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Posts Tagged US Foreign Policy

US Foreign Policy’s BLACK BOX found…

US Foreign Policy’s BLACK BOX found…



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UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA US HAS LOST ITS MORAL COMPASS: US Violates Int’l Law, Grounding Bolivian President’s Plane in Pursuit of Snowden


John Glaser, July 03, 2013

The appalling hubris of the imperial mindset in Washington was on full display yesterday when the U.S. government apparently pressured the governments of France, Spain, Portugal and Italy to deny a plane carrying Bolivia’s Evo Morales permission to pass through their air space. The plane was thus redirected, in flight, and forced to land in Vienna. The reason? Morales said he would consider granting political asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and the suspicion was that Snowden was on the plane with the Bolivian president.

That suspicion was flat out wrong. But even if it was correct, the move, according to the Guardian, went ”above international law and the rights of a president of a sovereign nation.” Unsurprisingly, Washington yet again has violated international law and abused the rights of weaker nations.

“Bolivia has denounced what it calls a ‘kidnap’ operation of its president by imperial powers that violates the Vienna convention and its national sovereignty,” writes theGuardian‘s Jonathan Watts. “Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador and Uruguay have joined in the condemnation. Angry headlines have been splashed on newspapers across the region.”

“Politicians and commentators in the region are already adding the action to a long list of interventions, invasions and ‘policing actions’ by Latin America’s giant northern neighbour, alongside the Monroe Doctrine, the annexation of half of Mexico, the Bay of Pigs invasion, support for Chile’s Augusto Pinochet and other dictators and the ousting of democratically elected leftist governments in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and elsewhere,” Watts adds.

In a statement yesterday, Amnesty International said the U.S. government’s pursuit of Snowden is a gross violation of his rights and international law:

The U.S. authorities’ relentless campaign to hunt down and block whistleblower Edward Snowden’s attempts to seek asylum is a gross violation of his human rights. It is his unassailable right, enshrined in international law, to claim asylum and this should not be impeded.

The U.S. attempts to pressure governments to block Snowden’s attempts to seek asylum are all the more deplorable when you consider the National Security Agency (NSA)whistleblower could be at risk of ill-treatment if extradited to the U.S.

No country can return a person to another country where there is a serious risk of ill-treatment. We know that others who have been prosecuted for similar acts have been held in conditions that not only Amnesty International, but UN officials considered cruel inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of international law.

Meanwhile, the focus on Snowden is continuing to serve as a distraction from the fact that the NSA is violating “the constitutional rights of everybody in the country,” in the words of NSA whistleblower William Binney.

The ACLU reminds us today that the NSA’s collection of intelligence on Americans is not “inadvertent,” as they claim. Under the authority of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, “the NSA claims only to intercept American communications ‘inadvertently,’ but this is a clever fiction: the surveillance program has been engineered to sweep up American communications in vast quantity, while giving the NSA cover to claim that it is not intentionally targeting Americans.”

This deliberate collection of Americans’ communications happens in at least three ways. First, the government can target foreigners on the other end of Americans’ international communications. So, if you call or email family, friends, or business associates abroad, the NSA can intercept those communications so long as it doesn’t intentionally target a specific, known American in another country. The surveillance must also relate to “foreign intelligence,” but this term has been construed so broadly as to be all but meaningless.

Second, the government has set a dismally low bar for concluding that a potential surveillance target is, in fact, a foreigner located abroad. By default, targets are assumed to be foreign. That’s right, the procedures allow the NSA to presume that prospective targets are foreigners outside the United States absent specific information to the contrary—and to presume therefore that those individuals are fair game for warrantless surveillance.

Third, the procedures allow the NSA to collect not just the communications of a foreign target, but any communications about a foreign target. This provision likely results in significant over-collection of even purely domestic communications. So, rather than striving to protect Americans, the procedures err on the side of over-collection and less respect for privacy rights.

Hopefully some good will come out of the U.S.’s overreach in grounding Morales’s plane. Maybe this will push forward the Bolivian government’s consideration of asylum for Snowden. What would be great is if Morales issued a formal complaint at the United Nations. The U.S. should be as embarrassed about this ordeal as possible.


