Commentary

Call your Senators Regarding Three Key Amendments to the 2012 NDAA; Report Back Here

Calling your Senators is easy—just follow these simple instructions:

1. Call the Capitol switchboard using this toll-free number provided by FCNL: 1-877-429-0678

2. Ask the switchboard operator to connect you to one of your Senator's offices. If you need to look up your Senators, go to www.senate.gov.

3. When you reach your Senator's office, tell them your name and address, and then ask them to:

a. Support the Merkley amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (No. 1174), which would put pressure on President Obama to accelerate the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. Current co-sponsors:

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sen. Bernard Sanders (D-VT)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

b. Support the Paul amendment to the NDAA (No. 1064), which would repeal the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq, officially ending the war in that country. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is currently a co-sponsor; [Update 11/30: the Paul amendment was defeated 30-67. Check how your Senators voted.]

c. Oppose the Kirk-Menendez amendment to the NDAA (No. 1414), which aims to collapse the Central Bank of Iran, a provision that could have dangerous consequences for the US economy as well as US-Iran relations. Sens. Manchin (D-WV), Blunt (R-MO), Tester (D-MT) are currently co-sponsors. [Update 11/29: Previously, both Kirk and Menendez had introduced amendments to this effect, but have since withdrawn them in favor of a joint effort.]

Three Key Amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act

Three key amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act are expected to come up for a vote this week in the Senate. Two of these amendments would help end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, while the other could bring us closer to war with Iran.

Amendment to Accelerate the US Military Drawdown from Afghanistan

The Merkley amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (No. 1174) would put pressure on President Obama to accelerate the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. You can find the full text, with a list of current cosponsors, here.

Amendment to Officially End the War in Iraq

The Paul amendment to the NDAA (No. 1064) would repeal the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq, officially ending the war in that country. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is currently a co-sponsor. You can read the full text here.

Amendment to Collapse the Central Bank of Iran

The Kirk-Menendez amendment to the NDAA (No. 1414) aims to collapse the Central Bank of Iran, a provision that could have dangerous consequences for the US economy as well as US-Iran relations. Sens. Manchin (D-WV), Blunt (R-MO), Tester (D-MT) are currently co-sponsors. Previously, both Kirk and Menendez had introduced amendments to this effect, but have since withdrawn them in favor of a joint effort. You can read the full text of the Kirk amendment here.

Dancing on the Super Committee's Grave, Singing Halleluyah

The spectacle of Democrats and Republicans arguing about who is to "blame" for the "failure" of the "Supercommittee" is certainly tempting for many partisans. But any progressive who participates in the spectacle risks attacking their own interests to the degree that they promote the implicit assumption that the public interest would have been better served if the Super Committee had reached a deal.

 

We shouldn't be arguing about who is to "blame" for this development. We should be arguing about who should be awarded credit for this best-plausible-outcome.

 

We should, to borrow a phrase from Monty Python, be dancing on the Super Committee's grave, singing Halleluyah.

 

Who should get the Academy Award? The AFL-CIO? The Strengthen Social Security Campaign? The Tea Party? All of the above?

 

Indeed, it was a de facto coalition between the AFL-CIO and its friends and the Tea Party and its friends which again defeated the cruel plan of the extreme center to trade Social Security cuts and raising the Medicare retirement age for a relatively meaningless increase on the tax rates paid by rich people.

 

Why meaningless? Because tax rates raised today can easily be lowered in the future. Cutting Social Security benefits by changing the cost-of-living formula and raising the Medicare retirement age are forever.

 

From the point of view of the national aspirations of the indigenous people of the United States, what was the right price to charge for Manhattan Island? Surely the answer is: there was no right price. Cash is ephemeral. Control of territory could be forever.

 

Similarly, there is no amount of increasing taxes on rich people that can compensate low-income workers for cutting their Social Security benefits and taking away their access to Medicare.

 

Press Release: Just Foreign Policy Responds to Super Committee "Failure": “We Now Have a Historic Opportunity to Cut Military Spending”

Just Foreign Policy issued a press release earlier today in response to the Congressional "Super" Committee's failure to come to an agreement to reduce government spending by $1.2 trillion over the next ten years. You may read the press release here.

Groups Press Secretary Clinton on Human Rights in Bahrain

Just Foreign Policy joined with the Project on Middle East Democracy, Human Rights Watch, the AFL-CIO and other groups and individuals in sending a letter to Secretary of State Clinton, urging her to press the government of Bahrain for concrete measures to improve the human rights situation, including the release of medical professionals and other political prisoners, the reinstatement of workers who were dismissed, and access for international journalists. 

The letter is here.  

Sen. Merkley Introduces Bipartisan Amendment to Speed Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Today Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced an amendment (#1174) to the National Defense Authorization Act calling for an accelerated drawdown in Afghanistan.

The bi-partisan amendment is currently supported by: [updated 11/29]:

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)
Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sen. Bernard Sanders (D-VT)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

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Resolution on Afghanistan

To be offered to National Defense Authorization Act

Whereas, after al Qaeda attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, the United States rightly sought to bring to justice those who attacked us, to eliminate al Qaeda’s safe havens and training camps in Afghanistan, and to remove the terrorist-allied Taliban government;

Whereas, the Afghanistan War is now the longest in American history;

Whereas, United States’ troops, intelligence personnel and diplomatic corps have skillfully achieved these objectives, culminating in the death of Osama bin Laden;

Whereas, national security experts, including Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, have noted that al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan has been greatly diminished;

Whereas, over the past ten years the United States' mission has evolved to include a prolonged nation-building effort, including the creation of a strong central government, a national police force and army, and effective civic institutions;

Whereas, such nation-building efforts in Afghanistan are undermined by corruption, high illiteracy, and a historic aversion to a strong central government;

Whereas, members of the United States military have served in Afghanistan valiantly and with honor, and many have sacrificed their lives and health in service to their country;

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Sen. Merkley Introduces Bipartisan Amendment to Speed Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Today Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) announced he is introducing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act calling for an accelerated drawdown in Afghanistan.

The bi-partisan amendment is currently supported by:

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM)

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Resolution on Afghanistan

To be offered to National Defense Authorization Act

Whereas, after al Qaeda attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, the United States rightly sought to bring to justice those who attacked us, to eliminate al Qaeda’s safe havens and training camps in Afghanistan, and to remove the terrorist-allied Taliban government;

Whereas, the Afghanistan War is now the longest in American history;

Whereas, United States’ troops, intelligence personnel and diplomatic corps have skillfully achieved these objectives, culminating in the death of Osama bin Laden;

Whereas, national security experts, including Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, have noted that al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan has been greatly diminished;

Whereas, over the past ten years the United States' mission has evolved to include a prolonged nation-building effort, including the creation of a strong central government, a national police force and army, and effective civic institutions;

Whereas, such nation-building efforts in Afghanistan are undermined by corruption, high illiteracy, and a historic aversion to a strong central government;

Whereas, members of the United States military have served in Afghanistan valiantly and with honor, and many have sacrificed their lives and health in service to their country;

Whereas, the United States is now spending nearly $10 billion a month in Afghanistan at a time when at home there is high unemployment, a flood of foreclosures, a record deficit, and a debt that is over $15 trillion and growing;

Dear NYTimes: It's Called 'Diplomacy'

Today's New York Times print edition features an editorial concerning the findings of the most recent IAEA report on Iran's nuclear program. The piece begins with a standard, preemptive condemnation of Iran for pursuing nuclear weapons, followed by a prescription for harsher sanctions. Yet, in the very next paragraph succeeding this prescription, the editorial board expresses doubt that sanctions will do any good in deterring Iran from developing a nuclear weapon:

We’re not sure any mix of sanctions and inducements can wean Tehran of its nuclear ambitions. We are sure that a military attack would be a disaster — and the current saber-rattling from Israel should make everyone nervous. A military strike would not set back Iran’s program for very long. It would rally Iranians around their illegitimate government. And it would produce a huge anti-Israeli and anti-American backlash around the world — whether or not Washington had tried to stop it.

It seems that the Times editorial board is dancing around something as if it's lost for words. Or perhaps it simply refuses to acknowledge the obvious. It recognizes that sanctions may not work in resolving this issue. It recognizes that a military attack would be disastrous. But in prescribing additional, tougher sanctions, the Times establishes a false dichotomy. The options are not sanctions or war. These are not the only instruments at our disposal.

The word you're looking for, New York Times editorial board, is 'diplomacy.'

Perhaps you lump diplomacy in with sanctions, or with inducements, but diplomacy is neither of those things. It is not a reward for good behavior--it is how one comes to understand the position of an opposing party, and how two parties come to resolve their conflict.

US Activist Kit Kittredge Deported From Israel; Statuses of Many Activists, Members of Press Remain Unknown

Just Foreign Policy has received confirmation that activist Kit Kittredge, the US delegate to the Freedom Waves flotilla, is presently on a plane back to New York after being detained for 72 hours in the Israeli jail of Givon. The other US citizen that was detained, Democracy Now! correspondent Jihan Hafiz, was deported last night to New York.

On Friday, the IDF commandeered the two vessels that comprised the flotilla and forcibly brought its passengers to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where Kittredge and Hafiz received very little in the way of aid or useful information from the US embassy, according to Hafiz. While other embassy's officials, such as the Irish ambassador, visited their nationals three times, a representative from the US embassy came only twice to visit Hafiz and Kittredge, both times late in the day. As recounted by Hafiz, the representative claimed that the US embassy was "powerless" in a foreign country, that the Israelis were "giving them the run-around," and that the prisoners requests for free association and reading and writing materials, standard for political prisoners, was "too much" to ask for. The most advice the US embassy could supply was to sign a deportation agreement that admitted that Kittredge and Hafiz had entered Israel illegally and that they wouldn't attempt to break the blockade of Gaza again. Both refused to sign this document and were released only after the time limit on detention was reached.

VIDEO: Democracy Now! Correspondent Jihan Hafiz Deported from Israel; Describes Freedom Waves Interception, Detention

Earlier this morning, it was learned that Jihan Hafiz, US citizen and Democracy Now! correspondent aboard the Tahrir, had been deported from Israel after being detained at Givon prison for 72 hours. Soon after arriving in New York, she sat down with Amy Goodman to talk about the flotilla interception and her subsequent detention in Israel. She described the aggressive fashion in which the IDF commandeered the flotilla ships, the dehumanizing processing that took place once they arrived at Ashdod, and the ineffectiveness of US embassy officials in advocating for her and the other US citizen aboard the Tahrir, Kit Kittredge's, release.

Hafiz recounted guns being shoved into all of the ship's passengers' faces; thinking that Michael Coleman, an Australian delegate, was going to be shot if they didn't cooperate; being subjected to two strip searches (one of which was filmed); being classified as an activist and not as a member of the press by the whim of Israeli authorities; being allowed a call to a relative after 42 hours of detention when she should have been allowed to do so within 24 hours; being told 'don't say anything negative, don't say anything political' on the phone; being told by the US embassy to sign a deportation agreement that would have admitted that she entered Israel illegally and that would ban her from visiting Gaza for ten years. Meanwhile, $20,000 worth of Hafiz's equipment remains captive in Israel.

Watch the interview here: