Just Foreign Policy News
April 14, 2010
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Call Congress Against the War in Afghanistan
Urge your Representative to: oppose the war supplemental, support a military withdrawal timetable (i.e. the Feingold-McGovern bill), and support peace negotiations. The Congressional switchboard is 202-224-3121. When you’ve completed your call, you can report the result by following this link:
If you can’t get to a phone during business hours, you can write here:
Feingold-McGovern-Jones Afghanistan Withdrawal Bill Introduced
Requires the President to present Congress with a timetable for the redeployment of U.S forces from Afghanistan. In the Senate, S. 3197; in the House, H.R. 5015.
Rethink Afghanistan: General McChrystal’s Plan for Kandahar, Afghanistan, Collides With Reality
General McChrystal claimed that the U.S. offensive in Kandahar would have the support of the local population. But reality is the opposite: shockingly, Afghan civilians don’t want to be shot by U.S. soldiers.
Kucinich Voices Concern Over Futenma Base Relocation
Representative Dennis Kucinich sent a letter to Norman Dicks, chair of the House subcommittee on defense appropriations, expressing concerns about U.S. plans to relocate the U.S. base at Futenma in Okinawa to Nago, and urging that the concerns of Okinawa residents be taken into account.
Highlights of the House Afghanistan Debate
1) U.S. officials said U.S. intelligence agencies believe Iran won’t be capable of producing nuclear weapons for at least a year but that it probably would be technically able to do so if it chooses within 3-to-5 years, Reuters reports. Asked about reported comments that Iran might be able to join the nuclear club in months, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters on Tuesday: "I don’t believe it."
2) China insisted it has not shifted its approach on Iran’s nuclear program, despite White House claims Beijing had become more open to sanctions on Iran, the Los Angeles Times reports. U.S. officials have repeatedly claimed progress in winning over China and Russia on Iran sanctions, only to see them seemingly head in a different direction days later, the LAT notes.
3) A House panel conducting a preliminary investigation into U.S. contracting in Afghanistan has turned its focus on the "unexplained relationships" between the families of two Kyrgyzstan presidents and fuel supplies to a U.S. air base there, Walter Pincus reports in the Washington Post. "Two overthrows of the government there have been linked to corrupt dealings at Manas air base," said Rep. John Tierney.
4) From the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan until last summer, more U.S. soldiers killed themselves than died in combat in Afghanistan, Time Magazine reports. Army commanders tend to avoid acknowledging that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq may be a cause of increased suicides, Time notes. "The suicide rate among soldiers who have deployed to [war zones] is higher than for soldiers who have never deployed," according to a top Army psychiatrist. "Combat increases fearlessness about death and the capability for suicide," said a suicide expert who recently left the Air Force. "We train our warriors to use controlled violence and aggression, to suppress strong emotional reactions in the face of adversity, to tolerate physical and emotional pain and to overcome the fear of injury and death," he told Time. While required for combat, "these qualities are also associated with increased risk for suicide…Service members are, simply put, more capable of killing themselves by sheer consequence of their professional training."
5) The University of Wisconsin canceled its licensing agreement with Nike, becoming the first university to take that step over concerns about the company’s treatment of workers in Honduras, AP reports. UW’s chancellor said Nike hasn’t done enough to help workers collect severance payments they are owed at two factories that abruptly closed last year. Wisconsin’s code of conduct requires companies that make products bearing its name or logos to take responsibility for subcontractors’ actions. Anti-sweatshop activists said they hoped Wisconsin’s decision would resonate at other universities and put pressure on Nike to fix the Honduras situation. The workers are owed $2.6 million in severance payments required under Honduran law.
6) The rate at which women die in childbirth or soon after delivery has fallen by about 40 percent since 1980, with dramatic reductions in India, China, Brazil and Egypt, the Washington Post reports. The highest rate in 2008 was in Afghanistan, with 1,575 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births, more than 6 times the global average.
7) Lobo’s administration announced it was sending more than 2,000 soldiers and police officers to the Atlantic coast region around the Aguan River to seize drugs and illegal weapons, AP reports. The National Popular Resistance Front said the Aguan deployment posed a serious threat of raids to clear a peasant squatter movement in the area.
8) Popular organizations denounced a large Honduran army deployment of troops in Aguan Valley aimed at evicting 3,000 farmers families, Inside Costa Rica reports. Neighbours said they fear an offensive will begin at any moment that could finish in a massacre.
9) Authorities in Yemen said they would not participate in the extrajudicial killing of U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, Inter Press Service reports. "Anwar al-Awlaki has always been looked at as a preacher rather than a terrorist and shouldn’t be considered as a terrorist unless the Americans have evidence that he has been involved in terrorism," Yemen’s foreign minister said.
10) Public anger rose over a weekend airstrike by Pakistan’s military, which it said targeted insurgents but which a government official and villagers said killed more than 70 civilians, the Washington Post reports. Anger over the strike, which drew sharp criticism from tribal leaders and some Pakistani media outlets, threatened to undercut support for the Pakistani army’s U.S.-backed push against militants in the border region, the Post says. Such criticisms against Pakistani forces have been rare, the Post notes.
11) Consideration tonight at UC-Berkeley of a resolution on divestment from United Technologies and General Electric due to ties to Israeli military attacks on civilians in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank has drawn international attention, the Daily Californian reports. Desmond Tutu, Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky have spoken in support of the bill, which Tutu compared to similar efforts at UC Berkeley to divest from South Africa in the 1980s.
1) Iran seen capable of producing bomb within a few years
Adam Entous, Reuters, Tue, Apr 13 2010
Washington – U.S. intelligence agencies believe Iran won’t be capable of producing nuclear weapons for at least a year but that it probably would be technically able to do so if it chooses within 3-to-5 years, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.
The timeframe comes as President Barack Obama presses a reluctant China to back swift sanctions on Iran and U.S. intelligence agencies try to finish a classified report assessing how Tehran’s nuclear program is progressing.
Jane Harman, chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, told Reuters on Tuesday that a revised U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran was "essentially complete" but that it was unclear if any of it would be made public after going to the president.
[…] Opinions within the U.S. intelligence community vary on the extent to which Iran’s nuclear capabilities have changed since the release in November 2007 of a declassified summary of the previous NIE on Iran by then-President George W. Bush.
That 2007 document judged with "moderate confidence" that Iran would "probably" be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon sometime in the 2010-2015 time frame.
The current view within the intelligence community is that Iran would be capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon in the "next few years," closer to 2015 than 2010, though officials cautioned that such timetables have been proven unreliable.
To explain the delay, U.S. officials in recent months have pointed to what they have described as technical "problems" at Iran’s enrichment plant at Natanz in operating thousands of the centrifuges that have been installed.
Asked about reported comments that Iran might be able to join the nuclear club in months, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters on Tuesday: "I don’t believe it."
"I think that most estimates that I’ve seen, haven’t changed since the last time we talked about it, which is probably at least a year, and maybe more," he said.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, continues to hold that Iran will have a capability to build a weapon in one to three years, according to aides.
2) China Says Its Iran Nuclear Stance Hasn’t Shifted
The statement came after U.S. officials said Beijing was more open to sanctions on Tehran.
Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times, April 14, 2010
Washington – China insisted Tuesday that it has not shifted its approach on Iran’s nuclear program, despite White House claims on Monday that Beijing had become more open to sanctions on Tehran.
Jiang Yu, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told reporters in Beijing that "China has always believed that sanctions and pressure cannot fundamentally resolve the issue" of concern about Iran’s nuclear program, according to the official New China News Agency.
She said that China "upholds its consistent stance on the Iran nuclear issue." Beijing opposes Iran gaining nuclear weapons and supports a "dual-track strategy," combining negotiations with pressure, she said.
On Monday, White House officials said that President Obama had received Chinese President Hu Jintao’s promise to cooperate in developing a new round of sanctions against Iran. "They’re prepared to work with us," said Jeffrey Bader, a senior National Security Council official.
Obama addressed the apparent discrepancy during a news conference Tuesday at the conclusion of the nuclear security summit in Washington. Despite Beijing’s ties to Iran, it is more willing now to consider sanctions than it was a year ago, the president said. He added that he wanted broad international agreement on new sanctions soon.
"The Chinese are obviously concerned about what ramifications this might have on the economy generally," Obama said. "A lot of countries around the world have trade relations with Iran. And we’re mindful of that."
[…] The Obama administration, like the George W. Bush administration before it, has struggled to win commitments from China and Russia to cooperate on Iran. U.S. officials have repeatedly claimed progress in winning over the two countries, both permanent Security Council members, only to see them seemingly head in a different direction days later.
The White House has recently asserted common ground with Moscow on the issue. Yet last week, in an appearance with Obama in Prague, Czech Republic, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev stressed that there were limits to the sanctions that his country was willing to impose.
"There is no contradiction between continuing diplomatic efforts and at the same time working together on a sanctions resolution in New York," a senior Obama administration official said Tuesday. "We believe a sanctions resolution is the best way to get back to . . . negotiations at some stage."
3) House Panel Probes Ex-Kyrgyz Leaders’ Ties To Fuel Deliveries At Manas Air Base
Walter Pincus, Washington Post, Wednesday, April 14, 2010; A10
A House panel conducting a preliminary investigation into U.S. contracting in Afghanistan has turned its focus on what its chairman called Tuesday the "unexplained relationships" between the families of two Kyrgyzstan presidents and fuel supplies to a key U.S. air base there.
"Two overthrows of the government there have been linked to corrupt dealings at Manas air base," said Rep. John F. Tierney (D-Mass.), chairman of the national security subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. "That’s what we are looking into."
The base refuels U.S. warplanes operating over Afghanistan and serves as a major transit hub for U.S. troops and material. Roza Otunbayeva, Kyrgyzstan’s interim leader, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that the agreement allowing the U.S. military to use it will be prolonged after the current one-year deal expires in July. "It will be automatically extended for the next year," she said.
The House panel’s initial inquiry focused on fuel deliveries to Bagram air base in Afghanistan and a firm called Red Star Enterprises, based in London. Tierney said Tuesday that although Red Star has received more than $700 million from the Pentagon’s Defense Energy Support Center, his investigators have yet to determine who owns the firm, which serves as a broker for refineries in Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.
The support center’s listed chief contact at Red Star is Charles "Chuck" Squires, a U.S. Army attache in Kyrgyzstan in the 1990s, who describes himself on the LinkedIn Web site as director of operations for Red Star and Minacorp, a subcontractor for services at Manas. An attempt to reach him by e-mail was unsuccessful.
Red Star holds a unique contracting position in Afghanistan. It owns and rents storage tanks outside the U.S.-run Bagram air base and has a contract to deliver oil products from its tanks to a distribution facility on the base. From there, trucks deliver fuel to other bases in the country.
When Kurmanbek Bakiyev took over the Kyrgyz presidency in 2005 as a result of the Tulip Revolution protests, he asked the FBI to help probe allegations that the family of the deposed president, Askar Akayev, had benefited from subcontracts Red Star gave to a firm called Manas International Services. Bakiyev was himself ousted from office last week, and opponents allege that his son, Maksim, became a main stockholder in Red Star’s subcontractor.
4) Is The U.S. Army Losing Its War On Suicide?
Mark Thompson, Time Magazine, Tuesday, Apr. 13, 2010
Washington – From the invasion of Afghanistan until last summer, the U.S. military had lost 761 soldiers in combat there. But a higher number in the service – 817 – had taken their own lives over the same period. The surge in suicides, which have risen five years in a row, has become a vexing problem for which the Army’s highest levels of command have yet to find a solution despite deploying hundreds of mental-health experts and investing millions of dollars. And the elephant in the room in much of the formal discussion of the problem is the burden of repeated tours of combat duty on a soldier’s battered psyche.
The problem is exacerbated by the manpower challenges faced by the service, because new research suggests that repeated combat deployments seem to be driving the suicide surge. The only way to apply the brakes will be to reduce the number of deployments per soldier and extend what the Army calls "dwell time" – the duration spent at home between trips to war zones. But the only way to make that possible would be to expand the Army’s troop strength, or reduce the number of soldiers sent off to war.
[…] But the service’s suicide rate continues to rise (it doubled between 2001 and 2006) while remaining flat in the civilian population, even when adjusted to reflect the Army’s age and gender. Last year, 160 active-duty soldiers killed themselves, up from 140 in 2008 and 77 in 2003.
[…] When accounting publicly for the trend, Army commanders tend to avoid acknowledging that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq may be a cause. "A third of the confirmed suicides are committed by troops that had never deployed," McHugh recently told a House panel. But the other two-thirds killed themselves either in a war zone or after returning from one. "The suicide rate among soldiers who have deployed to [war zones] is higher than for soldiers who have never deployed," Colonel Elspeth Ritchie, a top Army psychiatrist, told a suicide-prevention conference in January.
Army leaders say that broken personal relationships seem to be the most common thread linking suicides. "The one transcendent factor that we seem to have, if there’s any one that’s associated with [suicide], is fractured relationships of some sort," Lieut. General Eric Schoomaker, the Army surgeon general, told a Senate panel last month. What they fail to note, however, is the corrosive effect repeated deployments can have on such relationships. Ritchie pointed out in January that there are "higher rates of mental-health problems and marital problems for multiple deployers."
In recent years, soldiers had been allowed only a year of dwell time before heading back to war. Even though dwell time is now getting closer to two years, research suggests it takes up to three years for the stress of a one-year combat deployment to abate.
The experience of combat itself may also play a role. "Combat increases fearlessness about death and the capability for suicide," said Craig Bryan, a University of Texas psychologist, briefing Pentagon officials in January. The combination of combat exposure and ready access to guns can be lethal to anyone contemplating suicide. About half of soldiers who kill themselves use weapons, and the figure rises to 93% among those deployed in war zones.
Bryan, a suicide expert who recently left the Air Force, says the military finds itself in a catch-22. "We train our warriors to use controlled violence and aggression, to suppress strong emotional reactions in the face of adversity, to tolerate physical and emotional pain and to overcome the fear of injury and death," he told TIME. While required for combat, "these qualities are also associated with increased risk for suicide." Such conditioning cannot be dulled "without negatively affecting the fighting capability of our military," he adds. "Service members are, simply put, more capable of killing themselves by sheer consequence of their professional training."
5) Badgers cut ties with Nike over labor concerns
Ryan J. Foley, Associated Press, Saturday, April 10, 2010; 12:13 AM
Madison, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin canceled its licensing agreement with Nike Inc. on Friday, becoming the first university to take that step over concerns about the company’s treatment of workers in Honduras.
Chancellor Biddy Martin said Nike hasn’t done enough to help workers collect severance payments they are owed at two factories that abruptly closed last year. "Nike has not developed, and does not intend to develop, meaningful ways of addressing the plight of displaced workers and their families in Honduras," Martin said. "It has not presented clear long-range plans to prevent or respond to similar problems in the future. For this combination of reasons, we have decided to end our relationship for now."
Nike expressed disappointment with the university’s decision in a statement released Friday night, while noting the factories were operated by subcontractors. Under Nike policy, subcontractors are responsible for compensation of their employees.
Wisconsin’s code of conduct requires the 500 companies that make products bearing its name or logos to take responsibility for the subcontractors’ actions. Its contract with Nike generated $49,000 in royalty income for the university last year.
[…] Anti-sweatshop activists said they hoped Wisconsin’s decision would resonate at several other universities across the country where students are pushing for similar actions and put pressure on Nike to fix the Honduras situation. "It’s a major, major victory nationally," said Jonah Zinn, 19, a Wisconsin sophomore who was part of a student campaign urging Martin to cancel the contract. "We’re hoping that our victory here really propels them forward and pushes those universities to make the right decision."
Nike hired the factories, located in Choloma and San Pedro Sula, as suppliers to produce apparel. They closed without notice in January 2009 with the workers being owed $2.6 million in severance payments required under Honduran law. Nike has offered to provide job training and give workers priority for jobs at nearby factories. But the Worker Rights Consortium, a labor rights watchdog, told college leaders in a report last month the company’s response has been insufficient.
6) Around world, fewer women die in childbirth
David Brown, Washington Post, Wednesday, April 14, 2010; A10
The rate at which women die in childbirth or soon after delivery has fallen by about 40 percent since 1980, with dramatic reductions in the populous nations of India, China, Brazil and Egypt.
Maternal mortality is a key gauge of a population’s health and wealth, as well as of women’s status. The rate differs greatly between countries and regions, with the best- and worst-performing nations differing by a factor of about 400, according to a study in the Lancet, a European medical journal.
The global rate in 2008 was 251 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births, according to a research team led by Christopher J.L. Murray at the University of Washington. The highest rate was in Afghanistan (1,575) and the lowest in Italy (4). The United States was 17; Canada, 7; and Mexico, 52.
More than half of all maternal deaths (about 343,000 in 2008) occurred in six countries, researchers found: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Between 1980 and 2008, China’s maternal mortality rate fell to 40 from 165; India’s to 254 from 677; and Brazil’s to 55 from 149. In many sub-Saharan African countries, a decline that began in the 1980s flattened in the 1990s because of the prevalence of HIV infection, which increases a woman’s risk of death during pregnancy and after delivery.
Prenatal care and "skilled birth attendants" – midwives or physicians – at delivery reduce both a woman’s and her baby’s risk of dying in childbirth or soon after. Maternal mortality also tends to fall when per capita income rises, when women have fewer children and when they go to school longer.
[…] "We do not have silver bullets for achieving this," said Flavia Bustreo, an Italian physician who directs a partnership, headquartered in Geneva, of 300 health organizations. Instead, she said, there is a menu of proven interventions that need to be implemented more widely. For example, in the 68 countries where 97 percent of maternal deaths occur, less than 20 percent of recently delivered women are visited at home by a health worker who can instruct in breast-feeding and assess the mother and infant for infection. Only 50 percent of deliveries in those countries have skilled birth attendants present. On the other hand, more than 80 percent of babies get the recommended immunizations.
7) Honduran army to help combat violent crime wave
Freddy Cuevas, Associated Press, Tuesday, April 13, 2010; 7:10 PM
Tegucigalpa, Honduras – Troops will be sent into Honduras’ streets to help police combat a wave of violent crime, the government said Tuesday. Defense Minister Marlon Pascua told reporters that soldiers will be assigned to search vehicles and pedestrians and pursue criminal suspects.
[…] This Central American country of 7.7 million people suffered more than 5,300 homicides in 2009 while grappling with a political crisis touched off by a coup.
The country’s army was harshly criticized after soldiers hustled then-President Manuel Zelaya out of the country aboard an airplane last June. All six members of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff were charged with abuse of power in January, but all were later cleared by a Supreme Court judge. Lawmakers approved amnesty for both Zelaya and all those involved in his removal.
On Monday, Lobo’s administration announced it was sending more than 2,000 soldiers and police officers to the Atlantic coast region around the Aguan River to seize drugs and illegal weapons. Drug cartels are increasingly using the coasts of Central America to move drugs toward the U.S. market.
Zelaya’s supporters expressed fear the security buildup might be used in a crackdown on a peasant squatter movement in the area.
Just before the coup, about 3,000 farm workers seized almost 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) in commercial plantations used to grow African palms.
The pro-Zelaya National Popular Resistance Front said the Aguan deployment posed a serious threat of raids to clear the squatters.
Lobo’s administration is negotiating with the squatters and has offered them each about 5 acres (2 hectares) of land elsewhere and some financial assistance if they agree to leave. The squatters are demanding greater amounts of land.
8) Honduras Troops Threatens to Evict Farmers
Inside Costa Rica, April 13, 2010
Tegucigalpa – The Honduran army began a large deployment of troops in Aguan Valley aimed at evicting 3,000 farmers families, denounced popular organizations.
The northern region has been completely militarized and we have detected at least 30 vehicles with troops carrying large-bore weapons, declared Yony Rivas member of the Unified Farmers Movement in Aguan.
The armed forces deployed battalion Four in La Ceiba city and special troops in the area where an armed conflict for lands has been developed for several years ago.
This movement is unusual since civilian conflicts are solved by the police and not the army, warned the director of the Committee for Human Rights Defense Andres Pavon.
Militarization increased tensions in the area and neighbours of the place said they fear an offensive will begin at any moment that could finish in a massacre.
Since last December thousands of people established on the left side of Aguan River suffer harassment and attempts of eviction, killing 5 and wounding several.
The People’s National Resistance Force (FNRP) alerted the Honduran population and the international community of the serious situation that those families are facing now.
The FNRP communiqué claimed Porfirio Lobos the security Minister Oscar Alvarez and the great landowners Miguel Facussé, Reinaldo Canales and Rene Morales responsible of any violation of Human rights.
9) Yemen Refuses to Hunt Al-Awlaki for U.S.
Charles Fromm, Inter Press Service, 13 Apr
Washington – Last weekend, authorities in Yemen said they would not participate in the extrajudicial killing of U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was recently targeted by military and intelligence agencies in Washington.
"Anwar al-Awlaki has always been looked at as a preacher rather than a terrorist and shouldn’t be considered as a terrorist unless the Americans have evidence that he has been involved in terrorism," Yemen’s foreign minister, Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, told reporters in the capital city of Sa’na.
However, al-Qirbi also told Al Jazeera television that al-Awlaki "is wanted by Yemeni justice for questioning, so that he can clear his name … or face trial."
Though Al-Awlaki is a U.S. citizen, born in New Mexico, he lived in Yemen with his family for most of his early life. He returned to attend college and graduate school and it was during this period he began serving as an imam for various mosques around the country.
Al-Awlaki admits to supporting – but not encouraging – the recent attacks of Umar Abdulmutallab and Maj. Nidal Hasan on military and civilian targets within the U.S. His sermons are known to be extremely critical of U.S. foreign policy and military intervention in Muslim countries.
"Although we don’t have the high-level homegrown threat facing Europeans, we have to worry about the appeal that figures like Anwar al-Awlaki exert on young American Muslims," said Dr. Mathew Burrows, counselor to the National Intelligence Council, during a recent press briefing, referring to al-Awlaki’s reputation as a charismatic and thoughtful speaker.
The Barack Obama administration took a somewhat extraordinary step last week in authorising the targeted killing of the cleric.
A handful of intelligence and counterterrorism officials briefed members of the press on the decision last week, during which Reuters quoted government officials as saying that "Al-Awlaki is a proven threat," and that "he’s being targeted".
Though known only as an Islamic scholar, espousing controversial views, U.S. intelligence officials cited new information on his direct involvement with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as justification for his targeting.
"He’s gotten involved in plots," an unnamed official told the New York Times last week. "The danger al-Awlaki poses to this country is no longer confined to words."
[…] Though controversial as it may seem, this would not be the first time a U.S. citizen has been extra-judicially killed by U.S. forces in Yemen.
In November 2002, Kamal Darwish, a dual U.S.-Yemeni national, was assassinated in a drone strike as he rode in a car with the main target of the operation, Abu Ali al-Harith, who was believed to be al Qaeda’s highest ranking member in Yemen, as well as the mastermind of the USS Cole attack in 2000.
Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen wrote an article for Newsweek on Tuesday contending that the 2002 operation, which resulted in the deaths of Darwish, al-Harith and four others, was ultimately unnecessary and had little effect on al Qaeda as an organisation.
"Ultimately, their deaths meant little. Al Qaeda was hobbled for a while but eventually resurrected itself stronger and more durable than its previous incarnation," said Jonhsen, referencing AQAP’s recent resurgence. "Assassinating al-Awlaki may make us feel safer, but it won’t make us be safer."
[…] On Monday, al-Awlaki’s father attempted to reach out to officials in Washington regarding his son’s fate, saying his son would halt his anti-U.S. messages if Washington removed him from its hit list. "If Washington stops targeting [him] by threatening to abduct, capture, or kill him, Anwar will cease his statements and speeches against it," Nasser al-Awlaki, a former minister of agriculture and rector at the University of Sa’na, told Al Jazeera.
10) Pakistani Airstrike Raises Ire After Reports Of 71 Civilian Deaths
Haq Nawaz Khan and Karin Brulliard, Washington Post, Wednesday, April 14, 2010; A11
Peshawar, Pakistan – Public anger rose Tuesday over a weekend airstrike by Pakistan’s military, which it said targeted insurgents but which a government official and villagers said killed more than 70 civilians.
The Saturday bombings occurred in the Khyber area of the rugged tribal region along the Afghan border, where Pakistani forces are battling Islamist insurgents. A senior government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said in an interview Tuesday that the strike killed 71 civilians and no militants. He said the government had offered nearly $125,000 in compensation to the families of those killed or wounded.
Ire over the strike, which drew sharp criticism from tribal leaders and some Pakistani media outlets, threatened to undercut support for the Pakistani army’s U.S.-backed push against militants in the border region.
A military spokesman could not be reached for comment, but officials have said that the strike was aimed at a militant gathering and did not kill civilians. One military intelligence official said in a telephone interview that "mostly militants" were killed. The tribal areas are off-limits to journalists, making independent confirmation of events there nearly impossible.
Although U.S. drone strikes against militants in the borderlands often spark criticism in Pakistan for killing civilians, such accusations against Pakistani forces are rare. A Tuesday editorial in the Dawn newspaper said the strike demonstrated a gap in the military’s intelligence gathering and "strengthens the hands of the Taliban."
Residents of the town of Sra Vela said a bomb struck the house of a family that included members of a government paramilitary force. As people rushed to assist the wounded, jets dropped another bomb on the crowd, residents said. They said many of the dead were soldiers with the Frontier Constabulary.
One member of that paramilitary force, 25-year-old Tila Baz, said shrapnel from the airstrikes cut his face and broke his arm. Baz, who was interviewed from his hospital bed in the northwestern city of Peshawar, said those killed had no links to insurgents.
11) International Attention Focused on Berkeley Divestment Vote
Allie Bidwell, Daily Californian, Wednesday, April 14, 2010
International attention will descend on the ASUC Senate meeting tonight as senators consider upholding the passage of a controversial bill urging the student government and the University of California to divest from two companies that have provided war supplies to the Israeli military.
The bill names two companies-United Technologies and General Electric-as supplying Israel with the technology necessary to attack civilian populations in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The bill originally passed the senate March 17 by a 16-4 vote following about six hours of discussion. A two-thirds majority, or 14 votes, is needed in order to override the veto.
Senators have received more than 13,000 e-mails, roughly split between both sides of the controversy.
Prominent figures including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, activist Naomi Klein and leftist MIT professor Noam Chomsky have spoken in support of overriding ASUC President Will Smelko’s March 24 veto of the bill. Local and national pro-Israel groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)-an influential Washington, D.C. lobby organization-Berkeley Hillel and the Anti-Defamation League have each stated the bill is divisive and unfairly targets Israel.
Supporters of the bill say divesting from the two companies would make a powerful statement against Israeli actions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which supporters have compared to apartheid-era South Africa.
In a recent letter to the UC Berkeley community, Tutu, who won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts opposing apartheid in South Africa-said he endorsed the bill and urged senators to uphold the original vote, which he compared to similar efforts at UC Berkeley to divest from South Africa in the 1980s.
He said in an e-mail Tuesday that he had a message for ASUC senators. "I salute you for wanting to take a moral stand," he said in the e-mail. "(Your predecessors) changed the moral climate in the U.S. and the consequence was the Anti-Apartheid legislation, which helped to dismantle apartheid non-violently. Today is your turn. Will you look back on this day with pride or with shame?"
[…] Critics of the bill have said senators cannot make a proper judgement of an issue as complicated as the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Student Action Senator Parth Bhatt, who voted against the bill, said he felt the ASUC should not take a stance on such an issue because it marginalizes one community on campus. "I don’t think the ASUC should put any student in that position," Bhatt said. "The conflict is very complex and something I don’t think our senators know enough about to vote on."
But CalSERVE Senator Ariel Boone said she supported the bill because she felt compelled to defend human rights. "I went to Israel and had a really interesting time with Berkeley Hillel in January, and I have Holocaust survivors among my family," Boone said in an e-mail. "I have never felt so uniquely qualified to speak on an issue."
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