Just Foreign Policy News
September 1, 2010
Iraq/Afghanistan: A Promise Kept, a Promise Deferred
As a candidate, President Obama said he didn’t just want to end the war; he wanted to end the mindset that leads to war. While he is drawing down from Iraq, he has done little to keep the promise of ending the mindset that leads to war. A major component of the mindset that leads to war is the belief that Washington can and should determine who may participate in the governments of the broader Middle East. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. officials are still working to exclude from power people who are opposed to U.S. control over their governments or a long-term U.S. military presence. This policy is a recipe for permanent war. The example of Lebanon, where the U.S. acquiesces to the participation in power of people who are opposed to U.S. control, shows that it is not an immutable fact of nature that the U.S. must continue to pursue this permanent war policy.
Should the Senate Fund "Enduring" U.S. Military Bases in Afghanistan?
The Pentagon is planning military construction for years of U.S. combat in Afghanistan. The Senate could refuse to fund; in 2008, Congress rejected a similar Pentagon request for "long term" military construction in Iraq. Urge your senators to oppose construction of long-term U.S. bases in Afghanistan.
"Even If We’re Peasants, We Deserve to Live Too": Tèt Kole on the Needs of Haitian Farmers
Beverly Bell interviews members of Tèt Kole, one of Haiti’s two national peasant farmer movements.
Bacevich: Washington Rules
Andrew Bacevich’s book, "Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War," is a call for Americans to reject the Washington consensus for permanent war.
Get the book
September 24th: JFP "Virtual Brown Bag" with Andrew Bacevich
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1) Advocacy in Washington in 2005-6 of a deadline for US military withdrawal from Iraq was a key cause for the current US drawdown, argue Brian Katulis and Lawrence Korb in Foreign Policy. The message that the US would leave motivated forces such as the Sunni Awakenings to partner with the U.S. to combat Al Qaeda in 2006, a movement that began long before the 2007 surge of U.S. forces. The message that Americans were leaving also motivated Iraqis to sign up for the country’s security forces in record numbers. Deadlines for getting the U.S. out of Iraq were not only supported by the Iraqi people but also by the Iraqi government. When the UN mandate that allowed the U.S. to occupy Iraq expired in December 2008, the Maliki government, which had opposed the surge, agreed to allow the U.S. forces to remain in Iraq only on condition that we withdraw from the cities and towns by June 30, 2009 and from Iraq completely by December 2011. In fact, when U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq’s cities and towns, Maliki not only declared a national holiday – National Sovereignty Day – but proclaimed that the Iraqi people had repelled the foreign (U.S.) invaders. What does this experience tell us for Afghanistan? Not setting a deadline fosters moral hazard and a dysfunctional dependency on the US. A deadline accelerates the process of helping local actors achieve a more sustainable balance of power within their own country without relying on the crutch of foreign troops. Finally, a deadline focuses attention and motivates actors to take control of their own affairs – they are also essential for getting sometimes sluggish U.S. government bureaucracies to produce results.
2) The Iraq that American officials portray today – safer, more peaceful, with more of the trappings of a state – relies on 2006 as a baseline, when the country was on the verge of a nihilistic descent into carnage, writes Anthony Shadid in the New York Times. For many Iraqis, though, the starting point is the statement President Bush made on March 10, 2003, 10 days before the invasion, when he promised that "the life of the Iraqi citizen is going to dramatically improve." Disenchantment runs rife not with one faction or another, but with an entire political class that the US helped empower with its invasion.
3) Twenty-two US troops have been killed in Afghanistan over the past five days, the Washington Post reports. The deaths brought the number of U.S. troops killed in August to 55. The violence, including a spike in civilian casualties, has prompted President Karzai to challenge the US to significantly alter its strategy. He has pushed the U.S. to limit night raids [actually, the Afghan government has demanded that night raids end completely – JFP] and remove US troops from everyday interactions with civilians. "The experience over the past eight years showed that fighting [the Taliban] in Afghan villages has been ineffective and is not achieving anything but killing civilians," Karzai said.
4) Sen. Barbara Boxer vowed to hold President Obama accountable for bringing troops home from Afghanistan, the Los Angeles Times reports. "We are going to have to push hard – I think the president wants to do it and he said he is going to start bringing the troops home [from Afghanistan] next year. But we don’t have yet the exit strategy we need," Boxer said.
5) A federal appeals court essentially overturned a ruling that international law does not restrict presidential power during wartime, the New York Times reports.
6) Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the BBC that the West should use force against Iran if it "continues to develop nuclear weapons," the Guardian reports.
7) 65 percent of Americans say they would support military action against Iran, according to a recent FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll, note Resa Aslan and Bernard Avishai, writing in the New York Times. The media drumbeat for war must be silenced, and only President Obama can silence it, they argue. An Israeli attack on Iran would almost certainly precipitate a devastating regional war with unforeseeable global consequences. The US could forget about the withdrawal of its forces from Iraq and the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan. Iran has repeatedly said that it would, in the case of an attack, shut down the Strait of Hormuz, through which roughly 17 million barrels of oil pass every day, spiking oil prices and devastating America’s financial recovery. If a year from now we are confronted by an Iran crossing the nuclear threshold, that would be a lesser evil than what we will confront in the wake of an attack to prevent this.
8) A study by Venezuela’s National Electoral Council found that 75.4% of televised campaign advertisements have been pro-opposition and 24.6% have been pro-government since the race for 165 seats in Venezuela’s National Assembly officially began last Thursday, Venezuelanalysis reports. The CNE recorded the total amount of advertizing spots and their duration in seconds on the two major state-owned channels, VTV and TVES, and the four major channels controlled by private broadcasters, Globovision, Venevision, Televen, and Meridiano TV. The CNE said when the ads were measured in seconds, pro-opposition ads accounted for 73.8% of the total, and pro-government ads accounted for 26.2%.
1) Today’s Iraq redeployment made possible by our deadline
Brian Katulis, Lawrence Korb, Foreign Policy, Tuesday, August 31, 2010
[…] Conventional wisdom among America’s foreign policy establishment is that setting deadlines for troop withdrawals from war zones are detrimental for U.S. national security. But this foreign policy establishment is just as wrong about why America is leaving Iraq by a date certain as they were about why we had to go to war in Iraq in the first place.
The narrative constructed by those who advocated that the U.S. increase, or surge, of more troops into Iraq in 2007 goes something like this: President Bush’s troop increase demonstrated that our commitment was open-ended and allowed the military to implement a real counterinsurgency strategy that paved the way to "victory." But a closer examination of the facts demonstrates that the opposite is true – in Iraq, violence declined because more Iraqis perceived that U.S. troops were leaving and took appropriate action.
Deadlines for a strategic redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq – initially proposed in 2005 by leaders like former Representative Jack Murtha, championed by Democrats in Congress and candidates in the 2006 midterm elections, and outlined by the 2006 bipartisan Iraq Study Group – all sent the important signal that Iraqis needed to take greater responsibility and ownership of their own affairs. The message that America’s commitment to Iraq was not open-ended motivated forces such as the Sunni Awakenings in Anbar province to partner with the U.S. to combat Al Qaeda in 2006, a movement that began long before the 2007 surge of U.S. forces.
The message that Americans were leaving also motivated Iraqis to sign up for the country’s security forces in record numbers. The "surge" of U.S. troops to Iraq was only a modest increase of about 15 percent – and smaller if one takes into account the reduced number of other foreign troops, which fell from 15,000 in 2006 to 5,000 by 2008. In Anbar province, the most violent area, only 2,000 troops were added.
During that same period, the size of the Iraqi forces doubled, the result of training programs accelerated under General George Casey, the predecessor of General David Petraeus. Casey’s much-maligned efforts beginning in 2004 to place greater responsibility in the hands of the Iraqi security forces and finally getting permission from the Bush administration to put former Sunni insurgents on the U.S. payroll in late 2006 were actually more central to progress in Iraq than what Petraeus did when he took command in 2007. In fact, Casey’s Marine Deputy remarked that had Casey remained in office until the end of 2007, he, rather than Petraeus, would have received credit for the turnaround.
Deadlines for getting the U.S. out of Iraq were not only supported by the Iraqi people but also by the Iraqi government. When the UN mandate that allowed the U.S. to occupy Iraq expired in December 2008, the Maliki government, which had opposed the surge, agreed to allow the U.S. forces to remain in Iraq only on condition that we withdraw from the cities and towns by June 30, 2009 and from Iraq completely by December 2011. In fact, when U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq’s cities and towns, Maliki not only declared a national holiday – National Sovereignty Day – but proclaimed that the Iraqi people had repelled the foreign (U.S.) invaders.
Those opposed to ending the combat mission in Iraq by August 31, 2010, for fear of emboldening the enemy, ignore four facts. First, for all practical purposes the U.S. combat role ended a year ago when our forces withdrew to their bases. Second, since that withdrawal, despite some spectacular attacks, the overall level of violence against U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians has declined. Third, the enemy, or Al Qaeda in Iraq, is not a large conventional force. At most it is composed of a couple of thousand fighters, a threat which the Iraqi Security Forces, which number well over 600,000, should be able to handle on their own if they have the proper motivation. Finally, even when we leave Iraq, U.S. forces will remain in the region. Therefore, if there is an external threat, we can help the Iraqis deal with it.
What does this experience tell us for Afghanistan? Not setting a deadline fosters moral hazard and a dysfunctional dependency on the United States. Also, a deadline accelerates the process of helping local actors achieve a more sustainable balance of power within their own country without relying on the crutch of foreign troops. Finally, a deadline focuses attention and motivates actors to take control of their own affairs – they are also essential for getting sometimes sluggish U.S. government bureaucracies to produce results.
2) After Years Of War, Few Iraqis Have A Clear View Of The Future
Anthony Shadid, New York Times, August 31, 2010
Baghdad – The invasion of Iraq, occupation and tumult that followed were called Operation Iraqi Freedom back then. It will be named New Dawn on Wednesday.
But America’s attempt to bring closure to an unpopular war has collided with a disconnect familiar since 2003: the charts and trend lines offered by American officials never seem to capture the intangible that has so often shaped the pivots in the war in Iraq.
Call it the mood. And the country, seemingly forever unsettled and unhappy, is having a slew of bad days.
"Nothing’s changed, nothing!" Yusuf Sabah shouted in the voice of someone rarely listened to, as he waited for gas in a line of cars winding down a dirt road past a barricade of barbed wire, shards of concrete and trash turned uniformly brown. "From the fall of Saddam until now, nothing’s changed. The opposite. We keep going backwards."
Down the road waited Haitham Ahmed, a taxi driver. "Frustrated, sick, worn out, pessimistic and angry," he said, describing himself. "What else should I add?"
The Iraq that American officials portray today – safer, more peaceful, with more of the trappings of a state – relies on 2006 as a baseline, when the country was on the verge of a nihilistic descent into carnage. For many here, though, the starting point is the statement President George W. Bush made on March 10, 2003, 10 days before the invasion, when he promised that "the life of the Iraqi citizen is going to dramatically improve."
Iraq generates more electricity than it did then, but far greater demand has left many sweltering in the heat. Water is often filthy. Iraqi security forces are omnipresent, but drivers habitually deride them for their raggedy appearance and seeming unprofessionalism. That police checkpoints snarl traffic does not help.
What American officials portray as their greatest accomplishment – a nascent democracy, however flawed – often generates a rueful response. "People can’t live only on the air they breathe," said Qassem Sebti, an artist.
In a conflict often defined by unintended consequences, the March election may prove a turning point in an unexpected way. To an unprecedented degree, people took part, regardless of sect and ethnicity.
But nearly six months later, politicians are still deadlocked over forming a government, and the glares at the sport-utility vehicles that ferry them and their gun-toting entourages from air-conditioned offices to air-conditioned homes, after meetings unfailingly described as "positive," have become sharper.
Disenchantment runs rife not with one faction or another, but with an entire political class that the United States helped empower with its invasion. "The people of Kadhimiya mourn for the government in the death of water and electricity," a tongue-and-cheek banner read near a Shiite shrine in Baghdad.
[…] Lines at fuel stations returned this month, that testament to one the greatest of Iraq’s ironies: a country with the world’s third largest reserve of oil in which people must endure long waits for gas.
[…] Complaints over shoddy services paraphrase the same grievances of those anarchic months after Saddam Hussein’s fall. The sense of the unknown persists, as frustration mounts, Iraqi leaders bicker and no one seems sure of American intentions, even as President Obama observes what the administration describes as a turning point in the conflict.
3) U.S. Troop Deaths In Afghan War Up Sharply
David Nakamura, Washington Post, Wednesday, September 1, 2010; A6
Kabul – Twenty-two American troops have been killed in Afghanistan over the past five days, a spike that follows record-high death tolls for U.S. forces in June and July.
Five of the troops were slain Tuesday, including four who were killed by two improvised bombs in the east and one who died in an insurgent attack in the south, according to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
The deaths brought the number of U.S. troops killed in August to 55, according a count by the Associated Press – significantly fewer than the 66 who died last month and 60 in June. Roadside bombs along military routes have been responsible for most of the deaths, as international forces penetrate deeper into areas controlled by Taliban insurgents.
[…] The violence, including a spike in civilian casualties caused largely by more aggressive action from insurgents, has prompted Afghan President Hamid Karzai to challenge the United States to significantly alter its war strategy. In particular, he has pushed U.S. and NATO forces to root out insurgents in their hideouts in Pakistan, limit night raids on the homes of Afghans and remove international troops from everyday interactions with civilians, leaving those to Afghan forces.
In a statement over the weekend, Karzai said that "the strategy of the war on terrorism must be reassessed. . . . The experience over the past eight years showed that fighting [the Taliban] in Afghan villages has been ineffective and is not achieving anything but killing civilians."
4) Sen. Boxer vows to hold Obama accountable on Afghanistan troop withdrawals
On the eve of her first debate with Carly Fiorina, the three-term Democrat reminds a San Francisco audience of her antiwar stance and liberal positions on the environment and economy.
Maeve Reston, Los Angeles Times, September 1, 2010
San Francisco – On the eve of her first debate with Republican Carly Fiorina, Sen. Barbara Boxer outlined her rationale for reelection Tuesday, vowing to hold President Obama accountable for bringing troops home from Afghanistan, defending California’s efforts to regulate emissions and reiterating her five-point plan to boost the nation’s economic recovery.
Speaking in San Francisco, where 83% of the county’s voters backed her last reelection bid, the three-term Democrat showed no hesitation reminding her audience at the Commonwealth Club of her antiwar activism and her liberal bent on environmental and fiscal issues.
Hours before Obama marked the formal end of the combat mission in Iraq with an Oval Office address, Boxer called the announcement an important milestone in ending the Iraq conflict. Pressed by an audience member to explain why "nothing" is being done by Congress to extract U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, Boxer said she had demanded that the administration map out a clear strategy for the withdrawal of troops, first from Iraq and now from Afghanistan, a process that is scheduled to begin next July.
"We are going to have to push hard – I think the president wants to do it and he said he is going to start bringing the troops home [from Afghanistan] next year. But we don’t have yet the exit strategy we need," Boxer said.
She added that she believes in "nation-helping, not nation-building."
"We can’t take over these countries and run them," she said to applause. "It just seems to me that we need that rebuilding going on right here in America today."
Moments earlier, when asked which government programs she would eliminate to reduce the national debt given her record "wasting taxpayer money" – it was the only hostile question submitted to her in writing during the hour-long session – Boxer said ending the wars was "the biggest one."
"It’s costing us a fortune," she said as the audience applauded.
5) Appeals Court Backs Away From War Powers Ruling
Charlie Savage, New York Times, August 31, 2010
Washington – A federal appeals court on Tuesday unanimously upheld the detention of a Guantánamo prisoner from Yemen. But lurking just beneath the surface of its ruling was a sharp disagreement among the judges over the scope and limits of presidential power.
At issue, beyond this single case, is whether international laws of armed conflict can restrict the wartime power of the president. In January, two of the most conservative judges appointed by President George W. Bush – Janice Rogers Brown and Brett M. Kavanaugh – declared that international law does not restrict presidential power.
That proposition, in a panel ruling upholding the detention of the Yemeni detainee at the Guantánamo Bay naval base, Ghaleb Nassar al-Bihani, sent shockwaves through the legal world. It was criticized by many scholars, and the Obama administration said it did not agree with it – even though the ruling gave the executive branch more power.
On Tuesday, all nine judges on United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected a request by Mr. Bihani to rehear his case. But seven of the nine judges issued an unusual one-paragraph note saying that they viewed Judge Brown’s and Judge Kavanaugh’s discussion of international law as irrelevant to deciding Mr. Bihani’s fate.
Stephen I. Vladeck, an American University law professor who filed a friend-of-the-court brief asking the court to rehear the case, said the note amounted to a nullification of the more sweeping parts of the January ruling without the court bothering to rehear it. The paragraph, he said, tells the world that the section of the January ruling about international law should be treated like what lawyers call "dicta" – editorializing about issues that are not necessary to decide the matter at hand, which has little controlling authority for other cases.
6) Tony Blair: West should use force if Iran ‘continues to develop nuclear weapons’,
Former prime minister says it is wholly unacceptable for Tehran to seek nuclear weapons capability
Mark Tran, The Guardian, 1 September 2010
The west should use force against Iran if it "continues to develop nuclear weapons", Tony Blair said today, aligning himself with US hawks who have called for strikes against Iranian nuclear sites. The former prime minister made his comments in a BBC interview to publicise his memoirs, A Journey, which are published today.
Blair said it was "wholly unacceptable" for Tehran to seek a nuclear weapons capability and insisted there could be "no alternative" to military force "if they continue to develop nuclear weapons".
Speaking to Andrew Marr in a BBC interview to be broadcast tonight, Blair says: "I am saying that I think it is wholly unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapons capability and I think we have got to be prepared to confront them, if necessary militarily. I think there is no alternative to that if they continue to develop nuclear weapons. They need to get that message loud and clear."
[…] In his exclusive interview with the Guardian, Blair elaborates on why it is unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons, linking this to the 9/11 attacks on the US. The former prime minister wishes he had seen earlier that 9/11 had "far deeper roots" than he thought at the time.
"The reason for that, let me explain it, is that in my view what was shocking about September 11 was that it was 3,000 people killed in one day but it would have been 300,000 if they could have done it," Blair said, appearing to equate al-Qaida with Iran. "That’s the point … I decided at that point that you cannot take a risk on this. This is why I am afraid, in relation to Iran, that I would not take a risk of them getting nuclear weapons capability. I wouldn’t take it.
[…] Blair’s approach to Iran aligns him with US hawks such as John Bolton, the former American ambassador to the UN, who believes that Israel should have attacked Iran before it started loading fuel into its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr on 21 August, although nuclear experts say Bushehr has no link with Iran’s secretive uranium enrichment programme, seen as the main "weaponisation" threat, at other installations.
8) Stop the War Talk
Resa Aslan and Bernard Avishai, New York Times, September 1, 2010
[Aslan, an Iranian-American writer, is at UC Riverside; Avishai is at Hebrew University.]
The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Washington, purportedly to be part of the Obama administration’s relaunch of peace negotiations. But the urgent talk is of war, thanks to Jeffrey Goldberg’s much-discussed Atlantic Monthly cover article, which faithfully reproduced the logic of Israeli military and political leaders.
According to this, even Israelis who doubt that a nuclear Iran would immediately attack Tel Aviv argue that the threat is "existential." An Iranian bomb would provide a "nuclear umbrella" for Hezbollah missiles and Hamas terrorism. It would force the Gulf states to ally with Iran against the United States and its cornered ally. Israel’s only option is a pre-emptive strike, like the ones it carried out against nuclear reactors in Iraq and Syria. It is only a matter of time.
The logic seems to be pushing on an open door. In the United States, an impressive 65 percent of Americans would support military action, according to a recent FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll. Indeed – so the logic continues – the U.S. military would do a better job against Iran’s nuclear facilities, and the United States would surely be blamed for, and suffer the consequences of, any pre-emptive attack by Israel. So shouldn’t the U.S. carry out the strike itself? Shouldn’t Israel’s friends in America prepare the ground?
This drumbeat must be silenced, and only President Obama can silence it.
An Israeli attack on Iran would almost certainly precipitate a devastating regional war with unforeseeable global consequences.
Iran is not Syria, with no immediate capacity to retaliate against a surprise attack on its nuclear sites. Iran is a country of 70 million people, and its commanders, battle-hardened by a brutal eight-year stand-off with Iraq, have the ability and will to engage in a long, protracted war against Israel and American interests. Iran maintains a large military equipped with Russian-made weapons systems, surface-to-surface missiles, combat aircraft, unmanned drones and high-speed torpedo boats capable of destroying large warships.
Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard has extended its reach from southern Lebanon to South America and maintains proxy forces – again, Hezbollah and Hamas – positioned in Israel’s back yard. They’ll force Israel to fight a war of attrition on multiple fronts.
Israel would likely be compelled to extend its military operations to include Lebanon. That would instantly plunge the entire region into war, likely bring a new intifada onto Jerusalem’s streets and place enormous pressure on leaders in Cairo and Amman to renounce their peace treaties with Israel. If Israeli planes use Saudi airspace, Iran has threatened to attack the kingdom, too.
The United States, for its part, could forget about the withdrawal of its forces from Iraq and the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan. There are up to 30,000 Iranian operatives in Iraq ready to do Iran’s bidding. And Iran enjoys significant loyalty from Afghan officials and warlords, particularly those in the trouble-prone region of Herat.
Iran has repeatedly said that it would, in the case of an attack, shut down the Strait of Hormuz, through which roughly 17 million barrels of oil pass every day, spiking oil prices and devastating America’s financial recovery.
[…] Mohamed ElBaradei, the former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency and an Egyptian, has called a strike "completely insane," arguing that it would "turn the region into one big fireball" and that the Iranians "would immediately start building the bomb – and they could count on the support of the entire Islamic world."
A former Israeli intelligence boss, Ephraim Halevy, and a former military chief of Staff, Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, have issued similar warnings.
Clearly, an Iranian bomb would cause irreparable damage to the global anti-proliferation regime, add a threat to Israel and complicate American foreign policy. All nonviolent diplomatic means should be used to prevent this.
But if a year from now we are confronted by an Iran crossing the nuclear threshold, that would be a lesser evil than what we will confront in the wake of an attack to prevent this.
If President Obama has the nerves for risk, he should rather gamble on rallying the international community to force through an Israeli-Palestinian deal within a year. That would not mean an end to the anti-Western leaders clinging to power in Tehran, but it would certainly do more to reduce their motivation to attack Israel than a temporary setback to their nuclear program would.
9) CNE: Venezuelan Opposition Occupies 75.4% of TV Election Ads.
James Suggett, Venezuelanalysis.com, August 31st 2010
Mérida – 75.4% of televised campaign advertisements have been pro-opposition and 24.6% have been pro-government since the race for 165 seats in Venezuela’s National Assembly officially began last Thursday, according to a study by the National Electoral Council (CNE).
The CNE recorded the total amount of advertizing spots and their duration in seconds on the two major state-owned channels, VTV and TVES, and the four major channels controlled by private broadcasters, Globovision, Venevision, Televen, and Meridiano TV.
CNE President Tibisay Lucena announced the results of the study in a televised interview on Monday. She said when the ads were measured in seconds, pro-opposition ads accounted for 73.8% of the total, and pro-government ads accounted for 26.2%.
The opposition, which is grouped into a coalition called the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), has used its media reach to convey the messages of landed estate owners such as Franklin Brito, who died on Monday in a hospital following a hunger strike to protest the government’s granting of land to landless peasants on the outskirts of his 500 hectare (1,235 acre) estate.
Brito said the government violated his right to private property, but the National Lands Institute (INTI) said it acted in accordance with the Land Law, which allows the government to transfer idle land to agricultural producers who occupy it. The Supreme Court declared Brito’s case to be without legal basis in 2007. The INTI helped Brito build new roads out of his estate and, as it has done in many other cases, offered technical assistance to help put his idle lands to productive use.
Brito had carried out previous hunger strikes, including one that lasted nearly four months, in front of the Organization of American States (OAS) last year. At one point he sewed his lips shut and cut off his own finger in front of cameras. He offered to end the strike if the government would pay him 3 million bolivars (US $698,000). After this was given front-page coverage in the opposition media and held up by the opposition as proof that the Chavez government violates private property, the government declared Brito psychologically ill and transferred him to an intensive care unit in a military hospital.
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