Archive for category Foreign Policy

These Children Are Refugees

No deportations
Damian Dovarganes/AP

Several days of cable TV news watching haven’t answered the question that’s on my mind. Why are we even debating this? Desperate children, many of them unaccompanied, have been forced to flee Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and other countries. We’re expecting 74,000 to show up at our southern border this year.

On June 2, President Obama described it as an “urgent humanitarian situation,” asking Congress for an additional $1.4 billion to deal with the influx and creating a multiagency taskforce, led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to coordinate the federal response.

These children are refugees from violence and poverty. However, it’s been noted that essentially none of them come from Nicaragua, the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere after Haiti. Therefore poverty is a secondary factor. They’re fleeing for their lives.

Yet some politicians want to have a debate about how fast we can send these kids back to their countries of origin to die. Tea-GOPers even want to deny them the right to a court hearing. At the same time, the U.S. is telling Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey to take in millions of refugees from the Syrian civil war.

Right-wingers and racists take note: No, these children don’t have Ebola. That’s a disease endemic in Africa– Ebola has never been reported in Latin America. What about other diseases? The migrants are better vaccinated than U.S. kids. The migrants are not hardened criminals, they are victims. They won’t destroy our economy – the Tea-GOP and Wall Street already did that. No, President Obama didn’t invite children to cross our border illegally – the law that guarantees due process for unaccompanied migrant children was signed by President Bush in 2008. It was uncontroversial at the time it was passed. The National Guard won’t stop the kids from coming, but maybe they could provide humanitarian assistance. Your term of opprobrium against undocumented immigrants isn’t spelled “ILEAGELS.” Also, the policy you oppose is not “AMENSTY,” or “AMNETY.”

More info:
Protesters turn back busloads of immigrants in Murrieta
GOP Candidate Mistakes YMCA Kids For Migrants, Describes ‘Fear In Their Faces’
Sarah Palin Wants President Obama Impeached For Following A Law Passed By Republicans

UPDATES:
This Bill Is Dubbed The HUMANE Act, But It Actually Hurts The Migrant Kids It Claims To Protect
Not the first time members of Congress have used Orwellian language to name legislation the opposite of what it is.

How Conservative Media Killed A Charity’s Plan To Help Migrant Children In Crisis

Politico Columnist Claims Obama “Ignored” Immigration Issues He Already Tried To Address

Politico’s Roger Simon distorted President Obama’s record to claim that his request for emergency funding to deal with the recent flood of unaccompanied minors crossing the border was tantamount to waking “from a deep slumber … to fight a problem he has ignored for years.” In reality, Obama has supported legislation in the past that addressed many of the underlying issues but the legislation has been blocked by the GOP.

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ISIS Declares Caliphate In Syria And Iraq

ISIS caliphate
ISIS declares caliphate – those little derrick symbols represent oil fields.

Osama bin Laden’s vision of a Muslim caliphate in the Middle East is now a reality, thanks in large part to the USA. On Sunday morning, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) pronounced the reformation of the caliphate—the historical Islamic state that once stretched over much of the modern-day Muslim world—with ISIS emir Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as the man in charge.

DSWright on FDL:

Al Qaeda’s strategy of trying to force a US overreaction with the 9/11 attack has proved considerably successful in destabilizing the regional regimes that opposed establishing a caliphate and promulgating fundamentalist Islamic law. …12 million people are estimated to live under the control of ISIS already and if the now declared caliphate continues its expansion it could be considerably more.

…Apparently using the US military to topple secular leaders did little to thwart the rise of Islamic extremism. In fact, it seems to have had the opposite effect.

Add to the “no one could have anticipated…” file. Which is getting pretty thick by now.

More info:
ISIS Declares Themselves an Islamic State
The Beginning of a Caliphate: The Spread of ISIS, in Five Maps

UPDATES:
According to Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal, the proclamation of a caliphate was “a controversial move that is sure to send shockwaves throughout the jihadist world.”

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The War Power, The Sergeant, the Senator: Treason or Heroism

The Sergeant who some years ago left his post in that unnecessary and unwinnable war in
Afghanistan is either a hero, a traitor, or just a terribly young man in the wrong war at the wrong time. He spent terrible years of torture and probably said things he didn’t really mean.

Some years ago in Vietnam, Senator McCain was shot down over Vietnam, another unconstitutional war, and equally unwinnable war, confessed repeatedly to things he later recanted, once safely in the United States, and is, quite rightly regarded, despite his confessions to American war crimes, a hero. The two cases are not quite completely on all fours, as we say in the law. But the similarity is sufficient to compare with each other and with the undergirding of law.

Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama, who are visited by war, either their own or, like Obama, inherited from another (in Obama’s case two other) fools who preceded them, have always had this power. While not yet president, and without this act may well not have become president, Ronald Reagan communicated with Iran, telling them, in effect, just to refuse to deal with Carter on releasing our citizens from the U. S. Embassy in Iran, and await his presidency. Their deal (which killed Jimmie Carter’s hope for a second term and by the way was treason, meriting a firing squad.)

The 30, 60, 90 day notification of Congress is also unconstitutional, but not for the reasons the Republicans and Democrats alike, trumpet. Saint Paul, as I recall, said “this trumpet has an uncertain sound.” And I know he said that some leaders have “zeal without knowledge.” This is Republican and Democratic leaders on steroids, just like my former wife.

The reason the War Powers Act is unconstitutional is not what is now said by either Republicans or Democrats, as I told Joe Biden when he was both Minority Senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and when he was chair. I testified before his committee a few times, and he called me at the law school sometimes to chat about this. The reason is simple. Due to both a few but very senior Democrats and almost all Republicans, Congress forced the Demo’s to give the president 30, 60, or 90 days to play with Congress’ army while he picked his nose. War has not been officially declared since FDR did it in WW2. George Bush (the first) and Colin Powell, in my opinion, got it right, constitutionally, by voting 50-50 in the Senate, and then the Dark Lord, Vice President Cheney, broke the tie and we went to war in Iraq the right way by law; and they had the smarts to stop when their limited mission was accomplished. And until this time, the President, as Commander in Chief, has no constitutional power to use the United States armed forces, save self-defense.

In the Framers’ mind that means only when the United States of America, not our allies, are attacked. For Utahns, the reason J. Reuben Clark, my hero and a great patriot, a rock-ribbed Republican who served under many Republican presidents, served variously as chief legal adviser to the Department of State (then, as an deputy Attorney General on loan from Justice to State,,,,,,now called Legal Adviser to the State Department; and Vice Secretary of State, and Ambassador to Mexico; and advised many presidents between world wars one and two, on all arms control treaties between those to dreadful wars) opposed NATO was because it delegated the war power to a generation not yet born and for the defense of people, and nations, not yet born. Neither the United Nations (Korean War) nor NATO (Ukraine?) can declare war for the United States of America. This is the statement of law, the War Clause, that makes this beyond debate. Remember, that it is also the sole right of Congress: not the President of the United States, nor NATO, nor the United Nations, that decides what constitutes International law, as well. So, both Constitutional Law and International Law, save an attack on the United States, inform us that Congress, not the president or these international bodies, who determines for war or peace.

So screw the people and the Congress and president now living. When the president, any president, has this army to use, that army will never return to Congress’ care. This is unconstitutional because it is an illegal attempt to delegate to the President a plenary power, given exclusively, textually, to the Congress. Like the power over interstate commerce (the road by which most civil rights legislation is constitutional), along with the equal protection and due process of law clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments. It’s as if Congress were to say to Obama, “Say, friend, we’re so damned tired of life in Washington, despite the cherry blossoms, we will do what the Supreme Court does, and reconvene when good weather returns. We’re going to go to Balboa Island, California, where it’s nice and sunny, in ocean or on the beach, and pick our nose and scratch our butts. And better yet, we have one in eight chances not to pick both with the same finger. Even though we’ve proven, time out of mind, that we in Congress cannot chew gum and pick our nose, simultaneously (a great blessing). So, pres., you now have the taxing and the spending power, and we’ll sweeten the loaf by throwing into the pot, since you do have to stick around in this shitty weather, and give you the power also to fund and provide for the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy. And don’t sweat it about financing things by the provision in the Constitution that spending bills begin in the House. Since you already have the taxing and spending power, do all this in the White House. P.S. please instruct the Treasury Department to deliver our checks, our salaries, and all the REALLY big bucks from the armaments industry and all those other lobbyists. We really have earned this right by selling our souls to the devil. Have a good life.

I say that both Senator and Soldier are bona fide heroes. Ed Firmage xoxox

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Benghazi: Does The GOP Protest Too Much?

Benghazi Chaffetz

Juan Cole has an excellent piece on Alternet about the Republican Benghazi obsession that again provides the answers the right-wing partisans have demanded over and over through four investigations. And Cole has a few questions of his own (emphasis added).

What the House should really investigate is who really funded and encouraged the production of that get-up ‘film’ attacking Islam, “The Innocence of Muslims.” It was redubbed after being shot, such that the cast had no idea they were in a bigoted attack film. The makers of the film, including a far right wing American militia figure, sent it determinedly to Egyptian hard line Salafi Muslims until part of it was finally shown on a Salafi television channel. They were clearly trying as hard as they could to provoke attacks on US facilities. Isn’t this a sort of terrorism in itself? Was it a Republican Party black money group hoping to provoke a diplomatic hostage crisis that would damage President Obama’s chances of reelection? Why did GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney keep comparing President Obama to former president Jimmy Carter in spring of 2012? Carter had been bedeviled by the Iran/ US embassy hostage crisis. Had Romney’s speech writers heard from the US Islamophobic network that there was likely to be embassy trouble that summer and that it might make Obama look weak? Why are GOP leaders so determined to deny that the film helped provoke the Benghazi attack? Are they afraid that sooner or later a link between GOP funders and the film will emerge, and they want to hold themselves harmless? Why do Muslim-hating political campaigns break out regularly every two years in the US, pushed by Republican candidates? Will there be another one in summer-fall of 2014?

Let’s hope the House Democrats have enough backbone to refuse to participate in yet another GOP partisan Benghazi investigation. And wouldn’t it be good if some non-partisan commission could find out if the anti-Muslim video, the embassy protests, and the attack on the Benghazi consulate resulted from right-wing political operators trying to embarrass the Obama administration?

17 Comments

Ed Schultz: ‘I Was Wrong’ On Keystone XL Pipeline

MSNBC’s Ed Schultz reversed his support for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline on Wednesday and said the United States shouldn’t allow it to be built. Last month he called the pipeline “a step in the right direction when it comes to energy independence.”

Of course, Keystone XL won’t be a pipeline TO the USA. It’s a pipeline THROUGH the USA to overseas export. It’s likely to cause a gasoline price hike in this country. What do we get from this pipeline? More groundwater pollution, and more climate change.

President Obama could stop this pipeline all by himself. The right-wing is clearly worried, and the Faux News crowd is even claiming that Keystone XL approval would be the answer to the crisis in the Ukraine!

h/t to HuffPo

147 Comments

Kerry to Russia: ‘You Just Don’t Invade Another Country on Phony Pretext’

Russia invades Crimea

Having a late breakfast this morning, I just about choked on my toast when I heard this. Interviewed on “Meet the Press,” Secretary of State John Kerry said (emphasis added):

“…Russia is inviting opprobrium on the international stage. There could even be ultimately asset freezes, visa bans. There could be certainly a disruption of any of the normal trade routine, and there could be business drawback on investment in the country. The ruble is already going down and feeling the impact of this.”

“And the reason for this…is because you just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests. There are ways to deal with this.”

Really? Does the USA have the right to lecture anybody about an illegal invasion on a phony pretext?

22 Comments

TPP Sidetracked?

Coporatocracy

While a major media news blackout provides cover, Congress is debating whether to give the president the authority to fast-track a massive free trade agreement, the secretly-negotiated Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Members of Congress haven’t even been able to read it even though corporate lobbyists have.

President Obama is at odds with Democrats in both houses of Congress concerning reauthorizing a procedure called the “trade promotion authority” (TPA), that would grant the White House power to submit free trade deals to Congress for an up-or-down vote without amendments. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is strongly against it.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has now publicly opposed giving President Obama fast track authority.

“We need transparency. We need a seat at the table to understand what they believe they are doing, so we can make it better. And if we don’t make it better, then we will not accept a path that is a job loser.”

TPP is part of the plan for global corporatocracy run by and for the 1 Percent. Unelected lobbyists and trade representatives are at the table, while representatives from the public at large and businesses other than huge monopolies, are conspicuously absent. From what little we know of the agreement, it would violate the U.S. Constitution, weaken environmental protections, and lead to more job losses, erosion of wages, and worsening inequality. TPP also threatens freedom of speech on the Internet because it would extend restrictive intellectual property laws and rewrite international rules on enforcement.

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Leaked US-Afghan Agreement Offers Open-Ended American Troop Commitment

Endless war?

NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel has obtained a leaked draft of the “Security and Defense Cooperation Agreement Between the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.” This agreement, as yet unsigned, provides for an endless war despite President Obama’s repeated assurances that U.S. forces are leaving Afghanistan next year.

Afghan officials tell NBC NEWS the agreement is critical to Afghanistan’s future stability. Without ongoing military assistance, training and funding, those officials say the government could collapse and Afghanistan would enter a civil war. If the agreement passes, the draft says Washington would commit to a long -term, indefinite military involvement in this land-locked Asian nation.

This morning on MSNBC, Chuck Todd asked Richard Engel (who is still in Kabul) if the Afghan officials he has spoken to have any idea how unpopular the Afghanistan War is in America. Engel responded that they do not. Probably they are talking to the wrong Americans. More than two-thirds of us say this war was not not worth fighting.

The average annual cost to keep one American soldier deployed in Afghanistan is now $2.1 million. Total cost to taxpayers for our country’s longest war in history is estimated at $1.6 trillion (not counting interest). The human toll (including US soldiers and contractors, allied soldiers, and Afghan security forces, insurgents and militants, and civilians) is estimated to be at least 145,000 deaths by direct war violence since 2001 in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

More info:
Leaked Draft Points To Endless War In Afghanistan
America’s Future in Afghanistan Hinges On One Key Question: Can Soldiers Operate With Impunity?

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‘60 Minutes’ Benghazi ‘Correction’ Leaves Key Questions Unanswered

Lara Logan

h/t HuffPo

“60 Minutes” correspondent Lara Logan issued a terse 90-second “correction” Sunday night, semi-apologizing for her discredited October 27 report featuring a false “eyewitness” account of the Benghazi terrorist attack. Dylan Davies, a security officer employed by the State Department, lied to “60 Minutes” and in a book published by Threshold Editions, a right-wing branch of CBS subsidiary Simon and Schuster.

That’s not enough. Jeff Fager, the chairman of CBS News and executive producer of “60 Minutes,” spent a week claiming that the fake Benghazi report was accurate – the result of a year’s worth of research, he asserted. Yet it only took a few days for The Washington Post to find proof that Davies wasn’t credible.

First of all, why do a story on the anniversary of the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack? There was nothing new to report, although CBS might have wanted to cater to right-wing conspiracy theorists and political figures.

Logan’s “60 Minutes” report perpetuated the right-wing myth that there are “lingering questions” about the U.S. reaction to the Benghazi attack that haven’t been addressed. This was a lie, and her “correction” last night did not set the record straight.

In both her original report and last night’s “correction,” Logan failed to explain the tie-in between “60 Minutes” and Threshold Editions, which released Davies’ book two days after he appeared on the show.

Logan failed to address why “60 Minutes” accepted Davies’ account of the Benghazi attack, after Fox News Channel rejected it. That might have been a red flag, don’t you think?

Will “60 Minutes” launch an independent investigation? Logan didn’t say last night if there will be an independent panel to investigate what went wrong, like the 2004 investigation that ended Dan Rather’s career with CBS News.

Will Logan and her producer, Max McClellan, keep their jobs or face any punishment over this mistake? We don’t know.

More info:
Here’s CBS’ Full Apology For Its Bungled Benghazi Bombshell

UPDATE: Let CBS know what you think of Lara Logan and the lies she put on the air.

UPDATE: CBS News Keeping ’60 Minutes’ Review Internal

UPDATE: Dylan Davies, ’60 Minutes’ Benghazi Witness, Resurfaces, Says He’s In Hiding

UPDATE: Media Matters: The Benghazi Hoax Chapter 16: 60 Minutes

92 Comments

Shooting The Hostage

Ned Stark execution

The right-wing Republicans could only play this game so long, manufacturing a series of crises by threatening government shutdowns and default on the National Debt, without eventually having to shoot a hostage.

Now, for the second time in nine days, the House of Representatives has voted to shut down the federal government. Even if the Senate agreed to the CR the House passed in the middle of the night, there is no way it could reach the President’s desk before spending authority runs out at 12:01 am Tuesday. And the Senate won’t agree.

This is on them. The issue isn’t the Affordable Care Act, that’s going forward even during a government shutdown. The issue is the shutdown itself. Republicans are dreaming if they think they can get away with blaming their actions on the Dems.

The downside: it may not be possible for public approval of Congress to go any lower than it already is.

