Foreign Policy

  Turkish Threats Shouldn'T Derail Genocide ResolutionOctober 26, 2007 09:53 After years of searching for the elusive right time, the U.S. House and Senate should adopt the resolution - approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Oct. 10 - to officially recognize that the 1915 massacre of 1.5 million Turkish Armenians was genocide. This horrible tragedy was real and those who deny its significance are advocates of politically based policy, not reality. The truth needs to be recognized for the sake of Armenians and the American image.

In 1913, a political group known as the Young Turks succeeded in a coup that gave it control of what is modern Turkey. Under this regime, which ended after World War I, Turkish Armenians were systematically annihilated. The Young Turks tried to eradicate any record of the Armenians, sometimes by destroying entire cities.

Although the Turkish government claims that the Armenian genocide occurred because of political turmoil following a revolution, historians have largely refuted this idea, saying that Armenians were mostly peaceful, and the killings were part of an established government policy.
  U.S. Considering Missile Defense DelayOctober 23, 2007 16:56 Defense Secretary Robert Gates, clearly seeking to mollify Moscow, said today that the United States might delay activating its planned East European missile defense sites, even as President Bush pleaded vigorously with Congress to fully finance the sites, which he said would meet an “urgent” need for European missile defense.

Mr. Gates’s remarks, which enlarged on recent comments by other American officials, came during a news conference in Prague with Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek of the Czech Republic.

The defense secretary said that the American antimissile system might not be activated until Iran took some concrete action, such as testing its own missiles.

He also said that the United States planned to make the two main installations — a radar site in the Czech Republic and missile base in Poland — more transparent to Russia. One idea floated for doing this would be an exchange of observers.

Mr. Gates’s talk of leaving the system inactive until Iran posed a concrete threat seemed strangely counter to the message of urgency that Mr. Bush delivered hours later in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington.
  Chinese Police Clash With Monks Over Dalai Lama AwardOctober 23, 2007 14:18 Chinese police and soldiers have clashed with Buddhist monks in several towns in Tibet during a crackdown on celebrations to mark the award of a US congressional gold medal to the Dalai Lama last week.

According to Tibetan activist groups and Hong Kong media, the security forces have attempted to suppress monasteries that tried to mark the prize-giving with special prayers or decorations.

Despite government efforts to remove satellite dishes, halt sales of celebratory fireworks and block websites such as YouTube, news has spread quickly about the accolade and the meeting last week between the Tibetan spiritual leader and US president George Bush.

Beijing is furious about the award for the Dalai Lama, who it accuses of being a 'splittist' intent upon challenging the territorial integrity of China. The Dalai Lama says he is not seeking independence, but wants autonomy for Tibetans inside China.
  One Strike, Iran Could Be OutOctober 22, 2007 07:16 Of all the columns I've written for this newspaper over the last couple of years, none has elicited a more heated response than the one published in January 2006 about the Great War of 2007. Indeed, it still gets quoted back at me more than a year and a half later.

The column was written in the style of a future historian looking back on a war that I imagined breaking out this year. My point was that if a major war were to break out in 2007, future historians would not have far to look to find its origins.

My imaginary war began in the Middle East and lasted four years. With the benefit of hindsight, the historian of the future would be able to list its causes as (a) competition for the region's abundant reserves of fossil fuels, (b) demographic pressures arising from the region's high birthrates, (c) the growth of radical Islamism and (d) the determination of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.

My nightmare scenario involved a nuclear exchange between Iran and Israel in August. You may have noticed that this didn't happen. However, the point of the column was not to make a prophecy. No one has the power to predict the future because (as I frequently remind my history students) there is no such thing as the future, singular -- only futures, plural.

My aim in writing the column was not to soothsay but to alert readers to the seriousness of the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program -- and to persuade them that the United States should do something to stop it. True, after all that has gone wrong in Iraq, Americans are scarcely eager for another preventive war to stop another rogue regime from owning yet more weapons of mass destruction that don't currently exist. It's easy to imagine the international uproar that would ensue in the event of U.S. air strikes. It's also easy to imagine the havoc that might be wreaked by Iranian-sponsored terrorists in Iraq by way of retaliation. So it's very tempting to hope for a purely diplomatic solution.

Yet the reality is that the chances of such an outcome are dwindling fast, precisely because other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are ruling out the use of force -- and without the threat of force, diplomacy seldom works. Six days ago, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin went to Iran for an amicable meeting with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Putin says he sees "no evidence" that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons. On his return to Moscow, he explicitly repudiated what he called "a policy of threats, various sanctions or power politics."
  Canadian Victim Testifies About Extraordinary RenditionOctober 19, 2007 08:37 A Canadian citizen detained by U.S. authorities in 2002 on suspicion of having links to al-Qaida, and sent to Syria where he was tortured, has testified for the first time before a congressional committee. VOA's Dan Robinson reports, Maher Arar addressed a panel examining extraordinary rendition, in which U.S. authorities have sent terrorist suspects to other countries for interrogation.

A Syrian-born Canadian citizen, Arar was detained in September 2002 at New York's Kennedy Airport, on suspicion of having links to al-Qaida, which was responsible for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

The information came from a Canadian police report describing him as well as his wife as Islamic extremists with suspected terrorist links.

Against his protests and after interrogations by U.S. officials, he was deported to Syria via Jordan, where he says he suffered severe torture for 10 months at the hands of Syria's Military Intelligence, before his release in October 2003.

Arar was never formally accused of any crime in the United States or Canada. A 2.5-year Canadian investigation cleared him of any links with terrorist organizations or activities, and ordered that he be paid more than $10 million in compensation.

Testifying by video link from Canada, because he remains barred from the United States, Arar condemned what he calls the immoral practice of rendition.
  China Summons US Ambassador To Protest Over Dalai LamaOctober 19, 2007 08:36 China lodged an official protest on Thursday over the honouring of the Dalai Lama in Washington, while bluntly rejecting US President George W. Bush's advice on how to handle the Tibet issue.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi summoned the US ambassador in Beijing to receive China's angry response to the unprecedented reception by Bush and US lawmakers of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

"China urges the United States to take effective measures immediately to remove the terrible impacts of its erroneous act," foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said, warning again that bilateral ties had been damaged.

He said China called on the United States to "cease supporting... separatist activities of the Tibet independent forces, stop interfering in China's internal affairs and to take concrete steps to protect Sino-US relations."

Liu said Yang had delivered China's "strong protest" to US ambassador Clark Randt on Thursday.

The blistering response came after Bush on Wednesday defied repeated warnings from China and awarded the Dalai Lama the Congressional Gold Medal -- US lawmakers' highest civilian honour -- at the US Capitol building.

"They will find this good man to be a man of peace and reconciliation," Bush said of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

"Americans cannot look to the plight of the religiously oppressed and close our eyes or turn away."
  Dalai Lama Receives Highest Civilian Honor From Us CongressOctober 17, 2007 12:57 Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has received the highest civilian honor the U.S. Congress can bestow, despite strong protests from Beijing.

The 72-year-old Buddhist monk was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal during a ceremony Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol rotunda.

In remarks to hundreds of people assembled there, he thanked Americans for their unwavering support for the Tibetan people. He said the congressional award will send a powerful message to those promoting peace, understanding and harmony.

China condemned the ceremony as a farce. In protest, it pulled out of U.S.-sponsored international talks this week on Iran's nuclear program.

In his remarks, the Dalai Lama reiterated his desire for the Tibetan people to have meaningful autonomy within China. He said he hopes the relationship between Tibet and Beijing will move beyond mistrust to one based on trust and common interests.

Before the presentation, President Bush, congressional leaders and fellow Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel paid tribute to the Dalai Lama. Mr. Bush called him a man of peace and reconciliation, and urged Chinese leaders to welcome the Tibetan leader to Beijing.
  Bush To Defy Chinese Anger With Dalai Lama MeetingOctober 16, 2007 15:13 US President George W Bush prepared to host Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama today in defiance of Chinese warnings that the meeting would be a 'severe violation' of normal ties.

Bush is also scheduled to attend a ceremony tomorrow, where the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace laureate, is to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by the US legislature.

'For the US Congress to take this action and the US leader to meet with the Dalai Lama is a severe violation of the norms of international relations,' Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said in Beijing. 'We urge the US side to cancel these activities.'

China showed its displeasure by putting off a Berlin meeting of the five UN Security Council permanent members and Germany on the Iranian nuclear crisis, a US State Department official said.

China has ruled Tibet since sending troops into the Himalayan region in 1950. The Dalai Lama fled to India following a failed uprising in 1959 and currently lives in Dharamsala, which is also the seat of his government in exile.
  Bush Backs Ethiopia Leader as Terror War Trumps Democracy PushOctober 15, 2007 21:14 In 1998, President Bill Clinton hailed Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi as the leader of an African renaissance. Today, human-rights groups say his security forces are raping and murdering civilians while fighting insurgents seeking autonomy in the Ogaden region.

While the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill linking some Ethiopian military aid to support for human rights and democracy, President George W. Bush remains firm in his backing of Zenawi, 52, whom he considers an important ally in preventing al Qaeda from gaining a foothold in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia is the latest example of the war on terror trumping Bush's goal of spreading democracy around the globe.

``Security concerns have prevailed as the thing that drives U.S. relations with Ethiopia at the moment,'' says Terrence Lyons, associate professor of conflict resolution at George Mason University in Virginia. The administration hasn't been willing to alter its ``strategic relationship on behalf of other goals and interests.''

In addition to the clash on the Somalia border, Ethiopia is waging a U.S.-backed war in the neighboring country to shore up an unpopular transitional government after ousting the Islamic leadership from the capital, Mogadishu. Thousands of residents have reportedly been killed and 400,000 displaced. Zenawi has also arrested and jailed some dissidents and members of the press.