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Glenn Greewald, The Guardian :Obama, The US And The Muslim World: The Animosity Deepens

images-189Another new poll, this one of Pakistan, shows: a central promise of Obama for improving US security is an utter failure 


Pakistani protesters burn a representation of an American flag during a rally to condemn US drone attacks in Pakistani tribal belt of Waziristan on Thursday, July 7, 2011 in Mutan, Pakistan. Photograph: AP Photo/Khalid Tanveer

In his first inaugural address, back in 2009, Barack Obama announced: “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” Improving how the US was perceived among the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims was not about winning an international popularity contest but was deemed as vital to US national security. Even the Pentagon has long recognized that the primary cause of anti-American Terrorism is the “negative attitude” toward the US: obviously, the reason people in that part of the world want to attack the US — as opposed to Peru or South Africa or China — is because they perceive a reason to do so.

Obama’s most devoted supporters have long hailed his supposedly unique ability to improve America’s standing in that part of the world. In his first of what would be many paeans to Obama, Andrew Sullivan wrote back in 2007 that among Obama’s countless assets, “first and foremost [is] his face,” which would provide “the most effective potential re-branding of the United States since Reagan.” Sullivan specifically imagined a “young Pakistani Muslim” seeing Obama as “the new face of America”; instantly, proclaimed Sullivan, “America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm.” Obama would be “the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology” because it “proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.” Sullivan made clear why this matters so much: “such a re-branding is not trivial — it’s central to an effective war strategy.”

None of that has happened. In fact, the opposite has taken place: although it seemed impossible to achieve, Obama has presided over an America that, in many respects, is now even more unpopular in the Muslim world than it was under George Bush and Dick Cheney.

That is simply a fact. Poll after poll has proven it. In July, 2011, the Washington Post reported: “The hope that the Arab world had not long ago put in the United States and President Obama has all but evaporated.” Citing a poll of numerous Middle East countries that had just been released, the Post explained: “In most countries surveyed, favorable attitudes toward the United States dropped to levels lower than they were during the last year of the Bush administration.”

Egypt poll

A 2011 Arab American Institute poll found that “US favorable ratings across the Arab world have plummeted. In most countries they are lower than at the end of the Bush Administration, and lower than Iran’s favorable ratings.” The same year, a poll of public opinion in Egypt — arguably the most strategically important nation in the region and the site of Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech — found pervasively unfavorable views of the US at or even below the levels of the Bush years. A 2012 Pew poll of six predominantly Muslim nations found not only similar or worse perceptions of the US as compared to the Bush years, but also documented that China is vastly more popular in that part of the world than the US. In that region, the US and Israel are still considered, by far, to be the two greatest threats to peace.

Unknown-8In sum, while Europeans still adore Obama, the US is more unpopular than ever in the Muslim world. A newly released Gallup poll from Thursday, this one surveying public opinion in Pakistan, provides yet more powerful evidence of this dangerous trend. As Gallup summarized: “more than nine in 10 Pakistanis (92%) disapprove of US leadership and 4% approve, the lowest approval rating Pakistanis have ever given.” Worse, “a majority (55%) say interaction between Muslim and Western societies is ‘more of a threat’ [than a benefit], up significantly from 39% in 2011.” Disapproval of the US in this nuclear-armed nation has exploded under Obama to record highs:

gallup pakistan

It is not hard to understand why this is happening. Indeed, the slightest capacity for empathy makes it easy. It is not — as self-loving westerners like to tell themselves — because there is some engrained, inherent, primitive anti-Americanism in these cultures. To the contrary, there is substantial affection for US culture and “the American people” in these same countries, especially among the young.

What accounts for this pervasive hostility toward the US is clear: US actions in their country. As a Rumsfeld-era Pentagon study concluded: “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies.” In particular, it is “American direct intervention in the Muslim world” — justified in the name of stopping Terrorism — that “paradoxically elevate[s] the stature of and support for Islamic radicals.”

Just consider how Americans view their relentless bombing attacks via drone versus how the rest of the world perceives them. It is not hyperbole to say that America is a rogue nation when it comes to its drone wars, standing almost alone in supporting it. The Pew poll from last June documented that “i n nearly all countries, there is considerable opposition to a major component of the Obama administration’s anti-terrorism policy: drone strikes.” The finding was stark: “in 17 of 20 countries, more than half disapprove of U.S. drone attacks targeting extremist leaders and groups in nations such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.” That means that “Americans are the clear outliers on this issue”:

Pew drones

In sum, if you continually bomb another country and kill their civilians, not only the people of that country but the part of the world that identifies with it will increasingly despise the country doing it. That’s the ultimate irony, the most warped paradox, of US discourse on these issues: the very policies that Americans constantly justify by spouting the Terrorism slogan are exactly what causes anti-American hatred and anti-American Terrorism in the first place. The most basic understanding of human nature renders that self-evident, but this polling data indisputably confirms it.

Last month, the Atlantic’s Robert Wright announced that he would cease regularly writing for that magazine in order to finish his book on Buddhism. When doing so, he wrote an extraordinarily (though typically) great essay containing all sorts of thought-provoking observations. Yesterday, the blogger Digby flagged the key passage relating to the issue I’m raising today; please read this:

“[1] The world’s biggest single problem is the failure of people or groups to look at things from the point of view of other people or groups — i.e., to put themselves in the shoes of ‘the other.’ I’m not talking about empathy in the sense of literally sharing people’s emotions — feeling their pain, etc. I’m just talking about the ability to comprehend and appreciate the perspective of the other. So, for Americans, that might mean grasping that if you lived in a country occupied by American troops, or visited by American drone strikes, you might not share the assumption of many Americans that these deployments of force are well-intentioned and for the greater good. You might even get bitterly resentful. You might even start hating America.

“[2] Grass-roots hatred is a much greater threat to the United States — and to nations in general, and hence to world peace and stability — than it used to be. The reasons are in large part technological, and there are two main manifestations: (1) technology has made it easier for grass-roots hatred to morph into the organized deployment (by non-state actors) of massively lethal force; (2) technology has eroded authoritarian power, rendering governments more responsive to popular will, hence making their policies more reflective of grass roots sentiment in their countries. The upshot of these two factors is that public sentiment toward America abroad matters much more (to America’s national security) than it did a few decades ago.

“[3] If the United States doesn’t use its inevitably fading dominance to build a world in which the rule of law is respected, and in which global norms are strong, the United States (and the world) will suffer for it. So when, for example, we do things to other nations that we ourselves have defined as acts of war (like cybersabotage), that is not, in the long run, making us or our allies safer. The same goes for when we invade countries, or bomb them, in clear violation of international law. And at some point we have to get serious about building a truly comprehensive nuclear nonproliferation regime — one that we expect our friends, not just our enemies, to be members-in-good-standing of.”

Whenever I write about how the US is so deeply unpopular in the Muslim world (and getting more unpopular), it invariably prompts tough-talking, swaggering, pseudo-warriors who dismiss the concern as irrelevant: who cares what They think of Us? The reason to care is exactly what Wright explained: even if you dismiss as irrelevant the morality of constantly bombing and killing other people, nothing undermines US interests and security more than spreading anti-US hatred in the world. Put another way, it is precisely those people who support US aggression by invoking the fear-mongering The Terrorists! cliche who do the most to ensure that this threat is maintained and inexorably worsens. And, as Wright says, it is only a complete lack of empathy for other people’s perspectives that can explain this failure to make that connection.

Imagine Ad

Probably the single best ad of the 2012 presidential cycle was this one, entitled “Imagine,” produced independently by supporters of the Paul campaign:


By  (about the author)


For the past 10 years, I was a litigator in NYC specializing in First Amendment challenges, civil rights cases, and corporate and securities fraud matters. I am the author of the New York Times Best-Selling book, more…)

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