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JFP 3/23: Jews Want Obama to Pressure Israel for Peace
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 23 March 2010 - 5:55pm
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March 23, 2010
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PJEP Video: March 2010 Protests Against the Wars
There was a protest or demonstration in over US 150 cities the week of March 20th. This video shows video and photos of twenty events across the country.
JFP video: Highlights of the Afghanistan Debate
With this video, we summarize the case made by Members of Congress for a timetable for military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
1) By a 71-29 percent margin, American Jews support the US "exerting pressure" on both the Israelis and the Arabs to make the necessary compromises to achieve peace, J Street reports. 55 percent say the US was right to strongly criticize the Israeli announcement of new housing in East Jerusalem during Vice President Biden's visit.
2) Secretary of State Clinton told AIPAC new Israeli settlements in occupied Arab lands not only hurt US standing in the peace process, but also complicate the US bid to win additional sanctions against Iran, the Christian Science Monitor reports.
3) Sens. Schumer and Graham pledged to AIPAC to push this week for action on the Iran sanctions legislation currently awaiting a House-Senate conference, directly contradicting Secretary of State Clinton's call for more time to allow the U.N. process to play out, Foreign Policy reports. Comparing a delay in confronting Iran's nuclear program with appeasement of Adolf Hitler, Schumer said there was no choice but to move forward with new Iran sanctions now. House Foreign Affairs Chair Berman is said to be trying to help the administration delay a conference by not allowing the House to appoint conferees. Graham also directly contradicted Clinton's message on settlements: "Jerusalem is not a settlement," Graham said to raucous applause. "It's the undivided capital of the state of Israel."
4) Turkey's governing party proposed constitutional changes that would make it harder to ban political parties and easier to prosecute military officials in civilian courts, the New York Times reports. The party said the changes were meant to further democratize Turkey and bring its Constitution in line with European norms to help it pursue full EU membership. The reform package would allow former generals who took part in the military coup in 1980 to be tried, annulling a clause that granted immunity.
5) The White House is considering whether to detain international terrorism suspects at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, which would lead to another prison with the same purpose as Guantanamo, the Los Angeles Times reports. Gen. McCrystal is reported to strongly oppose the proposal. Such a move would be certain to draw furious criticism by allies and human rights groups that the administration was re-creating the prison at Guantanamo, the LAT says.
6) Beginning this fall, the Marine Corps will guarantee nearly all Marines 14 months at home for every seven months they spend in war zones, largely as a result of the drawdown in Iraq, McClatchy reports. The lack of time at home between repeated combat tours has been blamed for exacerbating a range of woes, including higher rates of suicide, divorce and domestic violence among returning troops and a record-high suicide rate in the Army.
7) Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa wants the 22-nation bloc to engage Iran directly over concerns about its growing influence and its nuclear activities, in a step that could undermine U.S. efforts to isolate Iran, AP reports. The West's strategy in the standoff with Iran troubles Arab leaders, who fear that its failure would lead to a military confrontation that could spill across their own borders, AP says. Another factor behind the Arab push for their own Iran strategy is frustration over the failure of the US to stand up to Israel over its insistence on building on land the Palestinians want for a future state. Egypt said it would press the Arab League summit to demand that Israel join the NPT and submit to IAEA inspection of its nuclear facilities.
8) Haitian President Préval plans to present a donors conference with a blueprint for Haiti's recovery that will give major foreign donors a say over reconstruction priorities but will also give the Haitian government and civil society a say, the Miami Herald reports. The Interim Haitian Recovery Commission would have the power to approve or disapprove projects, and would include representatives from Haiti's labor unions and businesses, as well as major donors such as the US and Venezuela. The plan was modeled on the the successful reconstruction authority created in Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami; the US helped draft the plan.
9) An AIPAC lobbyist has conceded that AIPAC's request for $3 billion in US aid to Israel is "a very tough ask this year," notes Glenn Greenwald in Salon. A new Rasmussen Poll found that only 58% of Americans now view "Israel as an ally" - down from 70% just nine months ago. The same poll found that 49% of Americans believe Israel should be "required" to stop building settlements, with only 22% disagreeing. That's why the primary objective now of AIPAC and its bipartisan cast of Congressional servants is "to pressure the Obama Administration to avoid airing disagreements publically [sic]."
10) An initiative to revise the procedures for reviewing the cases of detainees in order to free marginal insurgents and innocent Afghans has run afoul of the interests of officers of the Joint Special Operations Command, Gareth Porter reports for Inter Press Service. Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone, author of a study of U.S. detention policy, was reported by The Guardian to believe that two-thirds of the prisoners held in Bagram were innocent and should be released. But of 576 detainees whose cases had been reviewed under new rules by late January, only 66 had been released. Human Rights Watch notes that Afghan law does not permit indefinite detention without trial. Detainees at Bagram still have no right to legal counsel.
11) Pakistan's Parliament is expected to pass constitutional changes that would vastly curtail the powers of President Zardari, the Washington Post reports. Zardari inherited far-reaching powers that were put in place under military ruler Pervez Musharraf. Zardari has pledged to give up the powers.
1) Some Key Takeaways From J Street's March 2010 Polling of American Jews
J Street, March 23, 2010
There is solid support in the Jewish community for J Street's position that peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a core Israeli and American interest and that the United States should take an active leadership role in achieving peace.
American Jews by a four-to-one margin, 82-18 percent, support the United States playing an active role in helping the parties to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, with 73 percent of American Jews supporting this active role even if it means that the United States were to publicly state its disagreements with both the Israelis and the Arabs.
By a 71-29 percent margin, American Jews support the United States "exerting pressure" on both the Israelis and the Arabs to make the necessary compromises to achieve peace. An earlier J Street poll last March found a similar level of support.
A majority of all American Jews, 52-48 percent, still support an active role even if the United States were to publicly state its disagreements with only Israel. American Jews are evenly split on support for exerting pressure on only Israel, a notion that J Street opposes.
60 percent of American Jews believe Israel's announcement of new housing in East Jerusalem caused damage to U.S.-Israel relations, and 55 percent say the United States was right to strongly criticize the Israeli announcement of new housing in East Jerusalem during Vice President Biden's visit.
Obama's approval in the Jewish community is holding steady at 62 percent. Gallup reported 64 percent approval rating in an October 2009 poll. Obama's approval rating among Jews is 15 points higher than among all Americans, 47 percent, according to a Gallup poll conducted during the same period.
2) Hillary Clinton to AIPAC: New Israeli settlements complicate US goals on Iran
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the AIPAC conference Monday that new Israeli settlements in occupied Arab lands not only hurt US standing in the peace process, but they also complicate the US bid to win additional sanctions against Iran.
Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor, March 22, 2010 at 1:32 pm EDT
Washington - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to meet with President Obama Tuesday at the White House, but in the run-up to that meeting neither the United States nor Israel is backing down from positions that put the two allies on a collision course.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said before the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington Monday that Israeli settlement activity in occupied Arab lands - East Jerusalem and the West Bank - undermines trust between the two allies and makes the US role in the peace process more difficult. Her words follow Mr. Netanyahu's assertion Sunday that Israel would not cease all settlement construction in Jerusalem, which it claims as its capital.
Secretary Clinton took her argument a step further, saying Israel's settlement activity complicates other US goals in the region that are also Israel's goals -specifically, ensuring that Iran does not become a nuclear power.
3) Senators pressure Obama on Iran sanctions
Josh Rogin, The Cable (Foreign Policy), Tuesday, March 23, 2010 - 8:55 AM http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/03/23/senators_pressure_obama_on_iran_sanctions
There was some strong pushback at Monday night's AIPAC gala against the Obama administration's call for further patience in waiting for the U.N. Security Council to enact a fourth round of sanctions on Iran. But it didn't come from the Israeli side or the lobbying group itself: it came from two senior U.S. senators.
Senate leadership member Charles Schumer, D-NY, and moderate Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, both passionately pledged to push this week for action on the Iran sanctions legislation currently awaiting a House-Senate conference. They directly contradicted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's call for more time to allow the U.N. process to play out, a plea she made in remarks to the same group earlier in the day.
Comparing a delay in confronting Iran's nuclear program with the WWII-era appeasement of Adolf Hitler, Schumer said there was no choice but to move forward with new Iran sanctions now.
"Diplomatic efforts have failed. We are too close (to a nuclear Iran) to simply continue those efforts," said Schumer. "The U.S. must hit Iran first, on our own, with unilateral sanctions, no matter what the other nations of the world do. And we cannot wait, we must push those sanctions now ... we cannot afford to wait for Russia or China."
Schumer's comments showed some daylight between the New York senator and the administration on the issue of banning the export of petroleum products to Iran. Schumer is for it, but administration officials say they want to focus on sanctions that target the regime, not the population.
Graham also directly contradicted Clinton's message on settlements, where she said that the status of Jerusalem was an issue subject to "good faith negotiations."
"Jerusalem is not a settlement. No government in Israel will ever look at Jerusalem as a settlement. And no government of the United States should ever look at Jerusalem as a settlement," Graham said to raucous applause. "It's the undivided capital of the state of Israel."
Both senators told the 7,000 assembled AIPAC members to push for immediate action on Iran sanctions when they flood Capitol Hill Tuesday to lobby their representatives, and AIPAC officials confirms that this will be the No. 1 talking point for AIPAC in all meetings.
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman, D-CA, is said to be trying to help the administration delay a conference by not allowing the House to appoint conferees.
4) Turkey's Governing Party Proposes Changes in the Constitution
Sebnem Arsu, New York Times, March 22, 2010
Istanbul - Members of Parliament from Turkey's religious conservative governing party proposed constitutional changes on Monday that would make it harder to ban political parties and easier to prosecute military officials in civilian courts. The proposals come after months of political turmoil and the arrest and detention of dozens of current and former military officers accused of plotting a coup against the governing Justice and Development Party in 2003.
In Turkey, the military has long been seen as the guardian of the secular order and the enforcer of a strong separation between Islam and the state, but it has been severely weakened by the coup plot case.
The proposed changes largely focus on the judiciary and the military, still the strongest pillars of the secular state establishment, which remain suspicious of the government's conservative, religious politics. Opponents of the proposals said they were an attempt by the party to strengthen its own hand and to deepen the encroachment of religious conservatism.
The party said the changes were meant to further democratize Turkey and bring its Constitution in line with European norms to help it pursue full European Union membership.
The Justice and Development Party has long promised to replace the 1982 Constitution, drafted under the auspices of the military after a coup in 1980. But the party had failed to win enough support, given widespread mistrust of its motivations in the secular establishment. With the revelations about the alleged 2003 coup plot, which was never carried out, the party seemed to sense a new opening.
One of the most important changes, and one that may gain some support, would make it harder for the country's Constitutional Court, a supreme judicial body, to ban political parties for undermining secularism and the unity of the country. The court threatened the Justice and Development Party with such a ban in 2008, and it has banned at least 25 parties over the years to safeguard constitutional integrity. The governing party also wants Turkey's president to appoint most of the judges on the Constitutional Court, which would be restructured to limit its powers.
Among other constitutional changes, the reform package would allow former generals who took part in the military coup in 1980 to be tried, annulling a clause that granted immunity.
If the proposed constitutional changes fail to win the two-thirds majority needed to pass in Parliament, the government will hold a referendum to ratify them, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin said.
5) U.S. may expand use of its prison in Afghanistan
The White House is considering housing international terrorism suspects at Bagram air base, as is done at Guantanamo Bay.
David S. Cloud and Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times, March 21, 2010
Washington - The White House is considering whether to detain international terrorism suspects at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, senior U.S. officials said, an option that would lead to another prison with the same purpose as Guantanamo Bay, which it has promised to close.
The idea, which would require approval by President Obama, already has drawn resistance from within the government. Army Gen. Stanley A. McCrystal, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and other senior officials strongly oppose it, fearing that expansion of the U.S. detention facility at Bagram air base could make the job of stabilizing the country even tougher.
That the option of detaining suspects captured outside Afghanistan at Bagram is being contemplated reflects a recognition by the Obama administration that it has few other places to hold and interrogate foreign prisoners without giving them access to the U.S. court system, the officials said.
Without a location outside the United States for sending prisoners, the administration must resort to turning the suspects over to foreign governments, bringing them to the U.S. or even killing them.
In one case last year, U.S. special operations forces killed an Al Qaeda-linked suspect named Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan in a helicopter attack in southern Somalia rather than trying to capture him, a U.S. official said. Officials had debated trying to take him alive but decided against doing so in part because of uncertainty over where to hold him, the official added.
U.S. officials find such options unappealing for handling suspects they want to question but lack the evidence to prosecute. For such suspects, a facility such as Bagram, north of Kabul, remains necessary, officials said, even as they acknowledged that having it in Afghanistan could complicate McCrystal's mission.
With such a move certain to draw furious criticism by allies and human rights groups that the administration was re-creating the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, officials stressed that no final decisions have been made, and a White House spokesman declined to comment.
6) Marines' Leave Increased As Iraq Mission Winds Down
Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy News, Tue, Mar. 23, 2010
Beginning this fall, the Marine Corps will guarantee nearly all Marines 14 months at home for every seven months they spend in war zones, the first payoff for service members of the United States' diminishing military presence in Iraq. The Army hopes to make a similar change by the end of 2011, guaranteeing soldiers two years at home for every year they're in war zones.
The change is the first concrete sign that the stress on the U.S. military caused by the years-long engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan is beginning to ease. The lack of time at home between repeated combat tours - what military planners call "dwell time" - has been blamed for exacerbating a range of woes, including higher rates of suicide, divorce and domestic violence among returning troops and a record-high suicide rate in the Army.
Mullen said in an interview with McClatchy News Service that the drawdown in Iraq was the biggest reason for the change. The military is planning to have no more than 50,000 troops in Iraq by the end of this summer, down from the current 97,000.
The price of the nation's eight years of warfare has been high for the families of deployed troops. At the peak, when the military had 172,000 troops in Iraq, the Army gave troops only 12 months off for every 15 months they were deployed. Marines got seven months at home for every seven months they spent in combat.
That meant in many cases that troops spent only a few weeks with their families between deployments as they traveled again to train for the next tour.
At many of the largest Marine and Army bases, so-called Family Readiness programs grew to provide additional support for spouses and counseling for children, who suffer from higher levels of depression while parents are away.
7) Arab League Chief Pushes for Closer Ties With Iran
Salah Nasrawi, Associated Press, Tue, Mar. 23, 2010
The Arab League chief wants the 22-nation bloc to engage Iran directly over concerns about its growing influence and its nuclear activities, in a step that could undermine U.S. and Israeli efforts to isolate the country, diplomats said Tuesday.
Senior U.S. officials including Defense Secretary Robert Gates toured the region last month to urge Arab allies to back Western efforts to increase the heat on Iran over its nuclear program, including through tougher economic sanctions.
Arab diplomats said Secretary-General Amr Moussa will present his proposal in a policy document to a two-day Arab League leaders summit in Sirte, Libya, that starts Saturday. The leaders are expected to discuss a range of regional issues, including stalled Middle East peace efforts and Iran.
The engagement would take the form of a forum for regional cooperation and conflict resolution that would include non-Arab nations Iran and Turkey, two Arab League diplomats said. They agreed to discuss details of the proposal on condition of anonymity because of their sensitivity.
One of the diplomats, who has seen Moussa's document, said the League's chief hopes the inclusion of Turkey - an increasingly influential Sunni Muslim nation - will provide a powerful counterbalance to Shiite Iran.
Moussa also wants the leaders to authorize him to initiate direct talks with Tehran on Arabs' concerns over what they view as Iranian meddling in regional affairs, including through its support of militant groups beyond its borders. A senior aide to Moussa, Hisham Youssef, confirmed the secretary-general would present the ideas to the summit.
It is not clear if Moussa has yet consulted with key Arab nations such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which have resisted closer ties with Iran in the past. They and other U.S.-allied Arab nations - most of which are led by Sunni Muslims - have been deeply concerned over the rising power of mainly Shiite and Persian Iran in the Middle East.
But the West's strategy in the standoff with Iran also troubles Arab leaders, who fear that its failure would lead to a military confrontation that could spill across their own borders.
Another factor behind the Arab push for their own Iran strategy is linked to their frustration over the failure of Washington to stand up to Israel over its insistence on building on land the Palestinians want for a future state. Arab nations look increasingly less likely to align with the U.S. strategy on Iran if they feel they are getting nothing in return on Mideast peace efforts.
Skepticism is eroding Arab hopes that Obama will be able to help forge a deal between Israel and the Palestinians to end a conflict that has fueled anti-U.S. sentiment in the region.
In another sign of Arab disenchantment, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Tuesday that his country will press the summit to focus on what is widely believed to be a secret nuclear weapons program in Israel and pressure it to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. "The priority of Arab countries should be to force Israel to join the NPT and place its nuclear facilities under the IAEA guarantees," Aboul Gheit said, referring to the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency.
8) Haiti recovery blueprint includes foreign donors
Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald, Tue, Mar. 23, 2010
Call it the $100 million club. That's the amount each donor nation will have to ante up for a say in Haiti's early recovery under a plan Haitian President René Préval plans to present at an international donors conference in New York at month's end.
While Haitian and foreign disaster experts were tallying the cost to rebuild after the Jan. 12, 7.0-magnitude earthquake - $11.5 billion - Préval and his advisors have been quietly negotiating the blueprint of the development plan that will shape Haiti's reconstruction over the next decade.
The plan includes creation of an Interim Haitian Recovery Commission that will - for the first time - seek to guide how and where aid is spent by giving both Haitians and foreigners a vote in reconstruction priorities and projects over the next 18 months. Haiti's president will retain veto power and there's a starring role for former U.S. President Bill Clinton if he wants it.
Clinton, who is to visit Haiti Monday along with former President George W. Bush, will be asked to help lead Haiti's reconstruction planning over the short-term as co-chair - along with the Haitian prime minister - of the commission, several sources confirmed to The Miami Herald.
Clinton, who is already in charge of the international relief effort for the United Nations, has not said whether he'll accept the job as Haiti's reconstruction czar but he has championed the strategy, saying the goal is to provide to Haitians the success that has long eluded them.He and Bush are visiting Haiti, where more than 200,000 people were killed in the quake, in their roles as co-chairs of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. The private U.S. fundraising effort, initiated by President Obama, has raised more than $36 million.
The commission's goal will be to plan and coordinate reconstruction priorities and projects over the next 18 months with recommendations from a 20-member board made up of Haitians and foreign donors. Eventually, the commission would morph into the Haiti Development Authority (HDA), a central planning agency tasked with approving all reconstruction projects in Haiti regardless of which country or aid agency is funding it.
The authority's executive director, like that of the commission, likely would be a well-respected Haitian. "Haitians must have the chance to lead the rebuilding of Haiti," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's chief of staff Cheryl Mills, a key person in talks. "Development authorities have helped other countries that have large donor communities to accomplish their visions - we want no less for Haiti and its citizens."
The original plan, first reported by The Herald last month, was modeled on the successful reconstruction authority created in Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami and presented by Mills to Préval and top Haitian officials last month. Other countries and multilateral institutions also presented plans to the Haitian government.
The U.S. plan has since undergone several revisions at Préval's urging. Among them: offering a voting seat on the commission's board to each donor pledging $100 million or more over the next two years and donors who provide $200 million in debt cancellation. As a result, Venezuela is among the likely donors to help review and approve projects. Initially 16 members, the board was expanded to give a say-so to Haiti's private sector and labor unions and the 15-nation sub-regional Caribbean Community (CARCIOM). The plan also establishes a Multi-donor Trust Fund, administered by the World Bank, to possibly pool donors' dollars for reconstruction projects.
9) A stark truth: Israeli arms, U.S. dollars
Glenn Greenwald, Salon, Tuesday, Mar 23, 2010 04:24 Edt
One does not normally see this truth stated so starkly in places like Time Magazine - from Michael Scherer's interesting article on AIPAC's current strategy to "storm Congress": 'The third "ask" that AIPAC supporters will make of Congress on Tuesday is to once again pass the $3 billion in U.S. aid provided annually to Israel. "It's a very tough ask this year," [AIPAC lobbyist Steve] Aserkoff admitted, noting the U.S. domestic budgetary and economic challenges. Among other major purchases, the Israeli government has announced plans to replace its aging fleet of F-16 fighter jets with new, American-made F-35 fighters, a major cost that Israel hopes will be substantially born for [sic] by American taxpayers.'
Those would be the same "American taxpayers" who are now being told that they have to suffer cuts in Medicare and Social Security because of budgetary constraints, who are watching as the most basic social services (the hallmark of being a developed country) are being rapidly abolished (from the 12th Grade to basic care for children, the infirm and elderly), and are burdened with a national debt so large that America's bond ratings are being degraded by the minute. Why should those same American taxpayers bear the enormous costs of Israel's military purchases (as Israel enjoys booming economic growth)? Especially if the issue is presented as cleanly and honestly as Scherer did here, and especially if Israel continues to extend its proverbial middle finger to even the most basic U.S. requests that it cease activities that harm American interests, how much longer can this absurdity be sustained?
On a related note, a new Rasmussen Poll found that only 58% of Americans now view "Israel as an ally" - down from 70% just nine months ago. The same poll found that 49% of Americans believe Israel should be "required" to stop building settlements, with only 22% disagreeing. That's why the primary objective now of AIPAC and its bipartisan cast of Congressional servants is - as Scherer put it - "to pressure the Obama Administration to avoid airing disagreements publically [sic]." Indeed: you can't have the American people knowing anything about the U.S./Israel relationship and the ways in which the interests of the two countries diverge.
Having these issues discussed openly and having the American citizenry be informed might shatter all sorts of vital myths, which is exactly what has happened over the last month, which has, in turn, led to this change in public opinion (that, along with the fact that the Israeli Government, by being viewed as the opponent of Obama, has incurred the wrath of large numbers of Democrats who are loyal to Obama and automatically dislike any of his critics or opponents). That's why their overriding goal is to hide all these differences behind a wall of secrecy - "the Administration, to the extent that it has disagreements with Israel on policy matters, should find way[s] to do so in private," demanded Democratic Rep. Steve Israel - because an open examination of this "special relationship," how it really functions, and the costs and benefits it entails, is what they want most to avoid. It's common in a democracy for government officials to openly air their differences with allies; why should this be any different?
10) JSOC Interests Snag Plan to Free Afghan Detainees
Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, Mar 21
Washington - An initiative to revise the procedures for reviewing the cases of detainees in order to free marginal insurgents and innocent Afghans has run afoul of the interests of officers of the powerful Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in defending their role in earlier detention decisions.
A study of U.S. detention policy in Afghanistan by Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone in early 2009 had concluded that holding hundreds of detainees without charge in both U.S. and Afghan detention facilities was helping the hardcore Taliban radicalise the vast majority of the detainees.
Stone was reported by The Guardian Oct. 14 to believe that two-thirds of the prisoners held in Bagram were innocent and should be released. But the new procedures for detainee review put in place late last year have led to relatively few releases, and the conditions attached to those releases have rubbed more salt on old Afghan wounds.
Of the 576 detainees whose cases had been reviewed under the new rules by late January, only 66 had been released, Brig. Gen. Mark S. Martins, deputy commander of "Joint Task Force 435", which has responsibility for detainee operations in Afghanistan, told IPS in a recent interview.
In addition, the release procedure requires the detainees and the village elders vouching for them to sign a paper saying the detainees had been held on the basis of intelligence linking them to the insurgency. At a meeting for the handover of some released detainees in Kabul reported by the New York Times Saturday, village elders from Paktia province refused to sign the paper until the offending language was changed.
The commander of Task Force 435, Navy Vice Admiral Robert S. Harward Jr., defended the intelligence conclusions at the Kabul meeting, but ultimately agreed to allow the elders to sign a paper that rejected that conclusion. In the future, the document will say that the detainees were considered insurgents in the eyes of the U.S., according to the Times report.
Harward's role at the meeting highlights an apparent conflict of interest that hampers the achievement of the original aim of the Task Force.
Harward had been assistant commander of "Task Force 714", a covert special operations group that conducted hundreds of targeted raids in Afghanistan under JSOC, from 2006 to 2008. Those raids filled the U.S. detention facility at Bagram Air Base with suspected insurgents.
Harward and other present and past JSOC officials, including Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who was then overall commander of JSOC, have an obvious interest in ensuring that the results of case reviews do not reflect negatively on JSOC's detention decisions.
Putting an officer with such an obvious conflict of interest in charge of the Task Force - and assigning Martins, a lawyer who is clearly more sympathetic to detainee rights, as his deputy - has all the earmarks of a Pentagon compromise.
The rules for reviewing cases and releasing detainees also appear to represent a compromise between those more concerned with defending past detention decisions and those who favour more protection of the rights of detainees to challenge their status. Although they include some concessions to detainees, their overall effect is still heavily biased toward a presumption of continued detention or trial.
In the interview with IPS, Martins defended the new rules as complying fully with the law of armed conflict. But Andrea Prasow, senior counterterrorism counsel for Human Rights Watch, told IPS the law of armed conflict "isn't applicable when the United States is engaged in a non-international armed conflict like Afghanistan."
Since the war is not between two states, the applicable legal framework today is the domestic law of Afghanistan, Prasow said. That law does not permit indefinite detention without trial.
Under the new rules, the review boards are not required to find that an individual was actually a member of an insurgent organisation to keep him in detention - only that he "supported" the insurgency and still poses "a threat to U.S. and coalition forces".
Even those inherently subjective questions are decided on the basis of "reasonably available evidence", rather than any standard of proof.
Detainees still have no right to legal counsel. They are assigned "personal representatives" who are supposed to help gather evidence but not to make a case for the detainee's innocence before the board.
11) Pakistani Parliament Moves Toward Reducing Zardari's Powers
Karin Brulliard, Washington Post, Tuesday, March 23, 2010; A10 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/22/AR2010032202103.html
Islamabad, Pakistan - Pakistan's Parliament is expected to pass constitutional changes in coming weeks that would vastly curtail the powers of President Asif Ali Zardari, effectively sidelining the unpopular leader of the nation's weak civilian government.
Zardari inherited far-reaching powers, including the ability to dissolve Parliament's lower house and to appoint the army chief, that were put in place under military ruler Pervez Musharraf. The likely changes would shift those powers to the prime minister, though many analysts say true authority in Pakistan would remain with the influential security establishment.
Strengthening Pakistan's civilian government is a priority of the Obama administration, which views Pakistan as vital to U.S. military success in Afghanistan. The changes, which have unusually broad-based support, could stabilize Pakistan's volatile political landscape by appeasing some of Zardari's many critics.
Zardari has faced demands to give up the powers since he took office in late 2008, and he has reluctantly pledged to do so. A committee on the constitutional changes is slated to present them and other recommended amendments this week to Parliament, which is expected to pass them by early April.
The changes would make Zardari's position far more ceremonial, and they could embolden Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani or power-seekers within the military. But analysts said that in practical terms, the shift would be mostly symbolic - both because Zardari is already weak and because he will remain the head of the ruling party. "At the end of the day, it's his government in power," said Cyril Almeida, a columnist for Dawn, an English-language newspaper. "And he still controls the prime minister by virtue of the fact that he's his party boss."
Gillani is viewed as a consensus-builder who is palatable to the opposition, military and public but is unlikely to defy ruling party wishes even after gaining enhanced powers.
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