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December 31, 2003

Top 10 news events of 2003 in freedom's global struggle

Here are the Top 10 news events of 2003 in the global struggle for freedom.

ONE
April 9: Baghdad falls to forces led by the United States of America. Saddam Hussein, who held the world record among living dictators for deaths by wars, genocide and state-ordered murders, is ousted. All over Iraq, his mass graves and torture chambers are revealed. On December 13, U.S. soldiers pull Saddam from a spider hole and place him under arrest. Iraqis are expected to form a provisional assembly in June 2004 to take sovereignty and write a democratic constitution. Free elections are possible in 2005. The liberation of Iraq is a giant step forward in the cause of human rights, progress and, ultimately, peace. A BIG PLUS FOR FREEDOM.

TWO
December 14: Afghanistan convenes a loya jirga, or grand council, to write a democratic constitution. Interim president Hamid Karzai leads the council, as 502 delegates debate whether to form a government with a strong president or with a less powerful prime minister. The Taliban, whose theocratic dictatorship harbored al-Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan, was toppled by a U.S.-led coalition on December 10, 2001. Free elections tentatively are scheduled in Afghanistan in June 2004. A PLUS FOR FREEDOM.

THREE
December 19: Colonel Moammar Gadhafi, suspected of ordering the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, killing 270 people over Lockerbie, Scotland, agrees to surrender voluntarily Libya’s programs for weapons of mass destruction. After nine months of private talks with Britain and the United States, Gadhafi says he wants to dismantle the once-secret programs to make Libya a "mainstream nation." The United States has imposed economic sanctions on Libya since 1986. A PLUS FOR FREEDOM.

FOUR
August 11: Liberian dictator Charles Taylor takes a plane to exile in Nigeria. The United States and other nations had demanded he resign to end 14 years of war, which began when he launched a rebellion from Ivory Coast. Taylor also backed a war in Sierra Leone that took more than 150,000 lives. With a West African peacekeeping force in Liberia and U.S. warships offshore, Taylor says, "I did not want to leave the country …. I can say I am being forced into exile by the world’s superpower." A PLUS FOR FREEDOM.

FIVE
August 3: North Korea’s foreign ministry calls U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton "human scum" after Bolton labels dictator Kim Jong Il a "tyrannical rogue" who lives like royalty while imprisoning his people in a "hellish nightmare." On August 27, talks involving North Korea, South Korea, the United States, China, Russia and Japan begin, aimed at ending North Korea’s illegal nuclear weapons program. North Korea demands free oil if it stops making atom bombs. The talks make little progress. A MINUS TO FREEDOM.

SIX
April 6: Cuban dictator Fidel Castro executes three young men, Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo, Barbaro Leon Sevilla Garcia and Jorge Luis Martinez Isaac, for trying to escape Cuba four days earlier on a ferry boat. On April 7, Castro begins sentencing, to 10-27 years in prison, the 80 anti-dictatorship activists he arrested in the previous three weeks. On December 4, a brave Cuban alters a photograph of Castro to make him look like Adolf Hitler on the front page of Castro’s own newspaper, "Granma." That photo editor is in big trouble. A MINUS TO FREEDOM.

SEVEN
October 25: Russian President Vladimir Putin arrests Yukos oil company founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Putin wins public sympathy for cracking down on a rich "oligarch," but liberals fear he really is blocking Khodorkovsky’s attempts to fund political parties that could give Putin some healthy democratic competition. Putin already has taken control of the major TV stations and abused the free press. Now he’s out to change the constitution to let him be president for life. A MINUS TO FREEDOM.

EIGHT
December 22: The Communist Party of China proposes amending China’s constitution to guarantee the right to private property, officially blessing the free market system that has expanded China’s economy by leaps and bounds over the last 20 years. The private property amendment encourages human rights activists, who urge China’s new President Hu Jintao to allow political freedom, too. Hu often talks of a need for more "socialist democracy." Liberty is not yet in its definition, but hopes are up. A PLUS FOR FREEDOM.

NINE
April 19: In Nigeria, President Olusegun Obasanjo wins re-election. Vote fraud and voter intimidation are alleged, but the process is an improvement over earlier elections, which usually were followed immediately by military coups. Obasanjo’s 1999 election also was marred by irregularities, but it ended 14 years of military rule. In the 2003 election, Obasanjo claims 62 percent of the vote. Muhammadu Buhari, a retired general who took power in a 1983 coup, wins 32 percent. A WARY PLUS FOR FREEDOM.

TEN
November 23: Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, who tried to claim his political party won the Nov. 2 parliamentary elections that most observors said were rigged, resigns a day after opposition groups stormed into the parliament building as he delivered a speech. On Nov. 20, when the Georgia election commission validated the election tallies, the U.S. State Department noted that the results "do not accurately reflect the will of the Georgian people." The revolution of roses was on. A PLUS FOR FREEDOM.

Frank Warner

SEE ALSO: The "60 Minutes" Iraq oil-field map hoax.

December 31, 2003 in Current Affairs, Freedom, History | Permalink

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