JFP News 11/4: Zelaya Asks Clinton to Clarify U.S. Position on Coup
Just Foreign Policy News
November 4, 2009
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1) President Zelaya is asking the Obama Administration to explain why, after pressing for his reinstatement, U.S. officials say they will recognize upcoming Honduran elections even if he isn't returned to power first, AP reports. In a letter to the State Department on Wednesday, Zelaya asked Secretary of State Clinton "to clarify to the Honduran people if the position condemning the coup d'etat has been changed or modified." His request came after Washington's top envoy to Latin America, Thomas Shannon, told CNN en Espanol that the U.S. will recognize the Nov. 29 elections even if the Honduran Congress decides against returning Zelaya to power.
2) Afghan officials say President Obama has given President Karzai a six-month "ultimatum" to clean up his government or "America will pull out," the Times of London reports. Diplomats said milestones for Karzai's progress would be agreed at a conference in Kabul immediately after his inauguration. A second conference, six months later, will be convened to measure achievement. If Karzai doesn't meet his targets, several options are being considered, including scaling back the US military presence.
3) Rep. Kucinich's offices released his remarks in the House debate over a resolution condeming the Goldstone report on war crimes in Gaza. "Almost as serious as committing war crimes is covering up war crimes, pretending that war crimes were never committed and did not exist," Kucinich said. 36 Members, including Kucinich, voted no; 22 voted "present," 30 did not vote. The roll call is here: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2009/roll838.xml
4) Iraq's security forces have been relying on an "explosives divining rod" made by the British company ATSC to detect bombs and weapons that US military and technical experts say is useless, the New York Times reports. Suicide bombers who managed to get two tons of explosives into downtown Baghdad on Oct. 25, killing 155 people and destroying three ministries, had to pass at least one checkpoint where the device is typically deployed. Last year, the James Randi Educational Foundation publicly offered the British company ATSC $1 million if it could pass a scientific test proving that the device could detect explosives. Randi said no one from the company had taken up the offer.
5) Japan struggled with the issue of reorganizing U.S. military bases on the island of Okinawa a week ahead of President Obama's first visit to Japan as leader, Reuters reports. Prime Minister Hatoyama said before his August election victory that the Futenma U.S. Marine base should be moved off the island, an idea supported by 70 percent of Okinawa residents in a poll published this week. But the US wants to push ahead with a plan to relocate it in a less heavily populated part of Okinawa.
6) Five British soldiers have been shot dead by a "rogue" Afghan policeman, the Times of London reports. A tribal elder said the rogue policeman had been working for the police for two years and had graduated from a police academy a year ago. A spokesman for the US-led training mission said all police in the district had undergone an intensive course within the last year.
7) Local Afghan officials said regardless of whether the policeman was a rogue actor, he killed the British soldiers in a climate of insurgency, which has tainted the way all Afghans think of foreigners on their soil, and warned that the incident could be repeated, the New York Times reports. The local police commander said the gunman was known to be sympathetic to the Taliban. Taliban commanders in southern Afghanistan said they were unaware of the attack and were making calls to their local commanders in the area to see if they had any knowledge, but they did not think any of their foot soldiers were involved.
8) Many Pakistanis are unwilling to admit that Pakistanis might be responsible for the bombing of Pakistani civilians, blaming foreigners instead, the New York Times reports. "I'm telling you categorically - the people behind this bomb are the Indians and Mossad," said a Pakistani whose views the Times said were typical of people they interviewed.
9) President Lugo denied that he faces any danger of a military coup, AP reports. Lugo won election last year on promises to provide more resources to Paraguay's numerous poor, but his supporters are a minority in Congress and rivals have been searching for ways to remove him before his term ends in August 2013. Last week, a majority of lawmakers threatened to mount an impeachment trial over comments he allegedly made in a poor neighborhood that some interpreted as a call for class warfare. Lugo denied making any such statement, but insisted that Paraguay's politicians should be more sensitive to the vast majority who live in poverty.
11) Until this season, Argentina's soccer fans needed cable to see premier league games on TV, the Washington Post reports. Then President Fernández' government helped push Argentina's soccer association to sever its long-term contract with the country's biggest media group and broadcast free all games on a state-run station. Now, about 20 million Argentines - half the population - watch top matches, more than four times as many as last season. "I'm going to be thankful for this all my life," said a man who scavenges recyclables from garbage for a living, "because football has been brought into my home and the homes of my neighbors."
