JFP News 10/29: US Intervenes in Afghan Civil War

Just Foreign Policy News
October 29, 2009


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Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Anti-war activists have seized on U.S. Foreign Service officer Matthew Hoh's resignation to make their case against the war in Afghanistan, NPR reports. "He's challenging fundamental premises of the war. He's not just saying this is going badly. He's saying what we are doing doesn't make sense," said Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy. The Hoh letter suggests that the U.S. is essentially intervening in an ongoing civil war in Afghanistan, Naiman said.

2) President Obama has asked for a province-by-province analysis of Afghanistan to determine which regions are being managed effectively by local leaders and which require international help, the Washington Post reports. Administration officials say a range of options is still under consideration in response to General McChrystal's request for more forces. Although Obama had been expected to announce his decision before leaving Nov. 11 on a 10-day trip to Asia, administration officials say he may wait until he returns. Obama has concluded that the Taliban cannot be eliminated as a military and political force, regardless of how many more troops are deployed. The acknowledgment is behind Obama's request for an analysis of which of Afghanistan's 34 provinces can be left to local leaders, perhaps including elements of the Taliban unaligned with al-Qaeda. Administration officials say that sending additional U.S. training brigades to accelerate preparation of the Afghan security forces may not accomplish as much as hoped because recruitment - and retention - has gone poorly as the war intensifies. "You want to increase the number of people engaged in training, but at some point bringing in more and more Americans won't produce quicker results. There's a ceiling." Some Republican supporters of the general's plan in Congress have compared his strategy to the 2007 "surge" of U.S. troops in Iraq. But administration officials reject the comparison, pointing out that McChrystal's troop request would require a far longer deployment of U.S. forces. "There are some areas of the country that will fight us and fight the Taliban just because we are there," said Sen. Jack Reed.

3) Iran's President Ahmadinejad defended a possible compromise with world powers over a nuclear fuel deal Thursday as Iran formally responded to a U.N.-backed proposal aimed at stalling its ability to make nuclear weapons, the Washington Post reports. Ahmadinejad defied harsh criticism from domestic opponents who accused him of giving away too much in the negotiations. The strongest criticism to date has come from Mir Hossein Mousavi, the leading opposition presidential candidate in Iran's June 12 elections. Mousavi charged that the current proposal would lead to disaster. "The discussions in Geneva were really surprising, and if the promises given [to the West] are realized, then the hard work of thousands of scientists would be ruined," the Kaleme Web site quoted Mousavi as saying in reference to the nuclear fuel plan.

4) Senator Kerry demanded that members of Congress receive "untainted" information about Ahmed Wali Karzai's drug connections in light of a news report that Karzai was on the C.I.A. payroll, the New York Times reports. Kerry's statement came days after he said in a public forum that there was no "smoking gun" evidence linking Karzai to the drug trade. Kerry said he had repeatedly been assured by intelligence officials that the evidence was inconclusive.

5) The US has rushed hundreds of millions of dollars in arms, equipment and sophisticated sensors to Pakistani forces in recent months, the New York Times reports. Pakistani officials are loath to publicize the aid because of the deep-seated anti-American sentiment in Pakistan.

6) For the cost of a single additional soldier stationed in Afghanistan for one year, we could build roughly 20 schools there, writes Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times. Kristof discounts the argument that you have to "do security" before you can "do education," noting that Greg Mortenson has built 39 schools in Afghanistan and 92 in Pakistan - and not one has been burned down or closed. CARE has 295 schools educating 50,000 girls in Afghanistan, and not a single one has been closed or burned by the Taliban. The Afghan Institute of Learning, another aid group, has 32 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with none closed by the Taliban. Kristof argues that these schools were protected by local community support. Judging by actions, Islamic extremists in Pakistan believe more in the transformative power of education than the government of the United States - they provide free schooling and often free meals. For roughly the same cost as stationing 40,000 troops in Afghanistan for one year, we could educate the great majority of the 75 million children worldwide who, according to Unicef, are not getting even a primary education.

