JFP 1/17: Romney slams peace talks; Paul booed on "Golden Rule"; Honduras "most homophobic" in LatAm
Just Foreign Policy News, January 17, 2012
Romney slams peace talks; Paul booed on "Golden Rule"; Honduras "most homophobic" in LatAm
Support the Work of Just Foreign Policy
Your support helps us to educate Americans about U.S. foreign policy and create opportunities for Americans to advocate for a foreign policy that is more just. Help us press for an end to the war in Afghanistan and spread opposition to a new war with Iran,
Go Straight to the News Summary
I) Actions and Featured Articles
Guardian: Ron Paul booed at GOP debate for urging "Golden Rule" in U.S. foreign policy
The Guardian reports: "Responding to Gingrich, Paul went on to say:
'My point is, if another country does to us what we do others, we're not going to like it very much. So I would say that maybe we ought to consider a golden rule in foreign policy. Don't do to other nations... [Boos]
... what we don't want to have them do to us. So we endlessly bomb these countries and then we wonder, wonder why they get upset with us? And yet it continues on and on. I mean, this idea that we can't debate foreign policy, then all we have to do is start another war?
I mean, it's warmongering. They're building up for another war against Iran, and people can't wait to get in another war. This country doesn't need another war. We need to quit the ones we're in. We need to save the money and bring our troops home.'
This is not what a Republican audience is used to hearing – hence the boos and jeers at an unprecedented level for a GOP debate. Yet Paul continues to poll well despite his heretical views."
Americans for Peace Now: Urge Chabad to Condemn Settler Violence
On January 4th Chabad Lubovitch issued a statement condemning the widely publicized attack by ultra-Orthodox Jews on an 8-year-old girl in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh. Urge Chabad to go further and condemn settler violence against Palestinians.
Mehdi Hasan: Iran's nuclear scientists are not being assassinated. They are being murdered
"Targeted killing," as human-rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith notes, "is just the death penalty without due process."
Leslie Gelb: Think Before Acting on Iran
Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, argues for carefully planned and extended public hearings on the pros and cons of war with Iran before we are led into another quagmire.
Clay Shirky: The New York Times public editor's very public utterance
Shirky argues that New York Times public editor Arthur Brisbane permanently raised the bar by asking whether the Times ought to be policing the truth of politicians' statements.
Help Support Our Advocacy for Peace and Diplomacy
The opponents of peace and diplomacy work every day. Help us be an effective counterweight.
1) In the last GOP debate, Mitt Romney slammed President Obama for talking to the Afghan Taliban, writes David Ignatius in the Washington Post. But Romney failed to acknowledge that his top advisers Mitchell Reiss and James Shinn have advocated the same policy that the Administration says it is pursuing: talking to the Afghan Taliban to try to facilitate an end to the war.
2) During the GOP debate, Ron Paul said the U.S. doesn't need a war with Iran, Ynet News reports. "This country doesn't need another war," Paul said. "We need to quit the ones we're in." In response to a question about the "major" defense cuts he wants to make, Paul brought up an example of spending a billion dollars on an embassy in Baghdad. He said, "You consider that defense spending. I consider that waste." He reiterated that "we need to have a strong national defense but we don't get strength by diluting ourselves in 900 bases, 130 countries."
3) Honduras is arguably the most homophobic nation in the Americas, McClatchy reports. Since the beginning of 2010, Honduras has tallied at least 62 homicides within the LGBT community, and some experts say the count may be far higher. Some victims have been mutilated and even burned. The article says Honduras will be a test case of the Obama Administration's pledge to defend the right to life of gay people in countries that receive U.S. aid.
4) The postponement of a joint U.S.-Israeli military exercise appears to be the culmination of a series of events that has impelled the Obama administration to put more distance between the US and aggressive Israeli policies toward Iran, write Gareth Porter and Jim Lobe for Inter Press Service. Obama and U.S. military leaders apparently decided the U.S. could not participate in such an exercise so long as Netanyahu refused to give the administration assurance he will not attack Iran without prior approval from Washington.
