JFP 2/2: Karzai Defies Obama on Taliban Peace Talks

Just Foreign Policy News
February 2, 2010


Eat Your Spinach: Time for Peace Talks in Afghanistan
When Mom says you can have ice cream after you've eaten your spinach, you eat your spinach. When U.S. and British officials say the end of the war in Afghanistan is a negotiated political settlement with the Afghan Taliban, it's time for the talks to produce that agreement to start.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/eat-your-spinach-time-for_b_446149.html

Change.org: End the War in Afghanistan
The vote on funding for military escalation in Afghanistan will be the next major opportunity for Congress to change course. Now is the time to begin establishing "timetable for withdrawal" and "political negotiations" as demands on the supplemental. Help us move these ideas to the center of public discussion.
http://www.change.org/ideas/view/end_the_war_in_afghanistan_establish_a_timeline_for_withdrawal_and_begin_political_negotiations

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Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Afghan President Karzai is defying the Obama Administration by asserting his proposal for unconditional peace talks with the leadership of the Taliban insurgency, writes Gareth Porter for Inter Press Service. Karzai announced at the London Conference that he would invite the leadership of the Taliban to a Loya Jirga without specifying that they would have to meet specific conditions in advance of the meeting. A statement by Mullah Omar on Nov. 25 did not say foreign troops had to be withdrawn before peace talks could begin, but only that the Taliban would not participate in "negotiations which prolongs and legitimises the invader's military presence," Porter notes. A Taliban spokesman announced that the Taliban would make a decision "soon" on attending the conference. Karzai's public demands for an end to U.S. night raids on homes and continued arrests and detentions aligns his position with that of Taliban officials who have said those would be among the demands they would raise in peace talks.

2) The Obama administration is seeking a record $708 billion for the Defense Department in fiscal 2011, the Wall Street Journal reports. The base budget request is 3.4% above 2010's level. The President's budget includes increased funding for drones, part of a 7.7% increase for military hardware. The F-35 Lighting II would receive $10.9 billion. Missile-defense spending is to receive $9.9 billion. Other areas of spending include adding an additional 2,800 personnel to the U.S. Special Operations Command, whose commandos have front-line roles in Afghanistan [where they are disproportionately responsible for Afghan civilian deaths - JFP.]

3) Shares of major U.S. defense contractors rose after the Obama administration unveiled its defense budget, Reuters reports.

4) Speaker Pelosi should be leading the charge for an alternative to military escalation in Afghanistan, argues Peace Action West's Jon Rainwater in the San Francisco Chronicle. As our ambassador to Afghanistan noted, "Acknowledgement of the astronomical costs (of the current approach) might illustrate the greater desirability of civilian alternatives now dismissed as too costly or not feasible." The majority of Democrats oppose additional troops for Afghanistan and want to start bringing our soldiers home.

5) Criticism is mounting over the US refusal to provide information about drone strikes in Pakistan's northwest, AP reports. U.S. officials argue privately that civilian deaths are much lower than are often reported in the press, but refuse to document these claims. The U.N. and the ACLU have pressed the U.S. to reveal who it is killing in the strikes but have so far been rebuffed.

6) Senators Leahy, Dodd and Feingold have called for U.S. military aid to Colombia to be reduced, according to Colombia Reports. The senators requested that the U.S. focus more on supporting justice, law enforcement, humanitarian assistance and development. The senators asserted that human rights abuses by Colombian military personnel supported by the U.S. continue, and that those responsible are rarely brought to justice.

Iran
7) Iran said Tuesday it was ready to send its uranium abroad for further enrichment as requested by the U.N., AP reports. The decision could signal a major shift in the Iranian position on the issue, AP says. President Ahmadinejad appeared to be saying for the first time that Iran was willing to ship out its enriched uranium and wait for it to be returned in the form of fuel for its Tehran research reactor, AP says.

Haiti
8) USAID administrator Rajiv Shah says hundreds of thousands of desperate Haitians still have not received food and shelter, the Washington Post reports. Emergency food aid has been provided to more than a million people in and around Port-au-Prince, but about 2 million people need such assistance, he said. About 70,000 out of an estimated 240,000 to 300,000 families who lost their homes have received plastic sheeting or tents, he said. "We are in an emergency relief situation, and we will continue to be in an emergency relief situation for many weeks to come," Shah said.

