Middle East

Bush Favorite Petraeus says US Violated Geneva Conventions

Writing on the Huffington Post, Jon Soltz reports that Bush Administration favorite, and rumored possible future GOP Presidential candidate, General David Petraeus has declared that what the US did in Iraq violated the Geneva Conventions. 

Unless this spins in some other direction I'm not sure where the apologists go now. 

The conservatives have very little left to argue now.  Which is why I think the right's obsession with Twitter makes a lot of sense.  For a movement with so little to say a medium which maxes out at 128 characters seems like a very good fit.

Reminder: UK Secretary of State for International Development Live Web Cast Today, 12 p.m. ET

Remember to watch today's live Web cast of UK Secretary of State for International Development, Douglas Alexander, as he gives a major address on the relationship between conflict, fragility and development. Click here for more information about the event. The Web cast will begin at 12:15 p.m. ET.

Obama's Weekly Address Focuses on Global Cooperation

President Barack Obama, aboard Air Force One, speaks this week on the need for global cooperation and explains his overseas trip to the American people. He begins with the now-familiar, but still excellent refrain on global interconnectivity.

In this new century, we live in a world that has grown smaller and more interconnected than at any time in history. Threats to our nation’s security and economy can no longer be kept at bay by oceans or by borders drawn on maps. The terrorists who struck our country on 9/11 plotted in Hamburg, trained in Kandahar and Karachi, and threaten countries across the globe. Cars in Boston and Beijing are melting ice caps in the Arctic that disrupt weather patterns everywhere. The theft of nuclear material from the former Soviet Union could lead to the extermination of any city on earth. And reckless speculation by bankers in New York and London has fueled a global recession that is inflicting pain on workers and families around the world and across America.

The challenges of our time threaten the peace and prosperity of every single nation, and no one nation can meet them alone. That is why it is sometimes necessary for a President to travel abroad in order to protect and strengthen our nation here at home. That is what I have done this week.

Take a look at the whole address:

Also, Obama's town hall in Strasbourg yesterday, following a surprisingly successful G-20 summit, was pretty amazing, both in itself and its symbolism of a new era of American leadership. His tone and policy prescriptions are right on the mark. Read Simon's blog about it and the politics of bottom-up going global.

Obama’s Al Arabiya Interview

In an interview yesterday with Al Arabiya, President Obama talked candidly about the United States’ role in negotiating conflict in the Middle East. Obama emphasized the importance of setting aside preconditions and focusing on the future instead of harping on the past. He also stated the importance of a multilateral approach to negotiations that would involve the EU and the UN.

Obama acknowledged Israel as a strong ally to America and expressed concerns for its safety. He also said he would like to see the territories grow as place of trade, commerce, business and freedom of movement.

In perhaps two of the most memorable lines of the interview, President Obama tells Muslims that “the Americans are not your enemies” and that the “moment is ripe” for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

I applaud President Obama for the interview and his attitude toward the role of the United States in the Middle East. Specifically, Obama emphasized the importance of immediate and continued involvement, whereas President Bush dealt with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict intermittently, and left the brunt of the work to the last months of his administration. The President also suggested that he would listen and advise instead of dictating. While the use of a firm hand is sometimes necessary in negotiations, Obama’s thoughtful, even handed approach will help to restore the United States’ validity as a mediator.

Obama also proposed a more holistic approach to Middle East conflict, incorporating problems in Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan instead of just honing in on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This will undoubtedly prove difficult and complicated, however if ever there was a time to tackle those issues it is now. A fresh face in negotiations is most certainly welcome to all parties.

For a full transcript of the interview click here.

The Post Takes A Sober Look at What's Next for Iraq

The Washington Post has an excellent piece today taking an indepth look at whats next in Iraq.  It begins:

BAGHDAD - Maybe it was the only shot heard for days in a neighborhood once ordered by the cadence of gunfire. Perhaps it was the smiles at checkpoints and the shouts of Iraqi policemen navigating the always snarled traffic. "God's mercy on your parents," they beseeched. "God's blessings on you." Maybe it was the music box still playing "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" at a kiosk overflowing with Christmas tree decorations and heart-shaped red pillows.

For anyone returning to Baghdad after spending time here during its darkest days two years ago, when it was paralyzed by sectarian hatred and overrun by gunmen sowing despair, the conclusion seemed inescapable.

"The war has ended," said Heidar al-Abboudi, a street merchant.

