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Friday, November 18, 2011

Diplomacy abandoned its first tool violence

“Loss of life … heartbreaking,” the President said with an air of dismissal emptier than “colored bubbles” or “have a nice day.” 

Consequences for people and their lives, the long-term fallout for nations never factor into the rhetoric of flawed leadership.
Compiled and edited with commentary by Carolyn Bennett

Belligerence in speech and action

The U.S. President this week lectured China — Washington has a habit of lecturing other nations and heads of state — from a speaker’s platform at the Australian Parliament. 

“It’s important for them to play by the rules of the road,” the president said, “and in fact help underwrite the rules that have allowed [China] so much remarkable economic progress to be made over the last several decades.

“… [W]here China is playing by those rules, recognizing its new role … is a win-win situation.  … W]here they’re not … we will send a clear message to them that we think they need to be on track in terms of accepting the rules and responsibilities that come with being a world power.”

True Face

I’ve just finished the well-written but hard-to-digest” 2011 book edited by Marjorie Cohn: The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse. In the wider context, the book is a commentary on entrenched, deeply flawed, morally failed U.S. leadership.

In Chapter 3 “U.S. Foreign Policy, Deniability, and the Political ‘Utility’ of State Terror: The Case of El Salvador,” Terry Lynn Karl writes.

“On the one hand, U.S. foreign policy embeds itself in notions of American exceptionalism with the concomitant belief that actions abroad should reflect the self-image of a people who stand for freedom everywhere. Although most governments (even dictatorships) attribute some sort of virtue to their actions abroad, the United States sees itself as blessed by a unique goodness. This strong moral streak in political culture, perhaps best captured by the oft-cited vision of a ‘city on a hill,’ as well as the desire to serve as a model to the world, would seem to preclude the adoption of policies that can be widely perceived as morally deficient.

“Yet from its first efforts to establish dominance beyond its borders to its newer status as the sole superpower, the United States has developed a template for its operations abroad that conflicts with the self-image.

“[Though] every president since [Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon] has made rhetorical support for human rights and/or democratization a cornerstone of foreign policy — [and] however reassuring and popular the rhetoric has been — it seldom stands up against the primary goal of defending certain visions of national security.”

In Chapter 14 “Torture, War, and Presidential Power: Thoughts on the Current Constitutional Crisis,” Thomas Ehrlich Reifer writes.

President [Barack] Obama, in his first week in office, signed three executive orders: (1) closing Guantanamo in January 2010; (2) creating a task force to examine policies toward prisoners caught up in the ‘war on terror’; and (3) mandating lawful interrogations in compliance with the Army Field Manual and international agreements.

“Yet, virtually as fast as the orders were signed, the Obama administration began to backtrack radically on key areas affecting the question of torture and related war crimes.

“What appeared to be a clear difference between the candidate, during the presidential campaign, quickly morphed into an increasingly blurred similarity between Obama and what Professor David Luban calls the ‘liberal ideology of torture’ that now pervades life in the United States and some of its allies.”

“…Lies and related practices of secrecy and deception by the Bush administration in the run-up to the Iraq War were crucially aided by coerced confessions. Indeed, torture did work, at least to an extent by helping extract false statements that were then used to gain congressional approval of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

“Yet, despite congressional documentation, the Obama administration continues to shield the executive branch under a cloak of secrecy to prevent further revelations about the widespread use of torture. Instead of protecting national security, torture by U.S. forces arguably constitutes one of the greatest ongoing threats to U.S. and world security in recent memory. Nevertheless, efforts to end U.S. practices of torture and the occupation of Iraq have not yet proved successful.”

In Chapter 1“The  CIA’s Pursuit of Psychological Torture,” Alfred W. McCoy concludes.

“No matter what position Washington might adopt toward CIA interrogation, this tangled history has one clear lesson worth remembering. As a powerfully symbolic state practice synonymous with brutal autocrats throughout the ages, torture—even of the few, even of just one—raises profound moral issues about the quality of America’s justice, the character of its civilization, and the legitimacy of its global leadership.

False Face

Addressing a question on Afghanistan in Australia, the U.S. president fell back on patriotic presidential pretexts, “natural security” and “terrorists,” in his usual rhetorical vacuity.  Here is what the president said about the United States’ decade-long invasion, destabilization and occupation of Afghanistan.

“[W]e would not be sending our young men and women into harm’s way unless we thought it was absolutely necessary for the security of our country.…

“What we have established is a transition process that allows Afghans to build up their capacity and take on a greater security role over the next two years but it’s important that we do it right. 

“… [G]iven the enormous investment that’s been made and the signs that we can … leave behind a country that’s not perfect but one that is more stable, more secure, and does not provide safe haven for terrorists, it's appropriate for us to finish the job and do it right.”

Facts, Consequences of
Flawed and failed, irresponsible, callous global leadership

Physical insecurity and starvation

As the United States/NATO wages war against Afghanistan and Pakistan, the United Nations appealed in October for $142 million to help Afghanistan fight the drought crisis that has hit 14 of the country’s 34 provinces.

Now a heavy winter is on the horizon and the “pinch of starvation… has forced Afghan families to cut down on meals, migrate to neighboring Pakistan and Iran or borrow money to buy food. Schools have closed as more children have to work.” Save the Children's Afghanistan country director, David Skinner, told the press that malnutrition levels are high in Afghanistan, “Families are facing being cut off for winter without enough food and clean water,” children could die of hunger. 
Afghans want U.S. out

On Wednesday, the Kabul four-day loya jirga (or Council) called by President Hamid Karzai began discussion of Afghanistan’s relationship with the United States and particularly the long-term U.S. bases in Afghanistan after U.S.-led foreign troops withdraw in 2014.

Afghan religious and political figures reportedly have voiced strong opposition to U.S. plans to set up long-term or permanent [occupying] military bases in this war-torn country where, after a decade, the people  remain insecure despite  or because of the presence of nearly 150,000 U.S.-led foreign forces.

Afghan people have raised their opposition to a U.S. plan for long-term deployment, seeing it as “a ploy for indefinite neo-colonial occupation.”

Speaking at a press conference yesterday loya jirga official Safia Sediqi is reported making the charge of a media blackout: Washington wants a complete media blackout over the conditions set in its strategic long-term deal with Kabul. She said a common complaint among council meeting participants on the second day of the meeting was that information about the terms and conditions the United States has set out for its long-term deal with Afghanistan was being withheld from them.

Russia objects, too

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday in voicing Moscow’s opposition to permanent U.S. bases in Afghanistan said, “We do not understand how the proposed withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan squares with U.S. plans to set up major military bases in Afghanistan.” However, he noted further that information “comes in periodically that our American colleagues want to expand their military presence in Central Asia.”

[Afghanistan’s Neighbor]
under drone attack, backlash

U.S. aerial drone attacks have escalated under the Barack Obama government and relations between Islamabad and Washington have soured because of the non-UN-sanctioned attacks.

anti-American protests
Pakistani Foreign Office spokeswoman Tehmina Janjua said in early October that the U.S. drone attacks on Pakistan’s territory were unacceptable and a violation of the country’s sovereignty.  This country’s Ministry of Human Rights has petitioned the government of Pakistan to complain to the United Nations and other international bodies about the ‘extra-judicial killings.’

On Thursday, at least seven people died and several suffered injuries when in a U.S. unmanned aircraft fired four missiles at a house in the remote Padam Shah village of Razmak area (North Waziristan district) in the northwestern tribal belt of Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan.

Yesterday’s strike came a day after 18 people died and several others were injured in a U.S. assassination drone attack in Pakistan’s South Waziristan.

Attacks by unmanned aircraft on Pakistan’s tribal regions the U.S. government claims target pro-Taliban militants but local Pakistanis say civilians are the main victims of these non-UN-sanctioned strikes.
anti-U.S. drones demonstration

Out of Indonesia too

Indonesian demonstrators call on Washington to stop its economic and military initiatives in the Asia-Pacific and, instead, mind the massive anti-corporatism protests it has been faced with over the past two months.

This week U.S. President Barack Obama became the first United States president to take part in the East Asia summit comprising the 10-member ASEAN group [China, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Russia], but protesters today objected to his presence.  The protest coordinator Hendry Saragih is reported saying, “We reject the summit as it’s not important … the Indonesian government had better concentrate on their own country because all internal crises are caused by the country’s wealth being taken by other countries.”
U.S. drone

The U.S. president, they said, “does not need to come to the summit in Indonesia. He should just take care of his own country. We can see by the Occupy Wall Street movement that the United States has a serious problem concerning capitalism, and he must acknowledge it.”

Cluster bombs
These are the faces of true heart break. The forcibly uprooted bear the consequences of flawed foreign relations policy and practice.


In June of last year, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees released its 2009 global trends report showing that some 43.3 million people had been forcibly displaced worldwide at the end of 2009,” the highest number of people uprooted by conflict and persecution since the mid-1990s.”

The number of refugees voluntarily returning to their homes fell “to its lowest level in 20 years.”

The 2009 Global Trends report said the number of people uprooted by conflict within their own country grew by four percent to 27.1 million at the end of 2009. Persistent conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan and Somalia mainly accounted for the increase in the overall figure.

The number of new individual asylum claims worldwide grew to nearly 1 million, with South Africa receiving more than 222,000 new claims in 2009, making it the single largest asylum destination in the world.

In the first half of 2011 (January 1-June 30), 198,300 asylum applications were lodged, according to UNHCR’s “Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries, First Half 2011” report. Projections are that 2011 may see 420,000 applications by year’s end – the highest total in eight years.

Major forced displacement crises in 2011 have been in West, North, and East Africa with large increases of asylum claims among Tunisians, Ivoirians, and Libyans (4,600, 3,300 and 2,000 claims respectively).

In the 44 countries surveyed, the main countries of origin of asylum-seekers remained largely unchanged from previous surveys: Afghanistan (15,300 claims), China (11,700 claims), Serbia [and Kosovo: SC Res. 1244] (10,300 claims), Iraq (10,100 claims), and Iran (7,600 claims).

The report does not show how many applications translate into the granting of asylum (i.e., refugee status), nor are its findings an indicator of migration rates.

The ‘Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries, First Half 2011’ report complements UNHCR's annual Global Trends Report, issued in June each year, and which this year found that 80 percent of refugees are being hosted in developing countries.

Sources and notes

The White House Office of the Press Secretary For Immediate Release November 16, 2011 Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Gillard of Australia in Joint Press Conference
Parliament House, Canberra, Australia, 6:10 P.M. AEST

The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse, edited by Marjorie Cohn: New York: New York University Press, 2011

Thomas Ehrlich Reifer is an assistant professor of sociology and an affiliated faculty in Ethnic Studies at the University of San Diego. He specialized in the study of large-scale, long-term social change and world-systems analysis, including terrorism, human rights, and U.S. militarism.

Terry Lynn Karl, Ph.D., the Gildred Professor of Political Science and Latin American Studies at Stanford University, publishes about the politics of oil and transitions to democracy. She was the expert witness in five human rights trials, including the murder trial of Salvadoran military officers for the killing of six Jesuit priests in 1989.

Alfred McCoy is the J.R.W. Smail Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and past president of the National Lawyers Guild. Her books include Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang has defied the law and Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and honor of Military dissent.

Caption Press TV Afghanistan’s Hunger
Charities warn that hunger and malnutrition could kill Afghan children as the country braces for a cold winter. (File photo)



“Hunger threatens millions in Afghanistan,” November 18, 2011, http://www.presstv.ir/detail/210785.html
“US wants news blackout on Afghan deal,” November 17, 2011, http://www.presstv.ir/detail/210696.html
“Russia against U.S. bases in Afghanistan,” November 18, 2011, http://www.presstv.ir/detail/210773.html

“U.S. drone strike kills 7 in NW Pakistan,” November 17, 2011, http://www.presstv.ir/detail/210623.html

“Obama receives chilly welcome in Bali,” November 16, 2011, http://www.presstv.ir/detail/210834.html

“Militants destroy school in NW Pakistan — Unknown assailants have razed a state-run school into rubbles in the troubled northwest Pakistani tribal areas where government troops have been battling militants, Press TV reported, November 18, 2011, http://www.presstv.ir/section/3510204.html
“Two British troops slain in Afghan war—,Two British soldiers serving with the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have been killed after their armored vehicle hit a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan,” November 18, 2011, http://www.presstv.ir/section/3510204.html

Middle East November 18, 2011

“Iraq bombings kill 9, injure scores—At least nine people have been killed and many others injured in a series of bomb blasts targeting Iraqi security personnel in and around the capital, Baghdad.”

“Iraqis want Camp Ashraf closed—Iraqis have staged a protest rally in the eastern province of Diyala to urge the authorities to close down Camp Ashraf, which hosts members of the terrorist Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO).”

“Jordanians want PM to hurry reforms—Jordanians have once again staged a mass anti-government rally in the capital, urging Prime Minster Awn al-Khasawneh to speed up the reform process.”

“Bahrainis stage mass anti-regime demo—Tens of thousands of Bahraini protesters have taken to the streets near the capital, Manama, to demand an end to the rule of the Al Khalifa dynasty.”

“Three Syrian troops killed in Hama blast—At least three Syrian law enforcement agents have been killed in a bomb explosion in the central province of Hama, SANA reported.”

“Saudi royals split on new crown prince—Members of the U.S.-backed Saudi royal family have reportedly been driven apart over the appointment of radical Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz as King Abdullah’s successor.”

“Russia: Foreigners working against Syria—Russia says 'some foreign countries' are trying to exacerbate the situation in Syria to make pretext for their interference in the Middle Eastern country's internal affairs.”

November 17 (Thursday)
“Protesters stage demos across Yemen—Yemen’s anti-regime protesters have taken to the streets in several cities, calling for the execution of embattled ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh.”

“U.S. plot to wage Syria war revealed—Informed sources in Syria say they have discovered a pre-fabricated U.S. scenario for the country’s future, seeking to wage war against the nation from various fronts, Press TV reports.”

“‘Turkey opposes military action on Syria' — Turkey says it is opposed to a military strike against Syria as a pre-fabricated U.S. scenario to wage war against Damascus is exposed, Press TV reports.

“Kuwait emir calls for security measures—“Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al Sabah has called for all necessary measures to be taken to maintain security in the country after protesters earlier stormed the parliament.”

“Hezbollah: UN serves Western interests—Hezbollah has condemned a recent report by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for serving the interests of the Western powers, Press TV reports.

“‘Turkey not to support anti-Iran moves— Head of the Turkish Parliament's Foreign Relations Committee Volkan Bozkir says Ankara will not support any move against the Islamic Republic of Iran, Press TV reports.”

“Kuwait holds crisis talks amid tensions—Kuwaiti officials hold crisis talks after the country’s parliament was stormed by protesters demanding the resignation of Premier Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad Al Sabah.”

“Israel plans to displace Bedouins—The Israeli regime plans to displace thousands of Palestinian Bedouins of the Khan al-Ahmar community from the periphery of East al-Quds (Jerusalem), Press TV reports.”


“Number of forcibly displaced rises to 43.3 million last year, the highest level since mid-1990s,” News Stories, June 15, 2010, http://www.unhcr.org/4c176c969.html

“Asylum applications in industrialized countries jump 17 per cent in first-half 2011,” Press Releases, October 18, 2011, http://www.unhcr.org/4e9d42ed6.html

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was set up in 1951 to help the estimated 1 million people still uprooted after World War II to return home. Since then, UNHCR has helped find durable solutions for tens of millions of refugees and they remain our core constituency.

The latest figures available show the number of refugees of concern to UNHCR stood at 10.4 million at the beginning of 2011.

A further 4.7 million registered refugees are in some 60 camps in the Middle East under care of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which was set up in 1949 to care for displaced Palestinians.

Refugees of concern to UNHCR are spread around the world, with more than half in Asia and some 20 percent in Africa. They live in widely varying conditions, from well-established camps and collective centers to makeshift shelters or living in the open. More than half of all refugees of concern to UNHCR live in urban areas. They all face three possible solutions: repatriation, local integration or resettlement. Refugee Figures, http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c1d.html

About two-thirds of the world’s forcibly uprooted people are displaced within their own country. They are known as internally displaced people (IDP)

The 26 million internally displaced civilians recorded in 2008 included 4.6 million newly displaced, up 900,000 from the previous year, and an equivalent number of returns, according to an annual IDMC report.

The biggest new displacement in 2008 came in the Philippines, where 600,000 people fled fighting between the government and armed groups in the south. There were also large-scale displacements of 200,000 people or more in nine other countries: Sudan, Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Colombia, Sri Lanka and India.

The countries with the largest number of internally displaced in 2008 were the Sudan, Colombia and Iraq. Internally Displaced People Figures, http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c23.html


The terms asylum-seeker and refugee are often confused. An asylum-seeker is someone who says he or she is a refugee but whose claim has not yet been definitively evaluated.

National asylum systems are there to decide which asylum-seekers actually qualify for international protection. Asylum-Seekers, http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c137.html


Statelessness is misunderstood and in many countries, the scope of the phenomenon is ignored. Because of its nature, it is difficult to measure the magnitude of statelessness. Stateless people often live in a precarious situation on the margins of society, frequently lack identity documentation and often are subject to discrimination.

UNHCR cannot provide definitive statistics on the number of stateless people around the world. The estimate in 2010 was up to 12 million. That included 3.5 million in the 65 countries for which there were reliable statistics.

In its statistical reporting, UNHCR includes several countries for which it has information on statelessness but no reliable statistics. These countries include Cambodia, Côte d'Ivoire, the Dominican Republic, India and Indonesia. Stateless People Figures, http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c26.html

(U.S. drone strikes against Somalia and its people)

November 18, 2011 (Friday), http://www.presstv.ir/section/3510205.html

“U.S. terror drones kill 42 more in Somalia—At least 42 people have been killed when US assassination drones launched two separate aerial attacks in southern and central Somalia, Press TV reported.”

November 17, 2011 (Thursday), http://www.presstv.ir/section/3510205.html

“U.S. drone crashes in central Somalia—A terror drone operated by the US military has crashed in central Somalia near the border with Ethiopia, Press TV reported.”

“U.S. terror drones kill 13 in south Somalia—At least 13 people have been killed after US assassination drones launched aerial attacks in southern Somalia near the border with Kenya, Press TV reported.”

November 16, 2011 (Wednesday), http://www.presstv.ir/section/3510205.html

“U.S. terror drones kill 35 more in Somalia — At least 35 people have been killed after US assassination drones launched aerial attacks in southern Somalia near the border with Kenya, Press TV reported.”

November 15, 2011 (Tuesday), http://www.presstv.ir/section/3510205.html

“U.S. drone strike kills 17 in Somalia —A U.S. assassination drone strike has killed at least 17 people and wounded nearly 67 others in southern Somalia, Press TV reports.”


Bennett's books are available in New York State independent bookstores: Lift Bridge Bookshop: www.liftbridgebooks.com [Brockport, NY]; Sundance Books: http://www.sundancebooks.com/main.html [Geneseo, NY]; Mood Makers Books: www.moodmakersbooks.com [City of Rochester, NY]; Dog Ears Bookstore and Literary Arts Center: www.enlightenthedog.org/ [Buffalo, NY]; Burlingham Books – ‘Your Local Chapter’: http://burlinghambooks.com/ [Perry, NY 14530]; The Bookworm: http://www.eabookworm.com/ [East Aurora, NY] • See also: World Pulse: Global Issues through the eyes of Women: http://www.worldpulse.com/ http://www.worldpulse.com/pulsewire


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