JFP 11/29: Military cuts may stand; Merkley Amendment could pay for half of payroll tax cut
Just Foreign Policy News
November 29, 2011
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I) Actions and Featured Articles
*Action: Tell the Senate: End the War in Afghanistan
Senator Merkey is introducing an amendment (#1174) to the National Defense Authorization Act that would expedite US military withdrawal from Afghanistan. Ask your Senators to support the Merkley Amendment. FCNL has provided a toll-free number: 1-877-429-0678. Or you can write to them here:
Shortening the War Would Pay for Half of the Payroll Tax Holiday
If the war in Afghanistan were shortened by two years - as Senators Merkley, Paul, and Udall have proposed - that would easily save $120 billion, half the cost of the extension of the payroll tax holiday, which is expected to create half a million American jobs.
Groups Urge Senate to Back Merkley, Paul Amendments to NDAA
Twenty three organizations from across the political spectrum and representing a variety of constituencies sent a letter urging the Senate to adopt bipartisan amendments by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY) to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. Sen. Merkley's amendment would call for an accelerated drawdown of US troops in Afghanistan and help end the longest war in American history. Sen. Paul's amendment would repeal the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq.
RT Interview: 'West should give way to regional players in Syria'
Just Foreign Policy talks to RT: The idea of a Western military intervention is insane, and should be kept away from the table. Regional players including the Arab League and Turkey should take the lead, and negotiations towards a (mostly) peaceful transition should be at the center of the table. The influence of those who still have a channel to the regime should be leveraged to try to achieve a political resolution. Only those sanctions which can contribute to a political resolution should be considered; "crippling" sanctions which try to collapse the regime should be ruled out.
Dancing on the Supercommittee's Grave, Singing Hallelujah
Considering the deals that were being considered - cutting Social Security benefits while protecting the military budget - the public interest prevailed when the "Super Committee" failed to reach a deal.
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1) Members of Congress who want to overturn automatic cuts to the military budget may find that the biggest obstacle they face is not President Obama, but the Congressional leadership of both parties, the New York Times reports. They control what legislation reaches the floor and have shown little interest in reversing the cuts, the Times says.
2) Writing in The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf takes CBS' Bob Schieffer to task for trying to marginalize Ron Paul's views on preventing war with Iran through diplomacy and on the role of U.S. foreign policy in provoking the 9/11 attacks even though, as Friedersdorf notes, these views are mainstream. [Writing on the same theme in Salon, Glenn Greenwald notes that the working definition of "mainstream" for establishment media figures like Schieffer is "held by the leadership of one of the major political parties."]
3) Pakistan announced Tuesday it would boycott an international conference on Afghanistan in protest over the weekend US strikes that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers, the New York Times reports. Pakistan's army ruled out US claims the strikes were accidental, terming them "an unprovoked attack of blatant aggression." Pakistan has blocked all NATO logistical supplies that cross the border into Afghanistan. It has also given the CIA 15 days to vacate the Shamsi airbase, from where it has run its campaign of drones strikes into Pakistan's tribal areas.
4) Bradley Manning's lawyer says the US government is stonewalling his efforts to obtain government reports that contradict claims that WikiLeaks harmed US national security, Wired reports. One assessment conducted by the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that all of the information allegedly leaked was dated, represented low-level opinions, or was already commonly known due to previous public disclosures.
5) Writing at the Huffington Post, economist Jeffrey Sachs slams President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton for reneging on their promises to support the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria. Sachs notes that the U.S. spends each day more on the military than the annual pledge to the Global Fund that it is reneging on. Millions of people are now at risk of death in the coming years as a result of the broken promise.
6) Afghan officials said six children were among seven civilians killed in a NATO airstrike in southern Afghanistan, the New York Times reports. A spokesman for the governor of Kandahar said NATO killed the children as it pursued insurgents. But relatives of the children who were killed called that account a lie, saying there were no Taliban near the children when they were attacked. "The Americans did a serious crime against innocent children, they will never ever be forgiven," said Mohammad Rahim, whose children were killed in the attack.
7) According to a report by an independent commission, security forces in Bahrain used excessive force, including torture and the extraction of forced confessions, against detainees who were arrested in a sweeping crackdown on protests, the New York Times reports. The report by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry said there was no clear evidence that Iran had incited the unrest, as senior Bahraini officials have contended. At least 700 remain in prison; the commission urged a review of the sentences handed down to protesters.
8) In a recent survey of perspectives on MINUSTAH in Port-au-Prince, 65 percent of respondents wanted UN troops to leave immediately or within the next year, In These Times reports. A large majority was also skeptical of the force's accountability. Haiti is the only country in the world where a peacekeeping mission operates under a U.N. Chapter VII mandate - permitting it to use force - absent an active conflict or an enforceable peace agreement. Critics argue that MINUSTAH, which began in 2004 following the U.S.-backed overthrow of President Aristide, violates Haitian sovereignty.
9) Japan's Defense Minister dismissed the director-general of the Okinawa Defense Bureau after he reportedly compared the delayed release of an environmental assessment on the relocation of a U.S. military base to failing to warn a victim of imminent rape, Asahi Shimbun reports. Earlier this month, the Okinawa assembly, opposed to the relocation of Air Station Futenma within Okinawa, unanimously approved a recommendation that called on the government to give up on making the report.
10) Port workers in Suez refused to receive a seven ton shipment of tear gas from the United States, Ahram Online reports. The interior ministry is trying to restock after firing tear gas at protesters in Egypt for six days last week, Ahram says.
11) A U.N. report says former Libyan revolutionaries still hold about 7,000 people in detention, and some reportedly have been subjected to torture and ill treatment, AP reports. The report says many of the inmates have no access to due process. It says sub-Saharan Africans constitute a large number of those held.
1) Automatic Military Cuts May Stand in Congress
Jennifer Steinhauer, New York Times, November 22, 2011
Washington - Mere seconds after the leaders of a joint Congressional committee announced their failure to reach a deficit deal, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee announced he would try to undo the consequences.
Yet the chairman, Representative Howard P. McKeon, Republican of California, and other members of Congress who hope to overturn the automatic cuts may find their biggest obstacle is not President Obama, who has already called the reversal of $1.2 trillion in cuts over 10 years a nonstarter, but leaders of both parties in Congress. They control what legislation reaches the floor and have shown little hankering for reversing the cuts.
Democrats have said that absent a plan with spending cuts and new taxes - like the one members of the so-called supercommittee tried in vain to produce - the Pentagon cuts will abide. "The sequester was designed to be painful, and it is," said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader. "But that is the commitment to fiscal responsibility that both parties made to the American people."
On the Republican side, the leadership also seems unenthusiastic about a messy floor fight over the automatic cuts, which would almost certainly spook the capital markets and could lead to a downgrade of the country's credit rating.
"The House will forge ahead with the commitments we have made to reducing government spending," said the House speaker, John A. Boehner, who earlier this month said he was "morally bound" to honor the statute and who has previously indicated a willingness to entertain Pentagon cuts. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, was noncommittal, citing Mr. Obama as the person responsible for making sure that military cuts did not harm national security.
And while Republican lawmakers with strong ties to the Pentagon and the defense industry will be aggressive in asserting that the automatic cuts will harm the military, many newer conservative lawmakers are more devoted to cutting spending than to bolstering the Pentagon budget, potentially diluting the party's support for restoring the money. "If the plan is to exempt only defense spending from sequestration," said Will Adams, a spokesman for Representative Justin Amash, a freshman Republican from Michigan, "he does not support it. "
2) Why Is a CBS News Anchor Scoffing at Blowback and Diplomacy?
Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, Nov 28 2011
[video of the interview: http://youtu.be/EXvHPkRHBvk ]
[see also Glenn Greenwald, "Bob Schieffer, Ron Paul and journalistic 'objectivity,'"
The sneering contempt that Bob Schieffer shows Ron Paul in the interview above is something to behold. Watch it yourself, for words can't do his dismissive manner justice. But a mere transcript of the exchange is enough to show what the CBS newsman gets wrong on the merits, and to lay bare a bias in his purportedly objective journalism. As you read, ponder what is, in this case, an interesting question: What sort of bias is at work here?
BOB SCHIEFFER: I want to ask you some questions. Now that you're among the front-runners we need to know more about your positions on the issues. And I want to start with foreign policy, because your statements over the years, posted on your Web site and elsewhere, some of the things you have said in the debates, suggest that you believe that 9/11 happened because of actions that the United States took. Is that correct?
RON PAUL: I think there's an influence. And that's exactly what the 9/11 Commission said. That's what the DoD has said. And that's what the CIA has said. And that's what a lot of researchers have said. And, um, just remember immediately after 9/11 we removed the base from Saudi Arabia. So there is a connection. That doesn't do the whole full explanation. But our policies definitely had an influence. And you talk to the individuals who committed it, and those who would like to do us harm. They say, yes, we don't like American bombs to fall on our country. We don't like the intervention that we do in their nations. So to deny this I think is very dangerous. But to argue the case that they want to do us harm because we're free and prosperous I think is a very dangerous notion because it's not true.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, I would question the import of what some of those commissions found that you cited, but basically what you're saying, Mr. Paul, is that it was America's fault. That 9/11 happened and it was our fault that it happened.
RON PAUL: No, I think that's misconstruing what I'm saying, because America is you and I. We didn't cause it. The average American didn't cause it. But if you have a flawed policy, it may influence it. When Ronald Reagan went into Lebanon, he deeply regretted this, because he said if he'd have been more neutral, those Marines wouldn't have died in Lebanon, because the policy was flawed. The same thing that McNamara said after the Vietnam War. He wrote in his memoirs that if we don't learn from our policies, it won't be worth anything. So I'm saying, policies have an effect. But that's a far cry from blaming America. I mean, in America, you're supposed to be able to criticize your own government without saying you're unAmerican.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Of course.
RON PAUL: And that's what the implication is.
BOB SCHIEFFER: But you are saying it was the government's fault. That's basically what you're saying. But let me move on to something else--
RON PAUL: I'm saying it's the policymakers' faults, they contributed, contributed to it. Contributed.
This is the sort of interview I expect from the Fox News Channel. What's deemed the most important matter, circa 2011, to find out about a presidential candidate? How he attributes responsibility for 9/11. The method used to pin down his views? Repeatedly attributing to him a more extreme, inflammatory position than he holds.
What to do when Paul points out that his actual, longstanding position -- that American foreign policy was one factor that inspired the attacks -- is shared by lots of Americans, including the authors of various official government inquiries into the matter? Schieffer's response is the inexplicable, "Well, I would question the import of what some of those commissions found." Why?
As Glenn Greenwald notes, it would be one thing if Schieffer behaved similarly anytime he conducts an interview, but this style of contemptuous inquiry is reserved for positions he regards as ignorant. Why doesn't he think that 9/11 happened partly "because of actions the United States took"?
That brings us to question number two.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Am I correct that your idea of how to discourage Iran from building nuclear weapons is to be nicer to Iran's leaders? Is that correct?
RON PAUL: Well, no. I think we have 12,000 diplomats, I'm suggesting that maybe we ought to use some of them. Just think of how we prevented a nuclear war with the Soviets when the Soviet missiles were put in Cuba. We didn't say, "We're going to attack you." Kennedy and Khrushchev talked and they made a deal. You take your weapons out of Cuba, we'll take 'em out of Turkey. That's the kind of talk that I want. I think the greatest danger now is for us to overreact and this is what I'm fearful of. Iran doesn't have a bomb, there's no proof, there's no new information regardless of this recent report. And for us to overreact and talk about bombing Iran, that's much more dangerous. We got the Libyans to get rid of their nuclear power and their nuclear weapons, and look at what happened to them, we've got to understand that--
BOB SCHIEFFER: Mr. Paul, may I interrupt for just a second? No one has suggested in the U.S. government that we're going to bomb Iran. What they have said is that we're going to impose very tough sanctions. You are against sanctions on Iran, is that correct?
RON PAUL: Yes, because sanctions are an initial step to war. I was opposed to all the sanctions for 10 years and the bombings in Iraq because I said it would lead to war. But if you say no one is suggesting it, why don't you listen to the debates? Listen to some of the other candidates.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Mr. Paul, may I correct you? I am listening to the debates. I know there have been some candidates who have talked about that, including Mr. Romney. The United States government has not said we're going to bomb Iran. I mean, that's just a fact.
RON PAUL: No, obviously they haven't said that, but the implication is, "Nothing is off the table." You've heard those statements?
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well yes, all right. Let's move on then.
What you see is confusion that is entirely the fault of the host. Rather than ask Paul whether or not he favors sanctions against Iran, Schieffer decided to get cute and patronize him -- misrepresenting his true position in the process -- by asking if he thought the solution was just being "nicer."
Again, it was like I was watching Sean Hannity, where the ignorant assumption is that diplomacy and negotiation are nothing more than little making-nice parties for naive liberals. Paul, who finds himself in a GOP field competing to be more bellicose toward Iran, understandably assumed Schieffer was asking if he favored going to war to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions.
And then Schieffer acts as if the idea that the United States government would bomb Iran is something only an ignorant loon would think.
Ron Paul holds some positions that, whether right or wrong, are undeniably out of the mainstream. But the notion that the September 11 attacks happened partly because of anger at America's foreign policy toward Middle Eastern countries? The idea that diplomacy is a better way to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons than sanctions or war? Those are not fringe positions.
Why did the CBS news anchor treat them as such?
3) In Protest Over NATO Strike, Pakistan Will Skip Afghan Conference
Salman Masood, New York Times, November 29, 2011
Islamabad, Pakistan - Pakistan announced Tuesday that it would not attend an important international conference on Afghanistan's security and development that is scheduled to begin in less than a week in protest over the weekend strikes that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers.
Also on Tuesday, the Pakistani military also offered its first detailed account of the weekend episode, which widely differed with NATO and Afghan diplomat accounts. The army ruled out United States assertions that the strikes were accidental, instead it termed them as "an unprovoked attack of blatant aggression."
The decision to boycott the conference, which is scheduled to take place in Bonn, Germany, starting Dec. 5, was announced after a special meeting of the Pakistani cabinet was held in the eastern city of Lahore. "Pakistan looks forward to the success of this Conference but in view of the developments and prevailing circumstances has decided not to participate in the Conference," read a government statement.
Afghan officials had been urging Pakistan to attend the conference. More than 50 countries are sending representatives as part of an effort to showcase the international commitment to Afghanistan's security and to reassure Afghans and potential foreign investors about the nation's future.
But Pakistani officials and public have been incensed with the border strikes, which have added new strains to already fragile relations between the United States and Pakistan.
Pakistan has already blocked all NATO logistical supplies that cross the border into Afghanistan. It has also given the Central Intelligence Agency 15 days to vacate the Shamsi airbase, from where it has run its campaign of drones strikes into Pakistan's tribal areas.
In a special briefing to local television news anchors and newspaper editors on Tuesday at the army's General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, two top Pakistani army generals - Lt. Gen. Waheed Arshad, the chief of general staff, and Maj. Gen. Ashfaq Nadeem, the director general of military operations - differed with accounts provided by United States officials about what precipitated the weekend strikes.
General Nadeem called the strikes that killed at least 24 Pakistani soldiers, including two officers, as "an unprovoked attack of blatant aggression" where "all coordination procedures were violated."
"It is not possible that the ISAF/NATO forces did not know of location of Pakistani posts," he was quoted as saying according to accounts provided by several participants.
General Nadeem maintained that the fire did not start from the Pakistani side of the border and blamed NATO helicopters for striking two military posts, Volcano and Boulder.
During the briefing, the Pakistani generals said that a letter has to be sent by the Pakistani foreign office to have Shamsi airbase vacated.
When asked what would happen if the United States did not vacate the airbase within 15 days, one of the two generals vaguely replied: "Then we are looking at various other options."
Hina Rabbani Khar, the Pakistani foreign minister, said Tuesday that a notice has been sent to the United States to vacate. "Time has come to review our relations," Ms. Khar said. "We cannot sacrifice our national interests."
4) Feds Withholding Evidence Favorable to Bradley Manning, Lawyer Charges
Kim Zetter, Wired, November 28, 2011
The civilian lawyer for Bradley Manning, the Army private who allegedly leaked tens of thousands of classified U.S. government documents to WikiLeaks, is seeking to question the severity of the leak by requesting the government's own internal damage assessments that reportedly contradict statements that Manning irreparably damaged national security.
Manning's defense attorney, David E. Coombs, is attempting to get evidence from the government to defend Manning in his upcoming pre-trial hearing on Dec. 16, but says the government is stonewalling him.
"The defense has repeatedly requested the below discovery in this case, but the government has consistently responded with a blanket denial of the defense request," Coombs wrote in the partially redacted filing.
The evidence Coombs seeks includes copies of internal reports conducted by task forces assessing the damage from and the classification levels of the 250,000 State Department diplomatic cables and 500,000 classified Iraq and Afghanistan war field reports allegedly leaked by Manning to WikiLeaks.
Published information about the various reports put them at odds with each other, Coombs notes. One assessment conducted by the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that all of the information allegedly leaked was dated, represented low-level opinions, or was already commonly known due to previous public disclosures, while an official at another government office indicated that the leaks had caused damage to national security.
Coombs wants to use the DIA report, along with another unpublished one apparently commissioned by the White House, to ban witnesses from describing the leaks as more damaging than these official reports found them to be.
5) Washington Leaves Millions To Die
Jeffrey Sachs, Huffington Post, 11/25/11
The wonder of our world is that scientific knowledge is now so powerful that we can save millions of children, mothers, and fathers from killer diseases each year at little cost. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria has mobilized that knowledge over the past decade to save more than 7 million lives and to protect the health of hundreds of millions more. Yet now the Global Fund is under mortal threat because of budget cuts approved by President Obama and the Congress.
The Obama Administration had pledged $4 billion during 2011-13 to the Global Fund, or $1.33 billion per year. Now it is reneging on this pledge. For a government that spends $1.9 billion every single day on the military ($700 billion each year), Washington's unwillingness to follow through on $1.33 billion for a whole year to save millions of lives is a new depth of cynicism and recklessness.
As a result of US budget cutbacks, and me-too cutbacks by other countries, the Global Fund this week closed its doors on providing new funds to impoverished nations. It was supposed to accept proposals next month from the poorest countries for an 11th round of disease-control funds. Instead, it has scrapped any new funding until 2014 at the earliest, and will only fund the continuation of the coverage of existing programs. US officials will prevaricate, noting that the US spends this amount or that amount. History will treat such excuses with the scorn they deserve.
Millions of people are now at risk of death in the coming years as a result of Obama's lassitude and neglect. Hundreds of thousands of children who would have been saved will now die of mosquito bites. They will die because they live in poor tropical environments where a mosquito bite kills, and where their impoverishment makes it impossible for them to afford a $5 bed net, $1 diagnostic test, $1 dose of anti-malaria medicine, or access to a clinic. Countless others will die because they cannot get AIDS or TB treatments to stay alive.
Malaria has come down sharply, averting an estimated 400,000 deaths per year in Africa compared to the baseline path as of the year 2000. Yet there are still around 700,000 malaria deaths each year that can be prevented if the Global Fund has the means.
Reorienting less than 1 day's military budget to help save millions of lives (in conjunction with the efforts of other countries) is not only a great humanitarian step but also the most cost-effective step we can take for our own security. Countries like Yemen or Somalia are falling apart because they cannot meet their most basic needs. We send in drone missiles -- each one at the cost of at least 20,000 bed nets -- but we will find no real security until we help address the problems of disease, poverty, and hunger that destabilize these regions.
It is painful to recall the campaign promises made by Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton. Both promised that they would step up the fight to control AIDS, TB, and malaria. Empty words. President Obama's aides tell him that foreign assistance is bad domestic politics and he listens. On this issue even George W. Bush knew better.
The head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Congress, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, is not quiet. She is an aggressive and outspoken foe of foreign assistance, pretending to her constituents that cutting a $1 billion to the Global Fund is the way to balance the budget. Great, we're now 0.001 of the way there.
6) Six Children Are Killed by NATO Airstrike in Afghanistan
Taimoor Shah and Rod Nordland, New York Times, November 24, 2011
Kandahar, Afghanistan - Six children were among seven civilians killed in a NATO airstrike in southern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said Thursday.
The deaths occurred on Wednesday in the Zhare district of Kandahar Province, an area described by coalition forces as largely pacified in recent months, and two insurgents were also killed, the Afghan officials said.
