Foreign Policy Briefing 3/31/10

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This summary briefing comes to us through the courtesy of Just Foreign Policy.

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Urge Congress to Talk About the Human Cost of War
In the next few weeks, Congress is expected to be asked to approve $33 billion more for war and occupation in Afghanistan. Urge your representatives in Congress to use this opportunity to shine a spotlight on the human cost of continuing war and occupation.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/humancost

How Many Vets Have Been “Wounded” in Iraq and Afghanistan?
According to Department of Defense statistics cited in press reports, 36,904 U.S. soldiers have been “wounded” in Iraq and Afghanistan. But according to information obtained by Veterans for Common Sense from the VA under FOIA, 508,152 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been patients at the VA, and there have been 442,412 disability claims.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/532

Jewish Voice for Peace: Stand Up for Divestment
The president of UC Berkeley’s student senate vetoed a historic 16 to 4 vote calling for divestment from General Electric and United Technologies because of their involvement in Israel’s illegal occupation and the bombing of Gaza. But the veto can be overturned with just 14 senate votes.
http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/301/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=2747

Institute for Public Accuracy: “Energy Independence” is “Ludicrous”
President Obama said increased offshore drilling was needed to assure ‘energy independence.’ But the idea the U.S. could be “energy independent” is “ludicrous,” says Robert Bryce, author of “Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of ‘Energy Independence.'” IPA notes that while politicians talk of “dependence on Mideast oil” (Rep. Henry Waxman: “We’re so dependent on importing oil from the Middle East”), the countries the U.S. gets the most oil from are Canada, Mexico and Nigeria.
http://accuracy.org/newsrelease.php?articleId=2209

Mustafa Barghouti on declaration of Hebron site as “Israeli national heritage site”
Katya Reed interviews Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, president of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees.
http://palestinenote.com/cs/blogs/blogs/archive/2010/03/27/mustafa-barghouti-on-declaration-of-hebron-site-as-quot-israeli-national-heritage-site-quot.aspx

Highlights of the Afghanistan Debate
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/video/housedebate





Summary:

1) U.S. forces hope to control Kandahar and surrounding areas by late summer, the Washington Post reports. Officials have pressed local leaders to eject the Taliban or their areas will be the focus of expanding military operations. Among those specifically warned by U.S. military commanders is Ahmed Wali Karzai, the elected head of Kandahar’s provincial council, the unquestioned power broker in the province and brother of President Hamid Karzai [and also President Karzai’s representative in talks with Taliban leader Mullah Baradar weeks before Baradar’s arrest, a fact curiously unmentioned by the Post or the very similar New York Times story – JFP.] One senior U.S. military official said he threatened Ahmed Wali Karzai thus: “I told him, ‘I’m going to be watching every step you take. If I catch you meeting an insurgent, I’m going to put you on the JPEL,’ ” the Joint Prioritized Engagement List, reserved for the most wanted insurgents. “That means,” the official said he told Karzai, “that I can capture or kill you.” [If the Post had mentioned Ahmed Wali Karzai’s role in talks with Baradar, it could have explored the implications of the US official’s threat to kill President Karzai’s brother for President Karzai’s claim that the US was obstructing Karzai’s efforts to make peace with the Taliban – JFP.]

2) The Obama administration has expressed hopes that this year’s U.S. military buildup, if successful, will push insurgents toward a political settlement, paving the way for an eventual Western withdrawal, the Los Angeles Times reports. Some viewed Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s dispatch of a Hezb-i-Islami delegation for public peace talks with President Karzai as preempting the indirect contacts that have been taking place for months between the Taliban and the Karzai administration. But a former Taliban official said some of the Hezb-i- Islami demands presented to the government represented common aims of the two movements.

3) Followers of Moktada al-Sadr announced they were arranging a referendum to pick Iraq’s next prime minister, the New York Times reports. A Sadrist member of Parliament said the Iraqi National Alliance had begun talks with Prime Minister Maliki’s State of Law, Allawi’s Iraqiya and the Kurdish parties. He said serious negotiations would not start for several weeks and that an alliance between the Iraqi National Alliance and State of Law was likeliest.

Iran
4) The New York Times and Reuters are joining Fox News in hyping the threat of Iran’s nuclear program, writes Glenn Greenwald for Salon. Fox falsely claims a CIA report says Iran is still working on building a nuclear weapon; Reuters misinterprets the stance of the of the IAEA, which continues to certify that none of Iran’s supervised nuclear material has been diverted to military uses; the New York Times’ David Sanger darkly warns that Western intelligence agencies “suspect” Iran is preparing to build more enrichment sites, when Iran has publicly declared its intention to do so.

Mexico
5) Congress and State Department have taken little notice of Mexico’s failure to comply with the human rights conditions of the Merida Initiative, Kristin Bricker reports for NACLA. One of the human rights conditions requires that Mexico improve “the transparency and accountability of federal police forces . . . including establishing police complaints commissions with authority and independence to receive complaints and carry out effective investigations.” But a new law gives the federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) discretion to decide what information it will withhold from the government’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH). Giving the PGR sole discretion in determining what information it hands over to the CNDH regarding human rights abuses allegedly committed by its officials and police officers significantly reduces its transparency and accountability.

6) The UN Human Rights Committee said Mexico has failed to make significant progress on human rights issues like violence against women, abuses by military troops involved in policing work, and attacks on journalists, Inter Press Service reports. The Committee expressed concern about the use of torture, violations of women’s rights, and the safety of human rights activists.

Israel/Palestine
7) Palestinians held protests to mark Land Day, the anniversary of 1976 protests against Israeli land expropriation in northern Israel, during which six Israeli Arab citizens were killed in confrontations with Israeli security forces, the New York Times reports. Several Palestinians were wounded by Israeli army fire in Gaza as they demonstrated close to the border with Israel.

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