25 Comments

Fact-Checking President Obama’s Speech

Thanks to clever diplomacy by the Russians, the U.S. war against Syria has been averted or at least postponed. They called President Obama’s bluff. If the alleged nerve agent attack is really the issue, then obviously an agreement that insures the Syrians will not possess or use chemical weapons is the answer- the Russians are willing to guarantee that. If the real goal of the Obama administration is regime change, then chemical weapons have been taken off the table as a rallying cry to justify direct American intervention in the Syrian civil war.

There are a number of points in the President’s speech tonight that are controversial. Acknowledgement to Kevin Gosztola for much of the following.

1. President Obama claimed that “over a thousand” civilians were killed by nerve agent on August 21.

Doctors Without Borders has reported that 355 people died. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights “confirmed 502 dead, including about 100 children and ‘tens’ of rebel fighters,” according to McClatchy. That is still far less than a thousand.

2. “We know the Assad regime was responsible.”

As the Associated Press reported on September 8, the American public has “yet to see a single piece of concrete evidence—no satellite imagery, no transcripts of Syrian military communications—connecting the government of President Bashar Assad to the alleged chemical weapons attack last month that killed hundreds of people.”

Rebels and local residents in Ghouta accuse Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan of providing chemical weapons to an al-Qaeda linked rebel group, and told a reporter that the release of nerve agent was accidental.

3. “It was a violation of international law.”

This is true only if civilians were intentionally targeted, which is one possible scenario. However, the nerve agent “attack,” if it was that, is no more a war crime than many other incidents that have already occurred on both sides of the Syrian civil war. Indeed, it is also comparable to well-documented war crimes committed by U.S. forces in neighboring Iraq. It should be noted that Syria is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention (interestingly enough, Israel also refused to sign the treaty).

BTW, a unilateral attack on Syria by the USA would also violate international law, which prohibits wars of aggression.

4. “I possess the authority to order military strikes… in the absence of a direct or imminent threat to our security…”

Not true.

“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

Barack Obama, when he was running for President in 2007

5. “I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria.”

This is hard to believe, because how else can we be certain Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles are neutralized, peacefully or otherwise?

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has predicted, “During conflict, the intelligence community and Special Forces units would likely play a major role in locating and securing such weapons in a combat environment.”

By one estimate, 75,000 soldiers would be needed to handle the job. Where will they come from?

6. “Let me make something clear: The United States military doesn’t do pinpricks. Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver.”

This is a response to Secretary of State Kerry’s characterization of the planned military strike as “unbelievably small.” Clearly, the administration has plans for a “shock and awe” bombardment that would be limited in duration but of high intensity. It’s very likely that more civilians would be killed than died in the August 21 nerve agent incident.

7. The Assad regime can’t retaliate against us or Israel.

You had better be really sure about that, Mr. President. Remember how many Americans were killed by a small group of 19 terrorists in 2001 that didn’t have much in the way of state sponsorship. Assad and his loyalists are literally fighting for their lives. If they get into a situation in which they have nothing to lose, what deters them from seeking revenge?

8. “Because of the threat of military action,” Russia and Syria are willing to pursue diplomacy.

That is one explanation, but history will likely record that it was the public debate in the United Kingdom and the USA, followed by President Obama’s decision to ask for congressional war authorization, that led to diplomacy.

9. American exceptionalism means it’s our job to enforce international agreements.

No, it’s the job of the United Nations Security Council. If America is to be exceptional, let’s set an example as a law-abiding nation by not violating the U.N. Charter again.

More info: Obama’s Confusing Speech On Syria

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Worst Recession Ever Continues for Unemployed Americans

Unemployment graph
Source: Calculated Risk Blog

The excruciatingly slow and anemic recovery from Bush’s Great Recession continues, according to the August jobs report.

Employers added 169,000 jobs in August but many fewer in June and July than previously thought, the Labor Department said Friday. Combined, June, July and August amounted to the weakest three-month stretch of job growth in a year.

The unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 percent, the lowest in nearly five years. But it fell because more Americans stopped looking for work and were no longer counted as unemployed. The proportion of Americans working or looking for work reached its lowest point in 35 years.

Americans are not impressed with a so-called “economic recovery” that has produced mainly low-wage jobs.

Low-wage jobs, defined as those that pay no more than $13.83 an hour, accounted for 21 percent of recession job losses but have accounted for 58 percent of the recovery growth.

Meanwhile, Congress is debating a potential $12 billion war against Syria. If the past is any guide, that will prove to be a gross underestimate of the cost.

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