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JFP 10/29: US v. Brazil: A Tale of Two Elections
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 29 October 2010 - 8:06pm
Just Foreign Policy News
October 29, 2010
US v. Brazil: A Tale of Two Elections
Lula "brought home the bacon" for the Workers Party base.
Is the Pentagon Deliberately "Degrading" Afghanistan's Capacity for Peace?
According to the US government's assessments, US military escalation has failed. Yet no change is expected from the December policy review. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is killing low-level fighters and commanders who are being replaced by younger militants less inclined to compromise or follow the Taliban leadership, making a peace agreement more difficult to attain. Is the Pentagon deliberately making peace more difficult to achieve in Afghanistan, so it won't have to accept a timetable for US withdrawal?
Video: Anthropologist Scott Atran tells MSNBC US should work with the Taliban
Scott Atran, promoting his book, "Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood, and the (Un)Making of Terrorists," says the US should work with the Taliban.
Graphic: Cost of the Afghanistan War
A new graphic compares the cost to previous wars - and to domestic needs that could have been funded instead.
South of the Border on DVD
Oliver Stone's documentary South of the Border was released on DVD this week. Why is the center-left cruising to victory in Brazil? You can get the DVD here.
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1) US Special Operations Forces, by killing Taliban who want to reconcile with the government, are sabotaging the very strategy for reaching a political settlement that US officials claim to support, writes Jeremy Scahill in The Nation.
2) The government announced Thursday that it had spent $80.1 billion on intelligence activities over the past 12 months, disclosing for the first time not only the amount spent by civilian intelligence agencies but also by the military, Walter Pincus reports in the Washington Post. Spending on intelligence for 2010 far exceeded the $42.6 billion spent on the Department of Homeland Security and the $48.9 billion spent on the State Department and foreign operations. The disclosure that intelligence spending had risen to $80.1 billion, an increase of nearly 7 percent over the year before and a record high, led to immediate calls for fiscal restraint on Capitol Hill.
3) "Common wisdom" holds that Israel can do whatever it wants, and the Obama Administration will never say no, writes Ira Chernus on Huffington Post. But it just ain't so. Chernus cites a number of examples from the last 18 months in which Netanyahu has succumbed to pressure from the Obama Administration.
4) Caterpillar, the company which supplies the IDF with bulldozers, has announced that it is delaying the supply of D9 bulldozers during the trial brought by Rachel Corrie's family, the Jerusalem Post reports, citing Israel's Channel 2 news. [Jewish Voice for Peace notes that the action by Caterpillar is an implicit admission that its supply of bulldozers to the IDF does indeed bear some relationship to Rachel's death - JFP.]
5) Private prison companies were a driving force behind Arizona's anti-immigration law, NPR reports. The law could send hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to prison in a way never done before. And it could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to private prison companies responsible for housing them.
6) A top commander said NATO won't know until June if security gains in Kandahar will hold, lowering hopes for a quick return on the Obama administration's investment of tens of thousands more troops, AP reports. Maj. Gen. Carter's comments suggest that Gen. Petraeus may say in the December review that it is too early to tell if stepped-up operations against the Taliban have yielded permanent gains.
7) An Air Force Academy survey found 41 percent of cadets who identified as non-Christian said they were subjected to unwanted proselytizing at least once or twice last year, AP reports. 19 percent of all cadets said they were subjected to unwanted proselytizing. The percentage of Christians and non-Christians, including atheists, who felt pressure to get involved in religious activities declined, compared with a survey in 2007.
8) Iran said Friday it would resume talks with the West about its nuclear program in November, according to officials at the EU, the New York Times reports.
9) This month, Israeli military courts have handed out jail terms to two men who led protests against the path of Israel's security barrier near their village, the New York Times reports. Abdullah Abu Rahma, a teacher, he was sentenced to a year in prison by an Israeli military court that found him guilty of "organizing and participating in an illegal demonstration" and "incitement." On Thursday, a military court extended the sentence of another Bilin organizer, Adeeb Abu Rahma, a taxi driver. The Jerusalem Post reports that: "The IDF plans to complete the construction of a new security barrier near the West Bank Palestinian town of Bilin in the coming weeks."
