CBCradio

May 19, 2009

Pt 1: Louise Arbour - Over the weekend, the Sri Lanka government claimed victory in the more than 25-year conflict with Tamil Tiger rebels, saying it had killed rebel chief Velupillai Prabhakaran. Yesterday the European Union called for an independent war crimes investigation into alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws in Sri Lanka.

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Pt 2: Does Power Corrupt - When the President does it... that means that it is not illegal. Richard Nixon said that in his famous interview with David Frost... three years after Mr. Nixon resigned in disgrace as U.S. President in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal.

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Pt 3: Haiti - You may not remember much about Hurricane Hanna. It was the fourth hurricane of the season last year. It made its North American landfall last September in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and then weakened as it traveled up the eastern seaboard and across Atlantic Canada.

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It's Tuesday May 19th.

Documents obtained by GQ magazine show that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld provided military intelligence briefings to President George Bush with quotations from biblical scripture on the cover page.

Currently, Bush was particularly drawn to this quote from Corinthians (SFX pages turning) When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child... When I became a man... I invaded Iraq.

This is The Current.

Louise Arbour

Over the weekend, the Sri Lanka government claimed victory in the more than 25-year conflict with Tamil Tiger rebels, saying it had killed rebel chief Velupillai Prabhakaran. Yesterday the European Union called for an independent war crimes investigation into alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws in Sri Lanka.

This is happening the same week that Bahr Idriss Abu Garda appeared before the International Criminal Court (ICC) a continent away in The Hague...charged with war crimes. He is the first person from the Darfur conflict to be tried at the ICC, and he faces the same charges which were leveled against Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir in March.

Behind calls for international justice in Sri Lanka and the prosecution of war crimes in Darfur is a legal framework which owes much of its current makeup to our guest this morning... Louise Arbour.

For years, Louise Arbour has doggedly championed human rights around the globe. She has indicted alleged war criminals, helped get rape added to the list of crimes against humanity, and doubled the operating budget for the United Nations High Commissions on Human Rights. Despite that... the list of countries harbouring those accused of genocide, and war crimes is no smaller.

Since the mid-1990s, Louise Arbour has done much of her work from inside the United Nations ... first as the Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and then as the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. She was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada between those two postings. And now, Louise Arbour has taken a new job as the CEO of the International Crisis Group, a non-governmental organization dedicated to conflict prevention. Louise Arbour joined us in our Toronto studio.

Does Power Corrupt

We started this segment with a clip of Richard Nixon.

When the President does it... that means that it is not illegal. Richard Nixon said that in his famous interview with David Frost... three years after Mr. Nixon resigned in disgrace as U.S. President in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal.

Clearly, Nixon's remarks pretty much set the standard for political entitlement and impunity. In fact former U.S. Secretary of State, Condaleeza Rice paraphrased that very statement defending torture by waterboarding just a few weeks ago. Those aren't the last words on the subjects of entitlement and impunity when it comes to politics. In fact, we've been treated to an on-going spectacle of late ... of politicians abjectly begging forgiveness ... stepping down from office with careers in tatters ... squirming as the spotlight glares on indiscretions, attempts at self-enrichment or ill-advised expense claims.

We aired a clip of Britain's Conservative leader David Cameron speaking in the wake of a scandal over personal expenses charged to taxpayers. Add to that list, the 2,200 pounds claimed for cleaning the moat around the estate of another British MP. Now Gordon Brown's ruling Labour MPs weren't much better. Today the British Speaker of the House was forced to resign in relation to that same scandal.

But for a breach of public trust and a truly spectacular fall from grace... there's some pretty decent material on this side of the Atlantic. We aired a clip of former crusading New York Governor Elliott Spitzer. The man who made his name in zealous pursuit of law breaking executives and his mea culpa on TV last month regarding his liaison with a high-priced prostitute and the illegal transfer or payments across state borders.

Here in Canada, we have a range of so-called scandals from accusations brought against Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla by live-in caregivers ... Ottawa mayor Larry O'Brien's trial for alleged influence peddling ... the sponsorship scandal, whose scars the Liberal Party still bears, and of course ... (we aired a clip with an exchange between Brian Mulroney and Richard Wolson, the counsel for the Oliphant Inquiry that is investigating the financial dealings between the former Prime Minister and German arms dealer, Karlheinz Schreiber)

Add all these stories up, and one might be forgiven for wondering if politics... at its very nature ... compromises or even corrupts. We aired a clip from Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan where the English philosopher describes his famously cynical view of man in a state of nature and, given the news coming out of Westen democracies these days, the 'naturally wicked' state Hobbes describes may well describe today's corridors of political power.

This morning, we wanted to examine today's political state of nature. And looking deep into the hearts of our politicians and ourselves because of course we elect them ... to examine whether politics really does corrupt. And to help us with that, we were joined by two astute political observers. Michael Bliss is a historian and the author of several books. He's also a Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto and he was in our Toronto studio. And Heather MacIvor is a professor of Political Science at the University of Windsor. She is appropriately enough writing a book on Machiavelli and she was in Windsor, Ontario.

Haiti

You may not remember much about Hurricane Hanna. It was the fourth hurricane of the season last year. It made its North American landfall last September in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and then weakened as it traveled up the eastern seaboard and across Atlantic Canada.

Hurricane Hanna did about 160-million-dollars worth of damage in the U.S. But before it swept over Myrtle Beach, it hit Haiti as a devastating tropical storm, killing more than 500 people and leaving many more traumatized and destitute.

The CBC's Stephen Puddicombe was in Haiti earlier this spring. He met with people who survived the walls of mud and water that inundated the northern part of the country. And he joined us from Halifax as part of our on-going series Watershed.

Last Word - LTTE

Stay with us on CBC Radio One. Q is next. And later today on The Point, debating the economic merits of choosing a "stay-cation" over a vacation. The Point is at 2 o'clock -- 2:30 in Newfoundland and parts of Labrador. And during the hockey playoffs, The National is on CBC Newsworld at 9 o'clock and 10 o'clock Eastern Time.

The heavy fighting in Sri Lanka last weekend saw many of the top leaders of the LTTE killed. DNA tests are being run on the badly burnt body believed to be that of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the LTTE. They have also retrieved the bodies of his son Charles Anthony and the bodies of Balasingham Nadesan, leader of the rebels' political wing, and Seevaratnam Puleedevan, the head of the rebels' peace secretariat.

Last Wednesday, S. Puleedevan had agreed to be interviewed by the Current live on our Thursday program but we were unable to regain contact with him. Back in 2006 we spoke with him about what were then attempts of peace talks in Geneva. So we eneded the program today with S. Puleedevan discussing the situtation in 2006.

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