JFP 8/23: Romney-Ryan "Ploughshares to Swords" Budget Would Cost Half a Million Jobs
Just Foreign Policy News, August 23, 2012
Romney-Ryan "Ploughshares to Swords" Budget Would Cost Half a Million Jobs
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 pol5cy that is more just.
Help your friends sign up to receive the Just Foreign Policy News
Do you know someone who might want to receive the Just Foreign Policy News? You can send them this link:
Go Straight to the News Summary
I) Actions and Featured Articles
Romney-Ryan "Ploughshares to Swords" Budget Would Cost America At Least 530,000 Jobs
If we could only make the Ryan plan stick to the principle of at least one dollar in military cuts for every dollar in domestic cuts, that would reduce the job loss of the Ryan plan by at least 12.9% - saving 530,000 jobs. That's on the scale of the jobs at stake in last year's fight over continuing the stimulus.
*Action: Urge the NYT to Investigate Four Questions on the WikiLeaks Case
Four questions are crucial to judging official claims that there is no connection between the British-Swedish legal pursuit of Julian Assange and the threat of U.S. prosecution of WikiLeaks: why won't Sweden question Assange in the U.K.? why won't Sweden say it won't extradite Assange to the U.S.? why won't the U.K. say it will oppose a U.S. extradition request? why won't the U.S. say it won't seek Assange's extradition from Sweden?
Let's Help WikiLeaks Liberate the Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiating Text
Our "crowdsourced" reward for WikiLeaks to publish the text is now over $20,000.
video: The Real News: Civilian Deaths from US Drone Attacks Much Higher than Reported
Gareth Porter: New investigative work shows that civilian deaths in Pakistan from drone strikes are higher than Pentagon claims.
676 days of cholera in Haiti
676 days, 7,593 dead, 600,061 ill since the UN brought cholera to Haiti. Still there has been no apology, no compensation, no implementation of an effective plan to eradicate the disease. Now the UN is considering renewing the mandate for UN troops in Haiti. Shouldn't addressing the cholera crisis caused by the UN be a condition for renewing the mandate for UN troops?
1) Detailed information from the families of those killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and from local sources on strikes that have targeted mourners and rescue workers provides credible new evidence that the majority of the deaths in the drone war in Pakistan have been civilian noncombatants - not "militants," as the Obama administration has claimed, writes Gareth Porter for Truthout. The new evidence also shows that the statistical tally of casualties from drone attacks in Pakistan published on the web site of the New America Foundation (NAF) has been systematically understating the deaths of large numbers of civilians by using a methodology that methodically counts them as "militants."
2) Writing at the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald explores the question of why Sweden won't agree to question Julian Assange in London, which he calls "mystifying," noting that a Swedish legal expert says "under Swedish law it is possible to interrogate people abroad," but that Sweden is refusing to do so simply for reasons of "prestige." Both the British and Swedish governments could take the position that to prosecute Assange under espionage statutes for acts of journalism would be political crimes that are not subject to their extradition treaties with the U.S. or are otherwise not cognizable extradition offenses, Greenwald writes. Rather than explore any of those possible grounds for agreement, both governments have simply refused to negotiate either with Assange's lawyers or the Ecuadorean government over any proposals to safeguard his rights. That refusal on the part of those governments is what led the Ecuadoreans to conclude that asylum was necessary to protect Assange from political persecution.
3) South Africa's cabinet has said it had approved the placing of "Occupied Palestinian Territory" labels on imported goods from Jewish settlements in the West Bank, Al Jazeera reports. "This is in line with South Africa's stance that recognises the 1948 borders delineated by the United Nations and does not recognise occupied territories beyond these borders as being part of the state of Israel," government spokesman Jimmy Manyi said. The products will be marked so that buyers knew their origin is not Israel, but beyond the Green Line, Manyi said.
4) The senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan conceded that Taliban influence could play a larger role in attacks by Afghan security forces on U.S. soldiers than the U.S. military has previously been willing to admit, the New York Times reports. Gen. Allen said up to a quarter of the killings could be caused by Taliban infiltration or coercion.
5) The New York Police Department acknowledged in court testimony that in more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the NYPD's secret "Demographics Unit" never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, AP reports. The CIA helped build the police spying program, which assembled databases on where Muslims lived, shopped, worked and prayed. Police infiltrated Muslim student groups, put informants in mosques, monitored sermons and catalogued every Muslim in New York who adopted new, Americanized surnames. Civil rights lawyers say the Demographics Unit violated federal guidelines that prohibit the NYPD from collecting information about political speech unless it is related to potential terrorism.
"This is a terribly pernicious set of policies," said Attorney Jethro Eisenstein, who said he would seek a court order to shut the unit down. "No other group since the Japanese Americans in World War II has been subjected to this kind of widespread public policy."
Attorney General Eric Holder has said he was disturbed by the case, but John Brennan, President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, has said he is confident the NYPD's activities are lawful and have kept the city safe.
6) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have achieved little in their domestic campaign for support for an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities besides uniting the top echelon of Israel's security establishment against them, writes J. J. Goldberg in the Daily Beast. Nearly every current and former senior figure in the military and intelligence services is now openly opposed to their civilian bosses' war option.
In recent months, some of the most senior figures in Israel's security establishment have broadened their attack on Netanyahu's policies and begun linking the neutralization of the Iranian threat to a revival of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. They say that Israel must get back to the negotiating table and restore forward movement on the Palestinian front in order to reduce its global diplomatic isolation and to ease the entry of Sunni powers like Saudi Arabia and Turkey into an active anti-Iran axis.
7) If the US or Israel bomb Iran's nuclear sites, UN nuclear inspectors in the country would be at risk, notes Mark Hibbs at Arms Control Wonk. Hibbs notes that the withdrawal of UN inspectors would be a signal of an impending Western attack on Iran, and that if the IAEA knew that the US or Israel planned to attack and didn't tell Iran, that would be the end of the IAEA's relationship with Iran. Hibbs implies that the presence of UN inspectors is in fact a deterrent against Western attack, and that Iran is well aware of this, having in proposed in 2005 "Continuous Presence of On-Site IAEA Inspectors, which can include EU-3/EU nationals" at Natanz, to some reported discomfort from Western diplomats.
8) A Bahrain judge overturned a conviction against a Nabeel Rajab for posting alleged anti-government comments on Twitter - after Rajab served more than half of his three month sentence - but Rajab remained jailed while appealing a three year sentence for allegedly encouraging protesters to clash with security forces, AP reports. Rajab's wife Sumaiya vowed to press on with an international campaign for her husband's release before the Sept. 10 appeal hearing on the three-year sentence.
9) Ecuador's President Correa said Britain's failure to extradite former Chilean dictator Pinochet more than a decade ago means it has no right to lecture others over the fate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Reuters reports. Britain says it is determined to fulfill a legal obligation to send Assange to Sweden. But Correa said London had made its own rules in the past -- specifically, by not extraditing Pinochet, who was charged with multiple human rights violations. "Pinochet was not extradited for humanitarian reasons, when there were dozens of Europeans and thousands of Latin Americans who were murdered, and tens of thousands of people were tortured during the Pinochet dictatorship," Correa said. The British government decided in 2000 that Pinochet was too ill to stand trial and free to fly home. He died six years later.
Correa said he was open to dialogue to resolve the case, but criticized the Swedish government for declining an offer by Ecuador to make Assange available for questioning inside the embassy.
10) Mexico's Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional a section of military law that allowed soldiers accused of abusing civilians to be tried in front of military tribunals, the Los Angeles Times reports. The ruling does not set a binding precedent: the court will need to issue similar rulings in four other cases for that to happen.
1) Cover-Up of Civilian Drone Deaths Revealed by New Evidence
Gareth Porter, Truthout, Friday, 17 August 2012 00:00
Detailed information from the families of those killed in drone strikes in Pakistan and from local sources on strikes that have targeted mourners and rescue workers provides credible new evidence that the majority of the deaths in the drone war in Pakistan have been civilian noncombatants - not "militants," as the Obama administration has claimed.
The new evidence also shows that the statistical tally of casualties from drone attacks in Pakistan published on the web site of the New America Foundation (NAF) has been systematically understating the deaths of large numbers of civilians by using a methodology that methodically counts them as "militants."
The sharply revised picture of drone casualties conveyed by the two new primary sources is further bolstered by the recent revelation that the Obama administration adopted a new practice in 2009 of automatically considering any military-age male killed in a drone strike as a "militant" unless intelligence proves otherwise.
The detailed data from the two unrelated sources covering a total 24 drone strikes from 2008 through 2011 show that civilian casualties accounted for 74 percent of the death toll, whereas the NAF tally for the same 24 strikes showed civilian casualties accounted for only 30 percent of the total.
The data on 11 drone strikes from 2008 through 2011 were collected in 2010 and 2011 from families of victims of the strikes by Pakistani lawyer Mirza Shahzad Akbar. Those 11 cases represent only a fraction of the total number on which Akbar has obtained data from victim's relatives.
Although relatives of drone strike victims could have a personal interest in declaring the innocence of their relatives, the details provided by relatives in legal affidavits, such as the age, employment and other characteristics of the victims, appear in almost every case to support their claims that those killed were not actively involved with al-Qaeda or other military organizations.
The data on 13 drone strikes targeting rescuers and mourners from 2009 through 2011 were gathered by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) in a three-month investigation in late 2010 and early 2011 involving interviews with eyewitnesses and others with direct knowledge of the strikes.
The NAF "Year of the Drone" project, headed by terrorism expert Peter Bergen, has been tracking casualties from drone strikes in Pakistan and estimating casualties from the strikes since 2009 based on news media reports.
But Bergen's estimates are not focused on estimating civilian casualties. Instead, they track the deaths of an undefined category of victims called "militants" by individual drone strike and by year. Those totals are shown in graphs with the residual category of "other" reflecting the overall total minus the total of "militant" deaths.
A major problem with the NAF statistics on drone victims is the extraordinarily wide spread between the low and high estimates for total number of deaths from drone strikes, as well for as the total number of "militants" killed. The range in the total number killed in strikes is estimated in the NAF database at a low of 1,879 and a high of 2,887. The NAF estimates the "militant" deaths from a low of 1,586 to a high of 2,416.
Bergen deals with high-end estimates that are 54 and 52 percent above the low end estimate by averaging them out. But the real issue is whether a very large proportion of the dead referred to by those anonymous sources giving the totals to reporters in Pakistan as "militants" were, in fact, noncombatant civilians.
The data compiled by Akbar and the BIJ strongly suggest that conclusion.
The NAF tally on the 11 strikes on which Akbar collected data from the victims' families shows a total of 66 to 78 "militants" killed along with 39 to 47 "others" - the term NAF uses in place of "civilians." But the information from the victims' families indicates that the number of "militants" killed was actually 27 to 34, while the number of civilians killed was 86 (See addendum below).
Instead of representing only 30 percent of the total casualties in those 11 strikes, as portrayed in the NAF accounting, civilian casualties actually accounted for nearly three-quarters of the total, according to the relatives' testimony.
The data on 13 drone strikes targeting funerals and rescue efforts reported by the BIJ in February similarly contradict the NAF tally of deaths. The NAF recorded a total of 90 to 176 dead in 12 strikes which the BIJ was able to confirm as targeting rescuers or mourners; 77 to 153 of the dead were listed as "militants," whereas only 13 to 24 were listed as "civilians." But eyewitnesses and other sources considered reliable in the localities reported that between 80 and 107 civilians had been killed in these attacks on rescuers or mourners. That suggests that the higher estimates for "militants" usually included the civilians killed in those strikes.
So, when adjusted for the new data, the estimate of "militants" killed would be 77 to 112, and the figure for civilians would be 80 to 107. The revised total of civilian deaths in those strikes is essentially equal to the revised total for "militants."
Combining the data on the two sets of drone strikes, the original estimate for "militant" deaths in the NAF accounting was a range of 143 to 231, but the figure based on actual local testimony is 104 to 146 - a 60 percent decrease. The figures for civilian deaths, on the other hand, increases by 66 percent, from the range of 52 to 71, based on the NAF tally, to an adjusted range of 164 to 193.
Thus civilian casualties, which were less than a third of the "militant" casualties in the NAF accounting for the 24 drone strikes in question, are revealed to be 70 percent of the total.
2) The bizarre, unhealthy, blinding media contempt for Julian Assange
It is possible to protect the rights of the complainants in Sweden and Assange's rights against political persecution, but a vindictive thirst for vengeance is preventing that
Glenn Greenwald, Guardian, Wednesday 22 August 2012 13.10 EDT
Earlier this week, British lawyer and legal correspondent for the New Statesman David Allen Green generated a fair amount of attention by announcing that he would use his objective legal expertise to bust what he called "legal myths about the Assange extradition." These myths, he said, are being irresponsibly spread by Assange defenders and "are like 'zombie facts' which stagger on even when shot down."
In addition to his other credentials, Green – like virtually the entire British press – is a long-time and deeply devoted Assange-basher, and his purported myth-busting was predictably regurgitated by those who reflexively grasp onto anything that reflects poorly on western establishmentarians' public enemy No1. It's really worth examining what Green argued to understand the behavior in which Assange detractors engage to advance this collective vendetta, and also to see how frequently blatant ideological agendas masquerade as high-minded, objective legal expertise.
Not only Assange defenders, but also his own lawyers and the Ecuadorean government, have worked relentlessly to ensure that he faces those allegations in Sweden. They have merely sought to do so in a way that protects him from extradition to the US to face espionage charges for his journalism – a threat that could send him to prison for life (likely in a torturous super-max facility), and a threat only the willfully blind could deny is serious and real.
In their New York Times op-ed this week, Michael Moore and Oliver Stone correctly argue that it is "the British and Swedish governments that stand in the way of [the sex assault] investigation, not Mr Assange." That's because, they note, Assange has repeatedly offered to be questioned by Swedish authorities in London, or to travel today to Sweden to face those allegations if he could be assured that his doing so would not result in his extradition to the US to face espionage charges.
Time and again, "Correa said Ecuador never intended to stop Assange from facing justice in Sweden. 'What we've asked for is guarantees that he won't be extradited to a third country,' he said." Both Britain and Sweden have steadfastly refused even to discuss any agreement that could safeguard both the rights of the complainants and Assange's rights not to be imprisoned for basic journalism.
These facts – and they are facts – pose a lethal threat to the key false narrative that Assange and his defenders are motivated by a desire to evade his facing the sex assault allegations in Sweden. So these facts need to be impugned, and that's where David Allen Green and his "myth-busting" legal expertise comes into play.
One myth Green purports to debunk is the notion that "the Swedes should interview Assange in London." This cannot be, Green argues, because "Assange is not wanted merely for questioning. He is wanted for arrest." He also echoes numerous other Assange critics by arguing that the "he-has-not-yet-been-charged" claim is a mere technical irrelevancy: the only reason this is true, he says, is because he must be in Sweden for that to happen.
But back in early 2011, Assange critics were telling a much different story. Back then, they were arguing that Assange was wildly overstating the danger he faced from extradition to Sweden because the investigation there was at such a preliminary stage and he was merely wanted for questioning. Indeed, here's what the very same David Allen Green wrote on 28 February 2011 when explaining the status of the investigation to his readers [my emphasis]:
"This extradition order does not necessarily mean, of course, that he will be extradited, still less that he will be charged, tried, or convicted. Assange may win an appeal of the extradition order, or Sweden may decide either not to continue or to interview him while he remains in England. However, unless some such external event intervenes, Assange will be shortly extradited to Sweden to be questioned about an allegation of rape, two allegations of sexual molestation, and an allegation of unlawful coercion."
