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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries tagged "U.s. Foreign Policy"

U.S. on a Pedestal of Nuclear Immorality

September 21, 2012 ·

30-plus years ago Iranian zealots grabbed some CIA and Embassy folk in Teheran and held them hostage, and then let them go, and Reagan took credit. But before we plunge into military conflict with Iran, as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu extols, the press might indulge its public in some useful historical review – they forgot some important history – to try to deal with the alleged threat of "nuclear mullahs" as Bill Keller called Iran’s religious leaders.

Maybe, start with questions like: What did we do to Iran and what role did our government have in fostering its nuclear program? And why does Israel’s insistence on U.S. backing become so important to U.S. policy?

Read the rest of this blog post in Progreso Weekly.

The Right Path for Washington in Syria

June 14, 2012 ·

The Syrian conflict continued to boil - or boil over - when Syrian troops fired across the Turkish border on April 9, apparently killing either fleeing refugees or armed combatants. However, despite continued words of caution from the Pentagon and White House about getting into another messy Middle East war, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton pressed for more intervention.

Hillary Clinton speaks about Syria in Istanbul. Photo by U.S. State Department.The Syrian Accountability Act of 2003 began the formal U.S. attempt to bring down Assad, but Clinton, the imperial princess, now demands Syrian President Assad resign in favor of the Syrian National Council (SNC). This hastily formed group composed of exiled Syrian Muslim Brotherhood members, and other groupings, many in exile, would magically transform Syria via fair elections into a good democracy - and sheep will fly.

Washington's "humanitarian" assistance fund for Syria escalated into "non-lethal" aid -- sophisticated satellite communications equipment, and night-vision goggles so "rebels" could "evade" Syrian government assaults. U.S. and Western media have underscored Assad's butchery, but offered little of substance on the opposition and its often savage behavior.

Just weeks after the first March 2011 protests - Arab Springtime - the media disregarded eyewitness evidence of armed groups shooting at and killing members of Syria's security forces as well as civilians. Reporter Pepe Escobar witnessed "the shooting deaths of nine Syrian soldiers in Banyas" as early as April 10, 2011 (Asia Times, April 6, 2012). By focusing only on Assad's violence, Western leaders could promote a lopsided view of the conflict. In recent weeks, however, the media could not ignore all "photos and video footage of armed men with heavy weapons proudly declaring their stripes - some of them religious extremists advocating the killing of civilians based on sectarian differences."

Suicide bombings took place in Damascus and Aleppo, and al-Qaeda called its minions "to battle." The U.S. government ignored al-Qaeda's role and refers only to the "good" SNC, the majority who appear to ally themselves with Syria's Muslim Brotherhood. At a March meeting in Istanbul, sponsored by Turkey and Qatar, however, an unlikely source of dissent emerged. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said: "We reject any arming [of Syrian rebels] and the process to overthrow the [Assad] regime, because this will leave a greater crisis in the region."

Al-Maliki questioned the motives of Qatar and Saudi Arabia who "are calling for sending arms instead of working on putting out the fire." Iraq, he continued, opposed "arming" the Free Syrian Army and he feared, "those countries that are interfering in Syria's internal affairs will interfere in the internal affairs of any country." Maliki, who governs Iraq as a result of the U.S. invasion and devastation of that country, questioned equating a cause backed by Saudi funding with freedom. "What's wrong with the Free Syrian Army getting funding from Saudi Arabia? Or, when did Saudi Arabia ever support freedom?" he asked (Suadad al-Salhy, Reuters, April 1, 2012).

These remarks were not featured in headlined stories; nor did TV or radio news provide coverage of Maliki's statement. Until recently, we might have depended on Al Jazeera, whose Iraq war coverage won it praise from journalists. However, the network's Syria reports led some reporters to resign over the network's biased reporting. Hassan Shaaban, the Beirut bureau's managing director, resigned in March, "after leaked emails revealed his frustration over the channel's coverage."

Shaaban had filed a story showing armed men fighting with the Syrian army in Wadi Khalid. Al Jazeera dropped the story. Two other Al Jazeera staff quit for the same reasons. Al Akhbar claimed Qatar's foreign policy influenced the reporting on Syria. Al Jazeera maintains headquarters in Qatar and the royal family helped establish the network.

The question in Washington should be: will adding fuel to the violence make matters worse? Assad's forces have defeated -- with huge civilian casualties -- the formal rebel uprisings, but the SNC could sponsor a prolonged terrorist war, which would increase civilian casualties, and not succeed in removing Assad or his Party [the Baath Party] from power.

Logic and reason dictate that Obama should follow the Syrian majority. A February 2012 poll showed "55% of Syrians want Assad to stay," [NOT] motivated by fondness for his government, but "by fear of civil war." The poll also ascertained "that half the Syrians who accept him staying in power believe he must usher in free elections in the near future." (YouGov Siraj poll on Syria commissioned by The Doha Debates, funded by the Qatar Foundation, connected to the royal family. The family has taken a hawkish position on Syria. See Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, January 17)

These facts have not oozed into State Department consciousness, where the rush for U.S. entanglement appears contagious. Good sense should command Secretary Clinton to help save the process former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan set in motion for a negotiated cease fire. The opposition and the Assad side negated the April 10 deadline. This means Syrians will pay a higher human toll. The suffering is already immense.