The war in Iraq is indeed over, at least the conflict as it was understood during its first five years: insurgency, communal cleansing, gangland turf battles and an anarchic, often futile quest to survive. In other words, civil war -- though civil war was always too tidy a term for it. The entropy, for now at least, has run its course. So have many of the forces the United States so dangerously unleashed with its 2003 invasion, turning Iraq into an atomized, fractured land seized by a paroxysm of brutality. In that Iraq, the Americans were the final arbiter and, as a result, deprived anything they left behind of legitimacy.

Not to say that there is peace in Iraq. As many people are killed today as on any day in 2003 and 2004. Nor is there victory. For any Iraqi, the word, translated into Arabic, draws a dumbfounded look. Victory for whom? Certainly not the tens of thousands of civilians -- perhaps many more -- killed in the frenzied clashes of those once inchoate forces.

Rather, it is the day after.

Baghdad feels much as southern Lebanon did after an asymmetrical war there in 2006, between Israel and Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim movement that fought Israel to a draw. Survivors rose from the rubble of their homes, offices and stores with the satisfied smile of survival -- in war, its own victory. Then they beheld the destruction the fighting had wrought around them. Their faces turned grim as they realized the task at hand.

It is perhaps the day before, too.

"We don't know what's next," Shidrak George, a bystander, said April 9, 2003, as he watched men vainly assault Saddam Hussein's statue in Firdaus Square with chains, a sledgehammer and a cascade of rocks before making way for a bulky Marine M88 armored recovery vehicle to pull it down. The vehicle stopped for no one. It didn't have to.

He said everything remained ghamidh -- mysterious and unclear.

"We want to know how this turns out."

Here for more.

The Global Economic Crisis and Future Ambassadorial Appointments

In the next few weeks, President-Elect Obama will fill out the remaining parts of his economic team, announcing the Secretaries of Labor and Commerce, the United States Trade Representative, and senior positions at Treasury and the other major departments.   But there is one other category of appointment that has traditionally not been seen as part of the "economic team" that will need to be in the challenging years ahead - the Ambassadors to the G20 nations. 

It is my hope that these critical appointments - particularly to the new emerging powers such as China, India, Brazil and Mexico - are given to candidates with strong economic backgrounds.  For most of the nations of the world, the core of their relationship to the United States is economic, not political or security-related.  We will need leaders with strong economic backgrounds to help these nations navigate the rough global economic seas ahead, and to fashion new collective systems of cooperation that tackle the truly common global challenges all the nations of the world face today. 

The age of Obama will see an almost instantaneous change in language and world view, but perhaps nowhere more starkly than in our understanding of what are the most important threats to our national security. Yes, we will have those traditional "security" oriented threats like nuclear proliferation, radical Islam and the worsening politics of the belt from Pakistan to Lebanon, but we will also have a whole basket of threats to stability that are more about helping governments adapt to the opportunities, rigors and failures of 21st century globalization, and the enormous challenge of climate change and moving to a low-carbon future. 

In the years ahead, the worst geopolitical crises may emerge not from terrorists and radical Islam, but from the instability brought about from collapsing domestic financial systems and prolonged recessions in failing and fragile states. Since the fall of Communism 20 years ago, this chapter of global human history has been largely a very positive one - a weakening of totalitarian leaders and ideologies, rising standards of living throughout the world, the spread of a global communications network that is helping bring isolated people and communities into modernity as never before. That global era - the post-Communist era - seems to be crashing, coming to a close, now.   A whole new global era of politics, economics. communications, climate management and security seems to be emerging, one very different from the one that came before.  And while the government Barack Obama is building is loaded with talent, and may be among the very best ever assembled, one also gets the sense that the structure of it - State, Defense, Treasury, USTR, Commerce, Transportation, Energy, Labor, the National Security Council, the National Economic Council - seems itself built for another day.

For example, in this age, who will really be in charge of our global economic portfolio, and the management of the geopolitics of the coming global recession? State? Treasury? Commerce? The NEC? Energy? What role will USTR, Defense, the CIA, play?  Or who will take the lead in developing our comprehensive strategy for moving America and the world to a low-carbon future and all that that entails, as all of these departments and domestic ones like HUD, EPA and Transportation have a role to play here? 

Barack Obama has already shown himself to be a creative, insightful and wise leader.  He will need all of those traits as he confronts not just daunting global challenges, but confronts a whole new age of global politics armed with aging institutions and anachronistic strategies that may do as much - no matter the talent - to prevent comprehensive solutions as enable them.

"Play Stump the Candidate", Says Sarah Palin

Right on the heels of Senator McCain's latest foreign policy gaffe, his side-kick/Vice Presidential running mate decided to take a crack at dispelling these "attacks" about her lack of foreign policy experience. Just to put this in context: in the past week a bomb was detonated at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen, two U.S. ambassadors were expelled from Latin American countries, and the ambassadors from those nations were similarly recalled from the U.S. (not to mention the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, of course). The importance of the actual knowledge - not just "experience" travelling - and understanding of these complex international relationships by Presidential candidates cannot be understated. It is anything but unfair to demand that the persons running for the highest seat in the land possess higher than average knowledge and understanding of the different regions in the world and our interest in each.

In this town hall meeting Gov. Palin basically says that we shouldn't fear because she and her running mate might not be ready now, but they will be ready "on January 20", "God willing". And she explains her credentials in the area of foreign policy: she'll be ready because she "has that readiness"...she's "ready to serve". "You can even play stump the candidate if you want to" by asking her "specifics, with specific policy or countries."


Matt Damon on The Palin Ultimatum

And just for fun - I think Matt Damon brings up a good point.

I love the comment a VERY conservative friend of mine made when I sent him this video: "Caring or quoting what celebrities think about anything is usually cause for a punch line, but in this case, he happens to be correct."

His comment reflects how during this election, unlike any other, people are switching parties, switching preferences, and reflecting over a broader array of issues that are less substantive but no less relevant - issues like race and age in a Presidential election, the role of a Vice Presidential nominee - much more than in the past.





Is Cheney Tied Up Somewhere?

Austin, TX - The Administration agrees to a "time horizon" for removing our troops from Iraq. A senior diplomat is sitting down with an Iran nuclear negotiator. Secretary Gates publically calls for troops to be moved from Iraq to Afghanistan. The EPA releases a report confirming the very real and imminent threat of climate change. Bush agrees to cut greenhouse emissions at the G8. Taken together, this seems like an across-the-board repudiation of many fiercely held Bush Administation positions, all closely associated with the Vice President.

Where's Dick and his team of neocons in all this? There are of course many areas where the Administration seems deeply dug in, but change has come to the White House. Why, for what reasons, this is all happening now, it is too soon to tell. But change nevertheless has come to the White House in the final months of the Bush Administration.

1030am - Lots of talk here about Maliki's endorsement of Obama's timetable for withdrawal. What an extraordinary moment in what has been a remarkable political year, and what will no doubt be an important, even historic, trip abroad by U.S. Sen. Barack Obama. Even Maliki has joined the neocon repudiation chorus.

1035am - Speaker Pelosi is doing a remarkable job here at Netroots Nation. I am very proud of her for recognizing the importance of this gathering, and her thoughtful and powerful presence here this morning.

1050am - Asked about her agenda, the Speaker said health care, her innovation agenda, infrastructure and green energy. And throughout her 10-ten talk, her language was modern, her understanding of the issues detailed, her ability to weave a narrative compelling. I'm not sure too many politicians of either Party could have done as good as a job as she is doing this morning.

1120am - Gore has arrived, and is just knocking the ball out of the park.  He is as good as I've ever seen him.  He has captured the room, and I have to believe has now officially engaged/involved the netroots in his crusade.  This is an important day in the development of a national movement to solve the climate crisis. 

Amazingly, Gore and Pelosi are now just sitting and taking questions. This has been a great morning.  Kudos to Gina for her stage management of this powerful session. 

Beinart on the New Politics of Foreign Policy

Peter Beinart, from a nifty op-ed in the Washington Post:

In "The Best and the Brightest," David Halberstam chronicles Lyndon Johnson's absolute terror of appearing soft on Communism. Having seen fellow Democrats destroyed in the early 1950s because they tolerated a Communist victory in China, Johnson swore that he would not let the story replay itself in Vietnam, and thus pushed America into war. The awful irony, Halberstam argues, is that Johnson's fears were unfounded. The mid-1960s were not the early 1950s. The Red Scare was over. But because it lived on in Johnson's mind, he could not grasp the realities of a new day.

In this way, 2008 is a lot like 1964. On foreign policy, many Democrats live in terror of being called soft, of provoking the kind of conservative assault that has damaged so many of their presidential nominees since Vietnam. But that fear reflects memories of the past, not the realities of today. When Democrats worry about the backlash that awaits Barack Obama if he defends civil liberties, or endorses withdrawal from Iraq, or proposes unconditional negotiations with Iran, they are seeing ghosts. Fundamentally, the politics of foreign policy have changed.

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