Just Foreign Policy News
June 17, 2010
Guam: Self-Determination, or More U.S. Troops?
We rarely discuss the fact that there are places in the world that are actual U.S. colonies. A small corrective is being offered as part of Asian Pacific Heritage Month by PBS, which is webcasting Vanessa Warheit’s documentary, The Insular Empire: America in the Mariana Islands, until next Sunday, June 20.
Independent journalists dismantling Israel’s hold on media narrative
Abraham Greenhouse and Nora Barrows-Friedman review the evidence that independent journalists have put forward undermining the Israeli government narrative of its attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.
Video: Courage Makes Appearance in Congress
Rep. Chellie Pingree challenges Petraeus: "I disagree with you, basically, on the premise that our continued military presence in Afghanistan actually strengthens our national security."
Is "South of the Border" coming to your town?
Oliver Stone’s powerful new documentary about progressive change in Latin America opens in the US this month. JFP President Mark Weisbrot co-wrote the script. http://southoftheborderdoc.com/in-theatres/
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1) Afghan officials and former Taliban leaders say the Taliban are putting out feelers in response to the government’s recent peace jirga, the New York Times reports. Two former Taliban leaders said the Taliban have been encouraged by signs of progress on removing some of their names from a UN blacklist, as well as by indications that the government may speed up the release of Taliban detainees. In Wardak Province last week, Agriculture Ministry extension workers reported that they were told by Taliban insurgents that they could carry on their work. "This is very significant," said Farouk Wardak, the minister of education. He said the episode was taken as a positive signal from the insurgents. "The Taliban told the workers to go back and tell government officials that we won’t bother you, if you’re honest and don’t bring foreigners," Hotak said. "I consider this as a very good sign, especially to come such a short time after the jirga."
2) House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey served notice that he would withhold action on Obama’s new war funding until the dust clears on domestic spending issues, the Politico reports. He said he would withhold action on the war funds until there was some resolution on a major economic relief bill extending jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and popular tax breaks for individuals and businesses.
3) House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer hinted that Democratic support for the war in Afghanistan is eroding, The Hill reports. Hoyer said the war supplemental spending bill would be "subject to moving" as soon as it is "ready to go," which could be as early as this week. But Hoyer would not say if the votes would be there when the roll is called.
4) At the ICC’s review conference, delegates decided to expand the international court’s purview to include the crime of aggression [invading other people’s countries – JFP], despite the vehement opposition of the US, the Christian Science Monitor reports. [It’s positive that the CSM reports on the dispute at all, unlike much of the U.S. media, but unfortunately the article confines itself to a dispute between the Administration and the Heritage Foundation about whether the US has the correct strategy to oppose ICC jurisdiction, and doesn’t cite a single source in favor of the change – or of the idea that the US should be accountable – JFP.]
5) Israel will ease much of its land blockade of Gaza, the Guardian reports. The new arrangements are expected to include a list of prohibited goods not allowed into Gaza, replacing the current system of a list of approved goods, and agreement to allow construction materials for UN-sponsored projects. An Israeli official told AP all foods would be freely let in to Gaza with immediate effect. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Israel must "make sure that many, many more goods can get in to Gaza to enable people to reconstruct their homes, to build schools, to place infrastructure, and also enable people to get on with ordinary lives". Oxfam welcomed the move, but said: "The international community must press for the blockade to be fully lifted, rather than only eased."
6) A new coalition initiative to lure Afghan insurgents away from the battlefield allows the Taliban to keep their weapons if they sign on to a government peace plan, the Wall Street Journal reports.The new program would let insurgents keep weapons to provide security for their own communities, said British Maj. Gen. Philip Jones, who directs the reintegration effort for the NATO. "Disarming people and leaving them naked, particularly where security is thin, you have to be pragmatic about this," he said.
7) Amidst the clamor about the deficit, the largest category of discretionary spending has largely escaped scrutiny: military spending, writes Joshua Green in the Boston Globe. The Sustainable Defense Task Force has proposed nearly $1 trillion in military cuts, and is lobbying the president’s Deficit Reduction Commission to do what Obama wouldn’t: consider military cuts.
8) Powerful leaders in the American Jewish community have stepped forward to acknowledge the 1915 Armenian Genocide, notes Mark Arax in Salon. This sudden embrace of the Armenian Genocide marks a shameless turnaround for the major American Jewish organizations: for decades, they helped Turkey cover up its murderous past. Each year, the Israel lobby has played a quiet but pivotal role in pressuring Congress, the State Department and successive presidents to defeat congressional resolutions commemorating the 1.5 million Armenian victims. Genocide denial is not a pretty thing, they now concede, but they did it for Israel. They did it out of gratitude for Turkey being Israel’s one and only Muslim ally. Israel and Turkey are locked in a feud over the Palestine-bound flotilla. So the Armenian Genocide has become a new weapon in the hands of Israel and its supporters in the U.S. Arax recounts that when he was researching a report for the Los Angeles Times – a story the LAT killed in a transparently political decision – ADL chief Abraham Foxman was blunt: "Our focus is Israel," he explained. "If helping Turkey helps Israel, then that’s what we’re in the business of doing." "Was it genocide?" Foxman said. "It was wartime. Things get messy."
9) Writing in Business Insider, Louis James of the investment advising company Casey Research says the New York Times had no basis for reporting a figure of $1 trillion for the economic value of mineral deposits in Afghanistan. No responsible geologist would circulate a valuation figure at this stage of the process in Afghanistan. In fact, if a public company put out a press release like this story in the NYT, the exchange would likely reprimand them severely and require a retraction.
10) There has never been a shred of hard evidence offered to back up the assertion of electoral fraud in the June 12, 2009, presidential election in Iran, write Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett in Foreign Policy. But U.S. journalists and commentators largely succeeded in turning the notion of a fraudulent election in Iran into a "social fact" in the US, like the myths about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. Such misinterpretation has had a deeply corrosive effect on the debate about America’s Iran policy.
1) Ex-Taliban Leaders See Hopeful Signs for Talks
Rod Nordland and Carlotta Gall, New York Times, June 15, 2010
Kabul, Afghanistan – Despite their hard-line public stance and continued attacks, the Taliban are quietly putting out tentative feelers in response to the government’s recent peace jirga, according to Afghan government officials and two former Taliban political leaders.
While it was under way, the Taliban attacked the consultative peace jirga, or council, which ended June 6, both with rockets and through denunciations. Many political opponents doubted that the jirga would be successful, because insurgents had not been included. Publicly, the insurgents insist that they reject the effort to start talks.
But the two former Taliban leaders, who both are known to maintain contacts with the insurgents, said in interviews on Monday and Tuesday that the Taliban have been encouraged by signs of progress on removing some of their names from a United Nations blacklist, as well as by indications that the government may speed up the release of Taliban detainees.
Meanwhile, insurgents in troubled areas of Wardak Province said they would no longer attack government officials there as long as they were not working with the NATO coalition, according to a prominent Afghan official, who, like others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.
The official said Afghan officials had taken the gesture as a hopeful sign, even though Wardak has had a recent increase in insurgent activity, as well as possible infiltration by fighters from Al Qaeda and Arab fighters, and violence and threats continued elsewhere in the country.
Calling for an end to the blacklist and the release of detainees were two of the decisions made by the consultative peace jirga. A visit this week by a United Nations delegation to review the list was received favorably by Taliban leaders as evidence of good faith, said Mullah Arsala Rahmani, who is one of 137 Taliban figures on the list.
"The blacklist will be a start," said Mullah Rahmani, now an Afghan senator and formerly the minister of higher education under the Taliban government. "It is symbolically very important. Even if they only remove 60 or 70 names, that would be enough. The next step could be talks between government and Taliban representatives in some neutral country." He suggested either Turkey or Saudi Arabia would be likely locations.
Hajji Musa Hotak, the former Taliban planning minister and now a member of the Afghan Parliament from Wardak Province, who was one of the first five Taliban figures to be removed from the United Nations blacklist last January, concurred. "I have heard the same thing," he said. "If the government fulfills their promises on the blacklist and the prisoner releases, we are ready to take part in negotiations." Mr. Hotak added that he had heard that seven names were under consideration for being taken off the list, and said, "Even that would be a start."
[…] The Taliban’s official spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, reached by telephone on Tuesday, repeated his denunciation of the jirga and dismissed the diplomatic activity concerning the blacklist. "This is not the way to make the Taliban leadership agree to negotiate," he said. "U.N. mediation can only work if the foreigners end their occupation of the country first."
A third former Taliban leader, Mullah Abdul Salam Rocketi, who had been a corps commander under the Taliban and now lives in Kabul, also predicted that taking names off the blacklist could help start negotiations, although he said he was no longer in touch with the insurgents.
"This is their policy, to play a double game, telling people you’re going one way when in fact you’re going another," he said of the insurgents. "All they’re waiting for is a green light from the Americans and if they get it, they would change 180 degrees tomorrow." By "green light," he said, he meant action on the blacklist.
The United States and other permanent members of the Security Council could veto any proposed changes to the list.
[…] In Wardak Province last week, Agriculture Ministry extension workers in three districts – Chak, Jalrez and Sayedabad – reported that they had been contacted in person by Taliban insurgents, officials said. They expected to be attacked, but instead were told by the insurgents that they could carry on their work.
"This is very significant," said Farouk Wardak, the minister of education and a confidant of President Hamid Karzai, who had organized the peace jirga. He said the episode was discussed in a cabinet meeting and taken as a positive signal from the insurgents. "The Taliban told the workers to go back and tell government officials that we won’t bother you, if you’re honest and don’t bring foreigners," Mr. Hotak said. "I consider this as a very good sign, especially to come such a short time after the jirga."
Threats persisted elsewhere, however. In eastern Ghazni Province, the governor, Mohammad Musa Akbarzada, confirmed that the Taliban on Monday night distributed leaflets, known as night letters, warning government workers to leave their jobs within five days or be punished or killed.
Mullah Rahmani, the senator, said that the Taliban leadership "still does not believe or trust in the current government," but that movement on the blacklist would give Mr. Karzai more credibility with the insurgents. Mullah Rahmani himself had been visited by the United Nations delegation shortly before giving the interview, and he said it was the first time he had ever met with them concerning his own case.
2) Obey Slows War Funding
Obama letter stalls war funding
David Rogers, Politico, 6/16/10
[…] Talks were under way Tuesday to extricate the administration by coming up with offsets to pay for new education assistance to avert teacher layoffs this fall. At the same time, renewed efforts began to salvage a $24 billion package of state Medicaid assistance, even if it means paring back a proposed 18-month fix of Medicare reimbursements for physicians.
The backdrop in both cases is a Saturday night letter from Obama calling for action on education and Medicaid assistance but giving no direction on how to pay for them – or how to win support in a deficit-conscious Congress. Leaked in advance to the Sunday newspapers, the letter caught party leaders by surprise, and with Obama largely absent from both fights to date, it was widely seen by Democrats as more political showmanship at their expense by the administration.
Clearly annoyed, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called White House congressional liaison Phil Schiliro to her office Monday, and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey served notice that he would withhold action on Obama’s new war funding until the dust clears on domestic spending issues.
"It was a good and constructive meeting," Schiliro said of his session with Pelosi. But the speaker’s good friend, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) bluntly accused the White House of looking for political cover now, having come late to the fight of averting what many think will be a wave of public employee layoffs as state budget cuts hit home before November’s elections. "So what is this, ‘We asked Congress to do this in June’?" Miller said to POLITICO, referring to the Obama letter. "Well, we asked them to do it in December."
Obey has been central to the fight over education aid and, in an interview, drew a direct link between war funding and progress on domestic priorities. He said he would withhold action on the war funds until there was some resolution on a major economic relief bill extending jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and popular tax breaks for individuals and businesses.
[…] "I want to wait until the extenders bill is resolved," Obey told POLITICO of the separate war funding measure. "All I can do is sit and wait until reality strikes home, and then maybe we’ll get somewhere."
3) After Setbacks, Hoyer Hints Dems’ Support For Afghanistan Is Slipping
Jared Allen and Roxana Tiron, The Hill, 06/15/10 08:14 PM ET
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday confirmed that Democrats have "significant" concerns about the direction of the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan, and hinted that party support for the conflict is eroding.
The majority leader has been one of the most ardent supporters of President Barack Obama’s handling of the war on terror and military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. At the same time, Hoyer acknowledged that a series of recent setbacks on the ground in Afghanistan has taken its toll on House Democrats as a whole.
[…] A growing chorus of Democrats – many of whom supported Obama’s Afghanistan plan in a March vote in the House – have begun to share the concerns of their liberal colleagues, who have long argued that the United States is playing against a stacked deck of political corruption and unwinnable fights against insurgent strongholds. Hoyer confirmed that concern is spreading through the Democratic Caucus.
[…] Hoyer said the war supplemental spending bill would be "subject to moving" as soon as it is "ready to go," which could be as early as this week, and affirmed his support for the spending levels Obama requested. "I think the president’s plan has had – relatively speaking – very significant success, relative to the Bush administration," Hoyer said. "And that’s good news."
But the No. 2 House Democrat would not say if the votes would be there when the roll is called. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has not shied away from saying publicly that she will not whip Democrats on further war supplementals, describing such votes as "votes of conscience."
4) US Opposes ICC Bid To Make ‘Aggression’ A Crime Under International Law
The Obama administration has resisted efforts by the International Criminal Court to include ‘aggression’ as a crime, mainly because it could impact US military operations abroad.
Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor, June 15, 2010
Washington – The United States under the Obama administration has developed an increasingly close working relationship with the International Criminal Court in The Hague. But that growing engagement with a controversial institution of international law was unable to prevent the ICC from expanding the scope of its work to include the murky crime of "aggression," a move the US had vehemently opposed.
At the 111-nation ICC’s first review conference that wrapped up last week in Kampala, Uganda, delegates decided to expand the international court’s purview to include the crime of aggression – a crime that only the US has successfully tried, in the post-World War II tribunals in Nuremburg and Tokyo.
State Department officials say the US, which is not a signatory to the ICC, was able to mitigate the drawbacks of such an expansion of the court’s reach, primarily by putting off any prosecution of the newest international crime until at least 2017.
[…] The US confirmed its new footing with the world’s first permanent court for trying war crimes and crimes against humanity, US officials say, although they acknowledge that the US did not get everything it wanted in Kampala. The Rome Statute establishing the ICC was finalized in 1998, but the court did not begin to function until 2002, when the minimum 60 countries ratified it.
US participation in the Kampala conference "reset US relations with the court from hostility to positive engagement," says State Department legal adviser Harold Koh. He says the US focus at the review conference was on efforts to "strengthen justice on the ground" in countries so that eventually their judicial systems will be strong enough to take on the kinds of human-rights work the ICC addresses. Mr. Koh says that focus was particularly well-received in Africa, "where there is a strong desire to have these cases tried at the national level."
Some ICC critics have also noted that the court has only taken up two cases so far, both involving African countries – one involving the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, and the other regarding Sudan – and they dismiss the largely European-Union funded court as a colonial institution pressing Western interests.
But the US increasingly sees the value of the ICC, especially as it has tried cases that begged for international intervention. "If it weren’t for the ICC [in cases like Sudan or Uganda] you would have had to set up a special tribunal," says Stephen Rapp, the State Department’s coordinator for war crimes issues.
One of the main US concerns in seeing "aggression" added to the ICC’s jurisdiction was the impact it could potentially have on US military operations abroad. But Koh says the US successfully negotiated the "aggression" statute’s wording so that US forces won’t be susceptible to it. "No US national can be prosecuted for ‘aggression’ while the US is not a signatory" to the ICC, he says.
5) Israel to ease Gaza blockade
Human rights groups say measures do not go far enough
Construction materials among products to be allowed in Harriet Sherwood, Guardian, Thursday 17 June 2010
Israel will ease much of its land blockade of the Gaza Strip, it was revealed today. The Israeli government is hoping to silence growing international criticism following the assault on a flotilla of aid ships bound for Gaza in which nine activists were killed.
A statement from the office of the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said Israeli leaders decided today to expand the number of products Israel will allow into Gaza, including construction materials. The naval blockade will remain.
"It was agreed to liberalise the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza [and] expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision," the statement, which did not specify any product list, read.
The new arrangements, decided upon in a series of meetings between the Middle East Quartet envoy, Tony Blair, and Netanyahu, are expected to cover three areas:
– A list of prohibited goods not allowed into Gaza, replacing the current system of a list of approved goods
– Agreement to allow construction materials for UN-sponsored projects
[…] An Israeli military official told the Associated Press that all foods would be freely let in to Gaza with immediate effect. Israel has previously allowed a narrow and constantly changing list of authorised food items.
[…] The EU said the Israeli announcement was "a step in the right direction", but the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said officials wanted to see how it was carried out, adding: "The detail is what matters." She said Israel must "make sure that many, many more goods can get in to Gaza to enable people to reconstruct their homes, to build schools, to place infrastructure, and also enable people to get on with ordinary lives".
Oxfam welcomed the move, but described it as "a far cry from the full lifting of the blockade that is urgently needed".
"Only a full opening of all crossings to people and goods, including exports, can be the breakthrough that will enable Gazan civilians to restore their economy and escape the poverty the blockade has entrenched," a statement read. "The international community must press for the blockade to be fully lifted, rather than only eased."
Gisha, an Israeli human rights organisation, questioned whether the blockade had been effective. "The time has come for Israel to ask serious questions about how three years of closure have promoted the goals it declared for itself and what has been the effect on 1.5 million people whose right to travel and to engage in productive work has been denied," the organisation said. "We don’t need cosmetic changes. We need a policy that recognises the rights of Palestinian residents of Gaza not just to consume but also to produce and to travel."
Salam Kanaan of Save the Children UK said Gazan families should be allowed to move freely across the border. "Save the Children would welcome any increase in urgently needed supplies into Gaza. More nutritious food, medical supplies and building materials in particular will make a significant difference to the quality of life of children living there," he said.
"But simply easing the blockade by allowing more goods in is not enough. What about sick children who need life-saving medical attention out of Gaza? Will they and their families be allowed to move freely across the border? Family businesses, orchards and crops have been destroyed by years of conflict and three years of life under a strict blockade. The people of Gaza need to start rebuilding their destroyed economy by exporting their goods out."
6) Taliban Can Keep Weapons Under New Peace Initiative
Maria Abi-Habib, Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2010
Kabul – A new coalition initiative to lure Afghan insurgents away from the battlefield allows the Taliban and other militants to keep their weapons if they sign on to a government peace plan, a senior coalition official said.
Instead of disarming insurgents who agree to stop fighting, the new program would let them keep weapons to provide security for their own communities, said British Maj. Gen. Philip Jones, who directs the reintegration effort for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. "Disarming people and leaving them naked, particularly where security is thin, you have to be pragmatic about this," he said.
Gen. Jones said the plan-an Afghan-led initiative that is backed and largely funded by NATO-reflects a "moral dilemma," because it means the coalition is relying on former insurgents to provide security in some parts of the country.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to sign a decree launching a reintegration program featuring the weapons initiative after he returns from a trip to Japan that started on Wednesday, Gen. Jones said.
[…] "Afghans feel the need to protect their own communities," said John Dempsey, a rule of law adviser for the U.S. Institute for Peace. "Virtually every Afghan household has a weapon and it will be difficult to get them to turn those over in light of a vacuum of security."
7) The Military Money Pit
Joshua Green, Boston Globe, June 17, 2010
Brooding over the deficit is Washington’s civil religion, and as the budget gap exploded over the last two years, we’ve witnessed a revival. From the Tea Party to the White House, the deficit is a driving concern. Fear of adding to it has thwarted Democratic efforts at another stimulus. Anger over it could determine who controls Congress. No force in politics is more powerful.
So it’s odd that the largest category of discretionary spending has largely escaped scrutiny: military spending. In January, when President Obama proposed a three-year freeze in discretionary spending, he pointedly exempted the military. Last week, a bipartisan group of legislators and policy experts asked an important question: Why?
The group, The Sustainable Defense Task Force, encompasses the political spectrum – from Barney Frank, on the left, to Ron Paul, on the right – along with a host of military reformers. They share a belief that unrestrained military spending is a danger to the budget, and to the country. And they make a persuasive case that we can spend less without sacrificing security.
Today, the United States spends more on its military than during the height of the Cold War. The Soviet Union no longer poses a threat, yet we continue to spend huge sums protecting countries in Europe and Asia. This defense subsidy allows Europeans to provide a level of social welfare far in excess of what the United States offers its citizens. If Germany, France, and Britain bore more of their own defense costs, US tax dollars could go elsewhere, or nowhere.
Overpriced, underperforming weapons systems are a hardy Washington perennial also ripe for the cutting. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, and the V-22 Osprey – all identified as potential cost savings in the task force report – have been targeted by reformers for years. No less a hawk than Dick Cheney has pronounced the V-22 "a turkey." That we continue paying for these weapons makes even less sense now that terrorists, not communists, are the enemy.
[…] As budget pressure grows, the nearly $1 trillion in military cuts proposed by the task force could look appealing. One way of getting this done is through the president’s Deficit Reduction Commission, which will recommend a package of cuts to Congress in December for an up-or-down vote. The Sustainable Defense Task Force is lobbying the commission to do what Obama wouldn’t: consider military cuts, and in the context of the entire federal budget. Members like Frank and Paul say they’ll vote against any package that doesn’t, and encourage congressional colleagues to do likewise.
8) Suddenly, the Israel lobby discovers a genocide
I once tried to blow the whistle on the Israel lobby’s denial of the Armenian Genocide – and I had to leave my job
Mark Arax, Salon, Wednesday, Jun 16, 2010
Some of the most powerful leaders in the American Jewish community have stepped forward in recent days to acknowledge the 1915 Armenian Genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turkey.
On the surface, this would seem unremarkable. As victims of the Holocaust, Jews might be expected to stand beside the Armenians and their tragedy. After all, the massacres and death marches across Anatolia during the fog of World War I became a model for Hitler himself.
But this sudden embrace of the Armenian Genocide actually marks a shameless turnaround for the major American Jewish organizations. For decades, they have helped Turkey cover up its murderous past. Each year, the Israel lobby in the U.S. has played a quiet but pivotal role in pressuring Congress, the State Department and successive presidents to defeat simple congressional resolutions commemorating the 1.5 million Armenian victims.
Genocide denial is not a pretty thing, they now concede, but they did it for Israel. They did it out of gratitude for Turkey being Israel’s one and only Muslim ally.
Now the game has changed. Israel and Turkey are locked in a feud over the Palestine-bound flotilla that was intercepted on the high seas by Israel. Turkey is outraged over the killing of nine of its citizens on board. Israel is outraged that a country with Turkey’s past would dare judge the morality of the Jewish state.
So the Armenian Genocide has become a new weapon in the hands of Israel and its supporters in the U.S., a way to threaten Turkey, a conniver’s get-even: Hey, Turkey, if you want to play nasty with Israel, if you want to lecture us about violations of human rights, we can easily go the other way on the Armenian Genocide. No more walking the halls of Congress to plead your shameful case.
If I sound cynical about all this, maybe I am. In the spring of 2007, I wrote a story that revealed how genocide denial had become a dirty little pact between Turkey and Israel and its lobby in the U.S. The story, as it turned out, was my last story at the Los Angeles Times, the only story in my 20-year career that was killed on the eve of publication.
[…] None was more blunt than Abraham Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League in New York. The Armenian Genocide had become his own convenient cudgel to keep Turkey in line.
Foxman had just returned from a meeting with Turkish military and government leaders to discuss pressuring Congress, the State Department and President Bush to turn back the genocide resolution once again. "Our focus is Israel," he explained. "If helping Turkey helps Israel, then that’s what we’re in the business of doing."
But such a bottom line would seem an uncomfortable place for a Jewish leader to be when the question was genocide. "Was it genocide?" he said. "It was wartime. Things get messy."
[…] These days, I find myself more than a curious observer of the new cold war that has broken out between Turkey and Israel and its supporters.
What to make of the rush of Jewish leaders – from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington to a city councilman named Jack Weiss in Los Angeles – coming forward in the past few weeks to divulge their role in genocide denial? "Frankly, [it] was not becoming for Jews, given that we have likewise been victims of genocide," Weiss wrote in an inelegant piece in the Jewish Journal.
How to account for these sudden confessions? A pang of remorse? A cleansing of the soul? I’m afraid not. These aren’t confessions, at all. Rather, they are reminders of the debt Turkey owes Israel – and they come with teeth bared. Last week, four Jewish professors from Georgetown and Bar Ilan universities urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide. Take that, Turkey!
How will Ankara react? Will fear of genocide recognition, which it considers a national security issue, eventually cause Turkey to soften its accusations of apartheid against Israel and become a compliant ally again?
And what about the Armenians and their lobby? Aren’t they guilty of their own cynicism for watching the flotilla feud and now thinking that the winds of geopolitics have finally blown their way? Will they cozy up to Jewish leaders suddenly eager to embrace their genocide? Or will they tell them "thanks but no thanks" and join Turkey in standing up for the Palestinian cause? Only next April, the season of the return of the genocide resolution, will tell.
9) Here’s Why The Trillion-Dollar Afghan Mineral Discovery Is Bogus
Louis James, Business Insider, Jun. 14, 2010
[Louis James works for the investment advising company Casey Research.]
People around the globe are reading widely circulated reports today of a tremendous mineral discovery in Afghanistan. Details are sketchy, but many rare and important metals are mentioned, and a potential value of $1 trillion dollars is mentioned in a New York Times story on the subject. This figure, at best, cannot be anything more than the wildest of guesses.
One does not have to be a geologist or an engineer to understand why. When geologists find outcropping mineralization, or other signs that an economic deposit of minerals may be present, that is not called a discovery. Even if the signs come from the latest scientific equipment flown over the country, as the U.S. government appears to have used, the result is still just an anomaly: a hopeful indication of where to look. And anomalies are like opinions: everybody has one.
Once an anomaly is identified, it takes extensive, and very expensive field work to determine the best locations for drilling holes in the ground, which you have to do to calculate a volume of mineralized rock, from which you can estimate the metal contained. It usually takes at least a year, and often several, to identify targets for drilling. And drilling off a deposit of any significant size takes several more years, usually after many false starts and setbacks, because you can’t see through rock and know where the goods are.
But even after you drill off a deposit, and know how big it is, how deep it is, and roughly what’s in it, you still don’t know what it’s worth. For that, you have to conduct extensive testing on the mineralized material, not just to quantify the metals or other desirable minerals within, but also to see if there are contaminants, or other elements present that can complicate, or even make impossible the economic recovery of the valuable mineral.
In short, until you know how much it would cost to mine and process any sort of mineralized material into a salable product, like gold bars, copper concentrate, etc., you cannot say what it’s worth. Even a huge deposit of gold may be completely worthless, if the grade is low and there’s lots of carbon that would mess up the gold recovery.
Now, back to Afghanistan. A "small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists" cannot possibly have drilled off these deposits, let alone done the engineering required to value them. The NYT article described airborne geophysical surveys and a little surface work – no drilling. This is not a discovery – no serious exploration geologist would call anything a discovery until enough holes have been drilled into it to outline a significant volume of potentially economic material.
What we have here is a regional survey that may or may not lead to significant new discoveries.
Where do they get the trillion-dollar figure? We can only guess, but given their own description, they have not done the work necessary to generate any reasonable estimate. It’s worth pointing out that the vast majority of mineral outcroppings and other anomalies never lead to economic discoveries, much less mines. Even a very rich vein sticking right out on surface can turn out to be the last dregs of a system that has been eroded away, leaving nothing but a tease behind. For gold, the odds of an anomaly leading to an economic discovery are often cited as being on the order of 300 to one, against.
No responsible geologist would circulate a valuation figure at this stage of the process in Afghanistan. In fact, if a public company put out a press release like this story in the NYT, the exchange would likely reprimand them severely and require a retraction.
Now, the soldier quoted admits that "there are a lot of ifs," but that does not excuse putting out the $1 trillion figure, a number that there is no reasonable way to support at this point.
10) Who’s Really Misreading Tehran?
Wishful thinking and bad analysis has inflated Iran’s Green Movement into something it certainly is not: a viable alternative to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Flynt Leverett, Hillary Mann Leverett, Foreign Policy, June 14, 2010
Foreign Policy’s seven-part series, "Misreading Tehran," is, for the most part, a disappointing example of the phenomenon it purports to explain – inaccurate interpretations of Iranian politics surrounding the Islamic Republic’s June 12, 2009, presidential election. Such misinterpretation has had a deeply corrosive effect on the debate about America’s Iran policy.
[…] From literally the morning after the election, the vast majority of Western journalists and U.S.-based Iran "experts" rushed to judgment that the outcome had to have been the result of fraud. These journalists and commentators largely succeeded in turning the notion of a fraudulent election in Iran into a "social fact" in the United States – just as journalists like Judith Miller, formerly of the New York Times, and "experts" like Kenneth Pollack, an analyst at the Brookings Institution, helped turn myths about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction into "social facts" before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
But there has never been a shred of hard evidence offered to back up the assertion of electoral fraud. For many, a "preliminary analysis" of the official results by University of St. Andrews Iranian studies professor Ali Ansari and two collaborators, published by Chatham House nine days after the election, was taken as scholarly ratification for an already dominant Western narrative about what had happened. But the extent of the evidentiary and analytic flaws in the Chatham House report is breathtaking. Don’t just take our word for it. We refer anyone who is interested to two impressively meticulous and thorough reviews of the 2009 election process and results. One, by two Iranian scholars living outside the Islamic Republic, systematically goes through all the points adduced by Ansari and his collaborators – alleged irregularities and anomalies in voter turnout, the sourcing of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s votes, the alleged underperformance of opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi (an ethnic Azeri) in Azeri-majority provinces and his fellow disappointed presidential hopeful Mehdi Karroubi in his home province, perceptions of statistical anomalies in the official results, etc. – and offers devastatingly persuasive rejoinders on every point.
The other paper, by Eric Brill, an American lawyer, also offers a powerful refutation to Ansari and his colleagues about the official results. But Brill goes on to review the various complaints about the electoral process and results that have been widely alleged – though never in any formal or documented way – by Mousavi and his supporters: registered observers turned away or later ordered to leave, Mousavi votes thrown away, ballot boxes stuffed with Ahmadinejad votes, pens with disappearing ink, and vote counts either misreported from the field or altered once they reached the Interior Ministry in Tehran.
Brill dismantles all these allegations. He also underscores a critically important point: To this day, Mousavi has not identified a single polling station where any of this supposedly occurred. During our most recent visit to Tehran earlier this year, we spoke with Iranians who said they had voted for Mousavi (one had even worked for Mousavi’s campaign) and, when Mousavi charged afterward that there had been electoral fraud, turned out to protest in the first few days after June 12, 2009. But, when Mousavi failed to produce evidence substantiating his public claims, these people lost faith in him.
Why did the overwhelming majority of Western reporters covering the election and its aftermath not write about this? Why did most Western Iran "experts" not deem these facts worthy of inclusion in their analyses? We would suggest that the lack of evidence of electoral fraud did not fit with the narrative that these reporters and analysts preferred – that the election had been "stolen" from a resurgent reform movement and handed to the deeply unpopular incumbent, backed by a supreme leader whose authoritarian bent was now clearly on display. Some might have preferred that narrative because it fit their own political preferences, others because it garnered more attention than a straightforward "Ahmadinejad seems to have a popular base after all" narrative would have attracted.
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