7) Major U.S. banks, including Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and JP Morgan, are major financers of the production of cluster bombs, the Guardian reports, according to a new study by Dutch and Belgian campaign groups.

8) Bolivia and Ecuador have prospered economically by rejecting Washington's economic advice, writes Mark Weisbrot in the Guardian. Bolivia is expected to have the fastest economic growth in the Americas this year. Ecuador's growth will probably come in at about 1% this year, which is pretty good relative to most of the hemisphere. Mexico is projected to have a 7.5% decline in GDP for 2009.

Honduras
9) Senior congressional Democrats asked the Law Library of Congress to withdraw and correct the August 2009 report titled "Honduras: Constitutional Law Issues," The Hill reports. Staff for Sen. Kerry and Rep. Berman had arranged an Oct. 22 meeting to discuss the report with Law Library aides and Honduran legal experts, including a former Honduran Supreme Court justice and a sitting Honduran appellate judge. But the day before the meeting, the Law Librarian of Congress told committee staff that she was withdrawing the drafter of the report and other Law Library experts from the meeting and she would sit in herself, their letter said.

Israel/Palestine
10) The UN says over 600 East Jerusalem Palestinians have been displaced since the beginning of the year by forced evictions or house demolitions, Inter Press Service reports. UNWRA officials estimate that "as many as 60,000 of the city's quarter million Palestinians are at risk from forced eviction, demolitions and displacement." Many others face mounting pressure to leave the city due to extensive legal and administrative restrictions that affect many aspects of their daily lives.

Bolivia

11) Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said the US and Bolivia are 'close' to reaching an agreement for the normalization of diplomatic ties, DPA reports. Choquehuanca thanked the US for the 'political will' to pursue talks further and said that Tuesday's meetings had made 'excellent progress' on all the issues, including aid, drug- trafficking, trade and political dialogue.

Cuba

12) Analysts said President Obama had not gone nearly as far as some of his Democratic predecessors in changing the restrictions on Cuba, the New York Times reports. Under President Bill Clinton there were extensive academic and artistic exchanges, while President Jimmy Carter lifted the travel ban entirely.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) Afghan Violence Won't Deter U.S. Civilian Efforts
Michele Kelemen, NPR, October 29, 2009
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=114257872

The deadly attack on a U.N. guesthouse in Kabul on Wednesday - and a helicopter crash that killed three U.S. drug enforcement agency officials earlier in the week - underscored the dangers of being a U.S. civilian in Afghanistan.

The State Department is currently in the process of beefing up its corps of U.S. civilian advisers in Afghanistan, despite the security concerns and a high-profile resignation from the mission.
[...]
But the violence comes at a time when some are questioning the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and whether civilian experts can do much to help.

Matthew Hoh, a former Marine Corps officer who was serving as the senior U.S. civilian in Afghanistan's Zabul province, resigned last month in protest of the war. In his resignation letter, Hoh said he had "lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes" of the U.S. presence there. His resignation was first reported earlier this week in The Washington Post.

Anti-war activists have seized on Hoh's resignation to make their case. "He's challenging fundamental premises of the war. He's not just saying this is going badly. He's saying what we are doing doesn't make sense," said Robert Naiman, national coordinator of Just Foreign Policy, an organization devoted to changing U.S. foreign policy.

The Hoh letter suggests that the U.S. is essentially intervening in an ongoing civil war in Afghanistan, Naiman said.

"Sending more civilians isn't going to change anything if the civilians are there in support of the existing war policy. If the idea is that you know we are going to militarily defeat the Taliban and sending more civilians is going to help that because we are going to win hearts and minds by building schools and hospitals - that policy hasn't worked," Naiman said.

Instead, it has made civilians targets of the insurgents, he said. Naiman's advice is to focus on the political process - and to encourage neighboring countries to help support Afghan reconciliation as well. "I'm all for sending more civilians in a political context where we are trying to end the war and promote national reconciliation," he said.
[...]
Susan Johnson, the president of the American Foreign Service Association, says it is still too early to tell whether the latest violence in Afghanistan will hurt the State Department's recruiting efforts for those assignments.

She says it is time for a broader debate about what civilians can or cannot accomplish. The resignation letter of Hoh has some apt points, Johnson said. "We certainly respect what Hoh has done in putting this out," Johnson said, "if it stimulates more thoughtful and constructive discussion of our policy and approach and the question of how many civilians we should or shouldn't be sending. We shouldn't be just stuck in the groove that we are in or in some old construct that we are transferring from Iraq."

2) Obama Seeks Study On Local Leaders For Troop Decision
Afghan Provinces To Be Analyzed
Details should help president determine need
Scott Wilson and Greg Jaffe, Washington Post, Thursday, October 29, 2009
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/28/AR2009102804490.html

President Obama has asked senior officials for a province-by-province analysis of Afghanistan to determine which regions are being managed effectively by local leaders and which require international help, information that his advisers say will guide his decision on how many additional U.S. troops to send to the battle.

Obama made the request in a meeting Monday with Vice President Biden and a small group of senior advisers helping him decide whether to expand the war. The detail he is now seeking also reflects the administration's turn toward Afghanistan's provincial governors, tribal leaders and local militias as potentially more effective partners in the effort than a historically weak central government that is confronting questions of legitimacy after the flawed Aug. 20 presidential election.
[...]
Gates and Jones have pushed McChrystal to justify as specifically as possible his request for 44,000 additional troops, the figure now at the center of White House deliberations. The review group once included intelligence officials, generals and ambassadors, but it has recently narrowed to a far smaller number of senior civilian advisers, including Biden, Gates, Jones, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Administration officials said the province-by-province analysis will be ready for Obama before his scheduled Friday meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the White House.
[...]
About half the 44,000 troops McChrystal requested would be sent to take back Taliban sanctuaries in southern Afghanistan. The others would push into western Afghanistan, where the U.S. military has only a slight presence, and reinforce operations in the mountainous east. One brigade would train Afghan army and police forces.

Even after weeks of review, administration officials say a range of options is still under consideration, including whether additional U.S. forces could be deployed in phases. Although Obama had been expected to announce his decision before leaving Nov. 11 on a 10-day trip to Asia, administration officials say he may wait until he returns.
[...]
In reviewing McChrystal's bracing assessment of the war, the president and his senior advisers have concluded that the Taliban cannot be eliminated as a military and political force, regardless of how many more troops are deployed.

The acknowledgment is behind Obama's request for an analysis of which of Afghanistan's 34 provinces can be left to local leaders, perhaps including elements of the Taliban unaligned with al-Qaeda. Administration officials have said that under any strategy, the Taliban would not be allowed to threaten the Kabul government or provide sanctuary for al-Qaeda, whose leaders operate largely from the tribal areas across the border in Pakistan.

"How much of the country can we just leave to be run by the locals?" said one U.S. official involved in Afghanistan policy, who discussed the White House request on the condition of anonymity. "How do you separate those who have taken up arms because they oppose the presence of foreigners in their area, because they're getting paid to fight us because we're there, from those who want to restore a Taliban government? How many of the people who we're fighting actually share al-Qaeda's ideology?"

Obama's interest in provincial allies also reflects the administration's growing disenchantment with President Hamid Karzai and his inability to extend his government's authority beyond Kabul during his nearly eight years in office. Provincial governments and tribal structures have long exerted more power than the central government, which many Afghans view as remote, corrupt and ineffective. Another U.S. official involved in Afghanistan policy said, "Most of Afghanistan that's stable is under local control."

"The question is: Can you get benign local control in more places?" the official said. "And will that be easier to achieve, and more effective, than trying to establish more central government control?"
[...]
For example, administration officials say that sending additional U.S. training brigades to accelerate preparation of the Afghan security forces may not accomplish as much as hoped because recruitment - and retention - has gone poorly as the war intensifies.

"It's all part of the endemic problems of illiteracy and security that plague many countries, but particularly this one," said a senior administration official familiar with the review process, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss it. "You want to increase the number of people engaged in training, but at some point bringing in more and more Americans won't produce quicker results. There's a ceiling."

McChrystal has advocated something far closer to a nation-building project. Some Republican supporters of the general's plan in Congress have compared his strategy to the 2007 "surge" of U.S. troops in Iraq, a shorter-term effort that helped pull the country back from sectarian civil war.

But administration officials reject the comparison, pointing out that McChrystal's troop request would require a far longer deployment of U.S. forces and that Afghanistan is in a less dire position than Iraq was at the time of the surge.

Most important, administration officials say, the violence in Afghanistan is directed against U.S. forces rather than among Afghans. In Iraq, much of the pre-surge violence involved Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites fighting for control of the state, which gave the U.S. military a clearer role in protecting Iraqi civilians.

"There are some areas of the country that will fight us and fight the Taliban just because we are there," Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, told reporters Wednesday.

3) IAEA reviews Iran's proposal on uranium enrichment
Thomas Erdbrink, Washington Post, Thursday, October 29, 2009 12:49 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/29/AR2009102900418.html

Tehran - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defended a possible compromise with world powers over a nuclear fuel deal Thursday as Iran formally responded to a U.N.-backed proposal aimed at stalling its ability to make nuclear weapons.

In a speech in the northeastern city of Mashhad, Ahmadinejad defied harsh criticism from domestic opponents who accused him of giving away too much in the negotiations. He said the West has been forced to alter its confrontational stance toward Iran, state television reported.

Under the proposed deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran would ship most of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium abroad for processing into medium-enriched uranium, which Iran needs to fuel a research reactor in Tehran that makes isotopes for medical uses. The fuel would come back to Iran in a form that could not be diverted to produce the highly enriched fissile material needed for nuclear weapons.

In Vienna, the IAEA announced that its director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, "has received an initial response from the Iranian authorities to his proposal to use Iran's low-enriched uranium for manufacturing fuel for the continued operation of the Tehran Research Reactor, which is devoted mainly to producing radioisotopes for medical purposes." The statement said ElBaradei "is engaged in consultations with the government of Iran as well as all relevant parties, with the hope that agreement on his proposal can be reached soon."

The IAEA references to "an initial response" and "consultations" suggested that Iran did not fully accept the proposal and that further negotiations may be necessary. U.S. and French officials had no immediate comment, saying they were awaiting additional details on the Iranian response.
[...]
Ahmadinejad's public backing for the general outlines of the IAEA's nuclear fuel plan shows that the government supports the ideas in the draft proposal, although it appears to be ready for a diplomatic fight over the details of the deal. If successful, the deal would likely be interpreted internationally as a goodwill sign by all involved parties and might lead to compromises over Iran's nuclear program.

But domestic opponents, including the head of parliament, lawmakers and the leader of the political opposition, have spoken out against the proposed deal, which involves an agreement with United States, Russia and France. They argue that the partners in the arrangement might not return Iran's uranium after it has been sent abroad.

"I feel that Westerners insist on going toward a kind of cheating," said Ali Larijani, the head of parliament and former nuclear top negotiator, in an interview Saturday with the Iranian Students News Agency.
[...]
The strongest criticism to date has come from Mir Hossein Mousavi, the leading opposition presidential candidate in Iran's June 12 elections. Even though the two-term government of his political partner, former president Mohammad Khatami, tried several times to reach a compromise with the West over Iran's nuclear program, Mousavi charged that the current proposal would lead to disaster.

"The discussions in Geneva were really surprising, and if the promises given [to the West] are realized, then the hard work of thousands of scientists would be ruined," the Kaleme Web site quoted Mousavi as saying in reference to the nuclear fuel plan.
[...]

4) Reported Ties From C.I.A. To A Karzai Spur Rebukes
Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, October 29, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/29/world/asia/29intel.html?ref=world

Washington - Senior lawmakers from both parties on Wednesday criticized what American officials said were financial ties between the Central Intelligence Agency and Ahmed Wali Karzai, a brother of the Afghan president, with one top Democrat suggesting that intelligence officials had misled him about Karzai's role in Afghanistan's opium trade.

The Democrat, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, demanded that members of Congress receive "untainted" information about Karzai's drug connections in light of a news report that Karzai was on the C.I.A. payroll.

Kerry's statement came days after he said in a public forum that there was no "smoking gun" evidence linking Karzai to the drug trade. Kerry said he had repeatedly been assured by intelligence officials that the evidence was inconclusive.

Kerry and other senior members of Congress were reacting to an article in The New York Times on Wednesday in which current and former American officials said that Karzai, the younger brother of President Hamid Karzai and a powerful figure in southern Afghanistan, was on the C.I.A. payroll for much of the past eight years.
[...]
"We should not condemn Ahmed Wali Karzai or damage our critical relations with his brother, President Karzai, on the basis of newspaper articles or rumors," Kerry said Wednesday. "But the appropriate Congressional committees must be immediately provided with the most comprehensive and untainted information about his alleged entanglements," he said.
[...]
Senator John McCain of Arizona, a leading Republican voice on national security issues, reacted angrily to the news about Ahmed Wali Karzai, calling the C.I.A. payments "wrong" and suggesting that military commanders in Afghanistan opposed the strategy. "Karzai's brother should not be in the country," McCain said on "The Early Show" on CBS.
[...]

5) U.S. Speeds Aid to Pakistan to Fight Taliban
Eric Schmitt, New York Times, October 29, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/29/world/asia/29weapons.html?ref=world

Washington - Even as the Pakistani government plays down the American role in its military operations in Taliban-controlled areas along the border with Afghanistan, the United States has quietly rushed hundreds of millions of dollars in arms, equipment and sophisticated sensors to Pakistani forces in recent months, said senior American and Pakistani officials.

During preparations this spring for the Pakistani campaigns in Swat and South Waziristan, President Obama personally intervened at the request of Pakistan's top army general to speed the delivery of 10 Mi-17 troop transport helicopters. Senior Pentagon officials have also hurried spare parts for Cobra helicopter gunships, night vision goggles, body armor and eavesdropping equipment to the fight.

American military surveillance drones are feeding video images and target information to Pakistani ground commanders, and the Pentagon has quietly provided the Pakistani Air Force with high-resolution, infrared sensors for F-16 warplanes, which Pakistan is using to guide bomb attacks on militants' strongholds in South Waziristan.

In addition, the number of American Special Forces soldiers and support personnel who are training and advising Pakistani Army and paramilitary troops has doubled in the past eight months, to as many as 150, an American adviser said. The Americans do not conduct combat operations.
[...]
Underscoring the complexity of the relationship between the allies, Pakistani officials are loath to publicize the aid because of the deep-seated anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. And they privately express frustration about the pace and types of aid, which totals about $1.5 billion this year.

At a military briefing on Saturday, the Pakistani Army spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, said the fight in South Waziristan was a purely Pakistani enterprise, unaided by the United States or anyone else. "Let us finish the job on our own," he told reporters.

Hasan Askari Rizvi, a military analyst in Lahore, said that publicly acknowledging the military aid - an open secret in Pakistan - could hand militants fresh ammunition for propaganda attacks. "The Pakistan military would not like to talk about the U.S. assistance," he said, "so that the Islamists, most of whom are opposed to military operations, do not get additional reason to criticize the military and the government."
[...]

6) More Schools, Not Troops
Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, October 29, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/29/opinion/29kristof.html?scp=2&sq=kristof&st=cse

Dispatching more troops to Afghanistan would be a monumental bet and probably a bad one, most likely a waste of lives and resources that might simply empower the Taliban. In particular, one of the most compelling arguments against more troops rests on this stunning trade-off: For the cost of a single additional soldier stationed in Afghanistan for one year, we could build roughly 20 schools there.

It's hard to do the calculation precisely, but for the cost of 40,000 troops over a few years - well, we could just about turn every Afghan into a Ph.D.

The hawks respond: It's naïve to think that you can sprinkle a bit of education on a war-torn society. It's impossible to build schools now because the Taliban will blow them up.

In fact, it's still quite possible to operate schools in Afghanistan - particularly when there's a strong "buy-in" from the local community.

