Archive for the ‘Foreign Affairs’ Category

Witch Hunt My Arse!

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

An article In this past Friday’s Washington PostInterviews Of Terror Suspects Challenged, tells us a little something about the scope of international participation at Guantanamo. According to the article

The U.S. military has allowed intelligence and law enforcement agents from at least 18 countries to interrogate Guantanamo inmates since the detention center opened in 2002, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based group that provides legal representation to many Guantanamo prisoners.

According to the group, interrogators from Tunisia, Libya, China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Jordan verbally threatened citizens of their countries held at Guantanamo, warning them that they would be abused at home if they didn’t cooperate. Other countries that have sent interrogators to Guantanamo include Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Spain and Morocco, the center says.

I know, there is a big debate going right now over whether there was any good intelligence obtained from detainees. So, the takeaway is that Tunisia, Libya, China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Jordan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Spain and Morocco – and at least six more countries – all felt that it was worthwhile sending interrogators to GTMO. Why? Because the perceived benefits outweighed the costs. And aren’t many of these countries the same bed-wetters that have blasted the United States for torture? Pot, meet kettle.

Surely, France would not participate in interrogations. I mean, France would never be so base as to commit torture or violate human rights, would they. Opps, sorry. Quel horror! I forgot about the Algerian War of Independence. Never mind.

According to Finnish diplomat and the U.N. special investigator for human rights Martin Scheinin

…foreign agents visiting Guantanamo or secret U.S. jails overseas committed “an internationally wrongful act” even if they merely observed interrogations.

“They were acting in breach of their legal obligations in regard to the prohibition on torture and arbitrary detention,” Scheinin, who is also a law professor at the European University Institute in Florence, said in a telephone interview.

Later in the article, Scheinin is quoted

“We have had a witch hunt for alleged terrorists for the past 7 1/2 years,” he said. “Now I think the witch hunt is over and it is time for the law to step in.”

Scheinin does not appear to have any axe to grind, does he? “Alleged terrorists”? Let’s see, according to this, a total of 218 detainees were from Afghanistan, and 8 were from Iraq (!). The other 70% were from 50 other countries. The leading contributors behind Afghanistan are Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan, Algeria, China, Morocco, Libya, Kuwait, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Sudan, Syria, and Russia. All of these countries contributed more detainees than Iraq. Are any of these countries known for terrorism or islamic jihadists? What might the citizens of these countries been doing when they were rounded up? Selling Girl Scout cookies?

The United Kingdom has the same number of citizens in GTMO as Iraq. Why might Britain be interested in supplying questions and interrogating the UK detainees? Does Scheinin not recall July 7, 2005? Come on Martin, I don’t expect you bed-wetters to remember 9/11, but isn’t London part of Europe? I’d expect you to remember that. Maybe you are too busy conducting your own witch hunt?

Freeloading On The Back Of U.S. Military Security

Friday, February 6th, 2009

If we’re honest… we know that sometimes, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have drifted apart and forgotten our shared destiny.

So said then-candidate Obama in Berlin this past summer. The crowds in Europe adored Obama as much as the crowds in the United States. That right there should have been enough for any discriminating individual to vote for McCain.

But the past is the past, and now we have Afghanistan Appeal May Temper European Allies’ Ardor for Obama in today’s Washington Post, which begins

MUNICH, Feb. 5 — European leaders cheered when Barack Obama was elected president in November. They cheered again when he proclaimed during his inaugural address that America was “ready to lead once more” in the world, and yet again when he pledged to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But when Obama sends his vice president and other top emissaries to an international security conference here this weekend to seek help with the war in Afghanistan, NATO allies are unlikely to be as enthusiastic, European defense officials and analysts said in interviews.

The Obama administration is expected to announce plans to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, where the United States and its allies fear they are losing ground in the war against the Taliban. Although European leaders say they are eager to curry favor with the new U.S. president, they are proving just as reluctant to contribute more soldiers or money to the NATO-led operation as they were during President George W. Bush’s last years in the White House.

French Defense Minister Hervé Morin said last month that “there is no question, for now, of considering extra reinforcements” from Paris. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said his country would start drawing down its 1,770 troops in Afghanistan next year. German officials have also ruled out sending more soldiers beyond a parliamentary decision last year to expand the force to 4,500.