10) The Venezuelan Health Ministry says that starting next year, the Venezuelan government will guarantee antiretroviral medication to people with HIV, Venezuelanalysis reports. Venezuela's HIV-positive patients "will have their treatment guaranteed next year; we have made preparations to acquire the medicines and cover the whole population free of charge," said Venezuelan Health Minister Eugenia Sader. NGOs in Venezuela have repeatedly complained of lack of access to antiretroviral medicines.
11) The Mexican government has claimed that most of the nearly 30,000 people killed in the drug war have some association with the illicit trade, the New York Times reports. But a devastating wave of attacks has killed dozens of civilians and forced the government to concede that innocents are being swept up in the violence. In the latest attacks, gunmen killed four people and injured 14 when they fired on three buses carrying workers home from a manufacturing plant near Ciudad Juárez. The plant is owned by Eagle Ottawa, a US automobile upholstery manufacturer based in Michigan.
12) A report by human rights groups says at least 22 activists were murdered in the first 75 days of the government of Colombian President Santos, according to Colombia Reports, citing a Spanish EFE report. The groups detailed the death of five activists, seven indigenous leaders, a human rights defender, five trade unionists, two community educators and two members of the organization of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans-gender individuals. Maria Victoria Fallon of the Interdisciplinary Group for Human Rights said the report demonstrated continuity between the Santos government and the previous one. The director of human rights in the Colombian Ministry of Interior and Justice said the government will investigate the allegations "immediately."
1) Killing Reconciliation
Jeremy Scahill, The Nation, October 27, 2010
On March 26, 2009, Mullah Sahib Jan, a militant Taliban imam from the Mohammed Agha district in Afghanistan's Logar province, walked into the office of the Independent National Reconciliation Commission, the main body encouraging the Taliban to lay down their weapons and work with the government. He was escorting fifty Taliban fighters who, he said, had committed to ending their fight against the Afghan government and entering the process of integration. To the government, Sahib Jan was a shining example of how reconciliation with the Taliban is supposed to work. But less than a year later, the former militant's story would stand as a devastating symbol of how the actions of US Special Operations Forces are sabotaging the very strategy for reaching a political settlement that US officials claim to support.
Throughout Afghanistan, large billboards line the major roads encouraging Taliban fighters to do what Sahib Jan did - reconcile with the government. The billboards show red silhouettes of Kalashnikov-carrying Taliban fighters walking across a line, after which they transform into civilians and join white silhouettes of unarmed Afghans dressed in traditional garb. The message is clear: lay down your weapons and rejoin the family.
When Sahib Jan walked into the reconciliation office, he publicly announced that he and his Taliban colleagues had agreed to work with the government on a peace process after the commission assured him that it would restrict US-led NATO forces from conducting night raids and killing civilians. "If the killing and arrests of people were not stopped," he said, "we would withdraw our support to the government and the foreign forces."
Reconciliation officials in Logar province say that making allies out of figures like Sahib Jan is the centerpiece of their work. Logar and its neighboring provinces, Paktia, Wardak and Ghazni, contain a strong presence of not only the Taliban but also the Haqqani network, the insurgent group portrayed by US officials as having the closest ties to Al Qaeda and a cozy relationship with Pakistan's ISI spy organization. Logar is also home to several tribes that say they have spent the past two years trying to make peace. A crucial part of this, they say, is building enough trust with the Taliban to make a serious case for ending their insurgency. Soon after his initial trip to the reconciliation office, Sahib Jan left his calling as an imam and took a position as a religious adviser to the reconciliation commission. As part of his work, reconciliation officials say, he traveled to hardcore Taliban areas.
"He was preaching to the Taliban, encouraging them to come to the government, telling the fighters there were a lot of benefits to laying down their arms," says Mohammed Anwar, director of Logar's reconciliation commission and an adviser to a local tribal council. Council officials credit Sahib Jan with putting Taliban fighters on the road to reconciliation.
But on the morning of January 14, Sahib Jan's bullet-riddled body lay on the ground outside his family's mud-brick compound in Logar's Safed Sang village. According to local officials and his family, he was killed in a night raid by US Special Operations Forces. "At 1 or 1:30 in the morning, US soldiers pulled up to the gas station in front of our house. We were sleeping in our rooms at that time," recalls Sahib Jan's 18-year-old son, Haider. "They broke down the doors of our house. My father was in one room, and we were in another. We don't know exactly when the US soldiers entered our house, we just know that they took our father and killed him. They killed our father outside our house, a short ways away. We don't know if they killed him from a helicopter or if commandos killed him."
2) Intelligence spending at record $80.1 billion in first disclosure of overall figure
Walter Pincus, Washington Post, Thursday, October 28, 2010; 9:06 PM
The government announced Thursday that it had spent $80.1 billion on intelligence activities over the past 12 months, disclosing for the first time not only the amount spent by civilian intelligence agencies but also by the military.
The so-called National Intelligence Program, run by the CIA and other agencies that report to the Director of National Intelligence, cost $53.1 billion in fiscal 2010, which ended Sept. 30, while the Military Intelligence Program cost an additional $27 billion.
Spending on intelligence for 2010 far exceeded the $42.6 billion spent on the Department of Homeland Security and the $48.9 billion spent on the State Department and foreign operations.
The cost of the Military Intelligence Program has always remained classified. But as undersecretary of defense for intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., now the director of national intelligence, secured approval to release the figure. "I pushed through and got Secretary [Robert M.] Gates to approve revelation of the Military Intelligence Program budget," Clapper told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in July.
In disclosing the military intelligence figure, which includes more than $3.5 billion spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, Defense Department official said no program details will be released.
Although an overall intelligence budget was not released last year, then-Director Dennis C. Blair told reporters in a teleconference that the overall budget was $75 billion. At that time, the officially released budget for the National Intelligence Program was $49.5 billion.
The disclosure Thursday that intelligence spending had risen to $80.1 billion, an increase of nearly 7 percent over the year before and a record high, led to immediate calls for fiscal restraint on Capitol Hill.
The new total is more than double what was spent in 2001, noted Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. However, that was before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, prompted major shifts by the intelligence community.
"I intend to identify and remove any waste and unnecessary duplication in the intelligence budget and to reduce funding for lower-priority activities," Feinstein said in a statement. She added: "It is clear that the overall spending on intelligence has blossomed to an unacceptable level in the past decade."
3) U.S. Can Put the Squeeze on Israel
Ira Chernus, Huffington Post, October 27, 2010
Israel can do whatever it damn pleases, and the Obama administration will never say no - or so the common wisdom goes. But it ain't so. Obama has backed down far too often, but there's also a long history of Israel giving in to U.S. pressure in the last 18 months. Here are just some of the highlights:
On June 4, 2009, Obama went to Cairo and called on the Israelis to agree to an independent Palestinian state. That same day Netanyahu met with his cabinet. "Ministers split over Obama's Cairo speech," one Israeli headline declared.
Just ten days later, Netanyahu spoke words that he'd never said publicly before: "Two states for two people." Had Obama not made his own speech, it's doubtful anyone would ever have heard those words from Netanyahu.
Later that summer, "a senior source in Jerusalem" told an Israeli reporter that American envoy George Mitchell had asked Netanyahu to promise a one-year freeze on settlement construction. "Netanyahu and Barak did not reject the request"; they merely "disagreed over some of the details." The Israelis agreed to ten months, which "came about as a result of extensive bilateral discussions" between Israel and the U.S., according to the Washington Post.
By the end of the summer of '09, Netanyahu and Barak had stopped authorizing public money for any new settlement construction in the West Bank. Ha'aretz headlined that the ballyhooed "'New' settlement projects aren't really new." Most were bureaucratic re-approvals of projects already initiated.
Israeli political scientist Jonathan Rynhold explained that Netanyahu cut back construction because he did "not want to lose his credibility with the Americans," and he wanted U.S. backing for opposing Iran.
But on Iran, too, Israel was timid. A senior Israeli official said that Israel did not ask for U.S. permission to attack Iran because the Netanyahu government didn't want to risk being told "no," making it clear who holds the reins on that issue.
By late summer the Israelis had also stopped building the wall in the West Bank because "the Obama administration is trying to curb Israeli activity as a prelude to restarting peace talks," the Washington Post said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. continued to oppose Jewish construction in East Jerusalem. The State Department summoned Israel's ambassador in Washington, Michael Oren, twice for reprimands on the issue.
In the spring of 2010, right-wingers in the Israeli government challenged the U.S. on that point by authorizing a big Jewish building project in East Jerusalem, just when Vice-President Joe Biden was visiting Israel. Biden condemned it and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave Netanyahu a long tongue-lashing. The New York Times reported that "a crucial American demand is that Israel neither promote nor permit 'provocative' acts... That would include new building projects."
Netanyahu then demanded from his own bureaucrats a list of all plans for large projects in Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods. For the next seven months, there was what The Independent called "an undeclared freeze on Jewish construction in East Jerusalem... Netanyahu had restrained settlement building," with only a few exceptions.
4) Report: Caterpillar to delay supply of D9 bulldozers to IDF
Jerusalem Post, 10/25/2010
Caterpillar, the company which supplies the IDF with bulldozers, has announced that it is delaying the supply of D9 bulldozers during the time that the trial of Rachel Corrie proceeds, Channel 2 reported on Monday.
The company does not usually manufacture a military version of the D9 but it has many features that make desirable for military applications and the IDF has used them extensively for operations.
Rachel Corrie was a US activist who was killed in Gaza seven years ago by a bulldozer driver who struck and killed her. Her family charged that the IDF and its officers had acted recklessly, using an armored Caterpillar D9R bulldozer without regard to the presence in the area of unarmed and nonviolent civilians.
5) Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law
Laura Sullivan, NPR, October 28, 2010
Last year, two men showed up in Benson, Ariz., a small desert town 60 miles from the Mexico border, offering a deal. Glenn Nichols, the Benson city manager, remembers the pitch. "The gentleman that's the main thrust of this thing has a huge turquoise ring on his finger," Nichols said. "He's a great big huge guy and I equated him to a car salesman."
What he was selling was a prison for women and children who were illegal immigrants. "They talk [about] how positive this was going to be for the community," Nichols said, "the amount of money that we would realize from each prisoner on a daily rate."
But Nichols wasn't buying. He asked them how would they possibly keep a prison full for years - decades even - with illegal immigrants? "They talked like they didn't have any doubt they could fill it," Nichols said.
That's because prison companies like this one had a plan - a new business model to lock up illegal immigrants. And the plan became Arizona's immigration law.
But while the debate raged, few people were aware of how the law came about.
NPR spent the past several months analyzing hundreds of pages of campaign finance reports, lobbying documents and corporate records. What they show is a quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona Senate Bill 1070 by an industry that stands to benefit from it: the private prison industry.
The law could send hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to prison in a way never done before. And it could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to private prison companies responsible for housing them.
6) NATO: True test of Kandahar to come in June
Anne Flaherty, Associated Press, Thursday, October 28, 2010; 3:11 PM
Washington - NATO won't know until June if the security gains being made in the Taliban-stronghold of Kandahar will hold, a top commander said Thursday, lowering hopes for a quick return on the Obama administration's investment of tens of thousands more troops.
Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, the British commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan, said enemy attacks often decrease as the weather cools and foliage disappears, leaving the insurgents fewer places to hide. In the spring, many fighters are harvesting poppy and wheat crops, he said.
"I sensed it won't be until June next year that we'll be sure that the advances we've made during the course of the last few months are genuinely successful," Carter said.
The Obama administration is scheduled to report to Congress in December on progress in the war, following the deployment of tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops. Carter's comments suggest that Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, may say it is too early to tell if stepped-up operations against the Taliban have yielded permanent gains.
7) 41% of Non-Christian AF Cadets Cite Proselytizing
Dan Elliott, Associated Press, Friday, October 29, 2010; 1:45 AM
Colorado Springs, Colo. - An Air Force Academy survey found that 41 percent of cadets who identified themselves as non-Christian said they were subjected to unwanted proselytizing at least once or twice last year. Overall, 19 percent of all cadets said they were subjected to unwanted proselytizing.
Participation by cadets in the official academy survey, conducted in December and January, was both voluntary and anonymous. Forty-seven percent, or 2,170, cadets participated in the poll.
Lt. Gen. Michael Gould, the academy superintendent, had resisted disclosing specifics of the survey but now plans to release some details on Friday after several groups, including The Associated Press, filed Freedom of Information Act requests. The AP obtained a copy of the figures on Thursday.
In August, when he described the latest survey in general terms, Gould said the results showed fewer cadets felt pressured to participate in religious groups than in previous surveys. The documents obtained by the AP appear to support that contention. They show that the percentage of Christians and non-Christians, including atheists, who felt pressure to get involved in religious activities declined, compared with a survey in 2007.
8) Iran Agrees to Resume Nuclear Talks
Stephen Castle, New York Times, October 29, 2010
Brussels - Iran said Friday that it would resume talks with the West about its nuclear program in November, according to officials at the European Union.
In a two-paragraph letter answering an invitation offered more than three months ago by the bloc's foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, the Iranians said their senior negotiator, Saeed Jalili, could hold discussions as of Nov. 10. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had said last month in New York that Iran was prepared to resume talks, but he had given no specifics.
An actual date and location must still be agreed on for the talks, which would include Ms. Ashton, who took over in December as the European Union's foreign policy chief, and senior officials from the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain.
Ms. Ashton called the Iranian agreement "very important," but given the tortuous path of past talks, there was no sense that it signaled any breakthrough.
9) Palestinians Sentenced for Civil Disobedience
Robert Mackey, The Lede, New York Times, October 23, 2010
This month, as a new documentary about a successful campaign of nonviolent, civil disobedience by Palestinian villagers in the West Bank screens in New York and Los Angeles, Israeli military courts have handed out jail terms to two men who led similar protests against the path of Israel's security barrier near their village.
The documentary now being shown, "Budrus," is named for the village that succeeded in forcing a change to the path of the security barrier, which would have cut Palestinian olive farmers off from their trees. In July, my colleague Nicholas D. Kristof, an Opinion columnist, wrote that the film is, "a riveting window into what might be possible if Palestinians adopted civil disobedience on a huge scale."
The arrests and military trials of two of the Bilin organizers drew criticism from human rights groups, Britain, the European Union and Desmond Tutu.
Abdullah Abu Rahma, a teacher in the village, was arrested last December. Last week, he was sentenced to one year in prison by an Israeli military court that found him guilty of "organizing and participating in an illegal demonstration" and "incitement."
He was cleared of another charge of weapons possession after the prosecution failed to convince the court that collecting Israeli tear-gas shells and bullets fired at the demonstrators to prove that force had been used against them constituted a crime.
On Thursday, a military court extended the sentence of another Bilin organizer, Adeeb Abu Rahma, a taxi driver whose cousin had been killed at a protest by a direct hit from a tear-gas shell, one caught on a graphic video.
On Thursday, The Jerusalem Post reported: "The IDF plans to complete the construction of a new security barrier near the West Bank Palestinian town of Bilin in the coming weeks."
10) Venezuela to Guarantee Access to HIV Medications, Says Health Ministry.
James Suggett, Venezuelanalysis.com, Oct 27th 2010
Mérida - Starting next year, the Venezuelan government will guarantee antiretroviral medication to people with HIV, and will expand the use of a Cuban-made medicine to treat diabetic foot ulcers nation-wide, according to recent announcements by the Venezuelan Health Ministry.
Venezuela's HIV-positive patients "will have their treatment guaranteed next year; we have made preparations to acquire the medicines and cover the whole population free of charge," said Venezuelan Health Minister Eugenia Sader in an interview with the state television station VTV last week.
Marbelys Hernández, who manages the Health Ministry's AIDS program, said that next month the ministry will begin to use a new HIV test that produces results in one hour. Hernández made the announcement during the Ninth Venezuelan Conference on Infectious Diseases in mid-October.
Also this month, Venezuela participated in a meeting of Latin American Parliament representatives in Panama to discuss public policy on the prevention and treatment of HIV and AIDS. The meeting was sponsored by the United Nations Development Program.
Venezuela does not have a law governing HIV and AIDS policy, but the National Assembly is discussing the possibility of incorporating articles on the diseases, including treatment for HIV- positive prisoners, into the nation's Health Law, according to Legislator Marelis Pérez, who participated in the Panama meeting.
Non-governmental organizations in Venezuela have repeatedly complained of the lack of access to antiretroviral medicines. On Monday, Jhonatan Rodríguez of the Stop VIH Organization told the press the drug known inside the US as Abacavir and outside the US as Kivexa is often not available in hospitals and pharmacies.
According to government figures, there are as many as 56,500 HIV-positive people in Venezuela. 35,512 of them are currently receiving antiretroviral drugs, including 950 children. Most of those with the virus are between the ages of 25 and 45.
According to a recent study by Doctor Alejandro Risquez that was presented at the Venezuelan Conference on Infectious Diseases this month, in Venezuela five people per day, or 1,825 people per year, die from AIDS.
11) Civilians Falling Victim to Mexico Drug War
Randal C. Archibold, New York Times, October 28, 2010
Mexico City - During its nearly four-year crackdown on major drug trafficking organizations, the Mexican government has repeated the mantra that most of the nearly 30,000 people killed have some association with the illicit trade.
But in the span of a week, a devastating wave of attacks has killed dozens of civilians, rattled a public not easily shocked anymore and forced the government to concede that innocents are being swept up in the violence.
In the latest attacks, gunmen killed four people early Thursday and injured 14 when they fired on three buses carrying workers home from a late shift at a manufacturing plant near Ciudad Juárez. The authorities said the assault - on workers from one of the large so-called maquiladoras, or factories, on and near the border that have fueled an economic and population boom there - had no precedent.
The buses bore the name of the company where the employees worked, Eagle Ottawa, an automobile upholstery manufacturer based in Auburn Hills, Mich., that has two plants in Ciudad Juárez.
12) 22 activists killed in Santos' first 75 days
Manuela Kuehr, Colombia Reports, Friday, 29 October 2010 07:23
A report by human rights groups on Thursday states that at least 22 activists were murdered in the first 75 days of the government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, according to press agency EFE.
The 21-page document "Words and Deeds. The first 75 days of the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the situation of human rights," details the death of five activists, seven indigenous leaders, a human rights defender, five trade unionists, two community educators and two members of the organization of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans-gender individuals.
The report also documents the death of judge Pedro Elias Ballesteros Rojas who ruled on cases involving paramilitaries, and the murder of reporter Rodolfo Maya Aricape, who was a correspondent for an indigenous radio station.
The Interdisciplinary Group for Human Rights (GIDH) and other organizations in Washington presented these documents based on data from nearly 200 Colombian, European and North American human rights organizations to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
Maria Victoria Fallon of the GIDH said that the report demonstrated a "continuity in another language" in the approach to human rights of the current and previous Colombian governments. "There may be a change in style, but the situation must be seen in practice," Fallon added.
Fallon explained that the data in the reports refers to "registered cases" and that there may be more murders undocumented.
Referring to the report, the director of human rights in the Colombian Ministry of Interior and Justice, Maria Paulina Riveros, stated that the relevant government institutions will investigate the allegations "immediately." Riveros added that "obviously we recognize that there continue to be very serious threats against human rights defenders, we say that progress is about to open the way to relevant consultation."
Santos assumed the presidency of Colombia on August 7, 2010.
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