Greg Mortenson, author of "Three Cups of Tea," has now built 39 schools in Afghanistan and 92 in Pakistan - and not one has been burned down or closed. The aid organization CARE has 295 schools educating 50,000 girls in Afghanistan, and not a single one has been closed or burned by the Taliban. The Afghan Institute of Learning, another aid group, has 32 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with none closed by the Taliban (although local communities have temporarily suspended three for security reasons).

In short, there is still vast scope for greater investment in education, health and agriculture in Afghanistan. These are extraordinarily cheap and have a better record at stabilizing societies than military solutions, which, in fact, have a pretty dismal record.
In Afghanistan, for example, we have already increased our troop presence by 40,000 troops since the beginning of last year, yet the result has not been the promised stability but only more casualties and a strengthened insurgency. If the last surge of 40,000 troops didn't help, why will the next one be so different?
[...]
When I travel in Pakistan, I see evidence that one group - Islamic extremists - believes in the transformative power of education. They pay for madrassas that provide free schooling and often free meals for students. They then offer scholarships for the best pupils to study abroad in Wahhabi madrassas before returning to become leaders of their communities. What I don't see on my trips is similar numbers of American-backed schools. It breaks my heart that we don't invest in schools as much as medieval, misogynist extremists.

For roughly the same cost as stationing 40,000 troops in Afghanistan for one year, we could educate the great majority of the 75 million children worldwide who, according to Unicef, are not getting even a primary education. We won't turn them into graduate students, but we can help them achieve literacy. Such a vast global education campaign would reduce poverty, cut birth rates, improve America's image in the world, promote stability and chip away at extremism.
[...]

7) Cluster bomb trade funded by world's biggest banks
HSBC earned more than £650m in fees from work for Textron, US manufacturer of cluster weapons
Nick Mathiason, The Guardian, Thursday 29 October 2009
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/oct/29/banks-fund-cluster-bomb-trade

The deadly trade in cluster bombs is funded by the world's biggest banks who have loaned or arranged finance worth $20bn (£12.5bn) to firms producing the controversial weapons, despite growing international efforts to ban them.

HSBC, led by ordained Anglican priest Stephen Green, has profited more than any other institution from companies that manufacture cluster bombs. The British bank, based at Canary Wharf, has earned a total of £657.3m in fees arranging bonds and share offerings for Textron, which makes cluster munitions described by the US company as "leaving a clean battlefield".

Campaigners maintain the deadly weapons can explode years after combat, killing or maiming innocent people.

HSBC will face protests outside its London headquarters today. Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JP Morgan and UK-based Barclays Bank are also named among the worst banks in a detailed 126-page report by Dutch and Belgian campaign groups IKV Pax Christi and Netwerk Vlaanderen.

Goldman Sachs, the US bank which made £3.19bn proft in just three months, earned $588.82m for bank services and lent $250m to Alliant Techsystems and Textron.
[...]

8) Latin America's economic rebels
Ecuador and Bolivia are achieving remarkable growth because they reject conventional economic wisdom
Mark Weisbrot, The Guardian, Wednesday 28 October 2009 15.00 GMT http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/oct/27/bolivia-ecuador-economy

Among the conventional wisdom that we hear every day in the business press is that developing countries should bend over backwards to create a friendly climate for foreign corporations, follow orthodox (neoliberal) macroeconomic policy advice and strive to achieve an investment-grade sovereign credit rating so as to attract more foreign capital.

Guess which country is expected to have the fastest economic growth in the Americas this year? Bolivia. The country's first indigenous president, Evo Morales, was elected in 2005 and took office in January 2006. Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, had been operating under IMF agreements for 20 consecutive years, and its per-capita income was lower than it had been 27 years earlier.

Evo sent the IMF packing just three months after he took office, and then moved to re-nationalise the hydrocarbons industry (mostly natural gas). Needless to say this did not sit well with the international corporate community. Nor did Bolivia's decision in May 2007 to withdraw from the World Bank's international arbitration panel, which had a tendency to settle disputes in favour of international corporations and against governments.

But Bolivia's re-nationalisation and increased royalties on hydrocarbons has given the government billions of dollars of additional revenue (Bolivia's entire GDP is only about $16.6bn, with a population of 10 million people). These revenues have been useful for a government that wants to promote development, and especially to maintain growth during the downturn. Public investment increased from 6.3% of GDP in 2005 to 10.5% in 2009.
[...]
Ecuador's leftist president, Rafael Correa, is an economist who, well before he was elected in December 2006, understood and wrote about the limitations of neoliberal economic dogma. He took office in 2007 and established an international tribunal to examine the legitimacy of the country's debt. In November 2008 the commission found that part of the debt was not legally contracted, and in December Correa announced that the government would default on roughly $3.2bn of its international debt.

He was vilified in the business press, but the default was successful. Ecuador cleared a third of its foreign debt off its books by defaulting and then buying the debt back at about 35 cents on the dollar. The country's international credit rating remains low, but no lower than it was before Correa's election, and it was even raised a notch after the buyback was completed.

The Correa government also incurred foreign investors' wrath by renegotiating its deals with foreign oil companies to capture a larger share of revenue as oil prices rose. And Correa has bucked pressure from Chevron and its powerful allies in Washington to drop his support of a lawsuit against the company for alleged pollution of ground waters, with damages that could exceed $27bn.

How has Ecuador done? Growth has averaged a healthy 4.5% over Correa's first two years. And the government has made sure that it has trickled down: healthcare spending as a percent of GDP has doubled, and social spending in general has expanded considerably from 5.4% to 8.3% of GDP in two years. This includes a doubling of the cash transfer programme to poor households, a $474m increase in spending for housing, and other programmes for low-income families.
[...]
Ecuador's growth will probably come in at about 1% this year, which is pretty good relative to most of the hemisphere. For example, Mexico, at the other end of the spectrum, is projected to have a 7.5% decline in GDP for 2009.

The standard reporting and even quasi-academic analysis of Bolivia and Ecuador says they are victims of populist, socialist, "anti-American" governments - aligned with Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and Cuba, of course - and on the road to ruin. To be sure, both countries have many challenges ahead, the most important of which will be to implement economic strategies that can diversify and develop their economies over the long run. But they have made a good start so far, by giving the conventional wisdom of the economic and foreign policy establishment - in Washington and Europe - the respect it has earned.

Honduras
9) Kerry, Berman want controversial Honduras report to be retracted
Kevin Bogardus, The Hill, 10/27/09 10:06 PM ET
http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/65117-kerry-berman-want-controversial-honduras-report-to-be-retracted

Senior congressional Democrats want a report on the ouster of Honduran president Manuel Zelaya to be retracted.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) made the demand in a letter dated Tuesday to James Billington, the Librarian of Congress. They asked the Law Library of Congress to withdraw and correct the August 2009 report titled "Honduras: Constitutional Law Issues."

"The report, which has contributed to the political crisis that still wracks Honduras, contains factual errors and is based on a flawed legal analysis that has been refuted by experts from the United States, the Organization of American States, and Honduras," Kerry and Berman wrote in the letter.
[...]
In their letter, Kerry and Berman ask for the report to include outside views and that a corrected version be reissued.
[...]
Staff for the two lawmakers had arranged an Oct. 22 meeting to discuss the report with Law Library aides and Honduran legal experts, including a former Honduran Supreme Court justice and a sitting Honduran appellate judge. But the day before the meeting, the Law Librarian of Congress told committee staff that she was withdrawing the drafter of the report and other Law Library experts from the meeting and she would sit in herself, the letter said.

Israel/Palestine
10) Demolishing Hope for Peace
Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, Inter Press Service, Oct 29
http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=49049

Sur Baher, Occupied East Jerusalem - "We knew something bad was about to happen when we saw the roadblocks being thrown up, and police everywhere. It soon came down the grapevine - the Israelis were demolishing more houses."

Naim Awisat, an East Jerusalem Palestinian community leader and entrepreneur, drove quickly down America Way (the winding old valley road that links the city' southern neighbourhoods of the Holy Basin with the walled Old City and its holy sites) to Sala'a, a rundown quarter at the heart of the wadi.

The tok-tok-tok of the heavy machinery could be heard "even before I'd rounded the last corner into the dusty square. A ring of troops in full anti- riot gear were in position. I have to admit it was something of a relief when I saw that what they were destroying was only that old derelict building with a corrugated iron roof where our kids used to gather to play pool, and who knows what else - drugs, what have you."

His friend Mohammed Nakhal, an urban planner, was already there. Before they could exchange thoughts about the latest Israeli action, Mohammed's cell phone was ringing non-stop - a string of calls from Dahiyat a-Salaam in the northern part of the city, and from Sur Baher just over the hill on the way to Bethlehem.

More demolitions were under way.
[...]
Two hours later, the troops are gone. All that remains of what had once been the extended family home is a pile of rubble - useless concrete and twisted iron girders. Overriding previous U.S. and international protest, Jerusalem's Israeli municipality had nonetheless gone ahead with a spate of new house demolitions in the occupied eastern part of the city.

Altogether on Tuesday, six buildings were knocked down, leaving 26 people homeless.

The latest round brings the number of East Jerusalem Palestinians displaced since the beginning of the year by forced evictions or house demolitions to over 600, according to figures released by UNWRA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees.
[...]
UNWRA officials estimate that "as many as 60,000 of the city's quarter million Palestinians are at risk from forced eviction, demolitions and displacement." Many others face mounting pressure to leave the city due to extensive legal and administrative restrictions that affect many aspects of their daily lives.

"If it goes on like this, over and above the current tension over Israeli intentions to erode our links to our own holy sites, they're simply laying the cornerstone for a new Intifadah (uprising)," warns Mohammad.
[...]

Bolivia
11) US, Bolivia "close" to restoring relations
DPA, Oct 28, 2009, 1:32 GMT
http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/americas/news/article_1509713.php/US-Bolivia-close-to-restoring-relations

Washington - The United States and Bolivia are 'close' to reaching an agreement for the normalization of diplomatic ties, Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said Tuesday in Washington. At the second round of bilateral dialogue, however, the two countries did not agree on a return of their ambassadors to each other's capitals.

'We are close to reaching an agreement. We have established that we will keep working to reach a new framework agreement that will allow us to establish a constructive relationship,' Choquehuanca said.

Ties were cut off in September 2008, with the expulsions of the US ambassador in La Paz, Philip Goldberg, and Bolivian ambassador in Washington, Gustavo Guzman. The government of Bolivian President Evo Morales expelled Goldberg for allegedly supporting the opposition.
[...]
Although a final agreement to restore ties had not reached, Choquehuanca said the dialogue was 'constructive' and 'promising.' He said he was 'optimistic' about the chances of success of talks which, he said, were to continue in the second half of November in La Paz.

Choquehuanca thanked the United States for the 'political will' to pursue talks further and said that Tuesday's meetings had made 'excellent progress' on all the issues, including aid, drug- trafficking, trade and political dialogue.
[...]

Cuba
12) U.S. Embargo on Cuba Again Finds Scant Support at U.N.
Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, October 29, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/29/world/americas/29nations.html

United Nations - The General Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to condemn the American trade embargo against Cuba, with the speeches by the United States ambassador and Cuba's foreign minister reflecting that little has changed despite an expected shift under the Obama administration.

The nonbinding resolution has been an annual ritual for 18 years. The vote this time of 187 in support, 3 opposed and 2 abstaining underlined the utter lack of support for the 50-year-old American attempt to isolate Cuba. (Israel and Palau joined the United States, while the Marshall Islands and Micronesia abstained.)
[...]
Analysts said Obama had not gone nearly as far as some of his Democratic predecessors in changing the restrictions on Cuba. Under President Bill Clinton there were extensive academic and artistic exchanges, while President Jimmy Carter lifted the travel ban entirely.
[...]

-
Robert Naiman
Just Foreign Policy
www.justforeignpolicy.org

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.

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