5) Analysts said the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist increases the peril for an Iranian American who was sentenced to death, the Washington Post reports. "Unfortunately, the greater the escalation is, the greater the likelihood that the perceived costs of executing him decline," said Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council.
6) Iraqi authorities have detained a few hundred foreign contractors in recent weeks, including many Americans who work for the US Embassy, in a major sign of the Iraqi government's asserting its sovereignty following the U.S. military withdrawal, the New York Times reports. Latif Rashid, a senior adviser to the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, said Iraqis are fed up with foreign security contractors. Rashid said that traveling to the U.S. to work was no different from traveling to Iraq. "Every time I go to the airport in New York they open my suitcase three times," he said. "How long does it take to get an American visa?"
1) Romney's misfired zinger on Taliban talks
David Ignatius, Washington Post, 01:01 PM ET, 01/17/2012
Memo to Mitt Romney: Before blasting the Obama administration for its peace talks with the Taliban, make sure your own advisers haven't advocated a similar policy of negotiation.
The GOP presidential candidate fired his misplaced zinger in Monday night's debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Asked by Fox News questioner Bret Baier if the Taliban might be, as a Romney adviser had said, "our enemy and our negotiating partner," Romney responded vigorously:
"The right course for America is not to negotiate with the Taliban while the Taliban are killing our soldiers. The right course is to recognize they're the enemy of the United States. It's the vice president [Joe Biden] who said they're not the enemy of the United States. The vice president's wrong. They are the enemy. They're killing American soldiers."
But wait a minute, governor. The aide the questioner was referring to was Mitchell Reiss, who wrote a book called "Negotiating With Evil: When to Talk to Terrorists," which explores precisely the sort of negotiations the Obama administration has begun with the Taliban. Indeed, Reiss's book is something of a "must-read" these days among State Department officials who are involved in the Taliban contacts.
Romney didn't respond to the part of the question about his aide. But Reiss is listed as a "special adviser" and member of the Romney foreign policy and national security advisory team in a campaign press release dated Oct. 6, 2011. Reiss is currently president of Washington College; he was director of policy planning at the State Department from 2001 to 2005 and served as special envoy for Northern Ireland from 2005 to 2007.
The Romney team's interest in peace negotiations with the Taliban goes deeper than that. The co-chair of Romney's working group on Afghanistan and Pakistan is James Shinn, a former Pentagon official, according to that same October press release. Last year, Shinn wrote a report for the Rand Corp. titled "Afghan Peace Talks: A Primer," co-authored with James Dobbins, a former State Department official.
Shinn's report argues that "peace negotiations would obviously be desirable if they could succeed" in getting the Taliban to renounce al-Qaeda "and end its insurgency in exchange for some role in Afghan governance short of total control." That's a pretty good summary of the policy that Obama is pursuing.
But Shinn goes even further than that, arguing that the talks are worth it even if they fail, because the risks of participation are greater for the Taliban than for the United States.
"Oops," as Texas Gov. Rick Perry said after a debate stumble last year. Either Romney needs to fire his advisers or he needs to read their work. Or best yet, maybe he needs to be more careful before attacking anything that he thinks he can tag as belonging to the "Obama" administration, and therefore bad. Perhaps when the general election comes around, Romney will find a way to reconnect to the bipartisan consensus about the need, under some circumstances, to "negotiate with evil," as his adviser Reiss put it.
2) Ron Paul during debate: No need for Iran war
Republican presidential hopefuls gather in South Carolina ahead of weekend primary; Texas representative warns against 'pre-emptive war' policy, while frontrunner Romney says US needs large army
Yitzhak Benhorin, Ynet news (Israel), 01.17.12, 09:31
Washington – The five remaining Republican presidential hopefuls gathered in Myrtle Beach early Tuesday (Israel time) for the first of two debates in South Carolina in the run-up to this weekend's primary.
During the televised debate, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and Texas Gov. Rick Perry criticized US President Barack Obama's policy towards Israel, while the audience booed when Texas Rep. Ron Paul called for a "golden rule" in American foreign policy.
