JFP 9/12: Romney slimes US Embassy Cairo; Groups press Leahy Law cutoffs to Bahrain
Just Foreign Policy News, September 12, 2012
Romney slimes US Embassy Cairo; Groups press Leahy Law cutoff to Bahrain
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I) Actions and Featured Articles
Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement: Drone Strikes on People With AIDS?
Do you think that "public comment" and "congressional review" of an agreement that "could cut off access to lifesaving medicines for millions" should wait until after the agreement is signed, when, in practical terms, the prospects for changing the agreement would be near zero?
Rights groups demand Leahy Law be applied to Bahrain security forces that abuse human rights
A letter was sent on Sept. 10 to Secretary of State Clinton, urging application of the Leahy Law to immediately suspend further U.S. military assistance and arms transfers to units of the security forces of Bahrain which have engaged in human rights violations against non-violent, pro-democracy protesters, as required by U.S. law. The letter was signed by: Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, International Federation for Human Rights, Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights First, Freedom House, Physicians for Human Rights, Project on Middle East Democracy, Just Foreign Policy, Open Society Foundations, Human Rights Watch, and the United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society.
1) Mitt Romney attacked a US Embassy Cairo statement denouncing an anti-Muslim film as a "disgraceful..first response" to attacks on the US embassy in Cairo and consulate in Bengazi even though the embassy statement was issued before the attacks happened, the Daily Beast reports. Romney refused to acknowledge the chronology of events, even in a statement a day later.
2) Mitt Romney's sharply-worded attack on President Obama over a pair of riots in Muslim countries has backfired badly among foreign policy hands of both parties, who cast it as hasty and off-key, released before the facts were clear at what has become a moment of tragedy, Ben Smith writes for BuzzFeed. "They were just trying to score a cheap news cycle hit based on the embassy statement and now it's just completely blown up," said a very senior Republican foreign policy hand, who called the statement an "utter disaster" and a "Lehman moment" - a parallel to the moment when John McCain, amid the 2008 financial crisis, failed to come across as a steady leader.
3) The Sierra Club, Public Citizen, the Communications Workers of America and other groups called for proposals for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement to be made public, Bloomberg reports. Transparency has become an issue of the Pacific-region talks, with consumer, labor and environmental groups siding with some U.S. lawmakers who want participants to make their positions public. U.S. officials have said they will hold a public comment period and congressional review after talks are complete, in line with their policy for recent trade deals including those with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. [That is, U.S. officials have said that they will hold a public comment period and congressional review after the agreement is signed, when it will be too late to change it - JFP.]
4) A bipartisan group of lawmakers are urging USTR "in the strongest terms possible" to reveal what intellectual property measures the U.S. is seeking to include in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, The Hill reports. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) call on USTR to publicly release "detailed information" about the provisions negotiators are trying to secure in the agreement that relate to intellectual property enforcement online. The lawmakers argue that a "poorly-constructed" IP chapter runs the risk of constraining freedom of expression on the Internet and how people collaborate and share content online, which would ultimately erode Internet freedom.
5) A memorandum by the Congressional Research Service casts doubt on the Obama Administration's legal justifications for targeted killings with drone strikes, writes Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists. CRS concludes that none of the established legal frameworks is a perfect fit for the Administration's lethal targeting operations because the current U.S. practice of lethal targeting involves features that are improvised, inconsistent or otherwise questionable.
CRS says the Administration appears to have redefined the meaning of "imminence," one of the required elements for justifying the use of force in self-defense on the territory of another country. The standard definition of imminence refers to an overwhelming threat that allows "no moment for deliberation." But the Administration uses imminence idiosyncratically "to refer to the window of opportunity for striking rather than the perceived immediacy of the threat of an armed attack." This novel usage "may pose some challenge to the international law regarding the use of force," CRS said.
6) Mitt Romney has launched a flurry of TV ads explaining how he'll protect and create jobs: more government spending on the military, writes William Saletan for Slate. The ads, available on Romney's YouTube channel, are tailored to eight swing states. The one running in Virginia says: "Here in Virginia, we're not better off under President Obama. His defense cuts threaten over 130,000 jobs." Similar ads in other states complain that Obama's reductions in military spending threaten 20,000 jobs in Colorado, 20,000 in Ohio, and "thousands more" in Florida and North Carolina.
