JFP 2/15: Nadler amdmt would end war; protests swell in Bahrain
Just Foreign Policy News
February 15, 2011
Military-cutting amendments tonight, tomorrow, and possibly Thursday
Members of the House have introduced amendments to the "continuing resolution" to cut the military budget. Some will be voted on tonight, others tomorrow and perhaps Thursday. There are many worthy amendments to cut the military budget - link to full list below - but we are focused on two, which are expected to be voted on Wednesday:
Rep. Jerry Nadler (Amdt 232) has proposed cutting $90 billion for the war in Afghanistan. This would essentially end the war.
Rep. Jared Polis (Amdt 46) has proposed to limit the number of troops stationed in Europe to 35,000 and to cut force levels by 7,500 troops in the next 6 months. This is an effort to begin to implement the recommendations of the Sustainable Deficit Task Force sponsored by Rep. Frank and Rep. Paul.
You can reach your Rep. through the Capitol Switchboard: 202-225-3121. Ask your Rep. to support the Nadler and Polis amendments and all other amendments to cut the military budget and end the war.
Here is the full list of proposed amendments to HR 1:
Nadler, Polis Push Today to Cut Deficit by Trimming Empire
Okinawa and Bahrain show why we need to cut foreign military bases.
William Hartung: Where to Find a Trillon Dollars
All of Obama's proposed cuts to domestic spending over 10 years could be replaced by the military cuts of the Sustainable Defense Task Force.
Aluf Benn: Mubarak's departure thwarted Israeli strike on Iran
Whoever succeeds Mubarak will listen to Arab public opinion, which opposes a preemptive war against Iran, he argues. Israel will find it difficult to take action far to the east when it cannot rely on the tacit agreement to its actions on its western border. Without Mubarak there is no Israeli attack on Iran.
NYT: Protests in Bahrain
The NYT is collecting video from the protests in Bahrain.
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1) Protests swelled in Bahrain after police killed a second protester, the New York Times reports. Bahrain is a base for the US Navy's 5th Fleet. The king and the ruling elite are Sunni Muslims. About 70 percent of the local population are Shiite Muslims. The Shiites claim they are discriminated against in jobs, housing and education. The demonstrators have asked for political prisoners to be released, creation of a more representative and empowered parliament, establishment of a constitution written by the people and the formation of a new, more representative cabinet.
2) Algeria's Foreign Minister said the 19-year-old state of emergency in Algeria will end within days, the Gulf News reports. An opposition leader and former government minister said that scrapping of the emergency was only one of a long list of opposition demands. Freedom of press and the release of prisoners of conscience also figure high on the list.
3) Two candidates expected to face each other in a run-off presidential election in Haiti both say former President Aristide has the right to return to Haiti, AP reports.
4) The U.S. military has stopped using "persistent" landmines and plans to destroy its stockpile, Reuters reports. Arms control groups welcomed the announcement but noted the US still has not joined the international treaty banning all anti-personnel mines and continues to reserve the right to use other mines. The US is still studying whether to join the treaty.
5) The Israeli military is planning to build a military base in East Jerusalem, beyond the Green Line, Haaretz reports. The construction of an IDF base in East Jerusalem is expected to spark criticism from the US and Europe, who see such building in East Jerusalem as detrimental to the peace process and against the status quo, particularly in light of the fact that it is for military purposes.
6) An Ecuadorean court said Chevron was responsible for polluting tracts of Ecuadorean jungle and ordered the company to pay more than $9 billion in damages, the New York Times reports. Chevron said it would refuse to pay. In addition to its appeal in Ecuador, the company hopes to block enforcement of the judgment in US courts.
1) Unrest Grows in Bahrain as Police Kill a 2nd Protester
Michael Slackman, New York Times, February 15, 2011
Manama, Bahrain - Thousands of demonstrators poured into this nation's symbolic center, Pearl Square, late Tuesday in a raucous rally that again demonstrated the power of popular movements that are transforming the political landscape of the Middle East.
In a matter of hours, this small, strategically important monarchy experienced the now familiar sequence of events that has rocked the Arab world. What started as an on-line call for a "Day of Rage," progressed within 24 hours to an exuberant group of demonstrators, cheering, waving flags, setting up tents and taking over the grassy traffic circle beneath the towering monument of a pearl in the heart of the capital city.
The crowd grew bolder as it grew larger, and as in Tunisia and Egypt, modest concessions from the government only raised expectations among the protesters, who by day's end were talking about tearing the whole system down, monarchy and all.
Then as momentum built up behind the protests on Tuesday, the 18 members of parliament from the Islamic National Accord Association, the traditional opposition, announced they were suspending participation in the legislature.
The mood of exhilaration stood in marked contrast to a day that began in sorrow and violence, when mourners who gathered to bury a young man killed the night before by police clashed again with the security forces. In that melee, a second young man was killed, also by police.
"We are going to get our demands," said Hussein Ramadan, 32, a political activist and organizer who helped lead the crowds from the burial to Pearl Square. "The people are angry, but we will control our anger, we will not burn a single tire, or throw a single rock. We will not go home until we succeed. They want us to be violent. We will not."
Bahrain is a small, strategically important nation in the Persian Gulf best known as a base for the United States Navy's 5th Fleet and a playground for residents of Saudi Arabia who can drive over a causeway to enjoy the nightclubs and bars of the far more permissive kingdom. Its ruler, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, is an important ally of the United States in fighting terrorism and countering Iranian influence in the region.
Bahrain's domestic politics have long been tangled. The king and the ruling elite are Sunni Muslims. The majority, or about 70 percent, of the local population of about 500,000, are Shiite Muslims. The Shiites claim they are discriminated against in jobs, housing and education, and their political demands are not new.
The demonstrators have asked for political prisoners to be released, creation of a more representative and empowered parliament, establishment of a constitution written by the people and the formation of a new, more representative cabinet. They complain bitterly that the prime minister, Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah, the king's uncle, has been in office for 40 years.
2) Emergency in Algeria to go
Laws in force since 1992 to be scrapped in days amid fear protests will escalate
Duraid Al Baik, Gulf News, February 15, 2011
Dubai: The 19-year-old state of emergency in Algeria will end within days, Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said yesterday, brushing off concerns that recent protests in the country could escalate as in Tunisia and Egypt.
A state of emergency has been in force in Algeria since 1992 and the government has come under pressure from opponents, inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, to rescind the unpopular laws.
Several hundred protesters took to the streets in the capital Algiers on Saturday and opposition groups said they would demonstrate every weekend until the government is changed.
Ali Yahya Abdul Nour, one of the senior leaders of the Coordination for Democratic Change in Algeria (CDCA), told Gulf News that protesters will take to the streets every Saturday until their demands are met.
Nour, who served as a minister in the government of Algeria's first president following its 1962 liberation, said that scrapping of the emergency was only one of a long list of demands. Freedom of press and the release of prisoners of conscience also figure high on the list.
"The ever-rising unemployment amongst the youth must be controlled by the government which has to work sincerely to end corruption," he said. Any delay in tackling these critical issues will result in an popular revolt like that in Tunisia and Egypt, Nour warned.
3) Clinton, candidates discuss Haiti reconstruction
AP, February 15, 2011
Port-au-Prince, Haiti - Former U.S. President Bill Clinton discussed the future of efforts to reconstruct this earthquake-ravaged nation with two candidates who will face off next month in presidential elections. During his one-day visit, Clinton met separately behind closed doors at the Hotel Karibe with carnival singer Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly and former first lady Mirlande Manigat, who will compete in a March 20 runoff.
In response to a question from reporters after the meeting, Martelly said he thought ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had a right to return to the country. "If there is a problem, the justice system will take care of it," he said. "Right now, we have a second round, and that is what we are worried about."
Manigat later echoed Martelly's sentiments, saying Aristide has as much right to return as did dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, who remains in Haiti. "It is possible their presence might create a problem," she said. "But we will have to deal with that."
4) U.S. Halts Use Of Long-Life Landmines, Officials Say
David Alexander, Reuters, Mon Feb 14, 3:42 pm ET
Washington - The U.S. military has stopped using a type of land mine often condemned as a long-term threat to civilians and has ordered its stock of 1.3 million of the mines be set aside for destruction, officials say.
The decision to move ahead with a long-standing policy to end the use of persistent landmines - those that cannot be set to self-destruct or deactivate - by the end of 2010 comes as the Obama administration continues to study whether to join a global treaty banning anti-personnel mines.
The United States is not a party to the 12-year-old international Mine Ban Treaty and it reserves the right to use so-called smart mines that can deactivate or self-destruct.
Persistent mines are criticized because they can pose a threat to civilians long after fighting ends. Landmines and other war debris caused some 4,000 casualties in 2009, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines says.
While retaining stockpiles, the United States has not used persistent mines for some time. The last field of persistent mines under U.S. control was in Guantanamo, Cuba, and was removed in 1999, the State Department official said. "But until ... 11:59 of December 31, 2010, that option was there under the policy for the Department of Defense to lay a long-life minefield if they saw fit," the spokesman said. "That option has been removed from the table."
While welcoming implementation of the policy on persistent mines, arms control groups noted the United States still has not joined the international treaty banning all anti-personnel mines and continues to reserve the right to use other mines. "For people hoping for more, it's an insufficient step," said Jeff Abramson, deputy director of the Arms Control Association. "The U.S. is still not part of the global norm."
The United States is not known to have used anti-personnel landmines since the 1991 Gulf War and abides by many provisions of the treaty. The accord is endorsed by 156 countries but Russia, China, India and the United States remain as holdouts.
President Barack Obama's administration launched a review of U.S. landmines policy in late 2009, weighing the benefits and threats of joining the treaty. It sent representatives to the treaty review conference for the first time two years ago and is continuing to consult interested parties.