Back when it suited Green, he emphasized that Assange has not been charged with any crime, that there is far from any certainty that he would be, and that extradition to Sweden is merely for him "to be questioned" on these allegations: exactly the "myths" and "zombie facts" which he now purports to bust. Moreover, Swedish law professor Marten Schultz, who strongly supports Assange's extradition to Sweden, has said the same [my emphasis]:
"The UK supreme court's decision means only that Assange will be transferred to Sweden for interrogation. It does not mean that he will be tried, or even charged. It is entirely possible that he will be transferred to Sweden, questioned, and released if the Swedish authorities find that there are insufficient grounds for prosecution. It is impossible – as it should be – to predict how the case will unfold."
Clearly, as Green himself used to acknowledge, Assange at this point is wanted for questioning in this case, and has not been charged. Once he's questioned, he might be charged, or the case might be dropped. That is what has made the Swedes' steadfast refusal to question him in England so mystifying, of such concern to Assange, and is the real reason that the investigation has thus far been obstructed. Indeed, Swedish legal expert Ove Bring has made clear, in the context of discussing Assange, that "under Swedish law it is possible to interrogate people abroad," but that Sweden is refusing to do so simply for reasons of "prestige" (he added: "If he goes to Sweden, is interrogated, then I expect the case would be dropped, as the evidence is not enough to charge him with a crime").
Then there's the very strange argument Green makes about why extradition to the US would be more easily accomplished if he's in Britain rather than Sweden. I've previously set out the reasons and supporting evidence showing the reverse is true [http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/20/julian-assange-right-asylum] and won't repeat those here, but let's look at what Green says to support his claim:
One can add that there is no evidence whatsoever that the United Kingdom would not swiftly comply with any extradition request from the United States; quite the reverse. Ask Gary McKinnon, or Richard O'Dwyer, or the NatWest Three.
The US has been seeking McKinnon's extradition from Britain for a full seven years and counting; O'Dwyer also remains in England and is the subject of a popular campaign to block his shipment to the U.S.; the NatWest Three were able to resist extradition to the US for four full years. These cases disprove, rather than prove, that an extradition demand from the US would be "swiftly complied with" in Britain. In contrast to the secretive Swedish judicial system, there is substantial public debate along with transparent (and protracted) judicial proceedings in Britain over extradition.
It is true, as Green notes, that the Swedish government cannot provide an iron-clad "guarantee" that Assange would not be extradited to the US. That's because it is Swedish courts, and not the government, that make the ultimate decision on extradition. But both the British and Swedish governments play an important role in any extradition proceeding: they take influential positions on whether extradition is legally warranted. Under Britain's extradition treaty, it must consent to the subsequent extradition of any individual it extradites (meaning its consent would be needed for Sweden to send Assange to the U.S.), while in Sweden, the government must formally opine on whether extradition should take place (some Swedes have made the case that the government's position would be dispositive).
At the very least, there is ample room for negotiation. Both the British and Swedish governments could – and should – take the position that to prosecute Assange under espionage statutes for acts of journalism would be political crimes that are not subject to their extradition treaties with the U.S. or are otherwise not cognizable extradition offenses. Rather than explore any of those possible grounds for agreement, both governments have simply refused to negotiate either with Assange's lawyers or the Ecuadorean government over any proposals to safeguard his rights. That refusal on the part of those governments – and not any desire to obstruct the investigation or evade facing those allegations – is what led the Ecuadoreans to conclude that asylum was necessary to protect Assange from political persecution.
The complainants in Sweden have the absolute right to have their serious allegations against Assange investigated and legally resolved. But Assange has the equally compelling right under international law and treaties to be free of political persecution: which is exactly what prosecuting him (and perhaps imprisoning him for life) in the US for WikiLeaks' disclosures would be.
It is vital that both sets of rights be safeguarded, not just one. The only just solution is one that protects both. Assange's lawyers and the Ecuadorians have repeatedly pursued arrangements to vindicate all substantial rights at stake so that he can travel to Sweden – today – to face those allegations while being protected against unjust extradition to the US. It is the refusal of the British and Swedish authorities even to consider any such proposals that have brought this situation to the unfortunate standstill it is in.
It is incredibly telling that media attacks on Assange do not even pay lip service to, let alone evince any actual interest in, the profound threats to press freedom that would come if he were extradited to and tried in the United States. In lieu of being informed about any of this, readers and viewers are bombarded with disturbing, and often quite disturbed, rants driven by unrestrained personal contempt. That contempt not only drowns out every important value at stake in this case, but also any regard for the basic facts.
UPDATE: Numerous people objected that I too readily conceded the point that Swedish courts, rather than the Swedish government, are the ultimate decision-makers on extradition requests, and the Swedish government therefore cannot provide Assange with a guarantee that he will not be extradited to the U.S. This article by a lawyer -- who fervently believes that Assange should be extradited to Sweden -- makes the case very compellingly that the Swedish government most certainly can provide such a guarantee if it chose to [my emphasis]:
Extradition procedures are typically of a mixed nature, where courts and governments share the final decision – it is not unknown for governments to reject an extradition request in spite of court verdict allowing it. . . .
