Commentary

New York Times Blames Iran For Bulgaria Bombing--But Where's The Evidence?

There are two major items of concern in the July 19, 2012 New York Times story "Hezbollah Is Blamed in Attack on Israeli Tourists in Bulgaria."

First, the article states

The bombing comes at a time of heightened tensions over Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran says is for peaceful purposes but Israel and the West say is a cover for developing weapons.

But it is not true that Israel and the West say that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. A number of top US and Israeli military and intelligence officials have publicly stated that they do not believe that Iranian leadership has decided to develop nuclear weapons. Furthermore, neither the most recent intelligence reports out of the US and Israel, nor recent reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency, say that Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon.

Second, the author's use of "confirmed" in the first sentence of the article is, I believe, misleading:

It's a Great Day to Act to Cut the Pentagon Budget

This week, a series of showdowns is expected in the House over the Pentagon budget, when House Members vote on amendments to the Defense Appropriations Bill to cut the overall level of military spending, end or limit the war in Afghanistan, and draw down troops permanently stationed in Europe.

What happens in these votes will have a big influence on the expected negotiations over replacing the impending "sequester" automatic cuts of the Budget Control Act with a package of revenue increases and spending cuts. If you want cuts in military spending to be on the table, now is the time to speak up.

Until now, the bigfoot military contractors and their most stalwart allies in Congress have fought with great success to keep real cuts in military spending away from the table. What has mostly happened until now is that most of the previously projected increases in spending have been cut, so that under the President's plan military spending would rise roughly with inflation. It's an important start, certainly, to stop the previously projected increase, but it's not a real cut from past spending levels. If the automatic cuts were to go through, that would cause a real cut in military spending, although military spending would still be above what it was during the Cold War. But the conventional wisdom is that the automatic cuts won't happen; at the end of the day, they will be replaced by a package of revenue increases and spending cuts.

The question is what is going to be in that package.

Until now, the GOP leadership position has been that cuts in military spending are off the table.

Call Congress This Week to Cut the Military Budget, End the War in Afghanistan!

Congressional offices will be paying special attention to phone calls coming in this week on the Defense Appropriations bill, so call your Representative today! Here's what you do:

  1. Call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Representative's office.
  2. Tell the person who picks up or your Rep's voice mailbox, "Hello, my name is _______, I live at _______. I urge Rep _______ to support amendments to the Defense Appropriations bill that would cut the Pentagon budget, end the war in Afghanistan, and draw down US troop levels in Europe."

Amendments expected to cut the military budget include:

  • Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) and Barney Frank (D-MA) amendment to cut $1.1 billion (a freeze at FY12 levels) from the military budget;
  • An amendment to cut $7 billion to align the bill to spending caps under the Budget Control Act;
  • Barbara Lee amendment to cut $19 billion, corresponding to program cuts proposed by Project on Defense Alternatives and the Cato Institute.

Amendments expected to end or curtail the war in Afghanistan include:

  • Barbara Lee amendment to cut all funding for the war except for what is needed for a safe and responsible drawdown;
  • Walter Jones and Rosa DeLauro amendment preventing the use of funds past 2014 in support of any mission that does not have explicit Congressional approval.

And when you're done, report your call below.

Close Presbyterian Vote on Selective Divestment Shows Likudniks Losing Middle America

Thursday night, by what the Christian Science Monitor called the "thinnest of margins" the General Assembly of the 1.9 million member Presbyterian Church USA failed to approve a resolution requiring the church to divest its $20 million investments in Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett-Packard over the ties of these companies to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

The vote at the PCUSA's General Assembly in Pittsburgh was 333-to-331. In percentage terms, 49.85% were in favor of selective divestment from the Israeli occupation and 50.15% were opposed.

No doubt many among what Peter Beinart calls "the American Jewish establishment" celebrated the result. They had pulled out the stops to block the Presbyterians' selective divestment move. 1300 rabbis and 22,000 other Jews wrote to the Presbyterians, falsely seeking to characterize the proposed move as "the use of economic leverages against the Jewish state."

PRESS RELEASE: Letter From Prominent Americans, Delivered to Ecuadorean Embassy London, Urges Asylum for Assange

JFP's Policy Director Robert Naiman just hand delivered our petition from over 4,000 JFP members and a letter signed by prominent Americans including Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, Oliver Stone, Daniel Ellsberg and Glenn Greenwald, urging Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa to grant Julian Assange's request for asylum.

PRESS RELEASE: Letter From Prominent Americans, Delivered to Ecuadorean Embassy London, Urges Asylum for Assange
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/pressreleases/assange-letter

For Immediate Release
June 25, 2012

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

Letter From Prominent Americans, Delivered to Ecuadorean Embassy London, Urges Asylum for Assange

Letter signed by Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Wolf, Daniel Ellsberg, Danny Glover, Oliver Stone, Bill Maher, Patch Adams, MD, Mark Weisbrot and other prominent Americans; petition signed by 4000 Americans

Iran Talks: The West Must Compromise on Sanctions

Talks in Moscow between the P5+1 and Iran have apparently hit the same wall that ended last month's Baghdad meeting. The West wants Iran to halt its 20% enrichment, ship its 20% stockpile out of the country, and close down Fordo. And what is it willing to give in return? Safety upgrades for an Iranian civil nuclear reactor and some airplane parts. The West's negotiating position does not address either of Iran's desiderata: sanctions relief and acknowledgement of Iran's right to enrich uranium for civilian purposes.

The one redeeming feature of this offer is that it could be construed as an implicit acceptance of a civilian nuclear program in Iran, but … seriously? The West is expecting Iran to give up some of its best bargaining chips for airplane parts?

Yes, Virginia, We Can Do Something About the Drone Strikes

There's a conventional wisdom in Washington that there's nothing we can do politically to stop the U.S. government from killing innocent civilians with drone strikes.

But it ain't necessarily so.

Speaking only for myself, I'm willing to stipulate that killing "high value terrorists" who are known to be actively preparing to kill Americans is wildly popular, regardless of whether it is constitutional and legal.

Here's what's not wildly popular: killing innocent civilians.

This is not a liberal vs. conservative issue. This is an American issue. Go to the reddest of Red America. Stand outside a megachurch or military base in the Deep South. Find me twelve Christian Republicans who are willing to sign their names that they want the U.S. government to kill innocent civilians. I bet you can't do it. Killing innocent civilians is un-American.

Consider: after what widely reported news event did even Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum say maybe we ought to get our troops out of Afghanistan? After it was reported that a U.S. soldier massacred Afghan civilians.

The historian Howard Zinn suggested that it's a backhanded compliment to the American people that our government lies to us about what it's doing in other people's countries. Because it suggests that if the American people knew, they would never stand for it.

Thanks to a New York Times report this week, we now know. In an echo of the Colombian military's "false positives" scandal, our government is killing people with drone strikes and then decreeing that "military age men" killed by U.S. drone strikes are automatically "combatants." Born a chicken, raised a chicken, now you're a fish.

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.