Just Foreign Policy News
October 17, 2011
I) Actions and Featured Articles
Total US Troop Deaths in Afghanistan Under Obama Now Double That Under Bush
This weekend marked a new milestone for the war in Afghanistan: the total number of US troops killed in the war has doubled since President Obama took office, according to icasualties.org and our US Troops in Afghanistan: Obama vs Bush web counter.
***Action: Press Congress to Oppose the Bahrain Arms Sale
Rep. Jim McGovern and Sen. Ron Wyden have introduced a resolution of disapproval to block the proposed arms sale to Bahrain. Broad Congressional support for this resolution would increase pressure on the Administration to speak up about human rights in Bahrain.
Ask your Representative and Senators to add pressure on the Administration to change its policy on Bahrain by signing the McGovern-Wyden resolution.
"Convenient" Base Is Unexamined Excuse for U.S. Silence on Bahrain Crackdown
The New York Times called the U.S. naval base in Bahrain a "convenience," but it’s still being used as an excuse for U.S. silence on the crackdown in Bahrain.
Garamendi: where left-leaning budget hawks align w GOP & libertarian cost-cutters
Rep. Garamendi’s office created a Word document where you can see the overlap between "left" and "right" proposals to cut the military budget. We converted it to html so you can view it on the web.
Child Slaves Made Your Halloween Candy. Stop Buying It.
A call for people to buy fair trade candy for Halloween, instead of candy produced by captive child labor.
Help Support Our Advocacy for Peace and Diplomacy
The opponents of peace and diplomacy work every day. Help us be an effective counterweight.
1) The U.S. is abandoning plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq past a December withdrawal deadline, AP reported Saturday. A senior Obama administration official confirmed Saturday that all US troops will leave Iraq except for about 160 active-duty soldiers attached to the U.S. Embassy, AP says. With little wiggle room on the immunity issue and the U.S. military needing to move equipment out as soon as possible, a last-minute change between now and December 31 seems almost out of the question, AP says.
2) 55% of Likely U.S. Voters believe it is at least somewhat likely that the US will end up in a war with Iran in the next five years or so, according to Rasmussen Reports. 17% think it’s Very Likely. 32% feel a war with Iran is unlikely in the next five or so years. Only five percent think it is Not At All Likely.
3) Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin told supercommittee leaders he would not be making suggestions on cuts to the military budget, The Hill reports. "In light of the programmatic challenges DOD faces in achieving this initial $450 billion in savings in the midst of multiple wars, and the detrimental effect additional cuts could have for our national security, I am unable to recommend further discretionary cuts to DOD’s budget," Levin wrote. [The report from AP that the U.S. is pulling the plug on keeping troops in Iraq throws the absurdity of this claim into stark relief – JFP.]
4) The California Medical Association, which represents more than 35,000 physicians, is calling for the legalization of marijuana, the Los Angeles Times reports. The CMA says that the costs of criminalization outweigh the hazards of legalization. California voters continue to be in favor of medical marijuana but are divided on the question of total legalization, the LAT says. A recent survey found 51% opposed to complete legalization and 46% in favor. The CMA’s parent organization, the AMA, has said the federal government should consider easing research restrictions.
5) Sirte, Libya appears to have been largely destroyed by weeks of intense fighting, the Washington Post reports, with most of its population fled and holes the size of manhole covers blown in apartment buildings. Gabriele Rossi, emergency coordinator in Sirte for Doctors Without Borders, said the city appeared to have sustained some of the greatest damage of the war. "The part we have seen is almost completely destroyed," he said. Doctors fear thousands of civilians may be trapped in the small areas of the city still being contested.
6) The U.S. has pressed Japan to promise during upcoming talks that the government will submit to Okinawa before the end of the year an environmental assessment report on the Futenma base relocation, Kyodo reports. Making such a promise will be difficult, because submitting the report would be interpreted as a sign the central government intends to push through the project even though Okinawa is still calling for the air base to be moved outside Okinawa, Kyodo says. The Senate is cutting the entire budget for the transfer of Marines stationed in Okinawa to Guam and for Futenma’s relocation within Okinawa, citing uncertainties over Tokyo’s ability to carry out the plan, Kyodo says. As the budget for the relocation will ultimately be determined through Senate discussions with the House early next year, the Obama administration is now putting pressure on Japan to achieve concrete progress, Kyodo says.
