JFP 1/12: US abuse viral; Clinton bogus Iran claim; UN busted on Haiti cholera
Just Foreign Policy News, January 12, 2012
US abuse viral; Clinton bogus Iran claim; UN busted on Haiti cholera
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1) The US Marine Corps says it will investigate a video posted on the internet which appears to show US soldiers in Afghanistan urinating on corpses, Al Jazeera reports. The Taliban said the incident was "against all international human rights" but "not the only example of the horrific actions that the Americans have done in Afghanistan." But the Taliban said the incident would not affect negotiations with the US.
2) Secretary of State Clinton's charge Iran intended to keep the Fordow enrichment site secret until it was revealed by Western intelligence revived a dubious claim that is nonetheless prevalent in media, Gareth Porter reports for Inter Press Service. The administration never offered the slightest evidence to support that assertion, and there is one major reason for doubting it: the US did not inform the IAEA about any nuclear facility at Fordow until three days after Iran's Sep. 21, 2009 formal letter notifying the IAEA of the Fordow enrichment facility, because - the US said - it couldn't be certain that it was a nuclear site.
3) Compelling new scientific evidence suggests UN troops carried a virulent strain of cholera into the Western Hemisphere for the first time, ABC News reports. Leading researchers from Harvard Medical School and elsewhere told ABC News that, despite UN denials, there is now a mountain of evidence suggesting the strain originated in Nepal, and was carried to Haiti by Nepalese soldiers who came to Haiti to serve as UN troops. The vicious form of cholera has already killed 7,000 people in Haiti.
4) The Obama administration is preparing for a possible new round of international nuclear talks with Iran in the coming weeks, Laura Rozen reports. Several veteran U.S. Iran analysts who consult closely with the Obama administration say they are growing increasingly worried about the risk of possible military confrontation between Iran and the US. Some analysts contend that the Obama administration has become so focused on demonstrating toughness toward Iran that it has lost sight of how to achieve its desired end goal: persuading Iran to curtail aspects of its nuclear program.
The U.S. "decision to outlaw contact with Iran's central bank puts the United States' tactics and its long-standing objective--a negotiated end to Iran's nuclear ambitions--fundamentally at odds," Suzanne Maloney, a former State Department Iran official now with Brookings, wrote in Foreign Affairs. Washington "cannot hope to bargain with a country whose economy it is trying to disrupt and destroy. As severe sanctions devastate Iran's economy, Tehran will surely be encouraged to double down on its quest for the ultimate deterrent." Washington's "embrace of open-ended pressure means" the United States has effectively backed itself into a dead-end "policy of regime change," Maloney wrote.
But Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said US strategy is not necessarily failing if the goal is to provoke Iran to initiate a military confrontation.
5) Juan Cole offers an informed speculation on who might have been responsible for the assassination of the Iranian scientist, suggesting the Iranian terrorist group MEK with the likely collaboration of Mossad. Cole stresses that this is just informed speculation, based on past actions.
6) Writing for Bloomberg, former IAEA director Robert Kelley casts doubt on evidence contained in the recent IAEA report which is claimed to substantiate charges that Iran had a nuclear weapons program after 2003. Kelley calls the evidence "sketchy."
7) In a fact check at the Washington Post, Glenn Kessler awards "four Pinocchios" - the highest rating for a lie - to Rick Santorum's claim that 'no Palestinian' lives in the West Bank, noting that even the right-wing Israeli government does not make this outrageous claim.
8) Belying lofty international promises, half a million people still live in tents two years after the earthquake, USA Today reports. Few have access to water, sanitation and other basic services, 60% are jobless.
1) US military to probe 'marine abuse video'
Hamid Karzai's government "disturbed" by footage appearing to show US soldiers in Afghanistan urinating on dead bodies.
Al Jazeera, 12 Jan 2012 13:06
The US Marine Corps says it will investigate a video posted on the internet which appears to show US soldiers in Afghanistan urinating on corpses.
The video, which was first posted on the Live Leak website, shows four men in military uniforms urinating on three bloodied bodies on the ground, apparently aware that they were being filmed.
One of them jokes: "Have a nice day, buddy." The other makes a lewd joke about a shower.
"The government of Afghanistan is deeply disturbed by a video that shows American soldiers desecrating dead bodies of three Afghans," said a statement from Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office on Thursday.
"This act by American soldiers is simply inhuman and condemnable in the strongest possible terms.
"We expressly ask the US government to urgently investigate the video and apply the most severe punishment to anyone found guilty in this crime."
In a statement, the Taliban said the incident was "against all international human rights" but "not the only example of the horrific actions that the Americans have done in Afghanistan".
"American soldiers are trained to spread horror and this is one of the examples," the Taliban said.
However, the group's statement added that the incident would not affect negotiations with the US after US officials said Washington would send an envoy to Afghanistan to prepare the ground for direct peace talks.
The video could aggravate anti-US sentiment in Afghanistan after a decade of a war that has seen other cases of abuse.
The US military has been prosecuting soldiers from its army's 5th Stryker Brigade on charges of murdering unarmed Afghan civilians while deployed in 2010 in Kandahar province.
In that case, photographs published last March by two magazines - Der Spiegel and Rolling Stone - showed soldiers posing with the bloodied corpse of an Afghan boy they had just killed.
2) Clinton Revives Dubious Charge of "Covert" Iranian Nuclear Site
Gareth Porter, IPS, Jan 11
Washington, Jan 11 (IPS) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's charge Tuesday that Iran had intended to keep the Fordow site secret until it was revealed by Western intelligence revived a claim the Barack Obama administration made in September 2009.
Clinton said Iran "only declared the Qom facility to the IAEA after it was discovered by the international community following three years of covert construction." She also charged that there is no "plausible reason" for Iran to enrich to a 20-percent level at the Fordow plant, implying that the only explanation is an intent to make nuclear weapons.
Clinton's charges were part of a coordinated U.S.-British attack on Iran's enrichment at Fordow. British Foreign Minister William Hague also argued that Fordow is too small to support a civilian power programme. Hague also referred to its "location and clandestine nature", saying they "raise serious questions about its ultimate purpose".
The Clinton-Hague suggestions that the Fordow site must be related to an effort to obtain nuclear weapons appear to be aimed at counterbalancing Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta's statement only two days earlier that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons.
The Clinton and Hague statements recalled a briefing for reporters during the Pittsburgh G20 summit meeting Sep. 25, 2009, at which a "senior administration official" asserted that Iran had informed the IAEA about the Fordow site in a Sep. 21 letter only after it had "learned that the secrecy of the facility was compromised".
That administration claim was quickly accepted by major media outlets without any investigation of the facts. That story line is so deeply entrenched in media consciousness that even before Clinton's remarks, Reuters and Associated Press had published reports from their Vienna correspondents that repeated the official Obama administration line that Iran had revealed the Fordow site only after Western intelligence had discovered it.
But the administration never offered the slightest evidence to support that assertion, and there is one major reason for doubting it: the United States did not inform the IAEA about any nuclear facility at Fordow until three days after Iran's Sep. 21, 2009 formal letter notifying the IAEA of the Fordow enrichment facility, because it couldn't be certain that it was a nuclear site.
Mohammed ElBaradei, then director general of the IAEA, reveals in his 2011 memoir that Robert Einhorn, the State Department's special advisor for nonproliferation and arms control, informed him Sep. 24 about U.S. intelligence on the Fordow site – three days after the Iranian letter had been received.
An irritated ElBaradei demanded to know why he had not been told before the Iranian letter.
Einhorn responded that the United States "had not been sure of the nature of the facility", ElBaradei wrote.
The administration's claim that Iran announced the site because it believed U.S. intelligence had "identified it" was also belied by a set of questions and answers issued by the Obama administration on the same day as the press briefing. The answer it provided to the question, "Why did the Iranians decide to reveal this facility at this time," was "We do not know."
Greg Thielmann, who was a top official in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research until 2003 and was on the staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence during the 2009 episode, told IPS the evidence for the claim that Iran believed the site had been discovered was "all circumstantial".