"My point is, that if another country does to us what we do to others, we aren't going to like it very much. So I would say maybe we ought to consider a golden rule in foreign policy," Paul said as the crowd jeered. "We endlessly bomb these other countries and then we wonder why they get upset with us?"
Paul warned against a policy of "pre-emptive war" without Congress declaring war, and claimed the US is getting ready to "go to war with Iran."
During a discussion on Afghanistan and the Taliban, Paul said the United States should be careful about intervening in foreign lands. "This country doesn't need another war," he said. "We need to quit the ones we're in."
In response to a question about the "major" defense cuts he wants to make, the Texas representative brought up an example of spending a billion dollars on an embassy in Baghdad. He said, "You consider that defense spending. I consider that waste." He reiterated that "we need to have a strong national defense but we don't get strength by diluting ourselves in 900 bases, 130 countries."
"We're supposed to be conservative, spend less money," Paul added.
Frontrunner Mitt Romney vowed not to allow defense budget cuts such as those Obama is seeking, saying the US needs a large army. He said the United States should not negotiate with the Taliban and criticized the Obama administration for efforts to broker secret talks with the Afghan insurgents.
3) Honduras is test of new U.S. policy on gay rights
Tim Johnson, Mcclatchy, Tuesday, 01.17.12
San Pedro Sula, Honduras - From U.N. chambers to the halls of the State Department, global pressure on countries to protect the rights of gay people and transgender people is rising.
For Josue Hernandez, the new emphasis can't come fast enough.
The 33-year-old gay activist bears the scar of the bullet that grazed his skull in an attack a few years ago. He's moved the office of his advocacy group four times. Still, he feels hunted in what is arguably the most homophobic nation in the Americas.
"We are in a deplorable state," Hernandez said of gays in Honduras. "When we walk the streets, people shout insults at us and throw rocks. Parents move their children away."
Three months ago, a U.N. report declared that discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people - or LGBT - violates core international human rights law. It listed nations where violations are most severe.
Joining a push that originated in Europe, the Obama administration said in December that respect for LGBT rights is now a factor in its foreign policy decisions.
"Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in what diplomats described as a landmark speech Dec. 6 in Geneva. "It is a violation of human rights when governments declare it illegal to be gay, or allow those who harm gay people to go unpunished."
But even as that view grows more prevalent, it has yet to translate into better security, less hostility or fewer killings in places like Honduras, a nation of 8 million people in Central America.
Since the beginning of 2010, Honduras has tallied at least 62 homicides within the LGBT community, and some experts say the count may be far higher. Some victims have been mutilated and even burned.
The killing of gays is part of broader lawlessness. Honduras registered more than 6,700 homicides last year and has the highest per capita murder rate in the hemisphere.
One recent victim was Carlos Porfirio Juarez, a 25-year-old deaf mute who was taking hormones as part of a switch in gender to become "Karlita."
On Dec. 4, Juarez vanished while seeking sex clients at the Obelisco Park near the army general staff headquarters in Comayaguela, a city adjacent to the capital, Tegucigalpa.
"She didn't have a purse, a cellular phone or anything of value," said Jose Zambrano of the Association for a Better Quality of Life for those Infected with HIV/AIDS in Honduras. "Only her life," added Zambrano's sister, Sandra, a leader of the group.
The killer stabbed Juarez in the chest multiple times.
Experts point to conservative religious sentiment, machismo, rampant impunity, and social pressure on police to "cleanse" undesirables for the violence against people who defy sexual and gender norms.
"The connotation of being gay, lesbian or trans here is that we are worthless. We have no rights. We should be killed," said Ramon Antonio Valladares, leader of the nonprofit Sanpedrana Gay Community. "We've had people who were tortured, who were crushed and spattered against the wall."
4) In Signal to Israel and Iran, Obama Delays War Exercise
Gareth Porter and Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service,
Washington, Jan 16 - The postponement of a massive joint U.S.-Israeli military exercise appears to be the culmination of a series of events that has impelled the Barack Obama administration to put more distance between the United States and aggressive Israeli policies toward Iran.
