JFP News 11/2: Media Buries Afghan Civil War
Just Foreign Policy News
November 2, 2009
Obama's Decision on More Troops to "Someone Else's Civil War"
In his letter of resignation, Matthew Hoh wrote, "I fail to see the value ... in continuous U.S. casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year old civil war." A prominent American agrees: "It's time to admit that no amount of American lives can resolve the political disagreement that lies at the heart of someone else's civil war." That was Senator Barack Obama, announcing his candidacy for President in Springfield, Illinois, on February 10, 2007. A search through the New York Times and the Washington Post for the last 12 months turns up exactly one article mentioning the idea that there is a civil war in Afghanistan: the Post article on Hoh's resignation.
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Jon Stewart Interview with Anna Baltzer and Mustafa Barghouti
The Daily Show introduces Jewish-Palestinian cooperation for Palestinian human rights to television-watching America.
Malalai Joya and the Tale of 2 CNNs
CNN US objects to Joya's reference to the US "occupation" of Afghanistan, but CNN International has no problem with it.
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1) More than 1,000 US troops have been wounded in battle over the past three months in Afghanistan, accounting for one-fourth of those injured in combat since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, the Washington Post reports. U.S. troops in Afghanistan are suffering wounds at a higher rate than those who were serving in Iraq when violence spiraled during the military "surge" two years ago. Pentagon press secretary Morrell noted that the violence in Afghanistan is directed more against U.S. and other coalition forces, whereas it was heavily sectarian in Iraq.
2) If Zelaya is restored to the Honduran presidency, even just symbolically, to preside over the November elections and supervise a transfer of power to its winner, it would represent a significant victory for progressive forces in the hemisphere, argues Greg Grandin in the Nation. The coup will not set a precedent for the region; the restoration will confirm the political influence of Latin America's progressive governments; it will push back against Republicans like Jim DeMint and Otto Reich, who tried to use the crisis to push for a more hardline US policy against the left in Latin America; it will give a boost to the popular movement in Honduras.
3) Arab leaders said they would confront Secretary of State Clinton over her comments backing away from US insistence on a freeze of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank, the Washington Post reports. Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa called Clinton's comments a "slap in the face" to the Palestinians. U.S. officials suggested that Clinton misspoke when she called Israel's offer - of talks "without preconditions" and "restraint" in settlement construction - "unprecedented" and appealed to Palestinians to bring their objections to the negotiating table. Her mistake, they said, was her failure to repeat the administration's baseline policy that all settlement activity should stop immediately. "If America cannot get Israel to implement a settlement freeze, what chance do the Palestinians have of reaching agreement" on the even more complex set of issues involved in final peace talks, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said. Egypt and Jordan on Sunday issued statements backing the Palestinian position that talks cannot resume until settlement construction is stopped.
4) Secretary of State Clinton, facing criticism in Pakistan for the U.S.'s expanding ties to India, ruled out Washington playing a formal mediation role between New Delhi and Islamabad on Kashmir, the Wall Street Journal reports. President Obama campaigned on the need for the U.S. to help fashion a "regional" solution to the instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He specifically cited the importance of Kashmir and the damping of the India-Pakistan rivalry. Clinton said Washington supported New Delhi and Islamabad returning to bilateral negotiations that froze after last year's attack by Pakistan-based terrorists in Mumbai. U.S. officials say Washington has quietly been working to build bridges between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Mumbai attacks. The issue of India was raised at most public events where Clinton appeared, the Journal says.
5) The U.S. ambassador and three Colombian ministers on Friday signed a pact giving US personnel expanded access to military bases to Colombia, AP reports. President Lula of Brazil dropped his initial objections after senior U.S. officials and Colombia's President Uribe made separate visits to explain it, AP says. Uribe also assured regional leaders that U.S. military operations would be restricted to Colombian territory.
6) U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis was named Sunday to a commission tasked with monitoring the creation of a power-sharing government in Honduras, AP reports. OAS Secretary-General Insulza said Solis would arrive in Honduras Tuesday. Congressional President Jose Alfredo Saavedra is expected to receive the accord Tuesday. Zelaya's supporters said they would rally outside Congress until Congress approved the deal.
7) The CIA revised its official estimate of the Afghan population from 33.6 million to 28.4 million, the Washington Post reports.
8) Iran's Foreign Minister said it has not rejected a U.N.-backed plan on its nuclear program, AP reports.
9) U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua Robert J. Callahan said he sees no need to apologize for criticizing a court ruling opening the way for the possible re-election of President Ortega, AP reports. Callahan forced to flee a university fair when Sandinista demonstrators threw fireworks to protest his comments. Callahan and the U.S. Embassy have been strongly criticized by Sandinista leaders since he said it was "improper" for the Nicaraguan Supreme Court to overturn the country's ban on consecutive presidential terms.
1) U.S. Combat Injuries Rise Sharply
Three-month total in Afghanistan surpasses 1,000
Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post, Saturday, October 31, 2009
More than 1,000 American troops have been wounded in battle over the past three months in Afghanistan, accounting for one-fourth of those injured in combat since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
The dramatic increase in amputees and other seriously injured service members comes as October marks the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Expanded military operations, a near-doubling of the number of troops since the beginning of the year and a Taliban offensive that has included a proliferation of roadside bombings have led to the great increase in casualties. U.S. troops in Afghanistan are suffering wounds at a higher rate than those who were serving in Iraq when violence spiraled during the military "surge" two years ago. In mid-2007, 600 U.S. troops were wounded in Iraq each month out of about 150,000 troops deployed there. In Afghanistan, about 68,000 troops are currently installed, with about 350 wounded each month recently.
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell acknowledged that the casualties in Afghanistan have surpassed Iraq surge proportions and noted that the violence in Afghanistan is directed more against U.S. and other coalition forces, whereas it was heavily sectarian in Iraq. "It shows you how we are the targets and how effectively they are targeting us," Morrell said.
2) Honduras: Solution or Stall?
Greg Grandin, The Nation, October 30, 2009
The Honduran crisis may soon be over. Maybe. The leader of the coup government, Roberto Micheletti, agreed to a nine-point plan to end the country's political impasse, brokered by Thomas Shannon, the former US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs and Barack Obama's yet-to-be-confirmed ambassador to Brazil. The deal would return Manuel Zelaya, the democratically elected president deposed in a military coup four months ago, to office; in exchange, the international community will end Honduras' diplomatic isolation and recognize upcoming presidential elections, scheduled for November 29.
Hardliners in the coup government, however, see a loophole in the accords, which gives the Honduran National Congress the power to approve or reject Zelaya's return. And no sooner was the ink dry on the accord when a top Micheletti advisor, Marcia Facusse de Villeda, told Bloomberg News that "Zelaya won't be restored." In a barefaced admission that the coup government was trying to buy time, Facusse said that "just by signing this agreement we already have the recognition of the international community for the elections." Another Micheletti aide, Arturo Corrales, said that since the congress is not in session, no vote on the agreement could be scheduled until "after the elections."
But such a calculated reading of the agreement will not play well with most countries, including the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and the European Union, which have repeatedly called for restoration of Zelaya. Brazil - whose Tegucigalpa embassy has given Zelaya shelter since his dramatic surprise return to Honduras over a month ago - applauded Shannon's deal, yet made it clear Zelaya had to be reinstated. And in Honduras, the National Party, whose candidate is expected to win next month's vote, wants this crisis to be over. Its members in Congress may join with Liberal Party deputies loyal to Zelaya to approve the deal.
The accord leaves unresolved the issue of whether the widespread human rights violations that have taken place since the coup will be investigated and prosecuted, only vaguely rejecting an amnesty for "political crimes" and calling for the establishment of a truth commission. More than a dozen Zelaya supporters have been executed over the last four months. Security forces have illegally detained nearly 10,000 people; police and soldiers have beaten protesters and gang-raped women. And the very idea of a negotiated solution to the crisis grants legitimacy to those provoked it.
Still, if Zelaya were to be restored to the presidency, even just symbolically, to preside over the November elections and supervise a transfer of power to its winner, it would represent a significant victory for progressive forces in the hemisphere. Here's why:
1. The attempt by Micheletti and his backers - both in and out of Honduras - to justify the overthrow of Zelaya by claiming it was a constitutional transfer of power will have definitively failed. If this justification was allowed to go unchallenged, it would have set a dangerous precedent for the rest of Latin America.
2. Efforts to rally support for the coup under the banner of anti-leftism, or anti-Chavismo - much the way anti-communism served to unite conservatives during the Cold War - will likewise have failed.
3. It will confirm the political influence - and unity - of Latin America's progressive governments, particularly Brazil and Venezuela, which have taken the lead in demanding that the coup not stand - a position that aligned them with much of the rest of the world.
4. It will be an important push back for Republicans like South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint and Otto Reich, who tried to use the crisis to push for a more hardline US policy against the left in Latin America. It is DeMint who has put the hold on Shannon's confirmation, as well as on the confirmation of Arturo Valenzuela, Obama's pick for Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.
5. It will hopefully help the Obama administration realize that in many Latin American countries, there is no alternative to working with the left. In Honduras, the violence of the coup government, as well as the fact that the extended crisis smoked out its less than savory supporters, like Reich, awoke not too pleasant memories of the Cold War. Reich recently penned an essay urging Obama to replicate Ronald Reagan's successful Latin American policy, which the Iran-Contra alum believed paved the way for the fall of the Berlin Wall. Many, however, remember too well Reagan's patronage of death squads and torturers. And reports that Honduran planters were importing Colombian paramilitaries to protect their interests were not helping defenders of the coup make their case. As protests continued, it became clear to all who paid attention that it was the good guys - trade unionists, peasants, Native Americans, environmentalists, feminists, gay and lesbian activists, and progressive priests - who were demanding the return of Zelaya.
6. Zelaya's return would be a huge boost for those good guys, who are largely responsible for the inability of the coup government to consolidate its rule. Against all expectations, they have defied tear gas, batons, bullets, and curfews, and engaged in creative and heroic acts of resistance, growing stronger and more unified than they were before the coup four months ago. They will engage with the new government from a position of strength, while the elites who have long ruled Honduras will be fractured and chastised.
The accords brokered by Shannon force Zelaya to renounce any attempt to convene a constitutional convention, yet the National Front against the Coup - the umbrella group that has coordinated opposition to Micheletti - has made it clear that that demand is "non-negotiable" and that it would continue to push for it, no matter who is president.
It was of course fear of a constituent assembly that provoked the coup in the first place, and it is an irony probably not lost on those who executed it that a large majority of Hondurans, according to a recent poll, now think that such an assembly would be the best way to solve the country's political crisis.
The last thing Micheletti and his supporters want to see is Mel Zelaya, with his white cowboy hat and wide smile, addressing a large crowd filling the streets of Tegucigalpa celebrating his reinstallation, building momentum for fights to come. And this is why Shannon's deal is anything but done.
3) Arab leaders to confront Clinton over Israeli settlement comments
Karen DeYoung and Howard Schneider, Washington Post, November 2, 2009 10:11 AM
Marrakesh, Morocco - Arab leaders gathering for a conference here with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday they would confront her over what they called a major shift in the U.S. position in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, charging that she had set negotiations back more than a decade by appearing to accept some ongoing Israeli settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa called Clinton's comments a "slap in the face" to the Palestinians. "President Obama said something totally different than what she said," Moussa said here Monday morning. "We have to ask her - does she really think this is an acceptable thing?"
U.S. officials suggested that Clinton misspoke in a Saturday news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when she called Israel's offer - of talks "without preconditions" and "restraint" in settlement construction - "unprecedented" and appealed to Palestinians to bring their objections to the negotiating table. Her mistake, they said, was her failure to repeat the administration's baseline policy that all settlement activity should stop immediately.
In a statement here Monday morning before meeting with the Moroccan foreign minister, Clinton backed away from her earlier remarks, saying that the administration's position has not changed and that "the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements." However, the Israelis now are "expressing a willingness to restrain settlement activity," she said. "They will build no new settlements, expropriate no land, allow no new construction, or approvals."
Apparently reading from written notes, she said: "This offer falls far short of what we would characterize as our position or what our preference would be. But if it is acted upon, it will be an unprecedented restriction on settlements and would have a significant and meaningful effect on restraining their growth."
But the outraged Arab response illustrated the sensitivities that have long characterized the peace process, as well as the difficulty of achieving the Obama administration's goal of restarting negotiations by the end of the year.
Clinton's comments represented a shift in the dynamics since Obama took office, with initial pressure on Israel giving way to apparent impatience over the refusal of Palestinian officials to resume peace talks in the absence of a settlement freeze.
The first months of Obama's administration were marked by sharply worded demands that Israel stop building in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Palestinians consider the areas part of a future Palestinian state and say that a halt to settlements on Israel's part would simply be fulfilling promises already made under previous international agreements. The United States and much of the international community consider the West Bank settlements, home to about 300,000 Israelis, contrary to international law and an impediment to a final peace agreement between the two sides.
Clinton's Jerusalem remarks, made as she stood smiling by Netanyahu's side, "mean that we are once again in the same vicious circle we were in in the 1990s," Moussa said. "Everything is negotiable. We are not ready to be taken for a ride again by Israeli diplomacy."
Palestinian officials said she conveyed to Abbas Israel's offer of a moratorium on West Bank building that excluded construction on Arab lands in East Jerusalem and up to 3,000 housing units already under construction.
On Sunday, following Clinton's departure, Palestinian officials criticized what they called U.S. "backpedaling" and said the administration's change of approach had undercut the likelihood of a peace deal.
"If America cannot get Israel to implement a settlement freeze, what chance do the Palestinians have of reaching agreement" on the even more complex set of issues involved in final peace talks, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a written statement. "We are at a critical moment," Erekat said. "The way forward, however, is not to drop the demand for Israel to comply with its obligations."
The U.S.-mediated peace process, overseen by special envoy George S. Mitchell, is "in a state of paralysis, and the result of Israel's intransigence and America's backpedaling is that there is no hope of negotiations on the horizon," said Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for Abbas.
Both Egypt and Jordan on Sunday issued statements backing Abbas's position that talks cannot resume until settlement construction is stopped.
4) Clinton Defers Role In South Asia Feud
Jay Solomon, Wall Street Journal, November 2, 2009
Islamabad - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, facing criticism in Pakistan for the U.S.'s expanding ties to India, ruled out Washington playing a formal mediation role between New Delhi and Islamabad on the issue of the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.
Clinton's position further diminished Pakistani hopes that the Obama administration would use its international stature to aggressively press for a resolution of the decades-old Kashmir conflict, which has fueled a nuclear-arms race in South Asia.
President Barack Obama campaigned last year on the need for the U.S. to help fashion a "regional" solution to the instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He specifically cited the importance of Kashmir and the damping of the India-Pakistan rivalry.
The Obama administration has established a direct, public role in seeking to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the political crisis in Honduras.
Clinton, appearing on a Pakistani talk show Friday, said the Obama administration believed such a direct effort would be counterproductive in the conflict between New Delhi and Islamabad. "It is clearly in Pakistan's and India's interest to resolve [their dispute]. But it isn't to us to dictate a solution," Clinton told the show, "Our Voice." "That wouldn't last a minute."
Pressed by the studio audience, the secretary of state said Washington's role in the Arab-Israeli conflict was necessary because the Palestinians had yet to establish an independent state.
She said Washington supported New Delhi and Islamabad returning to bilateral negotiations that froze after last year's attack by Pakistan-based terrorists in Mumbai. U.S. officials say Washington has quietly been working to build bridges between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.
The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, has attempted to promote intelligence-sharing between New Delhi and Islamabad to guard against any future terrorist strikes.
Pakistan said it is open to the U.S. playing a more direct role in resolving the Kashmir dispute, but Indian officials reject third-party mediation. New Delhi said it is open to resuming its bilateral dialogue with Pakistan, but needs Islamabad to crack down on the militant groups that attacked Mumbai.
Clinton concluded a three-day trip to Pakistan Friday aimed at smoothing Washington's relations with its chief ally in the fight against al Qaeda. The issue of India was raised at most public events where Clinton appeared.
5) U.S., Colombia Sign Agreement On Bases
Pact signed to expand US use of Colombia bases
Frank Bajak, Associated Press, Friday, October 30, 2009 6:45 PM
Bogota - In a private, low-key ceremony, the U.S. ambassador and three Colombian ministers on Friday signed a pact giving American personnel expanded access to military bases in this drug-producing country, a deal that Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has called a threat to the region's security.
Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez said the 10-year deal takes effect immediately and restricts U.S. military operations to Colombian territory - alluding to fears expressed by leftist leaders in the region that it would make Colombia a base for asserting U.S. power in South America.
The U.S. State Department said in a statement that the accord "does not signal, anticipate or authorize an increase in the presence of U.S. military or civilian personnel in Colombia."
Officials have said it would expand U.S. access to seven Colombian bases while maintaining at 1,400 the cap on military personnel and contractors specified by U.S. law.
President Chavez, who survived a 2002 coup attempt that he claims was U.S.-backed, has said Washington could use the bases agreement to destabilize the region.
South America's main power broker, President Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, however, dropped his initial objections after senior U.S. officials and Colombia's conservative president, Alvaro Uribe, made separate visits to explain it.
Uribe also assured regional leaders at an August summit that U.S. military operations would be restricted to Colombian territory, where a half-century-old leftist insurgency persists as well as violence related to drug trafficking.
Under the pact, U.S. military personnel will continue to enjoy diplomatic immunity, exempting them from local criminal prosecution. Some Colombians objected to that, citing a case of two U.S. servicemen accused in 2007 of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl. The two have since left the country.
Asked Friday about the case, the U.S. Embassy referred to a statement it issued in August saying there was currently "insufficient evidence to prosecute the two U.S. service members involved."
Increased U.S. military assistance has been key to the recent weakening of the country's main leftist rebel group. The U.S. military has offices at armed forces headquarters and advisers attached to army divisions.
Although there's no evidence of any direct correlation, the boost in aid and cooperation also has coincided with a sharp increase in extrajudicial killings by Colombia's military.
6) US labor official, Chile's Lagos on Honduras panel
Olga R. Rodriguez, AP, November 1, 2009
Tegucigalpa, Honduras - The U.S. secretary of labor and a former Chilean president were named Sunday to a commission tasked with monitoring the creation of a power-sharing government in Honduras, under a U.S.-brokered agreement to end the nation's 4-month-old political crisis.
Jose Miguel Insulza, the secretary-general of the Organization of American States, said Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and ex-President Ricardo Lagos will arrive in the Central American country Tuesday, accompanied by high-level OAS officials.
Representatives from Honduras' two major political parties will round out the four-member commission, which is also tasked with ensuring that all sides recognize November presidential elections and that the military is put under the command of electoral officials to safeguard the vote's legitimacy.
As part of the accord struck Friday, the commission will monitor the creation of a truth commission assigned to investigate the coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya, who was rousted from his bed by soldiers and flown to Costa Rica on June 28.
Congressional President Jose Alfredo Saavedra is expected to receive the accord Tuesday. He will then have to call lawmakers back into session to debate the measure.
If lawmakers OK the deal, it would win international recognition for the Nov. 29 vote after many nations warned they would not accept the outcome unless the coup was reversed.
Diplomats have urged lawmakers not to delay, and Zelaya's supporters said they would rally outside Congress on Monday to pressure lawmakers. "We will be there until we achieve our goal" of seeing Zelaya restored to power, said Juan Barahona, who has been leading protests against the coup.
7) All Those Afghans, Give Or Take A Few Million
Al Kamen, Washington Post, Monday, November 2, 2009
President Obama is still working hard to figure out the next steps in the very difficult war in Afghanistan. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in the field, is pressing for an additional 40,000 troops. Obama's top advisers are split. Americans seem to be increasingly skeptical about prospects for victory.
But the task has suddenly become a lot easier: The CIA has gotten rid of 5 million Afghans! Poof! Just like that!
Turns out the agency was substantially overestimating the country's population. The long-used number - 33.6 million - was derived from a 30-year-old census that has now been determined to be high.
Not just a little too high, but 5.2 million people too high. The new official count, 28,396,000, is lower by more than 15 percent. A CIA spokesman e-mailed Friday that the agency's population figures, both the old and new ones, were provided by the population division of the U.S. Census Bureau.
8) Iran wants review of nuclear plan
Tehran, in an apparent softening, says it has not rejected the deal.
Associated Press, November 2, 2009
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Iran said today that it has not rejected a U.N.-backed plan aimed at limiting the country's ability to make nuclear weapons, and it called for a technical panel to review the plan.
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that Iran conveyed its stand to the International Atomic Energy Agency two days ago. Mottaki is in Malaysia to attend a meeting of foreign ministers of eight Islamic countries.
His statement could be seen as a softening of Iran's stand after senior lawmakers rejected the plan Saturday. Earlier last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also said his government will persist with its nuclear program despite international concerns.
Asked whether this meant Tehran had rejected the deal, Mottaki said, "No."
The United Nations-brokered plan would require Iran to send about 2,600 pounds - or 70% of its low-grade uranium stockpile - to Russia in one batch by year's end for processing. France would convert the uranium into fuel rods for Iran for use in a reactor that produces medical isotopes.
"We have some technical and economic considerations on that. Two days ago, we passed our views and observations to the IAEA, so it is very much possible to establish a technical commission in order to review and reconsider all these issues," Mottaki said.
9) US envoy: No apology for chiding Nicaragua court
AP, November 1, 2009
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jlMflu3k1DC7QaYN9fBz - Ev7C5AD9BME92O0
Managua, Nicaragua - The U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua said Saturday that he sees no need to apologize for criticizing a court ruling opening the way for the possible re-election of leftist President Daniel Ortega.
"I did not do anything for me to apologize for," Robert J. Callahan said a day after being forced to flee a university fair when demonstrators wearing the red and black of Ortega's Sandinista party threw fireworks to protest his comments.
Callahan and the U.S. Embassy have been strongly criticized by Sandinista leaders since he said it was "improper" for the Nicaraguan Supreme Court to overturn the country's ban on consecutive presidential terms.
In an interview with television channel 12, Callahan said he met Friday night with Foreign Minister Samuel Santos and had "a very frank and honest discussion" about the issue.
The envoy didn't give any details of the meeting, but said Santos did not threaten him with expulsion as Sandinista leaders have called for.
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