering field work on the destruction of rural indigenous communities." Helen Mack (right), who's fought for more than a decade to bring to justice those responsible for her sister's death, told Prensa Libre in December that establishment of the Commission would be "a step toward breaking up those criminal organizations that have infiltrated the State and that foment impunity and undermine the rule of law."
But opposition was evident even at the time the agreement was reached: Members of Congress were "skeptical," and 1 attorney told Prensa Libre that the delegation of prosecutorial authority to a foreign body was unconstitutional. That depletion-of-sovereignty argument persuaded "a key congressional committee" to oppose the Commission, the Times reports. (That vote drew criticism from the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee chair, Patrick Leahy.) On Wednesday, Guatemala's full legislature will consider the plan.

On July 29, ...

...1957 (50 years ago today), the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency came into force. Addressing the U.N. General Assembly and its President, Mme. Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, 4 years earlier, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower had urged establishment of an "Atoms for Peace" agency:

[T]he American people share my deep belief that if a danger exists in the world, it is a danger shared by all; and equally, that if hope exists in the mind of one nation, that hope should be shared by all. Finally, if there is to be advanced any proposal designed to ease even by the smallest measure the tensions of today's world, what more appropriate audience could there be than the members of the General Assembly of the United Nations.
[T]he atomic realities of today comprehend two facts .... First, the knowledge now possessed by several nations will eventually be shared by others, possibly all others. Second, even a vast superiority in numbers of weapons, and a consequent capability of devastating retaliation, is no preventive, of itself, against the fearful material damage and toll of human lives that would be inflicted by surprise aggression.
The governments principally involved, to the extent permitted by elementary prudence, should begin now and continue to make joint contributions from their stockpiles of normal uranium and fissionable materials to an international atomic energy agency. We would expect that such an agency would be set up under the aegis of the United Nations.
The more important responsibility of this atomic energy agency would be to devise methods whereby this fissionable material would be allocated to serve the peaceful pursuits of mankind.


Today the agency, "an independent international organization related to the United Nations system" by special agreement, works toward such goals from its headquarters in Vienna and other offices across the globe. The IAEA and its Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, shared the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way." (photo of Eisenhower's speech courtesy of the United Nations)
...3 women Members of the U.S. Congress were born: U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), in 1957, in Tachikawa, Japan; U.S. Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio), in 1951, in Warren, Ohio; and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), in 1936, in Salisbury, North Carolina.

Women & international trade, circa 1909

Conventional wisdom about the early 20th century has it that women's involvement in international affairs, if any, focused on suffrage and pacificism. But the serendipity of archival research (on a different issue altogether) revealed unexpected activism on an issue of international trade. Page 1 of the April 1, 1909, Chicago Tribune blared:

Cook County Clubwomen, with Aid of Merchants, Urge
500,000 Chicagoans to Sign Protest.
Petitions, to Left and Right, Await Huge Roll to
Impress Capital in Hosiery War.
Hosiery War?
That's right; it was a congressional proposal to increase tariffs on that essential undergarment that spurred the "volcano of public indignation" and this petition:

To the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C.: We the undersigned, emphatically protest against the duties to be assessed under the new tariff bill (H.R. 1438), known as the Payne bill, on articles of wearing apparel, particularly leather gloves and cotton hosiery. The burdens these increases will place upon the women of the country, especially those who can least afford to bear them, are unjust and unwise. We therefore ask you to enact, by amendment, rates at least not higher than those prevailing under the Dingley bill.

Alas, this excerpt (p. 37) from Carolyn Rhodes' Reciprocity, U.S. Trade Policy, and the GATT Regime indicates that the "clubwomen" -- whom the Tribune identified only as "Mrs. [Husband's Name]" -- campaigned in vain, for the Payne-Aldrich tariff became law the same year.

On July 28, ...

... 1914, World War I began as Austria Emperor Franz Josef formally declared war on Serbia exacting 1 month after the assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, presumptive heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.
... 1946, Fahmida Riaz (left), a "Pakistani woman poet" who "also happen[s] to be a feminist, a progressive, an iconoclast and a passionate crusader for human rights," was born. In response to the question "Can a poet, or a creative writer, truly make a difference to society, to the way people think or the way governments work?", she told a 2005 interviewer: "Everything makes a difference. It may not be immediately perceptible. How else do you think society changes?" (1996 photo by M.U. Memon)

Ant bullying

Check out today's column by our colleague Rosa Brooks on the executive detention order that U.S. President George W. Bush issued last week. To the several concerns voiced here, Brooks adds another:

[A] non-U.S. citizen may be secretly detained and interrogated by the CIA -- with no access to counsel and no independent monitoring -- as long as the CIA director believes the person "to be a member or part of or supporting Al Qaeda, the Taliban or associated organizations; and likely to be in possession of information that could assist in detecting, mitigating or preventing terrorist attacks [or] in locating the senior leadership of Al Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces."

The person-believed-to-have-information could be an unwitting eavesdropper unwilling to come forward with what he's heard, or a young relative of an operative, Brooks writes. She reminds that the latter already may have occurred: as detailed on pages 19-20 of the superb NGO report discussed in this post, 1st Pakistan, and then the United States, are said have held in detention-for-interrogation the sons of Al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In Pakistan the boys, aged 7 and 9, reportedly were "mentally tortured by having ants or other creatures put on their legs to scare them and say where their father was hiding." Their father eventually was caught and is now at Guantánamo; Brooks reports that the boys' whereabouts are unknown.

Glam diplomacy boils down to oil

Copyright won’t let me post the photo: dark glasses covering ¼ of his face, bright white blazer over black shirt, black handkerchief flowing out the breast pocket, is Moammar Gadhafi, President of Libya (flag below right). Next to him walks Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France (flag below left). As they shake hands for the camera, neither looks at or turns toward the other, neither smiles, though Sarkozy has something like a sheepish half-grin on his face. And shouldn’t he look sheepish? We don’t negotiate with terrorists, don’t pay ransoms for hostages, but the EU (and Qatar) paid roughly $500 million to secure not the pardon, not the release, but commutation of 6 death sentences pronounced by Libyan courts to life behind bars. Extradition through regular channels may take up to a year. The 5 Bulgarian nurses and the Bulgaro-Palestinian doctor accompanying them have already spent 8 years in Libyan jails. Bursts onto the scene the “rebel wife” of the French president, reported as saying she does not want to be a potiche (figurehead), and who apparently needs some sort of first-ladyish good works to do. It was made clear that she had no negotiating authority and well publicized that Mr. Sarkozy stayed up all night, speaking on the phone more than once with Gadhafi and José Manuel Barroso, current president of the European Commission. So after the conclusion of some undisclosed deal, Mme Sarkozy flies off to Bulgaria with the 6 former hostages (oops, prisoners), where they are immediately pardoned. Libya called the consul of Bulgaria (flag above right) on the carpet for that, but welcomed Mr. Sarkozy to firm up commercial deals with France, including, apparently, the sale of nuclear technology. As the European deputy I heard on the radio said, we don’t believe Iran’s civil nuclear program will remain civil, so not only is the French diplomatic splash procedurally irregular, its nuclear deal is irresponsible. But nuclear’s not all. Naturally, there’s oil. After 8 years of strained Euro-Libyan relations, the end of the prisoner (hostage) crisis means “all-out cooperation” to Sarkozy: nuclear tech for Libya, oil and gas for France, normalized trade relations (with Europe as well) that will bring Libya back into the “concert of nations”. Condoleezza Rice thinks the same way, though she reportedly has no specific program in mind. Maybe if the US can start buying oil in Libya, we can stop killing for it in Iraq?

On July 27, ...

... 1929, delegates concluded a 7-month diplomatic conference in Geneva, Switzerland, by adopting the Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armies in the Field, a revision of 1864 and 1906 treaties on the same subject, and the Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, which operated to "complet[e]" the effort begun in the Hague Regulations of 1899 and 1907. Neither of the 1929 conventions is any longer in force, given the universal acceptance of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.
... 1789, President George Washington signed into law an act establishing a U.S. Department of Foreign Affairs, with
a principal Officer therein, to be called the Secretary for the department of foreign Affairs, who shall perform and execute such duties as shall from time to time be enjoined on, or intrusted to him by the President of the United States, agreeable to the Constitution, relative to correspondences, commissions, or instructions to, or with public Ministers or Consuls from the United States, or to negociations with public Ministers from foreign States or princes ....
Of the last 3 Secretaries of executive agency now known as the U.S. Department of State, 2, Madeleine Albright (left) and Condoleezza Rice (right), are women.

CWL --- Four Fronts: Land Operations in Virginia, 1861

Land Operations in Virginia in 1861, Craig L. Symonds, in Virginia At War, 1861, William C. Davis and James I. Robertson Jr., University of Kentucky Press, 2005, pp. 26-44.

With the addition of Virginia to the Confederacy on April 17, 1861, many in the South thought independence was won. The second largest state in the Confederacy brought with it a navy yard near Norfolk, a canon foundry in Richmond, and more people than any other single state in the new nation. By the end of 1861, it became evident though that "the complex and often ontentious relationship between strategy and politics, and the squabbling between generals, many of whom had agenda of their own" were a severe impediment to a successuful rebellion. (p. 28)

In April, Robert E. Lee, major general commanding the state's militia and later military advisor to president Jefferson Davis, understood danger coming to Virginia from four directions: from Washington, D.C., from Harper's Ferry, VA, from the Ohio River Valley, and from Fortress Monroe on the Atlantic shore. Lee was right. The day after Virginia voters accepted the state convention's secession ordinance, Federal troops seized Alexandria, and within 60 General Benjamin Butler guided troops from Fortress Monroe to Big Bethel, which was about halfway to Yorktown.

During the same month, George B. McClellan directed a two pronged invasion from Ohio and into the western counties of Virginia. The crossroad towns of Grafton, Clarksburg and Romney in the eastern panhandle was captured. Wheeling and Grafton in the northern panhandle were seized as was the Kanawha River Valley in the western and central counties. The Cheat River valley was occupied after CSA forces were chased away. By September, the western counties of the state were held by Union troops. The drive was Washington, D.C. was thwarted in July at Manassas.

The loss of the western counties prompted Davis to send Lee to the front. He arrived and failed to achieve coordination between the two Confederate commanders, Floyd and Wise. Davis called former governor Wise to Richmond and sent 9,000 fresh troops to Lee. Rosecrans, front line Union commander in western Virginia, strategically withdrew to the mountiantops and let the foul weather do its work on the lines of the Confederate advance. On the Potomac front, the Federal debacle at Ball's Bluff in October and the Federal success at Dranesville in December, solidified a stalemante.

By the end of 1861 in Virginia, the Confederates knew that "one Reb could not whip three Yanks, at least not every time." The Federals understood the war would be lasting longer than 90 days. Both sides came to grips with "lessons not only about the management of troops, but about the care and feeding of political superiors." At the end of 1861, it was apparent that these four Virginian four front would see more military activity. 1861 in Virginia was militarily decisive but it would be in 1862. (pp. 42.43)

For more on the 1861 war for the western counties:
Lee Vs. McClellan: The First Campaign, Clayton R. Newell
Rebels At The Gate: Lee And Mcclellan On The Front Line Of A Nation Divided, W. Hunter Lesser

For More on Ball's Bluff:
A Little Short of Boats: The Fights at Ball's Bluff and Edward's Ferry, October 21-22, 1861, James Morgan (III)

For More on Bull Run/Manassas:
A Single Grand Victory: The First Campaign and Battle of Manassas, Ethan S. Rafuse

Postcard from Puerto Rico

By the time you read this, I will be lying on a beach in Vieques, Puerto Rico -- no longer the site of U.S. bomb and weapon-testing and responsive protests. What's on my summer reading list? In addition to starting Chanrithy Him's When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up under the Khmer Rouge, a well-regarded memoir of a childhood in the "killing fields" and finishing Suketu Mehta's Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, an engrossing non-fiction investigation of modern Mumbai by an emigrant whose criticism is underpinned by his longing for an idealized India (think V.S. Naipaul, only less self-hating), I hope to get to Christina Duffy Burnett's article Untied States: American Expansion and Territorial Deannexation. This piece explores the Insular Cases, a series of early-20th-century U.S. Supreme Court decisions holding that the Constitution did not “follow the flag” to territories annexed by the United States after the Spanish-American War -- relevant not only to my vacation spot of choice but also to current issues in foreign affairs. Wish you were here!

On July 26, ...

... 1952 (55 years ago today), Argentina's 1st Lady, Eva Perón, died from cancer in Buenos Aires, "at the presidential residence in the company of her husband General Juan Domingo Perón." Born Maria Eva Duarte 33 years earlier, the daughter of a "poor village landowner who had been separated from his first wife," she would become "one of the most influential women in the Western hemisphere." Supporters deemed her "a dazzling goddess"; her detractors, a "blonde upstart" feted by fascist leaders in Europe. Her life story's the subject of the musical "Evita," noted for its balcony scene and the song "Don't Cry for me, Argentina."
... 1956, after the World Bank refused to support the Aswan High Dam project, Egypt's President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal Company in order to fund the project. He further blockaded Israel's outlet to the Red Sea. Later in the year, Israel would enter Egypt's Sinai peninsula, and Britain and France, whose nationals owned the Company, entered the canal zone. A a ceasefire agreement was reached in November.

Off Topic Novel: The Book Thief

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak, Knopf Press, 2006, 560 pp., hardcover $16.95

With a title like "Book Thief" any librarian would be entrigued. When I finished, I realized that I had just read Book Sense Journal's 'Book of the Year' in children's literature. Yes, this book is recommended for ages 9 and up and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Book Thief is not for every nine year old, that's for sure but it will keep the attention of sophisticated teens and most adult readers.

