Just when you thought it couldn’t get any weirder, those wicked Afghani find yet another way to get high. Apparently, smoking scorpion is all the craze down in Kandahar.
Crushing, drying and then smoking black scorpions can give effects similar to mescaline. But before you run to the pet store: the trip can last for days. Read all about it here.
Macdonald notes that in Afghanistan even the ubiquitous scorpions can be used for intoxication. Tartars in Bamiyan province prepare scorpions by smashing them between stones and letting them dry. The main part of the tail, with the sting, is then crushed into a powder and smoked with tobacco and/or hashish (marijuana).
A friend of Macdonald’s who witnessed a man smoke scorpion in the Afghan town of Peshawar described the reaction:
The effect was instantaneous with the man’s face and eyes becoming very red, “much more than a hashish smoker” …. He also seemed very intoxicated but awake and alert, although he stumbled and fell over when he tried to rise from a sitting position …. the smoke tasted “sweeter” than that of hashish, although … it smelled foul, and the intoxicating effect lasted much longer. (1, p. 247)
As with most drugs, anecdotal reports of scorpion’s effects vary widely. It is likely that the numerous Afghan scorpion species have divergent psychoactive properties. Scorpion has been reported to keep one awake, cause severe headaches, and rival the effects of a “strong mescaline trip.” (1, p. 248) One Kabul man who had smoked between 20 and 30 times reported the effects to last three days. During these periods he had difficulty opening his eyes, his head spun, and he had constant visual hallucinations.
Here’s a video of a guy eating scorpions to get high:
Andrew Sullivan, the King of Bloggers, has written a Newsweek cover story which is featuring heavily in American political discussion on tv, in newspapers and on blogs right now. From over here, it’s sometimes difficult to realize that Sullivan is not just a blogger, albeit a big one, but also a pretty prominent “public intellectual” (as they say) in the US, who from time to time -- as a very early advocate of gay marriage, as proponent of the Iraq War, as supporter of Obama -- generates a lot of public debate.
In the Newsweek article, Sullivan argues, as one of the first people to elaborately do so, passionately for Obama’s re-election. He basically says that Obama’s political strategy is a “long game”, of which we have not seen the results yet, which will only play out in eight years. In doing so, he obviously and correctly dismisses the president’s conservative ”critics” (we may just call them lunatics), but also takes on criticism of Obama from “the left”. Personally, while I certainly agree with Sullivan that Obama has by and large been a good president -- in that he has saved the US and the West from plunging into a systemic crisis largely caused by Bush, through the stimulus, the bail-outs of Wall Street and the auto industry, having healthcare reform passed, getting out of Iraq, reaching out to the Muslim world, responding carefully to the Green Revolution and the Arab Spring, and taking on Qadhafi -- he has also failed miserably to keep up to his promises to restore the rule of law. Under Obama, indefinite detention has been enshrined into law, Guantánamo Bay has seen its tenth birthday, military commissions have been kept open, a Drone War killing hundreds of innocents has been started, extrajudicial assassination has become normal, and a war on whistleblowers and transparency-seekers has been waged. Torture has merely been halted by executive order and can easily be reversed by a Republican president.
This, I think, is unforgivable; it is a core reason not to support Obama’s re-election; and Sullivan passes it too easily by. I also think he fails to engage seriously with Obama’s critics that he relents too easily in the face of opposition, as was the case with healthcare and the debt ceiling crisis. Sullivan doesn’t mention anywhere the deep interpenetration of the Obama administration and Wall Street lobbyists. And, finally, I think it’s kind of slavish and rather uncritical to say: “It’s all part of the masterplan, just wait, it will all play out in eight years, just vote now, it’s Obama!” But that is a tendency you see more often in Obama supporters.
Anyway. The only reason I wanted to write this was because I thought it was funny to see Sullivan, whom you almost only know by writing, defend his article on television. And he’s doing it pretty well actually. Enjoy this weird-in-a-sympathetic-way person’s discussion with a Republican supporter:
- Edit: In the best response to Sullivan’s article so far, here’s Conor Friedersdorf, who writes it down better than I can. First he asks if Sullivan would have supported a Republican in 2008 who would have proposed the following:
(1) Codify indefinite detention into law; (2) draw up a secret kill list of people, including American citizens, to assassinate without due process; (3) proceed with warrantless spying on American citizens; (4) prosecute Bush-era whistleblowers for violating state secrets; (5) reinterpret the War Powers Resolution such that entering a war of choice without a Congressional declaration is permissible; (6) enter and prosecute such a war; (7) institutionalize naked scanners and intrusive full body pat-downs in major American airports; (8) oversee a planned expansion of TSA so that its agents are already beginning to patrol American highways, train stations, and bus depots; (9) wage an undeclared drone war on numerous Muslim countries that delegates to the CIA the final call about some strikes that put civilians in jeopardy; (10) invoke the state-secrets privilege to dismiss lawsuits brought by civil-liberties organizations on dubious technicalities rather than litigating them on the merits; (11) preside over federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries; (12) attempt to negotiate an extension of American troops in Iraq beyond 2011 (an effort that thankfully failed); (14) reauthorize the Patriot Act; (13) and select an economic team mostly made up of former and future financial executives from Wall Street firms that played major roles in the financial crisis.
Yet President Obama has done all of the aforementioned things.
No, Obama isn’t a radical Kenyan anti-colonialist. But he is a lawbreaker and an advocate of radical executive power. What precedent could be more radical than insisting that the executive is empowered to draw up a kill list of American citizens in secret, without telling anyone what names are on it, or the legal justification for it, or even that it exists? What if Newt Gingrich inherits that power?
He may yet.
[Sullivan's] Newsweek essay fits the pattern I’ve lamented of Obama apologists who tell a narrative of his administration that ignores some of these issues and minimizes the importance of others, as if they’re a relatively unimportant matter to be set aside in a sentence or three before proceeding to the more important business of whether the president is being critiqued fairly by obtuse partisans.
Like President Bush, [Obama] is breaking the law, transgressing against civil liberties, and championing a radical view of executive power -- and he is invoking the War on Terror to get away with it. As much as it was in 2003 or 2007, it is vital in 2012 that there be a backlash against these post-9/11 excesses, that liberty-loving citizens push back so that these are anomalies that are reined in, rather than permanent features of a bipartisan consensus that can only end in a catastrophically abusive executive operating in an office stripped by successive presidents and their minions of both constitutional and prudential checks.
That is the best case against Obama I can think of. It is, indeed, vital that there is a backlash against his policies.
An absolutely beautiful short film by a German photographer duo about the landscapes and people of Afghanistan, which I’m sure is a country of stunning beauty, inhabited by proud people. When it isn’t ravaged by war, civil strife and violence, of course.
If you got five minutes, watch this:
As each of us has his own impression of Afghanistan that is predominantly marked with pictures of foreign forces, explosions and terror, we were privileged to have access to capture daily life and portrait some people of Afghanistan.
We hope the pictures you know will merge with the pictures you see and will enrich your view on the country in the Hindu Kush.
The best book I read so far about pre-war 1960s Afghanistan is the obscure Dutch hippie novel De trancekaravaanby Peter ten Hoopen. If you’re interested in how the CIA is partly responsible for screwing up what once was a relatively succesful and prospering country, read this piece by Alfred McCoy on Salon on Afghanistan’s thirty-year drug wars.
The Drone War is Obama’s original contribution to the “War” on Terror. In his term, by the president’s order more “terrorists” – that is, people suspected of being terrorists without any sort of judicial process involved – have been assassinated using unmanned drones than during the entire Bush administration.
While the Obama administration may make it look like there is nothing to worry about, of course there is. Drone strikes take place in foreign, sovereign countries, and are committed at the behest of the executive branch in the United States. These are extrajudicial, executive branch assassinations of people that have not been given any sort of trial.
With this practice, Obama effectively continues the “war model” approach to counterterrorism that was established by Bush-Cheney. In this paradigm, the world is a global battlefield in which anyone deemed a “terrorist” by the president of the United States can be summarily executed. This process takes place entirely outside the rule of law.
Unless you’re a neoconservative with no brain, you may appreciate what kind of precedents this creates. Imagine Russia taking out people it deems “terrorists” in foreign countries – for instance, in the US – and the response that would elicit. As a matter of fact, Russia has already expanded its definition of terrorists and embarked on its own policy of killing them internationally.
David Cole explains exactly why the Obama administration’s policy on drone strikes is so lawless and dangerous. It is to be noted, moreover, that there seems to be a rift within the administration about this policy.
On Friday, a front-page New York Times story reported that a rift has emerged within the Obama Administration over whether it has authority to kill “rank-and-file” Islamist militants in foreign countries in which there is not an internationally recognized “armed conflict.” The implications of this debate are not trivial: Imagine that Russia started killing individuals living in the United States with remote-controlled drone missiles, and argued that it was justified in doing so because it had determined, in secret, that they posed a threat to Russia’s security, and that the United States was unwilling to turn them over. Would we calmly pronounce such actions compliant with the rule of law? Not too likely.
And yet that is precisely the argument that the Obama Administration is now using in regard to American’s own actions in places like Yemen and Somalia—and by extension anywhere else it deems militant anti-US groups may be taking refuge. On the same day the Times article appeared, John Brennan, President Obama’s senior advisor on homeland security and counterterrorism, gave a speech at Harvard Law School in which he defended the United States’ use of drones to kill terrorists who are far from any “hot battlefield.” Brennan argued that the United States is justified in killing members of violent Islamist groups far from Afghanistan if they pose a threat to the United States, even if the threat is not “imminent” as that term has traditionally been understood. (As if to underscore the point, The Washington Post reports that the US has “significantly increased” its drone attacks in Yemen in recent months, out of fears that the government may collapse.)
In international law, where reciprocity governs, what is lawful for the goose is lawful for the gander. And when the goose is the United States, it sets a precedent that other countries may well feel warranted in following. Indeed, exploiting the international mandate to fight terrorism that has emerged since the September 11 attacks, Russia has already expanded its definition of terrorists to include those who promote “terrorist ideas”—for example, by distributing information that might encourage terrorist activity— and to authorize the Russian government to target “international terrorists” in other countries. It may seem fanciful that Russia would have the nerve to use such an authority within the United States—though in the case of Alexsander Litvinenko it appears to have had few qualms about taking extreme measures to kill an individual who had taken refuge in the United Kingdom. But it is not at all fanciful that once the US proclaims such tactics legitimate, other nations might seek to use them against their less powerful neighbors.
Yet as the New York Times report makes clear, when it comes to targeted killings, there is serious dispute, even within the administration, about what the law permits. Some, like State Department legal advisor Harold Koh, take the position that beyond the battlefield, we can attack only those “high-value individuals” who are actually engaged in plotting attacks on the United States, and only where their threats are specific enough to allow the US to claim the right to self-defense granted to all states under the UN Charter. The Charter permits nations to use unilateral military force only in self-defense against an armed attack, and has been interpreted to permit self-defense against threatened attacks only when they are imminent. Defense Department lawyers maintain, by contrast, that the ongoing war against al-Qaeda authorizes us to kill any of the thousands of rank and file members not only of al-Qaeda itself, but also of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula—a Yemen-based group founded in 2009—and of al-Shabab, a Somalia-based militant group. Although both of the latter organizations were founded well after the September 11 attacks, the Defense Department considers them fair game because it deems them to be associated with al Qaeda.
Brennan further argued that the UN Charter requirement that a threat be imminent before a nation can exercise its right of self-defense makes less sense when a country faces a threat from a clandestine terrorist group, whose threats may be harder to spot in advance. But the purpose of that requirement was to ensure that military force is truly a last resort. Too many wars have been launched on the basis of ill-defined future threats. The watered-down imminence that Brennan seemed to advocate, especially when coupled with his suggestion that even a temporary disruption of “capabilities” is sufficient reason to strike, would seem to permit targeting even where no attack is in fact imminent. Such reasoning could also be used to justify lethal force in cases where it might well be possible to foil a possible attack through arrest, criminal prosecution, interdiction, or other means. As many countries, including Great Britain, Germany, Spain, and, Italy have shown, the fact that organized groups seek to engage in politically motivated violence does not necessitate a military response.
The legal parameters defining the use of military force against terrorists are unquestionably difficult to draw. On the one hand, no one disputes that it is permissible to kill an enemy soldier on the battlefield in an ongoing armed conflict. On the other hand, absent extreme circumstances, constitutional and international law bar a state from killing a human being in peacetime without a trial (and even then, many authorities hold that capital punishment violates international human rights law). Al-Qaeda has not limited its fight to the battlefield in Afghanistan, and most agree that, as long as sovereignty concerns are met, the use of military force can follow this enemy beyond the battlefield at least in some situations. Killing Osama bin Laden in Pakistan—whose tribal areas are for all practical purposes part of the theater of war—was the justified targeting of the enemy’s leader. But are al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or al-Shabab the same “enemy,” or merely sympathetic adherents of a terrorist philosophy? They certainly did not attack us on September 11, nor are they harboring those who did. Can we summarily execute all terrorists who we fear might someday commit a terrorist act against us? Brennan’s speech offered no answers.
And that makes it especially disturbing that the contours of US policy and practice in this area remain largely secret. Presumably the administration has developed criteria for who can be killed and why, and a process for assessing who fits those criteria and when their targeting is justified. But if so, it hasn’t told us. Instead, it exercises the authority to kill, not only in Afghanistan and the border regions of Pakistan, but in Yemen,Somalia, and presumably elsewhere, based on a secret policy. We learn more about its outlines from leaks to The New York Times than from the cryptic comments of US officials in speeches like Brennan’s. If we are engaging the enemy within the rule of law, as Brennan insisted we must, we should have the courage to make our policies transparent, so that the people, both in the United States and beyond, can judge for themselves. And if, by contrast, we continue to justify such practices in only the vaguest of terms, we should expect other countries to take them up—and almost certainly in ways we will not find to our liking.
In yet another confirmation that the Obama administration’s handling of counterterrorism policy is nothing but a continuation and, in fact, reinforcement of Bush-era policies, the US Department of Justice decided on Thursday that all cases against (former) low-level CIA and military employees suspected of having employed torture, sometimes leading to murder, are to be dropped, except two.
So there’s not gonna be any accountability for the breaches of human rights and the Geneva Conventions conducted under the last administration in the name of the ‘War on Terror’.
Back in August 2009, the Obama White House already decided that there would be no torture investigations regarding former administration officials (Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld) and government lawyers (John Yoo, Jay Bybee) who invented and implemented the ‘legal’ architecture for things like indefinite detention, military commissions and ‘enhanced interrogation methods’ (torture), which eventually spread from Guantánamo Bay and the secret ‘black sites’ to Abu Ghraib and Afghanistan. Neither would there be investigations regarding CIA and military employees who stayed ‘within the lines’ of the new torture regime (even though a lot of people, including JAG lawyers, protested at that time).
The only exception to this immunity granted by Obama would be for those employees who went beyond even what was permitted by the Bush administration in terms of torture. And of those 101 cases, all are now dropped except two.
Those two cases are the most gruesome imaginable: one is of a detainee who froze to death in an American secret prison in 2002 after being stripped and chained to the floor, and the other is of the Abu Ghraib detainee who was photographed in 2003 with a guard holding her thumbs up. All other horrors perpetrated under the Bush administration will now be fully, legally protected.
Change we can believe in. And what’s more: except for one executive order ordering a halt to ’enhanced interrogation methods’, there’s nothing that can prevent a future president from starting to employ torture again…
Consider what’s being permanently shielded from legal accountability. The Bush torture regime extended to numerous prisons around the world, in which tens of thousands of mostly Muslim men were indefinitely imprisoned without a whiff of due process, and included a network of secret prisons – ”black sites” — purposely placed beyond the monitoring reach of even international human rights groups, such as the International Red Cross.
Over 100 detainees died during U.S. interrogations, dozens due directly to interrogation abuse. Gen. Barry McCaffrey said: ”We tortured people unmercifully. We probably murdered dozens of them during the course of that, both the armed forces and the C.I.A.” Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who oversaw the official investigation into detainee abuse, wrote: ”there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”
Thanks to the Obama DOJ, that is no longer in question. The answer is resoundingly clear: American war criminals, responsible for some of the most shameful and inexcusable crimes in the nation’s history — the systematic, deliberate legalization of a worldwide torture regime — will be fully immunized for those crimes. And, of course, the Obama administration has spent years just as aggressively shielding those war criminals from all other forms of accountability beyond the criminal realm: invoking secrecy and immunity doctrines to prevent their victims from imposing civil liability, exploiting their party’s control of Congress to suppress formal inquiries, and pressuring and coercing other nations not to investigate their own citizens’ torture at American hands.
All of those efforts, culminating in yesterday’s entirely unsurprising announcement, means that the U.S. Government has effectively shielded itself from even minimal accountability for its vast torture crimes of the last decade. Without a doubt, that will be one of the most significant, enduring and consequential legacies of the Obama presidency.
As Glenn Greenwald notes, the Obama administration has blocked all attempts by detainees to sue torture facilitators with its generous use of the state secrets doctrine.
What that means is that the only thing preventing a future Republican president from using torture techniques is a flimsy, reversible executive order from the president himself, because no court has ever made a determination that the interrogation techniques themselves were illegal. Both the new Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and the new CIA chief David Petraeus, both once among the most prominent opponents of torture, have now expressed support for the idea of using coercive interrogations in “limited” circumstances. Torture became an issue of partisan dispute because Republicans rallied to the defense of their former president. What happens if the same thing happens with Obama supporters, and they feel the need to minimize the magnitude of what happened under Bush in order to defend the lack of accountability sought by their president?
The fact that so few people, if any, will face professional, civil or criminal sanction for torture bothers me far less than the possibility of torture itself becoming American policy again. Between the absence of strong legal barriers to torture and the deterrent factor of criminal or civil accountability, that outcome seems quite possible.
Interesting piece on Salon that once again highlights how the Obama era, in terms of counterterrorism policy, has for the most part been one of continuation and intensification of the Bush-Cheney era, rather than the break it was promised to be.
At Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, thousands of detainees are being held under conditions defying international law. And while at Guantanamo Bay the number of detainees is relatively stable, the inmate population at Bagram is growing. Because the Obama administration, like the Bush-Cheney administration before it, regards these detainees – people captured during the Afghanistan war or in the “war” on terror – as “illegal enemy combatants” or “unprivileged belligerents” (a legal category made up by the Bush administration that does not exist in international law), they are deprived of basic legal rights. That is, they have no idea what they are charged with, do not have access to proper legal defence, and so can be held indefinitely.
The article’s author Justin Elliott rightly calls this ‘the Gitmo no one talks about’. Hopefully it will after this article and the Human Rights First report it refers to, because it once again highlights how Obama in this respect is nothing different from his predecessors.
President Obama has presided over a threefold increase in the number of detainees being held at the controversial military detention center at Bagram Air Base, the Afghan cousin of the notorious prison at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. It’s the latest piece of news that almost certainly would be getting more attention — especially from Democrats — if George W. Bush were still president.
There are currently more than 1,700 detainees at Bagram, up from over 600 at the end of the Bush administration.
The situation at Bagram, especially the legal process that determines whether detainees are released, is the subject of a new report by Human Rights First. It finds that the current system of hearings for detainees “falls short of the requirements of international law” because they are not given “an adequate opportunity to defend themselves against charges that they are collaborating with insurgents and present a threat to U.S. forces.” Human Rights First also argues that cases of unjustified imprisonment are damaging the broader war effort by undermining Afghans’ trust in the military.
What legal status do the detainees at Bagram have? Are they prisoners of war?
The U.S. doesn’t call any of the prisoners we keep in the context of the war on terror — including Afghanistan — “prisoners of war.” They’re called “unprivileged belligerents” which means that they don’t have POW status. That’s because we’re at war with organizations like the Taliban or al-Qaida rather than a country or official government. But these detainees are supposedly being held under the rules of armed conflict.
What does this mean in practice about what sort of legal process they face and what rights these detainees have?
It depends who you ask. There are no laws under the rules of war governing how you treat detainees in this kind of armed conflict. So the position of most other civilized nations, most European commissions and human rights bodies is that international human rights laws should apply. The U.S. government says that those laws don’t apply beyond its own borders, and therefore no laws apply.
Early on at Bagram, there were terrible abuses. There were reports of people being killed in custody and tortured. We believe that is not happening anymore. There is still something called the black jail at Bagram, what the government calls a “screening facility.” It’s called the black jail because there are no windows and no natural light, and no one knows what time of day it is. The conditions there are much worse than at the main prison. People who have been at the black jail complain of being strip-searched in humiliating ways, being subjected to extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, and not having a mattress. But still nothing as bad as the kind of torture that was reported early on.
You went to Afghanistan and attended some of the hearings for Bagram detainees. How does this all work and what did you find?
They are supposed to get a hearing on their detention after 60 days and then at six months and every six months after. The hearings sound good on paper but then when you actually attend them — I hate to use the cliché — it’s Kafkaesque. They’re not allowed to see much of the evidence against them because it’s classified. So a military person will stand up and read the charges — say that the detainee was found to be an IED maker. And the accused will say, “Well what is the evidence against me?” And the military won’t produce it because it’s classified. The accused does not get a lawyer; they get what’s called a personal representative. That’s a field-grade soldier who is assigned to represent a detainee — but they have no legal training beyond a 35-hour course. Many former detainees told me they did not trust their representatives, who are uniformed soldiers. And at least in the public sessions, we did not see the representatives ever challenge evidence. There are also classified sessions, where we of course don’t know what happens.
Marc Ambinder over at The Atlantic has put together a ‘reelection report card’ for Obama. It seems to be a very realistic and empirical info-based assessment of Obama’s prospects, strenghts and weaknesses going into the 2012 presidential election campaign.
I don’t know, however, to which extent this assessment should be seen as complete – taking in all possible sides and angles. I like it for its conciseness, though, so here is an excerpt.
Political Identity: C. Who is this guy, and where does he want to take the country? Obama’s hope-and-change platform in 2008 allowed people to fill in whatever details they wanted. This strategy served a little-known candidate, but it’s untenable for an incumbent. Americans know that Obama has a vision–70 percent do, according to an April 9-10 CNN/Opinion Research poll of 824 adults.
Separate from the birther constellation is a cluster of beliefs with fairly high magnitude. Obama’s style is conciliatory and concessional. Even liberals don’t seem to know precisely where Obama wants to lead them. It’s not a question of goals; it’s a question of guts. Where will he fight? Perhaps his new deficit-cutting plan will show the way. This grade, incidentally, is given without reference to his potential opponents. Throw a Republican with an identity crisis into this mix and Obama’s grade rises.
Campaign Team: A. Obama’s reelection team is experienced, trusted, and not riven by the usual infighting that besets campaigns. It’s true that they’re cocky, but after any number of near-death experiences with health care and other issues, their hubris is a bit more muted. It must here be noted that several potential GOP opponents — notably Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney — are putting together A-list campaign teams too.
Leadership: C. Americans are not sure about Obama’s leadership skills.
One version of the case posits that Obama has spent way too much time blaming predecessors even as he continued Bush policies, from TARP to Guantanamo Bay. His leadership skills tie into his political identity. He seems rudderless at times. His advisers will say that Obama wants to fix problems and is a pragmatist, and that external events have made it all but impossible to chart a straight course and follow it. That may be true, but the challenge is to convince the American people that this style of governing is the right one.
Attributes and Values: A. Americans like Obama; they trust that he wants the best for them–even if they don’t quite know what that is; they see him as honest, on their side, and likable (see Gallup). This will be a significant asset. It helped carry President Bush to reelection in 2004.
Organization: A. Regardless of whether there’s a drop-off in volunteer intensity early on, there’s no question that Obama’s reelection operation will be formidable and well-funded enough to compete with whatever Republicans are able to construct. This includes outside groups who will try to chip away at Obama in battleground states. Democrats will have well-financed vehicles of their own.
Position Relative to His Opposition: B. The Republican field is unleavened at best. The all-but-declared Republican candidates (Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty) all have significant, if resolvable, flaws. Some of those thought to be considering the race — from Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to Donald Trump — threaten to pull the GOP off its rails. Dark-horse challenges could make the field rougher, especially Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana.
Foreign issues: B. He continues the Bush war in Afghanistan and drew down the one in Iraq while joining one against Libya. There’s no crowning achievement like a Middle East peace deal. Guantanamo Bay remains open. Independents liked Obama because he promised to repair America’s relationship with the world and raise its standing. He has done that. He will remind independents of this. It will probably work. Obama’s proposed defense cuts are going to be troubling to voters in the industrial Midwest and the Intermountain West.
Among Democrats, Obama’s job approval is about 5 percentage points away from where he needs to be. Three-fourths of self-identified liberals approve of Obama’s performance to date. He needs these numbers to be higher. Liberal white Democrats and African-Americans are solid Obama supporters. But Obama’s approval rating has dropped significantly among Latino voters (73 percent when he was elected; 54 percent now, according to Gallup), and slightly among younger voters (ages 18 to 29) who were hardest hit by the economic sluggishness. While 55 percent among this group is stronger than it was half a year ago, according to a huge Institute of Politics poll released last week, it needs to be higher. Still, in the absence of a Republican foil, these are generally sufficient numbers for the president. At this point in 1995, more than 4 in 10 Democrats wanted a primary challenger for Bill Clinton; fewer than 2 in 10 do for Obama.
If you wanna know more about Donald Trump’s election prospects, read here.
Now that the military intervention in Libya is entering its third day, some doubts about the whole action are beginning to arise in the mainstream media and online. Well, actually, on the blogosphere, notably in the US, the enthusiasm doesn’t seem to have been great to begin with. Also, here, the legitimacy and even domestic legality of the military actions are being called into question. The NYT, though, now also has a good piece about what is the fundamental problem with this intervention: what conclusion do we want it to have? What is the purpose of this intervention?
Basically, two answers to that are possible. One is the removal of Colonel Ghadafi by coalition military might. The other is the implementation of the no-fly zone (and, by now, it seems, also the destruction of the Libyan military), thus either allowing the rebels to topple Ghadafi, or pushing for negotiations between them and Ghadafi. I have the impression that the second option is what the coalition is pretty explicitly pushing for - although some (French) officials have also hinted at the first option, and Obama has indicated that to him the only outcome of negotiations can also be the removal of Ghadafi. The problem is, though: what if the second option doesn’t work out, and either the rebels are defeated, unable to conquer the entire country, or Ghadafi remains in (partial) power? Then we have an open-ended military commitment; and that is something we do not want to have.
The first option, though, is evidently outside of the scope of UNSCR 1973.
So this military intervention is predicated on a huge gamble, namely that the rebels will be able to swiftly re-conquer the country. If not, then we have a problem – the West is then embroiled in a third war in a Muslim country, and public support for this undertaking, both in the West and in the Arab world, will quickly ebb away. The model seems to be Afghanistan with the Northern Alliance doing the ground work (and then letting them install a government), rather than Iraq 2003. The comparison with the Iraq War, though, is already now increasingly being heard online. I would like the main point of this blog post to be that while the pitfalls of this mission (as stipulated above) must be recognized, any comparison with the Iraq War falls flat and is completely unfair. Let’s compare the two.
The Iraq War was a US-led war of aggression, against a state that posed no direct threat to the US. It was based on a fraudulent case about so-called weapons of mass destruction, that was embarassingly argued for by Colin Powell in the UN – a top aide later admitted this to be the lowest point in his career. There was a doctrine called ‘pre-emptive war’, which was up till then unheard of in international relations, and was accepted only in US neocon circles. There was no substantial international coalition backing this invasion, and what’s more, it was illegal: the UN resolution that was in place at the time did not provide for a full-scale war and toppling of the government.
The Libyan intervention, on the other hand, is a UN-instigated, UN-backed mission primarily meant to prevent the massacre of thousands of people. The pretty strong-worded Resolution 1973 fully, legally provides for everything that is happening right now. As co-blogger blsd has also argued here, this is what the Security Council was set up for! Only because of the Cold War did it never come around to do so. The international coalition supporting this mission is much broader than in the case of Iraq (ranging from Europe to the Arab League), and while Russia, China and India may be bitching now, they could’ve prevented this intervention in the Security Council if they’d wanted to, yet they didn’t. The Arab League is also still on board. The military action up till now may have been bold, but it effectuated what was stipulated in the Resolution: implement a no-fly zone.
I’m not saying this is without enormous risks, or even that it’s the best thing to do; but to compare it with Iraq is to demonstrate an Americentric worldview that supposes that once again this is an American mission with the rest of the world merely looking on. The US may bear the brunt, true; but the rhetorical lipservice being paid to this being an international coalition, and most importantly the fact that this is a circumscribed, UN-mandated mission, makes this an essentially different thing. It’s the reason that I, for one, can back this thing for now, as I suspect a far larger percentage of the European populace does than in the case of Iraq.
Of course this thing may be running out of hand, and then I’ll hate it was ever started and pound my head and ask, ‘Have we learned nothing?’ But for now, to me it seems that if there ever was a reason for an intervention, and a process to give it legitimacy and an international coalition, it’s this one and now. Let’s hope that it essentially stays limited, that there’s a quick way out, and that it doesn’t blow up in everybody’s faces.
The NYT reports that Bradley Manning (23) - the American soldier who originally passed the Iraq helicopter video, the Iraq and Afghan war logs and the US diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks – is being treated in an increasingly inhumane way in the cell in which he is locked up in Quantico, Virginia. He is now permanently stripped of this clothes during the night and the morning inspection, where he stands along the other detainees. This comes in addition to his 23-hour solitary confinement; his one hour of outside-cell time, during which he is shackled and must walk around all time; his deprivation of exercise; and the constant surveillance he is under. Bradley Manning, even though he is not suicidal and has acted like a model detainee (although he’s increasingly showing signs of psychological duress) has been forced to endure this treatment for the past ten months.
Let’s be clear about this: Bradley Manning’s treatment amounts to torture. Forced nudity is a breach of the standards of the Geneva Conventions, and prolonged solitary confinement is torture anyhow. And this is being done under one President Barack Obama. Manning is the person thanks to whom we know that American soldiers in Iraq shot innocent civilians from an Apache helicopter; thanks to whom we know how high the death toll of the Iraq War really was; and thanks to whom we know all those revelations from the WikiLeaks cables, that are still coming out. They even played a role in the Tunisian uprising, leading to the historic events of the past few weeks. In other words, this person is a hero if there ever was one. And yet, even though he has not been convicted of any crime, he is being handled in a manner reserved for the worst criminals in Supermax prisons (or terror suspects in Guantánamo Bay).
Here’s an excerpt from the chat logs between Adrian Lamo (the guy who turned him in) and Manning, revealing the latter’s motivations for revealing information being held secret to the public:
Manning: [B]ecause it’s public data. . . . it belongs in the public domain -information should be free – it belongs in the public domain – because another state would just take advantage of the information… try and get some edge – if its out in the open . . . it should be a public good.
Lamo: what’s your endgame plan, then?. . .
Manning: well, it was forwarded to [WikiLeaks] – and god knows what happens now – hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms – if not, than [sic] we’re doomed – as a species – i will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens – the reaction to the [Baghdad Apache attack] video gave me immense hope; CNN’s iReport was overwhelmed; Twitter exploded – people who saw, knew there was something wrong . . . Washington Post sat on the video… David Finkel acquired a copy while embedded out here. . . . – i want people to see the truth . . . regardless of who they are . . . because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.
So this is how the American government treats whistleblowers. And it is all happening under the watchful eye of President Obama, who as a candidate in 2007 said the following things:
They will be ready to show the world that we are not a country that ships prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far off countries. That we are not a country that runs prisons which lock people away without ever telling them why they are there or what they are charged with. That we are not a country which preaches compassion and justice to others while we allow bodies to float down the streets of a major American city.
That is not who we are.
Yes we can, President Obama. Change we can believe in.
Thank God for WikiLeaks. De door NRC en RTL gekaapte cables bevatten weliswaar geen wereldschokkende informatie, maar zoals inmiddels gebruikelijk wel genoeg om een aardige blik achter de schermen van het politiek bedrijf te krijgen.
Wat mij betreft mag wat nu naar buiten komt over de handelwijze van actoren in vorige regeringen meewegen in de besluitvorming over een nieuwe missie naar Afghanistan. Zoals bijvoorbeeld het dankzij WikiLeaks nu bekende gegeven dat de veiligheidssituatie in Uruzgan in 2006 veel ernstiger was dan het Nederlandse publiek is voorgehouden. En de Amerikaanse bewering – vandaag door minister Rosenthal weliswaar ontkend, dus het is hun woord tegen het zijne – dat een topambtenaar van Buitenlandse Zaken een buitenlandse regering heeft gevraagd om druk uit te oefenen op een minister in het kabinet waar hij onder dient. Ook al vertolkt de partij van die minister, de PvdA, al jarenlang de mening van het overgrote deel van de Nederlandse bevolking in de kwestie terzake.
Ik zou weleens willen weten: hoe is de situatie in de nieuwe locatie, Kunduz, nú echt? Welke shady back deals vinden er op dit moment plaats rondom de huidige besluitvorming over een nieuwe Afghanistan-missie? Het is dankzij WikiLeaks dat we de gerechtvaardigde impressie krijgen dat er bij zaken als deze, vanuit een optiek van “nationaal belang”, door zekere actoren altijd gemarchandeerd wordt met enerzijds de mening van het publiek, en anderzijds die van een groot deel van hun politieke representanten, zelfs als die in de regering zitten. Ik hoop dat D66, GroenLinks en de ChristenUnie dat meenemen in hun overweging.
Wie de Groene Amsterdammervan deze week leest, kan – als hun reportages kloppen – bijna niet anders dan tot de conclusie komen dat Nederland ook nu weer naar een desolaat oorlogsgebied gestuurd wordt, waar nauwelijks aan enige zinnige hulp of opbouw gedaan kan worden. Als er echt iets gedaan kan worden ben ik voor, maar als het weer alleen om onze trans-Atlantische standing gaat – net als, blijkbaar, jaren geleden – dan zeg ik: laat maar.
- Update: Nieuwe cable over bezoek Balkenende aan Obama. Waarin o.m. staat dat Verhagen bang was dat opname van Guantánamo-gevangenen in Nederland de populariteit van Wilders zou doen vergroten; dat Nederland harder roept dan handelt over klimaatverandering; en dat Beatrix waarschijnlijk binnen een jaar zou aftreden.
- Update: Absurd eigenlijk hoe veel die kabinetsleden de Amerikanen vertellen. Van Middelkoop noemt de besluitvorming in het kabinet tegen de ambassadeur ”frustrerend”. Classy.
- Update: Belangrijkste nieuws is ongetwijfeld Beatrix die een voorstander blijkt van de Afghanistan-missie (net als het merendeel van de Nederlandse elite, de ‘senior body politic’). Edit: De Volkskrant houdt er een andere interpretatie van de term “finding a way forward” op na.
Verder schijnt Wouter Bos nogal alleen te hebben gestaan in het kabinet én de PvdA-Kamerfractie met zijn verzet. Amerikanen hadden ook enorm de pik op Bos en de PvdA.
Opmerkelijk vind ik (maar daar heb ik verder nog niemand over gehoord) dat Bos wel in vertrouwen tegen de Amerikaanse ambassadeur heeft gezegd dat Nederland na 2010 nog wel in Afghanistan zal blijven, alleen niet in Uruzgan.
Ook aardig is dat de relatie tussen Verhagen en Koenders omschreven wordt als “gespannen, maar niet vijandig”. Van Middelkoop wordt beschreven als ‘het derde wiel aan de wagen’.
Authentieke cables te bekijken hier: codeberichten 1150 (15 juni 2000), 114457 (5 juli 2007), 222211 (25 augustus 2009) en 241007 (21 december 2009)
Codebericht 241007 (21 december 2009), over kabinetsberaad:
1. (S) SUMMARY: Dutch cabinet deliberations on Afghanistan are stalled going into the holiday break, with no clear indication when the impasse will be broken. Dutch post-2010 commitments to Afghanistan are being held hostage to the Labor Party´s (PvdA) uncompromising stance. Ambassador´s engagement with key leaders reveals few new assessments: Dutch will likely stay in Afghanistan focusing on training, enablers and development – outside of Uruzgan. END SUMMARY
4. (S) PvdA – Bos has completely shunned the diplomatic corps, relegating Afghanistan discussions to Koenders who has categorically said the Dutch will not be in Uruzgan after 2010 except for development efforts. The Australian Ambassador met with PvdA Foreign Affairs spokesperson Martijn van Dam who was even more unyielding on the Uruzgan departure. He stated that if Dutch security was needed in Uruzgan for development efforts after 2010, then the Dutch would simply stop those efforts as well. The PvdA defense spokesperson opined that it would not be of any benefit for U.S. leaders to engage either Bos or van Dam as they were not “open-minded” on Afghanistan. The PvdA is a party in disarray; their December 12 party congress was very mixed. Although there was no formal party statement made on Afghanistan, Labor´s position remained clear – it was standing firm on withdrawal of all troops from Uruzgan in 2010. Bos has stated he wants a Cabinet decision around January 8, before the Davids Commission issues it report about the political support the Dutch Government gave the U.S. decision to attack Iraq in 2003. Press commentary after the party congress heavily criticized Labor for failing to recognize: (1) any positive developments in Uruzgan over the past two years; (2) the importance for the Dutch to support the new NATO strategy and mission; and (3) the lives lost Qthe new NATO strategy and mission; and (3) the lives lost needlessly and effort wasted if the Dutch withdrew from Uruzgan
Codebericht 222211 (25 augustus 2009), o.m. over Beatrix:
1. (C) This cable continues reporting on post´s efforts to get the Dutch to “yes” on a post-2010 deployment in Afghanistan (reftels).
2. (S/NF) SUMMARY: Labor Party leader Bos told the Ambassador in confidence (STRICTLY PROTECT) the Dutch will likely stay in Afghanistan post-2010 but not in Uruzgan. The cabinet will probably not take that decision until the end of the year. Post recommends next steps in our engagement (para 7). END SUMMARY.
4. (S/NF) Bos then said the Government, with Labor Party support, will be able to stay in Afghanistan after its current mandate expires, but not in Uruzgan. The Ambassador pressed Bos that it was more logical for the Dutch to remain in Uruzgan where they had developed important contacts with local tribes and leaders as well as funded numerous projects. Bos admitted this was true, but did not know if staying in Uruzgan would fly with his party.
6. (S/NF) COMMENT: Queen Beatrix commented to the Ambassador during her credentialing ceremony on August 19 that finding a way forward on Afghanistan “would be difficult,” but must be done. It appears the senior leadership of the body politic agrees. We had heard from other Cabinet members, including Foreign Minister Verhagen, that Bos and the Labor Party would likely agree to extending the Dutch mission in Afghanistan past 2010. Bos´s statement, however, was the first time any senior Labor Party leader had made that clear. Although appearing to draw a line in the sand about leaving Uruzgan, Qappearing to draw a line in the sand about leaving Uruzgan, Bos did not seem categorical about that issue. In our engagement, we need to continue to stress the Alliance need for the Dutch to remain in Afghanistan and in Uruzgan, in particular; the progress the Dutch have made in Uruzgan and the need to build upon their stability and development efforts there; the increased U.S. contribution in military and civilian personnel and resources in Afghanistan; and the enhanced contributions of NATO and other partners. A word of caution – the Dutch are concerned Jan Mohammed, the former governor and local warlord, might be re-appointed governor of Uruzgan if Pres. Karzai is re-elected. If that were to happen, everyone, including our strongest supporters, says the Dutch will not/not return to Uruzgan under any circumstances. END COMMENT.
Codebericht 114457 (5 juli 2007), over relaties binnen het kabinet:
1. (C) Summary: The GONL sent a letter to the Dutch Parliament on June 30 noting it will decide this summer whether to extend its ISAF mission in Afghanistan. The decision will follow an exhaustive review of all options, including staying in the mission´s current capacity, reducing its contribution or moving to another location, or even withdrawing altogether. Cabinet officials have stressed that “all options are on the table,” while public statements by Defense Minister Eimert van Middelkoop in favor of remaining in some capacity may have tipped the hand of the GONL and temporarily unsettled the political process. Dutch officials are cautiously optimistic that the conditions are in place to arrive at a positive extension decision, but stress that sequencing is vital: first the review of options, then consultations with Allies, followed by a decision and subsequent debate with Parliament. End summary.
19. (S//NOFORN) Working level contacts describe the relationship between Verhagen and Koenders as “contentious but not outright hostile.” Instead of direct confrontation, the two often wage battles through their staffs at the working level, said MFA Security Affairs Chief Robert de Groot. That said, when the two ministers agree, the resulting decision has added weight and is often “ironclad.” Van Middelkoop is described as “the third wheel,” or the “inexperienced junior partner” by working level contacts. While substantively knowledgeable, his inexperience in the government is obvious, and he often defers to Verhagen and Koenders.
1.(C) SUMMARY: THE DUTCH ARE PLEASED THAT THE 6/13-14 EU GAC ENDORSED MORE FREQUENT UPDATES OF THE EU SERBIA VISA BAN LIST. THEY THINK THEY NOW HAVE A POLITICALLY RESPONSIVE TOOL TO PRESSURE MILOSEVIC AND HIS REGIME. THEY STILL SUPPORT CLOSER EU COORDINATION WITH NON-EU STATES ON FINANCIAL SANCTIONS, BUT SEE LITTLE PROSPECT OF AN EU CONSENSUS ON THIS POINT. THEY SUGGEST MORE AD HOC APPROACHES TO THIS PROBLEM AND WELCOME FURTHER BILATERAL CONSULTATION WITH THE U.S. FINALLY, THE DUTCH SAY THAT THE UK AND THE NETHERLANDS ARE “BRAINSTORMING” ON HOW TO MANAGE ANTICIPATED AUGUST CALLS TO DROP OUTRIGHT THE EU SERBIA FLIGHT BAN. END SUMMARY.
Daar gaat m’n dag… Om 16.00 uur hierrrinchecken! RTL en NRC hebben alle diplomatieke cables uit standplaats Den Haag in handen gekregen. 3000 berichten, van 2000 tot 2010. En gaan daar lekker over berichten. O.m. over Beatrix die zich uitliet over de Afghanistan-missie (zie onder).
RTL Nieuws en NRC Handelsblad hebben de beschikking gekregen over de duizenden diplomatieke codeberichten van de Amerikaanse diplomatieke dienst uit Den Haag. Het gaat hier om rapportages van de Amerikaanse ambassade in Nederland aan de Verenigde Staten. RTL en NRC hebben inzage gekregen in alle codeberichten vanuit Nederland in de ruim 250.000 WikiLeaks-documenten.
RTL Nieuws en NRC Handelsblad kregen toegang tot de stukken via de Noorse krant Aftenposten, die enkele weken geleden, buiten de WikiLeaks-organisatie om, alle 250.000 diplomatieke berichten in handen kreeg. RTL en NRC berichten vandaag om 16.00 uur over een deel van de documenten. RTL doet dit in een extra RTL Z-bulletin bij RTL 7 en NRC Handelsblad vanaf vanmiddag in de krant en op nrc.nl. Later deze week volgen meer berichten over de rest van de stukken.
De twee Nederlandse nieuwsorganisaties maken deel uit van een kleine club van Europese media die de handen ineen hebben geslagen om de tienduizenden diplomatieke berichten te onderzoeken en journalistiek te duiden. Naast Aftenposten, RTL Nieuws en NRC gaat het om Svenska Dagbladet (Zweden) en Politiken (Denemarken).
Bas Heijne komt vandaag met een vernietigend stuk over Job Cohen in het NRC, onder de titel “Waarom Job Cohen een andere baan moet zoeken“. Hij stelt zich in de column de vraag: hoe kan het dat de oppositie geen enkel daadkrachtig weerwoord weet te formuleren, terwijl “die onheldere gedoogpartij allerhande schandalen en schandaaltjes bijna achteloos pareert” en “de regeringscoalitie moeiteloos wegkomt met assertieve kromspraak”. “Wanneer dat het geval is”, aldus Heijne, “ weet je dat je met een verdomd zwakke oppositie te maken hebt”.
En wie heeft daaraan de schuld? Inderdaad, Job Cohen. Ik ben het volmondig met hem eens. Heijne zet hier alle zwakke punten van de PvdA en vooral van Cohen, die mij als tegenstander van het huidige kabinet (en velen met mij) al maandenlang storen, in één stuk op een rijtje. De kern van het falen van Cohen is volgens Heijne:
Maar sinds Cohen terugkeerde in de landelijke politiek is zijn toon defensief geworden. Er is veel commentaar geweest op zijn aarzelende optreden in de aanloop naar de verkiezingen, maar weinig op de sleetsheid van zijn argumenten tegen Wilders: het is weinig effectief om iemand ervan te beschuldigen dat hij mensen uitsluit, wanneer alle PVV-stemmers zichzelf buitengesloten voelen. Wilders kan binnen de PvdA kennelijk alleen gezien worden als een bedreiging, niet als een uitdaging. Van een stug volgehouden waardigheid in een sfeer van verbale agressie veranderde Cohens toon ineens naar een van beklemd slachtofferschap – van Gandhi naar Calimero.
Nog een aantal goede observaties:
Dat blijkt nu fataal – de weerbarstigheid van voorheen maakt ineens een onwereldse indruk. De lijn die zijn partij volgt lijkt dat beeld alleen maar te bevestigen: men valt terug in rode reflexen, er wordt krampachtig geprobeerd het antieke VARA-gevoel te reanimeren, het moet eerlijker.
Wat al die goedbedoelende publicisten kennelijk niet inzien is dat hun verdediging van Cohen een kiss of death is – een oppositieleider moet geen hulp van columnisten nodig hebben. Nog erger zijn de sussende stemmen die zeggen dat Cohen zich tot nu weinig krachtdadig heeft opgesteld, maar dat het nog te vroeg is om te oordelen – Bolkestein werkte zich immers ook struikelend door zijn eerste Algemene Beschouwingen. Dat is wensdenken.
En dan de knock-out blow:
Alles wijst erop dat het de grootste oppositiepartij van ons land aan denkkracht ontbreekt. Wanneer in een land minderheden onder vuur liggen, dan moeten die minderheden weerbaar en assertief worden; wanneer het sociaal-democratisch erfgoed bestookt wordt, moet je niet vluchten in onwerkelijke nostalgie en slachtofferdenken. Dat is de verkeerde afslag die Cohen en zijn partij hebben genomen – en daarom gaan ze de komende verkiezingen verliezen. Dat is niet de schuld van Geert Wilders, dat is niet de schuld van de gure wind die in Nederland waait, dat is te wijten aan een denkfout: de ijdele overtuiging dat wanneer je vindt dat je gelijk hebt, je het vanzelf ook wel zult krijgen.
Bij de Volkskrant is het duidelijk nog niet helemaal aangekomen dat de verdediging van Cohen door “goedbedoelende publicisten” een “kiss of death” is. In een één-tweetje met de redacteur mag Cohen daarin vandaag uitleggen waarom de nieuwe missie naar Afghanistan in huidige vorm zo’n belabberd idee is. Dit is in mijn ogen gelijk een goed voorbeeld van het falen van Cohen en het visieloze oppositievoeren van de PvdA. Cohen is namelijk wel voor een politiemissie, want “politie is prima, helpen de rechtstaat van de grond te krijgen, scholen bouwen. Allemaal goed, die dingen bieden zelfs een betere kans op ontwikkeling.” Dat er naast het opleidingspersoneel van politie ook 450 ondersteunende militairen meegaan ziet Cohen echter niet zitten. Een vreemd standpunt, want als je een opleidingsmissie gaat doen in oorlogsgebied is het natuurlijk gekkenwerk om dat te doen zonder ondersteuning. En dat Nederlandse troepen na Srebrenica niet meer afhankelijk willen zijn van buitenlandse militairen is in mijn ogen logisch.
En eigenlijk is Cohen het daar ook wel mee eens. Maarja, de PvdA heeft na jarenlang door het CDA onder de voet te zijn gelopen in de coalitie, in een soort wanhoopsdaad het kabinet laten vallen over Afghanistan. Dat dit een misplaatst vertoon van “daadkracht” was en niet een afgewogen beslissing over de rol van Nederland in Afghanistan staat vast. Vervolgens verloor de PvdA de verkiezingen. “Maar wij hebben toch het gelijk aan onze kant? Hoe kunnen we dan verliezen?” En hoewel de voorgestelde politiemissie eigenlijk hoort bij de rol van Nederland in de NAVO, namelijk die van een rijk, middelgroot land, en een goede manier is om onze internationale “leverage” te behouden, is Cohen er tegen. Nouja, eigenlijk is hij er voor, maar dan wel zonder die militairen. Want “dat was niet de afspraak”.
Ik geef toe dat over het nut van de grootschalige ”opbouwmissies” in Afghanistan te twijfelen valt (iets wat Cohen dus blijkbaar niet doet). Maar het trainen van politiepersoneel kan weinig anders dan een positieve uitwerking op het land hebben. En in dit geval is het zo dat als Cohen A zegt hij ook B moet zeggen. Zijn tegenstem is dan ook puur politiek gemotiveerd en niet gebaseerd op een duidelijke afweging. Vasthouden aan een mislukte politieke beslissing, typisch een voorbeeld van gebrek aan visie en daadkracht bij de PvdA. Dit alles nog eens mooi samengevat in de epic fail aan het eind van het interview met Cohen:
VK: Het ziet ernaar uit dat Rutte met dit besluit precies op de wensen van D66 en GroenLinks heeft gemikt. Als zij ja zeggen blijft u alleen achter.
Cohen: Dat heeft Rutte slim gedaan, ja. Maar wij hebben onze eigen lijn.
Na tweeënhalve week wachten is er dan eindelijk een diplomatieke kabel geheel gewijd aan Nederland! En wederom staat er weinig wereldschokkends in, maar is het smakelijk leesvoer. De geheime briefing, gedateerd op 6 juli 2009, is gericht aan Barack Obama, anticiperend op Balkenende’s bezoek aan de V.S., en beschrijft de toenmalige situatie in de Nederlandse politiek.
Aardig is de beschrijving van Balkenende als een “lichtgewicht Harry Potter”, en van Wilders als “goud-bepruikte, opstandige parlementariër”. De Amerikanen analyseren correct de fragiliteit van Balkenende-IV (de PvdA is “in verval”), voorspellen nog correcter de val van het kabinet na de gemeenteraadsverkiezingen, en schieten wederom raak met de verwachting dat de PVV weleens heel groot kon worden. Wilders wordt overigens gezien als een “bedreiging” voor Amerikaanse belangen.
Of de these dat onze verstoting uit de G20 verband houdt met het beeïndigen van de missie in Afghanistan hierdoor bevestigd wordt weet ik niet. We hebben na juli 2009 toch nog deelgenomen aan de G20?
Monday, 06 July 2009, 12:08
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 THE HAGUE 000395
STATE PLEASE PASS TO WHITE HOUSE FOR THE PRESIDENT EO 12958 DECL: 07/06/2019 TAGS PREL, OVIP, ECON, EFIN, PINR, MOPS, NL SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS: OVERVIEW FOR THE PRESIDENT’S JULY 14
MEETING WITH DUTCH PRIME MINISTER BALKENENDE
Classified By: Charge d’Affaires Michael F. Gallagher for reasons 1.4 ( b) and (d).
1. (C) Your July 14 meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Jan Pieter Balkenende provides an opportunity for us to urge the Dutch to continue as part of NATO in Afghanistan and to enlist PM Balkenende in solving Guantanamo issues. For his part, Balkenende will seek to continue the Dutch role in the G20 and to find a common ground to work with us on climate change and the Middle East.
2. (C) Balkenende, in office through four coalitions since 2002, is a cunning politician who does not impose his vision on coalition partners, but maneuvers effectively to achieve the intended goal. At first, he was dismissed as a lightweight “Harry Potter” look-alike, but he has consistently and skillfully delivered Cabinet support for U.S. policy objectives while balancing fragile parliamentary majorities. Balkenende,s current center-left coalition government (“Balkenende IV”) is held together more by fear of early elections than any unity of vision. The financial crisis has plunged the Netherlands into a recession likely to last through 2010, and the Cabinet must continually defend its three relatively modest stimulus packages against calls to do more to spur recovery. Balkenende is also under pressure from a skeptical public to withdraw the Netherlands, 1,800 troops from Afghanistan in 2010. His main coalition partner, the Labor Party, is in decline, having fared poorly in the 2006 national election and the 2009 European Parliament election, and believes rejecting a continuing role in Afghanistan will please its base and may win back supporters.
3. (S) The Wilders Factor: Golden-pompadoured, maverick parliamentarian Geert Wilders, anti-Islam, nationalist Freedom Party remains a thorn in the coalition’s side, capitalizing on the social stresses resulting from the failure to fully integrate almost a million Dutch Muslims, mostly of Moroccan or Turkish descent. In existence only since 2006, the Freedom Party, tightly controlled by Wilders, has grown to be the Netherlands second largest, and fastest growing, party. Recent polls suggest it could even replace Balkenende,s Christian Democrats as the top party in 2011 parliamentary elections. Wilders is no friend of the U.S.: he opposes Dutch military involvement in Afghanistan; he believes development assistance is money wasted; he opposes NATO missions outside “allied” territory; he is against most EU initiatives; and, most troubling, he forments fear and hatred of immigrants.
4. (C) As a result of these currents, Balkenende,s coalition finds itself in a precarious position and could fall within a year (most likely after municipal elections in March 2010). The Prime Minister is aware we want him to deliver continued Dutch boots on the ground in Afghanistan after 2010 and help with Guantanamo detainees. He knows there are high risks/expectations involved in his meeting with you, but we understand he is coming to offer as much as he thinks he can deliver at this time.
5. (S) Balkenende, a long-time champion of U.S.-Dutch relations, seeks to establish a strong relationship with you and capitalize on your popularity. The Dutch public overwhelmingly supported your election in November, and you remain hugely popular here as a beacon of change. Balkenende Qremain hugely popular here as a beacon of change. Balkenende will encourage you to view the long arc of the U.S.-Dutch relationship, not just current bumps in the road (e.g. the likely drawdown of Dutch forces in Afghanistan after 2010). He wants you to see the Netherlands as America,s friend and partner, with significant Dutch contributions to our shared foreign policy priorities: Dutch military presence in Afghanistan and support for NATO; support for U.S. intervention in Iraq; active participation in the EU, NATO, and other multilateral institutions; substantial and sustained foreign development assistance; and a long-standing commitment to promoting human rights, tolerance, and the rule of law. And, he will ask you for a seat at the G-20 table in Pittsburgh as well as for a meeting at the White House in September for the Crown Prince.
6. (C) Balkenende will use your private, one-on-one session to highlight your shared personal values and experiences. He believes social organizations are more effective in promoting change than government. His philosophy is that we must treat
THE HAGUE 00000395 002 OF 002
one another with dignity and respect as we live and work together. Your Father,s Day call for fathers to accept more responsibility in the rearing of their children resonated with him. Balkenende will also likely use the one-on-one session to pinpoint the political difficulties of the deliverables we are seeking. Rather than cover a laundry list of topics, the Dutch want the larger meeting to focus on 1) Afghanistan/Pakistan, 2) the future of the global economic system (including the role of the G20 and how to help developing countries), 3) the Middle East Peace Process/Iran, and 4) climate change. The Prime Minister is anticipating other key foreign policy issues (e.g. human rights, Russia, NATO, non-proliferation, energy security, 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson,s voyage to Manhattan – NY400) can be covered by staff or only briefly mentioned to stay focused on the major issues. Two cables will follow which will expand on these topics.
Behold: an hour-long documentary from Swedish television on the organization and man of the year: WikiLeaks, and Julian Assange. From the early beginnings to the publication of the Collateral Murder video, the Afghan war logs, the Iraq war diaries and Cablegate. Must-watch.
From the description on YouTube (it was uploaded two days ago):
Exclusive rough-cut of first in-depth documentary on WikiLeaks and the people behind it!
From summer 2010 until now, Swedish Television has been following the secretive media network WikiLeaks and its enigmatic Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange.
Reporters Jesper Huor and Bosse Lindquist have traveled to key countries where WikiLeaks operates, interviewing top members, such as Assange, new Spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson, as well as people like Daniel Domscheit-Berg who now is starting his own version – Openleaks.org!
Where is the secretive organization heading? Stronger than ever, or broken by the US? Who is Assange: champion of freedom, spy or rapist? What are his objectives? What are the consequences for the internet?
It’s on: despite a cyberattack on their website just hours ago, WikiLeaks has published more than 250,000 classified diplomatic cables from American embassies around the globe. In major newspapers, there’s now talk about a worldwide diplomatic crisis.
What’s in it is, well, huge and encompassing, with lots and lots of information on countless international matters.
The United States was catapulted into a worldwide diplomatic crisis today, with the leaking to the Guardian and other international media of more than 250,000 classified cables from its embassies, many sent as recently as February this year.
At the start of a series of daily extracts from the US embassy cables – many of which are designated “secret” – the Guardian can disclose that Arab leaders are privately urging an air strike on Iran and that US officials have been instructed to spy on the UN’s leadership.
These two revelations alone would be likely to reverberate around the world. But the secret dispatches which were obtained by WikiLeaks, the whistlebowers’ website, also reveal Washington’s evaluation of many other highly sensitive international issues.
These include a major shift in relations between China and North Korea, Pakistan’s growing instability and details of clandestine US efforts to combat al-Qaida in Yemen.
Among scores of other disclosures that are likely to cause uproar, the cables detail:
• Grave fears in Washington and London over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme
• Alleged links between the Russian government and organised crime.
• Devastating criticism of the UK’s military operations in Afghanistan.
• Claims of inappropriate behaviour by a member of the British royal family.
The US has particularly intimate dealings with Britain, and some of the dispatches from the London embassy in Grosvenor Square will make uncomfortable reading in Whitehall and Westminster. They range from serious political criticisms of David Cameron to requests for specific intelligence about individual MPs.
The cache of cables contains specific allegations of corruption and against foreign leaders, as well as harsh criticism by US embassy staff of their host governments, from tiny islands in the Caribbean to China and Russia.
The material includes a reference to Vladimir Putin as an “alpha-dog”, Hamid Karzai as being “driven by paranoia” and Angela Merkel allegedly “avoids risk and is rarely creative”. There is also a comparison between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Adolf Hitler.
The cables name countries involved in financing terror groups, and describe a near “environmental disaster” last year over a rogue shipment of enriched uranium. They disclose technical details of secret US-Russian nuclear missile negotiations in Geneva, and include a profile of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who they say is accompanied everywhere by a “voluptuous blonde” Ukrainian nurse.
The electronic archive of embassy dispatches from around the world was allegedly downloaded by a US soldier earlier this year and passed to WikiLeaks. Assange made them available to the Guardian and four other newspapers: the New York Times, Der Spiegel in Germany, Le Monde in France and El País in Spain. All five plan to publish extracts from the most significant cables, but have decided neither to “dump” the entire dataset into the public domain, nor to publish names that would endanger innocent individuals. WikiLeaks says that, contrary to the state department’s fears, it also initially intends to post only limited cable extracts, and to redact identities.
The cables published today reveal how the US uses its embassies as part of a global espionage network, with diplomats tasked to obtain not just information from the people they meet, but personal details, such as frequent flyer numbers, credit card details and even DNA material.
Classified “human intelligence directives” issued in the name of Hillary Clinton or her predecessor, Condoleeza Rice, instruct officials to gather information on military installations, weapons markings, vehicle details of political leaders as well as iris scans, fingerprints and DNA.
The most controversial target was the leadership of the United Nations. That directive requested the specification of telecoms and IT systems used by top UN officials and their staff and details of “private VIP networks used for official communication, to include upgrades, security measures, passwords, personal encryption keys”.
They are classified at various levels up to “SECRET NOFORN” [no foreigners]. More than 11,000 are marked secret, while around 9,000 of the cables are marked noforn. The embassies which sent most cables were Ankara, Baghdad, Amman, Kuwait and Tokyo.
A rare, 21-minute video by Norwegian journalist Paul Refsdal, who embedded with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Released by an Australian tv program a few days ago. This is pretty amazing (and extremely dangerous), only ever been done before by a Western journalist. It offers a glimpse into the day-to-day life of the Taliban, which includes hiding in the mountains, praying, and firing on US convoys from up above.
Spend the next 21 minutes of your day watching this extremely rare footage of the war in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province — from the Taliban’s perspective. The video, released by an Australian TV news program, comes from Paul Refsdal, a Norwegian documentary journalist who embedded with a Taliban commander named Dawran earlier this year.
Most American troops spend their tours in Afghanistan with only the vaguest idea of who they’re fighting. In June, a Special Forces A-Team in the south reportedly couldn’t find the Taliban. It wasn’t so hard for Refsdal. This self-described “tall white man” managed to effectively infiltrate the insurgency in one of its bastions. The only other person we know to have done anything similar is our crazy friend Nir Rosen, who’s been known to pass himself off as a Bosnian Muslim.
Refsdal portrays the Taliban as a bunch of dudes goofily hanging out: combing their long dyed hair; joking with one another; praying a ton; and repeatedly firing on U.S. convoys from high in the mountains. (“Use the rocket launcher, Rafiq, the rocket launcher.”) Dawran is a doting father of young kids who tells the reporter stories about how he came this close to killing a “traitor” but then took mercy on him. His men gawk at how scared Refsdal appears and can’t seem to load their ammunition properly. “These guys sound and act a lot like a U.S. small unit, but replace all the quotes from ‘Anchorman’ and ‘Talladega Nights’ with ‘Allahu Akbar,’” observes Andrew Exum of the Center for a New American Security.