In November 2003, the Bush administration engineered the passage of resolution at the IAEA Governing Board meeting condemning Iran for "18 years of covert nuclear activity".
In fact, Iran had announced openly in 1982 that they intended to have the capability to convert yellowcake into reactor fuel. In 1983, Iran asked the IAEA to help it build a pilot plant for uranium enrichment, but the U.S. government intervened to prevent the agency from doing so.
It was that U.S. political interference that forced Iran to purchase black market centrifuge technology from the A.Q. Khan network in 1987. But Iran openly negotiated with China, Argentina and six other governments for the purchase of nuclear energy and facilities in the 1980s and 1990s.
Despite those well-known facts, the Bush administration charge that Iran had operated a "clandestine nuclear programme" for "18 years" quickly become an accepted fact inserted in many stories by major newspapers such the Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times.
3) Scientists: UN Soldiers Brought Deadly Superbug to Americas
Matthew Mosk, Brian Ross and Rym Momtaz, ABC News, Jan. 12, 2012 -
Compelling new scientific evidence suggests United Nations peacekeepers have carried a virulent strain of cholera -- a super bug -- into the Western Hemisphere for the first time.
The vicious form of cholera has already killed 7,000 people in Haiti, where it surfaced in a remote village in October 2010. Leading researchers from Harvard Medical School and elsewhere told ABC News that, despite UN denials, there is now a mountain of evidence suggesting the strain originated in Nepal, and was carried to Haiti by Nepalese soldiers who came to Haiti to serve as UN peacekeepers after the earthquake that ravaged the country on Jan. 12, 2010 -- two years ago today. Haiti had never seen a case of cholera until the arrival of the peacekeepers, who allegedly failed to maintain sanitary conditions at their base.
"What scares me is that the strain from South Asia has been recognized as more virulent, more capable of causing severe disease, and more transmissible," said John Mekalanos, who chairs the Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology at Harvard Medical School. "These strains are nasty. So far there has been no secondary outbreak. But Haiti now represents a foothold for a particularly dangerous variety of this deadly disease."
More than 500,000 Haitians have been infected, and Mekalanos said a handful of victims who contracted cholera in Haiti have now turned up in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and in Boston, Miami and New York, but only in isolated cases.
How cholera landed in Haiti has been a politically charged topic for more than a year now, with the United Nations repeatedly refusing to acknowledge any role in the outbreak despite mounting evidence that international peacekeepers were the most likely culprits. The UN has already faced hostility from Haitians who believe peacekeeping troops have abused local residents without consequence. They now face legal action from relatives of victims who have petitioned the UN for restitution. And the cholera charge could further hamper the UN's ability to work effectively there, two years after the country was hobbled by the earthquake.
Over the summer, Assistant Secretary General Anthony Banbury told ABC News that the UN sincerely wanted to know if it played a part in the outbreak, but independent efforts to answer that question had not succeeded. He said the disease could have just as easily been carried by a backpacker or civilian aid worker.
Banbury said the UN, through both its peacekeeping mission and its civilian organizations "are working very hard ... to combat the spread of the disease and bring assistance to the people. And that's what's important now."
"The scientists say it can't be determined for certainty where it came from," Banbury said. "So we don't know if it was the U.N. troops or not. That's the bottom line."
A UN spokeswoman repeated the answer when asked again last week: "The [scientists] determined it was not possible to be conclusive about how cholera was introduced into Haiti," said the UN's Anayansi Lopez.
But ABC News has interviewed several top scientists involved in researching the origins of the cholera outbreak, and each expressed little doubt that the UN troop was responsible. The reason: A genetic analysis of the strain found in Haiti matches identically the one involved in an outbreak in Nepal in August and September of 2010; The Nepalese peacekeeping troops deployed for Haiti at precisely that time; Two weeks before the outbreak, Haitians had reported sanitary breakdowns at the Nepalese encampment set along a tributary to the Artibonite River, about 60 miles north of the capital Port Au Prince. The next month, the earliest cases of cholera surfaced in the same remote area, from Haitians who had been drinking and bathing in the river.
"The scientific debate on the origin of cholera in Haiti existed, but it has been resolved by the accumulation of evidence that unfortunately leave no doubt about the implication of the Nepalese contingent of the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti," said French epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux, whose research on the outbreak was published by a U.S. Centers for Disease Control journal.
Mekalanos agreed, saying the single strongest piece of evidence came from the genetic analysis of the strain, which he said was virtually identical to strains that caused cholera in Nepal around the time that the troops shipped out. Taken in concert with sanitation problems at the Nepalese base, which was located near the epicenter of the outbreak, he said "almost any other explanation I can think of is well behind in confidence to the likelihood that that strain was introduced by UN troops," he said.
"It's outrageous for the UN to try to deny responsibility for bringing cholera to Haiti," said Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, whose group has been monitoring relief efforts in Haiti. "Was it gross negligence on their part? This is one of the questions they won't have to answer if they can sweep this whole thing under the rug."
4) Amid rising tensions, preparations for possible new Iran nuclear talks
Laura Rozen, The Envoy, Wed, Jan 11, 2012
The Obama administration and its European allies are quietly preparing for a possible new round of international nuclear talks with Iran in the coming weeks, sources consulted on the prospective meeting say.
The prospective talks would be hosted by Turkey--and the preparations around them have taken shape amid heightened tension and heated rhetoric between the West and Iran, as Iran lashes out at planned new American and European sanctions that would choke off a key source of Iran's revenues from oil exports.
Iran watchers say they think a meeting is likely to materialize--in spite of the considerable diplomatic difficulties involved in obtaining Tehran's written assent to the plan for the talks.
Several veteran U.S. Iran analysts who consult closely with the Obama administration say they are growing increasingly worried about the risk of possible military confrontation between Iran and the United States.
Some analysts contend, in essence, that the Obama administration has become so focused on demonstrating toughness toward Iran that it has lost sight of how to achieve its desired end goal: persuading Iran to curtail aspects of its nuclear program. Exhibit A in this case is the push to implement newly passed U.S. legislation sanctioning Iran's Central Bank. This new measure--quietly opposed by the administration but passed by the Senate 100-to-0 and signed into law early this month--would effectively threaten Iran's ability to get compensation from foreign entities that purchase its oil. And the Obama administration has energetically set about enlisting countries around the world to comply--negotiating with oil supplying-nations and major Iran oil consumers in Asia to try to secure alternative oil-sources, while averting a spike in international oil prices. However, amid this full court press, some analysts say, American policymakers have spent far too little energy and attention on establishing negotiating strategies, channels and contacts to bolster chances of achieving a diplomatic resolution with Iran over its nuclear program.
The U.S. "decision to outlaw contact with Iran's central bank puts the United States' tactics and its long-standing objective--a negotiated end to Iran's nuclear ambitions--fundamentally at odds," Suzanne Maloney, a former State Department Iran official now with the Brookings Institution, wrote in Foreign Affairs this month. Washington "cannot hope to bargain with a country whose economy it is trying to disrupt and destroy. As severe sanctions devastate Iran's economy, Tehran will surely be encouraged to double down on its quest for the ultimate deterrent."
The upshot? Washington's "embrace of open-ended pressure means" the United States has effectively backed itself into a dead-end "policy of regime change," Maloney continued.
Obama faces both a domestic "political challenge and there are also divisions within the administration, so they don't know what the end game is," a former State Department official who requested anonymity to speak more freely told Yahoo News Wednesday. "What we have now is the folks in Tehran increasingly starting to believe the United States doesn't know what it wants its endgame to be--or that its endgame can change. Here we are at a position where both sides find themselves boxed in."
The 2012 presidential campaign has further increased domestic political pressure on the Obama administration to demonstrate toughness and resolve in its dealings with Iran--while downplaying prospects for a diplomatic settlement. The Obama White House's drift toward a more hawkish posture also may reflect the pressure, in some observers' eyes, to ward off any Israeli preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. Iran watchers agree that the Pentagon takes the prospect of such a strike from Israel quite seriously.
"What we have been saying to Iran is that there has got be a confidence building measure that emerges out of the next round of negotiations," said Patrick Clawson, deputy director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in an interview with Yahoo News Tuesday.
