Commentary

David Gregory Should Tell Rick Santorum There Are UN Inspectors in Iran

Rick Santorum is running as the "more AIPAC than thou" candidate. But David Gregory wants people to think of him as a "journalist." We can hold David Gregory to a higher standard.

On Sunday, Republican Presidential Rick Santorum told David Gregory on NBC's "Meet the Press" that, unlike President Obama, he would "be saying to the Iranians, you either open up those [nuclear] facilities, you begin to dismantle them and, and make them available to inspectors, or we will degrade those facilities through airstrikes and make it very public that we are doing that."

David Gregory did not challenge Santorum's statement. But Gregory knows - or should know - that Iran's nuclear facilities are already under the inspection of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Politicians will say whatever they can get away with, but journalists have an obligation to correct serious misstatements of fact.

Of course, one can try to come up with excuses for why David Gregory didn't correct the record. Let's consider some potential excuses, and why they are no good.

"Journalists can't correct everything candidates say." This was a one-on-one interview, and the topic of discussion was Iran's nuclear program, and Rick Santorum's claims that he would be tougher than President Obama in confronting Iran about its nuclear program. Is there another context where it would be more appropriate for David Gregory to correct the record about what is known about Iran's nuclear program?

Stop the War on Christmas: Cease Fire in Afghanistan

Shouldn't Americans of every faith tradition band together to stop the war on Christmas? Let us call on President Obama to announce that on December 24th and 25th, the United States will observe an offensive cease-fire in Afghanistan, and urge others to join the cease-fire, as a goodwill gesture to promote peace talks.


Far from being utopian, I claim that this is a pragmatic political proposal, with little cost and significant potential benefits; indeed, according to recent press reports, a US-initiated Christmas truce would complement peace efforts that the Obama Administration is already pursuing.

The political cost would be negligible. Would Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and John McCain denounce President Obama for announcing that US forces in Afghanistan will stand down to mark the birth of the Prince of Peace? If they did, would anyone take them seriously?

This is a decision that President Obama can make unilaterally as Commander-in-Chief. He does not need the permission of Lindsay Graham, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, or the Washington Post editorial board. If President Obama decides that US forces in Afghanistan will not take offensive military actions on Christmas, so shall it be.

Already, Reuters reports, the Obama Administration is contemplating confidence-building measures to promote peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, including transferring Afghan prisoners at Guantanamo to Afghan government custody and supporting the establishment by the Afghan Taliban of a political office in Qatar for the purpose of participating in peace talks.

Will the Media Let Ron Paul Question U.S. Foreign Policy?

Will the news media let Ron Paul raise serious questions about U.S. foreign policy? It's a crucial test case not only of the prospects that the media will serve the interests of the 99% rather than the 1%, but of the prospects for a foreign military and economic policy that reflects the values and interests of the 99%, rather than those of the 1%.

Economist and media critic Dean Baker recently posed this question in a forum at Politico. Politico's David Mark convened the forum under the headline, "Can Ron Paul Take a Punch?"

 

Now that Rep. Ron Paul is a top-tier candidate in Iowa rivals are likely to gang up. They may target the Texan's associations with unsavory characters, or a sometimes less-than-pure libertarian stance on congressional earmarks. Middle East politics could also complicate Paul's presidential bid - he once likened Israel's defensive blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza to "a concentration camp."

Can Ron Paul take a punch?

Dean Baker responded:

 

The better question is whether the media will allow Paul to raise serious questions about the nature of this country's foreign policy. I recall watching one of the Republican presidential debates in 2008 where the moderator asked whether the president could unilaterally take military action against Iran.

 

Mayor Giuliani answered first and gave a characteristic Giuliani answer to the effect of the president can do whatever he wants. Gov. Romney then gave a conditional this and that answer, and then said that if the question was one of constitutional authority, you would have to call in the lawyers.

House Vote Today to Approve Iran Sanctions Bill Would Restore Bush "Cooties Doctrine"

Today the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote -under "suspension," requiring a supermajority to pass - on a provision which would restore as policy the Cooties Doctrine of the early Bush Administration - U.S. officials can't meet with officials of the adversary du jour, because our officials might get contaminated.

What's remarkable isn't that some people in Washington would want to prohibit U.S. officials from having contact with Iranian officials. After all, some people in Washington want to have a war with Iran as soon as it can be arranged. What's remarkable is the possibility that the majority of Congressional Democrats might vote to approve the "Iran Cooties Provision." Aren't Democrats supposed to be the diplomacy party, not the war party?

The Cooties Provision is Section 601c of H.R. 1905, the so-called "Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011." Here's what the Cooties Provision says:

 

(c) RESTRICTION ON CONTACT.--No person employed with the United States Government may contact in an official or unofficial capacity any person that-- (1) is an agent, instrumentality, or official of, is affiliated with, or is serving as a representative of the Government of Iran; and (2) presents a threat to the United States or is affiliated with terrorist organizations. (d) WAIVER.--The President may waive the requirements of subsection (c) if the President determines and so reports to the appropriate congressional committees 15 days prior to the exercise of waiver authority that failure to exercise such waiver authority would pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the vital national security interests of the United States.

