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Beyond the Borderlines
Monday, 8 March 2004

Europeans are eager to criticize the US foreign politics and warfare. The US is not carrying the responsibility of their new "world police" role acceptably. It is easy to say that, when the responsibility doesn't weigh on one's shoulders. Before the Cold War Russia, or then the Soviet Union was Europe's mighty power and an opposing opinion. After the collapsing of the USSR the dark shadow and power that was casting a pressuring atmosphere on half of the world (the other half were allies of the USSR) was gone. Within numerous empty organizations and non-functioning massive structures were left among the dust. One of which is the Russian army.
Several Russian army servicemen have filed complaints of serious bullying (beatings, starvation, and bad hygiene). The progress of these complaints cannot be followed, because often the files just magically disappear from the system. Meanwhile thousands of young men suffer from torture, murders and depression leading to suicides. The human rights organization Amnesty International has taken action to prevent and punish bullying in the Russian Army. According to them and to the organization of soldiers' mothers in Russia, over 2,000 service men have died in a year while `settling scores'.
When looking at Chechnya, a territory Russia occupied to prevent it from becoming independent, we can see the real corruption and the causes that keep everyone tied in the system for their own benefits. The Time magazine released an article in October 2003 about war corruption in Chechnya. In the article Yuri Zarakhovich questions if the Russians will ever leave the territory. Also according to the Time magazine it seems that the army is divided in two; there are the drafted young soldiers that face much of the anger and frustration of the contracted professional soldiers. Reality is that the drafted men are the ones that suffer the most.
Families all over the huge country fear losing their sons to the army and never seeing them again. Conscription law was changed in 1995 extending the years of service from 18 months to 2 years. The new conscription law offers soldiers less than a dollar a day in wages. Moreover these drafted boys are often not so well educated, coming from the poorer side of the population, while the richer boys are either taken out of the country, or hidden from the drafters. Often even the drafted men themselves do not know where they are placed, let alone the drafters. They reflect the situation of the whole population of Russia. They are tossed around, left on their own and not taken care of. Nobody seems to know what to do with them. After almost a century of communism it is hard for Russians to determine to what extent the government should rule the lives of the individuals.
This division is a result of the battle over should the army be turned into a contract army or not. The contract killers are generally wealthy generals, who according to State Duma deputy Vice Admiral Valery Dorogin make less than $200 a month. ( Many of the generals make additional money by selling guns and other supplies of the army to guerillas in rebelling parts of the country. Reportedly even the Iraqis bought weapons from Russia, although legally. Time-magazine mentions how according to local Chechens the weapons that kill Russians are bought from nearest Russian military base. Other way of contract soldiers to make money is to simply sell drafted men to nearest farms to slave labor. Gigantic farms are a part of the heritage of the Soviet Union and they need work force.
Anna Politkovskaya supports this theory. Her trips to Chechnya have made her a witness to the torture of the thin, pale faced and weak by the well fed, strong and bribe taking. She has released books and articles over the issue and criticizes the politics of the Russians government.
The frustration shows on everyone's face; on the miserable drug using drafted men, money hunting obsessed killers and the political leaders of the nation. No wonder Russia's foreign policy is not on the top of the list when the country is collapsing to its own too big feet. Valery Dorogin says that it is extremely important for the soldier to know what they're fighting for. When there is no future plans made on a national or on an individual level it comes to just surviving. The state of the army reflects the state of the entire nation of Russia. It now has to come together and plan a future and reach for it.
Just a couple of days ago came news from Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov that by the end of 2007 Russia will have adopted an army 50 % staffed by contract service men. He also mentioned that by 2008 the term of military service will be reduced to one year. Earlier in February President Putin has given comments that indicated his interest in developing the army. He is known as a the president who pulled Russia back from involvement in international issues to military expenses. Now he says that Russia "carries special responsibility for global safety". We will soon see if he realizes that in order to `carry international safety' he needs capable defense forces.

Posted by oasocialstudies at 11:37 AM EST
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Tuesday, 13 January 2004

Topic: Latest
Hard Rock Wars
Hard Rock Wars

Sierra Leone has fought a civil war for over eleven years now. The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) has been invading Sierra Leone and it got to the point, where the capital Freetown was almost taken over by the rebel group. Now the important part comes in: If Sierra Leone is supposed to be such a poor country, how does the RUF get hand of valuable guns and other supplies? And then again, how do any rebel groups get hold of power in poorer countries?
Sierra Leone has some great diamond mines. So does South Africa, which is often referred as the headquarters of diamond industry in Africa. South Africa's economy is blooming compared to Sierra Leone's. Although Sierra Leone has thirty- eight billion inhabitants less than South Africa, some similarities are surprising; both countries were once colonies of Great Britain. They now suffer from a poverty rate over 50 percent. AIDS rages in South Africa among 20 percent of the population, when in Sierra Leone the rate is 7 percent. The main difference is that the GDP of South Africa, per person, is $6700, and in Sierra Leone only $472.
Why, then does not Sierra Leone use it's diamond resources to boost up economy? The answer lies somewhere in the wallet of an RUF leader. The RUF has gotten hold of some important diamond mines, and is selling something called illegal diamonds to make money and buy weapons. Guess which country is the largest buyer of these rare stones? Yes, USA seems to have plenty of people wealthy enough to collect sparkly jewelry.
The route from the West coast of Africa to USA goes often through Liberia. Illegal diamonds are transferred from the mines controlled by rebels to Liberia, where they are turned into international market. The buyers believe that the rocks are from Liberia. Even the government of Liberia has been involved in this trade. The president of Liberia, Charles Taylor was accused by the UN in 2000 of training RUF troops and providing guns and materiel to the RUF. The UN even found a connection with the RUF leader Foday Sankoh and president Taylor going back ten years on a rebel training camp.
It is very hard to brake into this cycle. The UN has been working to decrease the status of RUF and splitting the connections between Charles Taylor and Sierra Leone rebels. One thing, that I know is very hard to make actually work, is international recognition of this problem, which is preventing Sierra Leone from educating, feeding and providing a stable economy to it's people. Large buyers of diamonds should question the real origin country of rocks bought in Liberia. As a bottom line I would like to state that what is happening over seas and continents affects every country in one way or another. There is always a reason for countries being poor and they never willingly choose it.


Posted by oasocialstudies at 11:58 AM EST
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USA in Iraq
Topic: Archive

President Bush is speaking today (Tuesday 9/24) at the United Nations. He desperately seeks help from the UN, the body that he ignored before the war, to rebuild Iraq. How did he get into this mess? Well, to us he said it was the weapons of mass destruction that were probably aimed right at several targets around the US. Someone had to stop Hussein from pushing that big red button. Then we find out there are no such things, or at least they still haven't found them. However president Bush never claimed a connection between 9/11 and Iraq although that would have been easy. Basically they tell us all this was done to keep the citizens of the US and most other countries safe. Safe from what? If we really look at it, Saddam never threatened to attack the USA. Was the decision to go to war made on too weak a basis? More importantly is this war just? Someone might say that no war is ever just. Others might argue that you should do all you can to protect people, but can we go too far in protecting people? When you think about it, does the army protect us by defending (staying inside our borders) or by attacking too? What are acceptable reasons for going overseas to protect others? That could be answered with a concept called Just War. It is an 800-year-old attempt to answer the question what are good reasons to start a war. It states that a war to be just has to have a proper reason and a proper authority. Also it does not allow any hidden reasons. In this particular case a proper authority in my opinion would have been the UN. A proper cause and hidden reasons are the matters we must discuss. Let's see what happened; Mr. Bush protected the citizens of the USA and Iraq from Saddam Hussein. He freed Iraq from the tyranny of the Baath party (the party led by Saddam Hussein), but not without the blood of many US and Iraqi soldiers. It sounds like a proper reason. After all the good that finally came out of the war, I am left with a feeling of a hidden purpose. Even if the US is the world's most powerful nation and helps many countries, I don't think that all this was done just to end the suffering in Iraq. Freeing a nation might have been a wonderful side-affect. Then again I wonder if protecting Iraqis was used for making another purpose just and acceptable. It would have been like getting two flies with one hit. We all know how, conveniently, Iraq also possesses large amounts of oil. The most just thing to do (if you happen to possess the world's most effective army) is make life better for someone, in the end that is what counts at the moment. Because normal citizens of the world won't ever know the final truth, we are left guessing. Anna Lehto


The Military defense force of the United States of America is attacking to defend America. I believe that President Bush and Congress feel that they are defending the innocent citizens of our country, but while doing so American troops are killing innocent people in Iraq and Baghdad. Although we do not kill innocent people on purpose, accidents do happen. When looking at the bigger picture, America is attacking so that in the future fewer innocent people will be killed, tortured and raped in the Middle East. With the sacrifice of many lives we can change Iraq and give people the human rights they deserve, especially after all the suffering they have endured under the rule of Saddam. The sacrifices we give will make the future better for everyone. The United States of America is attacking to keep peace. We fight for peace, so we will not have to fight anymore. If there was another way to end all terrorism, murder and war, we would do it; but today there are no other options known to us. If someone can think of one please let me and the world know. There are horrible people in this world and our country is working to defend the victims of these atrocious criminals. It would be nice if America could stay in America to defend this country, but that is not the case. Terrorist attacks are undetected, therefore we have to go out and stop the terrorists before they attempt to hurt any more people. America cannot police the world, but we try to do our best by defending our country and the people in it. We are trying to help the Iraqi's by giving them a democratic government where they can learn to rule fairly and with equal rights. I am against war and wish we did not have to use lives to gain rights but we must, like our forefathers did, maintain the rights we have today, here in America. When the English men migrated from England to America they fought against Britain to gain their human rights and seceded to form the country we have today. Our military troops understand this and are willing to give their lives to help others. If we only think about the present and ourselves, our future generations will perish. One reason to believe that the military is attacking rather than defending is words straight from the President's mouth; "there is no question that Saddam Hussein had al-Qaeda ties" President Bush said. But Bush also said, "We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11th" attacks. If there was no evidence than how could we have had just cause to attack, Bush should not contradict himself, it confuses the public. America cannot extend its fight for peace to unreasonable proceedings of war because we are dealing with lives. The lives that are at risk have families and friends that would be devastated with the loss of a known life. It is reasonable to fight to end Iraqi suffering, but it is not if we are attacking there terrorists but end up killing the innocent. Krista Lindback

Posted by oasocialstudies at 11:30 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 13 January 2004 12:11 PM EST
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Friday, 26 September 2003
Hi I'm Anna Lehto, a foreign exchange student from Finland. Beyond The Borderlines is a web magazine concerning happenings around the world and the relationships between leading countries. The opinions I write here are solely my views of the world, and any reader is encouraged to commentate on them. Write how you feel and we'll post them on our site.

Posted by oasocialstudies at 1:41 PM EDT
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