7) The U.S. public is becoming increasingly comfortable with a more modest and less militarized global role for the U.S., according to a survey by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Inter Press Service reports. Majorities said they opposed the retention or establishment of long-term U.S. military bases in Iraq or Afghanistan; 70 percent of respondents said they opposed a unilateral U.S. strike on Iran's nuclear facilities; and 59 percent said the U.S. should not ally itself militarily with Israel if Israel attacks Iran. 67 percent of the public now believes the war in Iraq was "not worth it", while seven of 10 respondents agreed that "the experience of the Iraq war should make nations more cautious about using military force." Sixty-nine percent said the war in Afghanistan either made "no difference" to U.S. security (51 percent) or that it made the country "less safe" (18 percent). Two-thirds of respondents said the defense budget should be cut.
8) CEPR criticized Honduras' official investigation of a fatal shooting during a drug interdiction operation after its conclusions contradicted reports of witnesses and the group's own investigation into what happened, AP reports. The probe's findings announced Friday said that two victims were not pregnant and that none of the four people killed were hit by gunfire from a law-enforcement helicopter involved in the May drug raid in the Mosquitia region. Local people and some rights activists have claimed the victims were shot by police, two were pregnant and all were innocent civilians traveling a river at night. CEPR said autopsies of the two women were carried out in an unprofessional manner 40 days later in the open air at the cemetery, and that friends of the women claimed both were pregnant.
9) Mitt Romney renewed his call for American troops in Afghanistan to come home by the end of 2014, ABC News reports. "Our goal should be to complete a successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014," Romney said. "We should evaluate conditions on the ground and solicit the best advice of our military commanders."
10) The view that former Bolivian President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada must be extradited from the US to stand trial for ordering the killing of indigenous peaceful protesters in cold blood is a political consensus in Bolivia, shared by the government and the main opposition party alike, writes Glenn Greenwald in Salon. But the Bolivian government has been notified by the Obama administration that the US government has refused Bolivia's extradition request.
Remember all those voices who were so deeply outraged at Ecuador's decision to grant asylum to Julian Assange, Greenwald writes. Given that he faces criminal complaints in Sweden, they proclaimed, protecting Assange with asylum constitutes a violent assault on the rule of law. Do you think any of the people who attacked Ecuador on that ground will raise a peep of protest at what the US did here in shielding this former leader from facing charges of crimes against humanity back in his own country?
11) The U.S. State Department said in a court filing that former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo should be immune from a lawsuit over the 1997 killings of 45 people by government-linked paramilitaries in Acteal, Chiapas, AP reports. Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they expect the State Department opinion will prevent the lawsuit from proceeding.
1) Emphasizing the Cairo Timeline: "After the Breach" Is the Key Phrase
Michael Tomasky, Daily Beast, Sep 12, 2012 10:02 AM EDT
This is important. Apparently it goes like this.
First, the embassy in Cairo--not the White House, not Foggy Bottom, but the embassy--released its statement denouncing (not by name) the makers of the inflammatory film about Mohammed. That was around noon local time Tuesday.
Then the attacks happened.
Then, last night, came Romney's statement criticizing the Obama administration for its allegedly "disgraceful..first response" being "to sympathize with those who waged the attacks."
But: the attack hadn't happened! That first embassy statement was apparently issued because word was circulating about possible violence, and the embassy was trying to quell it.
Then the Obama administration distanced itself from the original embassy statement, and then Romney issued last night's statement.
So here's Romney now, at 10:18 am, now that he must surely know this chronology, still defending his statement from last night and criticizing Obama for defending the attackers. He is continuing to say that the original statement came "after the breach." So he's accusing the embassy and State and the administration of lying. And, by the by, he is criticizing US embassy officials who were under attack.
If he is factually wrong about the first statement happening "after the breach," then this press conference, mark my words, will go down in history as a textbook disaster. Chuck Dodd is being professional but clearly can't believe what we just saw. Amazing, with four people dead, and two not even yet named publicly, that Romney would do this.
This is his meltdown moment, like McCain suspending his campaign. As someone just tweeted: "I mean, seriously. Mitt Romney's first statement after an ambassador was killed was to attack the President over tweets?"
2) Foreign Policy Hands Voice Disbelief At Romney Cairo Statement
"Bungle… utter disaster…not ready for prime time… not presidential… Lehman moment." And that's just the Republicans.
Ben Smith, BuzzFeed, Sep 12, 2012 11:10am EDT
Mitt Romney's sharply-worded attack on President Obama over a pair of deadly riots in Muslim countries last night has backfired badly among foreign policy hands of both parties, who cast it as hasty and off-key, released before the facts were clear at what has become a moment of tragedy.
Romney keyed his statement to the American Embassy in Cairo's condemnation of an anti-Muslim video that served as the trigger for the latest in a series of regional riots over obscure perceived slights to the faith. But his statement - initially embargoed to avoid release on September 11, then released yesterday evening anyway - came just before news that the American Ambassador to Libya had been killed and broke with a tradition of unity around national tragedies, and of avoiding hasty statements on foreign policy. It was the second time Romney has been burned by an early statement on a complex crisis: Romney denounced the Obama Administration's handling of a Chinese dissident's escape just as the Administration negotiated behind the scenes for his departure from the country.
"They were just trying to score a cheap news cycle hit based on the embassy statement and now it's just completely blown up," said a very senior Republican foreign policy hand, who called the statement an "utter disaster" and a "Lehman moment" - a parallel to the moment when John McCain, amid the 2008 financial crisis, failed to come across as a steady leader.
He and other members of both parties cited the Romney campaign's recent dismissals of foreign policy's relevance. One adviser dismissed the subject to BuzzFeed as a "shiny object," while another told Politico that the subject was the "president's turf," drawing a rebuke from Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol.
"I guess we see now that it is because they're incompetent at talking effectively about foreign policy," said the Republican. "This is just unbelievable - when they decide to play on it they completely bungle it."
Romney has not backed off the response - "It's never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values," he said Wednesday - but his campaign faces a near consensus in Republican foreign policy circles that, whatever the sentiment, Romney faltered badly.
3) Protesters Seek Openness at Pacific-Region Trade Pact Talks
Brian Wingfield, Bloomberg, Sep 9, 2012 7:32 PM ET
Dozens of groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and International Brotherhood of Teamsters met with negotiators during Pacific-region trade talks in Leesburg, Virginia, as protesters called for more openness in the discussions.
The U.S. Trade Representative's office conducted a "stakeholders' forum" yesterday for interested groups at the latest round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an accord that would create the biggest trade zone in U.S. history.
About 150 representatives from some of those groups, including the Sierra Club, Public Citizen and the Communications Workers of America gathered on a grassy hillside after the event, where they called for proposals to be made public and chanted "Flush the TPP!"
"We want negotiators to release the text, to tell people what they're proposing in our names," Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of the Washington-based Citizens Trade
Campaign and an organizer of the protest, said in an interview.
Transparency has become an issue of the Pacific-region talks, with consumer, labor and environmental groups siding with some U.S. lawmakers who want participants to make their positions public. U.S. officials have said they will hold a public comment period and congressional review after talks are complete, in line with their policy for recent trade deals including those with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
[That is, U.S. officials have said that they will hold a public comment period and congressional review after the agreement is signed, when it will be too late to change it - JFP.]
4) Lawmakers call for openness over Pacific trade deal IP measures
Jennifer Martinez, The Hill, 09/08/12 06:45 AM ET
A bipartisan group of lawmakers plan to send the top U.S. trade negotiator a letter urging him "in the strongest terms possible" to reveal what intellectual property measures the U.S. is seeking to include in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Much of the criticism surrounding the trade agreement has been centered on the secretive manner in which it has been negotiated. Public interest groups and lawmakers have argued that American citizens have been kept in the dark about the provisions U.S. negotiators are pushing to include in the TPP and what the current text of the intellectual property rights (IPR) chapter in the agreement looks like.
To that end, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) call on U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk in the letter to publicly release "detailed information" about the provisions negotiators are trying to secure in the agreement that relate to intellectual property enforcement online. The lawmakers argue that a "poorly-constructed" IP chapter runs the risk of constraining freedom of expression on the Internet and how people collaborate and share content online, which would ultimately erode Internet freedom.
"We believe that among all the areas of the TPP negotiations, the matters considered in the IPR chapter are ones in which there is particular public interest, therefore the USTR should be especially transparent and collaborative with the general public on these issues," the letter reads. "The American people deserve to know what the administration is purportedly seeking on its behalf."
The letter was first made public by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a cyber liberties group, and posted on its website.
[The letter is here: https://www.eff.org/document/wyden-issa-letter-ustr-tpp-iprs]
The letter also calls on USTR to describe the measures it's seeking include in the TPP about the online sale of pharmaceutical drugs and whether it's "pursuing disciplines elsewhere" in the agreement "that will promote an open and free Internet."
The actual text of the trade agreement has been kept under tight wraps by countries participating in the negotiations, with the exception of the occasional leak. The public interest group Knowledge Ecology International posted what it claimed was a leaked section of the IP chapter on its blog early last month.
[that page is here: http://keionline.org/node/1516]
Web companies, content producers and public interest groups have been keeping a close eye on IP chapter in the agreement, which would help dictate how negotiating countries enforce copyright protections for digital content like movies, music and books. It would also affect how Internet services and platforms are regulated.
5) Legality of Targeted Killing of Suspected Terrorists Reviewed by CRS
Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News (Federation of American Scientists), September 10th
The legality of targeted killing of suspected terrorists, including U.S. citizens, was examined in a memorandum prepared for members of Congress by the Congressional Research Service.
The U.S. practice of targeted killing raises complex legal issues because it cuts across several overlapping legal domains. To the extent that the U.S. is actually at war with the targeted persons, the "law of armed conflict" would provide the appropriate legal framework, though the relevance of this framework far from a "hot battlefield" is disputed. Outside of armed conflict, the U.S. could be acting under the related but distinct laws of "self-defense." The use of lethal force in law enforcement operations offers another way of conceiving of and evaluating anti-terrorist strikes. In all cases, the sovereignty of the nation where the strike occurs adds a further layer of legal complexity. With respect to targets who are U.S. citizens, the applicability of the U.S. Constitution is yet another urgent issue.
Obama Administration officials have discussed targeted killing in several public speeches since 2010, but have evaded detailed public questioning on the subject. The Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel has prepared a memorandum on the targeting of suspected terrorists who are U.S. citizens, as reported by the New York Times, but it has refused to release the OLC memorandum or even to publicly acknowledge that it exists. Meanwhile, Congress has been largely silent and acquiescent.
The CRS memorandum, entitled "Legal Issues Related to the Lethal Targeting of U.S. Citizens Suspected of Terrorist Activities," was prepared in May 2012 by legislative attorney Jennifer K. Elsea. It presents an overview of the pertinent legal context, and then carefully parses official Administration statements in an attempt to infer a detailed legal rationale for lethal targeting. A copy was obtained by Secrecy News.
"This memorandum is an effort to clarify the debate by providing legal background, setting forth what is known about the Administration's position and identifying possible points of contention among legal experts and other observers," the memo states.
In the end, CRS concludes that none of the established legal frameworks is a perfect fit for the Administration's lethal targeting operations because the current U.S. practice of lethal targeting involves features that are improvised, inconsistent or otherwise questionable.
For example, CRS says the Administration appears to have redefined the meaning of "imminence," one of the required elements for justifying the use of force in self-defense on the territory of another country. The standard definition of imminence refers to an overwhelming threat that allows "no moment for deliberation." But the Administration uses imminence idiosyncratically "to refer to the window of opportunity for striking rather than the perceived immediacy of the threat of an armed attack." This novel usage "may pose some challenge to the international law regarding the use of force," CRS said.
The CRS memo notes that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled - in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld - that when a U.S. citizen is detained as a suspected enemy combatant he must be given notice of the factual basis for his detention and an opportunity to rebut it. Yet, in contrast, when a citizen-suspect is to be killed rather than detained the Administration's position is that no such notice or opportunity is required.
This embrace of unchecked executive authority may prove difficult to reconcile with the majority holding in Hamdi, the memo suggests.
In fact, CRS says, the Administration's position "seems to conform more with Justice Thomas's dissenting opinion in Hamdi, in which Justice Thomas argued that in the context of wartime detention for non-punitive purposes, 'due process requires nothing more than a good-faith executive determination'."
By withholding its own Office of Legal Counsel opinion on the legality of lethal targeting of suspected terrorists who are U.S. citizens, the Obama Administration seems intent not on protecting sensitive operational details but on suppressing public awareness and debate. The CRS memo is not a substitute for the OLC opinion, but it nonetheless can serve to advance public understanding of the underlying issues.
6) It's Not Just a Job. It's a Jobs Program.
Romney's ads against military cuts promise more jobs through government spending.
William Saletan, Slate, Friday, Sept. 7, 2012, at 2:38 PM ET
Mitt Romney has launched a flurry of new TV ads explaining how he'll protect and create jobs: more government spending.
The ads, available on Romney's YouTube channel, are tailored to eight swing states. The one running in Virginia, near me, says: "Here in Virginia, we're not better off under President Obama. His defense cuts threaten over 130,000 jobs—lowering home values, putting families at risk." Similar ads in other states complain that Obama's reductions in military spending threaten 20,000 jobs in Colorado, 20,000 in Ohio, and "thousands more" in Florida and North Carolina.
Romney promises to save these jobs by shielding the Pentagon budget. Here's his pitch in Virginia: "Romney's plan? Reverse Obama defense cuts. Strengthen our military, and create over 340,000 new jobs for Virginia." The ad in North Carolina is identical, except that it adds 10,000 jobs to the offer. The ad in Colorado promises 200,000 jobs. The ad in Ohio promises 450,000. The ad in Florida promises 700,000.
Romney has been talking up the military and the defense industry as an employment haven for weeks. On Aug. 14, he warned that looming defense cuts would "threaten 150,000 defense-related jobs" in Virginia. A week later, his new running mate, Paul Ryan, declared that the cuts "could put almost 44,000 jobs at stake right here in Pennsylvania. We're not going to let that happen." In North Carolina, Ryan said he and Romney opposed the cuts because "we don't want to trade small-business jobs for military jobs. We want more jobs across the board." And last week, Romney protested that under the cuts, "up to 1.5 million jobs could be lost. GDP growth could fall significantly."
For the most part, the cuts to which Romney has objected are automatic. It's perfectly sensible to argue that military spending should be reduced instead in a more targeted, deliberate way. But Romney doesn't propose such targeted reduction. He rejects it. In last week's speech, he pledged:
"The Obama administration is set to cut defense spending by nearly a trillion dollars. My administration will not. Working together with my running mate, Paul Ryan, I will make reductions in other areas and install pro-growth policies to make sure that our country remains safe and secure. There are plenty of places to cut in a federal budget that now totals well over $3 trillion a year, but defense is not one of them."
In an interview with Fortune last month, Romney said he would use any savings in the Pentagon budget not to reduce the deficit but "to increase the number of active-duty personnel by approximately 100,000, to restore our military equipment which has been destroyed in conflict, and to invest in the coming technologies of warfare." What's more, in his 2012 budget proposal, Ryan allocated more money for defense than the Pentagon requested, arguing, "We don't think the generals are giving us their true advice."
Romney wouldn't just protect the military budget. He would radically increase it. He explicitly vows to set "core defense spending … at a floor of 4 percent of GDP." This would require more government spending, regardless of need, just because the economy is growing. It's hard to imagine a more socialist policy. The cost to our country over the next decade has been estimated at up to $2 trillion.
7) U.S. Public Satisfied With Less Militarised Global Role
Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service, Sep 10 2012
Washington - Disillusioned by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. public is becoming increasingly comfortable with a more modest and less militarised global role for the nation, according to the latest in a biennial series of major surveys.
That attitude is particularly pronounced in the so-called Millennial Generation, citizens between the ages of 18 and 29, according to the poll. They are generally much less worried about international terrorism, immigration, and the rise of China and are far less supportive of an activist U.S. approach to foreign affairs than older groups, it found.
Political independents, who will likely play a decisive role in the outcome of November's presidential election, also tend more than either Republicans or Democrats to oppose interventionist policies in world affairs, according to the survey, which was released at the Wilson Center for International Scholars here Monday by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (CCGA).
The survey results suggest that more aggressive and militaristic policies adopted by Republicans at their convention last month may be out of step with both independents and younger voters.
"If you read the whole report," noted Daniel Drezner, an international relations professor who blogs at foreignpolicy.com, "what's striking is how much the majority view on foreign policy jibes with what the Obama administration has been doing in the world: military retrenchment from the Middle East, a reliance on diplomacy and sanctions to deal with rogue states, a refocusing on East Asia, and prudent cuts in defence spending."
The survey, which was conducted in late May and early June, also found strong resistance by the public to becoming more deeply involved – especially militarily – in the Middle East, despite the perception by seven in 10 respondents that the region is more threatening to U.S. security than any other.
For the first time since 9/11, majorities said they opposed the retention or establishment of long-term U.S. military bases in Iraq or Afghanistan.
At the same time, 70 percent of respondents said they opposed a unilateral U.S. strike on Iran's nuclear facilities; and almost as many (59 percent) said the U.S. should not ally itself militarily with Israel if the Jewish state attacks Iran.
The survey, which was released on the eve of the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on New York City and Pentagon, suggested that the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, combined with the continuing hardships of the 2008 global financial crisis, have soured much of the public on foreign intervention, especially military intervention.
"Ten years after 9/11, we see that Americans are in the process of recalibrating their views on international engagement and searching for less costly ways to project positive U.S. influence and protect American interests around the world," said Marshall Bouton, CCFR's long-time president.
"Now, with a strong sense that the wars have over-stretched our military and strained our economic resources, they prefer to avoid the use of military force if at all possible," he noted.
Indeed, the survey found that a record 67 percent of the public now believes the war in Iraq was "not worth it", while seven of 10 respondents agreed that "the experience of the Iraq war should make nations more cautious about using military force."
Sixty-nine percent said the war in Afghanistan either made "no difference" to U.S. security (51 percent) or that it made the country "less safe" (18 percent).
Nearly eight in 10 respondents (78 percent) said they believe the U.S. is playing the role of world policeman more than it should – a figure that has been constant since 2004, a year after the Iraq invasion.
"While they see leadership as desirable," according to the Council analysis, "Americans clearly reject the role of the United States as a hyperpower and want to take a more cooperative stance."
Indeed 56 percent now agree with the proposition that Washington should be "more willing to make decisions within the United Nations" even if such decisions are not its first choice. That is a marked increase from a historic low of 50 percent in 2010.
Most respondents said they were not concerned about the growing influence of emerging nations in Asia and elsewhere. Asked for their reaction to increased foreign policy independence of countries like Turkey and Brazil, nearly seven in 10 respondents (69 percent) agreed that it was "mostly good" because of their reduced reliance on the U.S. rather than that it was "mostly bad because then they are likely to do things the U.S. does not support".
Contrary to Republican demands that the defence budget should be increased, two-thirds of respondents said it should be cut, and half of those said it should be cut the same or more than other government programmes.
And while Republicans continue to attack Obama for "leading from behind" during last year's intervention in Libya, Bouton said his survey results found that the public was quite comfortable with the low-key role.
Only seven percent said Washington should have taken the "leading role" in the military campaign; 72 percent said it should have taken "a minor role" (31 percent) or "a major but not leading role" (41 percent). Nineteen percent said the U.S. should not have participated at all.
Republican politicans have also mocked Obama for offering to negotiate directly with hostile states. But more than two-thirds of respondents said Washington should be ready to hold talks with the leaders of Cuba (73 percent), North Korea (69 percent) and Iran (67 percent).
8) NGO disputes official report on Honduras shooting
Alberto Arce, Associated Press, Friday, 09.07.12
Tegucigalpa, Honduras -- A U.S.-based non-governmental organization on Saturday criticized Honduras' official investigation of a fatal shooting during a drug interdiction operation after its conclusions contradicted reports of witnesses and the group's own investigation into what happened.
The probe's findings announced Friday said that two victims were not pregnant and that none of the four people killed were hit by gunfire from a law-enforcement helicopter involved in the May drug raid in the Mosquitia region. Local people and some rights activists have claimed the victims were shot by police, two were pregnant and all were innocent civilians traveling a river at night. Police said the people killed were in a boat that fired on the helicopter.
"The Honduran authorities' claims simply are not credible, when confronted with forensic evidence and so much eyewitness testimony to the contrary," Dan Beeton, spokesman for the Washington-based Center for Economic Policy and Research in Washington, wrote in an email.
Some agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration accompanied Honduras' National Police officers during the operation, but the agency said none of the U.S. personnel fired their weapons.
Authorities in the U.S. and Honduras have refused to release videos of either the May 11 shooting incident or the autopsies of the victims, video that could resolve disputes over details. The operation has been the object of intense criticism in Honduras.
German Enamorado, chief of Honduras' Office of Human Rights, said Friday that two female victims were not pregnant as witnesses reported. Beeton said autopsies of the two women were carried out in an unprofessional manner 40 days later in the open air at the cemetery. He said friends of the women claimed both were pregnant.
Enamorado also said forensic tests show the bullets that hit the four people killed were fired horizontally, not from above. In addition, the slugs were from smaller-caliber bullets used by M-16 rifles and not the heavier weapon mounted on the helicopter, he said.
An earlier report by Rights Action, a Toronto-based human rights organization, and by Beeton's group, a progressive economic-policy think tank, took a different view on the ballistics: "Death records as well as an interview of a Honduran official present at the exhumation and autopsy of the victims confirm that all of the deceased victims had sustained high-caliber bullet wounds."
9) Romney Renews Call for Afghanistan Withdrawal by 2014
Emily Friedman, ABC News, Sep 11, 2012 3:39pm
Reno, Nev. - Mitt Romney, who failed to mention Afghanistan in his RNC acceptance speech, today renewed his call for American troops in Afghanistan to come home by the end of 2014.
In a speech today that marked and paid tribute to the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, the Republican presidential candidate said: "Our goal should be to complete a successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014. We should evaluate conditions on the ground and solicit the best advice of our military commanders."
Romney, who spoke to the National Guard National Guard Association Conference, noted that nearly 70,000 American troops will remain in Afghanistan at the end of the month.
Romney's remarks about troops in Afghanistan came after criticism of the candidate for not mentioning them specifically during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.
10) America's refusal to extradite Bolivia's ex-president to face genocide charges
Obama justice officials have all but granted asylum to Sánchez de Lozada – a puppet who payrolled key Democratic advisers
Glenn Greenwald, Guardian, Sunday 9 September 2012 14.22 EDT
In October 2003, the intensely pro-US president of Bolivia, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, sent his security forces to suppress growing popular protests against the government's energy and globalization policies. Using high-powered rifles and machine guns, his military forces killed 67 men, women and children, and injured 400 more, almost all of whom were poor and from the nation's indigenous Aymara communities. Dozens of protesters had been killed by government forces in the prior months when troops were sent to suppress them.
The resulting outrage over what became known as "the Gas Wars" drove Sanchez de Lozada from office and then into exile in the United States, where he was welcomed by his close allies in the Bush administration. He has lived under a shield of asylum in the US ever since.
The Bolivians, however, have never stopped attempting to bring their former leader to justice for what they insist are his genocide and crimes against humanity: namely, ordering the killing of indigenous peaceful protesters in cold blood (as Time Magazine put it: "according to witnesses, the military fired indiscriminately and without warning in El Alto neighborhoods"). In 2007, Bolivian prosecutors formally charged him with genocide for the October 2003 incident, charges which were approved by the nation's supreme court.
Bolivia then demanded his extradition from the US for him to stand trial. That demand, ironically, was made pursuant to an extradition treaty signed by Sánchez de Lozada himself with the US. Civil lawsuits have also been filed against him in the US on behalf of the surviving victims.
The view that Sánchez de Lozada must be extradited from the US to stand trial is a political consensus in Bolivia, shared by the government and the main opposition party alike. But on Friday night, the Bolivian government revealed that it had just been notified by the Obama administration that the US government has refused Bolivia's extradition request:
"'Yesterday (Thursday), a document arrived from the United States, rejecting the extradition of people who have done a lot of damage to Bolivia,' leftist [President Evo] Morales, an outspoken critic of US foreign policy in Latin America, said in a speech.
"Calling the United States a 'paradise of impunity' and a 'refuge for criminals,' Morales said Washington turned down the extradition request on the grounds that a civilian leader cannot be tried for crimes committed by the military …
"Sanchez de Lozada's extradition was also demanded by opposition leaders in Bolivia and they criticized the US decision.
"Rogelio Mayta, a lawyer representing victims of the 2003 violence, said 'the US protection' of Sanchez de Lozada was not surprising.
"'It's yet another display of the US government's double moral standard,' he said."
Because he has yet to be tried, I have no opinion on whether Sánchez de Lozada is guilty of the crimes with which he has been formally charged (Bolivian courts have convicted several other military officers on genocide charges in connection with these shootings). But the refusal of the Obama administration to allow him to stand trial for what are obviously very serious criminal allegations is completely consistent with American conceptions of justice and is worth examining for that reason.
Let's begin with two vital facts about the former Bolivian leader.
First, Sánchez de Lozada was exactly the type of America-revering-and-obeying leader the US has always wanted for other nations, especially smaller ones with important energy resources. When he was driven into exile in October 2003, the New York Times described him as "Washington's most stalwart ally in South America".
The former leader – a multimillionaire mining executive who, having been educated in the US, spoke Spanish with a heavy American accent – was a loyal partner in America's drug war in the region. More importantly, the former leader himself was a vehement proponent and relentless crusader for free trade and free market policies favored by the US: policies that the nation's indigenous poor long believed (with substantial basis) resulted in their impoverishment while enriching Bolivia's small Europeanized elite.
It was Sánchez de Lozada's forced exile that ultimately led to the 2006 election and 2009 landslide re-election of Morales, a figure the New York Times in October 2003 described as one "regarded by Washington as its main enemy". Morales has been as vehement an opponent of globalization and free trade as Sánchez de Lozada was a proponent, and has constantly opposed US interference in his region and elsewhere (in 2011, Morales called for the revocation of Obama's Nobel Peace Prize as a result of the intervention in Libya).
So, this extradition refusal is, in one sense, a classic and common case of the US exploiting pretenses of law and justice to protect its own leaders and those of its key allies from the rule of law, even when faced with allegations of the most egregious wrongdoing. If the Obama DOJ so aggressively shielded accused Bush war criminals from all forms of accountability, it is hardly surprising that it does the same for loyal US puppets. That a government that defies US dictates is thwarted and angered in the process is just an added bonus. That, too, is par for the course.
Then, there are the very revealing parallels between this case and the recent decision by Ecuador to grant asylum to Julian Assange, until his fears of political persecution from being extradited to Sweden are resolved. Remember all those voices who were so deeply outraged at Ecuador's decision? Given that he faces criminal complaints in Sweden, they proclaimed, protecting Assange with asylum constitutes a violent assault on the rule of law.
Do you think any of the people who attacked Ecuador on that ground will raise a peep of protest at what the US did here in shielding this former leader from facing charges of genocide and crimes against humanity back in his own country? In contrast to Ecuador – which is fervently seeking an agreement to allow Assange to go to Sweden to face those allegations while simultaneously protecting his political rights – the US has done nothing, and is doing nothing, to ensure that Sánchez de Lozada will ever have to face trial. To the contrary, until Thursday, the US has steadfastly refused even to acknowledge Bolivia's extradition request, even though the crimes for which they want to try him are plainly within the scope of the two nations' extradition treaty.
Several people have questioned why "genocide" is the appropriate charge for the crimes that occurred here. That is but one of the charges levied by Bolivian prosecutors and courts, and as the Bolivians seem to recognize, that term has a different meaning under their domestic criminal law than it does under international law. International law professor Kevin Jon Heller yesterday suggested that while "genocide" would not apply to these acts under international law, the term "crimes against humanity" -- for indiscriminately shooting unarmed protesters -- seems clearly appropriate.
11) US: Ex-Mexico Leader Immune From Conn. Lawsuit
Michael Melia, Associated Press, September 8, 2012
Hartford, Conn. - Former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo should be immune from a lawsuit filed in Connecticut over the 1997 killings of 45 people in a Mexican village, the U.S. State Department said in a court filing.
Zedillo, who is now an international studies professor at Yale University, had argued that his status as a former national leader gave him immunity from the lawsuit. He has denied the allegations that he bears responsibility for the massacre by paramilitary groups in Acteal, in the southern state of Chiapas.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said they expect the State Department opinion will prevent the lawsuit from proceeding. They said in a statement that they hope nevertheless to have raised public awareness of "underlying wrongs."
A State Department legal adviser, Harold Hongju Koh, wrote in a letter Friday that Zedillo is entitled to immunity because the lawsuit centers on actions taken in his capacity as president. He noted also that the Mexican government had requested a determination of immunity.
Ten unnamed plaintiffs who say they are survivors of the killings sued Zedillo in September 2011, accusing him of crimes against humanity. They are seeking $50 million in damages.
The massacre on Dec. 22, 1997, was the worst instance of violence during a conflict that began when the Zapatista movement staged a brief armed uprising in early 1994 to demand more rights for Indians in Chiapas. Paramilitaries with alleged government ties attacked Roman Catholic activists who sympathized with the rebels during a prayer meeting in Acteal. The assailants killed 45 people over several hours, including children as young as 2 months old.
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