Would it not be totally preposterous to add this provision to the United States Code?

Leaving everything on the table with Iran--except diplomacy

On the House suspension calendar for tomorrow is this year's “Give Iran Hell Via Broad, Indiscriminate Sanctions!” legislation, known formally as HR 1905, the “Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011.” When a bill is placed on suspension, it means that it is being considered “non-controversial,” which this bill sure does seem to be, at least in Congress: 358 Members are currently cosponsors. However, hidden in the depths of this legislation is a provision that ought to be anything but non-controversial: a measure which aims to prohibit any contact between certain US and Iranian officials. I say “ought to be” because many cosponsors don't even know that this provision exists.

Let me give you the backstory. Back in May, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced HR 1905 as the obligatory annual Iran sanctions ramp-up bill. AIPAC then proceeded to make the bill a cornerstone of its 2011 lobbying—and when AIPAC comes knocking, we know that most Members of Congress have a hard time saying “no.” The legislation quickly earned the cosponsorship of over 80% of the House. Then, at the end of October, the bill went into committee markup. As often happens, some things got removed, some got added. One of the things that got added was section 601(c):

JFP Joins FCNL and 24 Other Organizations to Tell Congress: Don't Sabotage Diplomacy with Iran!

Just Foreign Policy joined the Friends Committee on National Legislation and 24 other organizations to call upon members of Congress to oppose a provision in HR 1905, the "Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011," which would make certain contacts between US and Iranian officials illegal. The letter text can be found below. You can find the full text of the bill here. The section in question, 601(c), can be found on page 101 and in full in the letter below.

Friends Committee on National Legislation * Americans for Peace Now * Arms Control Association * Center for Interfaith Engagement, Eastern Mennonite University * Church of the Brethren Council for a Livable World * Fellowship of Reconciliation * Just Foreign Policy * Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness * Mainstream Media Project * Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns * Mennonite Central Committee * Minnesota Peace Project * Middle East Peace Now * National Iranian American Council * New Internationalism Project, Institute for Policy Studies * Peace Action * Peace Action West * Peace Catalyst International * Progressive Democrats of America * Project On Middle East Democracy * Student Peace Alliance * United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society * Women's Action for New Directions 3P Human Security: Partners for Peacebuilding Policy

Prevent War with Iran, Don’t Sabotage Diplomacy: Oppose Sec. 601c of H.R. 1905

December 8, 2011

Dear Representative,

Howard Berman: grave concern over role of Honduran security forces in human rights abuses

On November 28, Representative Howard Berman, the ranking member on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, sent a letter to Secretary of State Clinton expressing "grave concern" over the role of Honduran security forces in human rights abuses.

The letter goes into detail regarding the involvement of Honduran security forces in killings, torture and other crimes and states that it is necessary "to evaluate immediately United States assistance to ensure that we are not, in fact, feeding the beast."

The letter is here.

EFE reported about the letter on December 8 here (Spanish.) 

Could GOP Sanctions on Europe Tank the Economy and Elect Romney?

Remember, "It's the Economy, Stupid?" So how come Democrats in Congress - over the objections of the Obama Administration - are helping Republicans press sanctions on Europeans who buy oil from Iran - sanctions that would increase unemployment in the U.S. during the 2012 campaign?

 

The National Defense Authorization Act now contains a Senate amendment by Republican Senator Mark Kirk - supported by many Democrats in Congress - that would sanction European banks and companies that do business with Iran's Central Bank, in order to stop Europeans from buying Iranian oil. This is a big deal, because Iran is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, and blocking Iranian oil exports to Europe would raise the price of oil, in Europe and in the United States.

 

Kirk's amendment would hurt the U.S. economy, at a time when economic contraction in Europe could push the U.S. back into recession.

 

Is fear of the economic blowback of the sanctions on Europe that Kirk wants to impose justified? Many Europeans seem to think so.

 

On Tuesday, Reuters reported:

 

 

The European Union is becoming skeptical about slapping sanctions on imports of Iranian oil, diplomats and traders say, as awareness grows that the embargo could damage its own economy without doing much to undercut to Iran's oil revenues.

[...]
"Maybe the aim of sanctions is to help Italy, Spain and Greece to collapse and make the EU a smaller club," one trader joked.

 

The remark reflects the growing unease that EU sanctions would hit hardest some of the continent's weakest economies, because Iranian oil provides the highest share of their needs, not to mention the rest of the bloc.

 

Conyers, Paul Press NDAA Conferees to Accept Accelerated Drawdown

Reps. John Conyers, Ron Paul, Jim McGovern, Walter Jones, and Barbara Lee sent a letter to the NDAA conferees pressing them to accept the Senate Merkley language pressing for an accelerated drawdown from Afghanistan.

The letter is here.

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Victory! WaPo Fixes Headline Claiming Iran Has Nuclear Weapons Program

Before and After: Washington Post Photo Gallery Headline