On April 14, the UN Security Council backed a deployment of the first wave of U.N. military observers to monitor the tentative cease-fire between the Syrian government and opposition combatants. Before the arrangements become final, Washington should weigh in now with Russia, China and the western powers - not Saudi Arabia and Qatar - to pressure both sides to stop shooting and start serious talking.

Malice Versus Nobility: Scooter Libby and Bradley Manning

March 11, 2012 ·

Scooter Libby and Bradley Manning.After 9/11, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a Yale graduate with a law degree from Columbia, and fellow neo cons plotted to twist and invent "intelligence" data to convince the public that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, so as to build a case for invading Iraq.

From 2001 to 2005, Libby served as Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs, Chief of Staff to the Vice President of the United States and Assistant to President George W. Bush.

Libby and fellow neo cons stressed Bush’s dubious 2003 State of the Union Address claim that "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Cheney repeated that Saddam Hussein was "trying once again to produce nuclear weapons" in March of that year.

The CIA was asked to investigate. Joe Wilson, a former U.S. Ambassador and expert on Africa, got chosen for the mission. His wife, Valery Plame, worked as a covert CIA operator.

Wilson dismissed the “yellow-cake tale”. His July 2003 New York Times op-ed, What I Didn't Find In Africa, suggested the Bushies had invented pretexts for the Iraq war.

Libby and fellow war plotters Karl Rove and Richard Armitage, not satisfied by their success in making war, wanted to punish their Washington enemies. They leaked Plame’s name to the mischievous columnist Robert Novak — to punish her husband, Wilson. Novak’s story ended her CIA career, and exposed her agents and contacts.

A jury later convicted Libby of obstruction of justice and perjury around the case. A judge sentenced him to 30 months in prison, and fined him $250,000. Bush, months later, commuted his term.  But no one got charged with plotting to distribute false information to lure the public to war. The New York Times had even helped the campaign by publishing the lies as news stories on its front page.

Count the Bush cabal’s accomplishments: thousands of dead US military personnel and contractors, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis; hundreds of thousands wounded, physically and mentally – here and there. Iraq remains broken. 13,000 Iraqis died violently last year. Bush destroyed Iraq’s integrity. His profligate war spending vastly increased the national debt. His definitive biography might be called: “Lying The Nation Into War.”

Libby served some months in prison. But the neo con gang should be called simply "cons" – as in convicts. Most of them got great jobs instead.

In November 2005, a Marine Corps unit killed 24 unarmed Iraqi men, women and children in Haditha, Iraq. Investigators determined all died from multiple gun shot wounds at close range  — apparently as payback for an Iraqi rebel attack on a US convoy in which a Marine Corporal died – the mini My Lai of Iraq.

This past January 24, a U.S. military judge handed down harsh sentences. Squad leader, Staff Sgt. Frank G. Wuterich, pleaded guilty of war crimes and received a maximum of 90 days in prison and a reduction in pay and rank. He served no time in the brig. One Marine was acquitted; six others had their cases dropped

No U.S. official has been charged for the massive number of civilian deaths in Iraq, or for lying as a pretext for war. Who remembers the Nuremberg laws?

Now look at Private Bradley Manning’s ordeal. He had access to and allegedly released — to Julian Assange of Wikileaks — hundreds of thousands of secret documents. These documents did not expose secrets vital to our enemy, but lies, corruption and crimes by U.S. officials and those of other countries. Manning’s defense team stresses that what Wikileaks published wasn’t or shouldn’t have been secret.

Manning did however embarrass U.S. officials by exposing their illegal, stupid, selfish and downright inane activities. If he illegally distributed those documents, why doesn't the Justice Department charge the New York Times and other newspapers that gleefully distributed this supposedly classified (mortifying) material? One video Manning allegedly released spread virally. U.S. helicopter gunship members get orders to fire on Iraqis because one (a Reuters cameraman) might have a weapon (a video camera). We witness from the camera mounted on the gun the massacre of a group of men near the cameraman, and then of others who subsequently arrive to help the wounded, including a child in a van. Humanitarian behavior in Iraq? Who invited us there?

Was this classified because Iraqis didn’t know our troops did such things – or because it disgraces our military?

With vindictiveness aforethought the military held Manning for months in solitary confinement – often naked with the light on all night — in the Quantico Virginia Marine Base. Solitary confinement “crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment,” as John McCain described his two years of solitary confinement in Vietnam.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU and the New York Times concluded that solitary confinement constitutes torture, designed to break a person. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture tried to investigate Manning’s prison conditions. The military refused his request for an unmonitored visit.

The 24 year-old Manning faces 22 charges, including "aiding the enemy." If convicted, the government will call for life imprisonment, unless Manning implicates Julian Assange in the "conspiracy" to expose the "secret" sins of U.S. national security. Members of the Icelandic Parliament have nominated Manning for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Let's help him win it – as a free man.