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Submitted by Robert Naiman on 10 May 2012 - 12:35pm
More than 1500 prisoners are currently observing an open-ended hunger strike in defense of basic human rights: the right not to be detained without charge, the right not to be subjected to sustained solitary confinement, the right to be visited by one's family. Two of the prisoners have been on hunger strike for more than 70 days and have been widely reported to be "near death."
Is it possible that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could say a few words about this situation?
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon finally said something under pressure. So did the European Union. The International Committee of the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch have spoken up. There was a report in the New York Times; before that, there was a report in the Washington Post.
But so far, Secretary of State Clinton hasn't said boo. Is it impossible that she could say something?
What might happen if a bunch of Americans tried to put pressure on Hillary to speak up?
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 20 May 2011 - 10:18am
Following my post about my plans to participate in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in opposition to the blockade of Gaza, "Why We Must Sail to Gaza," David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, responded by challenging me to answer his concerns about Hamas and Israeli security.
Of course, I welcome the opportunity to respond to David's concerns, and I thank David for giving me the opportunity to do so. Moving the focus of attention from the arena of violence to the arena of engagement and dialogue -- that's a key component of what nonviolent resistance is all about.
The overall thrust of David's piece appears to be that Hamas is a monster, and therefore whatever the Israeli government does -- including the blockade of Gaza -- which is claimed to be "in defense against Hamas," is justified.
The logic of the argument that the blockade of Gaza is automatically justified by the threat of violence to Israel from Hamas should be familiar to Americans. It's essentially the same logic that the Bush-Cheney Administration used in justifying its decisions to torture detainees -- ignore the Geneva Conventions and the right of habeas corpus, and invade Iraq after 9/11: your concerns about human rights and international law are very pretty. But now we are facing a terrible enemy, so your pretty concerns about human rights and international law are no longer relevant.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 3 March 2011 - 2:36pm
Secretary of State Clinton defended the State Department budget in Congress this week by pointing out that diplomatic interventions can prevent expensive wars. Now the State Department has a spectacular opportunity to demonstrate Secretary Clinton's argument by example. It can support robust diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in Libya without a further escalation in violence.
Pipe dream? The Wall Street Journal reports today that the price of oil fell on world markets when Al Jazeera reported that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi had accepted a plan proposed by Venezuela that called for a multinational commission to mediate the conflict with rebel groups; Reuters reports that Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said the peace plan was "under consideration."
Of course, this doesn't mean that peace is about to break out. For example, a leader of the rebels has reportedly rejected the call for peace.
But here are some facts that should create an opening for diplomacy: the armed rebels seem to have very little military prospect of taking Tripoli. The Libyan government seems to have very little military prospect of retaking most rebel-held territory.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 14 January 2011 - 5:45pm
Back in 1969, when Secretary of State Clinton was writing her senior thesis at Wellesley on Chicago community organizer Saul Alinsky, she must have come across this line on page 9 of Alinksy's book "Rules for Radicals":
"Revolution by the Have-Nots has a way of inducing a moral revelation among the Haves."
"The region's foundations are sinking into the sand," Clinton said, calling for "political reforms that will create the space young people are demanding, to participate in public affairs and have a meaningful role in the decisions that shape their lives." Those who would "prey on desperation and poverty are already out there," Clinton warned, "appealing for allegiance and competing for influence."
As Secretary Clinton made her remarks, the Times noted, "unrest in Tunisia that threatened its government while serving to buttress her arguments" was among the events that "echoed loudly in the background."
Friday, Tunisian president Ben Ali has reportedly fled the country and the Tunisian prime minister says he is now in charge.
Popular protest can bring down the government in an Arab country. Who knew?
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 27 August 2010 - 11:31am
This week, an Israeli military court convicted Abdallah Abu Rahmah, whom progressive Zionists have called a "Palestinian Gandhi," of "incitement" and "organizing and participating in illegal demonstrations" for organizing protests against the confiscation of Palestinian land by the "Apartheid Wall" in the village of Bilin in the West Bank, following an eight month trial, during which he was kept in prison.
The European Union issued a protest. But as far as I am aware, no U.S. official has said anything and no U.S. newspaper columnist has denounced this act of repression; indeed, the U.S. press hasn't even reported the news. To find out what happened, someone could search the wires where they'll find this AFP story, or go to the British or Israeli press.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 4 September 2009 - 12:13pm
Top officials of the Obama Administration are divided on the expected request of the Pentagon for more troops in Afghanistan, the New York Times reports today.
The military's anticipated request for more troops to combat the insurgency in Afghanistan has divided senior advisers to President Obama as they try to determine the proper size and mission of the American effort there, officials said Thursday.
Leading the opposition is Vice-President Biden:
Leading those with doubts is Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has expressed deep reservations about an expanded presence in Afghanistan on the grounds that it may distract from what he considers the more urgent goal of stabilizing Pakistan, officials said.
No-one can plausibly argue that Vice-President Biden has no idea what he's talking about. Remember, this was the guy chosen to balance the ticket with "foreign policy experience," the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Nor is Biden a pacifist or shy about foreign intervention. He voted for the Iraq war in 2002 and promoted U.S. military intervention in the former Yugoslavia.
Secretary of State Clinton has been "vocal" in favor of more troops and some officials said they expected her to be an advocate for a more robust force, the Times says.
But Biden has the wind of public opinion at his back. A number of recent polls show that the majority of Americans - and the overwhelming majority of Democrats - now oppose the Afghan war. But on the question of sending more troops, public opinion is even more clear. They're against it.
McClatchy News reports, citing a recent poll:
56 percent oppose sending any more combat troops to Afghanistan, while 35 percent support sending more troops.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 27 August 2009 - 8:58pm
After two months, the State Department is poised to formally declare what was obvious to most of the world: on June 28, Honduras experienced a military coup.
State Department staff have recommended to Secretary of State Clinton that the ouster of Honduran President Zelaya be formally declared a "military coup," which could cut off as much as $150 million in U.S. funding, Reuters reports.
The semi-official story has been that State Department lawyers were studying the events in Honduras to see if they met the "technical definition" of a "military coup." But all along the State Department made clear that it was purposely delaying its formal determination to give "diplomacy" - the talks in Costa Rica between representatives of President Zelaya and representatives of the coup regime - a chance to work.
It was never explained why making this determination - which, under U.S. law, requires a cutoff of aid to the coup government - would have interfered with "diplomacy." On the contrary: it was immediately obvious that the obstacle to a negotiated solution was the intransigence of the coup regime, which refused to accept a compromise proposal that would allow President Zelaya to return. So, as many Latin American governments argued - including the Costa Rican government - if the U.S. wanted a negotiated solution, it needed to ramp up pressure on the coup regime.
But the State Department is now, at last, conceding that its previous efforts were insufficient. Better late than never - much better.
No doubt Republicans in Congress who have supported the coup regime in Honduras will now complain loudly when Secretary Clinton makes her formal determination - assuming that she follows the recommendation of her staff.
In anticipation of right-wing Republican complaints, it is important to note two key facts.
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 2 June 2009 - 2:02pm
President Obama has the opportunity to make history in Cairo on Thursday, the kind of history that President Eisenhower made when he rebuked the 1956 invasion of Egypt by Britain, France and Israel. Eisenhower's stand won tremendous goodwill for the U.S. in the Arab world. If Obama stands firm on his policy differences with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, he can win tremendous goodwill for the U.S. in the Arab and Muslim world.
In the run-up to the speech, Obama has opened space between U.S. policy and Israeli government policy on relations with the Palestinians and on relations with Iran. The degree to which Obama can meaningfully differentiate the U.S. from the Netanyahu government in terms of policy will be a key determinant of whether he can convince Arab and Muslim audiences that the U.S. genuinely wants a different relationship with the Muslim world than it had during the Bush Administration. In Cairo, Obama will have the podium in the Arab and Muslim world in an unprecedented way. If Obama highlights his strong opposition to Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, his support for Palestinian statehood in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, his sustained diplomatic engagement with Iran, and his willingness to work with whoever wins the upcoming Lebanese and Iranian elections, he can change perceptions of the United States in the region.
On opposition to Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, Obama has staked out a clear position. Last week, Secretary of State Clinton said that President Obama: