Political MoJo

Geneva report highly critical of U.S. commitment to human rights

| Thu Aug. 3, 2006 5:02 PM PDT

The Geneva hearings are over and the final report has been released. It is not pretty, insofar as the U.S. and human rights are concerned.

Every four years, nations representing the Conventions against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Punishment and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights meet to review meet to review compliance of ICCPR nations. An official report is issued, along with a "shadow report," what The Raw Story refers to as "a rebuttal from non-government organizations (NGO), advocacy groups, and citizen representatives. The US "shadow report" was prepared by The Coalition for Human Rights at Home, a coalition of 142 not-for-profit groups."

This year's 456-page shadow report describes over a hundred instances of human rights violations, in a response to the official report issued by the United States. Also, the U.S. was a mere seven years late in developing its report, which it is obligated to prepare as an ICCPR signatory nation.

The Raw Story goes on to describe correspondence between the Committee and the U.S. as a "cat and mouse game," in which the Committee addresses questions to the U.S., and the U.S. responds by saying it has already answered those questions. When the Committee then says "please clarify when you answered that and what the answer was," it receives no further communication.

Jamil Dakwar, a staff attorney with the Human Rights Program, National Legal Department of the ACLU, calls the interplay a "dialogue of deaf."

Advertise on MotherJones.com

David Horowitz Dodges Charge He Didn't Write Parts of His Own Book (As First Heard on Mother Jones Radio)

| Thu Aug. 3, 2006 1:57 PM PDT

professors.jpg

Media Matters:

Appearing with University of California, Irvine professor Mark LeVine on the August 1 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, right-wing activist David Horowitz refused to answer LeVine's accusation that Horowitz "admitted on the air" that he "didn't even write or research the parts of" his book, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America (Regnery, January 2006), that were about LeVine, and "therefore couldn't comment on how much
of it was true." Instead, Horowitz said, "I'm not going to discuss things that happened on other shows. I have read what Mark LeVine has written."

Horowitz and LeVine appeared on Hannity & Colmes to discuss the Middle East conflict, and during the discussion, Horowitz claimed that LeVine is "an apologist for the terrorists." LeVine responded, "This is absolutely unconscionable for you to say. ... Again, you're lying like you did in your book." LeVine then pointed to a prior debate he had with Horowitz over the research for the chapter on LeVine from The Professors. On the April 9 edition of Mother Jones Radio Broadcast, host Angie Coiro asked Horowitz, "[T]his research [in the LeVine chapter] is credited to Tzvi Kahn. ... How much of your work went into this chapter, per se? Did you clear all the facts, here?" In response to Coiro, Horowitz admitted to never having met Kahn, the researcher credited in the LeVine chapter of The Professors. Horowitz never addressed Coiro's question, which she asked twice, about the extent to which he was involved in the production of that chapter.

Listen to the original Mother Jones Radio interview here.

(Levine bio here, Horowitz bio here.)

Castro to CIA: "Beep! Beep!"

| Thu Aug. 3, 2006 12:26 PM PDT

Apparently the exploding cigars were just the beginning. The U.S. has tried to kill Fidel Castro 638 times, or so says one of his former security guys. Many of the plans—which might have been taken from the reject pile of Wile E. Coyote—never got off the drawing board, like this classic:


Knowing his fascination for scuba-diving off the coast of Cuba, the CIA at one time invested in a large volume of Caribbean molluscs. The idea was to find a shell big enough to contain a lethal quantity of explosives, which would then be painted in colours lurid and bright enough to attract Castro's attention when he was underwater.

Now that its bivalve budget has been slashed, I assume the CIA has moved on from trying to off Fidel. But as it goes after our current crop of international enemies, you have to wonder what kind of half-baked, brilliant-in-their-stupidity kind of ideas it's been tossing around. Why do I have a hunch that someone in Langley is desperately trying to find out Osama bin Laden's favorite candy bar?

Lessons from Cuba: Why Sanctions Don't Work

Thu Aug. 3, 2006 12:13 PM PDT

In addition to recognizing that a Cuba-esque policy won't work in Syria, Jacob Weisberg writes that it probably won't work in Iran either. Weisberg is writing specifically about the futility of imposing sanctions on dictatorial regimes, but his argument begins with the same basic premise—namely, that a policy which has failed to effect change in Cuba for 46 years and counting probably isn't a great policy.

By applying economic restraints, we label the most oppressive and dangerous governments in the world pariahs. We wash our hands of evil, declining to help despots finance their depredations, even at a cost to ourselves of some economic growth. We wincingly accept the collateral damage that falls on civilian populations in the nations we target. But as the above list of countries suggests, sanctions have one serious drawback. They don't work.

Nothing like an ailing Communist dictator over whom we have no influence whatsoever to remind us what constitutes productive diplomatic strategy.

"Senator Lieberman's campaign bus seems to be stuck in reverse."

| Thu Aug. 3, 2006 11:26 AM PDT

Reverse Joe-mentum! AP reports:

Millionaire businessman Ned Lamont opened a double-digit lead over veteran Sen. Joe Lieberman less than a week before Connecticut's Democratic primary, raising the possibility that the three-term senator may have to run as an independent in November, a new poll released Thursday shows. ...

"Senator Lieberman's campaign bus seems to be stuck in reverse," poll director Douglas Schwartz said. "Despite visits from former President Bill Clinton and other big-name Democrats, Lieberman has not been able to stem the tide to Lamont." ...

The poll, however, indicated that Lamont's support is in large part a backlash: 65 percent of Lamont supporters said their vote is mainly against Lieberman. Schwartz said he had never seen a race where an incumbent has stirred up such negativity within his own party.

"Kill all military-age males..."

| Thu Aug. 3, 2006 11:25 AM PDT

It was only a week ago that John Podhoretz wondered if the big tactical mistake we made in Iraq was that we didn't kill enough Sunnis in the early going to intimidate them." As he put it: "Wasn't the survival of Sunni men between the ages of 15 and 35 the reason there was an insurgency and the basic cause of sectarian violence now?"

And now the New York Times reports today: "Four American soldiers from an Army combat unit that killed three Iraqis in a raid in May testified Wednesday that they had received orders from superior officers to kill all the military-age men they encountered." Anyone who thinks that excessive bloodhsed is the "solution" to Iraq should read this post by Dan Nexon. Just because the Roman Empire could be maintained through genocide doesn't mean the American empire can. The horrific possibility is that some military officers may be starting to think along the same lines as Podhoretz. Which is another indication, if we needed one, that there's absolutely no reason to stay in Iraq any longer.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

EPA: An Unknown Risk is an Acceptable Risk

| Thu Aug. 3, 2006 1:32 AM PDT

So there are about 82,000 industrial chemicals in use today. For 2,800 of those, industry has submitted--voluntarily, mind you--data on potential dangers to human health to the EPA. The remaining 79,200 are... a disaster waiting to happen? Something we really ought to look into more? Let's go now to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (chair: James "Global Warming is a Hoax" Imhofe) hearing on the Toxic Substances Control Act, covered by almost no one except the LA Times' invaluable Marla Cone, for a live update:


When asked by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) if all 82,000 chemicals on the market were safe, [EPA Assistant Administrator James B. Gulliford] said, "Their risks to human health and the environment are acceptable."

Any questions?

In Iraq, No Troop Withdrawal in Sight

| Wed Aug. 2, 2006 6:44 PM PDT

More troops, not less, are in the offing:

According to U.S. Army officials, the withdrawal of troops from war-rattled Iraq has been delayed for four more months past their scheduled departure. The news came as U.S. President George W. Bush agreed to send more U.S. troops into Baghdad to curb the sectarian violence there….

The Pentagon also identified four other additional Army and Marine Corps units consisting of about 25,000 troops due to deploy to Iraq in the future, enough to maintain the U.S. force at about 130,000 troops for a year.

Blair's Cabinet in Open Revolt

Wed Aug. 2, 2006 5:48 PM PDT

The Guardian reported over the weekend that Blair's cabinet is in "open revolt" over his support for Israel's invasion of Lebanon, revealing for the first time that "at a cabinet meeting before Blair left for last Friday's Washington summit with President George Bush, minister after minister pressed him to break with the Americans and publicly criticise Israel over the scale of death and destruction."

Blair's apparent attempt in a speech yesterday to "change the language as well as the nature" of the war without mitigating his support for Israel's actions, however, does not appear to have done the trick. In a follow-up piece today, The Guardian said that by the time Blair returned to England, three days after the Qana massacre, there was even more anger at his policy: "A former Labour minister, Joan Ruddoch, claimed the party was 'in despair' at the position the prime minister had taken and Ann Clywd, the chair of the parliamentary party, said that the 'vast majority' of his Labour backbenchers wanted a ceasefire." Such strident protests from within Blair's own party are surprising, even given the results of last week's poll showing that over 63 percent of Britons think Blair has tied his country too closely with the U.S. and ought to distance itself (only 54 percent of Labour Party voters agreed).

Our "Cuba" Policy Has Failed... Even in Syria

Wed Aug. 2, 2006 4:30 PM PDT

Now that Fidel Castro's wavering health has brought the issue of America's Cuba policy to the public stage once again, the parallels with other areas of U.S. foreign policy are more obvious than ever. Consider this analysis published today in The Miami Herald, under the heading, "U.S. Isolation Policy Leaves Few Options:"

[Some] Cuba analysts say the U.S. policy of aggressively isolating Castro through economic sanctions means Washington will be forced to play a secondary role in a post-Castro period…. Under the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, the U.S. government cannot lift many of the sanctions against Cuba without congressional approval until Havana declares its intention to hold free elections and release political prisoners, among other conditions.

'"Our strategy is to enter the game in the ninth inning and to tell the Cubans they are on their own until then,'' said Phil Peters, a Cuba expert with the conservative Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Va., think tank.

Now consider what Thomas Friedman said earlier that morning on NPR. "If you're not going to go to war but you really need [a given country's cooperation], and you're just going to adopt this aggressive verbal stance and some economic sanctions, then you have the worst of all worlds." Sound familiar? But Friedman wasn't talking about Cuba—he was talking about Syria. The result of such a policy, he continued, is that now "you have a hostile Syria but it's not afraid of you and therefore you have no real leverage, and that seems to me to be the penumbra that we're in right now vis-à-vis Syria. And I don't see it serving anyone right now."

Cuba is no Syria, obviously, but it is also no closer to democracy than it was when we first imposed sanctions back in 1960. And there are other important similarities: the U.S. government has castigated and disengaged with both countries largely at the behest of a single, well-organized lobby in Washington, despite no evidence that either policy has produced the desired results.

As Flynt Leverett, a former CIA official and author of Inheriting Syria, told a Brookings Institute audience last year, "I think there is a better way to achieve American policy objectives… It's not rocket science. It's sticks and carrots. In a previous era, we used to call it diplomacy." Of course, he didn't mean "Cuban diplomacy."