JFP 2/5: Drone Strike White Paper; Sens. Push for Memo; Groups Push on Iran Medicines

Just Foreign Policy News, February 5, 2013
Drone Strike White Paper; Sens. Push for Memo; Groups Push on Iran Medicines

Go Straight to the News Summary 


I) Actions and Featured Articles

Robert Naiman: Was Chuck Hagel 'Just Plain Bad' in His Confirmation Hearing?
Some Washington pundits claim that Hagel gave a bad performance at his confirmation hearing. But their evidence for the claim is extremely weak. Hagel kept his cool under withering fire, and stood his ground on issues of principle.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/hagel-secretary-of-defense_b_2611593.html

Brandon Friedman: Just Who Do They Represent: At Hagel Hearing, Concern for Israel Tops U.S. Troops in Combat
A veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan takes the Senate Armed Services Committee to task: "In nearly eight hours of interrogation and testimony, Israel and its interests were referred to by the Senate Armed Services Committee a total of 106 times. On the other hand, there were a mere 24 references made to Afghanistan and the Americans fighting there—most by Democratic Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the committee... It's difficult to interpret this message any other way: the Senate Armed Services Committee—particularly its Republican membership—is more concerned with the apparent American defense secretary's relationship with Israel than with the future of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the fate of U.S. troops engaged in both locations." Nice graphic compares Israel vs. Afghanistan mentions for different Senators.
http://nation.time.com/2013/02/04/just-who-do-they-represent-at-hagel-hearing-concern-for-israel-tops-u-s-troops-in-combat/

5 Broken Cameras is on Netflix
Five Broken Cameras, the Academy Award-nominated Palestinian-Israeli documentary about nonviolent resistance to land confiscation in Bilin, is on Netflix. Even if you don't have direct access to Netflix, you probably know someone who does. Why not organize a little viewing party? It's an incredibly powerful documentary. Encourage all your friends to see it. If you know anyone who gets to vote in the Academy Awards, encourage them to vote for 5 Broken Cameras as Best Foreign Documentary. If it wins, many millions of people around the world will see the film who will not see it otherwise.

Get the Facts: Land Confiscation and the Palestinian Protest Villages
Read and share our fact sheet.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/babs-factsheet

Sunday, February 17th: rally and march in Washington, DC for action on climate

In his second inaugural, President Obama promised action on climate change. First step: stop the Keystone XL pipeline. Sierra Club, 350.org, and others are organizing a major action in DC on Feb 17.
http://forwardonclimate.org/

Support the Work of Just Foreign Policy
Your support helps us to educate Americans about U.S. foreign policy and create opportunities for Americans to advocate for a foreign policy that is more just.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/donate

Help your friends sign up to receive the Just Foreign Policy News
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Summary:
U.S./Top News

1) According to a Justice Department "white paper," it would be lawful for the government to kill a US citizen if "an informed, high-level official" of the government decided that the target was a ranking figure in Al Qaeda who posed "an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States" and if his capture was not feasible, the New York Times reports. The paper is not the classified memorandum of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel which Members of Congress have sought, but it tracks that document closely, the Times says.

2) FCNL led a broad coalition of 25 national organizations calling on President Obama to take action to ensure that Iranian civilians are not blocked from accessing food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods under existing U.S. sanctions, FCNL reports. Just Foreign Policy was a signatory of the letter.

3) Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Al Franken (D- Minn.) have sent a letter to President Obama seeking the legal opinions outlining the President's authority to authorize the killing of American citizens during the course of counterterrorism operations, Senator Wyden's office reports. These legal opinions issued by the Department of Justice have remained hidden from the general public and have been withheld from members of Congress, inhibiting Congress' ability to conduct necessary oversight, Wyden's office says.

4) Last year, more active-duty soldiers killed themselves than died in combat, the Guardian reports. In 2012, for the first time in at least a generation, the number of active-duty soldiers who killed themselves, 177, exceeded the 176 who were killed while in the war zone. 349 service members took their own lives in 2012, while a lesser number, 295, died in combat. 6,500 former military personnel killed themselves in 2012. The department of defense suicide report for 2012 has yet to be released, but when it is it is expected to record a sea change. For the first time, the majority of the those who killed themselves had been deployed.

5) A Washington Post article on the problem of fake drugs in Africa failed to address policy causes and solutions, writes Stephanie Burgos of Oxfam in a letter to the Washington Post. The U.S. trade representative has made matters worse by negotiating numerous trade agreements that have increased medicine prices in poor countries by undermining the supply of low-cost generic medicines, she writes.

Israel/Palestine
6) A UN panel said Israel has pursued a creeping annexation of the Palestinian territories through the creation of Jewish settlements and committed multiple violations of international law, possibly including war crimes, calling for an immediate halt to all settlement activity and the withdrawal of all settlers, the New York Times reports. The panel noted that the settler population was growing much faster than the population of Israel outside the settlements. The report quotes the Israeli finance minister, Yuval Steinitz, as saying the government had doubled the budget for West Bank settlements "in a low-key way because we didn't want parties in Israel or abroad to thwart the move."

According to the report, Palestinians' rights to freedom of movement and expression and their access to places of worship, education, water, housing and natural resources "are being violated consistently." The settlements are maintained through "a system of total segregation" between the settlers, who enjoy a preferential legal status, and the rest of the population, the report concludes. The settlements have resulted in the creation of legal zones in which settlers are subject to Israeli laws but Palestinians come under a patchwork of military orders and laws dating back to Ottoman and British rule, the report says.

7) A group of New York City officials, including members of the House of Representatives, have threatened the funding of Brooklyn College for hosting an event in which the speakers are expected to criticize the policies of the Israeli government, Glenn Greenwald reports for the Guardian. Brooklyn College president Karen Gould issued a statement proclaiming that the college's "commitment to the principles of academic freedom remains steadfast" and that "students and faculty, including academic departments, programs, and centers, have the right to invite speakers, engage in discussion, and present ideas to further educational discussion and debate."

Iran
8) Vice President Biden said the US is prepared to hold direct talks with Iran amid the standoff over its nuclear ambitions, the Guardian reports. Asked when Washington would hold direct talks with Tehran, Biden replied: "When the Iranian leadership, the supreme leader, is serious."

Syria
9) Last summer the White House rejected a plan drafted by Secretary of State Clinton and then-CIA head Petraeus for the U.S. to arm the Syrian resistance, the New York Times reports. The White House has been reluctant to arm the rebels for fear that it would draw the US into the conflict and raise the risk of the weapons falling into the wrong hands, the Times says.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) Memo Cites Legal Basis for Killing U.S. Citizens in Al Qaeda
Charlie Savage and Scott Shane, New York Times, February 5, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/us/politics/us-memo-details-views-on-killing-citizens-in-al-qaeda.html

Washington - Obama administration lawyers have asserted that it would be lawful to kill a United States citizen if "an informed, high-level official" of the government decided that the target was a ranking figure in Al Qaeda who posed "an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States" and if his capture was not feasible, according to a 16-page document made public on Monday.

The unsigned and undated Justice Department "white paper," obtained by NBC News, is the most detailed analysis yet to come into public view regarding the Obama legal team's views about the lawfulness of killing, without a trial, an American citizen who executive branch officials decide is an operational leader of Al Qaeda or one of its allies.

The paper is not the classified memorandum in which the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel signed off on the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric who was born in New Mexico and who died in an American drone strike in Yemen in September 2011. But its legal analysis - citing a national right to self-defense as well as the laws of war - closely tracks the rationale in that document, as described to The New York Times in October 2011 by people who had read it.

The memo appears to be a briefing paper that was derived from the real legal memorandum in late 2011 and provided to some members of Congress. It does not discuss any specific target and emphasizes that it does not go into the specific thresholds of evidence that are deemed sufficient.

It adopts an elastic definition of an "imminent" threat, saying it is not necessary for a specific attack to be in process when a target is found if the target is generally engaged in terrorist activities aimed at the United States. And it asserts that courts should not play a role in reviewing or restraining such decisions.

The white paper states that "judicial enforcement of such orders would require the court to supervise inherently predictive judgments by the president and his national security advisers as to when and how to use force against a member of an enemy force against which Congress has authorized the use of force."

It also fills in many blanks in a series of speeches by members of the Obama legal team about the use of force in targeted killings, including remarks by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. at Northwestern's law school in March. He asserted that the Constitution's guarantee of "due process" before the government takes a life does not necessarily mean "judicial process" in national security situations, but offered little specific legal analysis.

Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project, called the paper "a profoundly disturbing document," and said: "It's hard to believe that it was produced in a democracy built on a system of checks and balances. It summarizes in cold legal terms a stunning overreach of executive authority - the claimed power to declare Americans a threat and kill them far from a recognized battlefield and without any judicial involvement."

The release of the white paper comes as President Obama's counterterrorism adviser and nominee as C.I.A. director, John O. Brennan, awaits a confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. Pressure has been growing on the administration to make the secret legal documents public, or at least to provide the Intelligence Committees with more of them.

On Tuesday, eight Democratic and three Republican senators, including some Intelligence Committee members, wrote to Mr. Obama asking for the legal opinions authorizing the killing of Americans. The letter followed one sent by Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, a member of the Intelligence Committee who has long sought access to the legal opinions.

The senators wrote that they needed the legal opinions to judge "whether the president's power to deliberately kill American citizens is subject to appropriate limitations and safeguards."

2) 25 Groups Call on Obama Not to Block Food, Medicine to Iran
FCNL, Feb 4, 2013
http://fcnl.org/issues/iran/coalition_calls_on_obama_not_to_block_food_medicine_to_iran/index.html
See the original letter here:
http://fcnl.org/images/issues/iran/foodandmedicine.pdf

FCNL led a broad coalition of 25 national organizations calling on President Barack Obama to take action to ensure that Iranian civilians are not blocked from accessing food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods under existing U.S. sanctions.

According to recent reports, a growing number of Iranians are facing difficulties accessing food and medicine, in part due to sanctions imposed by the United States. The Iranian government's mismanagement and lack of economic transparency has also worsened the situations for Iranian patients, but there are still simple actions that the U.S. government can take to ensure that Iranians are not blocked from accessing food and medicine due to the U.S. sanctions regime.

February 4, 2013

SUBJECT: Open Channel for Food and Medicine to Iran

Dear President Obama,

We write to express our deep concern for Iranian civilians who have not been able to access life-saving medicines and humanitarian goods inside of Iran, which has been caused in part by U.S. sanctions against Iran. We urge your Administration to take all necessary steps to ensure that licensed humanitarian goods are not prevented from reaching the people of Iran as a result of U.S. sanctions imposed on the Iranian banking sector.

Thomas Pickering, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, expertly summarized the crux of this problem posed by U.S. sanctions. Referring to U.S. sanctions on the banking sector that block purchases of humanitarian goods, he explained on October 1, 2012: "we issue licenses for sales of food and medicine to Iran, but it is not legal for them to pay for it." Various recent reports have illustrated the grave impact that the shortages of life-saving medicines and humanitarian goods inside Iran have had on ordinary civilians:

In an October 2012 report on the human rights situation in Iran, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon spelled out how sanctions block Iranians from accessing food and medicine, noting that "Even companies that have obtained the requisite license to import food and medicine are facing difficulties in finding third-country banks to process the transactions. Owing to payment problems, several medical companies have stopped exporting medicines to the Islamic Republic of Iran, leading to a reported shortage of drugs used in the treatment of various illnesses, including cancer, heart and respiratory conditions, thalassemia and multiple sclerosis."

On November 23, 2012, the BBC reported: "Hospitals, clinics and pharmacies in Iran are running out of medicine as the government cuts health funding because of international sanctions, putting the lives of thousands of people at risk."

Recent reports by The Financial Times, Al Monitor and the International Civil Society Action Network, indicate that a growing number of Iranians do not have access to life-saving medicines. As this legislative record makes clear, Congress has established some protections to help humanitarian goods reach the people living under sanctioned regimes. Under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (TSRA) the export of licensed medicines, medical devices, agricultural commodities, and food are exempt from sanctions. Congress has explicitly reaffirmed this policy in four acts authorizing sanctions on Iran which you have signed into law, including the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010; the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, and the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act.

While congressional sanctions distinguish between sanctionable activities and exempt humanitarian transactions, executive order sanction 13382 affects all of Iran's largest banks and does not specify an exception for humanitarian transactions. In addition, the humanitarian licenses issued by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) expressly prohibit not only the direct involvement of these banks, but also their indirect involvement. We appreciate your Administration issuing new regulations on October 22, 2012 that allow U.S. companies to sell certain medicines and medical supplies to Iran without first seeking a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control. However, as the New York Times recently reported, "the exporters [of medicines] still face troubles getting paid" and a result, "virtually no American or European bank wants to be involved in financial transactions with Iran." To ensure that Iranian civilians are not barred from accessing food and medicine, humanitarian transactions must be exempted from banking sanctions.