1) Ousted Honduran leader asks Clinton stand on coup
Olga Rodriguez, Associated Press, Wednesday, November 4, 2009 1:26 PM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/04/AR2009110401591.html
Tegucigalpa, Honduras - Ousted President Manuel Zelaya is asking the Obama Administration to explain why, after pressing for his reinstatement, U.S. officials say they will recognize upcoming Honduran elections even if he isn't returned to power first.
In a letter sent to the U.S. State Department on Wednesday, Zelaya asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "to clarify to the Honduran people if the position condemning the coup d'etat has been changed or modified."
His request came after Washington's top envoy to Latin America, Thomas Shannon, told CNN en Espanol that the U.S. will recognize the Nov. 29 elections even if the Honduran Congress decides against returning Zelaya to power. "Both leaders took a risk and put their trust in Congress but at the end of the day the accord requires that both leaders accept its decision," Shannon said.
The U.S. has repeatedly pressed for Zelaya's reinstatement. President Obama was explicit in a speech this summer: "America supports now the restoration of the democratically elected President of Honduras." But the U.S.-brokered deal between Zelaya and Roberto Micheletti's interim government leaves reinstatement in the hands of Congress.
Nonetheless, hours after shaking hands, Zelaya and others indicated a behind-the-scenes arrangement had been made with Congress to reinstate him. "This signifies my return to power in the coming days, and peace for Honduras," he said.
His comments, and U.S. approval of the deal, left many believing Congress was ready to put him back in office. "I think it was sort of assumed that there was a deal with Congress to reinstate him," said Dana Frank, a historian at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "But the U.S. negotiators may have underestimated the sheer nutso chaos of Honduran politics."
2) US gives Karzai six-month ultimatum to stem Afghanistan corruption
Jerome Starkey and Tom Coghlan, Times of London, November 4, 2009
Kabul - President Karzai has six months to sideline his brother and reduce corruption or risk losing American support, Afghan officials have told The Times.
Senior palace insiders said that President Obama delivered the ultimatum when he congratulated Mr Karzai on his re-election on Monday. Top of his demands was action against corruption, the appointment of "reform-minded ministers" and several high-profile scalps to prove Mr Karzai's commitment to cleaning up his Government.
"If he doesn't meet the conditions within six months, Obama has told him America will pull out," said an official with access to Mr Karzai's inner circle. "Obama said they don't want their soldiers' lives wasted for nothing. They want changes in Cabinet, and changes in his personal staff."
Diplomats said the milestones for Mr Karzai's progress would be agreed at a conference in Kabul immediately after his inauguration. A second conference, six months later, will be convened to measure achievement. If Mr Karzai doesn't meet his targets, several options are being considered, including scaling back the military presence.
3) Kucinich: Truth, Human Dignity and the Goldstone Report
Office of Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Nov 3
Washington - Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today made the following statement on the House Floor about H. Res 867, which condemns the 'Goldstone Report' or the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict:
"Today we journey from Operation Cast Lead to Operation Cast Doubt. Almost as serious as committing war crimes is covering up war crimes, pretending that war crimes were never committed and did not exist.
"Because behind every such deception is the nullification of humanity, the destruction of human dignity, the annihilation of the human spirit, the triumph of Orwellian thinking, the eternal prison of the dark heart of the totalitarian.
"The resolution before us today, which would reject all attempts of the Goldstone Report to fix responsibility of all parties to war crimes, including both Hamas and Israel, may as well be called the "Down is Up, Night is Day, Wrong is Right" resolution.
"Because if this Congress votes to condemn a report it has not read, concerning events it has totally ignored, about violations of law of which it is unaware, it will have brought shame to this great institution.
"How can we ever expect there to be peace in the Middle East if we tacitly approve of violations of international law and international human rights, if we look the other way, or if we close our eyes to the heartbreak of people on both sides by white-washing a legitimate investigation?
"How can we protect the people of Israel from existential threats if we hold no concern for the protection of the Palestinians, for their physical security, their right to land, their right to their own homes, their right to water, their right to sustenance, their right to freedom of movement, their right to the human security of jobs, education and health care?
"We will have peace only when the plight of both Palestinians and Israelis is brought before this House and given equal consideration in recognition of that principle that all people on this planet have a right to survive and thrive, and it is our responsibility, our duty to see that no individual, no group, no people are barred from this humble human claim."
4) Iraq Swears By Bomb Detector U.S. Sees As Useless
Rod Nordland, New York Times, November 4, 2009
Baghdad - Despite major bombings that have rattled the nation, and fears of rising violence as American troops withdraw, Iraq's security forces have been relying on a device to detect bombs and weapons that the United States military and technical experts say is useless.
The small hand-held wand, with a telescopic antenna on a swivel, is being used at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq. But the device works "on the same principle as a Ouija board" - the power of suggestion - said a retired United States Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, who described the wand as nothing more than an explosives divining rod.
Still, the Iraqi government has purchased more than 1,500 of the devices, known as the ADE 651, at costs from $16,500 to $60,000 each. Nearly every police checkpoint, and many Iraqi military checkpoints, have one of the devices, which are now normally used in place of physical inspections of vehicles.
The suicide bombers who managed to get two tons of explosives into downtown Baghdad on Oct. 25, killing 155 people and destroying three ministries, had to pass at least one checkpoint where the ADE 651 is typically deployed, judging from surveillance videos released by Baghdad's provincial governor. The American military does not use the devices. "I don't believe there's a magic wand that can detect explosives," said Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe Jr., who oversees Iraqi police training for the American military. "If there was, we would all be using it. I have no confidence that these work."
Dale Murray, head of the National Explosive Engineering Sciences Security Center at Sandia Labs, which does testing for the Department of Defense, said the center had "tested several devices in this category, and none have ever performed better than random chance."
The Justice Department has warned against buying a variety of products that claim to detect explosives at a distance with a portable device. Normal remote explosives detection machinery, often employed in airports, weighs tons and costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. The ADE 651's clients are mostly in developing countries; no major country's military or police force is a customer, according to the manufacturer.
Aqeel al-Turaihi, the inspector general for the Ministry of the Interior, reported that the ministry bought 800 of the devices from a company called ATSC (UK) Ltd. for $32 million in 2008, and an unspecified larger quantity for $53 million. Mr. Turaihi said Iraqi officials paid up to $60,000 apiece, when the wands could be purchased for as little as $18,500. He said he had begun an investigation into the no-bid contracts with ATSC.
The Baghdad Operations Command announced Tuesday that it had purchased an additional 100 detection devices, but General Rowe said five to eight bomb-sniffing dogs could be purchased for $60,000, with provable results.
Checking cars with dogs, however, is a slow process, whereas the wands take only a few seconds per vehicle. "Can you imagine dogs at all 400 checkpoints in Baghdad?" General Jabiri said. "The city would be a zoo."
Speed is not the only issue. Colonel Bidlack said, "When they say they are selling you something that will save your son or daughter on a patrol, they've crossed an insupportable line into moral depravity."
Last year, the James Randi Educational Foundation, an organization seeking to debunk claims of the paranormal, publicly offered ATSC $1 million if it could pass a scientific test proving that the device could detect explosives. Mr. Randi said no one from the company had taken up the offer.
On Tuesday, a guard and a driver for The New York Times, both licensed to carry firearms, drove through nine police checkpoints that were using the device. None of the checkpoint guards detected the two AK-47 rifles and ammunition inside the vehicle.
During an interview on Tuesday, General Jabiri challenged a Times reporter to test the ADE 651, placing a grenade and a machine pistol in plain view in his office. Despite two attempts, the wand did not detect the weapons when used by the reporter but did so each time it was used by a policeman. "You need more training," the general said.
5) Japan Grapples With U.S. Base Plan Before Obama Visit
Isabel Reynolds, Reuters, Wednesday, November 4, 2009 3:56 AM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/04/AR2009110400635.html
Tokyo - Japan struggled with the touchy issue of reorganizing U.S. military bases on the southern island of Okinawa on Wednesday, just a week ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's first visit to Japan as leader.
Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada canceled a last-minute trip to Washington meant to smooth ties ruffled by a feud over bases, blaming his busy schedule, while Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama came under fire in parliament for his handling of the relationship, the core of security arrangements in the region.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell was due to meet Okada on Thursday, but it remained unclear whether a way could be found to keep the feud from spoiling Obama's visit.
Hatoyama, in office for less than two months, has pledged to build a more equal relationship with the United States and review bilateral security agreements, sparking concern among investors about the alliance.
He said before his August election victory that the Futenma U.S. Marine base should be moved off the island, an idea supported by 70 percent of Okinawa residents in a poll published this week by the Mainichi Shimbun and local paper Ryukyu Shinpo.
But Washington wants to push ahead with a 2006 plan to relocate it in a less heavily populated part of Okinawa.
6) Five British soldiers shot dead by rogue Afghan policeman
Jerome Starkey and Tom Coghlan, Times of London, November 4, 2009
Kabul - Five British soldiers have been shot dead after a rogue Afghan policeman turned a heavy machinegun against a British training team inside a checkpoint in Helmand Province.
They were killed in the village of Shin Kalay in Nad-e'Ali district of Helmand Province yesterday afternoon. Six British soldiers were injured in the same incident, several of them seriously.
Two Afghan policemen, including the commander of the checkpost, were also injured before their assailant managed to escape.
A tribal elder from Nad-e Ali said the rogue policeman, who was originally from Musa Qala in northern Helmand and named by local people as Gulbaddin, attacked the British troops with a PK heavy machine gun.
"He had been working for the police for two years and he graduated from the police academy (in Kandahar) a year ago," he said. "He was from the Alozai tribe."
Most of the police in Nad-e Ali are Noorzai tribesmen. A spokesman for the US-led training mission said all police in the district had undergone an intensive course, known as Focused District Development, within the last year.
7) Afghan Police Officer Kills Five British Soldiers
Alissa J. Rubin, John F. Burns and Taimoor Shah, New York Times, November 5, 2009
Kabul - The deaths of five British soldiers at the hands of an Afghan policeman with whom they were working has unleashed an outcry in Britain and highlighted the vulnerability of Western troops as they carry out a key part of the counter-insurgency strategy to train more Afghan army and police.
The attack occurred at midday Tuesday in Helmand Province as the soldiers relaxed in the still warm autumn sun on the roof of the joint checkpoint over looking the shared British-Afghan compound. They were so at ease that they had shed their body armor and helmets, never thinking that they would be attacked by one of the men they lived and worked with, said a local provincial official. The attacker then fled, setting off a manhunt.
The attack came as public support for the war in many NATO countries, including critical allies like Britain and Germany, has grown increasingly shaky. For Britain, it was one of the highest number of fatalities in a single attack since the Afghanistan invasion eight years ago, bringing to 92 the number of British troops killed in a single year.
It also came one month after an Afghan policeman fired on American soldiers during a joint patrol in Wardak Province, killing two, and immediately intensified concerns about Taliban infiltration of the Afghan security forces, in particular the police, which are supposed to be preparing to take a broader role in combating the Taliban insurgency.
Helmand officials said regardless of whether the policeman was a rogue actor, he killed the British soldiers in a climate of insurgency, which has tainted the way all Afghans think of foreigners on their soil, and warned that the incident could be repeated.
"This is not the first incident and will not be the last one; it will continue in the future as well," said Haji Muhammed Anwar Khan, a local elder and a representative of Helmand in Parliament. "As much as we are losing the territories, we will face this kind of trouble, and also as much as there is distance between the government and ISAF and the local people, we will have face this kind of event." He was referring to the International Security Assistance Forces, the NATO-led force of some 71,000 troops from 43 nations.
An important part of the counterinsurgency strategy embraced by the United States is to train more Afghan troops and police to protect people, in hopes of reducing the tensions created by foreign forces and allowing them eventually to leave.
Mr. Barakzai [a local official] said that the local police commander said the gunman was known to be sympathetic to the Taliban.
However, Taliban commanders in southern Afghanistan said they were unaware of the attack and were making calls to their local commanders in the area to see if they had any knowledge, but they did not think any of their foot soldiers were involved.
The attack mirrored at least two similar incidents in Iraq in which Iraqi Security Forces turned on American soldiers they were working with. The most recent instance was on Nov. 12, 2008, in Mosul when an Iraqi Army private opened fire on a group of American soldiers visiting an Iraqi base near an American base. One American soldier died and seven were wounded. In that case, it did not appear that the attacker had a connection to the insurgency.
8) Pakistanis Seek Blame For Bombing
Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times, November 4, 2009
Peshawar, Pakistan - It has been a week since the bomb exploded at the women's market here, but people still talk about the images of its aftermath: women's bodies, naked and broken. A hand with hennaed nails. An arm still wearing bracelets.
Even for Peshawar, a city that has long been pummeled by violent attacks, the bombing in the Meena market last week felt different. The violence was aimed not at soldiers or the police, but at society's most vulnerable members - poor women and children, who made up about half of the bombing's 114 victims.
In two days of interviews, Pakistanis here said they believed the war had taken a dark new turn, with civilians now bearing the brunt of insurgents' fury. But that does not mean greater public anger at the Taliban.
The attack was so disturbing that people refused to believe that their countrymen were the culprits. If anything, it was met with disbelief or anger at the government for failing to protect civilians.
"The Taliban talk about morality and women's dress, but they wouldn't do such a thing to us," said Muhamed Orenzeib Khan, a gas station attendant who lost nine members of his family in the blast. "Their target was never the common people."
The brutality of the bombing and people's reaction show just how complicated Pakistan's militancy problem has become. The military is now in the third week of a campaign against the Taliban, and though it has widespread public support, there is still a great reluctance to accept that Pakistanis or fellow Muslims are the ones doing the killing.
Like Iraqis in the early days of their war, many Pakistanis insist that foreigners carry out the most devastating bombings, and turn to conspiracy theories to explain a reality that is otherwise too awful to face.
"It's not easy to say our countrymen are in any way involved," said Altaf U. Khan, a professor in the journalism department at the University of Peshawar. "There is a feeling of extreme helplessness: 'We have no power, so why take responsibility?' "
Denial brings its own problems, namely the risk of prolonging the insurgency, because people do not know who their enemy is. That seemed to be the case for Muhammed Afzal, an oil trader whose building was damaged in the blast. "I know my tribal people," he said, sitting on a couch in a room with blown-out windows. "They aren't strong enough to do something like this."
Mr. Afzal, who has relatives in Texas and Florida, offered a view of who was responsible, similar to many others interviewed here. "I'm telling you categorically - the people behind this bomb are the Indians and Mossad," he said, referring to Israel's intelligence agency. India and Pakistan are archenemies, and India figures into many Pakistani conspiracy theories.
9) Paraguay: Lugo denies threat of military coup
Associated Press, 2009-11-04 12:53 AM
President Fernando Lugo denied Tuesday that he faces any danger of a military coup, despite calls for his impeachment as he struggles to push reforms through an opposition-controlled Congress.
The fact Lugo was even asked the question at a presidential news conference suggests how much the former Roman Catholic bishop is suffering politically since winning the presidency last year, ending 61 years of uninterrupted domination by the Colorado Party.
"I can assure you as commander in chief of the armed forces that, institutionally, there is no danger of a military coup," he said. "There could be small military groups that are connected to or could be used by the political class, but institutionally, the military does not show any intent of reversing the process of democratic consolidation."
The question was apparently prompted by rumors that spread after people saw tanks headed from Paraguay's Brazilian border toward the capital. It turned out the tanks were simply returning after maintenance work in Brazil.
Lugo won election last year on promises to provide more resources to Paraguay's numerous poor, but his supporters are a minority in Congress and rivals have been searching for ways to remove him before his term ends in August 2013.
Last week, a majority of lawmakers threatened to mount an impeachment trial over comments he allegedly made in a poor neighborhood that some interpreted as a call for class warfare.
Lugo denied making any such statement, but insisted on Tuesday that Paraguay's politicians should be more sensitive to the vast majority who live in poverty.
He criticized an elite class that "sits comfortably in air-conditioned offices," while the poor "survive on just one meal a day if they are lucky ... without safe drinking water, surrounded by misery."
Lugo lacks the votes in Congress to make substantial changes in Paraguay, but even some supporters are becoming disillusioned by his failure to find ways of using the presidency to overcome political opposition.
10) In mixing soccer and politics, score one for Argentine government
President gets a lift by ensuring free TV broadcasts for all
Juan Forero, Washington Post, Sunday, November 1, 2009 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/31/AR2009103102092.html
The opening minutes of the soccer game brought a quick goal, and Rubén Bres and the 15 guests who had joined him around his battered TV erupted in cheers. But they were happy not just for their team. They were happy they could even watch.
Until this season, Argentina's ardent soccer fans needed cable to see premier league games on TV and pay-per-view. Then, in a move analysts call shrewdly populist, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's government helped push Argentina's soccer association to sever its long-term contract with the country's biggest media group and broadcast free all games on a state-run station.
Now, about 20 million Argentines - half the population - watch top matches, more than four times as many as last season.
"When I saw the news on TV, I knew what it meant - football was coming into my home," said Bres, 37, whose small cinder-block house is blocks from where Diego Maradona, coach of the Argentine national team and once one of the country's greatest stars, grew up. "Politically, it was very intelligent. She's going to get our vote."
Among the president's backers is Morales, the radio commentator. On a recent Friday night at Radio Continental's studio, he told listeners that the Clarin Group had too much power and that the Argentine Football Association was being shamefully underpaid. "Now business is good for the clubs, which are receiving double what they were getting paid, and good for the people who are watching," he said.
On a recent Saturday, as venerable teams Racing Club and Argentinos Juniors played, few seemed happier with the new arrangement than the residents of the barrio of Villa Fiorito, with its dusty cinder-block houses, concrete patios where children play soccer and, of course, Maradona's dilapidated childhood home.
Six days a week, Bres scavenges recyclables from garbage in elegant districts. On this day, though, he had loaded his rickety dinner table with beer, cheese and salami, and had turned up the TV. "I'm going to be thankful for this all my life," he said, "because football has been brought into my home and the homes of my neighbors."
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