Still, Clawson said, he didn't think prospects for a deal look promising. "I think it's heading towards confrontation," Clawson said. "The whole point from the beginning is if we put pressure on the regime, the Iranians will crack at some point."
So far, at least, there's little sign the strategy is yielding the desired result. The Iranians to date have responded to the prospect of the tightened financial sanctions on the country's oil sector with an announcement of the launching of operations at the fortified, underground Fordo nuclear enrichment facility--together with sporadic threats to close the Strait of Hormuz. "The Iranians are screaming and yelling and upset and threatening," Clawson said.
So why isn't that a sign that the U.S. strategy is failing? "It's a lot better to have a fight" that Iran provokes, Clawson replied, before adding: "Better to enter World War II after Pearl Harbor, and World War I after the sinking of the Lusitania."
5) A Murder in Tehran
Juan Cole, Informed Comment, 01/12/2012
Reuters makes a good point that Iran is having difficulty getting the international community to condemn the terrorist attacks against its scientists, which over time have left four of them dead in bombings.
Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan Behdast, a professor at Tehran's technical university, was killed yesterday. Behdast was aged 32 and had been a chemistry major at the Oil Industry University. He then became deputy director of commerce at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility near Isfahan. Thus, some of these scientists were clearly connected to Iran's civilian nuclear energy establishment. At least one was just a theoretical physicist whose work had no bearing on the practical side of nuclear engineering.
On January 11, 2010, another Iranian university nuclear scientist, Mas'ud Ali Mohammadi was assassinated by a similar bombing.
If four US nuclear scientists were (God forbid) blown up at Las Alamos one after another, I think we all know that there would be hell to pay.
The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions (i.e. illegal assassinations) told Reuters that the attacks on nuclear scientists were indeed worrying, extrajudicial, and executions.
Readers have been asking me who I thought was behind the attacks. Well, it is a murder mystery, so we should look at the classical trinity: means, motive and opportunity.
The means in yesterday's attack on was a sticky bomb, i.e. one placed on Behdast's car by magnets by a motorcyclist.
The motive was to damage Iran's nuclear enrichment program.
The opportunity belonged to someone who could be in Iran, could monitor Behdast's movements without suspicion, and who could drive a motorcycle around the Iranian capital (and therefore someone whose papers were in order in case the police or other security forces stopped him).
The countries most eager to stop the Iranian program are Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia. So they are the ones with motive.
The means, a sticky bomb, is commonly used by radical militias in Iraq.
The opportunity belonged to an Iranian who could move freely and had his papers in order. Of course, such a person could be recruited as an agent by almost any espionage organization. An MEK double agent inside the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps would be useful.
If you put this all together, you can come to a speculation. The circumstantial evidence would point to a member of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK or People's Jihadis) terrorist organization. The MEK is known to have been involved in espionage on the Iranian nuclear program, and it wants to overthrow the current government in favor of a Marxist-Islamic regime, working with Israeli intelligence. Mossad does targeted assassinations, as in Dubai. The MEK has a history of pulling off bombings in Iran. One, in 1981, killed over 80 members of the revolution's political elite, including the prime minister. The MEK is based in part in Iraq and so could acquire sticky bombs easily. It is known to have an operational alliance with Israeli and American intelligence. And that this bombing occurred on an anniversary of a previous one also suggests a terrorist group for which the date is symbolic.
I underline that this conclusion is circumstantial and purely the result of an intellectual exercise, i.e., of speculation. I'm not making an accusation and have no proof of this conclusion.
Journalist Richard Silverstein says he has a reliable Israeli source who affirms that the bombings are a joint production of Mossad and the MEK. But since his source in anonymous, it is hard for others to judge the solidness of this source.
Anyway, the scientists so far killed have not been proven in a court of law to have done anything wrong at all, and so they have been murdered in cold blood for political purposes, which is the definition of terrorism. Western leaders who accuse Iran of being the world's major purveyor of terrorism (a stupid allegation) would have to, if they were honest and consistent, speak out against these grisly murders in Iran (which also killed innocent bystanders).
Jim Lobe cannily argues that the assassins were trying to scuttle further negotiations between Iran and the UN Security Council members plus Germany, which we know from Wikileaks are favored by President Ahmadinejad. Strengthening Tehran's hard liners and even provoking Iran to do something rash would benefit those who want a US-Iran war. Lobe does not say so,but that would be the Netanyahu government in Israel, the US Israel lobbies, and the MEK.
6) Let's not go to war with Iran on false pretenses
Is there reason for concern about its nuclear efforts? Of course. But there is not yet proof.
Robert Kelley, Bloomberg, January 11, 2012 - 8:01 PM
[Kelley, a nuclear engineer, was a director at the IAEA, where he worked for nine years.]
Given the high stakes, it's valuable to take another look at the main source of the tension: Iran's nuclear-weapons program. That this enterprise is active is widely considered a given in the United States.
In fact, the evidence, contained in a November report of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is sketchy. And the way the data have been presented produces a sickly sense of déjà vu.
I am speaking up about this now because, as a member of the IAEA's Iraq Action Team in 2003, I learned firsthand how withholding the facts can lead to bloodshed.
Having known the details then, though I was not allowed to speak, I feel a certain shared responsibility for the war that killed more than 4,000 Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqis.
A private citizen today, I hope to help ensure that the facts are clear before the United States takes further steps that could lead, intentionally or otherwise, to a new conflagration, this time in Iran.
So the issue is not whether there is evidence of such a program, but whether there is evidence that it was restarted after being shut down in 2003.
The Nov. 8, 2011, report of the IAEA, under the leadership of Director General Yukiya Amano, is long on the former and very short on the latter.
In the 24-page document, intended for a restricted distribution but widely available on the Internet, all but three of the items that were offered as proof of a possible nuclear-arms program are either undated or refer to events before 2004.
The agency spends about 96 percent of a 14-page annex reprising what was already known: that at one time there were military dimensions to Iran's nuclear program.
What about the three indications that the arms project may have been reactivated?
Two of the three are attributed only to two member states, so the sourcing is impossible to evaluate. In addition, their validity is called into question by the agency's handling of the third piece of evidence.
That evidence, according to the IAEA, tells us Iran embarked on a four-year program, starting around 2006, to validate the design of a device to produce a burst of neutrons that could initiate a fission chain reaction.
Though I cannot say for sure what source the agency is relying on, I can say for certain that this project was earlier at the center of what appeared to be a misinformation campaign.
In 2009, the IAEA received a two-page document, purporting to come from Iran, describing this same alleged work. Mohamed ElBaradei, who was then the agency's director general, rejected the information because there was no chain of custody for the paper, no clear source, document markings, date of issue or anything else that could establish its authenticity.
What's more, the document contained style errors, suggesting the author was not a native Farsi speaker. It appeared to have been typed using an Arabic, rather than a Farsi, word-processing program. When ElBaradei put the document in the trash heap, Britain's Times newspaper published it.
This episode had suspicious similarities to a previous case that proved definitively to be a hoax. In 1995, the IAEA received several documents from the Sunday Times, a sister paper to the Times, purporting to show that Iraq had resumed its nuclear-weapons program in spite of all evidence to the contrary.
The IAEA quickly determined that the documents were elaborate forgeries. There were mistakes in formatting the documents' markings, classification and dates, and many errors in language and style indicated the author's first language was something other than Arabic or Farsi.
Inspections in Iraq later in 1995 confirmed incontrovertibly that there had been no reconstitution of the Iraqi nuclear program.
I should be clear: Iran deserves tough scrutiny. It claims to have given up its nuclear-weapons ambitions, yet repeatedly acts as if it has something to hide. I am a skeptic; I suspect the Iranians may have an ongoing weaponization program. And the uncertainty must be resolved.
At the same time, we should not again be held hostage to forgeries and the spinning of data to make the worst case. If Iran is developing nuclear weapons, let it be proved through the analysis of current, solid information -- not recycled, discredited data.
If there is to be a war with Iran, let's not have a repeat, afterward, of the anguished articles and books from officials who kept their misgivings to themselves. Let's get all the facts on the table now.
7) Fact Checker: Rick Santorum's claim that 'no Palestinian' lives in the West Bank
Glenn Kessler, Washington Post January 4 | Updated: Thursday, January 5, 5:02 AM
"All the people that live in the West Bank are Israelis. They are not Palestinians. There is no Palestinian. This is Israeli land."
- Former senator Rick Santorum, Nov. 21. 2011
A blog on The Jewish Week Web site highlighted this statement on Monday, which was also captured on tape and posted on YouTube. [...] The statement is somewhat reminiscent of former House speaker Newt Gingrich's comment that the Palestinians are an "invented people."
Gingrich's comments spawned outrage at the time, but Gingrich actually spoke a couple of weeks after Santorum's remarks, which were made in the context of defending Israel's right to build settlements in the West Bank. As Jewish Week noted, Santorum's "views got little attention at the time because he was considered a hopeless back-of-the-pack candidate and not being taken very seriously."
In many ways, Santorum's remarks have even more important policy implications than Gingrich's statement, which was a historical observation (though a highly debatable one).
In the conversation captured on tape, Santorum argues that the West Bank belongs to Israel because Arab nations launched an "aggressive attack" in 1967 but Israel defeated them and acquired the land as part of the spoils of war.
"It was ground that was gained during war," he said, similar to the United States gaining territory after defeating Mexico in the 19th century. "Should we give Texas back to Mexico?" he asked. "Bottom line, it is legitimately Israeli country."
Laying aside Santorum's historical perspective, the striking thing about his comments is that they represent an even more conservative position than that taken by the Israeli government.
Moreover, because of a series of agreements between Israelis and Palestinians, Palestinians have now acquired self-government over tracts of West Bank territory. A map on the Foreign Ministry Web site shows the sections of the West Bank that are subject either to full Palestinian military and civilian control or just civilian Palestinian control. The statement above the map says:
"The final status of Judea and Samaria - determining the borders between Israel and the Palestinian state, and those parts of Judea and Samaria which are to be correspondingly under Israeli and Palestinian jurisdiction - is yet to be resolved and is currently the subject of negotiations between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority."
In other words, Israel makes no claim that the Arabs residing in the West Bank are Israelis and in fact has already given up some governmental control to Palestinian self-rule - with the implication that even more territory will eventually form a Palestinian state.
According to the CIA World Factbook, about 2.6 million people live in the West Bank, including nearly 300,000 Israeli settlers. (Another 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as the capital of a future state.) The CIA lists the population of the West Bank as "Palestinian Arab and other 83%, Jewish 17 %."
Santorum might argue that he is simply expressing an opinion here - and certainly we take no position on his statements about Israeli settlements. But he appears to be stating this as a fact - there are no "Palestinians" living in the West Bank and this is Israeli land.
But that stance is flatly refuted by the Israeli government, which calls the land "disputed territory" and does not grant Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians living in the West Bank. In fact, the Israeli Foreign Ministry refers to areas of "Palestinian jurisdiction."
The Israeli position that the territories are "disputed" is not accepted by much of the world, but it seems that the very least a potential U.S. president could do is accept the definitions used by the Israeli government.
[Rating:] Four Pinocchios [a "whopper," the maximum lie on Kessler's scale - JFP.]
8) Haiti disaster help lags badly
Marisol Bello, USA Today, January 11, 2012
Hundreds of thousands of Haitians still live in miserable conditions and nearly half of $4.5 billion pledged by governments for reconstruction has yet to be disbursed two years after one of the most devastating earthquakes in the Western hemisphere. The quake killed more than 200,000 and left 1.5 million homeless.
"There's been a remarkable lack of progress," says Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which has followed Haiti's recovery.
As Haiti today observes the second anniversary of a disaster that leveled 300,000 buildings and left its economy and government in ruins, half a million people still live in tents, the United Nations reports.
Few have access to water, sanitation and other basic services, 60% are jobless and the world's largest cholera outbreak has killed 7,000 people and infected 500,000 more, the U.N. and aid groups say.
The slow progress comes despite promises by the international community that the chronically poor nation with tremendous needs before the disaster would be rebuilt better than before.
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