The current impasse with Iran over its nuclear program should not prohibit the export of life-saving medicines which millions of Iranian civilians depend on. We urge your Administration to take all appropriate steps to ensure authorized humanitarian transactions regarding Iran are not obstructed by U.S. sanctions. As a first step, we hope that your Administration would provide a clear statement that it is not the policy of the United States to in any manner prohibit permissible humanitarian transactions.

Sincerely,
American Friends Service Committee
Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy
Campaign for Peace and Democracy
Center for Interfaith Engagement—Eastern Mennonite University
Church of the Brethren
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Fellowship of Reconciliation
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Havaar: Iranian Initiative Against War, Sanctions and State Repression
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN)
Just Foreign Policy
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
National Iranian American Council
Orthodox Peace Fellowship
Peace Action
Peace Action West
Peace X Peace
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Progressive Democrats of America
The Peace Alliance
The Student Peace Alliance
United Methodist Church—General Board of Church & Society
Women's Action for New Directions
[...]

3) Bipartisan Group of Senators Seeks Legal Justifications for the Deliberate Killing of Americans
Office of Senator Wyden, Monday, February 4, 2013
http://www.wyden.senate.gov/news/press-releases/bipartisan-group-of-senators-seeks-legal-justifications-for-the-deliberate-killing-of-americans-

Washington, D.C. – As the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence prepares to consider White House national security official John Brennan's nomination to be the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Al Franken (D- Minn.) have sent a letter to President Obama seeking the legal opinions outlining the President's authority to authorize the killing of American citizens during the course of counterterrorism operations.

These legal opinions issued by the Department of Justice have remained hidden from the general public and have been withheld from members of Congress, inhibiting Congress' ability to conduct necessary oversight. Several requests for these opinions have been either ignored or denied in the past, most recently a request by Senator Wyden made directly to Mr. Brennan several weeks ago.

"It is vitally important, however, for Congress and the American public to have a full understanding of how the executive branch interprets the limits and boundaries of this authority," the Senators said in the letter, "so that Congress and the public can decide whether this authority has been properly defined, and whether the President's power to deliberately kill American citizens is subject to appropriate limitations and safeguards."

In the letter, the Senators expressed their understanding that the authority to use lethal force against Americans exists in certain circumstances, but added that the limits and boundaries of that authority should be understood by the public and at the very least by members of Congress. They noted that the President has made statements in the past expressing the need for just this kind of transparency and about the value of well-informed oversight by Congress and the judicial system.

The Senators stated that transparency on this issue will be important as the Senate considers national security nominees.
[...]

4) US military struggling to stop suicide epidemic among war veterans
Last year, more active-duty soldiers killed themselves than died in combat. And after a decade of deployments to war zones, the Pentagon is bracing for things to get much worse
Ed Pilkington, Guardian.co.uk, Friday 1 February 2013 11.42 EST
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/01/us-military-suicide-epidemic-veteran

New York Libby Busbee is pretty sure that her son William never sat through or read Shakespeare's Macbeth, even though he behaved as though he had. Soon after he got back from his final tour of Afghanistan, he began rubbing his hands over and over and constantly rinsing them under the tap.

"Mom, it won't wash off," he said.

"What are you talking about?" she replied.

"The blood. It won't come off."

On 20 March last year, the soldier's striving for self-cleanliness came to a sudden end. That night he locked himself in his car and, with his mother and two sisters screaming just a few feet away and with Swat officers encircling the vehicle, he shot himself in the head.

At the age of 23, William Busbee had joined a gruesome statistic. In 2012, for the first time in at least a generation, the number of active-duty soldiers who killed themselves, 177, exceeded the 176 who were killed while in the war zone. To put that another way, more of America's serving soldiers died at their own hands than in pursuit of the enemy.
[...]
Across all branches of the US military and the reserves, a similar disturbing trend was recorded. In all, 349 service members took their own lives in 2012, while a lesser number, 295, died in combat.

Shocking though those figures are, they are as nothing compared with the statistic to which Busbee technically belongs. He had retired himself from the army just two months before he died, and so is officially recorded at death as a veteran – one of an astonishing 6,500 former military personnel who killed themselves in 2012, roughly equivalent to one every 80 minutes.
[...]
The suffering William Busbee went through, both inside the military and immediately after he left it, illustrates the most alarming single factor in the current suicide crisis: the growing link between multiple deployments and self-harm. Until 2012, the majority of individuals who killed themselves had seen no deployment at all. Their problems tended to relate to marital or relationship breakdown or financial or legal worries back at base.

The most recent department of defense suicide report, or DODSER, covers 2011 . It shows that less than half, 47%, of all suicides involved service members who had ever been in Iraq or Afghanistan. Just one in 10 of those who died did so while posted in the war zone. Only 15% had ever experienced direct combat.

The DODSER for 2012 has yet to be released, but when it is it is expected to record a sea change. For the first time, the majority of the those who killed themselves had been deployed. That's a watershed that is causing deep concern within the services.

"We are starting to see the creeping up of suicides among those who have had multiple deployments," said Phillip Carter, a military expert at the defence thinktank Center for a New American Security that in 2011 published one of the most authoritative studies into the crisis . He added that though the causes of the increase were still barely understood, one important cause might be the cumulative impact of deployments – the idea that the harmful consequences of stress might build up from one tour of Afghanistan to the next.
[...]

5) How the poor get bad drugs
Stephanie Burgos, Letter to the Editor, Washington Post, February 2
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-the-poor-get-bad-drugs/2013/02/02/dbe4317e-6ba9-11e2-8f4f-2abd96162ba8_story.html

[Burgos is a policy adviser at Oxfam America.]

While urgent action is needed to address the public health menace of substandard and falsified medical products, the Jan. 28 news article "Fake drugs driving Ugandans back to witch doctors" did not identify the underlying causes or the appropriate solutions to the problem. Medicines of poor quality continue to proliferate because nearly all impoverished countries have little or no capacity to monitor the medicines imported into their countries. Investments - of technical capacity and money - are few and far between from the wealthy world.

The U.S. trade representative has made matters worse by negotiating numerous trade agreements that have increased medicine prices in poor countries by undermining the supply of low-cost generic medicines. Patients often buy falsified medicines because they cannot afford to pay high prices for legitimate products. As the trade representative continues to export strict intellectual-property rules that increase medicine prices, many more poor people will turn to dangerous medicines and other forms of inadequate health care.

Israel/Palestine
6) U.N. Panel Says Israeli Settlement Policy Violates Law
Nick Cumming-Bruce and Isabel Kershner, New York Times, January 31, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/01/world/middleeast/un-panel-says-israeli-settlement-policy-violates-law.html

Geneva - Israel has pursued a creeping annexation of the Palestinian territories through the creation of Jewish settlements and committed multiple violations of international law, possibly including war crimes, a United Nations panel said Thursday, calling for an immediate halt to all settlement activity and the withdrawal of all settlers.

Presenting their findings in Geneva after a nearly six-month inquiry for the United Nations Human Rights Council, a panel of three judges, led by Christine Chanet of France, presented its view that Israel's settlements violated the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit a state from transferring its own civilian population into territory it has occupied.

Asked if Israel's actions constituted war crimes, Ms. Chanet replied that its offenses fell under Article 8 of the International Criminal Court statute. "Article 8 of the I.C.C. statute is the chapter of war crimes," she said at a news conference. "That is the answer."
[...]
Israel "must cease all settlement activities without preconditions" and start withdrawing all settlers from the occupied territories, the judges said in their report, scheduled to be debated in the rights council in March.

The panel drew on 67 submissions from a cross section of academics, diplomats, Israeli civilian organizations and Palestinians, Ms. Chanet said. Because Israel decided not to cooperate with the investigators, they were unable to visit the West Bank and went instead to the Jordanian capital, Amman, to take testimony.

The council's decision last March to investigate the effect of Jewish settlements on Palestinian rights prompted Israel to break off cooperation with the council, castigating it as a political platform used "to bash and demonize Israel." The panel's report came two days after Israel boycotted a council review of its human rights, becoming the first country to withhold cooperation from a process in which all 193 United Nations member states have previously engaged.
[...]
The panel noted that Israel had established about 250 Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967, with a combined population now estimated at 520,000. It said the settler population was growing much faster than the population of Israel outside the settlements.

The report quotes the Israeli finance minister, Yuval Steinitz, as saying in November that the government had doubled the budget for West Bank settlements "in a low-key way because we didn't want parties in Israel or abroad to thwart the move."

These actions fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, the panel said, and if a future Palestinian state ratified the Rome Statute, which created the court, Israel could be called to account for "gross violations of human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law."

The report was welcomed by Palestinian officials and some settlement opponents in Israel. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said in a statement that the report documented "illegal Israeli practices without any ambiguity."
[...]
According to the report, Palestinians' rights to freedom of movement and expression and their access to places of worship, education, water, housing and natural resources "are being violated consistently."

The settlements are maintained through "a system of total segregation" between the settlers, who enjoy a preferential legal status, and the rest of the population, the report concludes. The settlements have resulted in the creation of legal zones in which settlers are subject to Israeli laws but Palestinians come under a patchwork of military orders and laws dating back to Ottoman and British rule, the report says.
[...]

7) NYC officials threaten funding of Brooklyn College over Israel event
In defense of Israel, liberal officials are copying Giuliani's 1999 termination of funding for a museum exhibiting "offensive" art Glenn Greenwald, Guardian.co.uk, Monday 4 February 2013 06.55 EST
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/04/brooklyn-college-bds-official-threats

On Saturday, I wrote about the numerous New York City officials (including multiple members of the US House of Representatives) who have predictably signed onto the Alan-Derwshowitz-led attack on academic freedom at Brooklyn College. This group of Israel advocates and elected officials is demanding that the college's Political Science department rescind its sponsorship of an event featuring two advocates of the BDS movement aimed at stopping Israeli occupation and settlements.

The threat to academic freedom posed by this growing lynch mob is obvious: if universities are permitted to hold only those events which do not offend state officials and "pro-Israel" fanatics such as Alan Dershowitz, then "academic freedom" is illusory. But on Sunday, that threat significantly intensified, as a ranking member of the New York City Council explicitly threatened to cut off funding for the college if his extortionate demands regarding this event are not met. From a letter to BC President Karen Gould, issued by Council Assistant Majority Leader Lew Fidler and signed by nine other members of the City Council (the full letter is embedded below):

"Among this City's diversity - and the student body of Brooklyn College - there are a significant number of people who would, and do, find this event to be offensive. . . .

"A significant portion of the funding for CUNY schools comes directly from the tax dollars of the people of the State and City of New York. Every year, we legislators are asked for additional funding to support programs and initiatives at these schools and we fight hard to secure those funds. Every one of those dollars given to CUNY, and Brooklyn College, means one less dollar going to some other worthy purpose. We do not believe this program is what the taxpayers of our City - many of who would feel targeted and demonized by this program - want their tax money to be spent on.

"We believe in the principle of academic freedom. However, we also believe in the principle of not supporting schools whose programs we, and our constituents, find to be odious and wrong."

These officials are expressly stating that no college or university is permitted to hold events that contain views that are "offensive" or which these officials "find to be odious and wrong" without having their funding terminated. How can anyone not be seriously alarmed by this? These threats are infinitely more destructive than any single academic event could ever possibly be.

Few people in New York had trouble understanding this threat when it was posed by a loathed GOP Mayor. Indeed, this current controversy is a replica of the most extreme efforts by official authoritarians to suppress ideas they dislike. In particular, New York City liberals and others vehemently objected when conservative Mayor Rudy Giuliani threatened to cut off city funding for art museums that exhibited works of art which Giuliani found offensive.
[...]
Major kudos to Brooklyn College president Karen Gould who, at least for now, is standing firm in defense of academic freedom and refusing to capitulate to these bullying threats. President Gould this afternoon issued a statement defiantly proclaiming that the college's "commitment to the principles of academic freedom remains steadfast"; that "students and faculty, including academic departments, programs, and centers, have the right to invite speakers, engage in discussion, and present ideas to further educational discussion and debate"; and that "there is no obligation, as some have suggested, to present multiple perspectives at any one event." She indicated - again - that the school is also willing to host an anti-BDS event if students organize one, but that the school's right to proceed with this event unchanged is of vital importance: "this spirit of inquiry and critical debate is a hallmark of the American education system."
[...]

Iran
8) US can talk to Iran, says Joe Biden
Vice-president tells Munich conference that US can talk to Tehran over alleged nuclear programme if Iran gets serious
Conal Urquhart, Guardian, Saturday 2 February 2013 08.17 EST http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/02/us-can-talk-iran-joe-biden

The United States is prepared to hold direct talks with Iran amid the standoff over its nuclear ambitions, the US vice-president, Joe Biden, has said.

Speaking at the Munich security conference on Saturday, Biden said: "There is still time, there is still space for diplomacy backed by pressure to succeed."

He insisted that "the ball is in the government of Iran's court" to show that it is negotiating in good faith.

Asked when Washington would hold direct talks with Tehran, Biden replied: "When the Iranian leadership, the supreme leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei], is serious."
[...]

Syria
9) Backstage Glimpses of Clinton as Dogged Diplomat, Win or Lose
Michael R. Gordon and Mark Landler, New York Times, February 2, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/03/us/politics/in-behind-scene-blows-and-triumphs-sense-of-clinton-future.html

Washington - Last summer, as the fighting in Syria raged and questions about the United States' inaction grew, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton conferred privately with David H. Petraeus, the director of the C.I.A. The two officials were joining forces on a plan to arm the Syrian resistance.

The idea was to vet the rebel groups and train fighters, who would be supplied with weapons. The plan had risks, but it also offered the potential reward of creating Syrian allies with whom the United States could work, both during the conflict and after President Bashar al-Assad's eventual removal.

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Petraeus presented the proposal to the White House, according to administration officials. But with the White House worried about the risks, and with President Obama in the midst of a re-election bid, they were rebuffed.
[...]
But it was Syria that proved to be the most difficult test. As that country descended into civil war, the administration provided humanitarian aid to the growing flood of refugees, pushed for sanctions and sought to organize the political opposition. The United States lagged France, Britain and Persian Gulf states in recognizing that opposition as the legitimate representative of the Syria people, but by December, Mr. Obama had taken that step.

Still, rebel fighters were clamoring for weapons and training. The White House has been reluctant to arm them for fear that it would draw the United States into the conflict and raise the risk of the weapons falling into the wrong hands. Rebel extremists affiliated with Al Qaeda had faced no such constraints in securing weapons from their backers.

When Mr. Petraeus was the commander of forces in Iraq and then-Senator Clinton was serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee and preparing for her 2008 presidential bid, she had all but called him a liar for trumpeting the military gains of the troop increase ordered by President Bush. But serving together in the Obama administration, they were allies when it came to Syria, as well as on the debate over how many troops to send to Afghanistan at the beginning of the administration.

Mr. Petraeus had a background in training foreign forces from his years in Iraq, and his C.I.A. job put him in charge of covert operations. The Americans already had experience in providing nonlethal assistance to some of the rebels.

The plan that Mr. Petraeus developed and Mrs. Clinton supported called for vetting rebels and establishing and arming a group of fighters with the assistance of some neighboring states. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta was said by some officials to be sympathetic to the idea. Mr. Petraeus and a spokesman for Mr. Panetta declined to comment.

Wary of becoming entangled in the Syria crisis, the White House pushed back, and Mrs. Clinton backed off. Some administration officials expected the issue to be joined again after the election. But when Mr. Petraeus resigned because of an extramarital affair and Mrs. Clinton suffered a concussion, missing weeks of work, the issue was shelved.
[...]
She added: "Having said all that, Assad is still killing. The opposition is increasingly being represented by Al Qaeda extremist elements." She also said that the opposition was getting messages from the ungoverned areas in Pakistan where some of the Qaeda leadership was believed to be hiding - a development she called "deeply distressing."
[...]

--

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:

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/blog/dailynews



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I am a Navy Vietnam Veteran and on most issues am as Left as Left can be. I just don't get this issue. These people are out to planning to kill Americans. Take each and every one of them out. If there are civilians killed as a result of mistakes or collateral damage, so be it. A lot more American civilians will die if these bad actors get to carry out their plans. If they are Americans, I am sure they can have a chance to surrender and go to trial. The fellow who just held that 6 year old kid in Alabama didn't have a trial.

As a Vietnam Veteran I remember Johnson's Carpet Bombing campaign "Ark Lite Strikes" As far as I am concerned we still have B-52's, take that entire Wazeristan (sp) area and turn it into a garbage pit. Clean out that whole crew. Leave any and we will only perpetuate the problem. If we had these drones in '68, twenty four men that I served with would have survived. Obama is absolutely doing the right thing!

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