Just Foreign Policy News
April 15, 2010
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Feingold, McGovern Introduce Bill to End Afghanistan War
The key idea of the bill is straightforward. By January 1 – or within 3 months of the enactment of the bill, if that is earlier – the President is required to submit to Congress a plan for the redeployment of the U.S. military from Afghanistan, with a timetable for doing so. After submitting the plan, the President has to update Congress every 90 days on how the implementation of the plan is going. The importance of establishing a timetable for military withdrawal cannot be overstated.
Call Congress Against the War in Afghanistan
Urge your representatives to: oppose the war supplemental, support the Feingold-McGovern-Jones bill for a timetable for military withdrawal, 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:
Highlights of the House Afghanistan Debate
1) U.S. military officials "clarified" that the consent of local leaders would not be required for the U.S. Kandahar offensive to proceed, Gareth Porter reports for Inter Press Service. President Karzai, on the other hand, has told local elders that the offensive would not proceed without their consent.
2) The Pentagon has more than doubled Special Forces deployed to Afghanistan, the Los Angeles Times reports. Critics have charged that special operations forces were responsible for a preponderance of the civilian deaths caused by Western forces. Special Forces operations account for "half or more" of the missions being carried out, the LAT says. The size of the military’s Joint Special Operations Command is classified; officials would not discuss the number of covert teams or troops sent to Afghanistan.
3) Closing Korangal Outpost in Kunar Province, a potential harbinger of America’s retreat, is a tacit admission that putting the base there in the first place was a costly mistake, the New York Times reports. Forty-two Americans died fighting in the Korangal Valley. The Korangalis became insurgents as a result of the U.S. military presence there, according to a Special Forces soldier who served there. "It is frustrating, because we bled there and now we’re leaving," said another soldier who served there. "But just because you lost guys in a place, doesn’t mean you need to stay there."
4) According to a CRS analysis, of the 289 civilian contractors killed in Afghanistan since the war began, 100 have died in the last six months, ProPublica reports. Contractor casualties are largely invisible to the public, disguising the full human cost of the wars. They are not reported in totals given by the government. If they were, the death toll in Afghanistan would have surpassed 1,000 – 848 soldiers, 289 civilian contractors – from 2001 to 2009.
5) A study last year challenged the claim that assassinating alleged terrorists makes us safer, writes Robert Wright for the New York Times. While "correlation is not causation," the study found that killing leaders of a religious terrorist group appeared to prolongue its existence.
6) After almost nine hours of debate, the UC Berkeley student senate voted at about 7 a.m. to table its Israel divestment bill until next Wednesday, the Berkeley Daily Planet reports.
7) South African judge Richard Goldstone, head of a UN commission that investigated the Gaza war, has agreed not to attend his grandson’s bar mitzvah, following threats by the South African Zionist Federation to organize a protest outside the synagogue if Goldstone was in attendance, JTA reports. Arthur Chaskalson, a retired chief justice of South Africa, said it was "disgraceful" to put pressure on a grandfather not to attend his grandson’s bar mitzvah. "If it is correct that this has the blessing of the leadership of the Jewish community in South Africa, it reflects on them rather than Judge Goldstone," Chaskalson said. "They should hang their heads in shame."
8) President Obama’s declaration that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a "vital national security" interest represents a major shift, the New York Times reports. On Tuesday, AIPAC publicized letters to Secretary of State Clinton, signed by 76 senators and 333 House members, protesting the Administration’s willingness to criticize the Israeli government.
9) The U.S. government announced it willl suspend funding to scandal-ridden Colombian intelligence agency DAS, because of the organization’s illegal wiretapping of journalists, politicians, magistrates, human rights defenders and trade unionists, according to Colombia Reports. U.S Ambassador Brownfield said the US would check that "none of its collaboration [to DAS] has been used in illicit activities."
10) Nearly 250 Colombians who say they and relatives were victims of violence by Colombian right-wing paramilitaries filed a lawsuit seeking more than $1 billion in damages from the Chiquita banana company, which has admitted making payments to paramilitaries, Reuters reports. "Chiquita has already admitted to engaging in criminal conduct that violated federal law by making systematic financial payments to a foreign terrorist organization," said the plaintiffs’ attorney, a former White House counterterrorism official. "Yet it has refused to provide compensation to the victims of terrorist atrocities made possible by its regular, repeated and knowing financial support."
1) McChrystal Backtracks on Troop Veto for Kandahar Shuras
Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, April 15, 2010
Washington – The U.S. military has now officially backtracked from its earlier suggestion that it would seek the consent of local shuras, or consultative conferences with those elders, to carry out the coming military occupation of Kandahar city and nearby districts – contradicting a pledge by Afghan President Hamid Karzai not to carry out the operation without such consent.
Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, a spokesman for Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, told IPS Tuesday that local tribal elders in Kandahar could "shape the conditions" under which the influx of foreign troops operate during the operation, but would not determine whether or where NATO troops would be deployed in and around the city.
Asked whether the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is committed to getting local approval before introducing more troops into Kandahar and surrounding districts, the McChrystal spokesman said, "We’re not talking about something as simple as a referendum."
At a Mar. 29 briefing in Kabul on plans for the Kandahar operation, however, an unnamed senior U.S. military official told reporters that one of the elements of the strategy for gaining control over the Taliban stronghold is to "shura our way to success" – referring to the Islamic concept of consultative bodies. In those conferences with local tribal elders, the officials said, "The people have to ask for the operation… We’re going to have to have a situation where they invite us in."
Those statements clearly suggested the intention to get the support of local tribal elders before going ahead with the large-scale military operation scheduled to begin in June.
That is what President Karzai said to a shura of between 1,000 and 2,000 Kandahar province tribal elders Apr. 4. Karzai said NATO’s Kandahar operation would not be carried out until the elders themselves were ready to support it, according to a number of press reports.
According to the report by RTA, Afghanistan’s state television service, Karzai actually said, "I know you are worried about this operation," before asking their opinion. He also said that the shuras to be organised at the district level were for the purpose of "getting approval and deciding" on the operation, according to the RTA report. And the assembled elders made it known that they didn’t want the operation.
[…] When Karzai asked the assembled elders whether they were "happy or unhappy for the operation to be carried out", they shouted loudly, "We are not happy," the Sunday Times of London reported. As reported by AFP, when Karzai asked, "Are you worried?" the elders shouted back, "Yes we are!"
According to the RTA account, one elder interrupted Karzai to say, "Who are the Taliban, but my son and another’s nephew? The problem is actually these people who are in power, in particular the tribal elders and those who have power in Kandahar city." And in a revealing response, Karzai said, "Absolutely, you are right…"
Some of the elders told CNN’s Atia Abawi they preferred to negotiate with the Taliban rather than confront them in a military offensive.
2) U.S. doubles anti-Taliban special forces
Secretive buildup of elite teams reflects view that time is short to degrade Afghanistan opposition
Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times, April 15, 2010
Washington – The Pentagon has increased its use of the military’s most elite special operations teams in Afghanistan, more than doubling the number of the highly trained teams assigned to hunt down Taliban leaders, according to senior officials.
The secretive buildup reflects the view of the Obama administration and senior military leaders that the U.S. has only a limited amount of time to degrade the capabilities of the Taliban. U.S. forces are in the midst of an overall increase that will add 30,000 troops this year and plan to begin reducing the force in mid-2011.
[…] With such an abbreviated timeline, the elite manhunt teams are the most effective weapon for disrupting the insurgent leadership, senior officials said. The officials contend that stepped-up operations by teams inserted in recent months already have eroded the Taliban leadership. Defense officials specifically single out the work of special operations forces in eliminating mid-level Taliban leaders before the February offensive in the Helmand province town of Marja. They say the forces have begun similar operations in nearby Kandahar province.
[…] But the buildup carries risks. Special operations forces have been involved in some botched strikes that ended up killing civilians, mistakes that Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, has said could undermine the overall mission. For years, Karzai and other officials have complained bitterly about civilian deaths in military actions by the U.S. and its allies.
A raid Feb. 10 in the Gardez district in southeastern Afghanistan, led by a unit assigned to the Joint Special Operations Command, left two Afghan officials and three women dead.
The Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, encompasses special mission units such as the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s SEAL Team Six, as well as troops temporarily assigned to the command, such as Army Ranger units. Neither Delta Force nor SEAL Team Six were involved in the Gardez raid, according to one government official, suggesting that Army Rangers or another unit temporarily assigned to the command was responsible.
Some Afghan investigators have accused U.S. forces of covering up evidence of the attack, a charge the military disputes.
The size of the military’s Joint Special Operations Command is a highly classified secret. Officials would not discuss the number of covert teams or troops sent to Afghanistan.
[…] In the past, critics have charged that special operations forces were responsible for a preponderance of the civilian deaths caused by Western forces. Although officials concede that the number of civilian deaths caused by the teams has been damaging, the military command in Afghanistan does not believe that the elite forces are "running amok," said a Defense official.
Some of the incidents, according to officials, are a result of the high operational tempo. Special operations forces, including the JSOC teams, account for half or more of the missions being carried out by military forces in Afghanistan.
The secretive Joint Special Operations Command task force is a classified subgroup of the military’s overall United States Special Operations Command. The overall command has 5,800 troops in Afghanistan on a mission to train Afghan security forces and conduct joint missions with Afghan commandos.
It is not clear whether that number includes the more highly specialized teams, which by some estimates number only in the dozens and were described last month by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, as a handful of troops compared with the overall U.S. and allied force, which is increasing to more than 140,000.
McChrystal, a former head of JSOC, has supported the secret buildup, even while imposing restrictions on the use of air power as well as new rules on night raids. He was not given direct control of the teams, but as their former commander, he retains a large amount of influence over them.
Pentagon officials recently have realigned the command structure to give McChrystal control of the U.S. Marines and special operations forces that are mainly involved in training.
The Defense official said that with the new buildup, there will be more of the special operations forces in Afghanistan than there were in Iraq at the height of the U.S. troop buildup there in 2007. "Although we will have less general purpose forces than we had in Iraq, we will have more special forces," the official said.
[…] Defense officials emphasize that even the teams not under McChrystal’s direct control are bound by his tactical directives.
3) U.S. Forces Close Post in Afghan ‘Valley of Death’
Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, April 14, 2010
Korangal Outpost, Afghanistan – The last American soldier left here Wednesday, abandoning a base surrounded by tall cedar trees and high mountains, in a place that came to be called the Valley of Death. The near daily battles here were won, but almost always at the cost of wounded or dead. There were never enough soldiers to crush the insurgency, and after four years, it became clear that there was not much worth winning in this sparsely populated valley.
Closing Korangal Outpost in Kunar Province, a powerful symbol of some of the Afghan war’s most ferocious fights, and a potential harbinger of America’s retreat, is a tacit admission that putting the base there in the first place was a costly mistake.
[…] Forty-two Americans died fighting in the Korangal Valley and hundreds were wounded, according to the military. Most died in the period from 2006 to 2009. Many Afghan soldiers died as well, and in larger numbers, since they had poorer equipment. In a war characterized by small, brutal battles, the Korangal had more than its share, and its abandonment has left soldiers who fought there confronting confusion, anger and pain.
"It hurts," said Specialist Robert Soto of Company B, First Battalion, 26th Infantry, who spent 12 months in the valley from 2008 to 2009. "It hurts on a level that – three units from the Army, we all did what we did up there. And we all lost men. We all sacrificed. I was 18 years old when I got there. I really would not have expected to go through what we went through at that age."
During the period Specialist Soto served there half of his platoon was wounded or killed, according to the unit’s commanding officer. "It confuses me, why it took so long for them to realize that we weren’t making progress up there," Specialist Soto said.
[…] The vulnerability of these combat outposts was hardly surprising. Though sparsely populated, Kunar and Nuristan Provinces have a long history of strident resistance to outsiders. Kunar was one of the first places to rise up against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, giving the area the label of "cradle of jihad."
Much of the American mission in the last couple of years has been to try to get the reclusive people who live here to recognize the Afghan government and work with it. In some places that approach is reaping modest results. Not so in the Korangal.
The Korangalis speak a language unrelated to Pashto or Dari, the two main Afghan tongues. They practice a conservative brand of Islam and have repeatedly rebuffed American offers of aid.
[…] While there were Taliban in the valley and operatives of Al Qaeda passed through, Korangal was not a major haven, said Maj. James Fussell, a former Army Special Forces soldier who spent nearly two years fighting here, from 2004 to 2005 and again from 2008 to 2009. He recently was co-author of an analysis of the mission in Kunar and Nuristan for the Institute for the Study of War.
"Occasionally a Taliban or Al Qaeda member was transiting through that location, but the Korangalis were by no means part of the insurgency," he said. "Unfortunately, now they are, because they were willing to accept any help to get us out."
[…] A number of the infantrymen who fought here ruefully accept that the time has long passed for the military to spend lives and resources in a small and isolated valley that could not have been won without many more troops. "It is frustrating, because we bled there and now we’re leaving," said Capt. John P. Rodriguez, who as a first lieutenant served there with the 26th Infantry Regiment. "So you question: Were those sacrifices worth it? But just because you lost guys in a place, doesn’t mean you need to stay there."
4) Contractor Deaths Accelerating In Afghanistan As They Outnumber Soldiers
T. Christian Miller, ProPublica, April 14, 2010 2:09 pm EDT
A recent Congressional Research Service analysis obtained by ProPublica looked at the number of civilian contractors killed in Afghanistan in recent months. It’s not pretty.
Of the 289 civilians killed since the war began more than eight years ago, 100 have died in just the last six months. That’s a reflection of both growing violence and the importance of the civilians flooding into the country along with troops in response to President Obama’s decision to boost the American presence in Afghanistan.
The latest U.S. Department of Defense numbers show there are actually more civilian contractors on the ground in Afghanistan than there are soldiers. The Pentagon reported 107,292 U.S.-hired civilian workers in Afghanistan as of February 2010, when there were about 78,000 soldiers. This is apparently the first time that contractors have exceeded soldiers by such a large margin.
Using civilian contractors to haul food, prepare meals and act as bodyguards has kept the Pentagon’s official casualty figures lower than they would have been in past conflicts, where contractors were not as heavily used.
Contractor casualties are, by and large, invisible to the public, disguising the full human cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are not reported in totals given by the government. If they were, the death toll in Afghanistan would have surpassed 1,000 – 848 soldiers, 289 civilian contractors – from 2001 to 2009, a milestone that has gone entirely unmarked.
The number of contractor dead are released only through the Labor Department, which keeps count as part of an insurance program for contractors known as the Defense Base Act. And these numbers, agency officials have admitted and our reporting has shown, undercount fatalities. As David Isenberg pointed out in the Huffington Post recently, a new database designed, in part, to track contractor deaths is still not being used to do so.
5) The Price of Assassination
Robert Wright, New York Times, April 13, 2010, 9:38 PM
I wouldn’t have believed you if you’d told me 20 years ago that America would someday be routinely firing missiles into countries it’s not at war with. For that matter, I wouldn’t have believed you if you’d told me a few months ago that America would soon be plotting the assassination of an American citizen who lives abroad.
Shows you how much I know. President Obama, who during his first year in office oversaw more drone strikes in Pakistan than occurred during the entire Bush presidency, last week surpassed his predecessor in a second respect: he authorized the assassination of an American – Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical Imam who after 9/11 moved from Virginia to Yemen, a base from which he inspires such people as the Fort Hood shooter and the would-be underwear bomber.
[…] So maybe the question to ask is whether Americans should be convinced of that – whether assassinating terrorists really helps keep us safe.
There’s no way of answering this question with complete confidence, but it turns out there are some relevant and little-known data. They were compiled by Jenna Jordan of the University of Chicago, who published her findings last year in the journal Security Studies. She studied 298 attempts, from 1945 through 2004, to weaken or eliminate terrorist groups through "leadership decapitation" – eliminating people in senior positions.
Her work suggests that decapitation doesn’t lower the life expectancy of the decapitated groups – and, if anything, may have the opposite effect.
Particularly ominous are Jordan’s findings about groups that, like Al Qaeda and the Taliban, are religious. The chances that a religious terrorist group will collapse in the wake of a decapitation strategy are 17 percent. Of course, that’s better than zero, but it turns out that the chances of such a group fading away when there’s no decapitation are 33 percent. In other words, killing leaders of a religious terrorist group seems to increase the group’s chances of survival from 67 percent to 83 percent.
Of course the usual caveat applies: It’s hard to disentangle cause and effect. Maybe it’s the more formidable terrorist groups that invite decapitation in the first place – and, needless to say, formidable groups are good at survival. Still, the other interpretation of Jordan’s findings – that decapitation just doesn’t work, and in some cases is counterproductive – does make sense when you think about it.
For starters, reflect on your personal workplace experience. When an executive leaves a company – whether through retirement, relocation or death – what happens? Exactly: He or she gets replaced. And about half the time (in my experience, at least) the successor is more capable than the predecessor. There’s no reason to think things would work differently in a terrorist organization.
Maybe that’s why newspapers keep reporting the death of a "high ranking Al Qaeda lieutenant"; it isn’t that we keep killing the same guy, but rather that there’s an endless stream of replacements. You’re not going to end the terrorism business by putting individual terrorists out of business.
You might as well try to end the personal computer business by killing executives at Apple and Dell. Capitalism being the stubborn thing it is, new executives would fill the void, so long as there was a demand for computers.
Of course, if you did enough killing, you might make the job of computer executive so unattractive that companies had to pay more and more for ever-less-capable executives. But that’s one difference between the computer business and the terrorism business. Terrorists aren’t in it for the money to begin with. They have less tangible incentives – and some of these may be strengthened by targeted killings.
One of the main incentives is a kind of local prestige grounded in grievance. When people feel aggrieved – feel that foreigners have wronged them or exploited them or disrespected them – they may admire and appreciate those who fight on their behalf. Terrorists are nourished ultimately by a grass-roots sense of injustice.
And one good way to stoke a sense of injustice is to fire missiles into cars, homes and offices in hopes of killing terrorists, while in fact killing no few innocent civilians. Estimates of the ratio of civilians to militants killed are all over the map – 50 to 1 or 10 to 1 or 1 to 2 or 1 to 10 – but the estimate of the Pakistani people, which is all that matters, tends toward the higher end. And the notion that these strikes are a kind of national humiliation long ago entered Pakistani culture. A popular song from a couple of years ago says Americans "kill people like insects."
6) No Final Decision on UC Berkeley Israel Divestment Bill after Marathon Meeting
Riya Bhattacharjee, Berkeley Daily Planet, Thursday April 15, 2010
After almost nine hours of often contentious debate and discussion Wednesday, the fate of the UC Berkeley student senate Israel divestment bill remains undecided as of Thursday morning. The student senate voted at about 7 a.m. to table the bill, which had been vetoed by senate President Will Smelko last month, until next Wednesday.
7) Goldstone barred from grandson’s bar mitzvah
JTA, April 15, 2010
Cape Town, South Africa – In the face of intense pressure, South African judge Richard Goldstone has agreed not to attend his grandson’s bar mitzvah.
Following negotiations between the South African Zionist Federation and the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol in Sandton, an affluent suburb of Johannesburg where the event is to take place, an agreement was reached with the family that will keep Goldstone from attending the synagogue service early next month.
Goldstone was the head of a United Nations-appointed commission that investigated the Gaza war in the winter of 2008-09. The commission’s final report accused Israel and Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.
Some of the participants in the negotiations were tight lipped about the decision when contacted by JTA, with Avrom Krengel, chairman of the South African Zionist Federation, saying that "We understand that there’s a bar mitzvah boy involved – we’re very sensitive to the issues and at this stage there’s nothing further to say."
Jewish groups, including the South African Zionist Federation, had planned to organize a protest outside the synagogue if Goldstone was in attendance, according to reports.
Rabbi Moshe Kurtstag, who heads the South African Beth Din, or religious court, said he was not involved in the negotiations, but he lauded the outcome. "People have got feelings about it, they believe he put Israel in danger and they wouldn’t like him to be getting honor," he said.
Reached in Washington, where he is now based, Goldstone was reluctant to comment, but did say that "In the interests of my grandson, I’ve decided not to attend the ceremony at the synagogue."
Arthur Chaskalson, a retired chief justice of South Africa, said it was "disgraceful" to put pressure on a grandfather not to attend his grandson’s bar mitzvah. "If it is correct that this has the blessing of the leadership of the Jewish community in South Africa, it reflects on them rather than Judge Goldstone," Chaskalson said. "They should hang their heads in shame."
8) Obama Speech Signals A U.S. Shift On Middle East
Mark Landler and Helene Cooper, New York Times, April 14, 2010
Washington – It was just a phrase at the end of President Obama’s news conference on Tuesday, but it was a stark reminder of a far-reaching shift in how the United States views the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and how aggressively it might push for a peace agreement.
When Mr. Obama declared that resolving the long-running Middle East dispute was a "vital national security interest of the United States," he was highlighting a change that has resulted from a lengthy debate among his top officials over how best to balance support for Israel against other American interests.
This shift, described by administration officials who did not want to be quoted by name when discussing internal discussions, is driving the White House’s urgency to help broker a Middle East peace deal. It increases the likelihood that Mr. Obama, frustrated by the inability of the Israelis and the Palestinians to come to terms, will offer his own proposed parameters for an eventual Palestinian state.
Mr. Obama said conflicts like the one in the Middle East ended up "costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure" – drawing an explicit link between the Israeli-Palestinian strife and the safety of American soldiers as they battle Islamic extremism and terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Mr. Obama’s words reverberated through diplomatic circles in large part because they echoed those of Gen. David H. Petraeus, the military commander overseeing America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In recent Congressional testimony, the general said that the lack of progress in the Middle East created a hostile environment for the United States. He has denied reports that he was suggesting that soldiers were being put in harm’s way by American support for Israel.
But the impasse in negotiations "does create an environment," he said Tuesday in a speech in Washington. "It does contribute, if you will, to the overall environment within which we operate."
The glimmers of daylight between United States and Israeli interests began during President George W. Bush’s administration, when the United States became mired in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Three years ago, Condoleezza Rice, then secretary of state, declared during a speech in Jerusalem that a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians was a "strategic interest" of the United States. In comments that drew little notice at the time, she said, "The prolonged experience of deprivation and humiliation can radicalize even normal people." But President Bush shied away from challenging Israeli governments.
The Obama administration’s new thinking, and the tougher policies toward Israel that could flow from it, has alarmed American Jewish leaders accustomed to the Bush administration’s steadfast support. They are not used to seeing issues like Jewish housing in the West Bank or East Jerusalem linked, even by implication, to the security of American soldiers.
[…] "In the past, the problem of who drinks out of whose well in Nablus has not been a strategic interest of the United States," said Martin S. Indyk, a former United States ambassador to Israel and the vice president and the director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. He said there was an interest now because of the tens of thousands of troops fighting Islamist insurgencies abroad at the same time that the United States was trying to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. "Will resolving the Palestinian issue solve everything?" Mr. Indyk said. "No. But will it help us get there? Yes."
The administration’s immediate priority, officials said, is jump-starting indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians. There is still a vigorous debate inside the administration about what to do if such talks were to go nowhere, which experts said is the likeliest result, given the history of such negotiations. Some officials, like Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser, advocate putting forward an American peace plan, while others, like the longtime Middle East peace negotiator Dennis B. Ross, who now works in the National Security Council, favor a more incremental approach.
[…] Among American Jewish groups, there is less skepticism than alarm about the administration’s new direction. On Tuesday, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, publicized letters to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, signed by 76 senators and 333 House members, that implored the administration to defuse tensions.
In an open letter to Mr. Obama from the World Jewish Congress, the organization’s president, Ronald S. Lauder, asked, "Why does the thrust of this administration’s Middle East rhetoric seem to blame Israel for the lack of movement on peace talks?" Mr. Lauder, who said the letter was scheduled to be published Thursday as an advertisement in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, said he discussed the letter with Mr. Netanyahu and received his support before taking out the ad.
9) US suspends funding for DAS
Kirsten Begg, Colombia Reports, Wednesday, 14 April 2010 07:18
The U.S. government announced Tuesday that it willl suspend funding to scandal-ridden Colombian intelligence agency DAS, because of the organization’s illegal wiretapping of journalists, politicians, magistrates, human rights defenders and trade unionists. U.S Ambassador to Colombia William Brownfield told journalists that "the United States government has decided to transfer its collaboration to other institutions, specifically the police."
Brownfield added that his government would check that "none of its collaboration [to DAS] has been used in illicit activities."
DAS director Felipe Muñoz recognized that his agency’s wiretapping scandal had had an impact on its relationship with Washington, but added that the restructuring of the agency had lowered its funding needs.
The Colombian presidency has been implicated in the scandal. Following Brownfield’s announcement, the Colombian government issued a press release asserting that it "has never ordered shady or illegal practices and those who engage in such practices should be tried and sent to prison."
10) Chiquita faces new lawsuit, $1 billion damages sought
Pascal Fletcher, Reuters, Wed Apr 14, 6:50 pm ET
Miami – Nearly 250 Colombians who say they and relatives were victims of violence by Colombian right-wing paramilitaries filed a lawsuit on Wednesday seeking more than $1 billion in damages from the Chiquita banana company, which has admitted making payments to paramilitaries.
The lawsuit against the U.S.-based Chiquita Brands International Inc, was filed on behalf of 242 plaintiffs in a U.S. District Court in Florida. The plaintiffs were also seeking unspecified punitive damages from the court. In their complaint, some allege that family members were killed by the right-wing paramilitary group AUC, or United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, "as a result of Chiquita’s support for the AUC and its operations."
Others allege they themselves were seriously injured by the AUC, which is accused of carrying out massacres during Colombia’s long-running guerrilla war before it began disarming in 2003.
The lawsuit is the latest of several similar damages suits filed against Chiquita over its operations in Colombia.
In a March 2007 agreement with the U.S. Justice Department, Chiquita agreed to pay a $25 million fine to settle a criminal complaint accusing it of paying the AUC more than $1.7 million from 1997 to 2004. The U.S. government has declared the AUC a foreign terrorist organization, along with Colombian leftist rebels.
Chiquita acknowledged in 2007 it had made payments to both left- and right-wing militias. It said that the money was aimed at protecting Chiquita employees at a time when kidnappings and murders were frequent in the Andean country’s northern banana-growing region.
"This lawsuit, and others like it, will hold Chiquita – which had revenues in excess of $3.5 billion last year – accountable to those victimized by its unlawful conduct," said Lee Wolosky, a partner at Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP which is acting on behalf of the 242 plaintiffs.
[…] "Chiquita has already admitted to engaging in criminal conduct that violated federal law by making systematic financial payments to a foreign terrorist organization," Wolosky said. "Yet it has refused to provide compensation to the victims of terrorist atrocities made possible by its regular, repeated and knowing financial support," added Wolosky, who is a former White House counterterrorism official under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
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