Just Foreign Policy News
September 3, 2010
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CBPP graph showing how wars fit in to projected deficits
A paper by Center on Budget and Policy Priorities includes a graph that shows the relative contribution of the wars to projected budget deficits.
The graph indicates the following ranking:
1. Bush tax cuts
2. Economic downturn (order of the first two is reversed in the short term)
5. Bank bailouts
CBPP writes: "Together with the economic downturn, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years."
Iraq/Afghanistan: A Promise Kept, a Promise Deferred
As a candidate, President Obama said he wanted to end the mindset that leads to war. A key feature of that mindset is the belief Washington can and should determine who may participate in the governments of the broader Middle East. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. officials are still working to exclude from power people who are opposed to U.S. control over their governments or a long-term U.S. military presence. This is a recipe for permanent war. Lebanon, where the U.S. accepts the participation in power of people opposed to U.S. control, shows it is not an immutable fact that the U.S. must pursue this permanent war policy.
Bacevich: Washington Rules
Andrew Bacevich's book, "Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War," is a call for Americans to reject the Washington consensus for permanent war.
Get the book
September 24th: JFP "Virtual Brown Bag" with Andrew Bacevich
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1) Afghan officials in Kabul and in Takhar Province said two NATO jets fired twice on a convoy of campaign workers Thursday, killing 12, the New York Times reports. A spokesman for NATO said "a great deal of time and patience" was used to ensure that the strike occurred in a remote area void of civilians. [This assertion is of course irrelevant to the claim, since the people killed, whom local and national Afghan officials say were civilians, were actually in the convoy, not near it - JFP.] The Times follows its account of the conflicting claims by noting that General Petraeus said Thursday that the US was still trying to fix its intelligence-gathering operation in Afghanistan, suggesting that the NYT reporters believe plausible the claim of local officials that the NATO strike was targeted based on faulty intelligence.
2) Mahmood Karzai, brother of Afghanistan's president and the third-largest shareholder in Kabul Bank, urged the US to back up the threatened bank with US tax dollars, the Wall Street Journal reports. The U.S. said it has no plans to prop up Kabul Bank. But some U.S. officials expressed doubt that the Afghan government, which has promised to guarantee depositors, could prop up the bank without outside help. The government took in less than $1 billion in revenue last year and relies on the U.S. and other donors for much of its budget. The lender's $1.3 billion in deposits represent more than a quarter of the $4.8 billion Afghanistan holds in hard currency reserves. If Kabul Bank were to run short of money, the cash for depositors "may well come from the coffers of U.S. taxpayers and other international donors," said one U.S. official.
3) The issue of Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank could sink Israeli-Palestinian talks in three weeks, the New York Times reports. The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, has threatened to walk out of the negotiations if Israel does not extend the current partial moratorium on settlement expansion beyond September. Some officials said a likely outcome was a compromise in which Israel would agree to limit settlements, but exempt West Bank areas that are certain to remain part of Israel under a peace deal.
4) As a new administration takes over in Colombia, some groups are hoping the U.S. will use its clout to ensure an improvement occurs in human rights in Colombia, Inter Press Service reports. In September, the State Department will likely certify that Colombia is meeting the human rights conditions required for receiving some of the military aid provided by the U.S. But in the year since the last certification numerous human rights violations have occurred in the country, Colombian and U.S. NGOs said in a statement issued Monday. The groups say that 31 union leaders, 7 community leaders and one indigenous leader have been killed in Colombia in 2010.
5) The U.S. government has increasingly been employing "targeted killings" in places far removed from any zone of armed conflict, effectively carrying out executions without trial or conviction, write Anthony Romero and Vincent Warren of the ACLU and the Center for Constitutional Rights in an op-ed in the Washington Post. Over the past decade, our government has repeatedly labeled men terrorists only to find out later - or to be told by a federal judge - that the evidence was overstated, wrong or nonexistent. If we invest the government with unchecked authority to impose death sentences on people who have never been convicted of or even charged with a crime, it is inevitable that innocent people will be executed.
6) Israeli settlers announced plans Thursday to launch new construction in their West Bank enclaves in defiance of an Israeli government moratorium on new construction, Reuters reports. Earth-moving vehicles and cement mixers went to work in several settlements on Wednesday, breaking ground for homes and community centers.
7) More than a million Hondurans have signed petitions in support of a Constituent Assembly to create a new constitution, Inside Costa Rica reports. The current Constitution, in force since 1982 [i.e. created under the supervision of the Reagan Administration - JFP] proclaims that seven of its articles cannot be modified. Critics say these articles block social reforms to address poverty.
8) A former Argentine navy lieutenant wanted for prosecution in his homeland for his alleged role in a 1972 massacre of leftist guerrillas is fighting extradition from the U.S., AP reports. An Argentine federal judge issued an arrest warrant in February 2008 charging Roberto Guillermo Bravo with 16 counts of murder. U.S. prosecutors contend that the guerrillas were slain as they stood with heads bowed in front of their cells. Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Wood argued that Bravo's guilt or innocence should not be decided by a U.S. judge. "These are issues to be resolved by the Argentine courts," Wood said. [This exemplary - but normal - response to Argentina's extradition request contrasts with the U.S. response to similar extradition requests from Bolivia and Venezuela - JFP.]
1) Accounts Differ On Fatal NATO Strike On Afghans
Adam B. Ellick and Sangar Rahimi, New York Times, September 2, 2010
Kabul, Afghanistan - Airstrikes by NATO forces that killed 12 people on Thursday in northern Afghanistan have produced sharply conflicting accounts as to whether the attacks hit a team of election campaign workers, including the parliamentary candidate himself, or a group connected with an Uzbek terrorist network.
Afghan officials in Kabul and in Takhar Province, where the deaths occurred, said two NATO jets fired twice on a convoy of campaign workers. The candidate, Abdul Wahid Khurasani, was among three wounded.
"What reaction can I have?" said Mr. Khurasani by telephone from his hospital bed in Kabul, where he was being treated for minor injuries. "NATO came in, killed my supporters and my campaigners. They are powerful, what can I do? I cannot do anything."
But in a contrasting assessment of the airstrike, international forces said it singled out a group connected to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, including a senior leader who is believed to be the deputy shadow governor in Takhar.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who was in Kabul to meet with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, said at a news conference with Mr. Karzai that "I can confirm that a very senior official of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan was the target and was killed." Mr. Gates said the official was responsible "for organizing and orchestrating a number of attacks here in Kabul and in northern Afghanistan."
The defense secretary said it was the first he had heard that there might have been civilian casualties, but Mr. Karzai said that he had reports from local government officials that 10 civilians had been killed in the election convoy and 3 were wounded. Mr. Karzai said the nature of the operation and the presence of the Islamic movement had to be determined. Both Mr. Gates and Mr. Karzai promised investigations.
A spokesman for NATO said "a great deal of time and patience" was used to ensure that the strike occurred in a remote area void of civilians. The activities of those in the convoy were tracked for days before the attack.
When told of NATO's claim that the convoy included people linked with the Islamic movement, Mr. Khurasani said, "That is an absolute lie."
Mohammad Hussein, the district chief of Rustaq, where the airstrike happened, said Mr. Khurasani's entourage included a man named Amanullah, a former jihadist commander who had recently returned from an extended trip to Pakistan.
Mr. Khurasani said Mr. Amanullah was a relative and a strong supporter of his candidacy, and not a terrorist.
In a news release, NATO said the strike took aim at an insurgent who recently traveled to Pakistan, where he had regularly coordinated attacks with the Taliban.
Mr. Khurasani said the attacks struck six vehicles in his convoy, all draped with campaign posters. NATO said, however, that only one vehicle was hit. Mr. Khurasani also said that he informed the police in two districts of his campaign trip and that they had guaranteed his security.
In a briefing on Thursday afternoon to reporters traveling with Mr. Gates, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan, said that the United States was still trying to fix its intelligence-gathering operation in Afghanistan, which was sharply criticized this year in a report by Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the top American military intelligence officer in the country.
2) Karzai Kin Asks U.S. To Bolster His Bank
Matthew Rosenberg and Maria Abi-Habib, Wall Street Journal, September 3, 2010
Kabul - A top shareholder in Afghanistan's largest bank called on the U.S. to shore up the lender after depositors withdrew about a third of its cash reserves in two days, while the country sought to avert a destabilizing crisis at a crucial moment in the fight against the Taliban.
Mahmood Karzai, brother of Afghanistan's president and the third-largest shareholder in Kabul Bank, urged the U.S. to calm the situation, saying the lender could keep up with the pace of withdrawals for only a few more days. "America could support Kabul Bank to the last penny, of course that would help," he said in an interview at his Kabul home. "The full faith and credit of the U.S. government behind Kabul Bank-what more do you want?"
The U.S. said it has no plans to prop up Kabul Bank and has only sent in a small team of experts to help the Afghan central bank sort out the mess. "While we are providing technical assistance to the Afghan government, we are taking no steps to bail out Kabul Bank," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.
