It’s hard to listen to the news without getting angry. War News Radio’s Caroline Batten and Elliana Bisgaard-Church have stopped trying. WNR proudly presents “Filibusted”, with all the news that makes us tear our hair out. This month’s topic? Climate change.
In this month’s show, we examine three issues that build on the relationship between environmental stresses and conflict. First, we examine the impact of a five-year drought on the Syrian Revolution. Then, we investigate the effects of changes in global climate on farming, particularly in regions prone to conflict. Finally, we ask whether water scarcity in Yemen is a threat to national security. But first, a brief commentary on the current state of environmental issues.
War News Radio reporter Caroline Batten has received First Place in the Region 1 Mark of Excellence Awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her piece“Viral Content: Free Speech, Hate Speech” on the controversial “Innocence of Muslims” video posted on YouTube last fall.
The Society of Professional Journalists is the pre-eminent membership organization for journalists, protecting the rights of the free press and providing ethical standards for high-quality reporting. Caroline is now a finalist for a National Mark of Excellence Award, which will be announced later this spring.
This month on War News Radio, “Forward Thinking”, we first discuss the future of Iraq in light of the ten year anniversary this past March. Then, we hear about a Philadelphia-based peace group protesting research on drone technology. Finally, we hear a Rwandan genocide survivor’s perspective on justice, forgiveness, and life in America.
Text by Sabrina Singh
A decade after American troops invaded Baghdad in 2003, news coverage of the the anniversary remains dismal. News of the war either elicits either apathy or what Marc Lynch in Foreign Policy calls “American Strategic narcissism.” Even if there is a moral and ethical reason to include Iraqi voices in the commentary, Lynch points out that between Foreign Affairs, The New Republic, Foreign Policy and The New York Times, there was exactly one Iraqi writing on this anniversary.
The official statement from President Obama made no reference to Iraq’s current state, but focused instead on the need to honor American casualties. Former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney made no public comments.
Tim Arango of The New York Times noted that the war goes on for Iraqi civilians. With political instability in the country, the conflict is not yet “for the history books,” and the anniversary is by far not the most pressing issue for citizens. In particular, problems like sectarian violence, unemployment, corruption, and internally displaced people persist.
For Iraqis interviewed by War News Radio in this month’s show, their most immediate commentaries have been things like rush-hour traffic, unemployment, reminiscing about the pre-war era and playing war video games. It is stories from ordinary civilians like these – of human costs and the lived-experiences of war – that mainstream American coverage lacks.
The four Iraqis featured in the piece below tell a story of a remembered landscape. It’s a story about how war blackened the city of Baghdad, split its neighborhoods along sectarian lines, and left its streets crammed with checkpoints and traffic. War News Radio’s Sabrina Singh and Amy DiPierro co-produced this piece on memories of the past and hopes for the future. Sabrina narrates the piece.
On Thursday, Iran, North Korea, and Syria blocked the passing of the final draft of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a U.N. effort to set standards and regulations for the cross-border arms trade. Approval of all 193 nations of the United Nations would have been necessary for the treaty to pass.
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed that the draft had “loopholes” that did not ban sales of weapons to rebel groups. Syrian ambassador Bashar Ja’afari echoed Iran’s concerns, adding that “[Syria’s] national concerns were not taken into consideration.”
The ATT covers weapons systems that include tanks, combat aircraft and missiles. First negotiated in New York in July 2012, it failed to pass when the United States, Russia, and China, all large weapons exporters, rejected the treaty due to a lack of consensus on its details.
The bid for ATT was revived this year on March 18 when Mexico issued a U.N. statement signed by 120 countries in support of the treaty. “Our voice must be heard,” their statement read.
For signatories, the United States’ willingness to sign the treaty this year had been a cause for optimism. Like other members of the permanent five (P5) nations of the UN Security Council, the United States had balked at the prospect of signing and ratifying the ATT last year. Stewart M. Patrick, Senior Fellow at Council on Foreign Relations, writes that this unwillingness was in part because “the Obama administration did not want to hand Republicans a red meat issue in the run-up to the November elections.”
Pre-election season politics did not affect the United States’ stance this year, nor did the contentious issue of drone warfare, which was absent from this year’s draft treaty.
Human rights groups like Amnesty International have pressured the US government to support the treaty, but gun rights groups like National Rifle Association say the treaty, though it does not address domestic arms commerce, poses a threat to Second Amendment rights in the U.S. constitution.
To challenge the opposition from Iran, Syria, and North Korea, the treaty could be referred to the General Assembly for another vote as early as next week.