Article 12 [of Sweden's extradition law] adds that the government may put conditions on its decision to accept an extradition request. The deciding body is thus the government, with an input by the Prosecutor general and a veto right given to the Supreme Court in case where the requested person doesn't accept to be extradited.
The article goes on to cite the Swedish extradition law to outline two possible outcomes where the target of an extradition request challenges its validity: (1) the Swedish supreme court rules that extradition is not legally permissible, in which case the Swedish government is not free to extradite; (2) the Swedish supreme court rules that extradition is legally permissible, in which case the Swedish government is free to decide that it will not extradite for policy or other prudential reasons. In other words, the Swedish judiciary has the right to block an extradition request on legal grounds, but it lacks the power to compel extradition; if the courts approve of the legal basis, the Swedish government still retains the authority to decide if extradition should take place.
As indicated, even if it were true that Swedish government was an unable to offer Assange a so-called "iron-clad guarantee" against extradition, there is still grounds to negotiate in order to have him travel to Sweden to face these allegations; given that the Swedish government clearly has, at the very least, a significant role to play in the process, its advanced position against Assange's extradition to the U.S. on the basis of WikiLeaks' journalistic disclosures would be significant. But there is at least a strong argument to make, if not an irrefutable one, that the Swedish government is able to offer precisely the guarantee that both Assange and Ecuadorean authorities have sought in order to enable him immediately to travel to Sweden to face the sex assault allegations against him. Independently, the British government is also clearly in a position to contribute to those assurances, given the need for its consent if extradition to the U.S. from Sweden is to take place.
If one wants to find a culprit for why these sex assault allegations are not being resolved the way they should be, the refusal of these two governments even to negotiate to secure Assange's clear rights against unjust extradition is the place to begin.
UPDATE II: For even more compelling evidence that the Swedish government is the final decision-maker in extradition matters and does indeed have the power to guarantee Assange that he would not be extradited to the U.S. based on his journalism, see the citations in Point 3 of this excellent reply to Green. [http://pastehtml.com/view/c91yw7wjy.html]
3) S Africa approves 'Made in Palestine' labels
The move, to place new tags on imported goods from Jewish settlements, provokes an angry response from the Israelis.
Al Jazeera, 22 Aug 2012 18:19
South Africa's cabinet has said it had approved the placing of Occupied Palestinian Territory labels on imported goods from Jewish settlements.
"This is in line with South Africa's stance that recognises the 1948 borders delineated by the United Nations and does not recognise occupied territories beyond these borders as being part of the state of Israel," government spokesman Jimmy Manyi told a press briefing on Wednesday.
The trade minister was given the nod to issue a notice requiring that products are marked so that buyers knew their origin is not Israel, but beyond the Green Line, Manyi said.
South Africa says its backing of Palestine stems from its own history of apartheid, oppression and rights abuses.
Ebrahim Ebrahim, South Africa's deputy foreign minister, recently expressed "concern by high profile and government institutions' visits to Israel as it gives legitimacy to Israel occupation of Palestine land".
The trade ministry in May invited public comments on the labels, saying traders must put the tags on so that consumers will "not be misled".
South Africa's relations with Israel have been uneasy for years but reached a new low last Sunday when Ebrahim called on the citizens of his country to avoid visiting Israel because of its treatment of Palestinians.
"Israel is an occupier country which is oppressing Palestine, so it's not proper for South Africans to associate with Israel," Ebrahim, told City Press newspaper. "We discourage people from going there except if it has to do with the peace process."
South Africa's Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said on Wednesday that the move was not a boycott of Israeli products, but aimed at helping "South Africans who do not support Israel, but who in fact do support the Palestinians, to identify those products".
Ebrahim said that although South Africa should "scale down" its economic ties to Israel, they are not talking about a complete breakdown of relations.
4) General Notes Taliban Coercion in Some Attacks on Troops
Thom Shanker, New York Times, August 23, 2012
Washington - The senior commander in Afghanistan made new allowances on Thursday that Taliban influence could play a large role in attacks by Afghan security forces on Americans, saying that up to one-quarter of the killings could be caused by Taliban infiltration or coercion. But he reiterated that most of such insider attacks have still been attributed to personal grievances and animosities.
The commander, Gen. John R. Allen of the Marine Corps, addressed the subject in a video news conference on Thursday, a day after Afghan officials blamed foreign intelligence services for being behind most of the insider killings. He said he had not seen the information that prompted that claim, but sought to clarify what NATO commanders knew about why Afghan forces have taken to killing their American colleagues in increasing numbers.
Previously, NATO military officials had said that only about 10 percent of the insider attacks could be attributed to Taliban infiltration or impersonation of Afghan security units. But on Thursday, General Allen said that in addition to that infiltration figure, another roughly 15 percent of the attacks could be caused by Taliban coercion of soldiers or police officers, either directly or through family members.
Because most of the attackers had been killed or had escaped, and not captured alive for interrogation, it was difficult to provide firm statistics, he said. He also noted that more Afghans than Western troops had been killed by such insider attacks.
At least 40 NATO service members have been reported killed by insider attacks this year, already more than last year's total, and with at least 9 of the deaths coming over the past two weeks.
5) NYPD official: Muslim spying by secret Demographics Unit generated no leads, terrorism cases
Associated Press, Published: August 21
New York - In more than six years of spying on Muslim neighborhoods, eavesdropping on conversations and cataloguing mosques, the New York Police Department's secret Demographics Unit never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation, the department acknowledged in court testimony unsealed late Monday.
The Demographics Unit is at the heart of a police spying program, built with help from the CIA, which assembled databases on where Muslims lived, shopped, worked and prayed. Police infiltrated Muslim student groups, put informants in mosques, monitored sermons and catalogued every Muslim in New York who adopted new, Americanized surnames.
Police hoped the Demographics Unit would serve as an early warning system for terrorism. And if police ever got a tip about, say, an Afghan terrorist in the city, they'd know where he was likely to rent a room, buy groceries and watch sports.
But in a June 28 deposition as part of a longstanding federal civil rights case, Assistant Chief Thomas Galati said none of the conversations the officers overheard ever led to a case. "Related to Demographics," Galati testified that information that has come in "has not commenced an investigation."
Galati, the commanding officer of the NYPD Intelligence Division, offered the first official look at the Demographics Unit, which the NYPD denied ever existed when it was revealed by the AP last year. He described how police gather information on people even when there is no evidence of wrongdoing, simply because of their ethnicity and native language.
Galati testified as part of a lawsuit that began in 1971 over NYPD spying on students, civil rights groups and suspected Communist sympathizers during the 1950s and 1960s. The lawsuit, known as the Handschu case, resulted in federal guidelines that prohibit the NYPD from collecting information about political speech unless it is related to potential terrorism.
Civil rights lawyers believe the Demographics Unit violated those rules. Documents obtained by the AP show the unit conducted operations outside its jurisdiction, including in New Jersey. The FBI there said those operations damaged its partnerships with Muslims and jeopardized national security.
Attorney Jethro Eisenstein, who filed the Handschu case more than 40 years ago and questioned Galati during the deposition, said he will go back to court soon to ask that the Demographics Unit be shut down. It operates today under a new name, the Zone Assessment Unit. It recently stopped operating out of state, Galati said.
"This is a terribly pernicious set of policies," Eisenstein said. "No other group since the Japanese Americans in World War II has been subjected to this kind of widespread public policy."
Dozens of members of Congress have asked the Justice Department to investigate the NYPD. Attorney General Eric Holder has said he was disturbed by the reports. But John Brennan, President Barack Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, has said he is confident the NYPD's activities are lawful and have kept the city safe.
6) Netanyahu and Barak v. Israel's Defense Community
J. J. Goldberg, Daily Beast, Aug 22, 2012 10:30 AM EDT
One of the most astonishing features of Israel's current debate over the Iranian threat is the utter failure of the country's two top leaders, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, to win significant support for an Israeli attack on Tehran's nuclear installations.
Despite months of jawboning and arm-twisting, they have achieved little except to unite the top echelon of Israel's security establishment against them. Nearly every current and former senior figure in the military and intelligence services is now openly opposed to their civilian bosses' war option.
The extent of Netanyahu's and Barak's isolation is little understood. Yes, a majority of the Israeli public is against an Israeli attack without full American backing, polls show. Netanyahu and Barak haven't even persuaded a majority of their own senior ministers to back a military strike. Among Israel's military and intelligence professionals, however, opposition is virtually unanimous.
And the harder Netanyahu and Barak push, the wider the rift grows. In recent months, some of the most senior figures in Israel's security establishment have broadened their attack on Netanyahu's policies and begun linking the neutralization of the Iranian threat to a revival of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. They say that Israel must get back to the negotiating table and restore forward movement on the Palestinian front in order to reduce its global diplomatic isolation and to ease the entry of Sunni powers like Saudi Arabia and Turkey into an active anti-Iran axis.
It's important to note that advocates of this Iran-Palestinian linkage include not just veteran moderates like former Shin Bet director Ami Ayalon but even hard-liners like longtime Netanyahu security adviser Uzi Arad, the former director of Israel's national security council sometimes known as "Israel's Dr. Strangelove." Both Ayalon and Arad have outlined the case for linkage to me in recent weeks in nearly identical terms. And they're not the only ones.
This position constitutes a profound challenge to Netanyahu on three separate levels. First, it presupposes that there are steps Israel can take to restore the peace process, and that the breakdown is not entirely the Palestinians' fault. Second, it challenges the long-held Israeli diplomatic axiom that there is no necessary connection between the deadlock in Israeli-Palestinian relations and troubles elsewhere in the region. Third, it assumes that a viable Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement is within reach.
Agreement on this third point is not unanimous. Some former military and intelligence service chiefs argue that tensions can be reduced through good-faith progress even though the end-point is not yet visible. But the majority view, based on public statements and my own conversations with principals, appears to be that an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement can be achieved-and must be, in order to turn the tables and isolate Iran.
In fact, it's worth noting that some who advocate a possible Israeli military strike, like former deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh, share the view that reviving talks with the Palestinians is an urgent first step before such an attack.
Right now the case for linkage is heard only from a fairly small group of former security chiefs. It must be remembered, though, that that's how opposition to the Netanyahu-Barak military option began. Israelis and foreign observers alike were shocked in January 2011 when former Mossad director Meir Dagan spoke against the military option in Knesset testimony immediately after leaving the job. In the months that followed he sharpened his attacks, despite furious criticism, eventually making his now-famous statement to a closed forum in May that an attack on Iran was "the stupidest idea I've ever heard." Less noticed, his views won endorsement from a succession of former military and intelligence chiefs.
Then, in December 2011, in an utterly unprecedented step, current Mossad director Tamir Pardo publicly challenged the main thrust of the Netanyahu-Barak war argument, declaring in a speech that Iran was "not necessarily an existential threat" to Israel. In April 2012 current military chief of staff Benny Gantz took a similar step, telling Haaretz in an interview that Iran had not decided to build a weapon and that diplomatic and economic measures might persuade it not to because Iran's leaders are "very rational people."
The unanimity of the current security team was driven home in a shocking way in an August 10 report in Yediot Ahronot by two of Israel's most respected journalists, Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer, cataloguing the familiar names of the country's top officers: Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, Air Force chief Amir Eshel, Military Intelligence chief Aviv Kochavi, Mossad director Tamir Pardo, Shin Bet director Yoram Cohen. A few had spoken before. Others had had their views leaked. Seeing the names listed so graphically in the country's largest-circulation paid newspaper was a bombshell, however.
This sort of rift between the political leadership and the defense community is highly unusual in a functioning democracy. It's not unknown for military professionals to question their civilian bosses' reluctance to use force. It's hard to think of another case where the security elite was so united in viewing the political leadership as reckless adventurists.
7) IAEA Inspectors' Risk in Iran
Mark Hibbs, Arms Control Wonk, 20 August 2012
In a phone call at one o'clock in the morning on March 17, 2003, the U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA, Kenneth Brill, advised IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei to remove his inspectors from Baghdad immediately. The following day, the IAEA gave orders for personnel to leave Iraq. On March 19, the U.S. launched Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Fast-forward nine years. We're now moving into the fifth month of Iran-P5+1 diplomacy without any progress, Prime Minister Netanyahu is urging the powers to declare negotiations a failure, and the drums of war are once again beating in Jerusalem. So it's no surprise we're closing out the summer–and for good reason–by revisiting all the potential downsides of an Israeli attack against Iran's nuclear installations.
Until now, one little item on that list has gotten scarce attention outside the classified world: the messy diplomatic situation Israel would encounter if any IAEA personnel were to be casualties of an airstrike on Iran. (It must also be said that the same dilemma would confront the U.S. should, as this account suggested last week, Washington in the more distant future would react to a serious Iranian escalation by taking matters into its own hands).
Might IAEA personnel potentially be at risk in Iran should Israel or the U.S. bomb Iran's nuclear sites?
According to the current situation on the ground in Iran and what the fine print of the IAEA's inspection protocols permits the agency to do in the field, without the IAEA having advance guidance or knowledge of whether a military incursion will take place at any specific time, the answer is, in theory, yes.
So to keep IAEA personnel out of harm's way, would the U.S. or Israel in advance of launching strikes against Iran, as Brill did in 2003, dial up IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and tell him that he would be well advised to move his inspect0rs out? A lot of people seem to believe there would be a discreet conversation at some point.
Powers attacking Iran would want to remove IAEA personnel including for the reason that, if they didn't, they would thereafter be excoriated by member states of the IAEA and the U.N. for exposing international civil servants to a surprise attack. But if the attackers intended to keep Iran in the dark, they would have to consider that if they informed the IAEA of their plans, a subsequent exodus of IAEA personel from Iran might signal to Iran that an attack was imminent.
It's inconceivable that the IAEA would not do everything possible to get personnel out of Iran prior to a surprise attack on Iran's nuclear sites. But the IAEA must be careful in going about it. If after such an attack information were to leak, or if Amano were compelled to reveal that he had been warned by surprise attackers to withdraw his inspectors, and if the IAEA had chosen not to pass that warning on to Iran, Iran might conclude afterwards that the IAEA was party to an invasion of Iran. Any IAEA personnel still in the country would be at severe risk. If IAEA personnel were out of the country, there would be no direct repercussions, but the IAEA's relationship with Iran would be over.
Should the IAEA in coming weeks or months, or at any future time, decide on its own to avoid these dilemmas by pulling out all safeguards personnel from the country in view of escalating tension between Iran and its adversaries, that step would challenge the IAEA to maintain continuity of knowledge in Iran, as Iran's uranium enrichment program and other activities remain on autopilot.
In any event, the prospect of having personnel in the line of fire is unnerving to the IAEA and its member states. In March 2005, Iran presented to EU negotiators this proposal under the rubric "Elements of Objective Guarantees." Note item 4 b. "Continuous Presence of On-Site IAEA Inspectors, which can include EU-3/EU nationals, at the UCF and Natanz." Some people in Vienna will tell you that this item made some diplomats at the outset a little wary: Did Iran's interlocutors really want to make a blanket commitment to Iran to station personnel 24/7/365 at installations which were increasingly becoming a flashpoint of international tension?
8) Bahrain court overturns Twitter conviction for jailed rights activist, lawyer says
Associated Press, August 23
Manama, Bahrain - A Bahrain judge on Thursday overturned a conviction against a prominent human rights campaigner for posting alleged anti-government comments on social media, but the activist remained jailed while appealing another prison sentence.
The decision shifts the focus among Nabeel Rajab's supporters to next month's challenge of a three-year sentence for his role in allegedly encouraging protesters to clash with security forces in the strategic Gulf kingdom, which is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
Bahrain has faced more than 18 months of unrest between the Sunni-led monarchy and majority Shiites who claim they face systematic discrimination. More than 50 people have died and thousands have been injured in the violence, which has included escalating attacks on police.
Rajab's attorney, Mohammed al-Jishi, said the judge threw out the conviction for the Twitter posts after a brief hearing. Rajab has already served more than half of his three-month sentence. A statement from Bahrain's government attributed the judge's ruling to "uncertainty regarding the evidence submitted to support the lawsuit."
"It's hard to celebrate when the Bahrain authorities admit their mistake in jailing Nabeel Rajab for the tweet but keep him in prison until 2015 on other spurious charges," said Brian Dooley, director of the Human Rights Defenders Program of the U.S.-based advocacy group Human Rights First. "They've found another way to silence him, and that's what matters," Dooley said.
Rajab's wife Sumaiya vowed to press on with an international campaign for her husband's release before the Sept. 10 appeal hearing on the three-year sentence. The court's ruling last week in that case brought rare criticism from Bahrain's allies in Washington and touched off fresh clashes around the kingdom.
9) Ecuador's Correa criticizes Britain over extradition record
Eduardo Garcia, Reuters, Wed Aug 22, 2012 8:15pm EDT
Quito - Ecuador's President Rafael Correa said on Wednesday that Britain's failure to extradite former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet more than a decade ago means it has no right to lecture others over the fate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Correa has granted asylum to Assange, who has been holed up in Ecuador's embassy in London for more than two months seeking to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning about rape and sexual assault allegations.
The South American nation's socialist leader says he shares the former computer hacker's fears that he could be sent from Sweden to the United States to face charges over WikiLeak's publication in 2010 of thousands of secret U.S. cables.
Britain says it is determined to fulfill a legal obligation to send Assange to Sweden. But Correa said London had made its own rules in the past -- specifically, by not extraditing Pinochet, who was charged with multiple human rights violations. "Pinochet was not extradited for humanitarian reasons, when there were dozens of Europeans and thousands of Latin Americans who were murdered, and tens of thousands of people were tortured during the Pinochet dictatorship," he told reporters in Quito.
Pinochet was arrested by British police at a hospital in London in 1998 after Spain demanded his extradition for alleged torture and murder, including of Spanish citizens, during his 1973-1990 rule.
The British government decided in 2000 that the frail Pinochet was unfit to stand trial and free to fly home. He died six years later in Santiago, Chile, aged 91. "If Pinochet was not extradited for humanitarian reasons then it's clear that they can take the decision not to extradite Mr. Julian Assange," Correa said.
The Ecuadorean government remains angry at a veiled threat by Britain to enter its embassy and arrest Assange. On Tuesday Correa denounced it as "rude, impertinent and unacceptable."
But on Wednesday he repeated that Ecuador was ready to negotiate over the 41-year-old Australian's fate. Ecuador's government wants Assange to receive written assurances that he would not be extradited from Sweden to a third country. "We have always been open to dialogue and we are still open to dialogue," the president said.
But he criticized the Swedish government for declining an offer by Ecuador to make Assange available for questioning inside the embassy. He also said he doubted the seriousness of his alleged crimes. "The alleged sexual offences are not considered crimes in Latin America, or in 95 percent of the world," Correa said.
He has won broad support for his position on Assange from other South American governments, framing the embassy saga as a struggle between his small country and "imperialist" powers. "We cannot ignore the fact that some countries have a lot of weight," Correa said. "But something has changed: Latin America no longer has patrons. We don't bow to pressure. We will not accept neo-colonialism, wherever it may come from."
10) Mexico closer to banning military trials of human rights abuse
Mexican Supreme Court finds unconstitutional part of a military law that allowed soldiers accused of abusing civilians to be tried by military tribunals.
Richard Fausset, Los Angeles Times, August 23, 2012
Mexico City - Mexico's Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional a section of military law that allowed soldiers accused of abusing civilians to be tried in front of military tribunals, a practice opposed by human rights advocates.
In an 8-2 decision Tuesday, the court cited an article of the Mexican Constitution that states that military courts should "in no case and for no reason" have jurisdiction over civilians. Judge Arturo Zaldivar stated that military courts should be "restricted to offenses committed by military personnel who threaten the military order - that is, against military discipline."
The ruling brings Mexico a significant step closer to ensuring that human rights abuse cases against soldiers are no longer tried in a military system that critics describe as a kind of judicial black hole with little civilian oversight, court observers and human rights advocates said. The ruling does not set a binding precedent: The court will need to issue similar rulings in four other cases for that to happen.
The issue is of paramount importance in Mexico, where the military has been called upon to prosecute the war against the nation's powerful criminal drug cartels. One unsettling result has been a deluge of abuse allegations, although few suspect soldiers have been prosecuted. A recent Human Rights Watch investigation found that of 5,000 civilian abuse investigations opened by the military prosecutor's office between 2007 and April 2012, only 38 military personnel have been sentenced.
The high court's decision is one of a series of recent rulings that appear to indicate the court is moving in the direction of civilian court jurisdiction of human rights cases - although the Mexican civilian courts hardly offer a guarantee that justice will be served. About 2% of reported crimes in the country lead to a conviction.
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: