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AWOL from the SOTU: Peace, Reconciliation, and Debt

On foreign policy, while the President said some good things, he missed key opportunities to say better things. In particular, he missed opportunities to promote reconciliation as an essential way of ending our wars and promoting peace. In speaking about U.S. domestic politics, the President is eloquent in his efforts to promote reconciliation, but he seems to have lost his voice in applying these ideas to our foreign policy.

The President renewed his promise to end the war in Iraq, including his promise to have all U.S. combat troops out by August, and to bring all of our troops home from Iraq. He also said we will support the Iraqi government as they hold elections, and partner with Iraqis to promote peace and prosperity. But there was a key omission here: the word "reconciliation." Hundreds of candidates have been disqualified from running in the March parliamentary election; Sunni and secular candidates have been particularly targeted. If this move is allowed to stand, reconciliation in Iraq will be imperiled, the civil war could be reignited, and Iraq's relationship with its predominantly Sunni Arab neighbors would be further strained. The U.S. is working to overturn the exclusion; by refering more explicitly to those efforts, the President could have promoted Iraqi reconciliation.

JFP 1/27: US "wrestles" with "olive branch" to Taliban

Just Foreign Policy News
January 27, 2010

Change.org: End the War in Afghanistan
The vote on funding for military escalation in Afghanistan will be the next major opportunity for Congress to change course. Now is the time to begin establishing "timetable for withdrawal" and "political negotiations" as demands on the supplemental. Help us move these ideas to the center of public discussion.
http://www.change.org/ideas/view/end_the_war_in_afghanistan_establish_a_timeline_for_withdrawal_and_begin_political_negotiations

Beverly Bell: "7.0 on the Horror Scale - Notes on the Haitian Earthquake"
Beverly Bell, author of "Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Story of Survival and Resistance," publishes her log of 10 days following the earthquake.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/beverly-bell-70-on-the-ho_b_439164.html

UN: Time for Direct Talks with Afghan Taliban Leaders
The top UN official for Afghanistan has called for direct talks with senior Taliban leaders. Is Washington listening?
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/01/27-4

Members of Congress to Obama: Ease Gaza Suffering
54 Members of Congress wrote to President Obama, urging the lifting of restrictions on the movement of people, access to clean water, food, medicine construction materials for repairs and rebuilding, and fuel. (Just Foreign Policy members wrote to Congress in support of this letter)

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Beverly Bell: "7.0 on the Horror Scale - Notes on the Haitian Earthquake"

Following is the log of Beverly Bell during the first ten days after the earthquake in Haiti.
Beverly first went to Haiti as a teenager. Since then she has dedicated most of her life to working for democracy, women's rights, and economic justice in that country. She founded or co-founded six organizations and networks dedicated exclusively to supporting the Haitian people, including the Lambi Fund of Haiti. She worked for both presidents Jean-Bertrand Aristide and Rene Preval and wrote Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Story of Survival and Resistance (Cornell University Press, 2001). Today she is associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and runs the economic justice group Other Worlds.


7.0 ON THE HORROR SCALE
NOTES ON THE HAITIAN EARTHQUAKE

BEVERLY BELL, OTHER WORLDS COLLABORATIVE, NEW ORLEANS

January 12, 2010

4:12 p.m. 7.0 EARTHQUAKE ROCKS HAITI. I read this email subject line several times. My brain can't make sense of it.
I blast the following message in Creole out to dozens of Haitian friends: How is it that the worst always goes right to Ayiti Cheri - not just human-created crises like poverty and avoidable disease, but also natural phenomenon? May as many as possible - including all of your people - be spared from death and further suffering.
Sharing anguish and love, Bev

January 13

11:05 a.m. Looking for mindless little tasks to do today since I can't manage anything big... Can't stop shaking or crying, barely slept last night, can't eat. Been fighting the urge to vomit since yesterday afternoon.

JFP 1/26: Pakistanis Call for Direct Talks with Mullah Omar

Just Foreign Policy News
January 26, 2010

UN: Time for Direct Talks with Afghan Taliban Leaders
The top United Nations official for Afghanistan has called for direct talks with senior Taliban leaders. Is anyone in Washington listening?
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/459

Change.org: End the War in Afghanistan
The vote on funding for military escalation in Afghanistan will be the next major opportunity for Congress to change course. Now is the time to begin establishing "timetable for withdrawal" and "political negotiations" as demands on the supplemental. Help us move these ideas to the center of public discussion.
http://www.change.org/ideas/view/end_the_war_in_afghanistan_establish_a_timeline_for_withdrawal_and_begin_political_negotiations

Jubilee USA: Organizations Unite to Tell Treasury Secretary Geithner: Cancel Haiti's Debt Now and No More Debt for Disaster
80 US religious denominations, human rights groups, and development agencies including Jubilee USA Network, the AFL-CIO, and the ONE Campaign sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Geithner, urging him to negotiate immediate debt cancellation for Haiti by the international financial institutions.
http://www.jubileeusa.org/press/press-item/article/broad-coalition-of-labor-development-and-religious-organizations-to-treasury-secretary-geithner-ca.html

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UN: Time for Direct Talks with Afghan Taliban Leaders

The top United Nations official for Afghanistan has called for direct talks with senior Taliban leaders. Is anyone in Washington listening?

The New York Times reported Sunday that Kai Eide, the United Nations special representative for Afghanistan, "called on Afghan officials to seek the removal of at least some senior Taliban leaders from the United Nations' list of terrorists, as a first step toward opening direct negotiations with the insurgent group."

Eide also called on the U.S. to speed its review of the roughly 750 detainees in its military prisons in Afghanistan - another principal grievance of Taliban leaders.

Eide said he hoped that the two steps would open the way for face-to-face talks between Afghan officials and Taliban leaders.

"If you want relevant results, then you have to talk to the relevant person in authority," Mr. Eide said. "I think the time has come to do it."

It's an unquestioned dogma in official Washington that while of course every informed person knows that the endgame in Afghanistan is a negotiated political settlement with the Afghan Taliban, the time is not ripe for negotiations; the Afghan Taliban have to be weakened first through military escalation, because their leaders are not ready to talk peace.

It's never explained how U.S. officals know that Afghan Taliban leaders are not ready to talk peace, unless the definition of "talking peace" is "acceding to U.S. demands." A reasonable inference is that these statements by U.S. officials are a dodge: U.S. officials are not ready to talk peace.

JFP 1/25: UN's Eide Calls for Direct Talks with Afghan Taliban

Just Foreign Policy News
January 25, 2010

Change.org: End the War in Afghanistan
The vote on funding for military escalation in Afghanistan will be the next major opportunity for Congress to change course. Now is the time to begin establishing "timetable for withdrawal" and "political negotiations" as demands on the supplemental. Help us move these ideas to the center of public discussion.
http://www.change.org/ideas/view/end_the_war_in_afghanistan_establish_a_timeline_for_withdrawal_and_begin_political_negotiations

Support the work of Just Foreign Policy:
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/donate.html

Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) The UN's top official in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, called on Afghan officials to seek the removal of at least some senior Taliban leaders from the UN list of terrorists, as a step toward opening direct negotiations with the Taliban, the New York Times reports. "If you want relevant results, then you have to talk to the relevant person in authority," Eide said. "I think the time has come to do it."

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JFP 1/22: Afghan Insurgent Outlines Peace Plan

Just Foreign Policy News
January 22, 2010

Let Aid Go Through to Haiti
Haiti needs aid, but the aid doesn't do any good sitting in a warehouse. Urge your representatives in Congress to speak out to try to increase the flow of aid into Haiti.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/airdrop

Change.org: End the War in Afghanistan
The vote on funding for military escalation in Afghanistan will be the next major opportunity for Congress to change course. Now is the time to begin establishing "timetable for withdrawal" and "political negotiations" as demands on the supplemental. Help us move these ideas to the center of public discussion.
http://www.change.org/ideas/view/end_the_war_in_afghanistan_establish_a_timeline_for_withdrawal_and_begin_political_negotiations

Support the work of Just Foreign Policy:
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/donate.html

Summary:
U.S./Top News

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Will History Recall the Haiti Airlift?

Mainstream media are now reporting the shortage of medical supplies in Haiti, a shortage created in part by the US decision to prioritize the inflow of military flights over humanitarian aid.

Doctors without Borders (MSF) said days were lost because the main airport in Port-au-Prince, under U.S. control, had been blocked by military traffic, Reuters reports.

"We lost three days," [Francoise Saulnier, the head of MSF's legal department] told Reuters Television in an interview. "And these three days have created a massive problem with infection, with gangrene, with amputations that are needed now, while we could have really spared this to those people."

[...]

"And now everything has been mixed together and the urgent and vital attention to the people has been delayed (for) military logistics, which is useful but not on day three, not on day four, but maybe on day eight. This military logistic has really jammed the airport and led to this mismanagment."

Mark Weisbrot, writing in the Guardian, noted that

On Sunday, Jarry Emmanuel, air logistics officer for the UN's World Food Programme, said: "There are 200 flights going in and out every day, which is an incredible amount for a country like Haiti ... But most flights are for the US military."

The New York Times reported Thursday that

JFP 1/21: US prioritizing "security" over aid to Haiti

Just Foreign Policy News
January 21, 2010

Let Aid Go Through to Haiti
Aid groups have charged that the US military has blocked them from bringing desperately needed assistance into Haiti. Urge your representatives in Congress to speak out to try to increase the flow of aid into Haiti.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/airdrop

WHO: Gaza Health Fact Sheet
The WHO summarizes statistics on the shortages of medicines, and those who have died waiting for permission to cross the border for treatment, among other issues.
http://unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf/47d4e277b48d9d3685256ddc00612265/80e8238d765e5fb7852576b1004ec498

UN: Haiti Earthquake - Humanitarian Operational Challenges
The UN publishes a map that illustrates the challenges of trying to get aid into Haiti.
http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/fullmaps_am.nsf/luFullMap/F2C4DFF8A12A68DDC12576B0002570D2/$File/map.pdf?OpenElement

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Summary:
Haiti

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JFP 1/20: Haitians dying from lack of care

Just Foreign Policy News
January 20, 2010

Let Aid Go Through to Haiti
Aid groups have charged that the US military has blocked them from bringing desperately needed assistance into Haiti. Urge your representatives in Congress to speak up.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/airdrop

Support the work of Just Foreign Policy:
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/donate.html

Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Aid workers said unknown numbers of people are dying every day in Haiti due to a lack of medicines and assistance, the Wall Street Journal reports.

2) NGOs and policy groups today called for the U.S. government to prioritize aid delivery over military deployment to Haiti, as airdrops of water supplies only just began to get underway, and as the U.S. military continued to prevent planes carrying aid supplies from landing in Port-au-Prince and Jacmel, reports the Center for Economic and Policy Research. "Right now the U.S. is blocking aid. There should be better coordination so that all actors - other governments, agencies and NGO's - ready to deliver aid are able to do so," said Melinda Miles, founder and Director of Konbit pou Ayiti, an aid and assistance organization based in Haiti.

3) Defense Secretary Gates said Al-Qaeda could trigger a war between Pakistan and India, AFP reports. Although he praised India for exercising restraint after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Gates suggested India could not be expected to remain restrained if it was attacked again. "I think it's not unreasonable to assume India patience would be limited were there to be further attacks," he said.

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