Foreign Policy Briefing 4/9/10


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U.S. Military Still Lying About Special Forces Night Raid in Afghanistan
Regardless of whether U.S. Special Forces removed bullets from the bodies of the Afghan women they just killed, as charged by the victims’ relatives – and if they did, what their motivation was for doing so – spreading the story that the women’s bodies had been found “tied up” and “gagged,” as NATO did in a Feb. 12 press release still posted on its web site, if that was not true, would meet any disinterested observer’s definition of the word “coverup.”

Sean Penn: ‘Action has to be taken’
Sean Penn, at a refugee camp in Port-au-Prince, tells CNN: this is going to be a catastrophe if we don’t get these people to safer ground…hospitals are being allowed to close despite all the enormous funds that people have put forward…it’s time that people demand that those funds be released and spent decisively.

Urge Congress to Oppose U.S. Killing of Afghan Civilians
In the next several weeks, Congress is expected to be asked to approve $33 billion more for war and occupation in Afghanistan. Urge your representatives in Congress to oppose the killings of Afghan civilians by the U.S. military.

Call Congress Monday Against the War in Afghanistan
Groups are collaborating in generating calls to Congress against the war, urging: opposition to the war supplemental, support for a military withdrawal timetable, support for a public exit strategy and support for peace negotiations. Mark your calendar..

Palestinian Center for Human Rights Fact Sheet: Impact of the Gaza “Buffer Zone”
As a result of Israeli military restrictions, 30% of Gaza’s agricultural land cannot be worked without severe personal risk, causing the loss of livelihoods.

Highlights of the Afghanistan Debate

U.S./Top News
1) U.S. Special Forces are the focus of a high-profile investigation that could shed unprecedented light on their methods and tactics, the Los Angeles Times reports. US and Afghan officials are probing a possible attempted coverup in the deaths of five Afghan civilians in February in a raid carried out by U.S. Special Forces. Special Forces account for a disproportionate share of civilian casualties caused by Western troops, military officials and human rights groups say, though there are no precise figures because so many of their missions are deemed secret.

2) Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu canceled his plans to attend the Nuclear Security summit meeting in Washington next week, the New York Times reports. Israeli news media reported that the prime minister feared that Muslim states were planning on using the occasion to raise the question of Israel’s nuclear arsenal. Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear armed power in the Middle East, but it refuses to discuss the issue and has declined to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

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3) Arab diplomats said they suspected Netanyahu had canceled mainly to avoid further confrontation with President Obama over Jewish settlements, and denied having any plans to press Israel on atomic policy, Reuters reports. Two senior Arab officials accused Netanyahu of trying to evade questions on the Palestinian issue. “We believe that Netanyahu withdrew from the summit because he did not want to face President Obama and is using Egypt and Turkey as an excuse,” a senior Egyptian diplomat said. Another senior Arab diplomat said Arab states had no plan to “politicize” the venue and raise the Israeli issue there. “We are surprised that the Israeli prime minister would use this as a pretext for not attending,” the second diplomat told Reuters. But Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said Prime Minister Erdogan would demand at the summit that Israel disarm as part of a nuclear-free Middle East. Le Monde quoted Erdogan as saying this week that “Israel has nuclear weapons but doesn’t belong to the NPT. Does that mean that those who don’t sign the NPT are in a privileged position?”

4) Opposition leaders in Kyrgyzstan said they had no immediate plans to close the U.S. air base at Manas International Airport, the Washington Post reports. But they indicated that, at a minimum, Washington would be forced to negotiate fresh terms to maintain the military installation, less than a year after the Bakiyev government tripled the rent and extracted $150 million in other concessions. Roza Otunbayeva, leader of the interim government, suggested the new government would honor the U.S. lease for the base, which expires in July. But she made no promises beyond that.

5) The international community could help Haiti “become more self-sufficient” by purchasing the entire Haitian rice crop over the next two years for just 2.35 percent of total current committed aid funds, says the Center for Economic and Policy Research in an issue brief. CEPR finds that buying up all of Haiti’s rice should be close to the amount of food aid for rice that the international community is likely to provide this year, and would provide a tremendous boost to Haitian farmers, who currently are unable to compete with low-cost rice imports from the U.S.


6) Turkey’s top prosecutor criticized planned constitutional changes but stopped short of launching a repeat of an attempt he made in 2008 to shut down the ruling AK party, Reuters reports. Markets fell by almost one percent during the prosecutor’s press conference but rose by 1.5 percent when he failed to mention “a closure case against AK Party,” one financial analyst said.

7) Colombia’s Constitutional Court called on President Uribe to sign the “Law of Forced Disappearance” passed by the Congress, which sets out new provisions on registering and searching for people who have been secretly kidnapped or murdered, writes Colombia Reports, citing Caracol Radio. The bill would lead to the creation of a genetic database of forcefully disappeared individuals, and the construction of monuments to honor the victims. In 2009 the UN said there were 17,000 cases, NGOs reported 24,000, while Colombia’s prosecutor general said there were 50,000.

8) An Ecuadorean judge announced charges will be re-filed against Colombia’s front-runner presidential candidate, Juan Manuel Santos, for his role in the 2008 cross-border attack on a FARC camp in Ecuador, writes Colombia Reports, citing Eco Diario. Santos was Colombia’s defense minister at the time of the cross-border bombing.

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