Just Foreign Policy Daily Summary

Just Foreign Policy News, May 9, 2012
Actions and Featured Articles

Action: More than 1600 Palestinian prisoners are on hunger strike. Where is the State Department?
Ten have been hospitalized; at least two have been characterized as “near death.” The prisoners are protesting “administrative detention” – detention without charge – solitary confinement, and denial of family visits. Urge the State Department to speak up to save the lives of the hunger strikers and to protest the detention of Palestinians without charge or trial.


Against War and Austerity, Hollande Is Right and Obama Should Agree
Newly elected French President François Hollande is coming to the White House next week to meet with President Obama ahead of the G8 and NATO summits. Press reports suggest that Obama will try to talk Hollande out of keeping his campaign promise to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan. Instead, Obama should agree with Hollande on a plan to expedite the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan, as the majority of Americans – including the majority of Republicans – want.


Urge John Brennan to Tell the Whole Truth about drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan
John Brennan didn’t tell the whole truth about the drone strikes. He didn’t admit that the U.S. has launched drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen against people who are not known to be on any list of “suspected terrorists,” without knowing who would be killed.

Urge John Brennan to tell the whole truth about drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan by signing our petition. 

Tom Hayden: Don’t Return to a Grim Chapter of Our History
In a forum at the New York Times, JFP board member Tom Hayden argues against sending U.S. troops to Honduras in the name of the drug war.


Michigan Peace Teams seeking volunteers
MPT is currently seeking team members for their Summer 2012 Team. Team members must have a strong interest in nonviolent direct action and the conflict in Palestine and Israel, be willing to learn, as well as be aware or become aware of the challenges and risks of working in a war zone.

Contents:   Summary
U.S./Top News

1) AP-GfK Poll: Support for Afghan war at new low
Anne Gearan, AP, May 9, 2012

Washington – Support for the war in Afghanistan has reached a new low, with only 27 percent of Americans saying they back the effort and about half of those who oppose the war saying the continued presence of American troops in Afghanistan is doing more harm than good, according to an AP-GfK poll.

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In results released Wednesday, 66 percent opposed the war, with 40 percent saying they were “strongly” opposed. A year ago, 37 percent favored the war, and in the spring of 2010, support was at 46 percent. Eight percent strongly supported the war in the new poll.
Chris Solomon, an independent from Fuquay-Varina, N.C., is among the respondents who strongly oppose the war. He said the military mission has reached the limits of its ability to help Afghans or make Americans any safer, and he would close down the war immediately if he could. While the rationale for the war is to fight al-Qaida, most of the day-to-day combat is against an entrenched Taliban insurgency that will outlast the foreign fighters, he said. “What are we really doing there? Who are we helping?” he said in an interview.

Yet nearly half, 48 percent, said the continued presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is doing more to help Afghanistan become a stable democracy, while 36 percent said the opposite and 14 percent said they didn’t know. Among those opposed to the war, 49 percent say U.S. troops are hurting more than helping. Three-quarters of those who favor the war think they are doing more to help.

Republicans are most apt to see U.S. forces as helping, with 56 percent saying so, followed by 47 percent of Democrats. Among independents, more say troops are hurting Afghanistan’s efforts to become a stable democracy (43 percent) than helping (32 percent).

President Barack Obama has promised to keep fighting forces in Afghanistan until the end of 2014, despite the declining popular support. The effort to hand off primary responsibility for fighting the war to Afghan soldiers will be the main focus of a gathering of NATO leaders that Obama will host later this month in Chicago.

That shift away from front-line combat is expected to come next year, largely in response to growing opposition to the war in the United States and among NATO allies fighting alongside about 88,000 U.S. forces. The shift makes some military commanders uneasy, as does any suggestion that the U.S. fighting force be cut rapidly next year. Obama has promised a steady drawdown.
As of Tuesday, at least 1,834 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan as a result of the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001, according to an Associated Press count.
Obama closed down the Iraq war on the timetable set when he took office and expanded the Afghan fight that had been neglected in favor of Iraq. He is now scaling back in Afghanistan, bringing troops home by the tens of thousands. A small U.S. counterterrorism and training force may remain in the country after 2014.

But in a trend that complicates discussion of the war in this year’s presidential campaign, support for the war is plummeting even among Republicans. People who identified themselves as Republicans backed the war at 37 percent, down from 58 percent a year ago.

Among Democrats, support dropped from 30 percent last year to 19 percent now. About a quarter, 27 percent, of independents favor the effort, similar to the level last year.
The war, which will be in its 12th year on Election Day in November, has an inconclusive balance sheet at best.

It has brought greater security to many parts of the impoverished country strategically situated between Iran and Pakistan, and largely flushed the al-Qaida terror network from its former training ground.

But the war has failed to break the Taliban-led insurgency or pressure the insurgents to begin serious peace negotiations with the U.S.-backed Afghan government. The civilian government has not capitalized on the elbow room that more than 100,000 foreign fighting forces provided to build up its own ability to govern the entire country and push the Taliban to the political fringe.

Obama was hosting NATO’s top officer at the White House on Wednesday to finalize the agenda for NATO leaders. They are trying to show that NATO nations are committed to keep fighting now but will stick to the plan agreed at the last leaders’ summit in 2010 to end the war by 2015. But the summit will be a national security debut for France’s new Socialist leader, Francois Hollande, who has vowed to pull French troops out by the end of this year. That’s two years earlier than the rest of the alliance has pledged.

2) Dozens of Palestinians blocked UN offices in the West Bank on Wednesday to demand action over hunger striking prisoners, prompting UN chief Ban Ki-Moon to call on Israel to stop the detainees’ condition worsening, AFP reports. The demonstrators, who stopped UN employees from entering the building in Ramallah, waved banners reading: “UNjust” and “UNfair.”

3) HASC Ranking Member Adam Smith planned to offer an amendment to remove sections of the NDAA that aim to prevent the U.S. from accelerating the transition of security and governance to the Afghan people, according to the HASC Democrats’ website. Smith planned to offer substitute language calling for U.S. forces to be drawn down.

4) In an op-ed published in the New York Times, John Vinocur suggests that France’s new president Hollande is likely to be closer to the U.S. position of compromise in negotiations with Iran, rather than to the previous French position of “reject[ing] any possible deviation from the Security Council’s demands of suspension of all Iranian uranium enrichment” and that “there could be no concessions in bargaining with Tehran.” [Clearly, Vinocur is horrified by this possible development, but anyone who wants to see real diplomacy should welcome it – JFP.]

5) The parents of the only American soldier held as a prisoner of war in the Afghan war are pressing for progress in negotiations to swap their son for Taliban prisoners at Gitmo, the New York Times reports. Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s father, Robert Bergdahl, said he was speaking out in frustration over the lack of progress in the negotiations, which he believes are moribund because the Obama administration is under pressure from Republicans in Congress in an election year not to negotiate with terrorists. Administration officials have themselves been frustrated by the reaction by some lawmakers in Congress over the negotiations with the Taliban, the NYT says. Now that Berghdal’s parents have broken their silence, it could free up the administration to discuss the case publicly, allowing officials to reframe the debate in Washington about releasing the prisoners.

6) The parents of POW Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who is believed to be in Pakistan, are worried he could be harmed by ongoing U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan, the Washington Post reports. “Bowe’s been under the drone program the entire time,” Bob Bergdahl said. “It scares … us.”

7) Iraq, Afghanistan War Veterans to Protest NATO
Phil Rogers, NBC Chicago, 05/09/2012 3:52 PM

Among the thousands of protesters who will march and rally in Chicago later this month during the NATO Summit will be dozens of Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans who say the multi-national organization’s military policies are a failure.

So much so that they said they intend to return their medals in protest when their Sunday march reaches McCormick Place.

“We see that the global war on terrorism is a failed policy and we don’t want to be part of that mistake anymore,” said Aaron Hughes, who served in Iraq in 2003.

Alejandro Villatoro, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, felt especially compassionate about the people of Afghanistan. He said NATO’s actions have resulted in a loss of trust. “You don’t win the hearts and minds by doing night raids. It’s an insult to their culture,” said Villatoro.

Both said they’re proud of the men and women with whom they served, but not of missions they were asked to perform.

Hughes said he especially wants to call attention to the medical needs of American servicemen and women who are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or are the victims of sexual assault. He said that too many are not having their needs addressed and instead are often being returned to combat.

“That’s because of the generals and their failed policies, and not because of the service members. That’s why we’re going to march on NATO, and that’s what this is really about. It’s about them acknowledging that they made a mistake,” he said.

8) The Red Cross and EU expressed concern about several Palestinian prisoners in the advanced stages of a hunger strike, urging Israel to provide them with medical treatment and family visits, AFP reports. The head of a Red Cross delegation in Israel issued an “urgent request” that Israel reverse a ban on family visits for prisoners on hunger strike. The EU reiterated its opposition to Israel’s use of administrative detention. “Detainees have the right to be informed of the reasons for their detention and be subject to a fair trial without undue delay,” the EU said.

9) Britain is seeking to persuade fellow EU members to postpone by up to six months a ban on providing insurance for tankers carrying Iranian oil, arguing that it could lead to a damaging spike in oil prices, Reuters reports. Sources said Britain’s proposal had yet to win support from other EU members, including France, which has been pushing for the toughest stance on Iran. But in Asia, some shippers welcomed the proposal. “One keeps hearing about positive developments on this issue, so we are hopeful that some positive outcome may come out,” said S. Hajara, chairman of the Shipping Corp of India.

10) Under IMF-imposed agreements, Jamaica is spending more than twice as much on debt service as on health and education, Inter Press Service reports.

11) A new Venezuelan labor law increases severance payments, increases maternal leave from four to six months and reduces the work week from 44 hours to 40 hours, AP reports. An opposition pollster accused the government of currying favor with workers ahead of the Oct. 7 presidential election.

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By Published On: May 10th, 2012Comments Off on JFP> Poll: Support for Afghan war at new low | Palestinians demand UN action on hunger strikers | VFP/NATO & more

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