November 2012

Senate Backs Accelerated End To Combat Missions, Continued Drawdown of US Troops In Afghanistan

Yesterday, an overwhelming majority (62-33) of US Senators—including every Senator who caucuses with the Democrats save two—voted in favor of a measure that calls upon President Obama to continue withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan at a steady pace, as he promised in his address to the nation in June 2011. The "sense of the Senate", which was introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), also calls upon President Obama to end all regular US combat missions in Afghanistan no later than December 31, 2014, and to "take all possible steps" to end such operations earlier.

Why is this vote significant? At present, there is no timetable for removing the 68,000 US troops that remain in Afghanistan. President Obama does not plan to announce such a timetable until after his administration has decided how many troops to leave in Afghanistan post-2014. This decision is expected to happen within the next few weeks, which means that a decision on a drawdown timetable for 2013-2014 may also be imminent.

A Reformist Strategy to Downsize the Drone Strike Policy

This is slightly adapted from a presentation given at a Congressional briefing on drone strike policy on November 16, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

I want to talk about what Congress could do about drone strikes in the next 1-2 years.

To begin with, some political context, as I see it.

First, I don't think anyone will argue with me if I say that for the last ten years Congress has done very little.

Second, I think it would be extremely helpful if Congress would do something. I think Congress doing something is intrinsically important in itself, in addition to whatever the thing is. The reason is that the media, the public and the Administration take cues from what Congress is talking about. If Congress isn't talking about something, then it's perceived as not very controversial. More people would contact Congress if we had a vehicle for them to contact Congress about.

Third, I don't think it's as hard for Congress to do things on this as some people seem to think. There's a kind of conventional wisdom that Congress can't do anything because no-one cares because no U.S. soldiers are being killed by the policy. I think this conventional wisdom is completely wrong. No U.S. soldiers are being killed in Honduras and yet a hundred Members of Congress are willing to sign letters about human rights in Honduras, and these letters get press and pressure the Administration. No U.S. soldiers are being killed in Bahrain but Members of Congress are willing to sign letters about human rights in Bahrain and these letters get press and pressure the Administration. Conversely, plenty of U.S. soldiers were killed in Afghanistan before 2009 and Congress didn't do much about that. So whether or not American soldiers are being killed is not as decisive as some people seem to think.

Obama, Clinton: Injuring Israeli Civilians Worse Than Killing Palestinian Civilians

Hamas and Israel have reportedly agreed to terms for a ceasefire, which should be taking effect right about now. This is a welcome development.

But just because a ceasefire has been agreed upon doesn't mean that we can or should forget the United States's hypocritical response to the violence, which was on display as late as this morning when President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued statements on a bus bombing in Tel Aviv said by some to be perpetrated by Hamas.

Demand Obama Press for Immediate Ceasefire Between Israel and Hamas

Didn't they learn anything last time?

In 2008, the Israeli military invaded Gaza, claiming they were going to destroy Hamas. They didn't destroy Hamas - politically, they made it stronger - but they did kill a thousand Palestinian civilians and destroy a lot of Palestinian civilian infrastructure, some of which was never fully rebuilt due to the Israel-Egypt-US blockade of Gaza.

Now Israel is attacking Gaza again. The stated reason is rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. Of course, that's not the complete story. [1] But more violence from Israel into Gaza isn't going to end rocket fire from Gaza. It hasn't in the past and won't in the future. The violence can only end with a political agreement to stop all violence across the Israel-Gaza border. The first step is an immediate cease-fire. This should lead to a political agreement that guarantees a permanent end to armed attacks across the border from both sides and permanently ends the siege of Gaza's economy and people.

Urge President Obama and Members of Congress to work towards an immediate ceasefire and a political agreement that permanently ends the violence and ends the blockade. You can use the following link:

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/gaza-ceasefire

Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just foreign policy,

Robert Naiman, Chelsea Mozen, Sarah Burns and Megan Iorio
Just Foreign Policy

Please support our work. Donate for a Just Foreign Policy.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/donate

References:

1. See, e.g.,

“Who Started the Israel-Gaza Conflict?” Robert Wright, The Atlantic, November 16, 2012, http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/11/who-started-the-israel-gaza-conflict/265374/

US Should Condemn Israeli Assault On Gaza And Call For Immediate Cease-Fire (But Of Course, It Hasn't)

For the last few days, Gaza has been under assault by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). The US press is reporting the Israeli attack to be in response to rocket fire coming from the Gaza strip, although the sequence of events isn't quite that simple. So far, 15 Palestinians have been killed, eight of which have been reported to be civilians, including a pregnant woman, a 10-month old son of a BBC worker, and three infants. A rocket launched from Gaza after the Israeli assault began is said to have killed three Israeli civilians.

White House To Make Decision On Post-2014 Afghanistan Troop Levels Within Next Few Weeks

On Monday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters that the Obama administration would come to a decision within the next few weeks about the magnitude of the US "enduring presence" in Afghanistan. Panetta said that the White House was currently reviewing several recommendations for troop levels from General John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. These options take into account the different roles US troops would play in Afghanistan after 2014. According to the New York Times,

The number, Mr. Panetta said, will be based on how many forces are needed for counterterrorism — that is, in commando raids like the one that killed Osama bin Laden — as well as for training and providing air transport and other support to the Afghan security forces.

Utter Hypocrisy of US Response to Iran Drone Shooting Incident

Yesterday, US media began reporting that Iranian fighter jets had shot at—but did not hit— an unarmed US drone off the coast of Iran last week. Pentagon Press Secretary George Little claimed that the unmanned military plane was over international waters 16 nautical miles off the coast of Iran, and that the drone had never been in Iranian airspace. In response, the US protested the shooting and warned Iran that it has "a wide range of options, from diplomatic to military," available to protect its assets. According to a CNN report, the incident has "raised fresh concerns within the Obama administration about Iranian military aggression in crucial Gulf oil shipping lanes."

New Haven, CT, & 91 MA Town Voters Tell Congress: Cut the Military Budget!

At the polls Tuesday, I had the opportunity to cast a vote on one of the most important issues facing the country today. No, I'm not talking about the presidential race. I'm talking about an issue the two presidential candidates only superficially addressed during this long campaign season: the US military budget. Voters in 91 Massachusetts towns and in New Haven, CT, were asked whether Congress should redirect funds from the military budget to human needs. And we New Englanders overwhelmingly voted "Hell Yeah!"

The ballot referendum in Massachusetts was organized by the Budget for All Massachusetts Coalition, which is reporting preliminary results that 556,000 Massachusetts voters (or 74%) answered "yes", while only 190,930 (26%) said "no". In New Haven, the margin was even wider. The New Haven Register reports that 23,398 city residents (or 85%) voted “yes,” while only 15% of voters (4,152 residents) voted “no.” The New Haven ballot referendum was organized by the Greater New Haven Peace Council, City of New Haven Peace Commission, and Promoting Enduring Peace.

Both of the ballot questions asked voters whether Congress should reduce military spending and increase and protect spending on human needs, such as Social Security and Medicare. Although the referendums are non-binding, they send a strong signal to Massachusetts and Connecticut representatives that reducing the military budget must be made a priority in the next Congress, and that efforts to save Pentagon spending from the cutting board by offering up cuts to necessary domestic programs will not be tolerated.

JFP 11/5: WSJ corrects Iran lie; WaPo backs drone debate but hides casualty data

Just Foreign Policy News, November 5, 2012
WSJ corrects Iran lie; WaPo backs drone debate but hides casualty data

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Go Straight to the News Summary

I) Actions and Featured Articles

*Action: Push the big TV talks shows to talk about specifics of the drone strike policy
Bob Schieffer responded to our call and asked a question about drone strikes in the presidential debate. Now let's press the big TV talks shows to get into the details of the drone strike policy - like attacks on rescuers. Urge the big TV shows to have the authors of the Stanford/NYU report on as guests.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/drones-debate-question-follow-up

Iran Fact Check: Wall Street Journal Corrects False Claims for War

Tags:

WaPo calls for more debate on drone strikes! Let's respond

As you are well aware, there's been a disturbing lack of public debate so far about U.S. policy on drone strikes. Guess what? The Washington Post editorial board agrees. In a new editorial, they say: "the means and objectives of drone attacks — and the Obama administration’s steps toward institutionalizing the system — deserve much more debate than they have attracted during the presidential campaign." [1]

Let's show the Washington Post editorial board we agree with their call for more debate by getting some letters into the Post challenging the drone strike policy. We've tried to make it easy for you by setting up a tool for sending them a letter, together with some suggested talking points. You can find that here:

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/wapo-drones-lte

Thank you for all you do to help bring about a more just foreign policy,

Robert Naiman, Chelsea Mozen, Sarah Burns and Megan Iorio
Just Foreign Policy

Please support our work. Donate for a Just Foreign Policy.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/donate

References:

1. "Pulling the U.S. drone war out of the shadows," Editorial, Washington Post, November 1, 2012, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/us-drone-war-demands-accountabili...