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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Bush’s Messes in Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan; Plus NGOWatch, Richard Perle, and more

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FEATURED ARTICLE

Somalia in the Crosshairs
By Najum Mushtaq | February 1, 2007

The Bush administration’s Somalia policy has been consistently dictated by an exaggerated fear of al-Qaida’s strength in Somalia, leading it to equate the indigenous Somali Islamic courts with the global network of terrorism. Read full story.

ALSO NEW THIS WEEK ON RIGHT WEB

Afghanistan: Upping the Ante
By Jim Lobe | February 1, 2007

Despite widespread opposition to the Iraq “surge” plan, few seem to oppose U.S. efforts to increase its troop levels in Afghanistan. Read full story.

Iraq: Who’s the Enemy?
By Jim Lobe | February 1, 2007

January has proved a bewildering month for U.S. forces, under attack from various armed factions whose loyalties are often far from clear. Read full story.

NEW RIGHT WEB PROFILES

NGOWatch
Regarded by some as a “McCarthyite blacklist,” NGOWatch is a joint project between the neoconservative-affiliated American Enterprise Institute and the Federalist Society, a powerful right-wing judicial group.

Richard Perle
The onetime “Prince of Darkness” and current neocon black sheep, Perle has turned into a prince of pessimism when it comes to the war in Iraq.

Iran Policy Committee
This group of retired military brass and rightist policy wonks hopes the president will add regime change in Iran to his call for a “surge” in Iraq.

Richard Allen
The Defense Policy Board member and former national security adviser guesses that Reagan would have done a better job than Bush when it comes to Iraq.

ODDS & ENDS

“Scoop” Jackson Lives

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is the latest recipient of the Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson Distinguished Service Award, which is presented annually by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), a neoconservative-aligned policy center that fosters military-to-military relations between Israel and the United States. The award honors Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, a hardline, pro-Israel Democratic senator from Washington State whose office in the 1970s served as a rallying point for a host of nascent neoconservatives in their efforts to rollback the “appeasement” policies of the post-Vietnam War Democratic Party.

Speaking at the JINSA award dinner on December 5 in Washington, DC, McCain said that the United States has moral and strategic ties with Israel, and that “we will stand with Israel as she fights the same enemy.” McCain said that “American support for Israel should intensify—to include providing needed military equipment and technology.” McCain, who traveled to Israel with Senator Jackson in 1979, joins a long line of hawks from both parties who have received JINSA’s Jackson Award, including Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), Paul Wolfowitz, Curt Weldon, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Dick Cheney, Max Kampelman, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Duncan Hunter.

McCain warned that “Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons clearly poses an unacceptable risk” and noted that Iran is flouting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, he neglected to mention Israel’s own nuclear arsenal and refusal to join the nonproliferation accord.

Freedom’s Just Another Word …

In a January 26 Financial Times op-ed, Anatol Lieven of the New America Foundation takes Freedom House and the U.S. government to task for making an overly facile connection between freedom and elections. He writes: “In recent years … U.S. official and semi-official rhetoric has too often reduced Freedom with a capital ‘F’ chiefly to the right to vote. Even freedom of expression is usually taken to mean little more than unrestricted private media ownership, even if this leads to oligarchic or monopolistic control of the sources of mass information. This attitude has survived what should have been the sobering experience of the elections in Iraq and Afghanistan. Loudly touted at the time as critically important signs of these countries’ progress, two years later they appear to have achieved precisely nothing in terms of the creation of national polities or working states, let alone of peace, progress, and security.”

Lieven notes that in the new “Freedom in the World” country index compiled by Freedom House, “China’s freedom rating today is—grotesquely—barely different from its score in 1972, when China was undergoing the murderous Cultural Revolution.” Lieven contrasts Freedom House’s “simplistic” freedom benchmarks, whose activities are partially funded by the U.S. government, with the broader view offered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1941 “Four Freedoms” speech, in which FDR highlighted America’s international commitment to freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Lieven points out that Roosevelt defined freedom from fear “in terms of the permanent abolition of aggressive war.”

In the Freedom House rating system, Lieven observes, “The United States, of course, invariably gets top marks for political rights and civil liberties. Meanwhile, the ‘Freedom’ ratings of other countries show a marked tendency to move up and down according to the degree of their alliance with the United States and their commitment to a U.S. version of unrestricted capitalism.”

Adds Lieven, “What will create real freedom for people in such countries will not be a simplistic version of ‘democracy’ based on meaningless elections and a pro-U.S. policy, but economic development leading to education and a real sense of individual rights and personal dignity, accompanied by the development of working state institutions.”

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From the Wires

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The Trumpian new regional order in the Middle East is predicated on strongman rule, disregard for human rights, Sunni primacy over Iran and other Shia centers of power, continued military support for pro-American warring parties regardless of the unlawfulness of such wars, and Israeli hegemony.


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A comparison of U.S. nuclear diplomacy with Iran and the current version with North Korea puts the former in a good light and makes the latter look disappointing. Those with an interest in curbing the dangers of proliferating nuclear weapons should hope that the North Korea picture will improve with time. But whether it does or not, the process has put into perspective how badly mistaken was the Trump administration’s trashing of the Iran nuclear agreement.


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Numerous high profile Trump administration officials maintain close ties with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists. In today’s America, disparaging Islam is acceptable in ways that disparaging other religions is not. Given the continuing well-funded campaigns by the Islamophobes and continuing support from their enablers in the Trump administration, starting with the president himself, it seems unlikely that this trend will be reversed any time soon.


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The Trump administration’s nuclear proliferation policy is now in meltdown, one which no threat of “steely resolve”—in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s words—will easily contain. It is hemorrhaging in part because the administration has yet to forge a strategy that consistently and credibly signals a feasible bottom line that includes living with—rather than destroying—regimes it despises or fears. Political leaders on both sides of the aisle must call for a new model that has some reasonable hope of restraining America’s foes and bringing security to its Middle East allies.


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Congressional midterm elections are just months away and another presidential election already looms. Who will be the political leader with the courage and presence of mind to declare: “Enough! Stop this madness!” Man or woman, straight or gay, black, brown, or white, that person will deserve the nation’s gratitude and the support of the electorate. Until that occurs, however, the American penchant for war will stretch on toward infinity.


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To bolster the president’s arguments for cutting back immigration, the administration recently released a fear-mongering report about future terrorist threats. Among the potential threats: a Sudanese national who, in 2016, “pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS”; an Uzbek who “posted a threat on an Uzbek-language website to kill President Obama in an act of martyrdom on behalf of ISIS”; a Syrian who, in a plea agreement, “admitted that he knew a member of ISIS and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah,” an al-Qaeda offshoot.


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The recent appointment of purveyors of anti-Muslim rhetoric to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom exposes the cynical approach Republicans have taken in promoting religious freedom.


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