5) Haaretz probe: IDF base to be built in East Jerusalem
Nir Hasson, Haaretz, 15.02.11
Both the municipality as well as the Ministry of Defense claim that the base will be built within the green line, however, Haaretz has revealed otherwise based on initial plans for the IDF base.
The Jerusalem municipality plans to construct an Israel Defense Forces army base that will house military colleges on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, reportedly beyond the pre-1967 war green line.
Both the municipality as well as the Ministry of Defense dispute this claim, stating that the base will be built within the green line, however, Haaretz has revealed otherwise and according to the plans created by the architectural firm hired by the municipality, the base will encroach upon disputed territory.
The IDF colleges to be built on the potentially controversial base will include the command and staff school, the school for national security and the military academy that are currently located on the IDF base in Glilot. Although the majority of the units at the Glilot base are meant to be moved south as part of a plan to increase IDF presence in the Negev, the IDF, Jerusalem municipality and the Ministry of Defense agreed to move the colleges to the capital. Plans have already been set into motion, and the municipality has hired architect Eli Ilan to prepare the initial blueprints for the project.
Although the Ministry of Defense as well as the Jerusalem municipality have claimed that the base will be within the green line, the document proves otherwise. Mount Scopus was part of Israel during the time period between the 1948 War of Independence and the 1967 Six Day War, and the majority of Hebrew University's campus is within this territory. Most of the area in which the base is to be built, however, appears to be on land that belonged to Jordan during the interwar period. According to armistice agreements, it was a demilitarized zone and a small part of it was no man's land between the two countries' borders.
The construction of an IDF base in East Jerusalem is expected to spark criticism from the United States as well as Europe, who see all building in East Jerusalem as detrimental to the peace process and against the status quo, particularly in light of the fact that it is for military purposes.
6) Ecuador Judge Orders Chevron to Pay $9 Billion
Simon Romero and Clifford Krauss, New York Times, February 14, 2011
Caracas, Venezuela - A judge in a tiny courtroom in the Ecuadorean Amazon ruled Monday that the oil giant Chevron was responsible for polluting remote tracts of Ecuadorean jungle and ordered the company to pay more than $9 billion in damages, one of the largest environmental awards ever.
The decision by Judge Nicolás Zambrano in Lago Agrio, a town founded as an oil camp in the 1960s, immediately opened a contentious new stage of appeals in a legal battle that has dragged on in courts in Ecuador and the United States for 17 years, pitting forest tribes and villagers against one of the largest American corporations.
The award against Chevron "is one of the largest judgments ever imposed for environmental contamination in any court," said David M. Uhlmann, an expert in environmental law at the University of Michigan. "It falls well short of the $20 billion that BP has agreed to pay to compensate victims of the gulf oil spill but is a landmark decision nonetheless. Whether any portion of the claims will be paid by Chevron is less clear."
Both sides said they would appeal the ruling, setting the stage for months and potentially years more of legal wrangling in the closely watched case, which has already been marked by claims of industrial espionage and fraud, and remarkably bitter disputes among the various lawyers involved. Legal experts said that the size of the award and the attention the case has focused on environmental degradation were likely to encourage similar suits.
The 188-page ruling found Chevron responsible for damages of about $8.6 billion, and perhaps double that amount if Chevron fails to publicly apologize for its actions within 15 days. The judge also ordered Chevron to pay $860 million, or 10 percent of the damages, to the Amazon Defense Coalition, the group formed to represent the plaintiffs.
Pablo Fajardo, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, called the ruling a "triumph of justice," but said it still fell short. "We're going to appeal because we think that the damages awarded are not enough," he said in a telephone interview. The plaintiffs were seeking as much as $113 billion, according to a report recently submitted to the court.
A Chevron spokesman, Kent Robertson, called the decision "illegitimate and unenforceable." He said Chevron would appeal through the Ecuadorean legal system, and would not pay the damages.
Chevron, the second-largest American oil company, reported a net profit of $19 billion last year. In addition to its appeal in Ecuador, the company hopes to block enforcement of the judgment in American courts.
"It might as well be Monopoly money, given all the respect that Chevron will show it," said Ralph G. Steinhardt, professor of law and international affairs at George Washington University Law School. "There is a legal regime for enforcing foreign judgments but there is a lot of discretion for U.S. judges to suspend the enforcement of foreign judgments."
Almost lost in the various disputes related to the lawsuit is the fact that Chevron and plaintiffs have agreed that oil exploration contaminated what had been largely undeveloped swaths of Ecuadorean rainforest. The plaintiffs claim that Chevron must be held responsible for damage where Texaco once operated. Chevron, however, argues that Texaco carried out a cleanup agreement with the Ecuadorean government and that much of the damage was done after Texaco left in the early 1990s, actions for which it should not be held responsible.
"The judge recognized the crime committed," said Guillermo Grefa, head of a Quichua Indian community who claims that Texaco's oil contamination created respiratory problems among his people. "For us, this is very little. For us, the crime committed by Texaco is incalculable."
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