African Issues

Bush opposes the House bill, which passed Oct. 2. While the measure may not trigger a demonstrable change in U.S. policy -- it has exemptions for peacekeeping and counterterrorism assistance and a national-security waiver -- the vote showcases Ethiopia when few African issues, save perhaps the war in Darfur, grab attention.
  Turkish General Warns Against Genocide BillOctober 15, 2007 12:21 Turkey's top general warned that ties with the U.S. would be irreversibly damaged if Congress passes a resolution that declares the World War I-era killings of Armenians a genocide.

Turkey, a major cargo hub for U.S. and coalition military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, recalled its ambassador to Washington for consultations last week and said it might curtail its logistical support of the U.S. military.

"If this resolution passed in the committee passes the House as well, our military ties with the U.S. will never be the same again," Gen. Yasar Buyukanit told the newspaper Milliyet.

Turkey suspended military ties with France last year after the French Parliament's lower house adopted a bill that would have made it a crime to deny that the Armenian killings constituted a genocide.

President Bush has said the resolution is "not the right response to these historic mass killings," but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said the measure's timing was important "because many of the survivors are very old."

In an interview broadcast Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Pelosi noted that the resolution would make the U.S. the 24th country to acknowledge the genocide.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) called the measure "irresponsible."

"What happened 90 years ago ought to be a subject for historians to sort out, not politicians here in Washington," he told "Fox News Sunday."

Historical evidence and research support the use of the term genocide to describe the mass killings and deportations of Armenians by Ottoman Turks.
  Bush Presses Us Congress On Latin America Trade DealsOctober 13, 2007 16:06 President Bush Friday urged the U.S. Congress to approve a set of free trade accords with Colombia, Panama and Peru. VOA's Brian Wagner reports that Mr. Bush said the trade deals will benefit U.S. business and boost democracy in the region.

President Bush made the speech in Miami, Florida noting it is crucial for U.S. trade with Latin America and other parts of the world. He said that $72 billion in goods and products passed through Miami's ports last year.

The president said the strength of international trade has helped push the area's economic growth and employment levels above national averages. "I think the case for trade is unmistakable in Miami, and we need to make that case all over the country. I've come to a place that has benefited from trade so others around the country can understand it can happen in their areas as well," he said.

Mr. Bush said a centerpiece of his economic policy has been pursuing free trade deals with other nations, and while in office, he has expanded the number of such deals from three to 14.

Now he is again pressing Congress to approve pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and Peru. He said U.S. exporters will benefit the most under the deals, because they would lower trade duties on many American products sent to the Latin American nations.

"Our free trade agreements would knock down many of these barriers and level the playing field for our businesses and farmers and workers. Together these agreements would expand access to 75 million new customers with a combined GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of $245 billion," said.

Lawmakers in U.S. Congress have voiced support for the agreements with Panama and Peru, but the future of the Colombian plan is unclear. Some legislators have criticized the Colombian government for failing to prevent or investigate attacks on union leaders. They say Colombia must do more before a trade deal is approved.
  Nafta Should Be ReassessedOctober 09, 2007 18:36 Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton distanced herself Monday from one of her husband's signature White House achievements, saying NAFTA should be reassessed and "adjusted" and any new free trade agreements postponed.

"I think we do need to take a deep breath and figure out how we can make it work for the greatest numbers of people," she told USA TODAY. Clinton said NAFTA's benefits have gone to the wealthy and cost jobs for working people. She said a "timeout" in new accords would last until she felt the issue of trade in the 21st century had been adequately studied.

In 1993, Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which lifted most tariffs on goods traded among the United States, Mexico and Canada.

The New York senator said she has no qualms about splitting with her husband on a key economic point — one in which he battled fellow Democrats and their union allies. "Part of leadership is continuing to evaluate what we currently do to figure out if we can do it better," she said.

In the interview and in a speech that launched her two-day "Middle Class Express" bus tour of Iowa, Clinton addressed an issue that has imperiled her standing with some labor leaders: Bill Clinton's embrace of globalization and free trade.

"I think that on balance, trade was a net positive for America and American workers during the 20th century," she said in the interview. "We have to consider carefully, 'What's the role of trade going forward? How best do we position the United States to take advantage of the global economy?' And I don't think we've had a serious conversation about that."

Her comments are reassuring to some of her husband's liberal critics, says Larry Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, which raised concerns about the Clinton-era trade deals. "There are many people who fear electing Sen. Clinton would be just a redo, but I think that may be mistaken," he said.

  Bush Defends Cia Detentions, Says No TortureOctober 05, 2007 12:14 President George W. Bush on Friday defended the CIA's use of secret prisons overseas to question terrorism suspects and said the interrogations were conducted by trained professionals who did not use torture.

Bush made the comments amid new disclosures that the Justice Department in 2005 had secretly endorsed harsh interrogation techniques such as simulated drowning, and that the CIA was again holding prisoners at "black sites" overseas.

The disclosures triggered new demands from congressional Democrats for secret Justice Department legal documents that the administration has previously refused to provide.

The CIA detention program, first revealed by The Washington Post in 2005 and confirmed by Bush in September 2006, provoked an international outcry.

Rumors have persisted about which countries allowed the CIA to hold and interrogate prisoners on their soil, but the U.S. government has not commented on those alliances.