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With IMF Money, the War Supplemental Could Fail in the House

Last month, 60 Members of the House of Representatives, including 51 Democrats, voted against the war supplemental for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. But this week, when the House is expected to consider the agreement of a House-Senate conference on the war funding, the supplemental could well be defeated on the floor of the House - if most of the 51 anti-war Democrats stick to their no vote - which they might, if they hear from their constituents.

The key thing that's changed is the Treasury Department's insistence that the war supplemental include a $100 billion bailout for the International Monetary Fund - a bailout for European banks facing big losses in Eastern Europe, the international version of the Wall Street bailout.

House Republicans, including Minority Leader John Boehner, have threatened to vote no on the war funding if the IMF money is attached. If Boehner could bring all the Republicans with him, and if all the Democrats who voted no last month voted no again, the war supplemental would fail on the floor of the House, 200-228.

But not every Democrat who voted no before will vote no now, and therein lies the drama. The House leadership didn't need those anti-war Democrats before, so in a way it was a "free vote" - 51 Democrats could vote on behalf of their anti-war constituents without running afoul of the leadership. But if Treasury insists on the IMF money, and Republicans vote no, the leadership will need 18 of those Democrats now.

JFP News, 6/3: With IMF Money, War Supplemental Could Be Defeated in the House

Just Foreign Policy News
June 3, 2009


With IMF Money Included, the War Supplemental Can Be Defeated in the House
Last month, 60 Members of the House of Representatives voted against the war supplemental. But this week the supplemental could be defeated on the floor of the House. The key thing that's changed is Treasury's insistence the supplemental include a $100 billion bailout for the IMF - a bailout for European banks facing big losses in Eastern Europe, the international version of the Wall Street bailout. House Republicans have threatened to vote no on the war funding if the IMF money is attached. If all Republicans vote no, and if all the Democrats who voted no last month vote no again, the war supplemental would fail on the floor of the House, 200-228. Call your Representative and urge them to vote no on the war/IMF supplemental. The Congressional switchboard is 202-225-3121; asked to be connected to your Representative's office.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/with-imf-money-the-war-su_b_210738.html

In Cairo, Obama Can Win With Changed U.S. Policies Towards Palestine and Iran
If Obama highlights his strong opposition to Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, his support for Palestinian statehood in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, his sustained diplomatic engagement with Iran, and his willingness to work with whoever wins the upcoming Lebanese and Iranian elections, he can change perceptions of the United States in the region.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/221

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JFP News, 6/2: Newsweek's Zakaria Supports International Uranium Enrichment in Iran

Just Foreign Policy News
June 2, 2009


In Cairo, Obama Can Win With Changed U.S. Policies Towards Palestine and Iran
President Obama has the opportunity to make history in Cairo on Thursday, the kind of history Eisenhower made when he rebuked the 1956 invasion of Egypt by Britain, France and Israel. Eisenhower's stand won tremendous goodwill for the U.S. in the Arab world. If Obama stands firm on his policy differences with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, he can win tremendous goodwill for the U.S. in the Arab and Muslim world. If Obama highlights his strong opposition to Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, his support for Palestinian statehood in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, his sustained diplomatic engagement with Iran, and his willingness to work with whoever wins the upcoming Lebanese and Iranian elections, he can change perceptions of the United States in the region.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/221

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In Cairo, Obama Can Score With Changed U.S. Policies Towards Palestine and Iran

President Obama has the opportunity to make history in Cairo on Thursday, the kind of history that President Eisenhower made when he rebuked the 1956 invasion of Egypt by Britain, France and Israel. Eisenhower's stand won tremendous goodwill for the U.S. in the Arab world. If Obama stands firm on his policy differences with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, he can win tremendous goodwill for the U.S. in the Arab and Muslim world.

In the run-up to the speech, Obama has opened space between U.S. policy and Israeli government policy on relations with the Palestinians and on relations with Iran. The degree to which Obama can meaningfully differentiate the U.S. from the Netanyahu government in terms of policy will be a key determinant of whether he can convince Arab and Muslim audiences that the U.S. genuinely wants a different relationship with the Muslim world than it had during the Bush Administration. In Cairo, Obama will have the podium in the Arab and Muslim world in an unprecedented way. If Obama highlights his strong opposition to Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, his support for Palestinian statehood in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, his sustained diplomatic engagement with Iran, and his willingness to work with whoever wins the upcoming Lebanese and Iranian elections, he can change perceptions of the United States in the region.

On opposition to Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, Obama has staked out a clear position. Last week, Secretary of State Clinton said that President Obama:

JFP News, 6/1: NGOs Fight "Blank Check" for IMF

Just Foreign Policy News
June 1, 2009


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1) A broad coalition of civil society groups, as well as some lawmakers, is fighting a "blank check" from the U.S. to expand funding for the International Monetary Fund, Inter Press Service reports. Typically, the IMF requires recipient countries to reduce their budget deficits and increase interest rates, both of which can produce the opposite effect of the economic stimulus the funds are meant to provide. As a result, countries have been forced to cut essential social programs, like unemployment insurance. A Congressional letter from Rep. Waters calls for Congress to attach conditions on the IMF: ensuring that the IMF's new loans are stimulatory and not contractionary; using IMF gold sales to finance at least five billion dollars in debt relief and/or grants; and requiring parliamentary approval in the recipient countries before loans are extended. The letter has more than 33 signatures.

2) The Senate owes more than a pro forma confirmation of Gen. McChrystal as the next US commander in Afghanistan, writes the New York Times in an editorial. McChrystal, who goes before the Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, was commander of the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations teams in Afghanistan and Iraq from 2003 to 2008. Special Operations forces have been repeatedly linked to abusive interrogations. The Times says McChrystal has a responsibility to illuminate what went wrong, what if anything was done to stop these horrors, and what he intends to do to ensure that they are not repeated under his command in Afghanistan.

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Cuba: US Concedes World "May Have Changed" Since 1962

The Obama Administration has been praised and vilified for its legendary caution, typically depending on whether the speaker supports or opposes the direction in which caution is being applied.

But a recent proposal by the State Department to the Organization of American States regarding Cuba's re-entry to the OAS rises to the level of ludicrous understatement. The US proposal, along with proposals from Latin America for Cuba's re-entry, is to be considered at the OAS meeting in Honduras next week.

The US proposal concedes that "some of the circumstances since Cuba's suspension... may have changed," the Miami Herald reports.

Cuba was suspended from the OAS in 1962, based largely on its alliance with the Soviet Union.

Do they take newspaper delivery at the State Department? The Soviet Union has not existed for almost twenty years. Does that count as a circumstance that "may have changed"?

The Obama Administration has tacked back and forth. Many in Congress, the Cuban-American community, and the U.S. business community want the U.S. embargo on Cuba to be scrapped or substantially eliminated. But a diehard gang of aging Cuban-American Republican dead-enders is determined to make the Obama Administration pay dearly for any steps towards sanity.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is under intense pressure from Latin America to scrap the embargo. Cuba is the only Latin American or Caribbean nation excluded from the OAS, and the U.S. is the only country in the OAS that doesn't have full diplomatic relations with Cuba.

In March, OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza said Cuba should be readmitted.

Bloomberg reported:

Labor, House Dems Stall Panama Trade Deal

There's little question that the Obama Administration has tacked hard to the right on international economic policy since coming in to office. Its efforts to ram $100 billion for the International Monetary Fund through Congress via the war supplemental without reform language that would stop the IMF from making recessions worse through demands for budget cuts - as the IMF is now doing in Latvia - are just the most recent example.

But if the Wall Street boys thought they were just going to run the table on international economic policy in this administration, they had another think coming.

Bloomberg reports:

A U.S. trade accord with Panama, which is opposed by labor unions, won't be submitted to Congress for approval until President Barack Obama offers a new "framework" for trade, an administration official said.

The decision, announced by Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Everett Eissenstat at a Senate Finance Committee hearing today, is a reversal from statements in March that the U.S. wanted to pass the accord soon.

As Bloomberg notes, this announcement followed two key developments:

IraqTortureGate: Powell Denies Knowing He Used Tortured Evidence for UN Case

The most damning credible allegation to emerge regarding the Bush Administration is arguably that Dick Cheney and other Bush Administration officials ordered the use of torture to produce false evidence of a connection between Iraq and al-Qaida to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff at the State Department under Colin Powell, recently wrote,

as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002 - well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion - its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa'ida.

Wilkerson cited the case of detainee Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, whose tortured testimony was crucial for building the case for war, and was cited in Powell's speech to the UN.

when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney's office that their detainee "was compliant" (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP's office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa'ida-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, "revealed" such contacts.

About this case, Human Rights Watch has recently written,

NYT: Taliban Offer Afghan Peace Plan

With the passage of the war supplemental by the Senate, President Obama and Congress are "doubling down" on war in Afghanistan. Are we - and the Afghan people - doomed to endure many more years of war?

There is no reason that we need be, according to yesterday's New York Times, which reports that talks between Taliban leaders and Afghan government representatives have accelerated since Obama's election, and that Afghan officials say they have the tacit blessing of Washington for the talks.

Furthermore, the demands being put forward by the Taliban in the negotiations appear, on the face of it, to be eminently reasonable.

Daoud Abedi, one of the intermediaries in the talks, told the Times he had hammered out a common set of demands between the Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's group. The groups agreed to stop fighting if those conditions were met, Abedi said.

The first demand was an immediate pullback of American and other foreign forces to their bases, followed by a cease-fire and a total withdrawal from the country over the next 18 months. Then the current government would be replaced by a transitional government made up of a range of Afghan leaders, including those of the Taliban and other insurgents. Americans and other foreign soldiers would be replaced with a peacekeeping force drawn from predominantly Muslim nations, with a guarantee from the insurgent groups that they would not attack such a force. Nationwide elections would follow after the Western forces left.

Is there anything here which appears unreasonable on its face?

- Pullback to bases: this was a demand of the Iraqi government, which the US eventually agreed to a version of.

- Cease-fire: a standard element of any peace plan.

A Failsafe Plan to Reduce AfPak Civilian Deaths from U.S. Operations

If civilian deaths from U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan were CO2 emissions, perhaps we'd be having a more effective discussion about reducing them.

The pattern seems to be this. When there are complaints about civilian deaths from U.S. airstrikes and night raids, first the Pentagon denies there were any. When civilian deaths are documented, the Pentagon says civilian deaths are regrettable but we are doing everything we can possibly do to reduce them. When the complaints grow too strong to be dismissed in this way, the Pentagon announces that we are taking new steps to reduce civilian casualties (passing over the fact that this contradicts the previous claim that we were doing everything we could before to reduce civilian casualties.)

Then the cycle repeats.

If reducing civilian deaths from U.S. military operations were a priority, it would be a benchmark. After all, according to the repeated statements of U.S. officials, it's all about "hearts and minds" and securing and maintaining the allegiance of the population. So it seems obvious that an objective benchmark of progress is this regard would be the degree to which civilian casualties are reduced, since it is generally acknowledged that killing people's friends and relatives is extremely unpopular.

If civilian deaths from U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan were CO2 emissions, people would be arguing that we should cap them at a percentage of their current level.

For example: we could tell the Pentagon: each month you have a cap for how many civilians you can kill. The cap is seasonally adjusted, and is equal to, say, 90% of the average for the previous year.