Just Foreign Policy News
June 15, 2011
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1) A bipartisan group of House lawmakers sued the Obama administration on Wednesday over its use of U.S. military forces in Libya, The Hill reports. Ten House Members endorsed the lawsuit. In 1999, Kucinich and former Rep. Tom Campbell (R-Calif.) led another bipartisan group in suing the Clinton administration over military operations in the former Yugoslavia. That suit was dismissed when a federal judge ruled that the lawmakers lacked the standing to file their grievance. The latest suit challenges the notion that congressional lawmakers – or anyone else – lack the standing to sue administrations over unilateral wars. "Someone has to have the ability to bring a case to review an undeclared war," said Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at GW and lead attorney in the Kucinich-Jones suit.
2) House Speaker John Boehner said the Obama administration could be in violation of the War Powers Resolution if it fails to get congressional authorization by Sunday for U.S. participation in the Libya military mission, CNN reports. According to Boehner, a 90-day deadline for congressional authorization of the Libya mission expires Sunday.
"It would appear that, in five days, the administration will be in violation of the War Powers Resolution unless it asks for and receives authorization from Congress or withdraws all U.S. troops and resources from the mission," Boehner’s letter said.
3) The White House is telling Congress that the War Powers Resolution does not apply to the Libya conflict because U.S. participation does not constitute "hostilities," the New York Times reports. Senior administration lawyers contended US forces have not been in "hostilities" at least since April 7. The Administration lawyers said that the Administration is not claiming it can take the country to war at will and not claiming that the War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional. The Administration lawyers said that a 1980 memorandum of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, stating that the 60-day limit for unauthorized hostilities of the War Powers Resolution was constitutional, remained in force.
Administration lawyers asserted that their claim that US participation in the Libya conflict did not rise to the level of "hostilities" was not unprecedented, but the Times notes that previous cases typically involved peacekeeping missions in which the US had been invited to take part and there were only infrequent outbreaks of violence. Libya, by contrast, is an offensive mission involving sustained bombardment of a government’s forces, the Times notes.
4) Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Tom Udall (D-NM) and 24 other senators sent a letter to President Obama today calling for a shift in strategy in Afghanistan and a "sizable and sustained" drawdown of troops that puts the U.S. on a path toward removing all regular combat troops from the country, Senator Merkley’s office reports.
5) Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) is calling for a change of strategy in Afghanistan, arguing the current course is unsustainable, the Huffington Post reports. The Delaware Democrat made clear that he supports a substantial withdrawal of troops in July.
6) The hawkish consensus on national security that has dominated Republican foreign policy for the last decade is giving way to a more nuanced view, with some presidential candidates expressing a desire to withdraw from Afghanistan as quickly as possible and suggesting the US has overreached in Libya, the New York Times reports.
Jon M. Huntsman said Tuesday the cost of a continued military presence was a leading factor in his belief that a major troop drawdown should begin in Afghanistan.
Mitt Romney said in the Republican presidential debate Monday night that it was "time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can," consistent with the advice of commanders about their ability to hand off control of regions to Afghan security forces without risking a return of the Taliban.
Representative Michele Bachmann said the decision by Obama to involve the US military in the effort to dislodge Qaddafi from power in Libya did not meet the criteria of protecting the national interest. "We were not attacked," Bachmann said. "We were not threatened with attack."
7) The House Appropriations Committee approved legislation that would provide $530 billion to the Pentagon and $119 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, AP reports. The committee adopted an amendment by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., that would create an Afghanistan-Pakistan Study Group, a bipartisan organization to conduct an independent assessment of the conflict and U.S. interests. The group would be modeled on the Iraq Study Group, the blue-ribbon panel that in 2006 called for a gradual troop pullback and stepped-up diplomacy to help extricate the US from Iraq.
8) Ending the war in Afghanistan would save $2 billion a week, notes Carolyn Eisenberg of UFPJ in a letter to the Washington Post.
9) The AFL-CIO will launch a campaign this week to try and stop the pending trade deal between the US and Colombia, The Hill reports. Trade unionists from Colombia will travel to Washington to discuss the country’s poor record of violence against labor organizers with members of Congress.
1) Lawmakers sue the White House over use of military force in Libya
Mike Lillis and Pete Kasperowicz, The Hill, 06/15/11 12:04 PM ET
A bipartisan group of House lawmakers sued the Obama administration on Wednesday over its use of U.S. military forces in Libya.
Led by Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.), the members contend the White House overstepped its constitutional authority when it launched military operations against Libyan strongman Col. Moammar Gadhafi in March without congressional approval.
"This is not an academic question," Kucinich said Wednesday at a press conference in front of the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., where the suit was filed. "This is about stopping a war now."
The lawsuit challenges both Obama’s constitutional authority to launch the war without Congress’s stamp of approval, and the administration’s more recent rationale for continuing the operations unilaterally. "Is Gadhafi an evil man? – certainly," Jones said. "But where are you Congress?"
Eight other House members endorsed the lawsuit, including GOP Reps. Howard Coble (N.C.), John Duncan (Tenn.), Roscoe Bartlett (Md.), Ron Paul (Texas), Tim Johnson (Ill.) and Dan Burton (Ind.), and Democratic Reps. John Conyers (Mich.) and Michael Capuano (Mass.).
Appearing beside Kucinich and Jones Wednesday, Johnson conceded that past administrations have also initiated military operations without congressional authority. But that precedent, he argued, is no reason for Congress to continue allowing it to happen.
"If we don’t step forward now – if the courts don’t assist us now [and] if our colleagues don’t assist us now – effectively they’ve said [Congress is] a neutered branch of government with no powers in this arena," Johnson said. "And that cannot happen."
[…] The lawmakers also contend the White House has violated the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which requires presidents to get congressional approval for military operations within 60 days, or withdraw forces within the next 30.
"There is a great misunderstanding that war powers rest in the president of the United States alone," said Jonathan Turley, professor of constitutional law at George Washington University and lead attorney in the Kucinich-Jones suit. "That is completely wrong."
[…] Kucinich on Wednesday rejected the notion that the administration can act unilaterally in Libya because the U.S. is playing only a supporting role in the operations. "Whether there are boots on the ground or not doesn’t really get into the question of whether or not the president had the ability [to intervene] in the first place," Kucinich said. "It’s a constitutional issue here, and it can’t be danced around at all."
Such a suit is not without precedent. In 1999, Kucinich and former Rep. Tom Campbell (R-Calif.) led another bipartisan group in suing the Clinton administration over military operations in the former Yugoslavia. That suit was dismissed when a federal judge ruled that the lawmakers lacked the standing to file their grievance.
The latest suit challenges the notion that congressional lawmakers – or anyone else – lack the standing to sue administrations over unilateral wars.
"Someone has to have the ability to bring a case to review an undeclared war," Turley said. "The framers were very practical men, they would not have created such an important condition in Article I and left it so that it cannot be enforced.
"The court’s going to have to deal with this issue," Turley added. "We can’t possibly have one of the most important parts of the Constitution as an aspirational statement without enforceability."
2) Boehner warns of possible War Powers Resolution violation over Libya
Deirdre Walsh and Tom Cohen, CNN, June 15, 2011
Washington (CNN) — The Obama administration could be in violation of the War Powers Resolution if it fails to get congressional authorization by Sunday for U.S. participation in the Libya military mission, House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday.
In a letter to President Barack Obama that his aides made public, Boehner, R-Ohio, complained that the administration has failed to address questions about the mission that were in a House resolution passed June 3. That resolution set a two-week deadline for a response.
Boehner’s letter reiterated the Friday deadline and took the additional step of warning that a failure to respond could violate the War Powers Resolution.
According to Boehner, a 90-day deadline for congressional authorization of the Libya mission expires Sunday.
"It would appear that, in five days, the administration will be in violation of the War Powers Resolution unless it asks for and receives authorization from Congress or withdraws all U.S. troops and resources from the mission," Boehner’s letter said.
3) War Powers Act Does Not Apply to Libya, Obama Argues
Charlie Savage, New York Times, June 15, 2011
Washington – The White House is telling Congress that President Obama has the legal authority to continue American participation in the NATO-led air war in Libya, even though lawmakers have not authorized it.
In a broader package of materials the Obama administration is sending to Congress on Wednesday defending its Libya policy, the White House, for the first time, offers lawmakers and the public an argument for why Mr. Obama has not been violating the War Powers Resolution since May 20.
On that day, the Vietnam-era law’s 60-day deadline for terminating unauthorized hostilities appeared to pass. But the White House argued that the activities of United States military forces in Libya do not amount to full-blown "hostilities" at the level necessary to involve the section of the War Powers Resolution that imposes the deadline.
"We are acting lawfully," said Harold Koh, the State Department legal adviser, who expanded on the administration’s reasoning in a joint interview with White House Counsel Robert Bauer.
The two senior administration lawyers contended that American forces have not been in "hostilities" at least since April 7, when NATO took over leadership in maintaining a no-flight zone in Libya, and the United States took up what is mainly a supporting role – providing surveillance and refueling for allied warplanes – although unmanned drones operated by the United States periodically fire missiles as well.
They argued that United States forces are at little risk in the operation because there are no American troops on the ground and Libyan forces are unable to exchange meaningful fire with American forces. They said that there was little risk of the military mission escalating, because it is constrained by the United Nations Security Council resolution that authorized use of air power to defend civilians.
"We are not saying the president can take the country into war on his own," Mr. Koh said. "We are not saying the War Powers Resolution is unconstitutional or should be scrapped, or that we can refuse to consult Congress. We are saying the limited nature of this particular mission is not the kind of ‘hostilities’ envisioned by the War Powers Resolution."
The administration unveiled its argument at a time when members of Congress have shown increasing skepticism about the Libya operation. On June 3, the House of Representatives passed a resolution declaring that the mission had not been authorized.
On Wednesday, the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, Republican of Ohio, sent Mr. Obama a letter pointing out that even under a flexible interpretation of War Powers Resolution that would allow hostilities to last 90 days without Congressional authorization, Mr. Obama was out of time. Mr. Boehner demanded a legal explanation by Friday.
[…] Either way, because the War Powers Resolution does not include a definition of "hostilities" and the Supreme Court has never ruled on the issue, the legal debate is likely to be resolved politically, said Rick Pildes, a New York University law professor.
"There is no clear legal answer," he said. "The president is taking a position, so the question is whether Congress accepts that position, or doesn’t accept that position and wants to insist that the operation can’t continue without affirmative authorization from Congress."
Ten members of Congress – led by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio, and Rep. Walter Jones, Republican of North Carolina – filed a lawsuit on Weednesday asking a judge to order Mr. Obama to stop the air war. The suit asserts that the operation is illegal because Congress did not authorize it. That lawsuit faces steep challenges, however, because courts in the past have dismissed similar cases on technical grounds.
The administration had earlier argued that Mr. Obama could initiate the intervention in Libya on his own authority as commander-in-chief because it was not a "war" in the constitutional sense. It also released a memorandum by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel agreeing that he could do so unilaterally because he anticipated that its nature, scope, and duration would be limited.
Since then, the conflict in Libya has dragged on longer than expected, and the goal of the NATO allies has all but openly shifted from merely defending civilians to forcing the Libyan dictator, Col. Muammar Qaddafi, from power. But Mr. Koh and Mr. Bauer said that while regime change in Libya may be a diplomatic goal, the military mission is separate, and remains limited to protecting civilians.
The administration legal team considered other approaches, including a proposal to stop the use of armed drones after May 20 in order to bolster the case that United States forces were no longer engaged in hostilities. But the White House ultimately decided not to make any changes in the military mission.
While many presidents have challenged the constitutionality of other aspects of the War Powers Resolution – which Congress enacted over President Nixon’s veto – no administration has said that the section imposing the 60-day clock was unconstitutional. In 1980,the Office of Legal Counsel concluded that it was within Congress’s constitutional power to enact such a limit on unauthorized hostilities.
Mr. Bauer and Mr. Koh said the 1980 memorandum remains in force, but that their legal argument does not invoke any constitutional challenge to the act.
It was not clear whether the Office of Legal Counsel has endorsed the White House’s interpretation of what "hostilities" means. Mr. Bauer declined to say whether the office had signed off on the theory, saying he would not discuss inter-agency deliberations.
Mr. Koh argued that the administration’s interpretation of the word was not unprecedented, noting that there have been previous disputes about whether the 60-day-clock portion of the War Powers Resolution applied to deployments where – unlike the Libya operation – there were troops on the ground and Americans suffered casualties.
Still, such previous cases typically involved peacekeeping missions in which the United States had been invited to take part, and there were only infrequent outbreaks of violence, like those in Lebanon, Somalia and Bosnia. Libya, by contrast, is an offensive mission involving sustained bombardment of a government’s forces.
The closest precedent was the NATO-led air war over Kosovo in 1999. In that case, the Clinton administration’s legal team characterized the campaign, which involved many piloted American warplanes, as "hostilities" even though there was little exchange of fire from Serb forces after their air defenses were destroyed and there were no United States casualties.
In Kosovo, however, Congress appropriated specific funds for the mission before 60 days had passed. The Clinton administration decided that by providing the money, Congress had satisfied the requirements of the War Powers Resolution.
4) Senators Call on President to Shift Strategy in Afghanistan
Bipartisan Group Urges Accelerated Transition of Forces
Office of Senator Jeff Merkley, June 15, 2011
Washington – U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Tom Udall (D-NM) and 24 other senators sent a letter to President Obama today calling for a shift in strategy in Afghanistan ahead of next month’s announced deadline to begin an accelerated transition to Afghan security forces. In the letter, the senators urge the President to use the deadline as an opportunity to begin a "sizable and sustained" drawdown of troops that puts the U.S. on a path toward removing all regular combat troops from the country.
Along with Merkley, Lee and Udall, the following senators have signed on to the letter: Max Baucus (D-MT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Patty Murray (D-WA), Rand Paul (R-KY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
In their letter, the senators noted that the primary objectives for U.S. involvement in Afghanistan have been largely met – including the removal of the Taliban government that sheltered al Qaeda, the killing of Osama bin Laden and the disruption of terrorist networks allied with Al Qaeda and those who planned the Sept. 11th attacks on the United States. Noting those successes and the ability to pursue counter-terrorism and humanitarian goals without a massive nation-building effort, the senators wrote, "the costs of prolonging the war far outweigh the benefits. It is time for the United States to shift course in Afghanistan."
"We urge you to follow through on the pledge you made to the American people to begin redeployment of U.S. forces from Afghanistan this summer, and to do so in a manner that is sizable and sustained, and includes combat troops as well as logistical and support forces. We look forward to working with you to pursue a strategy in Afghanistan that makes our nation stronger and more secure," the letter says.
5) Chris Coons Calls For A Change Of Strategy In Afghanistan
Amanda Terkel, Huffington Post, 06/14/11
Washington — Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) is calling for a change of strategy in Afghanistan, arguing the current course is unsustainable and the military needs to refocus its efforts on a counterterrorism approach.
In an op-ed running on Wednesday in the Wilmington, Del., News Journal, Coons says the July drawdown should be "the beginning of a new, more targeted counter-terrorism strategy that more wisely focuses our military and diplomatic resources on defending America’s security interests."
[…] The Delaware Democrat made clear that he supports a substantial withdrawal of troops in July. But Coons thinks the current debate is too focused on the size of the withdrawal and not enough on what the strategy will look like afterward.
"How many troops will be there in 2015 or 2016? How much will we be spending in 2012 or 2013?," he asked. "Those will be driven by strategy."
6) Candidates Show G.O.P. Less United On Goals Of War
Jeff Zeleny, New York Times, June 14, 2011
Derry, N.H. – The hawkish consensus on national security that has dominated Republican foreign policy for the last decade is giving way to a more nuanced view, with some presidential candidates expressing a desire to withdraw from Afghanistan as quickly as possible and suggesting that the United States has overreached in Libya.
The shift, while incremental so far, appears to mark a separation from a post-Sept. 11 posture in which Republicans were largely united in supporting an aggressive use of American power around the world. A new debate over the costs and benefits of deploying the military reflects the length of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the difficulty of building functional governments and the financial burden at home in a time of extreme fiscal pressure.
The evolution also highlights a renewed streak of isolationism among Republicans, which has been influenced by the rise of the Tea Party movement and a growing sense that the United States can no longer afford to intervene in clashes everywhere.
The killing of Osama bin Laden has intensified questions about the need for prolonged American involvement in fighting Al Qaeda.
The evolution of thinking inside the party is coming into view as Republicans begin sorting through their field of candidates to select a nominee to challenge President Obama, who faces a decision this summer about a troop withdrawal in Afghanistan. It could leave some of the party’s presidential candidates at odds with its most influential voices on foreign policy, like Senator John McCain of Arizona, who continues to call for an aggressive military effort to stabilize Afghanistan.
Jon M. Huntsman Jr., a former governor of Utah who just finished a two-year stint as ambassador to China in the Obama administration, said Tuesday that the cost of a continued military presence was a leading factor in his belief that a major troop drawdown should begin in Afghanistan.
Mr. Huntsman, who has said he would make his candidacy official next Tuesday, said a force of about 15,000 troops should be left behind for anti-terrorism efforts, but added: "There’s the desire on the part of most Americans to begin phasing out as quickly as possible."
"This would mean that the very expensive boots on the ground may be something that is not critical for our national security needs," Mr. Huntsman said in a brief interview. "Nor is it something we can afford at this point in our economic history. I think most Americans would say it’s probably a good transition point."
Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, said in the Republican presidential debate Monday night that it was "time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can," consistent with the advice of commanders about their ability to hand off control of regions to Afghan security forces without risking a return of the Taliban.
"But I also think we’ve learned that our troops shouldn’t go off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation," he said. "Only the Afghanis can win Afghanistan’s independence from the Taliban."
On Tuesday, Mr. Romney sought to draw a distinction between his thinking and that of Mr. Huntsman and others who say the financial cost should be a big factor in the calculation. "There will be some who argue it’s too expensive now, we’ve got to bring the troops home right now, or others will say, politically we need to make one decision or another," Mr. Romney said here. "You don’t make a decision about our involvement in a conflict based on dollars and cents alone or certainly not with regards to politics."
Tim Pawlenty, a former governor of Minnesota, said that conditions on the ground and the advice of military commanders – not the cost – should guide decisions about Afghanistan troop levels.
"We have to remember why we invaded the country in the first place," Mr. Pawlenty said, adding that the security level was not yet sufficient for a full withdrawal. But he said, "Our mission in Afghanistan is not to stay there forever or to stay there for 10 more years to rebuild their country."
The array of Republican viewpoints, which have drawn new lines among neo-conservatives, Tea Party supporters, traditional hawks and other elements of the party, were on display during the first major presidential debate on Monday night, as the candidates started to mull the limits of American power at a time when some of the threats to the nation are less clear and its willingness to commit resources of all kinds is being looked at anew.
Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the decision by Mr. Obama to involve the United States military in the effort to dislodge Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi from power in Libya was "substantially flawed" and did not meet the criteria of protecting the national interest. "We were not attacked," Ms. Bachmann said. "We were not threatened with attack."
Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker, assailed American intelligence in the region, calling it "so inadequate that we have no idea what percent of the Libyan rebels are in fact Al Qaeda." At the same time, Mr. Gingrich said "the price tag’s always a factor" when deciding to engage in military action.
Four years ago, Representative Ron Paul of Texas was the only Republican presidential candidate raising concerns about the cost of the war and urging a drawdown in troops. His positions, embraced by libertarians, are still outside the mainstream of many Republicans, but he is no longer standing alone in his call for a new stance toward foreign policy.
7) House panel approves defense bill, imposes limits on aid to Pakistan
Associated Press, June 14
Washington – Frustrated with Pakistan’s fight in the war on terrorism and the long-running war in Afghanistan, a House panel on Tuesday approved a defense spending bill that would impose limits on U.S. aid to Islamabad and would create a special bipartisan group to examine America’s future role in the conflict.
By voice vote, the House Appropriations Committee approved the legislation that would provide $530 billion to the Pentagon and $119 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill is $9 billion less than President Barack Obama requested.
The bill provides the money for the military’s ships, aircraft, tanks and personnel, and largely tracks the defense blueprint that the House approved last month. It reflects both the war fatigue even among the most hawkish lawmakers and the widespread doubts about Pakistan’s reliability in counter-terrorism. The U.S. raid and killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan has left many lawmakers questioning Islamabad’s eagerness and whether billions in American financial assistance is being wasted.
The defense spending bill would withhold 75 percent of the $1.1 billion in U.S. aid to Pakistan until the administration reports to Congress on how it would spend the money. The committee on Tuesday went a step further, adopting an amendment by Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., that would give Congress 30 days to review the report before deciding whether the money should be spent.
Pakistan’s "performance or non-performance rubs a lot of people the wrong way," Flake said. The panel approved the amendment by voice vote.
With the Afghanistan war approaching its 10th year, sentiment is growing in Congress for the U.S. to speed up the withdrawal of the 100,000 American troops in the country. The committee adopted an amendment by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., that would create an Afghanistan-Pakistan Study Group, a bipartisan organization to conduct an independent assessment of the conflict and U.S. interests.
The group would be modeled on the Iraq Study Group, the blue-ribbon panel that in 2006 called for a gradual troop pullback and stepped-up diplomacy to help extricate the United States from Iraq. "We basically need fresh eyes," Wolf said.
In a fresh sign of the war weariness, Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington state, the top Democrat on the Appropriations defense subcommittee who consistently has stood with the White House on national security, said the administration "has to accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan." Dicks said the question is whether the nation helps its citizens or "does nation building."
The death of bin Laden and the billions of dollars in foreign aid as the nation struggles economically have provided impetus to the push to move out troops from Afghanistan.
"Although we are engaged in wars on several fronts, there is also a battle being waged at home – against skyrocketing, dangerous deficits," said Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the Appropriations Committee. "No bill or department should be immune from scrutiny during these difficult financial times."
8) Exit Afghanistan, Save $2 Billion A Week
Carolyn Eisenberg , Letter to the Editor, Washington Post, June 14
[Eisenberg is co-chair of United for Peace and Justice’s legislative working group.]
Regarding the June 12 editorial "The Afghan withdrawal":
If the Obama administration accepts the advice of The Post’s editorial board, we can look forward to the same yearly report: commendable progress on the ground, but gains that are "fragile and reversible." After 10 years of war, the reason should be obvious. The United States is trying to impose its principles, institutions and values on a foreign country with a dramatically different history, geography and culture.
So long as American troops continue to patrol large areas of Afghanistan, they exercise a modicum of control, but it is a fair guess that once they leave, the people who live there might make different choices about their situation.
Does this mean that "extremist forces" will take over the country or that this takeover "would impose huge costs on the United States?" These dangers are routinely invoked to silence dissent. But they are purely speculative. What is not speculative are the existing costs, including the rising casualties among Afghan civilians and our own soldiers, the destabilization of Pakistan and the $2 billion dollars a week that we urgently need at home.
Compared with the overall deficit, this amount may seem a pittance – but it is not to people who need the schools, day-care centers, health-care facilities, housing, public transportation and other services that are being cut back all across this country.
9) AFL-CIO to campaign hard against Colombia trade deal. The Hill
Kevin Bogardus, The Hill, 06/14/11 01:10 PM ET
The AFL-CIO will launch a campaign this week to try and stop the pending trade deal between the United States and Colombia.
The nation’s largest labor federation has planned several events in hopes of convincing Congress to reject the agreement. Trade unionists from Colombia will travel to Washington to discuss the country’s poor record of violence against labor organizers with members of Congress.
On Tuesday, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) will release a report on Telefonica, a major phone provider in Colombia, which the union says will show problems with the trade deal. On Wednesday, the AFL-CIO will unveil a print ad campaign blasting the trade agreement.
And on Thursday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, CWA President Larry Cohen and several lawmakers will host a press conference to talk about violence against Colombia trade unionists.
The AFL-CIO campaign comes as the Obama administration continues to push for passage of the trade deal. On Monday, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced that Colombia had met another set of milestones outlined under the labor action plan the country agreed to with the administration.
That labor action plan is designed to improve the country’s labor rights record as a precursor to approval of the pact by Congress.
The AFL-CIO, however, has said that the plan is not enough and that Colombia should not be rewarded with a trade deal.
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