Commentary

PRESS RELEASE: Just Foreign Policy Launches Haiti Cholera Counter to Press UN to Take Lead in Addressing Crisis

Just Foreign Policy issued a press release this morning announcing the launch of its new Haiti cholera counter. The release may be found here as well as below.

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Just Foreign Policy Launches Haiti Cholera Counter to Press UN to Take Lead in Addressing Crisis

For Immediate Release
May 29, 2012

Media Contacts:
Robert Naiman, 217-979-2957, naiman@justforeignpolicy.org
Megan Iorio, 908-400-9480, iorio@justforeignpolicy.org

Washington DC, May 29 - It has been 591 days since Jean Salgadeau Pelette died on October 16, 2010. Pelette is considered to be the first victim of the ongoing cholera epidemic in Haiti, which began when UN troops from South Asia carried the bacteria to the previously cholera-free nation. Since then, an estimated 546,955 Haitians have fallen ill and 7,172 have died, according to Just Foreign Policy's new web counter.

Yet, not only has the UN refused to accept formal responsibility, but it has done little to help treat, prevent, and control the disease.

"The failure of the United Nations to lead in addressing the cholera crisis in Haiti would be outrageous enough, even if the UN had nothing to do with bringing cholera to Haiti," said Robert Naiman, Policy Director of Just Foreign Policy. "The role of UN troops in sparking the crisis makes the UN's failure to act scandalous."

On Afghanistan, the Pentagon Has Lost the American People

"I can't let this be a war without end, and I can't lose the whole Democratic Party." That was President Obama, describing his Afghan war policy, according to Bob Woodward's 2010 book. But until this moment the Administration is still letting it be a war without end, and the Afghan war policy has lost not only the whole Democratic Party, but a substantial part of the Republican Party as well: the majority of Republican voters, for example.

 

One thing the Afghan war policy hasn't lost: the GOP leadership. That was demonstrated Wednesday night when the GOP leadership blocked consideration in the House of a bipartisan amendment offered by Democrat Jim McGovern and Republican Walter Jones that would have nailed to the wall the current slippery "timetable" for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

CNN reports:

 

House Republicans pulled the plug on a vote Thursday on a bipartisan amendment to a defense bill that would force the Obama administration to stick firmly to its timetable for getting U.S. troops out of Afghanistan.

 

Republicans were concerned the amendment could pass, according to two GOP congressional sources.

 

Kucinich/Conyers drone strike amendment made in order; talking points

The Kucinich-Conyers amendment to prohibit the military from conducting drone strikes against unidentified targets ("signature strikes") has been made in order.

http://www.rules.house.gov/Legislation/legislationDetails.aspx?NewsID=828

http://www.rules.house.gov/amendments/KUCINI_055_xml514121743264326.pdf

I have heard that it will be considered early.

Some things worth noting:

- Whatever one thinks about drone strikes against specific suspected terrorist leaders, nothing in the amendment would prevent them. If the amendment were law and policy, it would not have prevented the recent killing of Fahd al Quso, the senior commander of al Qaeda's wing in Yemen, who was killed in a drone strike two weeks ago; he was specifically targeted based on intelligence indicating where he was. The amendment only prohibits the military from conducting a drone strike when it does not know who it is targeting.

- The amendment only applies to the military, that is, to the Joint Special Operations Command, not to the CIA. According to press reports, JSOC is not carrying out drone strikes in Pakistan. According to the Washington Post, JSOC did not ask for authority to conduct "signature" drone strikes in Yemen, but they were granted it anyway.

- According to the Washington Post, senior U.S. officials expressed concern about authorizing "signature" drone strikes in Yemen, both because it would increase the risk of civilian casualties, and because by killing "militants" who have a dispute with the Yemeni government but not with the U.S., such strikes would increase the perception that the U.S. is taking sides in Yemen's civil war.

- Just in the last week, Yemeni officials say that a U.S. drone strike killed eight civilians in Yemen, CNN reported 5/15.

House Moots Afghan Exit, Iran War, Military Budget, and "Signature" Drone Strikes

On Wednesday and Thursday, the House is expected to take up consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act. Amendments will be offered to expedite military withdrawal from Afghanistan, to oppose war with Iran, to cut the military budget, and to stop "signature" drone strikes that target people without knowing who will be killed.

 

According to the way the House operates, the authorization bill is the most open opportunity to challenge current policy. When the House considers the appropriations bill, amendments can be offered to cut money for specific programs. But it is difficult to otherwise alter policy when the appropriation is considered, according to the rules of the House. On the authorization bill, there is much more scope to try to direct policy.

Every American who cares about war and peace ought to be calling Congress. The Friends Committee on National Legislation has established a toll-free number that connects you to the Capitol Switchboard: 1-877-429-0678. Then you can ask to be transferred to your Representative's office. [If you can't call, you can write here.]

What should you tell your Representative's office? Whatever else you do, you should tell them that you are a constituent and give them your address to document that fact.

Then you have some choices to make about what to emphasize. Many amendments have been offered. At this writing, we don't know which amendments will be allowed on the floor by the Rules Committee. Once the Rules Committee has decided which amendments it will allow, there might not be much time before voting begins. So it's better to call when you can and emphasize broad themes.

Kucinich/Conyers amendment to NDAA: Prohibit conduct of drone strikes on unidentified targets

[Updated, 5/15] The offices of Rep. Kucinich and Rep. Conyers have submitted this to Rules as an amendment on the National Defense Authorization Act. Since it is likely that there will not be a great number of amendments related to drone strikes submitted to Rules, and since press reports have indicated significant Congressional concern about the expansion of drone strikes on unidentified targets, it is hoped this will stand a good chance of getting approved for consideration on the floor.

AMENDMENT TO THE RULES COMMITTEE PRINT OF H.R. 4310

OFFERED BY MR. KUCINICH OF OHIO

At the end of title X, add the following new section:

SEC. 1084. PROHIBITION ON CONDUCT OF DRONE STRIKES ON UNIDENTIFIED TARGETS.  Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Commander of the Joint Special Operations Command may  not carry out a combat operation in which an unmanned aerial vehicle is used to attack a target whose identity is unknown or is based solely on patterns of behavior of such target.

The PDF is here.

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Highlights of the Budget Debate on Military Spending (May 10, 2012)

Highlights on Military Spending from the House debate on the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act  (May 10, 2012)

 

 

[compiled by Women's Action for New Directions from the Congressional Record.]

Against War and Austerity, Hollande is Right and Obama Should Agree

Newly elected French President François Hollande is coming to the White House next week to meet with President Obama ahead of the G8 and NATO summits. Two items are sure to be on the agenda: Hollande's call for a "New Deal" (as it were) in European economic policy that would restore growth rather than continue budget austerity, and Hollande's promise to speed up the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan.

Press reports suggest that Obama's agenda for the meeting will include trying to induce Hollande to renege on his pledge to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan. That would be a terrible mistake, a terrible waste of a unique opportunity for Obama to agree with Hollande on a common position for speeding up the withdrawal of all foreign forces that they can announce at the NATO summit in Chicago.

The fact is, at the level of rhetoric, Obama and Hollande already agree on ending the war, as they already agree that the European austerity policy has failed and should be replaced by a policy of restoring economic growth. A common Obama-Hollande front on ending the war and ending European austerity would be in the interest of the American 99%, the European 99%, and the Afghan 99%. (As the Obama Administration has correctly pointed out, austerity in Europe hurts Americans too, because when Europe is in recession, Europeans buy fewer American goods and services.)

Congressional Sign on to Letter to President Obama: Expedite Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Below is the text of a sign-on letter being circulated by Reps. Barbara Lee and Walter Jones calling on President Obama to expedite US military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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Sign on to Letter to President Obama: Expedite Withdrawal from Afghanistan

From: The Honorable Barbara Lee
Date: 5/2/2012

Dear Colleague,

The American people have overwhelmingly come to the conclusion that our brave men and women in uniform have accomplished all that we have asked of them and it is time to bring them home from Afghanistan.

Members of Congress need to stand with seven out of ten Americans (including 52% of GOP voters) who oppose the war in Afghanistan.

We invite you to sign on to the letter below which closes on May 10, 2012 (ahead of the NATO Summit in Chicago). The letter calls on the President to expedite our troops’ return and speed up the transition to having Afghans in charge of Afghanistan.

Sincerely,

Barbara Lee
Member of Congress

Walter Jones
Member of Congress

Current Co-Signers (49): Adam Smith, Baldwin, Bass, Capps, Chu, Yvette Clarke, Clay, Cohen, Conyers, Costello, John Duncan, Edwards, Ellison, Farr, Filner, Frank, Grijalva, Hahn, Alcee Hastings, Heinrich, Hinchey, Holt, Honda, Jackson Jr., Tim Johnson, Kucinich, Lewis, Lofgren, Maloney, McCollum, McGovern, Michaud, George Miller, Moore, Nadler, Olver, Pingree, Polis, Rangel, Richardson, Loretta Sanchez, Serrano, Slaughter, Stark, Mike Thompson, Tonko, Frederica Wilson, Woolsey, Yarmuth.

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May 10, 2012

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

What Did We Get for 381 U.S Dead Since the Death of bin Laden?

President Obama went to Afghanistan and made a speech celebrating an agreement between the United States and Afghanistan. We haven't seen the agreement, so we don't really know what they're celebrating, but according to press reports, the agreement is symbolic rather than substantive.

 

According to icasualties.org, which tallies statistics from the Department of Defense, 381 U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan since Osama bin Laden was killed a year ago on May 2, 2011.

No U.S. official has explained to us yet what we won in Afghanistan since May 2, 2011, that justified the additional sacrifice that we have made in Afghanistan since Osama bin Laden's death. No U.S. official has presented a case that we are safer than we were a year ago as a result of our additional sacrifice in Afghanistan, still less that our increased safety was sufficient to justify the additional sacrifice of the last year.

In his speech in Afghanistan, President Obama said: "We devastated al Qaeda's leadership, taking out over 20 of their top 30 leaders."

It sounds like an impressive statistic, until you try to understand what it really means.

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Budget Control Act Military Cuts Will Cover the Social Security Shortfall

A key reason that it's relatively easy to scaremonger about predictions regarding Social Security's finances decades in the future is that the language often used to talk about Social Security's finances isn't immediately comparable to anything else that most people can relate to. A number that isn't comparable to other numbers you know is a meaningless number. How big a difference is seven trillion dollars? It sounds like a huge number. But in a context devoid of comparable numbers, it's a meaningless number.

Responding to the 2012 Social Security Trustees report, Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities put the Trustees' projections about the future finances of the Social Security system in the context of the current debate about tax policy:

 

The revenue loss over the next 75 years from making [the tax cuts enacted under President Bush] permanent would be about two times the entire Social Security shortfall over that period. Indeed, the revenue loss just from extending the tax cuts for people making over $250,000 -- the top 2 percent of Americans -- would itself be nearly as large as the entire Social Security shortfall over the 75-year period. Members of Congress cannot simultaneously claim that the tax cuts are affordable while the Social Security shortfall constitutes a dire fiscal threat.