Tuesday, November 27, 2007

From partition to Annapolis - Sixty years on

Full Text of the Guardian Comment is Free piece from yesterday

Is it just a coincidence or was someone at the US state department indulging himself in a nerdish jape with the timing of the Annapolis peace conference this week? Thursday sees the 60th anniversary of UN Resolution 181, which divided Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state. It was a bitterly contested vote, whose consequences have reverberated down the decades.

The resulting map broke many existing principles - not least of cartography. It produced a checkerboard state, without consulting the occupants directly. So, for example, the Jewish state held barely a majority of Jews and thus incorporated, presumably against their will, 400,000 Palestinian Arabs.

Jerusalem, in a decision worthy of the setting for Pontius Pilate's famous manual ablutions, was to belong to neither. It was to become a "corpus separatum" under UN direction - which is why today, except for a few banana republics, no country in the world, not even the US, will build an embassy there, or recognise it as Israel's capital, eternal or otherwise. Indeed, it is a telling argument against Palestinian claims to the city as its capital - but for obvious reasons it is not one that Israel and its supporters are likely to make.

The resolution passed in the general assembly, but in the modern age, any such crucial decision would now go to the security council, where the US can wield its veto. Indeed, Israel and the US now argue that general assembly resolutions are not binding. This is something of an anomaly for a state whose raison d'etre is based on historical claims, since if general assembly resolutions are not binding, then the creation of Israel as a Jewish state was not binding on the Arabs.

The resolution does in fact say that any breach by any party is a threat to peace and security to be dealt with by the security council - which is of course still "dealing" with it 60 years later.

On the contrary, of course, Palestine's supporters have somersaulted in the opposite direction and argue that general assembly resolutions are binding - but tend to overlook Resolution 181, which the Arab states in the UN at the time disregarded. It was certainly unjust in terms of self-determination, but legal.

David Ben-Gurion and Israel's founding fathers took a lot of flack from their diehard supporters for accepting partition but deflected it by pointing out quietly that they had no intention of restricting themselves to those boundaries - which in truth made little sense in any topographic, ethnographic or any manner. The partition would not be final, Ben-Gurion said, "not with regard to the regime, not with regard to borders and not with regard to international agreements."

While Resolution 181 may seem anachronistic, its drafters presciently realised the Heath Robinson/Rube Goldberg nature of the boundaries, and drew up plans for an economic and customs union with free transit, which would almost make a two-state solution feasible. It allowed people to reside in one state while holding citizenship of the other, which points to solutions to populations left behind any new boundaries established.

Maybe it is the time for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to draw a line on the road map between the initial resolution and the final status. He should apologise for the failure of the Arab states to accept Resolution 181 and its determination that there should be a Jewish state. But he should use the resolution's map as the starting point for negotiations to get back to the 1967 armistice line rather than start at the latter and negotiate backward to the separation wall.

For more comment on the Annapolis conference click here.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

John Bolton's Bile Lies A-smouldering..full text

Comment is Free, Guardian

Reading John Bolton's account of his tenure as George Bush's ambassador to the United Nations,Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations, there are times when you almost want to cheer him for his role as the little boy calling into question the emperor's new clothes.

His exasperation with the UN process that substitutes consensus or the unity of the security council for actual results will resonate with those who watched with horror Slobodan Milosevic's resolution-strewn trail to Srebrenica or, even now, Khartoum's juggling with resolutions and statements from atop a pile of corpses. He even, albeit briefly considering that he spent several years working on the issue, belabours the US and the UN for allowing Morocco to duck its promises and legal obligations to allow a referendum in western Sahara.

Similarly he takes to task "the EU's proclivity to avoid confronting and actually recognising problems," he says, and he does have a point, even if many observers would feel that one of the biggest problems it has been avoiding has been the unilateralist tendency of the US.

It would be refreshing for those Labour types fawning over the White House to read Bolton's scathing dismissal of the alleged special relationship. Indeed, if anything, he seems to have a visceral hatred of Brits, especially those who disagree with him, like the former UN ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, who makes him wonder how Britain won an empire but explains why it lost America, and indeed his successor John Sawers, but with special vitriol for Jack Straw and Mark Malloch Brown. He sneers: "Many Brits believed their role in life was to play Athens to America's Rome, lending us the benefit of their superior suaveness, and smoothing off our regrettable colonial rough edges." In fact, he is speaking about an older policy, in which British diplomats tried to bridge the gap between American unilateralism and the rest of the world. Blair's complete abdication of independent policy gets no thanks whatsoever.

