Gingrich got chutzpah

by David Isenberg | July 30th, 2007 | |Subscribe

Looking at the transcript of Fox News Sunday, a “useful tool” of a program if ever there was one, I’m thinking that guest Newt Gingrich should consider converting to Judaism. Speaking as a Jew myself he certainly has one perequisite; namely chutzpah. Consider this excerpt:

CHRIS WALLACE: Finally, and we have about a minute left. On Iraq, Senator Feingold is already calling, and already voting to start pulling troops out starting in 120 days, with most forces out by next April. Why do you think that some Democrats want to start pulling out troops even before General Petraeus gets a chance to issue his progress report in September?

NEWT GINGRICH [Former Speaker of the House]: The left wing of the Democratic Party is deeply opposed to American victory, and deeply committed to American defeat. In 1975, when there were no Americans left in Vietnam, the left wing of the Democratic Party killed the government of South Vietnam, cut off all its funding, cut off all of its ammunition, and sent a single to the world, that the United States had abandoned its allies.

Putting aside the fact that Gingrich gets his historical facts wrong (it was on June 19, 1973 that Congress passed the Case-Church Amendment, which called for a halt to all military activities in Southeast Asia by August 15 and it was in the fall of 1974 that Congress cut funding to South Vietnam for the upcoming fiscal year from a proposed 1.26 billion to 700 million dollars), which is pretty amusing considering he is a former college professor, the truth was that by that point the war was irretrievably lost and no amount of funding would have changed the outcome. (more…)

More on Rendition

by Raj Purohit | July 30th, 2007 | |Subscribe

The Guardian ran an interesting article on Sunday that once again highlighted and called into question the relationship between MI5 and the CIA over torture flights. In this case they interviewed Bisher al-Rawi, an Iraqi living in the UK who claims he was tortured at Gitmo and at Bagram airforce base. While many of the facts he lays out seem to fit into the broad construct of the rendition program, there are a couple of pieces that are more unusual and that, if true, really could hurt MI5. This in turn could raise the pressure on the CIA here in the U.S.

First Bisher claims to have been an informer for MI5 and alleges that they betrayed him by telling the CIA he had a timing device for a bomb with him when he was flying to The Gambia. As readers of this blog may have come to anticipate, there was no timer at all. In fact he had a battery charger with him and several years and much pain and suffering later he is free.

Like many freed survivors of the CIA program, he claims to be speaking out to help an innocent friend who is still at Gitmo. Certainly his story will be another black eye for the CIA and MI5. This type of exceptionalism continues to harm U.S. interests globally. When will it all end?

Fields of Gold

by Brian Vogt | July 27th, 2007 | |Subscribe

A few days ago a new bipartisan foreign policy initiative was launched to emphasize the role that development assistance and diplomacy must play in America’s foreign policy.  One goals of this initiative, Impact 08, is to challenge Presidential candidates to explain how they will integrate greater investments in development and diplomacy into their foreign policy plans.  Not surprisingly, many of the PSA Advisory Board members have also signed onto the statement, “A 21st Century Vision of U.S. Global Leadership Building a Better, Safer World.”  The group is co-chaired by Madeleine Albright (D) and Frank Carlucci (R) and the statement has been signed by prominent D’s and R’s such as Lee Hamilton, Wesley Clark, Bill Frist, Tom Kean, Paul O’Neil, Tom Ridge, George Shultz, Larry Summers, Tony Lake, James Baker, and many others. 

In reading the statement, there was one line that actually struck me because of its timeliness: 

“We must put in place development assistance and trade policies that will increase market access and create greater economic opportunities for both America and our trading partners.”

While I believe that the U.S. must certainly place a high priority on development assistance, it seems equally important to rethink our domestic policies that dramatically undermine those efforts.  What I’m talking about, of course, is the farm bill.  (more…)

Response to the Bush Executive Order on Torture

by Raj Purohit | July 26th, 2007 | |Subscribe

Today’s Washington Post carries an important OP-ED by Gen. P. X. Kelley (commandant of the Marine Corp from 1983-1987) and Robert F. Turner (co-founder of the UVA Center for National Security Law) in which they react to the White House executive order from last Friday in which the President seeks to interpret Common Article 3. It is fair to say they are not convinced – here is the key section:
“In other words, as long as the intent of the abuse is to gather intelligence or to prevent future attacks, and the abuse is not “done for the purpose of humiliating or degrading the individual” — even if that is an inevitable consequence — the president has given the CIA carte blanche to engage in “willful and outrageous acts of personal abuse.””
I am glad that these two individuals weighed in and that the Post gave them the space to make their case – it is vitally important to note the rising tide of outrage directed at the Administrations continued bad faith approach to dealing with the issue of torture. We are a long way from ensuring that the United States respects international law in this area.

Tell Us How this Ends

by Christopher Preble | July 26th, 2007 | |Subscribe

I’ve been a bit surprised by the relative lack of blogosphere commentary on Monday evening’s Democratic presidential debate. Perhaps most people simply forgot that the candidates were debating, and focused instead on the fact that it was a CNN-YouTube debate, complete with singing snowmen and hackneyed country crooners.

There were a few zingers by the actual candidates, however, and some policy substance as well. I was less interested in the Hillary Clinton v. Barack Obama spat over talking to bad guys than I was in Sen. Joseph Biden’s proposal to send 2,500 U.S. troops into Darfur. Biden is one of the most nation’s most respected voices on foreign policy. Gov. Bill Richardson was only half-joking when he said that Biden would make a great Secretary of State. But despite this depth of knowledge and personal experience on all matters relating to force and diplomacy, Biden’s proposal seems oddly cavalier. Indeed, most of the candidates took pains to distance themselves from the notion that there should be thousands of U.S. military personnel on the ground in Darfur.

This surprised me, and it caught the attention of Scott Paul at TheWashingtonNote who chided Biden for proposing to send American forces to Darfur at a time when they’re stretched thin by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Besides, Paul notes, “people in the region are very wary of American intervention – even the good guys who are pushing hard to end the atrocities in Darfur, Chad, and the Central African Republic.”

But Biden is not the only one who has put forward plans for using the nation’s military without a clear understanding of what our troops would do, and how they would do it. The three leading candidates for the Democratic nomination – Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards – have also exhibited an unwillingness or inability, or both, to think through the medium- to long-term ramifications of military action. This is simply unacceptable for people aspiring to lead our nation’s military.

(more…)

Last Best Chance for Middle East Peace

by Matthew Rojansky | July 24th, 2007 | |Subscribe

Sandy Mediterranean beaches and bluffs at fire sale prices, with no rules on zoning or development:  it sounds like the real estate bargain of the century.  Unfortunately, it’s the Gaza Strip, and it’s in a lot worse shape than your typical fixer-upper.  This summer, Palestine has descended into the most destructive and widespread internal conflict in its short history.  But for all the bloodshed, we may be witnessing a historic window of opportunity for peace, not only between rival Palestinian factions, but among Israelis, Palestinians and the entire Arab world.  (more…)

Another ally heard from

by David Isenberg | July 23rd, 2007 | |Subscribe

There was a very interesting exchange on CNN this weekend with Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri. Considering how often U.S. pundits defend American interventionism and militarism it is worth reading this exchange to see how some, including those among our “allies”, view American actions.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Just a short while ago, I spoke with Pakistani foreign minister, Khurshid Kasuri, who had some tough words for the U.S. assessment of Pakistan’s handling of the Taliban and Al Qaida.

BLITZER: Foreign Minister, thanks very much for joining us. Will the Pakistani military go into that tribal area along the border with Afghanistan and crush the Taliban and Al Qaida?

KASURI: The Pakistani military is already there in the tribal area. We had 85,000 earlier. Two divisions have been sent recently in the tribal area and in some other areas adjoining the tribal areas.

Pakistan’s commitment cannot be doubted by anybody, and that is why some of our people do not like what we read in some of your newspapers, which are more like leaks and calculated leaks. And we hear of safe havens in Pakistan.

It really makes us very angry when we are suffering so many casualties, when our troops are suffering so many casualties. You know, I know you’re a friend, but the way you frame your question is something that people in Pakistan don’t like. (more…)

Re: Prosecuting Genocide

by Matthew Rojansky | July 23rd, 2007 | |Subscribe

I’m not sure universal jurisdiction for war crimes is a great idea, writ large. For one thing, it’s not clear that criminal prosecution is the solution to war crimes. It is, after all, small consolation to the victims for whom it’s too late and the actual deterrent effect on potential war criminals of knowing they will be prosecuted is much debated. In fact, some argue that impending prosecution is likely to prolong conflict and inhibit negotiated peace. For an excellent illustration of universal jurisdiction run amok, simply look at Belgium’s recently repealed law on the subject. (more…)

Prosecuting Genocide

by Raj Purohit | July 23rd, 2007 | |Subscribe

A few years ago I was talking to a former high level official from the Clinton Administration about Pol Pot. Specifically we were discussing why he was never brought to trial for his crimes in the weeks before he committed suicide. The official told me that there was a real desire on the part of the Administration to bring Pol Pot to trial in the U.S. but that our criminal code was far too narrow to allow for a prosecution to occur. The official correctly noted that the law as it stood only allowed for the prosecution of individuals who have committed genocide within the U.S.

I have been working with the IL&J community to push for this gap to be plugged for a number of years. Additionally we have been pushing to amend the U.S. criminal code to ensure that all individuals who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity can be prosecuted in federal court. This type of complimentarity with international law and specifically the Rome Statute is important from a leadership perspective – it shows a commitment to core international legal norms.

The good news re: the prosecution of genocide is that the Senate passed a bill sponsored by Senator Durbin titled the Genocide Accountability Act of 2007. The bill seeks to ensure that the U.S. will be able to prosecute future Pol Pot’s. It has a companion version in the House, H.R. 2489, which seems to be stalled at the moment. I really hope we can get this bill passed ASAP – it is sponsored by Rep. Berman and Rep. Pence – and it just makes sense to get this done. This should be something both parties support 100% – let’s get this to the President for signature by the fall!

Feel safer yet? Uh, no, actually

by David Isenberg | July 18th, 2007 | |Subscribe

As happens now and then, in one of those moments of serendipity, yesterday I was attending the Director of National Intelligence sponsored Open Source Conference.  During a morning session the DNI Director Mike McConnell gave a speech, which drew in part on the newly released National Intelligence Estimate of the key judgments for the current threat and terrorism to the United States homeland, an unclassified version  of which was posted online.

And what does the two-page declassified summary of key judgments of a National Intelligence Estimate titled “The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland” say? See for yourself.

We judge the US Homeland will face a persistent and evolving terrorist threat over the next three years. The main threat comes from Islamic terrorist groups and cells, especially al-Qa’ida, driven by their undiminished intent to attack the Homeland and a continued effort by these terrorist groups to adapt and improve their capabilities. 

We assess that greatly increased worldwide counterterrorism efforts over the past five years have constrained the ability of al-Qa’ida to attack the US Homeland again and have led terrorist groups to perceive the Homeland as a harder target to strike than on 9/11. These measures have helped disrupt known plots against the United States since 9/11. (more…)

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All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.