On Thursday, crowds of depositors gathered at Kabul Bank's branches to try to withdraw their cash. If the withdrawals continue apace, Mr. Karzai said, the bank would be effectively insolvent by early next week. The bank has $1.3 billion in deposits, and its total assets are almost equal to its liabilities. But the lender only had $500 million in cash on hand at the start of the crisis, he said. Its other assets-including Dubai real estate investments of uncertain value-aren't easily convertible into cash.
President Karzai, appearing Thursday at a news conference with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, repeated pledges by other officials to guarantee deposits at Kabul Bank. The lender "is safe, people do not have to panic. The government of Afghanistan is fully behind that bank," he said. "Even if the whole financial situation in Afghanistan collapses, we have the money to support it, so people do not have to be worried."
The lender's $1.3 billion in deposits represent more than a quarter of the $4.8 billion that President Hamid Karzai said Thursday Afghanistan holds in hard currency reserves.
Some U.S. officials expressed doubt that the Afghan government could bear the strain of propping up Kabul Bank without outside help. The government took in less than $1 billion in revenue last year and relies on the U.S. and other donors for much of its budget.
If Kabul Bank were to run short of money, the cash for depositors "may well come from the coffers of U.S. taxpayers and other international donors," said one U.S. official.
3) Settlements in West Bank Are Clouding Peace Talks
Mark Landler and Helene Cooper, New York Times, September 2, 2010
Washington - Israeli and Palestinian negotiators cleared the first hurdle on Thursday in their elusive quest for Middle East peace: they agreed to keep talking, two weeks from now in Egypt.
But on a richly choreographed day of diplomacy, filled with solemn promises to tackle the tough issues dividing them, the Israeli and Palestinian leaders did not confront the one issue that could sink these talks in three weeks: whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will extend a moratorium on the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, has threatened to walk out of the negotiations if Israel does not extend the moratorium beyond September. But officials said the two leaders barely broached the topic during three hours of talks, which covered the gamut of issues that have divided Israel and the Palestinians for decades.
"The climate, and atmosphere, was positive and serious and down to business," said Nabil Shaath, foreign relations commissioner of Mr. Abbas's Fatah Party, who is negotiating for the Palestinians. "But the cloud is still there," he added. "The Israelis gave absolutely no hopeful signs that they will continue the moratorium. And in our point of view, that is the litmus test for the Israelis."
On Wednesday, officials said, President Obama spoke bluntly to Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas at the White House, urging them not to allow the impasse to scotch the talks. But Mr. Netanyahu has not offered any hint of a compromise, and analysts say he is hemmed in by his right-leaning coalition, which could splinter if he simply extended the moratorium.
The more likely outcome, officials said, is a compromise in which Israel would agree to limit settlements, but exempt West Bank areas that are certain to remain part of Israel under a peace deal. It could also offer a limited extension, based on agreeing on the borders of a Palestinian state.
4) US Military Aid Contingent on Reversal of Rights Record.
Matthew Berger, Inter Press Service, September 1, 2010
Washington - As a new administration takes over in Bogotá, some groups are hoping for change in the human rights record of Colombia - and that the U.S. will use its clout in the country to ensure that change occurs.
At some point in September, the U.S. State Department will likely certify that Colombia is meeting the human rights conditions required for receiving some of the military aid provided by the U.S. But in the year since the last certification numerous human rights violations have occurred in the country, Colombian and U.S. NGOs said in a statement issued Monday.
The groups hope that the fact that those human rights violations occurred while former president Álvaro Uribe was in power means that Colombia has a chance to break that trend under new president Juan Miguel Santos - and that the U.S., which gives hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Colombia each year, has a chance to pressure them to do so.
The certification requirement only affects U.S. military assistance - and only a percentage of it. Moreover, the State Department has never not certified that Colombia meets the human rights conditions required for receipt of the aid in the ten years that certification has been required.
The certification requirement has "still been a useful tool because the State Department, in anticipating these decisions, sometimes delays certifying and discusses with the Colombian government the serious issues of human rights," says Lisa Haugaard, executive director of the Latin America Working Group, one of the 18 groups behind the statement. "It's been the one tool we have available to put some pressure not just on the Colombian government but on the State Department," she told IPS.
Rather than simply asking for delays, the groups would like the State Department to not certify Colombia's human rights record. Haugaard explains that it has been a particularly bad year for human rights in the country. "We've seen considerable backsliding, particularly in terms of investigating and prosecuting effectively abuses by the army, even the most egregious ones," she says.
Over the past year, several infractions have remained unaddressed, including the supposed failure to prosecute rights violations like the "false positive" extrajudicial executions in which Colombian military personnel have allegedly executed civilians then dressed them up as guerrillas in order to inflate their combat body count.
Though the cases involve 3,000 victims of extrajudicial executions dating back to 2002, results are slow, according to the groups. In response to the false positive scandal, 27 military personnel were dismissed in 2008, but none have been charged with crimes, they say.
They also write that 31 union leaders, 7 community leaders and one indigenous leader have been killed so far in 2010, and that there has been an "exponential increase in threats against defenders via email since April 2010." They also point to the expanded operations of paramilitaries and criminal groups as well as evidence of military-paramilitary cooperation.
Six of the groups - WOLA, CIP, Human Rights First, Latin America Working Group, Lutheran World Relief and the U.S. Office on Colombia - wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Aug. 20 in which they ask the U.S. to press for reform in these areas and in protecting human rights defenders.
For his part, Santos has showed signs that he will move to distance himself from his predecessor's record. In his inaugural speech Aug. 7, he vowed to do more to defend human rights, and in the weeks since his government has continued to emphasise making human rights - as well as social issues - a more central issue than they were under Uribe.
But, says Haugaard, "He's no clean slate." She notes that as Defense Minister under Uribe, Santos "was somebody who put in place policies that escalated the killings of civilians. "But he was also somebody who then, after there was international pressure and outcry, put in place some policies that began to bring down the number of killings of civilians," she adds. "So he's somebody who listens to what the international community thinks, but also someone who was implicated in the problems in the first place."
5) Sentencing terrorism suspects to death - without trial
Anthony D. Romero and Vincent Warren, Washington Post, September 3, 2010; A19
[Romero is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. Warren is executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.]
Since 2001, the United States has been carrying out "targeted killings" in connection with what the Bush administration called the "war on terror" and the Obama administration calls the "war against al-Qaeda." While many of these killings have been carried out on battlefields in Afghanistan or Iraq, our government has increasingly been employing lethal force in places far removed from any zone of armed conflict, effectively carrying out executions without trial or conviction. Some of the individuals on the government's kill lists are U.S. citizens.
On Monday, our organizations filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of targeted killings that take place outside zones of armed conflict. We did not do this lightly. But we simply cannot accept the proposition that the government should have unchecked authority to carry out extrajudicial killings, including of U.S. citizens, far from any actual battlefield. Nor can we accept the contention that the entire world is a battlefield. In protecting this country from the threat of terrorism, the government cannot jettison the rights that Americans have fought for more than two centuries to safeguard.
In zones of armed conflict, targeted killing can be a lawful tactic. But outside the context of armed conflict, targeted killing is legal only as a last resort and in the face of a truly imminent threat to life - and then only because the immediacy of the threat makes judicial process infeasible. Outside these narrow circumstances, targeted killing amounts to the imposition of a death sentence without charge, trial or conviction. Notably, Anwar al-Aulaqi, the cleric whose rights are at issue in the lawsuit we filed on Monday, has not been charged with a crime, but he has reportedly been the target of almost a dozen missile strikes in Yemen. While the government might argue that targeted killings in Pakistan along the border regions of Afghanistan are connected to the armed conflict there, it can hardly make that argument with regard to Yemen, which is far removed from any armed conflict.
The danger of dispensing with due process is obvious. Without it, we cannot be assured that the people the government kills are individuals who presented a threat to the country. Indeed, over the past decade, our government has repeatedly labeled men terrorists only to find out later - or to be told by a federal judge - that the evidence was overstated, wrong or nonexistent. If we invest the government with unchecked authority to impose death sentences on people who have never been convicted of or even charged with a crime, it is inevitable that innocent people will be executed.
The conduct of our government heavily influences the practices of other countries. The United States would in all likelihood not endorse the authority it claims for targeted killings if it were asserted by other countries. Americans would surely be appalled if another country claimed the right to send a drone after a declared enemy in Wyoming.
The government has the tools it needs to address the threat posed by suspected terrorists, including Americans, who find refuge in other countries. It can indict suspected terrorists and seek their extradition. It can seize their assets. It can share intelligence with other countries so that they can charge and try suspected terrorists. It can provide financial and technical support to other countries' law enforcement and intelligence services. In a truly extraordinary case, the government may have no choice but to use lethal force to address a threat that is both grave and imminent. But if we are to preserve anything resembling the rule of law, the government's authority to use lethal force against its own citizens must be limited to such grave and imminent threats.
The Obama administration's program of targeted killings appears to be far broader than the law permits. The administration has refused to disclose crucial information - such as the standard under which individuals are added to kill lists, the circumstances in which individuals may be targeted outside the context of armed conflict, and the number of Americans on the lists. According to news reports, names are added to kill lists after a secret bureaucratic process, and at least some names have been on the lists for months. Whatever else may be said about this approach, it is plainly not limited to individuals who present an imminent threat.
Many Americans rightly reacted with alarm when the Bush administration claimed worldwide authority to detain suspected terrorists - including U.S. citizens - without charge or trial. We should react with similar if not stronger alarm to the Obama administration's claim of worldwide authority to kill suspected terrorists without charge or trial. A wrongly imprisoned suspect may eventually be set free. But there is no recourse from a missile.
6) Settlers defy peace talks with new construction across West Bank
Yesha council says settlers will start building in at least 80 settlements, breaking a government freeze that ends on September 26.
Hours before peace talks were set to begin in Washington, Jewish settlers defiantly announced plans on Thursday to launch new construction in their West Bank enclaves in a test of strength with Palestinian Islamists.
Naftali Bennett, director of the settlers' Yesha council, said settlers would begin building homes and public structures in at least 80 settlements, breaking a partial government freeze on building that ends on September 26.
"The idea is that de facto it (the freeze) is over," Bennett said, criticizing the U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian talks as aiming for a "phony peace" and rejecting Palestinian demands for a halt to settlement building on land they want for a state. "Once they understand Israelis are here to stay and only growing stronger day by day, they will give up," Bennett said.
The settlers, who have threatened to depose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if he does not let them resume building after September 26, ended the freeze unilaterally on Wednesday, the day after gunmen killed four settlers in the occupied West Bank.
Pro-settler parties are a majority in Netanyahu's right-wing coalition and a number of cabinet ministers have already backed demands to resume settlement construction.
Earth-moving vehicles and cement mixers went to work in several settlements on Wednesday, breaking ground for homes and community centers.
7) Over One Million Hondurans Support Constituent Assembly.
Inside Costa Rica, Thursday 02 September 2010
Tegucigalpa - The National Popular Resistance Front has collected over 1.19 million signatures to demand a Constituent Assembly and the safe return to Honduras of former President Manuel Zelaya. Supporters and activists are volunteering in this signature-collecting process throughout the country's 18 departments, set to conclude on September 15.
"Having reached that number is already a victory, and we are sure we will go far beyond the minimum goal of 1.25 million signatures," Juan Barahona, a coordinator of the front, said.
The collection of signatures began on April 20 for a petition asking for the draft and approval of a new constitution that would guarantee the basic rights of all Hondurans, and increase participatory democracy in the country, the document reads. The current Constitution, in force since 1982, contains seven articles that cannot be modified, thus obstructing deep changes need for eradicating poverty and inequity.
8) Ex-Argentine officer fights extradition from US.
Curt Anderson, Associated Press, Tuesday, August 31, 2010; 3:56 PM
Miami - A former Argentine navy lieutenant wanted for prosecution in his homeland for his alleged role in a 1972 massacre of leftist guerrillas has committed no crime and should not be sent back, his attorney told a U.S. judge Tuesday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Dube said he would issue a written decision in a few weeks on whether Roberto Guillermo Bravo, 68, should be returned to the South American country. Bravo is a naturalized U.S. citizen who has lived in South Florida since 1973.
An Argentine federal judge issued an arrest warrant in February 2008 charging Bravo with 16 counts of murder as well as attempted murder charges. Bravo's attorney says he has done nothing wrong and has already been cleared by a previous Argentine military investigation.
Nineteen guerrillas were allegedly machine-gunned in their cells at a military base in the southern Argentine city of Trelew in August 1972, days after being recaptured following a prison break, according to Argentine authorities. Three prisoners survived what human rights groups called the "Trelew Massacre" and what they saw as the early seeds of a military "Dirty War" on leftist adversaries.
Bravo, who is free on $1.2 million bail, has denied execution-style killings took place. He has said the Argentine military was waging a justified action against leftist revolutionaries in that turbulent time, and Sonnett said in court papers that Bravo and other military personnel "opened fire in order to defend themselves, repel the attack and prevent an escape."
U.S. prosecutors contend that the guerrillas were slain as they stood with heads bowed in front of their cells.
Dube could block Argentina's extradition request if he finds that Bravo is being targeted for purely political reasons. Sonnett argued in court papers that Argentina's current left-leaning authorities are seeking "revenge" on military officers who fought the leftist guerrillas in the 1970s.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Wood argued that Bravo's guilt or innocence should not be decided by a U.S. judge. "These are issues to be resolved by the Argentine courts," Wood said.
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