The exercise, called "Austere Challenge '12" and originally scheduled for April, was to have been a simulation of a joint U.S.-Israeli effort to identify, track and intercept incoming missiles by integrating sophisticated U.S. radar systems with the Israeli Arrow, Patriot and Iron Dome anti-missile defence systems.
U.S. participation in such an exercise, obviously geared to a scenario involving an Iranian retaliation against an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities, would have made the United States out to be a partner of Israel in any war that would follow an Israeli attack on Iran.
Obama and U.S. military leaders apparently decided that the United States could not participate in such an exercise so long as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to give the administration any assurance that he will not attack Iran without prior approval from Washington.
The official explanation from both Israeli and U.S. officials about the delay was that both sides agreed on it. Both Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Mark Regev, spokesman for Netanyahu, suggested that it was delayed to avoid further exacerbation of tensions in the Gulf.
The idea that the Israelis wanted the postponement appears to be a cover story to mask the political blow it represents to the Netanyahu government and to shield Obama from Republican charges that he is not sufficiently supportive of Israel. Nevertheless, the signal sent by the delay to Netanyahu and Barak, reportedly the most aggressive advocates of a strike against Iran in Israel's right-wing government, could hardly be lost on the two leaders.
Obama may have conveyed the decision to Netanyahu during what is said to have been a lengthy telephone discussion between the two leaders Thursday night. Iran policy was one of the subjects Obama discussed with him, according to the White House press release on the conversation.
The decision to postpone the exercise may have been timed to provide a strong signal to Netanyahu in advance of this week's visit to Israel by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey. Dempsey reportedly expressed grave concern at a meeting with Obama last fall about the possibility that Israel intended to carry out a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities without consulting with Washington in advance.
Obama has been quoted as responding that he had "no say" in Israel's policy, much to Dempsey's dismay.
The coincidence of the announced delay with Dempsey's mission thus suggests that the new military chief may inform his Israeli counterpart that any U.S. participation in a joint exercise like "Austere Challenge '12" is contingent on Israel ending its implicit threat to launch an attack on Iran at a time of its own choosing.
This apparent rift between the two countries comes in the wake of a series of moves by Israel and its supporters here that appeared aimed at ratcheting up tensions between the U.S. and Iran.
In November and December, U.S. neoconservatives aligned with Netanyahu's Likud Party and what is sometimes called the Israel lobby engineered legislation that forced on the Obama administration a unilateral sanctions law aimed at dramatically reducing Iranian crude oil exports and "collapsing" its economy.
The administration's reluctant embrace of sanctions against the oil sector and the Iran's Central Bank led in turn to an Iranian threat to retaliate by closing off the Strait of Hormuz. The risk of a naval incident suddenly exploding into actual military conflict suddenly loomed large.
Netanyahu and Barak are widely believed to have hoped to provoke such conflict with a combination of more aggressive sanctions, sabotaging Iranian missile and nuclear facilities, and assassinations against individual scientists associated with the nuclear programme.
Amid tensions already reaching dangerous heights, Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan was assassinated in Tehran in a bombing Jan. 11. Both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor immediately condemned the assassination and vehemently denied any U.S. involvement in that or any other violence inside Iran.
It was the first time the U.S. government had chosen to distance itself so dramatically from actions that mainstream media has generally treated as part of a joint U.S.-Israeli policy.
U.S. officials told Associated Press Saturday that Israel was considered responsible for the killing, and the London Times published a detailed account of what it said was an Israeli Mossad operation.
Mossad is believed to have assassinated at most a handful of Iranian nuclear scientists – not enough to slow down the Iranian programme. And the timing of those operations has strongly suggested that the main aim has been to increase tensions with the United States and sabotage any possibility for agreement between Iran and the West on Iran's nuclear programme, if not actually provoke retaliation by Iran that could spark a wider conflict.
The assassination of nuclear scientist Majid Shariari and attempted assassination of his colleague, Fereydoon Abbasi on Nov. 29, 2010, for example, came just a few days after Tehran had reportedly agreed to hold a second meeting with the P5+1 in Geneva Dec. 6-7.
5) Killing of Iranian scientist imperils former Marine
Thomas Erdbrink and Tara Bahrampour, Washington Post, January 11
Tehran - The assassination Wednesday of an Iranian nuclear scientist in northern Tehran increases the peril for an Iranian American who was sentenced to death Monday, analysts said.
Iranian officials quickly blamed the scientist's killing on the United States, ratcheting up tensions between the two countries and making it less likely that Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, a 28-year-old former U.S. Marine arrested in August and accused of spying for the CIA, will be released anytime soon.
"Unfortunately, the greater the escalation is, the greater the likelihood that the perceived costs of executing him decline," said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council and author of a new book about the Obama administration's dealings with Iran.
6) Flexing Muscle, Baghdad Detains U.S. Contractors
Michael S. Schmidt and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, January 15, 2012
Baghdad - Iraqi authorities have detained a few hundred foreign contractors in recent weeks, industry officials say, including many Americans who work for the United States Embassy, in one of the first major signs of the Iraqi government's asserting its sovereignty after the American troop withdrawal last month.
The detentions have occurred largely at the airport in Baghdad and at checkpoints around the capital after the Iraqi authorities raised questions about the contractors' documents, including visas, weapons permits and authorizations to drive certain routes. Although no formal charges have been filed, the detentions have lasted from a few hours to nearly three weeks.
The crackdown comes amid other moves by the Iraqi government to take over functions that had been performed by the United States military and to claim areas of the country it had controlled. In the final weeks of the military withdrawal, the son of Iraq's prime minister began evicting Western companies and contractors from the heavily fortified Green Zone, which had been the heart of the United States military operation for much of the war.
Just after the last American troops left in December, the Iraqis stopped issuing and renewing many weapons licenses and other authorizations. The restrictions created a sequence of events in which contractors were being detained for having expired documents that the government would not renew.
The Iraqi authorities have also imposed new limitations on visas. In some recent cases, contractors have been told they have 10 days to leave Iraq or face arrest in what some industry officials call a form of controlled harassment.
Latif Rashid, a senior adviser to the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, and a former minister of water, said in an interview that the Iraqis' deep mistrust of security contractors had led the government to strictly monitor them. "We have to apply our own rules now," he said.
This month, Iraqi authorities kept scores of contractors penned up at Baghdad's international airport for nearly a week until their visa disputes were resolved. Industry officials said more than 100 foreigners were detained; American officials acknowledged the detainments but would not put a number on them.
Mr. Rashid, the adviser to Mr. Talabani, said Iraqis are fed up with foreign contractors. "The Iraqi public is not happy with security contractors. They caused a lot of pain," he said. "There is a general bad feeling towards the security contractors among the Iraqis and that has created bad feelings towards them all."
Mr. Rashid said that traveling to the United States to work was no different. "Every time I go to the airport in New York they open my suitcase three times," he said. "How long does it take to get an American visa?"
An adviser to Mr. Maliki said that as part of the current agreement between the United States and Iraq, no Americans should be in the country without the permission of the Iraqi government.
"Iraq always welcomes foreigners into the country, but they have to come through legally and in a way that respects that Iraq now has sovereignty and control over its land," said the adviser, Ali Moussawi.
Last month, two Americans, a Fijian and 12 Iraqis employed by Triple Canopy, a private security company, were detained for 18 days after their 10-vehicle convoy from Kalsu, south of Baghdad, to Taji, north of the capital, was stopped for what Iraqi officials said was improper paperwork.
One of the Americans, Alex Antiohos, 32, a former Army Green Beret medic from North Babylon, N.Y., who served in the Iraq war, said in a telephone interview Sunday that he and his colleagues were kept at an Iraqi army camp, fed insect-infested plates of rice and fish, forced to sleep in a former jail, and though not physically mistreated were verbally threatened by an Iraqi general who visited them periodically. "At times, I feared for my safety," Mr. Antiohos said.
In a statement, Triple Canopy, which denied any problems with documents, said that during the detention period, company officials were in contact with employees by cellphone, and brought them food, blankets, clothing, medical supplies and cellphone batteries. All were released unharmed on Dec. 27.
Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans. The archive of the Just Foreign Policy News is here: