Truth to Power

Posts Tagged ‘Foreign Policy’

What Happens When Groups Use Nonviolence, Like We’ve Been Begging Them to Do For Years?

In Gaza, Human Rights, Israel, Mainstream Media, Mideast Peace, Politics on July 24, 2010 at 6:53 am

Apparently the U.S. and Israel treat nonviolent protesters as being as much of a threat as terrorists:

Bil’in Protest organizer Abdallah Abu Rahmah was sentenced to two months of imprisonment and to a six month suspended sentence, after a five year long trial on charges clearly related to freedom of speech.

Abu Rahmah was convicted of two counts of “activity against the public order”, simply for participating in demonstrations, in one count despite the fact that “No evidence of violence towards the security forces was provided”. Abu Rahmah was also convicted of “obstructing a soldier in the line of duty”, for shouting at a police officer and refusing to leave the scene of a demonstration, of “breaking curfew”, for being in the street in front of his house when the army declared curfew on Bil’in to suppress a demonstration, and of “incitement”, which under military law is defined as “The attempt, verbal or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a way that may disturb the public peace or public order”. Abu Rahmah was convicted of inciting others to “[…] continue advancing [to their lands during a demonstration in Bil’in], claiming that the land belongs to them.

For years the U.S. and even Israel have been saying that groups (or individuals) who use violent means to get their point across, will not have a place at any negotiating table. Increasingly we are a seeing not only peaceful groups use economic boycotts and peaceful civil disobedience, but also traditionally violent groups like Hamas begin to realize the political power of civil disobedience and other forms of protest. And no, unfortunately Hamas has not renounced violence but more and more it has become clear that they recognize the power of being able to attract public attention through means other than violence. This presents a big problem for the U.S. and Israel, both of whom once called on people to use these very means we are now condemning.

I believe that the U.S. never really expected certain groups/organizations people to use civil disobedience so we never thought we would have to face a situation like the flotilla incident or the growing number of boycotts, peaceful protests in Gaza and other parts of the Occupied Territories. And what has the US response been? Have we praised groups for their nonviolent means of getting their message out? No, we have sat quietly by and Israel has violently repressed free speech, the right to assemble and nonviolent protests. We have sat quietly by as Israel murders protesters, enacts draconian laws which violate free speech and we have joined in the demonization of these protesters by changing our rhetoric- now we say things which infer that “those who attempt to deligitimize Israel…” are as dangerous to Israel’s security as those who plant bombs or use missiles to get their point across.

This is shameful on our part and shows just how the U.S. never really supported nonviolence to begin with. The same thing happened with Northern Ireland when Sein Fein began to realize the power of civil disobedience. Although because Northern Ireland is not Israel, we eventually accepted them and allowed them to negotiate a peace treaty.

Israel refers to the boycott movement as “economic terrorism” and justified killing nine people flotilla because they sought to “delegitimize” the Jewish State. That’s the big story which the media is ignoring- what happens when groups use nonviolence in the Mideast, like we’ve been begging them to do for years?

Don’t Forget That the US and Israel Helped Create Hamas

In Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Israel, Mideast Peace, Neocons, News, Politics on July 6, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Just as you won’t hear much truth about the role the Iraq War played in strengthening Iran, you won’t hear much truth about how exactly Hamas was able to come to power in the first place. To hear the MSM and the US government tell it, they rose to power on the high tide of hatred of Jews. False.

As Col. Pat Lang (Ret.) reminds us, Hamas was supported by Israel and the US as a counterbalance to the PLO:

…Unfortunately, many Israelis now seem to enjoy humiliating Palestinians. The two communities appear to be farther apart than ever before.

COIN is the fad of the decade. The Israelis do not do COIN. They do “wog bashing.” I hope everyone comprehends that. COIN = Counterguerrilla operations + political action + economic development.

I was taught that personally by Bernard Fall. I don’t care whatever kind of wordy crap is in the field manual.

The Israelis do not do the last two. Hamas has won several elections. That would indicate in the COIN environment that Hamas must be included in a deal. Instead of doing that, the Israelis seek to bully the Gazans into abandoning their support of Hamas. Economic development? What a joke! The Israelis seem to relish the thought of Palestinians in rags, starving and literally driven from their homes.

The author of this Haaretz piece says that Israel “inadvertently” created Hamas during the first intifada. No. No. Senior Israeli officers told me at that time that the growth of Hamas had been quite thoroughly sponsored by the Israelis in order to create an effective rival for the PLO. It did not occur to them then that a party based on religious zealotry as well as nationalism would appeal to so many Palestinians.”

Lang also lays bare the assertion that the U.S. gets some sort of strategic benefit from our dysfunctional relationship with Israel. We don’t. This is part of a dialogue taking place over at the National Journal:

Your question is based on a false assumption, an assumption carefully inculcated in the United States since the Second World War. That false assumption is that the United States derives some significant material benefit from its alliance with and friendship for Israel. I know a good deal about US/Israeli relations having been in charge of military intelligence liaison with them for seven long years. We have many bright and knowledgeable people among the contributors to this blog. I appeal to them to correct my ignorance and inform us of the specific advantage that the United States receives as a benefit of its alliance with Israel.

We have the advantage of their genius in advanced technologies? Their COIN experts instruct our people? They are holding the Arabs at bay? Tell me what the benefit is.

In fact, the United States supports Israel because we want to support Israel. Successful information operations here have combined with a deeply felt grief for what the Nazis did to the Jews to produce a sympathy that is quite genuine. Yes, the US alliance with Israel is altogether the product of American altruism.

The Israelis and their closest friends hate that idea. It implies that Israel owes the US a profound debt of gratitude, one so deep that it can never be repaid. That is the last thing that they want. Such a concept would require a cessation of the brutally open process of manipulating the Congress with money and fear of opposition.

Natanyahu’s strategy is simple. He will seek to flim-flam Obama into compliance with his policy desires. To that end he will employ the tactical set of political tools available to him, tools that threaten the Democratic Party, and Obama in the mid-term election and in 2012.[emphasis added]

He’s right of course. And Israel hates it, as he says because, it means that the “special relationship” should be a two way street. Instead of massive amounts of money, defense technology, legal protection at the UN etc. just going one way- from the US to Israel, it assumes that we perhaps should get something in return. Which we don’t. What we get is unacceptable meddling and thinly-veiled attempts to influence the outcome of US elections via AIPAC and other hard-line Israel-First groups.

Here’s more on the birth of Hamas(excerpt):

“Israel and Hamas may currently be locked in deadly combat, but, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials, beginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years. Israel ‘aided Hamas directly – the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization),’ said Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic [and International] Studies. Israel’s support for Hamas ‘was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative,’ said a former senior CIA official.”

Middle East analyst Ray Hanania concurs:

“In addition to hoping to turn the Palestinian masses away from Arafat and the PLO, the Likud leadership believed they could achieve a workable alliance with Islamic, anti-Arafat forces that would also extend Israel’s control over the occupied territories.”

In a conscious effort to undermine the Palestine Liberation Organization and the leadership of Yasser Arafat, in 1978 the government of then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin approved the application of Sheik Ahmad Yassin to start a “humanitarian” organization known as the Islamic Association, or Mujama. The roots of this Islamist group were in the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, and this was the seed that eventually grew into Hamas – but not before it was amply fertilized and nurtured with Israeli funding and political support…

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

George Mitchell Expresses Frustration With Israel’s Lack of Progress in Proximity Talks

In Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Iran, Israel, Mideast Peace, News, Politics on June 28, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Now before the usual chorus of “why is the Obama administration only asking anything of Israel!!!” lets remember that for the past year-and-a-half, it’s primarily been Benyamin Netanyahu who has been throwing up successive roadblocks to meaningful negotiations. Lets remember who the parties are, shall we? While the Israel Can Do No Wrong crowd constantly throws around all the problems Israel faces with Hamas, the reality is that Hamas is not at the negotiating table. The Palestinian Authority/Fatah is. And at this point, the PA has shown significant progress in fighting violence and extremism and trying to bolster it’s infrastructure and economy- no small task given Israel essentially makes that near impossible.

From Haaretz:

U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is frustrated by the conduct of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the proximity talks with the Palestinians. Mitchell, who is due in Israel on Thursday for another round of talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah, has expressed to Netanyahu his wish to see more progress by Israel on core issues.

[snip]

The senior U.S. official also said that the administration would like Netanyahu to show more willingness for substantive discussions on core issues, and to see the Palestinians moving toward direct talks with Israel.

There have been four rounds of proximity talks so far, during which Mitchell shuttled between Ramallah and Jerusalem. During talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu, the two informed the U.S. envoy of their positions on the various core issues. However, the Palestinian side has presented far more detailed positions…

Honestly, George Mitchell has the patience of a saint. I don’t know he does it quite frankly.

Most of his frustration probably stems from the fact that the right-wing Likud coalition has zero interest in anything resembling a peace process, let alone a two state solution. It probably also doesn’t help that every week Mitchell is greeted with new revelations of Israel’s intransigence. The most recent revelation:

The Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee is set to approve an unprecedented master plan that calls for the expansion of Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, a move largely based on construction on privately owned Arab property.

The committee’s proposal would codify the municipality’s planning policy for the entire city. In essence, Jerusalem would uniformly apply its zoning and construction procedures to both halves of the city.

[snip]

According to a document prepared by Ir Amim, an NGO that “seeks to render Jerusalem a more viable and equitable city,” the master plan vastly underestimates the construction needs of the Arab population in the city. While the plan calls for 13,500 new residential units in East Jerusalem for Palestinians, updated demographic studies indicate that this amount barely represents half the minimum needs for the Arab population by 2030.

Ir Amim officials also said that while the plan allows for Palestinian construction in the north and south of the capital, it barely provides for an expansion of Arab construction projects in the center of the city, particularly in the area next to the holy basin.

The group added that the plan creates a spate of bureaucratic obstacles for Palestinians who wish to build in the city. Ir Amim warns that the plan is likely to be perceived as an Israeli provocation because most of the Jewish building projects are designated for areas east of the Green Line.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat instructed his subordinates to alter the plan in line with his policy of thickening the Jewish presence around the holy basin and the eastern half of the city.

Despite the National Planning and Building Committee’s decision to designate the City of David – which sits in the heart of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan – as “a national park,” the new master plan allows for the construction of residential units in the area.

The Ir David Foundation, a nonprofit group that seeks to increase Jewish settlement in the City of David and whose heads are close associates of the mayor, has in recent years bought houses near the Old City in an effort to “Judaize” the area…

So, Bibi is coming to Washington, D.C. again to meet with President Barack Obama in early July and once again he will demonstrate that the “special relationship” between the U.S. and Israel is a one-way street- the U.S. is to give in to every Israeli demand, scuttle any international attempts at holding Israel accountable for violating international law, give Israel billions of dollars a year because they are so special, fight all Israel’s battles (most recently, our obsessive focus on Iran) give Israel preferential treatment in regards to obtaining lucrative defense contracts, equipment etc. and on and on and on. And what does the administration of President Barack Obama get in return? They get called anti-Israel, Arabist anti-Semites. Oh, and the other requirement is that whenever a public figure says the word “Israel” out loud, they are required to also include the boilerplate statement “we support Israel’s right to defend itself and protect its security interests by whichever means it sees fit…” or something along those lines. Because if they don’t say something along those lines, the AIPAC mobs will start screaming “anti-Israel!” from their perch on the NYT editorial page.

The truly pathetic part of all this? This is how it plays out year after year after year after year….and there is no end in sight.

$1 Billion a Year For Each al Qaeda member in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, Economy, Foreign Policy, Mainstream Media, News, Politics on June 28, 2010 at 8:18 pm

The mainstream media likes to complain about the unruly, unwashed hacks which make up the blogosphere, but I think that is largely a result of envy. Many bloggers are just better at doing a MSM “journalist’s” job than the MSM is. Take Emptywheel for example and just imagine what would happen if Jake Tapper or that useless David Gregory would ask Panetta, Obama, Biden, Gates or Clinton about this:

Think Progress does the math on Panetta’s admission that there are just 100 al Qaeda members in Afghanistan, and discovers we’ve got 1,000 American troops in Afghanistan for each al Qaeda member.

The U.S. has committed nearly 100,000 troops to the mission in Afghanistan. ABC This Week host Jake Tapper asked CIA Director Leon Panetta how big is the al Qaeda threat that the soldiers are combating:

TAPPER: How many Al Qaeda, do you think, are in Afghanistan?

PANETTA: I think the estimate on the number of Al Qaeda is actually relatively small. I think at most, we’re looking at 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity. There’s no question that the main location of Al Qaeda is in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

[snip]

Now let me add to their math. Even Afghan war fans admit that it costs $1 million a year–on top of things like salary–to support a US service member in Afghanistan.

[snip]

So 1,000 US troops per al Qaeda member, at a cost of $1 million each. That’s $1 billion a year we spend for each al Qaeda member to fight our war in Afghanistan.

How do you think the Obama administration would be able to justify to the U.S. taxpayer continuing on with its failed Afghanistan policy if asked about the cost per soldier or per member of al Qaeda? Answer- they wouldn’t be able to. But first it would take some sparky, committed member of the Washington press corp to ask such a question and that would never happen because it would involve the risk of upsetting the cozy relationship the press has with the powerful elites which it is supposed to be holding accountable.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

[MCXF6EPWFRE8]

The Legacy of Barack Obama’s Cairo Speech

In Foreign Policy, Israel, Mainstream Media, News, Politics on June 19, 2010 at 7:57 pm

Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo was a much-needed acknowledgment that the eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency was a diplomatic disaster. While the neoconservatives love to beat their chests and clutch their pearls and frame much of the Muslim world as an enemy of the U.S. there is one big loser- the U.S. The fact is, most of our strategic interests at this point lie squarely in the Middle East and other geopolitical regions which are predominately Muslim. To write off the Muslim world with a “you’re either with us or against us” mentality is entirely self-defeating. Of course, the neocons have never been good at doing more than talking tough and leaving a huge mess for other people to clean up.

A recent poll however demonstrates that like so much else associated with Barack Obama, there was a lot of raised expectations but not much follow through:

A year after President Obama’s speech in Cairo vowing to reset relations with the Muslim world, Muslims worldwide are telling pollsters about their disillusionment with what they consider unfulfilled expectations.

According to the Pew Center’s new survey of global attitudes (PDF), released Thursday morning, citizens of Muslim nations report disproportionate antipathy to Obama’s foreign policy. With the exception of Indonesia, where Obama spent a portion of his childhood, Muslims are the exceptions to the Pew poll’s findings that eighteen months of the Obama administration have seen a surge of international support for the United States after the public-opinion troughs of the Bush administration.

“The Pew results reflect growing dissatisfaction with Obama’s policies, as many Arabs and Muslims are disappointed that Obama has not lived up to his promises, especially on the Arab-Israeli conflict,” said Marc Lynch, a George Washington University professor and the co-author of a recent Center for a New American Security report measuring Obama’s global engagement efforts. “They don’t see his actions matching his words, and until they do then it isn’t likely that there will be a sustained recovery in America’s image.”

In Jordan, the U.S. approval rating has fallen to 21 percent. It’s at 17 percent, the lowest of any countries Pew surveyed, in Turkey, Egypt and Pakistan. And this comes after the Obama administration has presided over the largest non-military aid package to Pakistan — the $7.5 billion, five-year Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill — in history.

“Opposition to key elements of U.S. foreign policy remains pervasive,” Pew analyzes, “and many continue to perceive the U.S. as a potential military threat to their countries.”

The news is not universally negative. Nigerian Muslims give Obama a 70 percent approval rating, up from 61 percent in 2009. But they’re the outliers. In Egypt and Lebanon, Obama’s ascendance — and the departure of George W. Bush — elevated Muslim attitudes toward the U.S. somewhat: 25 percent of Egyptians reported favorable opinions of the U.S. in 2009, up from 20 percent a year earlier; Lebanese Muslims in 2008 had given the U.S. a 34 percent favorability rating, which rose to 47 percent in 2008. Now Egyptian Muslims have reverted to their pre-Obama 20 percent favorability rating. Lebanese Muslims have settled into a 39 percent favorability rating.

More ominous from the perspective of Obama’s Cairo speech, Muslims express a sentiment directly opposite the speech’s offer of partnership: They fear that the U.S. will attack them. Majorities, and sometimes large ones, of respondents in Egypt (56 percent), Lebanon (56 percent), Indonesia (76 percent), Pakistan (65 percent), Jordan (52 percent) and Turkey (56 percent) believe the U.S. is a potential military threat. That shouldn’t be surprising: Pakistan, despite being a Major Non-NATO Ally of the U.S., is currently battered in its tribal areas by CIA drone strikes, a step the U.S. has taken in response to what it considers insufficient Pakistani military action against al-Qaeda-aligned extremist groups. In Cairo, Obama pledged that the U.S. “is not, and never will be, at war with Islam,” but many Muslims worldwide believe that the U.S. still has them in its crosshairs…

Mort Zuckerman of U.S. News makes the case that Obama is seen by the rest of the world as an incompetent amateur and he provides the usual laundry list of neoconservative reasons- the timetable for leaving Afghanistan, being mean to our allies (read Israel) while extending a hand to our enemies (read Iran), being too deferential to other nations, blah, blah, blah.

Here’s a taste of Zuckerman’s analysis:

President Obama came into office as the heir to a great foreign policy legacy enjoyed by every recent U.S. president. Why? Because the United States stands on top of the power ladder, not necessarily as the dominant power, but certainly as the leading one. As such we are the sole nation capable of exercising global leadership on a whole range of international issues from security, trade, and climate to counterterrorism. We also benefit from the fact that most countries distrust the United States far less than they distrust one another, so we uniquely have the power to build coalitions. As a result, most of the world still looks to Washington for help in their region and protection against potential regional threats.
Click here to find out more!

Yet, the Iraq war lingers; Afghanistan continues to be immersed in an endless cycle of tribalism, corruption, and Islamist resurgence; Guantánamo remains open; Iran sees how North Korea toys with Obama and continues its programs to develop nuclear weapons and missiles; Cuba spurns America’s offers of a greater opening; and the Palestinians and Israelis find that it is U.S. policy positions that defer serious negotiations, the direct opposite of what the Obama administration hoped for.

The reviews of Obama’s performance have been disappointing. He has seemed uncomfortable in the role of leading other nations, and often seems to suggest there is nothing special about America’s role in the world. The global community was puzzled over the pictures of Obama bowing to some of the world’s leaders and surprised by his gratuitous criticisms of and apologies for America’s foreign policy under the previous administration of George W. Bush. One Middle East authority, Fouad Ajami, pointed out that Obama seems unaware that it is bad form and even a great moral lapse to speak ill of one’s own tribe while in the lands of others.

Even in Britain, for decades our closest ally, the talk in the press—supported by polls—is about the end of the “special relationship” with America. French President Nicolas Sarkozy openly criticized Obama for months, including a direct attack on his policies at the United Nations. Sarkozy cited the need to recognize the real world, not the virtual world, a clear reference to Obama’s speech on nuclear weapons. When the French president is seen as tougher than the American president, you have to know that something is awry. Vladimir Putin of Russia has publicly scorned a number of Obama’s visions. Relations with the Chinese leadership got off to a bad start with the president’s poorly-organized visit to China, where his hosts treated him disdainfully and prevented him from speaking to a national television audience of the Chinese people. The Chinese behavior was unprecedented when compared to visits by other U.S. presidents.

Obama’s policy on Afghanistan—supporting a surge in troops, but setting a date next year when they will begin to withdraw—not only gave a mixed signal, but provided an incentive for the Taliban just to wait us out. The withdrawal part of the policy was meant to satisfy a domestic constituency, but succeeded in upsetting all of our allies in the region. Further anxiety was provoked by Obama’s severe public criticism of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his coterie of family and friends for their lackluster leadership, followed by a reversal of sorts regarding the same leaders.

[snip]

Les Gelb wrote of Obama, “He is so self-confident that he believes he can make decisions on the most complicated of issues after only hours of discussion.” Strategic decisions go well beyond being smart, which Obama certainly is. They must be based on experience that discerns what works, what doesn’t—and why. This requires experienced staffing, which Obama and his top appointees simply do not seem to have. Or as one Middle East commentator put it, “There are always two chess games going on. One is on the top of the table, the other is below the table. The latter is the one that counts, but the Americans don’t know how to play that game.”

Notice that Israel is not mentioned once- not in the excerpt and not in the entire article. But of course, much of Zuckerman’s analysis is actually really about Israel. Anyone who has read Zuckerman’s weekly commentary in U.S. News knows that he has been extremely critical of Obama’s attempts to get Israel to act like a true friend of the U.S. (as opposed to the sole burden of friendship laying squarely on the shoulders of the U.S.) and to get them to halt illegal settlements past the Green Line in order to move the peace process forward- something that would make Israel much safer in both the long and short term. But Zuckerman would have none of it.

Also absent from Zuckerman’s analysis is the role that he and his fellow neocons have played in undermining Obama’s foreign policy. While I disagree with the hawkish turn Obama took after his Cairo speech (increasing troops in Afghanistan, obsessing over Iran’s purported nuclear weapons program, continuation of some of Bush’s worst anti-terrorism policies, etc.), it’s simply disingenuous of the likes of Zuckerman to whine about Obama’s lack of standing in the world. It is because of people like Zuckerman, who criticize his Middle East policies, his attempts to steer the U.S. away from some of Bush’s anti-terrorism policies regarding alleged terrorists (ie. civilian trials vs. military tribunals for some) which have emboldened some of America’s difficult allies such as China, Brazil, Turkey and yes, Israel, to treat the U.S. like their pool boy.

Essentially, Zuckerman longs for the good ‘ole days of the Bush administration when torture was the order of the day, Iran was the center of the axis of evil and our military misadventures gave them an opportunity to wave the flag and denounce others as unpatriotic or too lax on terrorism. Never mind that most of the above has only increased anti-American sentiment and undermined our strategic objectives in the Muslim world. But what does that matter to Zuckerman, who can saber-rattle for the next military conflict (Iran, he hopes) from the safety of his multimillion dollar home in N.Y. Never mind that the necons have been wrong about virtually everything for the past 10 years. But hey, there’s always a first time, right?

It’s so easy to support wars when one doesn’t have to fight them.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

%d bloggers like this: