Sunday, August 30, 2009

Eric Holder's Flip-Flop on Terror Interrogations - What's changed?

Joseph Finder writes in the New York Times,

"EARLY in 2002, Eric Holder, then a former deputy attorney general, said on CNN that the detainees being held at Guantánamo Bay were “not, in fact, people entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention,” particularly “given the way in which they have conducted themselves.”

"Six years later, declaring that “Guantánamo Bay is an international embarrass-ment,” Mr. Holder said, “I never thought I would see the day when ... the Supreme Court would have to order the president of the United States to treat detainees in accordance with the Geneva Convention.”

"So what changed?"

While "a lot of things" have changed, according to Finder, "but most of all, our national political climate." As the 9/11 attacks recede "into the past, a lot us see things in a different light."
Finder argues that the government's previous investigations are closed, that there is an absence of new facts, amounts to an estoppel against a new investigation.

The process that Mr. Holder has unleashed threatens to undermine one of the basic principles of our government. For a new administration to repudiate a consequential legal decision in an individual case made by the previous administration serves to delegitimize our government itself, which is, after, all premised upon institutional continuity.

Whatever Mr. Holder’s motive for reopening these cases — whether a well-intentioned desire to provide the American people with the “reckoning” for the “abusive and unlawful practices in the ‘war on terror’ ” that he demanded last year, or a more cynical political calculation — the consequences will be grievous.
I have to agree with Finder, it's no time to revisit a closed investigation.

Read the full article The C.I.A. in Double Jeopardy

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Abdel Baset al-Megrahi

As the parent of a terror victim it has been difficult to read, listen to, and watch the reports of the release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi from a Scottish prison. (Al-Megrahi was convicted of involvement in the terror bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 that killed 270 people in 1988.)

Not astonishingly, al-Megrahi was given sort of a hero’s welcome upon his return to his home country of Libya. This is nothing new in the world as we have witnessed this before when Israel has released terrorists. I do find U.S. complaints about al-Megrahi’s reception a bit shallow because nothing official has ever been said previously about streets being named after murderers of al-Megrahi’s ilk.

The Scots say it was compassion that led to the release of al-Megrahi, reportedly dying of cancer, to Libya. So I ask the Scot government, “Where was the compassion for the parents, siblings, relatives and friends of the murdered when you made the decision to release a mass murderer?”

Friday, August 14, 2009

Counterpoint: A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds

From David Forman's most recent op-ed in the Jerusalem Post:

The logic of the progressive holds that if one is an opponent of settlement building or home demolitions, then one must be a proponent of an investigation into Israel's conduct during the war in Gaza. We tend to see everything in black and white, not realizing that there are many shades of gray, especially as they apply to the Middle East conflict. Like our rightist counterparts, we refuse to acknowledge a possible middle ground. We have discarded the art of nuance. We seem to evaluate every situation in a vacuum. But, all things equal to the same are not necessarily equal to each other. For example: Is the construction of the security barrier as devastating as the suicide bombs that brought it into being?

He concludes:

If we in the liberal/human rights world wish to be effective, then we must exercise balanced judgment. We need to cultivate the mainstream, not wander around the fringes of the Jewish world. Flexibility and adaptability to ever-changing circumstances and times must be taken into serious consideration. We must shed ourselves of the foolish view that consistency is the hallmark of a sane policy. Quite the opposite, it is the "hobgoblin of little minds" (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

Well said. Read the full column here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Open Season on Christians in the Islamic World

Phyllis Chesler writing in the Chesler Chronicles comments on the fate of Christians in Muslim lands.
For centuries, Muslims committed genocide against Hindus in India and what is now Pakistan. Today, in Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, Kenya, Turkey, Pakistan, Gaza, and Iran, it’s open season on Christians.

She asks,
When will Westerners truly understand that it is not only the West that has engaged in imperialism, racism, colonialism, and capitalism, but that the so-called East has done so too? African and Arab Muslims had a heavy hand in the African slave trade and, to this day, still keep slaves; Islam is a primarily imperialist venture which has colonized huge tracts of other people’s land. And, how would anyone describe the traffic in oil, drugs, and sex slaves which Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan are currently engaged in as anything other than rank capitalism?

Read Open Season on Christians in the Islamic World

Deaf to Peace

Rabbi Avi Shafrin addresses a fundamental problem in the relations between Israelis and Palestinians.
"The issues are well known. What borders should a Palestinian state have? Should it be independent or confederated with an existing Arab country? Should it be armed or demilitarized? Should it be at all?"

But those concerns overlook a fundamental issue not fully set forth by President Obama in his Cairo speech. That issue is how to stop the education of Palestinian children to hate Jews.

The President spoke, as always, diplomatically. “Those things,” in fact, are more than impediments; they are nail-packed bombs under the possibility of peace. As long as television programming for Arab children features puppets spewing hatred for Israel and cheerfully committing themselves to jihad; as long as streets in Palestinian-controlled areas are named in honor of vicious murderers of Jews; as long as Palestinian schools teach canards about Israel and use maps of the region that do not indicate the existence of a Jewish State – issues of states and borders and settlements are purely academic. The Talmud teaches (Shabbat 21b) that “the learning of youth” is the most strongly absorbed, remaining indelible into later years.

It's an age-old lesson that children learn from the adults. And I believe with all my heart that there will be no peace in the Middle East until Arab children are taught that Jews are not dogs, or pigs or monkeys, criminals and murderers. We can only hope that day comes soon.

What do you think?

Read the full article Deaf to Peace.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mary Robinson and the Medal of Freedom

I've been a little busy lately, but now it's time to get back into the swing of things.

Mary Robinson to receive the US Medal of Freedom? Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland and High Commissioner of the UN's Human Rights Commission will receive the award according to the White House. Just what is the Medal of Freedom?

Established by President Harry S. Truman in 1945, the Medal is to be awarded to a person who "has performed a meritorious act or service which has aided the United States in the prosecution of a war against an enemy or enemies and for which an award of another United States medal or decoration is considered inappropriate. The Medal of Freedom may also be awarded to any person, not hereinafter specifically excluded, who, on or after December 7, 1941 has similarly aided any nation engaged with the United States in the prosecution of a war against a common enemy or enemies." Executive Order 9586.

What were Mr. Obama's thoughts when he announced the award to Mrs. Robinson? Speaking of all the recipients, the president said:

"These outstanding men and women represent an incredible diversity of back-grounds. Their tremendous accomplishments span fields from science to sports, from fine arts to foreign affairs. Yet they share one overarching trait: Each has been an agent of change. Each saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way.

"Their relentless devotion to breaking down barriers and lifting up their fellow citizens sets a standard to which we all should strive. It is my great honor to award them the Medal of Freedom."

I'm sorry, but I just don't get it. While the Executive Order speaks of assisting the US in a war against a common enemy, the president is recognizing "accomplishments" in "sports," "fine arts," and "foreign affairs." If she is being rewarded for her role in foreign affairs, doesn't anyone at the White House remember that Mrs. Robinson almost singlehandedly turned the first Durban conference into an Israel bashing party that set the tone leading to years of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic comments and actions by NGOs and governments around the world? She set back the cause of human rights around the world instead of advancing it.

Sorry folks, granting a Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson cheapens an award originally designed to go to those who assist the US in advancing the cause of freedom, not to a woman who set it back.

Monday, August 10, 2009

How to Handle Hamas - a new proposal

Yagil Henkin, an associate fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center, has some suggestions on how to deal effectively with Hamas.

While there is much discussion as to the continuation of sanctions against Hamas, Henkin asks, What sanctions should be applied and what can they achieve?

It is very unlikely that sanctions will cause the Hamas government to fall. Historically, embargoes have either failed to catalyze change, or were extremely slow in bringing it. In the best-case scenarios, sanctions have been helpful as part of a wider strategy.

After discussing the use of sanctions in the cases of Rhodesia and South Africa, Henkin turns to Israel's restrictions on building supplies and other materials going into Gaza (with the acquiescence of Egypt.)

SO, WHAT sanctions can be applied against Hamas? Apart from controlling the border and an arms embargo, the most effective way to apply pressure on Hamas is not to indirectly pressure them via their population, but rather pressure Hamas itself, as part of a wider strategy. The international community must act, if it is interested in the welfare of Gaza's residents and curbing radical Islam.
The steps to be taken?

First, Hamas leaders should be prevented from traveling abroad and being officially received - including the leadership based outside Gaza. Second, any organization affiliated with Hamas should be ignored, and, third, economic sanctions applied against individuals and businesses connected to Hamas.

Will this dissolve Hamas's obstinacy? Hopefully, but not certainly. Both Zimbabwe and Myanmar have survived government-targeted sanctions. But hopefully by focusing the sanctions and blame where they belong - on Hamas - while keeping civilians uninvolved, this will succeed. Sanctions may not catalyze change as effectively as we would like, but this neither renders them unnecessary nor suggests we should embargo lock, stock and barrel.
Read the full article, How to effectively sanction Hamas