New York Times
Last month a court in American Samoa ordered a garment factory to pay $3.5 million to 270 workers from China and Vietnam. The court described workers cheated of wages, beaten and deprived of food, something that should never have occurred anywhere, much less on American territory. But while the exploitation in the Daewoosa factory was egregious, it is not isolated. On Saipan, the largest island of the American Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, federal investigators have documented mistreatment of workers.
American territories overseas are an attractive site for garment factories producing for the consumer in the United States. Minimum wage is lower than on the mainland -- $3.05 an hour in Saipan -- and products can come in without import quotas or tariffs and bear a "Made in America" label. In Saipan, 30 factories make clothes for dozens of American brands like Gap, Dayton Hudson and The Limited.
The 15,000 garment workers in Saipan are largely women from China. They pay recruiters and the factories up to $8,000 to obtain their jobs. ... Recent scrutiny from Washington and anti-sweatshop activists has brought some improvements in health and safety conditions. But the high recruitment fees remain, as does the practice of cheating workers on overtime. ...
More changes are needed, most importantly an end to the system of paid recruitment. But over the years the government of the islands has fought reforms. Bills to bring the Northern Marianas under mainland minimum wage or immigration laws have extensive support in Congress but have been blocked by the House Republican whip, Tom DeLay. Authorities in Saipan have argued that the island is being unfairly singled out when harsh working conditions can also be found in California and New York. There are sweatshops on the mainland, but in Saipan they enjoy official backing.
The Bush administration's notification that it is nullifying -- or unsigning -- the Treaty of Rome establishing an International Criminal Court to prosecute cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes was a foolish and unnecessary act.
Monday's delivery of a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan formally withdrawing America's signature from the treaty, which former President Clinton signed in December 2000, is likely to harm rather than benefit U.S. interests. The harm is already evident in the shock and dismay of U.S. allies, who are needed more than ever in the administration's campaign to dismantle terrorist networks with global reach.
Nullification of the Rome Treaty is not merely an act that other nations perceive as a cavalier gesture of American unilateralism. It also casts doubt on the fundamental principle that each U.S. president signs international treaties in the name of a stable, continuous American nation-state. ...
The letter to Annan, signed by Undersecretary of State John Bolton, offered specious or exaggerated reasons for the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty. It argued that the statute for the court would grant unchecked powers to the court's prosecutor, bypass the U.N. Security Council, disregard the prerogatives of states, and take away the option of substituting truth and reconciliation commissions for tribunals, as was done in South Africa. In reality, the court provides ample safeguards against politicized prosecutions and permits a country to follow the path taken by post-apartheid South Africa.
Bush's unsigning of the Rome Treaty was an unnecessary bow to the irrational xenophobia of irrational conservatives.
History has shown that baby steps do not lead to peace in the Middle East. They get blown away too easily by those who don't want to reach the right destination: coexisting Israeli and Palestinian states.
The terrorist organization Hamas, which claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing this week that killed 15 Israelis, is such a saboteur of peace.
Two truisms emerge from this latest round of ruin. Strategies based on incremental confidence-building measures need to be replaced by an endgame proposal to ensure Palestinians a homeland and Israelis a secure, Jewish state. The United States must lead the sides toward that endgame, unambiguously and vigorously.
So far, President Bush's Middle East efforts have been mired in divisions within his administration that have produced hapless diplomacy. ...
Bush was right to step into the Middle East conflict. Not only does the situation hold Israelis and Palestinians hostage to bloody instability, it is an unavoidable obstacle to the U.S. war on terrorism.
But the president needs to provide a clearer timetable for achieving a Palestinian state willing to live next to a secure, safe Israel. America has to intervene, because neither (Palestinian Authority President) Yasser Arafat nor (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon can look beyond distrust and hatred. An American plan, however, will have zero chance unless it shows the Israeli and Palestinian publics a plausible path back to hope. ...
An American plan must focus on Israeli security and Palestinian sovereignty. It must insist on the hard truth that neither goal can be achieved in any stable way without the other. Anything less dooms both sides to an endless cycle of violence.
(Compiled by United Press International.)