Zalmai Ayoubi, a spokesman for the governor of Kandahar, said that a NATO reconnaissance aircraft spotted five militants planting mines in the village of Siacha, in the Zhare district, on Wednesday. The plane targeted the insurgents, killing two and wounding a third, and then pursued the other two suspects as they carried their wounded comrade away.
"The plane chased them, the insurgents entered a street where children were playing and, as a result of its shooting, seven people have been killed, including six children, and two girls also have been injured," Mr. Ayoubi said. The victims were members of two families.
Abdul Samad, an uncle of four of the children who were killed, disputed the government's version of the attack. He said his relatives were working in fields near their village when they were attacked without warning by an aircraft.
His brother-in-law, Mohammad Rahim, 50, had his two sons and three daughters with him. They were between 4 and 12 years old and all were killed, except an 8-year-old daughter who was badly wounded, Mr. Samad said.
"There were no Taliban in the field; this is a baseless allegation that the Taliban were planting mines," Mr. Samad said. "I have been to the scene and haven't found a single bit of evidence of bombs or any other weapons. The Americans did a serious crime against innocent children, they will never ever be forgiven."
7) Torture Used on Protesters in Bahrain, Report Says
Nada Bakri, New York Times, November 23, 2011
Beirut, Lebanon - Security forces in Bahrain used excessive force, including torture and the extraction of forced confessions, against detainees who were arrested in a sweeping crackdown early this year during protests that deeply polarized the country, according to a report by an independent commission that investigated the uprising and its aftermath.
The report, released on Wednesday, presented a devastating portrait of what it called disproportionate and indiscriminate force often used by the security forces to repress protests in February and March that were organized primarily by the Shiite Muslim majority in Bahrain, a tiny Persian Gulf state that is a prominent American ally.
"A number of detainees were tortured," M. Cherif Bassiouni, an international law expert who led the inquiry, said at a news conference in Manama, the capital, as King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa listened. Mr. Bassiouni added that the dimensions of the torture "proved there was a deliberate practice by some."
The report by the panel, known as the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, also said there was no clear evidence that Iran had incited the unrest, as senior Bahraini officials have contended.
In Washington, the Obama administration welcomed the report, but said the onus was now on Bahrain's government to hold accountable those responsible for abuses and to undertake reforms to make sure they do not occur again.
A total of 2,929 people were arrested during the protests, the report said, and at least 700 remain in prison. The commission urged a review of the sentences handed down to protesters.
The king, speaking during the televised news conference, said that officials who engaged in abuses during the crackdown would be held accountable and replaced. He pointedly cited wrongs, although he portrayed them as having been committed by both sides.
And despite the commission's conclusion that Iran did not play a role in the uprising, the king again insisted that Iran, a Shiite majority nation, had incited the unrest in Bahrain.
Aides to the king had hoped the commission's report would offer a starting point for reconciliation, but the opposition, which in recent weeks had indicated skepticism about the inquiry, said the report fell short. "The report did not say the truth," said Ali al-Aswad, a member of the Al-Wefaq party, the biggest legal opposition group, and a former lawmaker. "It did not say who was responsible for killing protesters and firing people from their jobs and universities and causing people to lose their homes. It failed to point the finger at senior officials."
The opposition has insisted that the repression was in fact systematic, part of what it calls institutional discrimination against the Shiite majority. Although the report stopped short of naming names - as the opposition had demanded - it did say that the abuse of detainees originated at the highest levels of Bahrain's security institutions.
"The very fact that a systematic pattern of behavior existed indicates that this is how these security forces were trained and how they were expected to act," the report said. "This could not have happened without the knowledge of higher echelons of the command structure" of the Interior Ministry and National Security Agency.
8) Haitians to U.N.: Please Leave
Amid allegations of serious abuses, a growing number of Haitians want peacekeeping forces out of their country.
Rebecca Burns, In These Times, November 24, 2011
On October 14, the U.N. Security Council voted to renew the mandate of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), paving the way for the peacekeeping force's eighth year of operations in the Caribbean nation. The unanimous decision was made with little discussion of allegations that peacekeepers in Haiti have committed serious abuses, including sexual assault, killing protestors and complicity in forced evictions. Amid widespread distrust of MINUSTAH, which is backed and financed in large part by the U.S. government, a growing number of Haitian and international organizations are calling for the withdrawal of the U.N. force and an end to the militarization of Haiti's reconstruction.
While the Security Council also authorized a reduction in the force's size from 13,000 troops and police to about 10,500, Beverly Keene of Jubilee South (a global network of anti-debt movements) told In These Times that the decision "does not respond in any way to the need to confront the reality of an occupying force." Haiti is the only country in the world where a peacekeeping mission operates under a U.N. Chapter VII mandate--permitting it to use force--absent an active conflict or an enforceable peace agreement. Critics argue that MINUSTAH, which began in 2004 following the U.S.-backed overthrow of President Jean Bertrand Aristide, violates Haitian sovereignty.
Jubilee South is currently calling for the force's withdrawal as part of its "Haiti No MINUSTAH" campaign, which has been endorsed by Nobel Peace Prize laureates Perez Esquivel, Mairead Corrigan Maguire and Betty Williams, as well as School of the Americas Watch and hundreds of organizations in the troop-contributing countries of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, among others.
In a recent survey of perspectives on MINUSTAH in Port-au-Prince, 65 percent of respondents wanted the force to leave immediately or within the next year. A large majority was also skeptical of the force's accountability, a likely testament to incidents that have occurred since the mission's arrival in 2004.
9) Okinawa defense chief fired over rape remark
Asahi Shimbun, November 29, 2011
Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa dismissed the director-general of the Okinawa Defense Bureau on Nov. 29 after he reportedly compared the delayed release of an environment assessment report on the relocation of a U.S. military base to failing to warn a victim of imminent rape.
"Would you say, 'I will rape you,' before you rape someone?" Satoshi Tanaka is reported to have said in an unofficial meeting with reporters on Nov. 28.
Tanaka allegedly made the comparison when asked why the government was waffling on the submission date of an assessment report on the environmental impact of the planned relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to the Henoko district of Nago, Okinawa Prefecture.
Earlier this month, the Okinawa prefectural assembly, opposed to the relocation of Air Station Futenma within Okinawa, unanimously approved a recommendation that called on the government to give up on making the report.
10) Suez port employees reveal 21-ton US tear gas order for interior ministry
Port workers in Suez refuse to receive initial seven ton shipment as the interior ministry looks to restock after firing tear gas at protesters in Egypt for six days last week
Ahram Online, Tuesday 29 Nov 2011
A group of customs employees at the Suez seaport have revealed that the Egyptian Ministry of Interior is in the process of receiving 21 tons of tear gas from the US.
The claim was supported by Medhat Eissa, an activist in the coastal city of Suez, who provided documents he says he obtained from a group of employees at the Suez Canal customs. The employees have been subjected to questioning for their refusal to allow an initial seven ton shipment of the US-made tear gas canisters enter the port.
A group of employees at the Adabiya Seaport in Suez have confirmed, with the documents to prove it, that a three-stage shipment of in total 21 tons of tear gas canisters is on course for the port from the American port of Wilmington.
Employees say the container ship Danica, carrying seven tons of tear-gas canisters made by the American company Combined Systems, has already arrived at the port, with two similar shipments from the same company expected to arrive within the week.
11) UN chief says former Libya rebels still hold 7,000 people, some reportedly tortured
Associated Press, November 28
United Nations - Former Libyan revolutionaries still hold about 7,000 people, and some reportedly have been subjected to torture and ill treatment, according to a U.N. report circulated Monday.
The report by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, made public before a Security Council briefing about Libya on Monday afternoon, says that many of the inmates have no access to due process in the absence of a functioning police and judiciary.
It also says that sub-Saharan Africans, in some cases accused or suspected of being mercenaries hired by Moammar Gadhafi's regime, constitute a large number of those held.
"While the (National Transitional Council) has taken some steps toward transferring responsibility for the detainees from brigades to proper state authorities, much remains to be done to regularize detention, prevent abuse and bring about the release of those whose detention should not be prolonged," the report says.
"I believe that the leaders of the new Libya are indeed committed to building a society based on the respect for human rights," Ban said in his report. "Achieving this requires the earliest possible action, however difficult the circumstances, to end arbitrary detention and prevent abuses and discrimination, against third country nationals as well as against any group of Libya's own citizens."
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