7) There is no verifiable evidence of any official Iranian involvement in the alleged assassination plot, contrary to the broad claim being made by the administration, Gareth Porter reports for Inter Press Service. A Reuters story reported a claim of U.S. intelligence that two wire transfers implicates the head of the Qods Force. But Paul Pillar, a former head of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center, said he had no idea "what such a ‘hallmark’ could be" that would tie a wire transfer to a particular official.
8) Egypt’s ruling military council says it plans to maintain control of the government even after the election of a new parliament begins in November and will maintain control of the government until there is a new President and a new Constitution, a process that could stretch into 2013, the New York Times reports. A transition to civilian rule before and not after the drafting of a new constitution was a core component of a national referendum that passed in March. But the US has so far signaled approval of the military’s slower approach to handing over authority, the Times says. In an appearance this week with the Egyptian foreign minister, Secretary of State Clinton called the plan for elections "an appropriate timetable."
9) The U.N. Security Council on Friday agreed to withdraw nearly 3,000 troops and police from Haiti, Reuters reports, bringing the unpopular force’s size close to where it was before the earthquake. [Strikingly, Reuters refers to UN troops as "the unpopular force" as a synonym, as if this is a fact which everyone in Haiti knows – JFP.]
10) President Martelly’s proposal to reconstitute the Haitian Army is a terrible idea to which under no circumstances should the U.S. or other donor countries contribute, says the Washington Post in an editorial. Before it was disbanded by President Aristide, the army, in the absence of real external threats, had been primarily an instrument of repression and blood-curdling human rights abuses, the Post says. The Post notes that Martelly has extensive ties with right-wing groups, including allies of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, whose regime carried out atrocious abuses.
11) An OAS Mission overturned the results of the first round of Haiti’s presidential elections last year, despite that it had no statistical evidence to do so, a new CEPR paper finds. The overturning of the election without recount or evidence casts serious doubt on the OAS’ credibility as an independent arbitrator or election observer, CEPR said.
1) US drops idea of keeping US troops in Iraq past year-end deadline
Associated Press, October 15
Baghdad – The U.S. is abandoning plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq past a year-end withdrawal deadline, The Associated Press has learned. The decision to pull out fully by January will effectively end more than eight years of U.S. involvement in the Iraq war, despite ongoing concerns about its security forces and the potential for instability.
The decision ends months of hand-wringing by U.S. officials over whether to stick to a Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline that was set in 2008 or negotiate a new security agreement to ensure that gains made and more than 4,400 American military lives lost since March 2003 do not go to waste.
In recent months, Washington has been discussing with Iraqi leaders the possibility of several thousand American troops remaining to continue training Iraqi security forces. A Pentagon spokesman said Saturday that no final decision has been reached about the U.S. training relationship with the Iraqi government.
But a senior Obama administration official in Washington confirmed Saturday that all American troops will leave Iraq except for about 160 active-duty soldiers attached to the U.S. Embassy.
A senior U.S. military official confirmed the departure and said the withdrawal could allow future but limited U.S. military training missions in Iraq if requested.
[…] Throughout the discussions, Iraqi leaders have adamantly refused to give U.S. troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts, and the Americans have refused to stay without it. Iraq’s leadership has been split on whether it wanted American forces to stay. Some argued the further training and U.S. help was vital, particularly to protect Iraq’s airspace and gather security intelligence. But others have deeply opposed any American troop presence, including Shiite militiamen who have threatened attacks on any American forces who remain.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has told U.S. military officials that he does not have the votes in parliament to provide immunity to the American trainers, the U.S. military official said.
A western diplomatic official in Iraq said al-Maliki told international diplomats he will not bring the immunity issue to parliament because lawmakers will not approve it.
A White House spokesman, Tommy Vietor, said discussions with Iraq about the security relationship between the two countries next year were ongoing.
Pentagon press secretary George Little said the U.S. remains "committed to keeping our agreement with the Iraqi government to remove all of our troops by the end of this year."
"At the same time we’re building a comprehensive partnership with Iraq under the Strategic Framework Agreement including a robust security relationship, and discussions with the Iraqis about the nature of that relationship are ongoing," Little said.
[…] Iraqi lawmakers excel at last-minute agreements. But with little wiggle room on the immunity issue and the U.S. military needing to move equipment out as soon as possible, a last-minute change between now and December 31 seems almost out of the question.
2) 17% See War with Iran As Very Likely Within Five Years
Rasmussen Reports, Monday, October 17, 2011
Most voters are aware that the United States has accused Iran of attempting to assassinate the ambassador from Saudi Arabia in this county and think there’s a good chance America will be at war with Iran in the near future.
Fifty-five percent (55%) of Likely U.S. Voters believe it is at least somewhat likely that the United States will end up in a war with Iran in the next five years or so. However, only 17% think it’s Very Likely. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 32% feel a war with Iran is unlikely in the next five or so years, but that includes only five percent (5%) who think it is Not At All Likely.
3) Sen. Levin sides with DOD leaders, offers no cut proposals to super panel
John T. Bennett, The Hill, 10/14/11 04:42 PM ET
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told supercommittee leaders he would not be making suggestions on defense cuts because the Pentagon already faces a dire fiscal future.
Failure by the supercommittee to find a minimum of $1.2 trillion in federal cuts, as mandated by the August deal to raise the federal debt ceiling, will trigger automatic cuts including $600 billion from national security funding. Lawmakers and Defense Department officials say the Pentagon would take the brunt of that reduction.
In a Friday letter to the congressional panel, Levin aligned himself with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who recently called a second round of Pentagon cuts "nuts."
"I agree with Secretary Panetta" that the $600 billion cut "would be disastrous," Levin wrote. "In light of the programmatic challenges DOD faces in achieving this initial $450 billion in savings in the midst of multiple wars, and the detrimental effect additional cuts could have for our national security, I am unable to recommend further discretionary cuts to DOD’s budget."
[…] Levin also told the special panel that because the Pentagon is still conducting a sweeping strategy review mandated by the Budget Control Act, he lacks sufficient data to propose specific things to cut.
[…] In his own letter to the supercommittee released Thursday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) urged the special panel to resist, "to the greatest possible extent," putting forth "multiple simultaneous changes to military retirement and healthcare" that collectively would "impose more sacrifice on the military population than is being asked of any other American."
McKeon, as well as the ranking member of his panel, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), also urged the committee to spare the Pentagon a second round of budget reductions because they have concluded it would hinder national security.
Friday was the deadline for committees to deliver recommendations to the Murray-Hensarling panel, which must complete its work by Nov. 23.
4) California Medical Assn. calls for legalization of marijuana
The doctor group questions the medical value of pot and acknowledges some health risk from its use but urges it be regulated like alcohol. A law enforcement official harshly criticizes the new stance.
Anthony York, Los Angeles Times, October 15, 2011
Sacramento – The state’s largest doctor group is calling for legalization of marijuana, even as it pronounces cannabis to be of questionable medical value.
Trustees of the California Medical Assn., which represents more than 35,000 physicians statewide, adopted the position at their annual meeting in Anaheim late Friday. It is the first major medical association in the nation to urge legalization of the drug, according to a group spokeswoman, who said the larger membership was notified Saturday.
Dr. Donald Lyman, the Sacramento physician who wrote the group’s new policy, attributed the shift to growing frustration over California’s medical marijuana law, which permits cannabis use with a doctor’s recommendation. That, he said, has created an untenable situation for physicians: deciding whether to give patients a substance that is illegal under federal law.
"It’s an uncomfortable position for doctors," he said. "It is an open question whether cannabis is useful or not. That question can only be answered once it is legalized and more research is done. Then, and only then, can we know what it is useful for."
[…] The group has rejected one of the main arguments of medical marijuana advocates, declaring that the substance has few proven health benefits and comparing it to a "folk remedy."
The group acknowledges some health risk associated with marijuana use and proposes that it be regulated along the lines of alcohol and tobacco. But it says the consequences of criminalization outweigh the hazards.
Lyman says current laws have "proven to be a failed public health policy." He cited increased prison costs, the effect on families when marijuana users are imprisoned and racial inequalities in drug-sentencing cases.
[…] Opinion polls show that state voters continue to be in favor of medical marijuana but are divided on the question of total legalization. A recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California found 51% opposed to complete legalization and 46% in favor.
Last November, California voters rejected Proposition 19, which would have legalized the possession and cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis and permitted local governments to regulate it and tax sales. The CMA took no public position on the measure, its leaders said.
Across the country, physicians have called for more cannabis-related research. The CMA’s parent organization, the American Medical Assn., has said the federal government should consider easing research restrictions.
Meanwhile, Lyman said, "there is considerable harm being done."
5) Gaddafi home town largely destroyed
Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post, October 15
Sirte, Libya – After weeks of intense fighting, Moammar Gaddafi’s home town appeared Saturday to have been largely destroyed, with most of its population fled and holes the size of manhole covers blown in apartment buildings and the ousted leader’s showcase convention center.
Revolutionary forces are now battling to defeat the last of the pro-Gaddafi fighters in the strategically important coastal city 278 miles southeast of Tripoli. On Saturday, the thud of tank rounds and the whine of Katyusha rockets filled the air, and black smoke rose above a contested central neighborhood. But the Gaddafi fighters held on, setting up sniper lairs in a densely packed residential district, revolutionary fighters said.
For Libya’s interim government, capturing the city is paramount and would effectively end the eight-month civil war. But the damage wreaked in Sirte raises the question of whether its residents will go quietly into the post-Gaddafi future – or retain a smoldering anger that could fuel an insurgency.
Under Gaddafi, Sirte grew from a sleepy fishing village to a city of 100,000, favored with some of the country’s finest buildings and public services. Many residents were staunch supporters of the former Libyan leader.
One of them, Sadina Muhammed, said Saturday that she and other residents "will love Gaddafi until death." She fled Sirte a week ago, after a rebel rocket smashed into her house in the embattled city. "My family’s home was completely ruined," she said, standing at a checkpoint outside the city with her 18-year-old daughter, whose arm was in a sling from the blast.
At a field hospital closer to the city, a black-robed resident of Sirte complained that the revolutionaries were also looting. "They take things in the house. If they don’t find something, they will destroy the house," she said. The woman, who gave her name only as Asma, left for a nearby village two weeks ago.
The ragtag anti-Gaddafi fighters are motivated but undisciplined and untrained, and journalists have spotted a number of them looting. They have battled Gaddafi fighters who have used civilian homes and institutions as cover.
A drive through some of Sirte’s "liberated" neighborhoods revealed the pounding the city has taken. In one area, block after block of small mustard-yellow apartments were peppered with small-arms fire. Artillery fire had blasted holes in the walls, and front doors were ripped off their hinges. The burned-out carcasses of a truck and car littered one empty street.
At the nearby Ouagadougou convention center, a complex where Gaddafi once hosted Arab and African leaders, the beige walls were charred black, and windows were shattered.
Gabriele Rossi, the emergency coordinator in Sirte for the aid group Doctors Without Borders, said the city appeared to have sustained some of the greatest damage of the war. "The part we have seen is almost completely destroyed," he said.
Revolutionary forces blame the pro-Gaddafi fighters for some of the damage, saying they have also used heavy weapons and have spurned entreaties to surrender.
But the attacking forces clearly feel no need for restraint in bombarding the Gaddafi loyalists. That’s especially true of the many fighters from Misurata, a city to the west scarred by a bloody siege by Gaddafi’s troops in the spring.
[…] Doctors fear thousands of civilians may be trapped in the small areas of the city still being contested. "We are extremely concerned for those people that are inside [Sirte] and cannot get access to health care," Rossi said.
6) U.S. Seeks Vow On Futenma At Defense Talks
Kyodo News, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011
The United States has urged Japan to promise during upcoming defense talks that the government will submit to Okinawa Prefecture before the end of the year an environmental assessment report on the Futenma base relocation, diplomatic sources said.
Making such a promise will be difficult, because submitting the report would be interpreted as a sign the central government intends to push through the project even though Okinawa is still calling for the air base to be moved outside the prefecture, the sources said Friday.
The government will decide how to deal with Washington’s request during talks between Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta slated for Oct. 25, after Ichikawa visits Okinawa to meet with Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima on Monday, government sources said.
Panetta is scheduled to arrive in Japan on Oct. 24 and hold his first talks with Ichikawa the following day. He is also making arrangements to meet with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba.
In September, President Barack Obama told Noda during their summit in New York that the time to settle the Futenma base relocation is nearing.
The Senate is cutting the entire budget for the transfer of U.S. Marines stationed in Okinawa to Guam and for Futenma’s relocation within Okinawa, citing uncertainties over Tokyo’s ability to carry out the plan in line with a bilateral agreement.
As the budget for the relocation will ultimately be determined through Senate discussions with the House of Representatives early next year, the Obama administration is now putting pressure on Japan to achieve concrete progress.
7) U.S. Officials Peddle False Intel to Support Terror Plot Claims
Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, Oct 17
Washington – Officials of the Barack Obama administration have aggressively leaked information supposedly based on classified intelligence in recent days to bolster its allegation that two higher- ranking officials from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) were involved in a plot to assassinate Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir in Washington, D.C.
The media stories generated by the leaks helped divert press attention from the fact that there is no verifiable evidence of any official Iranian involvement in the alleged assassination plan, contrary to the broad claim being made by the administration.
But the information about the two Iranian officials leaked to NBC News, the Washington Post and Reuters was unambiguously false and misleading, as confirmed by official documents in one case and a former senior intelligence and counterterrorism official in the other.
The main target of the official leaks was Abdul Reza Shahlai, who was identified publicly by the Obama administration as a "deputy commander in the Quds Force" of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Shahlai had long been regarded by U.S. officials as a key figure in the Quds Force’s relationship to Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army in Iraq.
The primary objective of the FBI sting operation involving Iranian- American Manssor Arbabsiar and a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) informant that was started last June now appears to have been to use Arbabsiar to implicate Shahlai in a terror plot.
U.S. officials had learned from the DEA informant that Arbabsiar claimed that Shahlai was his cousin.
In September 2008, the Treasury Department designated Shahlai as an individual "providing financial, material and technical support for acts of violence that threaten the peace and stability of Iraq" and thus subject to specific financial sanctions. The announcement said Shahlai had provided "material support" to the Mahdi Army in 2006 and that he had "planned the Jan. 20, 2007 attack" by Mahdi Army "Special Groups" on U.S. troops at the Provincial Coordination Center in Karbala, Iraq.
Arbabsiar’s confession claims that Shahlai approached him in early spring 2011 and asked him to find "someone in the narcotics business" to kidnap the Saudi ambassador to the United States, according to the FBI account. Arbabsiar implicates Shahlai in providing him with thousands of dollars for his expenses.
But Arbabsiar’s charge against Shahlai was self-interested. Arbabsiar had become the cornerstone of the administration’s case against Shahlai in order to obtain leniency on charges against him.
There is no indication in the FBI account of the investigation that there is any independent evidence to support Arbabsiar’s claim of Shahlai’s involvement in a plan to kill the ambassador.
[…] Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force, is on the list of those Iranian officials "linked" to the alleged terror plot, because he "oversees the IRGC-QF officers who were involved in this plot", as the Treasury Department announcement explained. But a Reuters story on Friday reported a claim of U.S. intelligence that two wire transfers totaling 100,000 dollars at the behest of Arbabsiar to a bank account controlled by the FBI implicates Soleimani in the assassination plot.
"While details are still classified," wrote Mark Hosenball and Caren Bohan, "one official said the wire transfers apparently had some kind of hallmark indicating they were personally approved" by Soleimani.
But the suggestion that forensic examination of the wire transfers could somehow show who had approved them is misleading. The wire transfers were from two separate non-Iranian banks in a foreign country, according to the FBI’s account. It would be impossible to deduce who approved the transfer by looking at the documents.
"I have no idea what such a ‘hallmark’ could be," said Paul Pillar, a former head of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center who was also National Intelligence Officer for the Middle East until his retirement in 2005.
Pillar told IPS that the "hallmark" notion "pops up frequently in commentary after actual terrorist attacks,", but the concept is usually invoked "along the lines of ‘the method used in this attack had the hallmark of group such and such’."
That "hallmark" idea "assumes exclusive ownership of a method of attack which does not really exist," said Pillar. "I expect the same could be said of methods of transferring money."
8) Egypt’s Military Expands Power, Raising Alarms
David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, October 14, 2011
Cairo – Egypt’s military rulers are moving to assert and extend their own power so broadly that a growing number of lawyers and activists are questioning their willingness to ultimately submit to civilian authority.
Two members of the military council that took power after the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak said for the first time in interviews this week that they planned to retain full control of the Egyptian government even after the election of a new Parliament begins in November. The legislature will remain in a subordinate role similar to Mr. Mubarak’s former Parliament, they said, with the military council appointing the prime minister and cabinet.
"We will keep the power until we have a president," Maj. Gen. Mahmoud Hegazy said. The military had pledged in formal communiqués last March to hold the presidential election by September. But the generals now say that will come only after the election of a Parliament, the formation of a constitutional assembly and the ratification of a new constitution – a process that could stretch into 2013 or longer.
A transition to civilian rule before and not after the drafting of a new constitution was also a core component of a national referendum on a "constitutional declaration" that passed in March as well. The declaration required that the military put in place democratic institutions and suspend a 30-year-old emergency law allowing arrests without trial before the drafting of the constitution to ensure a free debate. But by extending its mandate, the military will now preside over the constitutional process.
The military’s new plan "is a violation of the constitutional declaration," Tarek el-Bishry, the jurist who led the writing of that declaration, wrote this week in the newspaper Al Sharouk, arguing that the now-defunct referendum had been the military’s only source of legitimacy.
The United States, where concerns run high that early elections could bring unfriendly Islamists to power and further strain relations with Israel, has so far signaled approval of the military’s slower approach to handing over authority. In an appearance this week with the Egyptian foreign minister, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged an early end to the emergency law but called the plan for elections "an appropriate timetable."
Within Egypt, however, the schedule is a fresh source of tension between the military council and civilian political leaders from liberals to Islamists.
9) U.N. council approves withdrawal of some Haiti troops
Louis Charbonneau, Reuters, Fri, Oct 14, 2011
United Nations – The U.N. Security Council on Friday agreed to withdraw nearly 3,000 blue-helmeted troops and police, bringing the unpopular force’s size close to where it was before a devastating earthquake in January 2010.
The 15-nation council unanimously approved a resolution that called for the withdrawal in response to an improved security situation in the Caribbean country, the poorest in the Americas.
The plan is to withdraw 2,750 U.N. peacekeepers from the force, known as the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti or MINUSTAH, according to the resolution passed by the council. That reduction brings the force’s size to just under 10,600 troops and police.
Many Haitians have called for the complete withdrawal of the force due to allegations that Nepalese U.N. troops brought a deadly cholera epidemic to the country after their camp latrines contaminated a river. This sparked riots last year.
Last month, the U.N. force faced renewed public protests over allegations that a group of Uruguayan troops raped a man.
10) A new army is not what Haiti needs
Editorial, Washington Post, October 16
Haiti’s catalogue of critical needs seems endless, all the more so since the crippling earthquake in January last year. But one item nowhere near the top of Haiti’s list of priorities, nor even remotely advisable, is reconstituting a national army. Unfortunately, President Michel Martelly wants to do just that.
Haiti’s army was disbanded in 1995 by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and with good reason. Four years earlier, Mr. Aristide was just the latest of many Haitian leaders whose tenures were violently cut short by army officers or enlisted men; he abolished the army after being restored to power by the United States.
Whatever Mr. Aristide’s other merits or flaws, getting rid of the army counts as a signal achievement. For years, the army, in the absence of real external threats, had been primarily an instrument of repression and blood-curdling human rights abuses.
Mr. Martelly, a political novice who took office this year, has argued that a new Haitian army would bear no resemblance to the bad old one. He says a reconstituted force would be used mainly to respond to natural disasters and emergencies or to interdict contraband and drug transshipments.
It would be nice to believe that; it would also be naive. Mr. Martelly has extensive ties with right-wing groups, including allies of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, whose regime carried out atrocious abuses. With little support in parliament or from any organized political party, he finds himself perched perilously atop a political system that he has been unable to bend to his will. The temptation must be strong to follow the example of so many former Haitian leaders who found it convenient to fashion a band of loyalists into an armed force beholden to the president and hostile to his rivals – a far cry from what Haiti needs.
The start-up costs of establishing an army are estimated at $95 million – a huge sum in a country whose annual budget barely exceeds $1 billion. It’s not clear where the funds would come from; under no circumstances should the United States or other donor countries contribute.
That money could be put to much better use: fighting a cholera epidemic that has killed or sickened hundreds of thousands; removing rubble that still clogs entire neighborhoods; resettling thousands who remain without permanent homes; and rebuilding government ministries in the capital, Port-au-Prince.
Haiti does have a crime problem; its 8,400-man police force is inadequate in a country of 9 million. It makes more sense for Mr. Martelly to beef up and professionalize the police than to revive an institution so closely identified with the violence, terror and repression that have plagued Haiti for years.
11) OAS Overturned Haitian Presidential Election in a "Political Intervention," New CEPR Paper Suggests
Statistical Analysis Shows that OAS Action Was Inconsistent with Election Data
CEPR, October 17, 2011
Washington, D.C. – An Organization of American States (OAS) Mission overturned the results of the first round of Haiti’s presidential elections last year, despite that it had no statistical evidence to do so, a new Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) paper finds.
"The OAS’ actions in taking the unprecedented step of overturning an election, without a recount or evidence for its action, casts serious doubt on the institution’s credibility as an independent, neutral arbitrator or election observer," CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said. "It’s difficult to see this as anything other than a political intervention."
Weisbrot added: "Any government considering having the OAS involved in their election in any way should reconsider until the organization has conducted an investigation of their abuses in Haiti and taken steps to make sure that this can’t happen again."
Weisbrot noted that the purpose of the CEPR paper was not to cast doubt on the legitimacy of Haiti’s government, nor to provide evidence as to who should have been elected president. Rather, the purpose was to investigate whether the OAS had any statistical or empirical basis for its unprecedented action in reversing the election results.
The paper, "The Organization of American States in Haiti: Election Monitoring or Political Intervention?" by David Rosnick, shows that the OAS’ prescribed methodology of discarding "suspect" vote tally sheets would not be expected to move the vote count closer to the intent of the voters. After throwing out a number of vote tally sheets, the results of the first round of the election were reversed, with Michel Martelly (now president) taking second place, and Jude Célestin pushed into third, and thereby eliminated from the second round runoff election. The United States government subsequently put enormous pressure on the government of Haiti to accept the elimination of the government’s candidate (Célestin). Recently revealed Wikileaks cables show that Washington had turned against the government of Haiti for political reasons.
"The point is not that the OAS and CEP [Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council] ought to have incorporated imputations into the official count, but that they did in fact impute zeros for these sheets," the paper states.
By means of a thorough statistical analysis of all of the tally sheets from the first round of elections, the author was able to model hundreds of possible scenarios based on imputations for the missing and excluded data. The results showed that Célestin, not Martelly, was by far the most likely second place finisher in the first round.
The OAS Mission, the paper notes, only examined a portion of the total tally sheets, and the tally sheets it chose to discard were from disproportionately pro-Célestin areas. The OAS did not use any statistical inference to in order to estimate what the result might have been had they examined the other 92 percent of tally sheets that they did not examine. Nor did the OAS attempt to account for the impact of more than 150,000 missing or excluded votes, nearly 12 percent of the total.
The paper concludes that the OAS Mission "considered four approaches to remedy the high rate of irregularities in the tally sheets. Of these, three- voiding the entire election, conducting a revote in selected problem areas, or conducting a nationwide recount-would have at least addressed that question. It is most unfortunate that the OAS chose to simply throw out selected ballots for technical reasons."
"It is absurd for the OAS to then reverse the results of the first round of the election, or to support any results," the paper states in its conclusion.
The election was also marred by the exclusion of the country’s most popular political party, and a record low turnout in both rounds (less than 24 percent participation in the first round).
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