Bringing Home the Loot
Howard Dean moves out of the little leagues with $7.5 million, but that’s still a drop next to Bush’s cool $34 mil.
Equal Under What Law?
Washington is strong-arming smaller, weaker democracies to keep the international court away from US troops.
Through Arab Eyes
Ariel Sharon and Abu Mazen may be acting like old friends, but what’s backing up the show? Not much, says the Arab world.
Bringing Home the Loot
On Tuesday, commentators couldn’t contain their surprise that little ‘ol Howard Dean managed to beat the other Democrats in second quarter fundraising. Grassroots appeal, imagine that! Dean announced that he had raised $7.5 million dollars at the end of the second quarter. Joe Lieberman came up behind Dean for a grand total of $5 million. Of course, add all the Democratic candidates’ funds together and the figure still doesn’t come close to Bush’s $34 million warchest. In just six weeks Bush and his posse have managed to outraise everyone by a long, long shot.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that in electoral politics there can be only one winner, everyone seemed excited to claim some sort of victory after this round. Bush, of course, has got his loot. Dean outraised all the other Dems. Dennis Kucinich is touting the fact that he came in second on the Move On primary.
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While Bush has been gallivanting across the country making appearances at $2,000 a plate luncheons, Dean has scored big with the internet donors, raising $3 million online last week.
Although Dean has clearly learned a thing or two about finding Web donors — even Bush only raised $700,000 through his website — The New York Times points out that try as they might, Democrats have a significant the disadvantage in fundraising these days.
“For years, the G.O.P. invested more heavily than the Democrats in the direct-mail, small-donor techniques of raising cash. The latest tallies from last year’s Congressional elections show this Republican advantage paying off handsomely, perchance temporarily, now that the era of unlimited ‘soft money’ donations from corporations, unions and individuals has been ended by the McCain-Feingold law. With its superior donor base, the G.O.P. attracted almost 50 percent more contributors than the Democrats and showed a commanding edge among lower-budget donors who gave less than $200 apiece.”
The fact that George Bush simply waltzed into Burlingame, California last week and raised $1.6 million dollars in a single event was so expec ted as to barely warrant attention, it seems. Wednesday the web was flooded with ‘blog entries on Dean’s emergence as a “real” candidate, but hardly any commentators made a peep about the astounding amount of cash that Bush has raised.
For those of us curious about where Bush is getting the bug bucks, we’ll have to count on Bush’s honesty and not US disclosure law. The Washington Post reminds us that despite recent campaign disclosure rulings, crucial information about fundraisers is not required. While the new law puts a $2,000 limit on individual donations, it does not require politicians to name the people who are recruiting donors — the people who really do the heavy lifting. As the Post puts it: “For in a campaign finance system that hinges on disclosure, the glaring omission is the failure to require that a campaign’s true financiers be revealed.” Much of Bush’s fundraising strategy rests on the ability of his “pioneers” and “rangers” — fundraisers who manage to bring in funds in the $100,000 to $200,000 range. Although Bush did publish such lists in 2000, and promises to do so again, the fact that such measures are not required is a big problem, according to the editors of the Post.
“[T]he very information that could be most relevant to the public — the names of individuals to whom a candidate is most beholden — is exactly what’s not called for on the disclosure forms. Campaigns have to detail this Federal Express bill or that catering tab, but not the fact that they wouldn’t have been able to pay those expenses without the help of this oil company executive or that trial lawyer.”
Though the Dems don’t have their own “pioneer” strategy to counter Bush’s wild-west motif, Dean is busy building a neighborhood equivalent. On Tuesday USA Today reported that almost 50,000 Dean fans planned to hold local meetings throughout the country to write letters to Democrats in Iowa. These meetings are vying to build a strong Iowa Dean contingent when the primary season opens there in January.
Dean’s grassroots strategies will be put to the test, as the next quarter’s fundraisingefforts swing into gear. Maybe when Bush has reached his fundraising goal of $170 million, the pundits will have something to say.
Equal in the Eyes of What Law?
In its latest attempt to muscle other countries into submission, Washington has blackballed 35 countries that have refused to behave. Washington wants US troops over seas to have blanket immunity from prosecution by the International Criminal Court. Unless they refuse to prosecute US troops on their soil, countries that have received aid from the US will now be cut-off.
The International Criminal Court was created five years ago to prosecute genocide, war crimes, and other crimes against humanity. But in May of last year, Washington renounced its obligations to the 1998 Rome Statute and opposed the establishment of the ICC — thus the American Servicemembers’ Protection Act was born. The ASPA exempts the US from cooperating with the ICC, bars US military aid to other countries that refuse to safeguard US troops from ICC prosecution, and bans UN peacekeeping operations unless the UN Security council shields Washington’s troops from prosecution — the UN has already agreed to exempt US soldiers for one year.
The Bush Administrations claims that the ICC could be used to further politically-motivated actions against US troops stationed overseas. According to Ari Fleisher, speaking to the Associated Press, Bush and Co. are merely acting to protect their troops from unfair prosecution:
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“‘These are the people who are able to deliver assistance to the various states around the world, and if delivering aid to those states endangers America’s servicemen and servicewomen, the president’s first priority is with the servicemen and servicewomen,’ he said.”
But in a letter to US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, the Executive Director for the Human Rights Watch Kenneth Roth argues that Washington’s concerns are unfounded and its tactics immoral. First of all, the judges who sit on ICC’s bench are well-respected and qualified jurists from allied countries. Second, Roth holds that the bilateral immunity agreements are outright unconscionable:
“Whatever the administration thinks of the International Criminal Court, its tactics in pursuing these bilateral agreements are unconscionable. Other governments can plainly see that punitive measures are being used primarily against poor and relatively weak states with few options other than to give in to the United States. Signing an agreement will put an ICC state party in breach of its legal obligations and at odds with other important national interests. This raw misuse of U.S. power makes the policy all the more objectionable.”
So what does all of this mean to the countries on the receiving end of the US’s power play?
For countries like Bulgaria, the implications could be negligible. According to Reuters, Bulgaria has shrugged off Bush’s reprimand and said it could do without the $10 million that it will not receive. Colombia may feel more of a pinch. According to the Globe and Mail, only $5 million of Colombia’s aid — most of which goes to funding its drug war — will be at risk this year. But come 2004, $112 million may be in jeopardy.
For some countries, like Croatia, the problem is more complex. In hopes of getting a better shot at NATO membership, Croatia gave into the European Union and agreed to not sign Washington’s bilateral immunity agreement — even though they will thereby lose $5 million in aid. The Sydney Morning Herald notes the pointed irony of the situation:
“Croatia has a more complex problem. US authorities have for years been pressing Zagreb to surrender Croatians for war crimes prosecutions at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. The issue is politically divisive in a country where some political groups believe the matter should be settled at home.
At the same time, the Bush Administration is demanding a written promise — known as an Article 98 agreement — from Croatia that no Americans charged in the future with war crimes or other grave offences would be extradited to the new International Criminal Court.”
Equal in the eyes of the law, it seems, is a principle Bush would like to keep squarely inside US borders.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International is arguing that the bilateral immunity agreements are in fact illegal. The Bush Administration’s campaign to subvert the ICC, they argue, is an attempt to take the spotlight off the crimes committed by US troops overseas:
“In the last year, US Ambassadors around the world have been exerting enormous pressure on governments around the world to enter into immunity agreements which commit them not to surrender any US national accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes to the Court. The agreements are illegal and the USA does not even undertake that it will investigate and prosecute such persons in their national courts. Indeed, in many cases it would be impossible as the US has not defined these crimes as crimes in US law.
Undue attention to the failed US campaign to undermine the Court has obscured the fact that the Court is now up and running and reviewing a wide range of complaints about crimes being committed on a horrific scale.”
Given that the court is in fact functioning, Washington would probably fare better, The Economist points out, by pushing for a tighter system of checks and balances within other countries:
“In all, it might have been better if Mr Bush had stuck to his predecessor’s line of positive engagement with the process of creating the ICC, and pressured the court’s other member countries from within, to strengthen the checks and balances against politically motivated cases. Given Mr Bush’s steadfast refusal to consider this, perhaps the best that can be hoped is that, after a few years, the ICC proves its worth in bringing genuine war criminals to justice, avoids hearing unfounded accusations against democratic leaders and their law-abiding officials, and thereby encourages America eventually to sign up.”
Through Arab Eyes
While the cameras were rolling, Monday’s meeting between Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem was all warm smiles, hearty handshakes, and lofty rhetoric. Once again, Abbas, the newly-installed Palestinian prime minister, spoke of ending the bloodshed. Yet again, Sharon, Israel’s prime minister, referred to the “painful compromises” he was willing to make in pursuit of peace.
For those inclined toward optimism, the latest “road map” discussions show some encouraging signs. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah’s mainstream fighters have declared a three-month truce. For its part, the Israeli army has allowed the main Gaza road to reopen, and yesterday began redeploying its forces to the outskirts of Bethlehem. Yesterday’s Washington Post editorial, headlined “Relief at Last,” typified the American media’s reaction to the recent thaw. Right now, in fact, the situation on the ground might be better than at any time in the previous year.
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That, however, is saying very little, and most of the Arab media is taking a “wait-and-see” approach. Israeli security issues, they note, have dominated the discussion so far, and Palestinians are unlikely to see much in the way of tangible improvements anytime soon, regardless of the road map’s success. The editors of Gulf News, for instance, declare that “ All Palestinians must back the truce” — more out of desperation than hope, one suspects.
“With the Palestinians taking control in northern and central parts of the Gaza Strip following a crucial Israeli withdrawal, sceptics wonder how long it will be before Sharon’s mighty military go storming back to reclaim the territory. For nothing can be considered final in these uncertain times. There is still much more road to be travelled, with or without a roadmap, before the ultimate destination is achieved.”
Jihad Al Khazen, writing for the London-based Dar Al Hayat has a similar view. He urges the Palestinians to implement the road map faithfully, if for no other reason than to avoid being blamed for its eventual collapse.
“I hope Abbas will succeed in his mission, knowing that this is the right time for it and that any failure would be a total disaster for the Palestinians and the entire region. Americans are responsible for supervising the implementation and they shall determine who abided by the Roadmap and who didn’t.
Obviously, Sharon accepted the Roadmap hoping the Palestinians would abort it. Hence, the latter should prove how wise they are to disappoint Sharon.”
In Beirut’s Daily Star, meanwhile, Geoffrey Aronson quarrels with the road map itself, rightly pointing out that, like the ill-fated Oslo accords before it, the new peace document isn’t likely to stem the growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, which are illegal under international law.
“During the Oslo years, peace and settlement expansion were not viewed as irreconcilable objectives. Israel recognized the PLO, oversaw Arafat’s return to Palestine and doubled the population of its West Bank and Gaza Strip settlements without cracking a smile. Palestinian villages and landowners, watching their patrimony slip away, however, knew that the joke was on them.
The road map attempts to challenge this basic equation by calling for an effective freeze on settlement expansion and the dismantling of some settlements. Sharon is determined to make this critical feature of the international consensus irrelevant, and there are disturbing signs that the Bush administration is prepared to follow Sharon’s lead.
Palestinians can only marvel at the American and Israeli expectation that continuing Israeli settlement expansion on Palestinian lands will not undermine the credibility of any diplomatic process associated with it. They wonder how they can be expected to build a wall around the militants in their midst while settlement expansion continues.”
Indeed, Sharon’s commitment to the road map’s required settlement freeze is highly suspect. As Jonathan Cook reports in Egypt’s Al Ahram, Sharon is overseeing a bait-and-switch operation in which a few fake outposts are torn down for public consumption even as settlers continue to solidify their presence at the real ones.
“These sites are known — even by the settlers — as ‘dummy outposts’: small clusters of tents or dilapidated caravans that are established as bargaining counters in the settlers’ negotiations with the government.
Their destruction can be traded for the licensing of inhabited outposts, and the televised pictures of soldiers manhandling Jewish youths elicit waves of sympathy for the settler movement from other Israelis, most of whom ordinarily want the settlements evacuated.
But the biggest advantage to the settlers is that a sacrificed outpost can be quietly re-established as soon as the army and television cameras have left. The crackdowns, despite appearances, are a win-win game for the settlers.”
Nor has the fate of Palestinian refugees driven from their homes in Israel and the West Bank in 1948 and 1967 been given much thought, Rami Khouri observes in the Jordan Times. Both societies, Khouri writes, need to discuss the “right to return” responsibly and maturely. Instead, fiery, infantile rhetoric prevails on both sides.
“The steady progress being made on implementing the ‘roadmap’ to Palestinian-Israeli negotiations for peaceful coexistence should be applauded and supported — but it should not deceive us into a romantic world of make-believe visions.
The tragedy is that incompetent leaderships on both sides have totally abandoned their moral responsibility to lead their respective peoples to a fair and feasible compromise. Israeli and Palestinian leaders steadfastly refuse to raise the refugee issue with their own people or to force a spirited public debate on the contours of a mutually fair solution.”
So is there reason for optimism in the Holy Land? Yes, but just a little, and even less cause for celebration. As the Independent‘s Justin Huggler reports, Palestinians in Bethlehem are discovering that the much-heralded Israeli pullout doesn’t mean much on the ground.
“Sitting on the steps of the town hall in Manger Square, the mayor, Hanna Nasser, looked despondent. Some one walked up to him and offered his congratulations. ‘Congratulations? For what?’ the mayor said. ‘This is all a big bluff by the Israelis. They want to show the world they have made this big withdrawal, when the reality is the checkpoints are still here. What withdrawal? The soldiers weren’t here,’ he pointed at the square. ‘The only change is the police are back in uniform.’
The Israeli soldiers drew back from the streets months ago, and have only been coming in from time to time to arrest suspected militants. Under the withdrawal, the Israeli army has agreed to stop these raids.
From everyone in Bethlehem came the same message: nothing had changed because the city was still surrounded by Israeli checkpoints preventing Palestinians going in or out. On Tuesday, the Israeli army closed two more roads from Bethlehem to nearby villages.”