I’ll be sure to send my thanks to France, Holland, and Germany. I mean, we are talking about Afghanistan here, right? This isn’t Iraq. The fantasy continues

Some European defense officials, however, have warned that a perceived lack of support for the Afghan mission will damage the political credibility of NATO members who otherwise want to be taken more seriously in Washington.

Who are these bed wetting European defense officials? What makes them think the US merely “perceived” lack of support? What credibility? If they want to be “taken more seriously”, they should stand up and deliver.

“If Europeans expect that the United States will close Guantanamo, sign up to climate-change treaties, accept European Union leadership on key issues — but provide nothing more in return, for example in Afghanistan, than encouragement — they should think again,” NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in a Jan. 26 speech in Brussels, where NATO has its headquarters. “It simply won’t work like that.”

John Hutton, Britain’s defense secretary, last month chided unnamed European members of NATO for “freeloading on the back of U.S. military security” and said they had a “limited appetite” for the Afghanistan campaign.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and John Hutton actually get it. John Hutton especially stands out for reading supine Europeans the riot act. The UN, NATO, Europe, and Japan have been “freeloading on the back of U.S. military security for more than half a century. We should charge them their fair share.

There was a time when the United States had a representative to the United Nations that was as blunt and plain-spoken as John Hutton. His name was John R. Bolton but he was considered too blunt. We wouldn’t want to offend the sensibilities of a bunch of kleptocratic jihad-apologists.

John Hutton - Not an EU Panzie

John Hutton - Not an EU Pansy

Deja Vu All Over Again

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

The news out of Israel and the Gaza Strip has not been good recently. After six months of relative clam, the tensions have been ratcheting up recently. In the past 4 or 5 days, some 60 or more missiles have been launched from Gaza into Israel. And Israel has retaliated with air strikes against the launchers. As Yogi Berra might have said, it’s deja vu all over again.

With the change in administrations, there is the usual hope that some new approach, some new policies, will break the impasse so that a lasting peace between Israel and Palestinians might be enjoyed. In an op-ed piece in today’s Washington Post, David Ignatius explains Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s three-part “hope” for the Obama administration’s Middle East policy

  1. First, he hopes Obama won’t start “another war anywhere in the world, especially not in the Middle East.” And he trusts that the doctrine of “preemptive war” will end when George W. Bush leaves office.
  2. Second, Assad said, “We would like to see this new administration sincerely involved in the peace process.”
  3. Third, he says he wants Syria and the United States to work together to stabilize Iraq as American troops begin to leave.

I don’t know how to break it to President Assad, but Obama was quite clear about his approach to hunting down Osama bin Laden, vis-a-vis the lawless tribal regions of Pakistan. And, Obama made his position on a nuclear Iran quite clear. According to the Wikipedia article on preemptive war

The intention with a preemptive strike is to gain the advantage of initiative and to harm the enemy at a moment of minimal protection.

I sincerely hope that no American president categorically rules out preemptive war.

Regarding Assad’s second hope, clearly the Bush administration has not been as engaged in that part of the Middle East as much as preceding administrations. I think the Bush administration wanted to try something radically different. What is the popular definition of insanity (provided by Albert Einstein)? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome? Assad seems to be advocating a return to insanity. For decades, the one constant during the Palestinian-Israeli conflict had been Yassir Arafat. More recently, we have the election of Hamas as a majority in the Palestinian parliament.  Even the Washington Post refers to Hamas as a “radical Islamic movement”. So, yes, I suppose that the Obama administration will be more engaged than the Bush administration, and nothing would please me more than to see a lasting peace. But, rapprochement seems unlikely.

Regarding Assad’s third hope, well, this seems a little late, now that a stable Iraq seems to be slowly emerging. According to this 2007 United States Institute of Peace report, Syria’s idea of a stable Iraq is not necessarily aligned with our ideas. “We’re from Syria and we’re here to help.” Right. As a major supplier of insurgents during the most trying times in Iraq, Assad was not so interested in stabilizing Iraq.

I say tell Assad to get bent. Only tell him nice, like a diplomat would.

Merry Christmas – Happy Hanukah – Joyous Kwanzaa – Happy Festivus

Pussyfooting in Deir ez-Zor

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

The big news this week in nuclear non-proliferation is that the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Administration (aka Atoms for Peace) has issued its report on the Syrian Dair Alzour site that was taken out by Israel in July of last year during Operation Orchard.

At the site, the IAEA found significant amounts of chemically manipulated – but not enriched – uranium. This, despite the Syrian’s efforts to reclaim the site with tons of imported soil. The IAEA won’t say with 100% certainty that the site was a nuclear reactor, so they are looking at other possibilities to explain their findings. Syria is happy to provide a plausible explanation: the uranium found is left over from the Israeli bombs. The IAEA, though, has claimed that the uranium found was not “depleted”. I am left to believe that there is no word in the Arabic language that translates, roughly to ‘parsimonious’.

The IAEA report indicates that satellite imagery shows that the construction of the “installation” was begun between April and August of 2001. Per the imagery, the IAEA is able to conclude that the building had multiple underground levels and that it included structures that were consistent with those used for  “biological containment”. After visiting the site in June 2008, the IAEA noted an unusual “water pumping infrastructure” with a pumping capacity able to support a 25 MW reactor. The IAEA also noted a robust electrical capacity able to support the pumping system.

The report also indicates that satellite imagery of other Syrian sites “may be of relevance to the activities at the Dair Alzour site”. The IAEA has asked for access to these other sites in May 2008 and Syria has refused access. In the mean time, says the report, satellite imagery of these three locations shows “landscaping activities and the removal of large containers” shortly after the request for access.

Despite their own report, the IAEA is not 100% convinced.

While it cannot be excluded that the building in question was intended for non-nuclear use, the features of the building, as described above, along with the connectivity of the site to adequate pumping capacity of cooling water, are similar to what may be found in connection with a reactor site.

Why is it that the diplomatic community can never actually call anyone out? Oh, yeah, I forgot…they’re diplomats (even the scientists), and diplomats never call out anyone except the United States. Why not just come clean and say something like this:

The features of the building, as described above, along with the connectivity of the site to adequate pumping capacity of cooling water, are completely consistent with, and indicators of, a reactor site.

Enough already with the pussyfooting around. Do the IAEA inspectors show up wearing these?



The Syrians are doing their part by upholding the Middle East tradition of pathological lying. Our new Secretary of State and National Security Advisor would do well by following this simple rule:

If you want to know what the score is, just listen to any Middle East diplomatic statement, and reverse it on all accounts. Such would be closer to the truth.

He Can Come As a Tourist

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

On the front page of today’s Washington Post, there is an article entitled Facing Obama, Iran Suddenly Hedges on Talks. Here is the opening paragraph:

TEHRAN, Nov. 12 – Since 2006, Iran’s leaders have called for direct, unconditional talks with the United States to resolve international concerns over their nuclear program. But as a American administration open to such negotiations prepares to take power, Iran’s political and military leaders are sounding suddenly wary of President-elect Barack Obama.

Boy, I did not see that coming, did you? There are many quotes of various officials, none of which seem to suggest a willingness to meet with Obama on his generous terms. The article states

For Iran’s leaders, the only state of affairs worse than poor relations with the United States may be improved relations.

And then there is a report that, on Wednesday of this week, Iran test fired a two-stage solid-fuel rocket capable of a 1,200 mile range. Right on cue. Later in the article

In recent interviews, advisers to Ahmadinejad said the new U.S. administration would have to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq, show respect for Iran’s system of rule by a supreme religious leader, and withdraw its objections to Iran’s nuclear program before it can enter into negotiations with the Iranian government.

And my favorite

Obama would not be welcome in Iran as president, were he to decide to come here, [Ahmadinejad media adviser Mehdi] Kalhor said.  “He can come as a tourist.”

Well there you have it. It looks like negotiations are going to reap unprecedented cooperation, right?

In the interest of reaching out to Medhi Kalhor and the rest of the terrorists, I offer this cheery holiday song:

It’s beginning to look a lot like Fallout

Ev’rywhere you go;

Take a look at the Council of Guardians, glistening once again

With sand-strewn plains and acid rains aglow,

It’s beginning to look a lot like Fallout,

Immense temps galore,

But the prettiest site to see will be the No-Rooz that will be

As you look up from the floor.