libya

In Next Debate, Let's Get a Question on Drones

During the last two presidential debates, the foreign policy discussion—what little there has been—has largely centered around the murder of four members of the US embassy staff in Benghazi. But while these four deaths were certainly grievous, the killing of hundreds of civilians in Pakistan from US drone strikes has so far been ignored—and that's outrageous.

But we may be able to change that. Next Monday, October 22, President Obama and Mitt Romney will face off in the final debate before election day—and the entire debate will be dedicated to foreign policy issues. Drones deserve a place in the discussion.

Tell moderator Bob Schieffer to ask a question on drones during Monday's presidential debate on foreign policy.

In the last four years, the use of unmanned drones to engage in so-called “targeted killing” has escalated dramatically. In Pakistan alone, US drone strikes have increased five fold during the Obama administration. Drone campaigns have also expanded in other countries, such as Yemen and Somalia, and recent reports suggest that the administration is considering further expanding the CIA drone fleet and using drones to hunt down the terrorists involved in last month's Benghazi attack.

Yet, the Obama administration has failed to engage substantively on the morality, efficacy, and accuracy of US drone strikes.

Are you and your business ready to return to Libya?

So asketh the website of a British venture, Trango Special Projects, according to a New York Times article published this past weekend. The piece provides a snapshot of the avaricious intentions of the West for the newly-liberated Libya. The anticipation of profits and priority access for the Transitional National Council's NATO backers is described in a surprisingly frank fashion, especially for an article that was accessible from the website's front page:

Western security, construction and infrastructure companies that see profit-making opportunities receding in Iraq and Afghanistan have turned their sights on Libya, now free of four decades of dictatorship. Entrepreneurs are abuzz about the business potential of a country with huge needs and the oil to pay for them, plus the competitive advantage of Libyan gratitude toward the United States and its NATO partners.

The article is replete with gems from rapacious businessmen and other profiteers so mesmerized by the sparkle of opportunity in Libya that they speak without hesitation about the wonders before them. “There is a gold rush of sorts taking place right now,” said to David Hamod, the president and chief executive officer of the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce, describing the scramble by European, Asian, and US companies to stake their claims in the new Libya.

When NATO Leaves, Don't Forget Libya

Now that the UN Security Council has cancelled its authorization for the NATO mission in Libya, October 31 is expected to mark the end of the West's (overt) military involvement in the country. With this end, so too will likely follow the end of media and public interest. Without a zany dictator to hunt down and kill, the story that will begin to unfold will lack the Hollywood-esque adventure and intrigue that the former story enjoyed. It will also be a story that the mainstream media won't want America to know. But this story will be just as important—if not more important—for Americans to understand than the story that came before, especially with the Occupy Wall Street movement in the background, facilitating a general awakening to the influence of corporations on US policy. If the mainstream media gets its way, however, most Americans will continue to sleep comfortably in their beds at night, consoled by the belief that the United States did its part in freeing a people from oppression and tyranny.

Unfortunately, the only “people” for whom NATO and the United States intended to make Libya free were fellows like ConocoPhillips, Coca-Cola, Total, Occidental, Caterpillar and Halliburton. And now that Qaddafi is gone, they must be celebrating in the streets—or, rather, the Street. Occupiers: beware.

Some claim that the US had no economic interest in intervening in Libya since, after he abandoned his nuclear ambitions and after the US removed sanctions on his country, Qaddafi was “our man.”

The evidence, however, doesn't seem to support such a strong claim. While some US companies were able to break into the Libyan economy, some were thwarted, and it seems that everyone, to some extent, was disappointed.

NATO Mission In Libya: (Possibly) Hijacked Yet Again?

On Saturday, NATO Secretary General Fogh Rassmussen made a preliminary announcement that operations in Libya were going to end October 31. Confirmation of the departure date was supposed to occur at a meeting of the alliance today. However, that meeting has been delayed until Friday because Mustafa Abdel Jalil, leader of Libya's transitional government, has asked NATO forces to stay until the end of the year. The reason? To help keep pro-Qaddafi forces from causing trouble for the fledgling government.

And why not, right? The original UN mission has already been hijacked once. NATO was approved to provide a no-fly zone in order to protect civilians, an authorization which itself was founded on rather thin evidence that Qaddafi intended to massacre the inhabitants of Benghazi. The mission which NATO wound up pursuing, including offensive strikes on pro-Qaddafi forces, can pretty much be summed up as regime change. And now, if it does stay in Libya until the end of the year, NATO's mission will be distorted for a second time to protecting the transitional government.

House likely to vote on anti-Libya war Friday, while Senate delays pro-Libya war bill

While national attention is on the war in Afghanistan after the President's announcement last night to only withdraw 33,000 U.S. troops by the end of next summer, Congress is gearing up again to debate another U.S.-led war--in Libya.

While there is resounding, and ever growing, opposition to the war in Libya in the House, the loudest voices from the Senate have, for the most part, been supportive of the war, though even that could be changing soon.

The House is expected to vote on a bill tomorrow that would cut off funds for U.S. participation in "military hostilities" in Libya.

Rep. Howard McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, explained that the measure, which is still being drafted, would ban funding for U.S. participation in combat missions such as drone attacks in the NATO-led air war.

"It would not have funding for hostilities. The drones couldn't be used for bombing," McKeon said.

Meanwhile, Senator John Kerry and Senator John McCain continue to try to gain support for their resolution which would authorize U.S. military operations in Libya--while prohibiting ground troops--for one year. Their resolution continues to be delayed, and now it seems likely there won't be a floor debate for weeks.

As The Cable's Josh Rogin reports, "In interviews Tuesday with more than a dozen senators, The Cable discovered that it will take weeks, not days, for the resolution to come up for a vote. The resolution’s language is only the starting point for a Senate debate that will feature resolutions and amendments from multiple senators, each of whom has his or her own ideas on how to express the Senate’s position on the fighting in Libya.

Report Backs on S.J. Res. 18

Report back on your calls to your Senators' offices concerning S.J. Res. 18 by posting a comment below.

If you haven't called yet, please do. Here's a sample script:

1. You can reach the Capitol Switchboard by calling 1-888-231-9276, a number established by FCNL.
2. Ask to be transferred to your Senator's office.
3. Ask to speak to the staff person who handles foreign or military affairs. If you can't speak with this person, just leave a message with the individual who answered the phone.
4. Say, “My name is _______ and I am from [YOUR CITY, YOUR STATE]. I strongly urge Senator X to co-sponsor S.J. Res. 18, the Webb/Corker bill which would prohibit ground troops in Libya and call on the President to seek congressional authorization for U.S. war in Libya."
5. When you're done, please take a moment and report your call by leaving a comment on thsi page.

NDAA amendments of interest approved by Rules

The NDAA amendments approved by the Rules Committee are posted here:

http://democrats.rules.house.gov/112/rule/112_hr1540_rule2.pdf

Unfortunately, this document is not searchable.

So, I made another document, a Word file, with just the amendments I thought were of particular interest, marking them STRONGLY SUPPORT, SUPPORT, or OPPOSE. "Strongly Support" means we put it in our action alert: the McGovern-Jones amendment requiring a plan for accelerated withdrawal with an end date; the Conyers amendment barring ground troops from Libya (which, by the way, has quite a few co-sponsors); the Amash-Lee amendment striking the "permanent war" authorization.

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/sites/default/files/interesting_amendme...

How Many Should Die To Send Qaddafi to the Hague?

Here is a question I would like pollsters to ask American voters about the Libya War:

Is sending Qaddafi to the International Criminal Court a military objective worth having American troops "fight and possibly die" for?

I haven't seen any pollster ask this question. Indeed, the fact that sending Qaddafi to the Hague is a de facto military goal of the United States in Libya isn't even being clearly acknowledged yet in the U.S. media.

However, we can make an educated guess what he response might be, because a Quinnipiac University poll recently asked some questions that are closely related. Voters say 61 - 30 percent that removing Qaddafi from power is not worth having American troops "fight and possibly die" for, the poll reports. They say 48 - 41 percent that the U.S. should not use military force to remove Qaddafi from power. Furthermore, 74 percent of voters are "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" that the U.S. will get embroiled in a long-term military conflict in Libya.

This strongly suggests that if American voters were asked, is sending Qaddafi to the International Criminal Court a military objective worth having American troops "fight and possibly die" for, more than 61% would say no and fewer than 30 percent would say yes. Because sending Qaddafi to the Hague is a military objective that includes removing Qaddafi and more.

Yet, with a super-majority of Americans opposed and without Congressional authorization, that is what we are doing: fighting a war to remove Qaddafi from power and send him to the Hague.

It's very likely that you wouldn't know this if your only source of information were the U.S. press, which hasn't been reporting on the divisions among US allies on what an acceptable agreement to end the war would be. But the British press is reporting it.

Contrary to the President, Removal of Qaddafi is the Military Objective

The most important content of Presidential speeches is often what they don't say. Here are some things that President Obama didn't say about Libya in his speech last night.

The President did not answer his critics who asked why he took America into war without authorization by Congress. This question was made sharper on Sunday when Jake Tapper of ABC asked Defense Secretary Gates,

"Do you think Libya posed an actual or imminent threat to the United States?"

"No, no," was Gates' reply. "It was not - it was not a vital national interest to the United States, but it was an interest and it was an interest for all of the reasons Secretary Clinton talked about."

The significance of Tapper's question was that Tapper used the exact language that Obama used as a candidate for President in describing the limits of the authority of the President under the Constitution to initiate hostilities without Congressional authorization:

 

"The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."

Apparently Defense Secretary Gates does not think that the situation in Libya met the standard that candidate Obama set in December 2007 for acting without Congressional authorization.

An Open Letter to Liberal Supporters of the Libya War

Middle East historian and blogger Juan Cole recently wrote a polemic against progressive U.S. critics of the new U.S. war in Libya. In his polemic, he wrote, "I hope we can have a calm and civilized discussion of the rights and wrongs here."

I strongly agree with Juan that it is important for progressive critics of U.S. foreign policy to try to have a calm and civilized discussion about the issues that have been raised by the U.S. military intervention in Libya. In general, it's important to try to have calm and civilized discussions about all issues of public policy, even when - especially when - the underlying issues are matters of life and death. The alternative is nasty polemics, and a principal effect of nasty polemics is to exclude people from discussion who don't want to engage in nasty polemics. In this way the effect of nasty polemics is anti-democratic; nasty polemics tend to demobilize people and cause them to disengage, when what we need is the opposite: more engagement and more mobilization.

In this particular case, the decision of the Obama Administration to engage the country in a new Middle East war without Congressional authorization represents a long-term threat to the U.S. peace movement, because the U.S. peace movement is engaged in a long struggle to try to influence U.S. policy in the direction of less war, and Congress is a key arena in which the peace movement tries to assert influence over U.S. policy. If you take away power from Congress to determine issues of war and peace, you substantially reduce the power of the U.S. peace movement to influence issues of war and peace. Taking away Congressional war powers is to the peace movement like taking away collective bargaining is to the labor movement: a direct threat to our ability to move our agenda on behalf of our constituents.