Death, not to be confused with Satan, narrates the World War II-era story. Death notices Liesel Meminger at her brother's funeral. It is the theft of The Gravedigger's Handbook which brings her to the attention of this very busy spirit. Leisel's father and mother, communists, are arrested and the child goes to live with a foster family (the Hubermanns) in a working-class neighborhood of tough kids, acid-tongued, spitting mothers, and loving fathers who earn their living by the work of their hands. Liesel collects more stolen books as well as a peculiar set of friends: the boy Rudy, the Jewish refugee Max, the mayor's reclusive wife who has a whole library from which she allows Liesel to steal.

Death recounts it's exploration of humanity with Liesel dispassionately. Death is not a sentimental storyteller, but it does attend to an array of satisfying details, giving Liesel's story the nuances of chance, folly, and fulfilled expectation. Death, the narrator, is sardonic, wry, darkly humorous, compassionate and doesn't carry a scythe. "I traveled the globe . . . handing souls to the conveyor belt of eternity . . ." "I warned myself that I should keep a good distance from the burial of Liesel Meminger's brother. I did not heed my advice," Death writes.

Stolen books form the spine of the story. Though Liesel's foster father realizes the subject matter isn't ideal, he uses "The Grave Digger's Handbook" to teach her to read. Reading opens new worlds to her. She rescues a book from a pile being burned by the Nazis, then begins stealing more books from the mayor's wife. After a Jewish fist-fighter makes his way to the safety of the Hubermanns' basement, he whitewashes the actual pages of Mein Kampf to create his own book for Liesel, which sustains her through her darkest times. Other books come in handy as diversions during bombing raids or hedges against grief. But it is the book she is writes that, ultimately, will save Liesel's life.

Portions of the text were provided by the posted reviews on by Francisca Goldsmith, of the Berkeley Public Library, CA and by Elizabeth Chang, of The Washington Post.

India inaugurates its 1st woman president

A 21-gun salute marked the inauguration today of Pratibha Patil, India's 13th President and the 1st woman to hold the mainly ceremonial position. In another 1st, the Times of India reports, the oath was administered to Patil (left) by the new Chief Justice of India, K.G. Balakrishnan, the 1st member of the Dalit class to serve as the country's top judge.
Patil, the 72-year-old governor of the northwestern desert state of Rajasthan, easily had won election Saturday in a vote by the national parliament and state politicians. Apparently, there had never been any doubt that she would win, given the ruling coalition’s support. But her victory may not be the clear victory for women that she and her supporters announce. As in any campaign, the opposition claims she is unworthy of the position, and for reasons beyond simple incompetence (note that the future Belgian prime minister confused the Belgian national anthem with the French “Marseillaise”). Though Patil helped establish a bank for women, it was closed in 2003 due to bad debts and accusations of financial irregularities. The employees' union's suing Patil, claiming that loans went to her brother and other relatives rather than to the poor women for whom they were meant. Other strikes against Patil are that she:
allegedly tried to shield her brother in a murder inquiry
► may have, while Maharashtra's health minister in 1975, said that people with hereditary diseases should be sterilized
► claimed that in a divine premonition, a long dead spiritual guru told her she was destined for higher office
Now that the premonition has come true, let’s hope Patil’s presidency brings into the public spotlight issues like dowry-related and other violence against women. It's reported that on average, 1 woman is murdered, raped or abused every 3 minutes in India.

CWL --- 'At The Mercy of Decisions Made Elsewhere": Virginia's Secession Convention

The Virginia State Convention of 1861, James I. Robertson Jr., in Virginia at War, 1861, William C. Davis and James I. Roberston Jr. editors, University of Kentucky Press, 2005, pages 1-26.

Roberston sets forth three stages of the Virginia convention of 1861: February 13 through March 9, March 15 through April 3, and April 4 through April April 16. He traces the dissolution of the Unionist and Moderate ranks over the period of sixty days. The first stage begins with the failure of the Washington Peace Conference, the second stage ends with the submission of the Committee on Federal Relations report, and the third stage ends with Lincoln's call for 2,340 troops from Virginia.

On February 4, of the 152 delegates selected by 145,700 voters, less than 20% were secessionists. Of the remainder their were 92 moderates and 30 Unionists. These Unionist appeared to be conditional Union men; separation from the Union was unbearable unless the Federal government did not guarantee the protection of slavery in all states and territories. Pointedly, the Fugitive Slave Act had to be rigorously enforced. For these Unionist, the thought of Virginia leaving the Union was nearly unimaginable but the idea of taking up arms against the other slave holding states was unthinkable.

The March 4 inaugural speech of Lincoln did not guarantee the rigorous enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law and insinuated that the Federal government would leave slavery alone where it existed but expeditiously relief the territories of any expansionist threat by slaveholders. The April 12 firing on Sumter and the April 15 call for troops dissolved the commitment of the Unionist and moderate state convention. The first vote for secession was 88 in favor and 55 against. Surprising, the Valley representatives were 10 in favor and 17 against secession. The state referendum on May 23 produced 125,950 votes in favor of secession and 20,373 against.
The four northwest counties of Virginia, the panhandle of Wheeling and close to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania voted against secession by a 20-1 ratio of the popular vote.

Robertson's essay, along with Ernest Ferguson's From Ashes to Glory: Richmond at War, emphasizes the place of Richmond newspapers as being one of the several excoriating forces at work during December 1860 through April 1861. On March 21 The Richmond Examiner stated "The conceited old ghosts who crawled from a hundred damp graves to manacle their State and deliver her as a hand-maid to the hideous Chimpanzee from Illinois have determined that not one word of their rubbish and gabble will be lost to posterity." To me this sounds much like how Hunter S. Thompson in the The Rolling Stone worked on Richard M. Nixon.

Asian Enigma

Today's puzzler, inspired by the 1st woman President of India:
On New Year's Day 2007, 1 woman served as President in Asia. Choose the country in which she served:
a) Vietnam
b) Sri Lanka
c) Philippines
d) Bangladesh
e) Malaysia
f) South Korea
g) Japan
Answer below.

On July 25, ...

... 1978, just before midnight, Louise Brown, the 1st "test-tube baby," was born in Manchester, England. By the time that she celebrated her 21st birthday, "300,000 women worldwide had conceived through IVF," or in vitro fertilization, a reproductive technology said to have a 17% success rate.
... 1993, minutes after a U.N.-brokered ceasefire was to have gone into effect, Bosnian Serb troops fired shells in Sarajevo, at the United Nations' base there. Armed conflict would continue until conclusion of the Dayton Accords 2 years later.

Asian Enigma answered

Answer to Asian Enigma above:
c) Philippines
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (below) has served as President since 2001. She is not is not the 1st woman to serve as President of the Philippines, however; Corazon Aquino held the post from 1986 to 1992. Notably, women have governed in 3 of the other Asian countries on this list:
a) Sri Lanka: Sirimavo Banaranaike was Prime Minister 1960-65, 1970-1977, and 1991-2000; her daughter, Chandrika Kumaratunga, Prime Minister in 1994 and then President from 1994 to 2005.
d) Bangladesh: Hasina Wajed, Prime Minister from 1996-2001, and her rival, Khaleda Zia, from 1991-1996 and 2001-2006.
f) South Korea: Han Myeong-Sook served as Prime Minister from April 2006 to March 2007.

...and counting...

(Occasional sobering thoughts.)
With ambassadors of the United States and Iran set to talk today about "the deteriorating security situation in Iraq" today, the 2d of the face-to-face talks we've applauded, here's the casualty count in the wartorn country: Iraq Body Count reports that as of Sunday, between 67,945 and 74,336 Iraqis, women, children, and men, had died in the conflict -- an increase of 1,138 to 1,216 deaths in the last 3 weeks. American servicemember fatalities: 3,636 persons through Sunday. Total coalition fatalities: 3,928 persons. (That's 58 servicemember deaths in 3 weeks, all but 8 of them Americans.) The Department of Defense reported a total of 26,558 servicemembers wounded, 7,949 of whom required medical air transport; the total of such transports, on account of woundings and "non-hostile" maladies, is 35,638. Military casualties in the conflict in Afghanistan stand at 412 Americans and 223 other coalition servicemembers, an increase of 5 and 14, respectively, in the last 3 weeks. Reported injuries in Afghanistan also remained where they've been for well over a month: a total of 1,636 wounded U.S. servicemembers wounded is reported, 743 of whom required medical air transport; the total of such transports, on account of woundings and "non-hostile" maladies, 6,213.

Media: Artillery Front!: Live Firing Cannon Videos

PBO Incorporated sells artillery pieces and of course, they must test their products!
Here are the links to the You Tube videos of the firing of loaded cannon at targets. The explosion at the target is amazing!

Look for the amount of smoke at the cannon's muzzle, the recoil of the piece and dust and smoke as the round hits its target and explodes.

http://www.pbocorp. biz/action. htm
the wwwsite of the company
12 pounder Navy boat howitzer
10 inch siege mortar
32 pounder field howitzer
3 inch Ordinance Rifle
13 inch Seacost mortar

On July 24, ...

... 1929, the Treaty Providing for the Renunciation of War As an Instrument of National Policy entered into force. Also called the Pact of Paris, the city where it'd been signed the year before, the treaty is known commonly as the Kellogg-Briand Pact in recognition of 2 Nobel Peace Prizewinning diplomats who spearheaded it: French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand and U.S. Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg. The treaty expressed an ideal of pacifism, beginning with Article I, which stated,
The high contracting parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.
Nominally the treaty remains in effect notwithstanding the failure of its high sentiments to deter armed conflicts.
... 1953, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, was born in Rolla, Missouri.

Global warming stings

The Los Angeles Times reports that malaria's been making inroads into Kenyan highlands once free of the disease. A biologist placed much of the blame on global warming, stating, "It's a simple issue of mosquito biology. They are driven by temperature." As a result, 24 million Kenyans, more than half the population, are now at risk to contract the "mosquito-borne disease caused by a parasite," which brings on "fever, chills, and flu-like illness." Each year malaria kills as many as half a billion people, most of them children. Experts see the new spread of the disease as further evidence that
"[i]ndustrialized nations, including the United States and China, account for the vast majority of carbon dioxide emissions blamed for warming the planet, but poorer countries, particularly in Africa, are the most vulnerable to its effects...."
For those of you in those industrialized nations: check out our Opinio Juris colleague Roger Alford for the word on your carbon footprint and how to trim it.

On July 23, ...

... 2001, Megawati Sukarnoputri (right) became the 1st woman President of Indonesia following the impeachment of her predecessor. Her tenure was uneven, and she lost an election bid in fall 2004. She is the daughter of the country's 1st President, Sukarno, who was overthrown in a bloody coup in 1965, 20 years after leading Indonesia to independence from its colonizer, the Netherlands.
... 1982 (25 years ago today), the International Whaling Commission voted to enact a "pause" on commercial whaling beginning in 1985-1986. Despite controversy on which we've posted, the ban remains in place to this day.

New book on Gettysburg Retreat in production

The following is the July 17th posting of J. David Petruzzi from Hoofbeats and Cold Steel at

"Several years ago, Eric Wittenberg, Mike Nugent, and I completed the bulk of the work on a scholarly work about the retreat from Gettysburg. We were finishing ours up at about the same time Kent “Bat” Masterson Brown was completing his great book on the subject." [CWL note: Retreat From Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics and the Pennyslvania Campaingn, Kent Masterson Brown, 2005]

"So how is ours different from Brown’s?
Where Brown concentrated on the logistical aspects of the retreat, our book goes into very deep details of the nearly two dozen fights and skirmishes that occurred from July 4 until July 14 when the Army of Northern Virginia finally crossed the river. Our chronological narrative features the fighting, with the logistics as a background. Brown’s book is more the opposite. The two books together will finally give readers the full story of the Gettysburg retreat.

In addition, our book will also feature two detailed driving/walking tours of both the main retreat column and the Wagon Train of Wounded, from Gettysburg to the river. On both tours we were greatly assisted by retreat guru Ted Alexander. Think of this book as very much like Eric’s and my Stuart’s Ride book in scope, but on the retreat.

The book will be published by Savas Beatie LLC, the publisher of our Stuart book - and we couldn’t be more pleased. Savas does an absolutely wonderful book. The fine maps (lots of ‘em!) were done by the skilled Ed Coleman.

Release is expected by next year’s anniversary (perhaps May-June 2008)and I’ll keep everyone posted here as the book progresses."

CWL will look forward to this complimentary companion to Brown's Retreat From Gettysburg.

New Philippine Antiterrorism Law

The Philippines’ new terrorism law (The Human Security Act of 2007) looks good on its face; the devil is in the details. While it purportedly limits police custody to 3 days and prohibits both rendition and the admissibility of testimony obtained through torture, exceptions and broad language make the law yet another enabler of human rights abuse. As Human Rights Watch points out, the overly broad definition of terrorism combined with a mandatory minimum sentence of 40 years imprisonment without parole open the door to overly harsh punishment of minor violations. In addition, what Article 18 gives by limiting police custody to 3 days is taken away by Article 19, which allows for extending that period indefinitely in cases of “actual or imminent terrorist attack” if the police obtain written approval from either a court a “municipal, city, provincial or regional official.” According to HRW, not only is mistreatment in detention a serious problem in the Philippines, but authorities there also are known to hold suspects for long periods without arraignment or trial. The new law thus may legitimate these practices, despite the one positive aspect of the new law: its ban on using torture, threats, or coercion against detainees, which provides that evidence obtained through such practices is inadmissible in judicial and administrative proceedings. The new law also bans rendition, but the ban is subject to exceptions that allow for handing over a detainee without formal extradition proceedings if his/her testimony is needed in a terrorism-related trial or police investigation. The law authorizes the practice of obtaining diplomatic assurances that “rendees” will not be tortured. Following the lead of the UK, US and Canada, many countries have embraced this practice, which has been denounced by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture as offering inadequate protection against torture. Philippine activists and former Vice President Teofisto Guingona have asked the Supreme Court to strike down the new law, fearing it will turn a lively democracy into a police state and ruin chances of making peace with Communist rebels.

On July 22, ...

... 1849, Emma Lazarus (right) was born in New York City to Moses Lazarus, a sugar refiner, and Esther Cardozo Lazarus. The trilingual poet's accomplishments merited a New York Times obituary upon her death in 1887. Curiously, the article omitted mention of the work for which she is now best known, "The New Colossus," a sonnet inscribed at the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Among its famous lines:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

... 1943, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) was born in Galveston, Texas.

Give and take

An Executive Order released yesterday gave to post-9/11 detainees something for which they've been fighting: application of Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions to the "program of detention and interrogation operated by the Central Intelligence Agency" (§3(a)). In signing the order, however, President George W. Bush took something away from detainees, too; specifically, the respite from CIA detention-for-interrogation that's said to have been imposed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's holding, a year ago in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, that U.S. agents are bound to obey Common Article 3, which states:

In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:
(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed ' hors de combat ' by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.
To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) taking of hostages;
(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
(2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.
An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict. The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention. The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

The order takes as well some of the force out of subsection 1, for it takes pains to define terms like "mutilation," "cruel" treatment, and "torture" within the confines of a U.S. War Crimes Act weakened post-Hamdan by amendments contained in the Military Commissions Act of 2006. (The order likewise affirms a 2005 congressional ban on "[c]ruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment," as those terms are defined under U.S. law, and not according to broader interpretations like those that the European Court of Human Rights has put forward in cases such as A v. United Kingdom.) The order may take from the article's final paragraph, too, for the Washington Post's Karen de Young reported:
A senior administration official said that the new rules do not require that the International Committee of the Red Cross have access to CIA prisoners. Many other nations interpret international treaties as requiring such access for all detainees everywhere.

Of further note are the qualifiers used in describing permissible conditions of confinement of persons whom the CIA detains for interrogation. Abuse is banned, but only if it is "willful and outrageous"; acts that denigrate religion, only if they are "intended" so to denigrate (§3(b)(i)(E), (F)). Consider too the order's assertion in §3(b)(iv) that the program will comply with Common Article 3 as long as detainees "receive ... necessary clothing" and "essential medical care." The use of those adjectives leaves open the inference that the CIA needn't provide clothing or medical care that is not "necessary" or "essential" but that would make a detainee feel comfortable; that is, feel human.
A final point: Make the contestable assumption that all captives are subject to detention, regardless of where they are seized, for the reason that "[t]he United States is engaged in an armed conflict with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces" (§1(a)). Even so, as I've written, detention would be justified only for the purpose of securing a detainee's absence from the battlefield or presence at trial. Neither the law of armed conflict nor the law of criminal justice permits detention solely for interrogation; moreover, both establish legal boundaries within which a detainee is to be treated humanely even on refusal to answer questions unrelated to name, rank, serial number. The order rests, in short, on infirm legal foundation.

Migration & 1 state's university

Migration bellwether: A new survey found that more than half of the University of California's undergraduates are immigrants or children of immigrants. (Thanks to ImmigrationProf Blog for the head's up.) Michelle Locke of the Associated Press further reports on the questionnaire distributed throughout the multicampus system:

Twenty-three percent of the students reported they were born outside the United States, and another 37 percent said they have at least one parent born outside the country. Thirty-five percent said English was not their first language.
The findings reflect the diversity of California and follow UC enrollment patterns that have seen increasing numbers of Asian and, to a lesser extent, Latino students in recent years.

On July 21, ...

... 1949, the U.S. Senate gave its advice and consent to the North Atlantic Treaty establishing NATO as an intergovernmental collective defense organization. Following President Harry Truman's acceptance of the instruments of ratification 1 month later, the treaty went into effect as to the United States. Other charter members of the alliance -- now with 26 states parties -- were Great Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Iceland, and Canada.
... 1954, negotiators in Geneva, Switzerland, concluded a ceasefire agreement in the Indo-China War. Lasting for nearly 8 years, the war between the Viet Minh troops of Ho Chi Minh and the troops of France, "the occupying colonial power," had claimed an estimated 300,000 lives.

See you in court!

This week, almost 30 years after the end of the Khmer Rouge regime, the co-prosecutors for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) announced the filing of their introductory submission to the co-investigating judges. While the exact contents of the submission are confidential, the prosecutors revealed that they had identified five suspects responsible for atrocities including crimes against humanity, genocide, murder, and torture. Given that the court's scope is limited to senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge, there are four likely candidates: Nuon Chea, a.k.a. "Brother Number Two", Pol Pot's right-hand man and the alleged architect of Khmer Rouge ideology; Khieu Samphan, the head of state and spokesperson for the Khmer Rouge; Ieng Sary, the Khmer Rouge Minister of Foreign Affairs; and Kaing Khek Iev, a.k.a. Duch, the head of the Khmer Rouge's main torture center, Tuol Sleng. What is their response to the upcoming trials? Chea claims that, as president of the National Assembly, he did not know what the government was doing and had no intention to kill his people. Asserting that the tribunal members couldn't know what happened because they weren't there and that it's hard to remember what happened 30 years ago, Chea chuckled and said, "See you in court." Similarly, Samphan has asserted that he was a leader only in name and never conspired to kill the Cambodian people -- and that his mind is confused. He has reportedly signed on his old friend Jacques Verges, with whom he studied at the Sorbonne, to defend him. Sary also refuses to acknowledge his responsibility for the crimes of the Khmer Rouge, claiming that he did not know about the killings and "was only in charge of foreign affairs." Faced with over 14,000 pages of documentary evidence, it may be difficult for these three to maintain their claims of ignorance for long. Duch, who has been in prison since 1999, may be the only one of the four who welcomed the news of the trial. A warmer welcome, of course, came from Cambodians who suffered under the Khmer Rouge regime, including one who stated, "I am delighted they will be brought to trial, because they have caused the death of more than 30 of my relatives." Given the deaths of Pol Pot, a.k.a. "Brother Number One" and Ta Mok, a.k.a. "the Butcher", the identity of the fifth suspect is not yet clear.

Write On! IHL & ICC & IT

(Write On! is an occasional item about notable calls for papers.)
The Lieber Society on the Law of Armed Conflict, an interest group of the American Society of International Law, invites nominations for the 2008 Lieber Society Military Prize, awarded annually for "an exceptional writing in English by a member of or person retired from the regular or reserve armed forces of any nation that significantly enhances the understanding and implementation of the law of war." Deadline is January 2, 2008; for details contact Winner of the 2007 prize: Lt. Col. Eric Talbot Jensen, for "Combatant Status: It Is Time for Intermediate Levels of Recognition for Partial Compliance." Winner of the Society's 2007 Francis Lieber Prize, named in honor of the author of the 1863 Lieber Code that proved a precursor for later formulations, including the 1949 Geneva Conventions: Dr. Laura Perna, author of The Formation of the Treaty Law of Non-International Armed Conflicts. Heartfelt congratulations!
Meanwhile, Eyes on the ICC, an interdisciplinary journal produced by the Council for American Students in International Negotiations, is seeking, "from scholars, jurists, diplomats, and professionals," papers and book reviews on "the International Criminal Court (ICC), human rights, public health, children and women's issues, disarmament and development, and nuclear non-proliferation." Here for details.
Finally, Sylvia Kierkegaard (right), information technology legal expert and president of the International Association of IT Lawyers, invites research papers or oral presentations, "on all topics related to Computer law, security and privacy," for its 2d International Conference on Legal, Security and Privacy Issues in IT, set for December 5-7 in Beijing, China. Details here.

Off Topic Film: Pan's Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth, New Line Two-Disc Platinum Series, 119 minutes, 2006, released May 2007, Spanish with English subtitles,$34.95.

Spain, June 1944. A bloody civil war ended six years ago. Snuffing out the last bit of resistence in the mountains is the duty of Vidal,a fascist army captain. He orders his pregnant wife and his step daughter, young Ofelia, to the base camp located in a mill house. Ofelia enters a world of unimaginable cruelty and unimaginable magic when she moves in with her tyrannical stepfather.

A reader of fairy tales, Ofelia discovers, not far from the millhouse, a mysterious above and below ground labyrinth and meets a faun who sets her on a path to saving her ailing mother. But soon, the lines between fantasy and reality begin to blur when she realizes the labyrinth is also within the very stones of the mill. Before Ofelia can turn back, she finds herself at the center of a ferocious battle between good and evil, the army and the rebels, her mother and her stepfather. Inspired by the Brothers Grimm, "Pan's Labyrinth" is a fairytale for adults; there is no sex but there is violence. Ofelia may only be 12, but the worlds she inhabits, both above and below ground, are dark. Her guides is the persuasive Faun and the mother's maid, Mercedes. As her mother grows weaker, the faun offers to help her out of her predicament if she'll complete three treacherous tasks. Ofelia is not the perfect hero and her last decision is courageous, noble and fatal.

The story holds together and viewing it in Spanish with English subtitles increases the 'willing suspension of disbelief.' The second disk shows how the story was written, the director's vision of the story, the costumes and computer generated illustrations.

On July 20, ...

... 1979, in Nicaragua, Sandinista rebels established a government, having overthrown the U.S.-backed government of President Anastasio Somoza Debayle, who'd sought refuge in the United States a few days earlier. The Sandinistas would hold power for a decade marked by armed opposition from U.S.-aided Contras. On the role of Nicaraguan women during this period -- among them poet Daisy Zamora (above), see the 2005 UNIFEM publication, Guerra NO: Mujeres en la Conquista de la Paz en Guatemala, El Salvador y Nicaragua
... 1936, U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) was born in Baltimore.

Bloggers Team