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Submitted by Megan Iorio on 13 November 2012 - 12:42pm
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.
Submitted by Megan Iorio on 9 November 2012 - 1:21pm
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."
Submitted by Megan Iorio on 8 November 2012 - 3:10pm
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.
Robert Gibbs Blames Al Awlaki 16 Year Old Son's Death By Drone On His Having A Terrorist For A Father
Submitted by Megan Iorio on 31 October 2012 - 10:53am
Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was cornered recently to answer questions on US drone strike policy. One journalist, Sierra Adamson, asked that Gibbs justify the killing of Anwar al Awlaki's 16 year old son—who was a US citizen—in a drone strike two weeks after his father was killed in another US drone attack. Gibbs said al Awlaki shouldn't have had a terrorist for a father.
Here's the transcript:
SIERRA ADAMSON: "Do you think that the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki's 16-year-old son, who was an American citizen, is justifiable?"
ROBERT GIBBS: "I'm not going to get into Anwar al-Awlaki's son. I know that Anwar al-Awlaki renounced his citizenship."
SIERRA ADAMSON: "His son was still an American citizen."
ROBERT GIBBS: "Did great harm to people in this country and was a regional al-Qaeda commander hoping to inflict harm and destruction on people that share his religion and others in this country. And..."
SIERRA ADAMSON: "That's an American citizen that's being targeted without due process of law, without trial. And he's underage. He's a minor."
ROBERT GIBBS: "I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father. If they're truly concerned about the well-being of their children, I don't think becoming an al-Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business."
Submitted by Megan Iorio on 30 October 2012 - 4:22pm
The Law & Order francise has a reputation for plucking stories from newspaper headlines, but few have hit on pressing foreign policy matters quite like this. A recent episode of NBC's Law & Order: SVU featured a character plotting a terrorist attack in the United States. At the end of the episode, it's revealed that the character's father was a doctor in Waziristan—and was killed in a secondary drone strike while attending the victims of the initial US attack. The storyline is obviously inspired by the Stanford/NYU report released last month, which accused the United States of having a policy of conducting secondary drone strikes against first responders in Pakistan. Here's the clip:
Bravo SVU team for helping to promote the report's findings to what is likely a whole new demographic. A June 2012 Pew poll showed that 62% of Americans support US drone strike policy. But where pop culture goes, the American public can't be too far behind.
Submitted by Megan Iorio on 23 October 2012 - 2:21pm
One benefit that has come from the simple asking of any drone question during last night's debate is that, today, people in the media are talking about drones, and in a far more substantial way than the candidates did last night.
One example is MSNBC'S Morning Joe. In the course of the commentator's discussion of last night's debate, Bob Schieffer's drone question came up. It was then that host Joe Scarborough, the former Republican Congressman, revealed himself to be a closet Code Pinker when it comes to drones. Scarborough confessed that he found US drone policy incredibly troubling, and presented a penetrating critique of US drone strikes. Joe Klein, on the other hand, defended Obama's policies, justifying the murder of four year-old Pakistani children with a "them or us" argument. In the end, three commentators, including Scarborough, said that they wished the debate last night had spent more time on the drones question.
Glenn Greenwald published an excellent critique of Klein's remarks over at the Guardian. A video clip of the discussion is below, as well as a transcript.
Submitted by Megan Iorio on 23 October 2012 - 10:57am
We got a question on drones last night at the third and final presidential debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The mere asking of a direct question on the candidates' drone policies is an advance over the near complete void of talk on the subject so far this election season. The moderator, Face the Nation's Bob Schieffer, deserves some thanks for that. We learned that Romney supports Obama's escalation of the drone program and that he would continue the program. But that's it, because Schieffer only asked Romney his position on drones—and asked nothing of Obama. Here's the transcript:
SCHIEFFER: Let — let me ask you, Governor because we know President Obama’s position on this, what is — what is your position on the use of drones?
ROMNEY: Well I believe we should use any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world. And it’s widely reported that drones are being used in drone strikes, and I support that and entirely, and feel the president was right to up the usage of that technology, and believe that we should continue to use it, to continue to go after the people that represent a threat to this nation and to our friends.
Video: Robert Naiman delivers your petition to US embassy, challenges charge d'affaires on drone strike policy
Submitted by Megan Iorio on 5 October 2012 - 1:01pm
The petition against US drone strikes in Pakistan has been delivered! On Wednesday, a delegation of peace activists organized by CodePink, including our Policy Director, Robert Naiman, met with the charge d'affaires of the US embassy in Pakistan, Richard Hoagland. During the meeting, Robert presented Hoagland with the 3,000 signature petition, as well as a letter signed by twenty-six prominent Americans, including Alice Walker, Naomi Wolf, and Noam Chomsky. The letter and petition delivery earned reports by The Independent, The Express Tribune, Asian News International (ANI), and others.
But that's not all. When Hoagland took questions from the delegation, Robert challenged him to respond to reports that CIA drone strikes in Pakistan have targeted civilian rescuers, an action which international law experts say constitutes a war crime under international humanitarian law. Hoagland disputed the allegations. When pressed to follow-up on recent reports indicating that civilian rescuers have been targeted, Hoagland agreed that that would be a good idea, though he did not commit the Embassy to any specific action. You can read more about the exchange in Robert's article at the Huffington Post.
Submitted by Megan Iorio on 24 September 2012 - 11:46pm
Hey, remember a few weeks ago when our old friend Bibi Netanyahu came to town and made a hullabaloo over Iran and "red lines"? Admittedly, much of what the Bibster said to the US media was bluster, but the gist of the "red line" issue was that the "red line" President Obama has set for Iran—meaning, the point at which the military option would become a real option, which Obama set at developing a nuclear weapon—isn't motivation enough for Iran's leaders to bring about a resolution to the conflict over Iran's nuclear program. Nevermind the fact that Netanyahu's analysis of the issue is incredibly flawed—why believe that "red lines" have any bearing on Iran's actions, or that they are what is preventing a diplomatic accord from being struck, when the West has yet to take diplomacy seriously? What the Israeli prime minister wants our president to do is shift his "red line" a bit further down in the timeline, to when Iran is nuclear capable, a term which the PM left conveniently vague. No matter the precise definition, though, under Bibi's "red line", Iran could be bombed even if it has no intention of actually building a nuclear weapon. And that's just plain stupid.
Submitted by Megan Iorio on 21 September 2012 - 3:42pm
If the Obama administration is at all serious about a diplomatic solution to the strife with Iran, it's really good at acting like it's not. The Washington Post is reporting that the State Department is about to remove the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) from the its list of designated terrorist organizations. The move to delist the MEK will most certainly not help advance the trust necessary to reach a diplomatic accord.
The MEK was formed in the 1960's as a Marxist-Islamist student organization to counter the US-backed Shah's ruling regime. The organization assassinated three US citizens and three US Army officers in the 1970's and supported a number of other anti-US operations, including the 1979 embassy seizure. After a confrontation with the Khomeini regime int he early '80's, the Islamic Republic became the MEK's primary target. The group claims to have renounced terrorist in 2001, and according to the Washington Post piece, the administration's decision to delist the MEK came about because the organization "should be rewarded for renouncing violence and providing intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program." But a 2009 report from RAND suggested that the MEK did not give up violence. Furthermore, reports in NBC News in February and the New Yorker in April suggest that the MEK has been involved in the recent assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists.