In episode three of VICE, Thomas Morton meets a gun-crazy pastor who teaches his young students gun drills and tactics to disarm attackers, and Shane Smith travels to Fallujah, Iraq, where a rise in birth defects has been linked to the American military’s suspected use of depleted-uranium munitions during the war.
Peace talks aiming to bring Syria’s bloody civil war to a conclusion finally began yesterday in Switzerland, the land of peace and harmony. The conference officially starts Friday and will see delegates getting down to the seemingly impossible task of trying to thrash out a deal, but yesterday was the initial meeting of the “Geneva II” conference, where the participants got to let off some steam in lengthy speeches.
All things considered, the occasion didn’t get off to the best start, with Syria’s foreign minister using his speech to accuse some of the nations involved of having “Syrian blood on their hands” before calling the rebels “traitors.” The US and the Syrian opposition used the opportunity to state that Bashar al-Assad had no legitimacy—which, shockingly, didn’t go down too well with the Assad camp—while Syria’s information minister argued with the UN secretary-general before shouting, “Assad will not leave! Assad will not leave!” at the assembled pack of reporters. So it doesn’t look like the negotiations—the first time the opposition and the Syrian government have formally sat down together since the conflict began in 2011—will be particularly fruitful.
How to Make Foreign Policy Less Disastrous in 2014
Look, you might not like it, but the fact is, foreign policy has a lot to do with you. If you live in the US (and you probably do because I can see your iPod), then what Obama does with our bombs reflects you globally. And if you live in the world (and you probably do because I can see you’re human), then you still, for now, live on a planet where the USA has the most sway. And if you like gay people, or women, of all the superpowers available to humans, America is probably your best bet. Your votes appointed a bunch of people who are barely of average intelligence to run—or shut down—Congress and therefore hold some responsibility as to how this country operates.
As such, it’s obvious that last year you, YOU, dropped the ball, because looking back, 2013 was a really shitty year for foreign policy. Against the backdrop of grindingwarinSyria, we cringed as Edward Snowden lifted the lid on the largest mass surveillance program in history. Terrorists staged mass prison breakouts and held entire cities to ransom. Egypt killed the hell out of itself and both sides blamed the US and literally nothing was done to make Syria any less hellish. In fact, it got worse. Well done. Meanwhile, on the part of the planet where you can’t even pretend to have any influence, the Chinese navy won a game of WW3 chicken in the Pacific. Somehow in all of this, Russia came out smelling of roses.
So, yes, frankly the US could be doing better. The Taliban are still with us, hiding in their caves, eagerly awaiting the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. And chaos eagerly awaits that. In Yemen, Pakistan and beyond, US drone strikes continue, making Obama the Peace Prize Winner look evermore like someone who uses flying robots to assassinate people. Thanks to an embarrassing climb-down over involvement in Syria, the very idea of the West intervening in another country’s problems has never been less in fashion. And looking at Afghanistan, still donning its A/W 2001 garb of shrapnel and loved ones’ viscera, it’s not hard to see why.
Christmas Violence in the Central African Republic
On Wednesday, Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga gave his Christmas sermon in the Central African Republic’s capital city of Bangui. He discussed the need for reconciliation and forgiveness, but the country’s leaders are incapable of stopping—or unwilling to stop—the violence, even as the country spirals deeper into the abyss due to an endless series of revenge killings between Christians and Muslims.
The following night, I took refuge in what had probably been a Bangui flophouse in better times. Gunfire cracked in the distance, bullets zipped by, and explosions shook the windows as I sat there in the darkness. At the time, no one seemed to know who was fighting, most people were in hiding, and everyone was scared. A French military helicopter circled overhead while I frantically gathered my belongings in case I needed to move in the middle of the night.
I later learned armed militias had been attacking the presidential palace.
As Nzapalainga told his flock, what had been sectarian strife is now a religious conflict. And Lucifer has taken up residency in the CAR.