9) The arrest of 10 Americans who were detained with 33 Haitian "orphans" they were trying to "rescue" gave the Haitian government an opportunity to assert its sovereignty, the New York Times reports. One of the Americans admitted that they had no documentation that the children were orphans and no permission to remove them from the country. Haitian officials said that several of the children had parents. To counter trafficking, the Haitian government had halted all adoptions except those already in motion before the earthquake. [U.S. Senator Landrieu has pledged to "fight" aid organizations calling for a suspension of foreign adoptions - JFP.]

Israel/Palestine
10) Doubts have been cast on the Israeli rebuttal of the Goldstone Report, after it emerged that a bomb was defused last year at a Gaza flour mill that Israel had officially said did not come under air attack in the war, The Independent reports. The presence of a large part of the bomb was reported to a demining team in January 2009. The flour mill is the only one in Gaza.

Contents:

U.S./Top News
1) US, Karzai Clash on Unconditional Talks with Taliban
Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, Feb 2
http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=50196

Kabul - On the surface, it would seem unlikely that Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who presides over a politically feeble government and is highly dependent on the U.S. military presence and economic assistance, would defy the United States on the issue of peace negotiations with the leadership of the Taliban insurgency.

But a long-simmering conflict between Karzai and key officials of the Barack Obama administration over that issue came to a head at last week's London Conference, when the Afghan president refused to heed U.S. signals to back off his proposal to invite the Taliban leaders to participate in a nationwide peace conference.
[...]
The current source of tension is Karzai's proposal, first made last November, to invite Taliban leaders - including Mullah Omar - to a national "Loya Jirga" or "Grand Council" meeting aimed at achieving a peace agreement.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded by pressing Karzai to demand far-reaching concessions from the Taliban in advance of the meeting. Clinton's conditions on Taliban participation included renunciation of al Qaeda and of violence and acceptance of the Afghan constitution, conditions that would make it impossible for leaders of the insurgency to agree if they are interpreted literally.

On Nov. 23, Clinton said the United States had "urged caution and real standards that are expected to be met by anyone who is engaged in these conversations, so that whatever process there is can actually further the stability and peace of Afghanistan, not undermine it."

Instead, Karzai publicly asked the United States to join in talks with the Taliban. Following the issuance of a statement by Mullah Omar on Nov. 25 that implied the Taliban would negotiate if they did not have to give up their demand for withdrawal of foreign troops, Karzai said there was an "urgent need" for negotiations with the Taliban.

In the face of what he knew was U.S. hostility to the idea, Karzai announced on Dec. 3, "Personally, I would definitely talk to Mullah Omar. Whatever it takes to bring peace to Afghanistan I, as Afghan president, will do it." But he added, "I am also aware that it cannot be done by me alone without the backing of the international community." That is the phrase Karzai uses to refer to the United States and its NATO allies.

A few days later, Karzai appeared to give way to U.S. pressure against unconditional talks. He said he wanted to negotiate with Mullah Omar, "provided he renounces violence, provided all connections to al Qaeda and to terrorist networks are cut off and denounced and renounced."

But Karzai announced at the London Conference that he would invite the leadership of the Taliban to a Loya Jirga without specifying that they would have to meet specific conditions in advance of the meeting. The Obama administration again reacted with scarcely-disguised disapproval.
[...]
Karzai showed no signs of turning back from his intention to meet with the Taliban without conditions. Two days after the London Conference, Karzai announced that he would convene the peace conference in less than six weeks.

And in an implicit response to U.S. demands for conditions on participation in negotiations, Karzai called on the Taliban not to pose the condition that U.S. troops must be removed before negotiations could begin.

In fact, a statement by Mullah Omar on Nov. 25 did not say foreign troops had to be withdrawn before peace talks could begin, but only that the Taliban would not participate in "negotiations which prolongs and legitimises the invader's military presence..."

Significantly, the Taliban spokesman did not dismiss Karzai's invitation out of hand, as might have been expected, but announced that the Taliban would make a decision "soon" on attending the conference.
[...]
Karzai has not been as enthusiastic as the Obama administration about the prospects for weakening the Taliban by offering economic incentives for individual commanders and troops to abandon the insurgency, which he has viewed as competing with his own emphasis on reaching a peace agreement with the Taliban leadership.

In an interview with al-Jazeera in early January, Karzai said he would not request more money to reintegrate individual Taliban fighters into the government side.

Instead, Karzai said he would seek to constrain U.S. military forces in the country. "We're going to ask the international community to end nighttime raids on Afghan homes," he said, "to stop arresting Afghans, to reduce and eliminate civilian casualties. We're going to ask them not to have Afghan prisoners."

Karzai's public demands for an end to U.S. night raids on homes and continued arrests and detentions aligns his position with that of Taliban officials who have said those would be among the demands they would raise in peace talks.
[...]
In November 2008, Karzai outraged the George W. Bush administration by offering a guarantee of the safety of Mullah Omar if he agreed to attend peace negotiations in Kabul. The State Department spokesman ridiculed the idea, saying, "One can't imagine" that there would be "any safe passage with respect to U.S. forces." Karzai then defiantly posed the choice for "the international community" in a news conference as being "remove me or leave if they disagree."

Karzai has also proposed taking the names of Taliban leaders off the United Nations "black list" in order to allow Taliban officials to travel abroad for the purpose of negotiations. Waheed Omer, a spokesman for Karzai, said in January that Karzai would "probably" ask the United Nations to take Mullah Omar's name off the "black list" of Taliban and former Taliban leaders. At the London Conference, Karzai requested only that five ex-Taliban figures be taken off the list, but he indicated that he would ask for more deletions in the future.

The U.S. efforts to discourage Karzai from entering into talks with the Taliban should not be taken as evidence of opposition to such negotiations in the future, according to an official of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul. The Obama administration appears to want to postpone peace talks until mid-2011 - after it has sought to weaken the Taliban by adding 30,000 more troops.

2) Record $708 Billion Sought for Defense
August Cole, Wall Street Journal, February 2, 2010
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704107204575039223181876584.html

The Obama administration is seeking a record $708 billion for the Defense Department in fiscal 2011, as the U.S. military continues to wrestle with a mounting bill for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan while trying to better equip itself for small-scale conflicts.

The budget request released Monday reflects Defense Secretary Robert Gates's drive to bolster the Pentagon's unconventional-warfare capabilities, which are in high demand in today's operations. That means increasing funding for programs such as unmanned aerial vehicles, which are being used in Afghanistan and Pakistan
[...]
The Defense Department's base budget request is $548.9 billion, with an additional $159.3 billion sought for war costs. The base budget request is 3.4% above 2010's level.

Even though spending on Iraq operations is expected to taper off, more U.S. troops and intensified Afghan training efforts will require billions of dollars in new funding. Afghanistan "is an expensive place to fight," said Defense Department Comptroller Robert Hale.

The request will include $11.6 billion to train and equip Afghan forces, a cornerstone of the U.S counterinsurgency strategy there. Some $2 billion is to be spent on Iraqi forces.

The largest spending increase is in the department's operations and maintenance account, which would rise about 8.5% to $200.2 billion if the administration gets its way. Such funding is used for everything from civilian pay to fuel to spare parts.

Military base pay is called to rise 1.4%, with overall spending on military personnel to rise about 2.6% to $138.5 billion.
[...]
Overall, the funding set aside to buy military hardware is set to rise by 7.7%, to $112.9 billion. A significant portion of the funding will be spent on weapons efforts like unmanned aerial vehicles from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. and helicopters from Boeing Co. and United Technologies Corp.'s Sikorsky unit that see heavy use in current military operations.

The biggest single program is the F-35 Lighting II, which would receive about $10.9 billion in the president's budget. The program is late and is being revamped to ensure more testing will be done before production increases.
[...]
Another major outlay is set for missile-defense spending, which is to receive $9.9 billion.

The administration is also going press ahead with developing a new long-range bomber. Though funding will only amount to $200 million in 2011, it is an important step for defense companies eyeing such work in the future, when it will likely cost billions.


Other areas of spending include adding an additional 2,800 personnel to the U.S. Special Operations Command, whose commandos have front-line roles in Afghanistan and other hot spots.
[...]

3) Defense Shares Gain On Spending Boost In U.S. Budget
Karen Jacobs, Reuters, Tuesday, February 2, 2010; 6:45 AM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/02/AR2010020200216.html

Atlanta - Shares of major U.S. defense contractors rose on Monday after the Obama administration unveiled a defense budget for fiscal 2011 that seeks a 3.4 percent increase in the Pentagon's base budget and $159 billion to fund missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Standard & Poor's Aerospace & Defense Index gained about 1.5 percent on Monday. "In general it was better than we expected, across the board" in terms of the increases in the base budget as well as weapons procurement spending, said Craig Fraser, aerospace and defense analyst for debt rating service Fitch Ratings.

Among big names, industry leader Lockheed Martin Corp gained 37 cents, or 0.5 percent, at $74.89 while aircraft maker Boeing Co rose 1.8 percent to $61.70. Northrop Grumman Corp, a provider of ships and unmanned spy planes, rose 2.3 percent to $57.92.
[...]
General Dynamics Corp was up 3.9 percent at $69.43. Sanford Bernstein said the maker of tanks and ships stood to benefit from increased spending on the war in Afghanistan outlined in the budget.
[...]
Among other defense contractors, missile maker Raytheon Co gained 1 percent at $52.96, while L-3 Communications Holdings, a provider of systems that monitor and gather intelligence, rose 1.6 percent to $84.64.
[...]

4) Fighting For Nonmilitary Options
Jon Rainwater, San Francisco Chronicle, Tuesday, February 2, 2010
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/02/02/ED021BQTD0.DTL

[Rainwater is executive director of Peace Action West.]

In the time it takes to read this piece, the troop escalation in Afghanistan will have cost $171,000. This week, President Obama is asking Congress for an additional $33 billion to fund the misguided surge. For the sake of his domestic agenda and our national security, we need an alternative approach in Afghanistan, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should lead the charge.
[...]
I have spoken with many on Capitol Hill who seem paralyzed by the Afghanistan dilemma. Democrats are loath to contradict a president from their own party. To their credit, some members of Congress, including Speaker Pelosi, have indicated discomfort with an intensifying military strategy. But Congress must not waste years and untold lives as it did under the Bush administration. It needs to stand up now to make the case for a comprehensive diplomacy and development-oriented alternative to a status quo that is squandering lives and undermining our security.

Perhaps the most persuasive person making this case is our own ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry. Recently released cables from Eikenberry, a retired general, indicate that these nonmilitary approaches were not fully considered. He writes in reference to the military-dominated strategy: "Acknowledgement of the astronomical costs (of the current approach) might illustrate the greater desirability of civilian alternatives now dismissed as too costly or not feasible."

Civilian alternatives have a strong track record. Greg Mortenson, the founder of the Central Asia Institute, notes that we could build 30 or 40 schools in Afghanistan for the cost of sending one American soldier there for a year. While the answer is not as simple as "schools not bombs," there are more effective approaches -including targeted counterterrorism, diplomacy, development and aid. President Obama will have little room to move toward these alternatives or push back against overeager military leaders if he is greeted by congressional silence.

Polling has shown that a majority of Democrats oppose additional troops for Afghanistan and want to start bringing our soldiers home. The Democratic base is only likely to sour on the war more as they continue to stare down 10 percent unemployment and see the 300 to 500 casualties per month retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey predicts will result from the surge.
[...]

5) Secrecy of US drone strikes in Pakistan criticized
Sebastian Abbot, Associated Press, Friday, January 29, 2010; 11:30 AM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/29/AR2010012902213.html

Islamabad - Criticism is mounting over Washington's refusal to say anything about missile strikes against Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in Pakistan's northwest, prompting even supporters to argue the U.S. needs to be more open to counter militant allegations that only innocent civilians are dying.
[...]
But the militants are the only ones speaking publicly about people killed in the strikes. Their claims of hundreds of civilian fatalities have made the attacks deeply unpopular in Pakistan, even though they have eliminated hard-line leaders responsible for the deaths of thousands of Pakistanis.

A poll conducted by Gallup Pakistan for Al-Jazeera in July last year found that only 9 percent of Pakistanis supported the drone strikes. The poll was based on face-to-face interviews with more than 2,500 Pakistanis throughout the country and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 to 3 percentage points.
[...]
"The U.S. government doesn't even suggest what the proportion of innocent people to legitimate targets is," said Michael Walzer, a renowned American scholar on the ethics of warfare. "It's a moral mistake, but it's a PR mistake as well."

Several groups in the U.S. have attempted to calculate what percentage of the more than 700 people killed in the drone strikes in Pakistan has been civilians. Without input from Washington, the results have been all over the map, ranging from 98 percent to 10 percent.

Residents interviewed by The Associated Press in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area, the site of a majority of the strikes since the program began in 2004, said they believe almost all of the victims are innocent civilians - although it is possible their comments are influenced by fear of the Taliban.
[...]
U.S. officials argue privately that civilian deaths are much lower than are often reported in the press - a tactic that critics say does little to counter the Taliban's claims.

The U.S. silence, which supporters say is driven by operational concerns and the politically sensitive nature of the strikes for Pakistan, has raised questions about whether the program conforms with international law principles governing who can be targeted and what level of collateral damage can be justified.

"I think the main concern for those of us looking at it from the outside is we don't know what the criteria are for the individual decision of whether to pull the trigger or not," said Paul Pillar, a former senior counterterrorism official at the CIA. "Each particular decision is essentially rendering a death sentence on someone and usually more than one someone when you get into the collateral damage."

Several different groups, including the U.N. and the American Civil Liberties Union, have pressed the U.S. to reveal who it is killing in the strikes but have so far been rebuffed.
[...]
"The CIA may indeed operate as a matter of principle in secrecy, but it cannot legitimately carve itself out as the sole actor which is not subject to any form of accountability when its activities are so well-known and proclaimed with such pride," said Philip Alston, a U.N. investigator of extrajudicial killings.
[...]
"As you get the sort of attacks we have seen over the past few days in response to the Khost killings, suspicions start to rise that the standards are dropping and there is a greater willingness to countenance civilian deaths. Some sort of information would be essential to try to provide reassurance," Alston said.
[...]

6) Democratic US senators want to decrease military aid to Colombia
Angela González, Colombia Reports, Wednesday, 27 January 2010 07:09
http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/7870-democrat-us-senators-want-to-decrease-military-aid-to-colombia.html
http://justf.org/files/primarydocs/100121sena.pdf

In an open letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, three Democratic U.S. senators on Tuesday asked Washington to decrease military aid to Colombia.

The senators requested that the U.S. focus more on supporting justice, law enforcement, humanitarian assistance and development within the country.

In the letter, Senators Patrick Leahy (Vermont), Christopher Dodd (Connecticut) and Russell Feingold (Wisconsin) expressed their concerns about military spending under Plan Colombia, a program originally planned to last five years, which is currently in its eleventh year.

"We remain troubled by the so-called 'falsos positivos' scandal, in which Colombian soldiers killed hundreds of civilians and dressed them in guerrilla clothing in order to inflate body counts. Human rights groups estimated that at least 1,700 innocent civilians were executed by troops eager to qualify for cash bonuses and extra days off, and the Attorney General's Office [Prosecutor General's Office] has accepted 1,056 cases," the letter said.

According to the senators, the Colombian state is guilty of grave human rights violations and provides a general impunity for state agents who violate human rights. Leahy, Dodd and Feingold argue that improving justice and law enforcement programs and achieving peace in Colombia should be government priorities in the coming year.
[...]
From 2000-2009, the US has provided nearly $7 billion in aid to Colombia.

Iran
7) Iran says ready to send uranium abroad as UN wants
Nasser Karimi, Associated Press, Tuesday, February 2, 2010; 5:51 PM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/02/AR2010020202517.html

Tehran, Iran - Iran said on Tuesday it was ready to send its uranium abroad for further enrichment as requested by the U.N. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced the decision in an interview with state Iranian television.

He said Iran will have "no problem" giving the West its low-enriched uranium and taking it back several months later when it is enriched by 20 percent. The decision could signal a major shift in the Iranian position on the issue.

Still, it was unclear how much of a concession the Ahmadinejad comments represented, even though he appeared to be saying for the first time that Iran was willing to ship out its enriched uranium and wait for it to be returned in the form of fuel for its Tehran research reactor.

But his time frame of four or five months appeared to fall short of the year that Western officials say it would take for Iran's enriched fuel to be turned into fuel rods for the reactor.

If that difference cannot be bridged, it could allow Iranian officials to assert that the deal failed due to Western foot-dragging, despite their readiness to accept the proposed formula of shipping out the bulk of their enriched uranium and waiting for it to be converted and returned as fuel.

Ahmadinejad also did not address whether his country was ready to ship out most of its stockpile in one batch - another condition set by the six world powers endorsing the fuel swap.

If Iran were to agree to export most of its enriched uranium in one shipment, it would delay its ability to make a nuclear weapon by stripping it of the material it needs to make the fissile core of a warhead.

Experts believe it would need at least a year to replenish its stockpile at its present rate of uranium enrichment.
[...]
[Ahmadinejad] dismissed concerns by what he called "colleagues" that the West would not return the uranium, saying Iran would respond to that by continuing to produce its own enriched uranium.
[...]
In Tuesday's interview, Ahmadinejad repeated his wish to see the West build nuclear power plants in his country. "They want to cooperate? OK, we cooperate. We do not have any problem. Let them build 20 nuclear power plants. Is there a problem? Russia, France and the U.S., come and build."
[...]

Haiti
8) USAID chief says food aid still hasn't reached many Haitians
Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post, Tuesday, February 2, 2010; 3:53 PM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/02/AR2010020202537.html

Three weeks after a powerful earthquake destroyed Haiti's capital, hundreds of thousands of desperate people still have not received food and shelter from an expanding international aid operation, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

Rajiv Shah, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said the relief effort has escalated in recent days and will continue to do so. Emergency food aid has been provided to more than a million people in and around Port-au-Prince, but about 2 million people need such assistance, he said.

About 70,000 out of an estimated 240,000 to 300,000 families who lost their homes have received plastic sheeting or tents, he said. "We are in an emergency relief situation, and we will continue to be in an emergency relief situation for many weeks to come," Shah told a news conference at the State Department.
[...]

9) Case Stokes Haiti's Fear for Children, and Itself
Ginger Thompson, New York Times, February 2, 2010
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/02/world/americas/02orphans.html

Port-au-Prince, Haiti - "God wanted us to come here to help children, we are convinced of that," Laura Silsby, one of 10 Americans accused of trafficking Haitian children, said Monday through the bars of a jail cell here. "Our hearts were in the right place." Whatever their intentions, the Americans who were detained late Friday at the Dominican border with 33 children struck a deep emotional chord in this earthquake-ravaged country.

Even as Haiti's crippled government asserted itself in the name of defending the nation's children, officials made it clear that more was at stake. In the wake of the worst natural disaster in Haiti's history, the authorities have opened the country to a flood of international assistance, some of it coming uncomfortably close to infringing on national sovereignty. The 10 Americans, the authorities said, had crossed the line.

Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive angrily denounced them as "kidnappers" who "knew what they were doing was wrong." Justice Minister Paul Denis said, "We may be weakened, but without laws the Haitian state would cease to exist." And the chief of the National Judicial Police, Frantz Thermilus, said: "What surprises me is that these people would never do something like this in their own country. We must make clear they cannot do such things in ours."

The Americans, most of whom are affiliated with two Baptist churches in Idaho, said they were trying to rescue orphans from the earthquake and take them to an orphanage they were setting up in the Dominican Republic. But that noble intent came under scrutiny on Monday as questions were raised about whether all of the children were indeed orphans. Ms. Silsby said that a Haitian pastor in Port-au-Prince, Jean Sanbil, of the Sharing Jesus Ministries, had brought her group the children, whose ages range from 2 months to 12 years.

While she acknowledged that she had no documentation to show that the children were orphans, or permission to remove them from the country, she said they had planned to return to the capital to complete the paperwork. She also said that in the midst of Haiti's crisis, they thought they did not need the documents.
[...]
But SOS Children's Villages, an Austrian organization that runs the orphanage in Port-au-Prince where the children have been temporarily placed, said at least one of the children, an 8-year-old girl, told workers, "I am not an orphan," according to the group's Web site. The girl said she thought her mother had arranged a short vacation for her.

Haitian officials said that several of the children had parents, and that, unfortunately, this turn of events was one they had anticipated.

Fearful of the possibility that unscrupulous traffickers would take advantage of Haiti's sundered justice system to take children from poor families for illegal adoptions, prostitution or slavery, the government had halted all adoptions except those already in motion before the earthquake. Mr. Bellerive's signature is now required for the departure of any child.

For the government, the arrests provided an opportunity to send a strong message, and the message was outrage. "If people want to help children of Haiti," said Marie-Laurence Jocelin Lassègue, a government spokeswoman, "this is not the way to do it.

"There can be no questions about taking our children off the streets," she added. "It is wrong. And those who do so will be judged."

Although many of the country's judicial and law enforcement structures, including the Ministry of Justice, the Supreme Court and numerous police stations, lie in ruins, Haitian officials said they were exploring options for prosecuting the Americans in Haiti. But several officials acknowledged that if there was to be any trial at all, it would probably be in the United States.
[...]
In Washington, the State Department said the American Embassy had been granted unlimited access to the Americans, but where and whether they would be prosecuted was up to Haiti. "It's their country," said Philip J. Crowley, a department spokesman. "The judgment is really up to the Haitian government."
[...]

Israel/Palestine
10) Holes are Shot in Army's Denial of Gaza Attack
Israel claimed it did not bomb flour mill, but 500lb explosives find proves otherwise Donald Macintyre, The Independent, Tuesday, 2 February 2010
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/holes-are-shot-in-armys-denial-of-gaza-attack-1886331.html

Jerusalem - Doubts have been cast on the Israeli rebuttal of the Goldstone Report, after it emerged last night that a bomb was defused last year at a Gaza flour mill that Israel had officially said did not come under air attack in the war.

The presence of a large part of the fractured Mark 82 bomb was reported to a demining team in late January 2009, and technicians were dispatched to defuse the 500lb device on 11 February.

The flour mill is the only one in Gaza, and the Goldstone Report, commissioned by the United Nations, said its destruction "was carried out for the purpose of denying sustenance to the civilian population".

The discrepancy came to light on a day in which domestic and international debate over the Goldstone Report and Israel's response was fuelled by a reprimand issued to two high-ranking officers.

Israel said a brigadier-general and a colonel had "exceeded their authority in a manner that jeopardised the lives of others" by authorising the firing of artillery shells into the area of the main UN compound in Gaza. The Israeli military denied a Haaretz report that the two had been reprimanded over the use of white phosphorus.

UN officials had described how the attack - which destroyed the UN warehouse - scattered burning white phosphorus through the compound.

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to decide whether to order an independent investigation into the Gaza offensive or face the possible fresh moves, threatened in the Goldstone Report, for an external war crimes inquiry to be launched.

The case of the El Badr flour mill in northern Gaza was examined in detail in the 575-page report by the Jewish South African judge, Richard Goldstone. It said the mill had come under air as well as ground attack during Operation Cast Lead, which lasted for three weeks last winter.

The official update of Israel's own investigations - sent to the UN on Friday - says that inquiries by the military's Advocate General had found that the mill did come under ground attack, but that he "did not find any evidence to support the assertion that the mill was attacked from the air using precise munitions".
[...]
But an international mines action team went to the flour mill on 11 February 2009 to take the fuse out of the unexploded front half of the bomb - the sort commonly carried by Israeli Air Force F16 aircraft - both a UN technical source and Mahmoud Hamada, brother of Rashad, confirmed to The Independent last night.
[...]
Developed in the 1950s, the Mark 82 is aerodynamic, deadly and cheap. One of the most common bombs dropped in the world - Israel's air force drops them from F-16 jets - and costing less than $300 (£190) to produce, each general-purpose 500lb bomb has a blast radius of about 40ft. In the Gaza conflict, Israel is said to have used a fin-guided version with parts made by US arms manufacturer Raytheon.

-
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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