And that of course reminds us that Bolton is not a presumptuously precocious little boy. He is a blustering boor with a chip on each shoulder, one on his own account as the working class kid made good, and the other for the conservatives who he thinks represent the real America, who have been thwarted by his lengthy list of liberal demons.

Indeed one senses a deep personal insecurity, since he frequently records words of polite praise, but never any of the numerous criticisms that he attracted. Since he lacked the diplomatic niceties himself, he fails to look beneath the surface of the pleasantries that the UN diplomatic corps used with him, although he seems to have the subliminal message from Jones Parry. Of course no one was going to tell the US representative at the UN that he was a blustering boor, whatever they said to each other.

Bolton is free with abuse for others, but he is surprisingly thin-skinned when it comes to criticism from others. Almost breathtakingly, he praises Terje Roed-Larsen of Norway for "a propensity for speaking his mind ... always a source of delight to me." Clearly, it was the Norwegian's slavish assent which delights the author, since similar outspokenness from the "petty bureaucrat", Malloch Brown, Kofi Annan and Bolton's numerous other hate figures sends him into petulant rage.

This is not mere xenophobia: his enemies begin at home, with the "eastern elitists", state department "careerists", the "High Minded", the "True Believers", the "EAPeasers" (state department East Asia and Pacific staffers) and eventually those whom the "Risen Bureaucrats" seduced - Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and, although he avoids direct criticism, George Bush.

Indeed, he claims that he left the UN not because of the poor prospects of Senate confirmation but because of the success of his internal hate list in suborning "real conservative" foreign policy, and this book is a lengthy Parthian shot at them all. His opposition to the EU and "EUroids" is rooted in his visceral dislike for what he sees as a social democratic counter to the United States, and thus a potential rival, and of course, the British and French and all the other pretentious Lilliputians who would tie down the American Gulliver with ropes of international laws and multilateral treaties.

This is an obsessive book packed with minutiae of bureaucratic feuds and internal crusades, and as such, in a strange way, provides valuable insight into how the US formulates its foreign policy and, one could almost say, consequently, the UN fails to implement effective policies.

But while he attacks the processes of the UN, he frankly claims that "consensus" was supposed to mean that the United States was satisfied. In his indignation he fails to acknowledge that the other 191 could also play and thus paralyse the decision-making process. With complete lack of self-awareness, he does not acknowledge the role of his undiplomatic unilateralism in antagonising opponents and frustrating the efforts of allies.

Above all, we should remember that while Bolton can be faulted for thinking that bullying and blustering produce dividends, he is not being innovative in the essence of American foreign policy. He strips the skin off the skull of much of American foreign policy since the end of the second world war, but in doing so does little to advance it. Compromise being excluded, so essentially is diplomacy or anything like normal alliances.

Bolton quite clearly does not share the neocon illusions of spreading democracy at the point of a bayonet. How foreigners suffer is no concern of his. But he is quite prepared to threaten and use force to advance what he sees as American national interests, as judged by himself and his conservative cohorts. In that sense it is refreshing. What you see is what you get. If the EU, the UK and others have interests, they should stand up for them, instead of deferring to a presumed automatic altruism on the part of Washington.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hang Down Your Head George W Bush: full text

Full text from Guardian Comment is Free

"There is no conclusive evidence of the death penalty's deterrent value and that any miscarriage or failure of justice in the death penalty's implementation is irreversible and irreparable," declared the UN resolution passed in committee on Thursday, calling for a global moratorium on capital punishment.

There are many old and highly appropriate proverbs about the company you keep. The vote found the US spinning at the axle of the Axis of Executions, standing firmly alongside China, Iran, Pakistan, Sudan and Syria for the right to behead, stone, gas, fry, inject, hang or shoot grown human beings.

And one has to say that these countries put their fangs where their mouth is, since between them they carry out 90% of executions.

In a frenzied last minute attempt to amend the UN resolution to death, the US also supported attempts to insert amendments opposing abortion, "to take all necessary measures to protect the lives of unborn children."

Joining with several other hang 'em high countries in their deep concern for prenatal as opposed to post-natal life, the US envoy Joseph Rees sermonized that "countries that advocate for the abolition of the death penalty should be at least equally scrupulous in showing concern for innocent life."

Of course he unwittingly laid himself open to the reverse charge: that the Republicans who put their heart and soul into anti-abortion resolutions in the US should be at least equally concerned with the deaths of fully-grown humans in executions. It is interesting to contrast the shrill fidelity of some American Catholic bishops on the Pope's views on abortion to their almost complete silence about executions.

In Britain, there are politicians with excellent left-wing credentials who still share the Pope's right-to-life position, which is at least consistent in opposition to both the death penalty and abortion. However, while it is not easy to establish when human life begins in the womb, it is sadly easy to determine when it ends it the execution chamber.

But since these amendments were a cynical attempt to ambush and kill the death penalty resolution rather than protect the unborn, it will not help the Bush administration if ever any of them get to immigration control at the Pearly Gates.

Sadly, the abolition of the death penalty is not a popular issue, even in the UK, where many people support it in principle, even if they almost always oppose it in execution, as it were. In the US it is even foggier. I remember a nice, young, liberal audience opposing ethnic cleansing in the Balkans being quite upset when they discovered that the Hague tribunal had no death penalty.

The issue also gets confused with some on the left, who, for many years have fervently confused the issue of whether celebrity convict Mumia Abu-Jamal is innocent, which is debatable, with whether he should be executed. Guilty or not, he should not be.

And, for some reason opposing executions in the US is for some a separate issue from executions in say, Cuba. At least Venezuela is on the side of the civilised angels on this one and supports the resolution, along with most Latin American states, as indeed does the UK and the rest of the EU.

The UN vote, which will now almost certainly pass in the full general assembly and already has the support of the human rights committee, will also certainly provoke the American know-nothings into paroxysms of rage against UN bureaucrats interfering in their country. Of course it is no such thing. It is simply stating the global community's sense of what constitutes civilised behaviour. And if the US wants to join Iran, China, Sudan and Syria, it is its right to do so.

But perhaps American presidents should think twice before invoking international law and moral standards against other countries, such as Iran, Syria and Sudan, as an excuse for action.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Swift-boating across the Atlantic: Full text

Swift-boating across the Atlantic

The smear campaign against Mark Malloch Brown owes its tactics to the American neoconservative movement

November 14, 2007 10:00 PM | Guardian CiF full text

If Gordon Brown wants to reassure British voters, and the world, that there is distance between himself and the pathological ideologues in Washington who dragged his predecessor down, he should stomp on any of his officials who are party to the smear campaign against Foreign Office minister Mark Malloch Brown, one of his more inspired appointments.

While at the United Nations, Malloch Brown provoked John Bolton, the US ambassador, into paroxysms of thin-skinned rage, by suggested that the Iraq war was a disaster and that the US had lost popularity. In a similar vein, when the swift-boating of Kofi Annan was under way, he mounted a vigorous defence of the UN against the neocon smear campaign initiated by Ahmed Chalabi when the UN refused to endorse his carpet-bagging rise to power in Baghdad. It is worth noting that far from being the epitome of anti-Americanism, he had earlier been attacked by third-worlders for being too accommodating to the Americans and too nice to the Israelis.

But then, so had Annan. But once he suggested that the war on Iraq was illegal and that the full scale assault on Fallujah was a mistake, that was it. For the American right, you are with them all the way or you are an enemy.

In the US, swift-boating is now a regular tactic emanating from the network of foundations and thinktanks endowed by deeply conservative family trusts, and they have been guaranteed amplification in the Rupert Murdoch media. The tactic is to invent a scandal against a liberal hate figure and run it round around until people think that with so much smoke there must be fire.

This swift boat raid against Malloch Brown began when the Spectator carried a cover article attacking him by Claudia Rosett, an employee of the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, a neocon thinktank which is financed by an assortment of palaoeconservative family foundations. It is not too surprising that the attack was amplified by the Murdoch press and Labour Friends of Israel.

The substance of the accusation should be a source of pride for Labour: Bush's lame duck administration does not like Malloch Brown. With Democratic majorities in Congress likely to increase at the next election, and a likely Democratic victory in the White House riding on a tide of anti-Iraq war sentiment, that surely makes him an asset. Unless, of course, your idea of being pro-American is being pro-Bush 43.

But since the advance guard of the swift-boat armada has landed on British beaches, it is worth checking the provenance of Rosett and the FDD. Her obsession with the UN almost makes one wonder if a blue-helmeted peacekeeper jumped out of the woodshed and frightened her when she was younger. But above all, try to imagine a journalist employed by a neocon thinktank writing anything positive at all about the United Nations!

Certainly one would have a long and fruitless search for any articles from the FDD or Rosett on the one definite oil-for-food scandal, which is the over $10bn of the UN programme's surplus handed over to the American occupation forces for the development of Iraq, which has yet to be accounted for. Much of it ended up paying for the no-bid contracts of the company that the vice-president of the US formerly headed - but the stunning sound of silence from Rosett and her neocon comrades implies that a scandal is not a scandal unless you can tie it, no matter how exiguously, to a liberal or a UN official.

Rosett can draw a salary paid for by the endowments of some of most reactionary people on the planet, such as the Scaife foundations, but that is not a scandal, while the idea that Mark Malloch Brown, after working for many years abroad, is housed by HMG is insupportable - or that he paid rent to George Soros. One has to remember that for American conservatives, association with the UN or Soros is ipso facto criminal or unethical behaviour.

The well-financed FDD is the Project for the New American Century - a major cheerleader for the Iraq war - in another form. As its own website boasts, it is closely connected with the Iraqis around the Iraqi National Congress and Chalabi. Its board included Steve Forbes, Jack Kemp, Frank Lautenberg, Newt Gingrich and James Woolsey, not to mention Richard Perle, Charles Krauthammer and, until her death, Jeane Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick opposed US support for Britain in the Falklands war, but the Thatcherites at the Spectator seem more forgiving than their transatlantic peers.

Gordon, meet Brown. Shake hands in public and put down the slimers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Annapolis: full text "The Road Map's Dead-end"

The road map's dead-end

The Annapolis peace conference looming later this month will fail unless the Quartet powers finally screw up their map and get down to business
Ian Williams

November 12, 2007 6:30 PM | Printable version

Coming soon to a TV screen near you later this month is the latest global Origami challenge, also known as the Annapolis Middle East peace conference. There a piece of paper formerly known as the "road map", will be folded, torn and squeezed through yet more quantum-style dimensions in an attempt to prove it still has life.

In theoretical physics, superstring theorists posit up to eleven dimensions, most of them invisible. The road map, in contrast, has no less than fourteen strings that Ariel Sharon attached, all of which are invisible, or at least tacitly ignored by Britain and the "Quartet" of Russia, Europe, the UN and the US.

In reality, of course, it shows fewer vital signs than John Cleese's parrot or Ariel Sharon on life support.

Indeed, it is an easy feat to ignore Sharon's 14 "reservations" when almost the entire West ignores the separation wall that rather ostentatiously blocks off the road map, while defying a world court legal ruling against it. If these pillars of the international community actually noticed them in public, then they would be forced to admit that the Israeli government has been driving way off the direction indicated by the road map, and perhaps do something about it: like refusing the Israeli recalcitrants diplomatic, military and financial support.

Indeed, taken together, the Sharon reservations make it plain that Native American reservation status would almost be an advance for the Palestinians, compared with the Bantustans that the Israeli government has been preparing for.

Sharon, when he withdrew from Gaza, explained that the purpose was to consolidate Israel's hold on the West Bank settlements, and the government put water, electricity, roads, police and army guards into the expanding settlements even as he solemnly promised to observe the road map prohibitions against expanding them. But somehow it was considered rude to listen in on a not-so private conversation between the butcher of Sabra and Shatila and his electorate.

The EU, which is Israel's biggest trading partner, would be forced to slap on some tariffs until Israel fulfilled its promises and obligations under its agreements. The UN may notice that Israel is defiant of a string of UN resolutions, which were at the time supported by the US and UK as well as the other members.

The only viable two state solution is one that, firstly secures the consent of Hamas the large proportion, perhaps the majority of the Palestinians, that it represents. That really depends on how close the negotiations get to the Saudi plan, which is essentially for Israeli acceptance of the UN resolutions, particularly those on the withdrawal from occupied territories (which includes of course, as the Syrians point out, the Golan Heights.)

The problem with that is, of course, that three years ago George Bush abrogated international law and almost 40 years of American foreign policy by declaring that because of "new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it [was] unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949." In other words, if a thief hangs on to the property long enough, he gains title. It is an interesting, but not persuasive, gloss on international law.

This is not like the squatter who asserts title by occupying property unchallenged for seven years. This occupation has been challenged consistently from the beginning.

The latest indication that the success of the conference depends on the Palestinians giving up all their legal rights under American and Israeli pressure is the report of Israeli dissatisfaction with the Palestinians' negotiations support unit, which was a result of Robin Cook's time in the Foreign Office. The team, paid for by Britain and others, is preparing the legal brief and senior Israeli officials say the unit is "increasingly becoming an obstacle with regard to progress after the Annapolis conference".

In other words, it will not do what it is told.

There are some signs that Condoleezza Rice at least recognizes that Israel's best interests are served by forgetting the dead-end road map and negotiating on the basis of the Saudi peace plan and the UN resolutions. One can hope that the US will provide the stick as well as the carrot to the Israeli donkey. But you would really need a faith-based belief in miracles.

Throwing the brown stuff at Malloch Brown

For hauntings, you call ghostbusters, for Neocon infestations, you call Deadlinepundit. Claudia Rosett, an employee of the home thingtank of the Necons, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which is turn financed by an assortment of palaoeconservative family foundations, has emerged in Britain, in the Conservative "Spectator" as part of a plot against Mark Malloch Brown, joined it would appear by Neo-con andd Likudnik infiltrators into the Labour Party.

I hope Brown supports Malloch Brown publically and sends these sinister haunts back to their lairs!
Here's my Nation piece on it.


The Nation, December 22 2004

The Right's Assault on Kofi Annan

Ian Williams



The story of how the neocon echo chamber made oil for food into a UN scandal begins with Claudia Rosett, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who is now "journalist in residence" at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD). In a 2002 Journal op-ed, just after Bush broke with his own hard-liners by going to the UN to ask for backing for an Iraq invasion, she called the program "an unholy union between Saddam and the U.N.," in which "Saddam has been getting around the sanctions via surcharge-kickback deals and smuggling." In an April 2003 New York Times piece she said "lifting the sanctions would take away the United Nations' remaining leverage in Iraq. If the oil-for-food operation is extended, however, it will have a tremendous influence on shaping the new Iraq. Before that is allowed to happen, let's see the books." Denying that the foundation, or for that matter Chalabi, set her on her quest, Rosett says she began looking at the program as part of a broader look at the Iraq economy, and that as soon as its structure was explained to her, "it was obvious that there was enormous opportunity there for graft."

The idea that the UN has "failed" by not backing the US invasion of Iraq and that everything Saddam did could be laid at its door was very much part of the house philosophy of FDD, whose masthead is a comprehensive list of those who pushed for the invasion of Iraq. The organization itself, as one observer commented, is the Project for the New American Century--the major cheerleader for the Iraq war--in another form. Its board includes Steve Forbes, Jack Kemp, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Frank Lautenberg, Newt Gingrich and James Woolsey, not to mention Richard Perle and Charles Krauthammer. Tom Barry, policy director of the International Relations Center and historian of the neocon network, says FDD "has suddenly become a major player on the right and among neocon policy institutes, one reason being that it is so richly endowed." As its own website boasts, it is closely connected with the Iraqis around the Iraqi National Congress and Chalabi.

Clifford May, FDD president and former RNC spokesman, is eager to admit that "oil for food is something we have been working hard on" but denies "that either Claudia or I have called for [Annan's] resignation." That's not because May admires the UN; he calls it "an institution badly in need of reform, whether it's for the sex scandals in the Congo or for the pretense some people in it have to become a super government for the world, or a world Supreme Court." Asked her opinion about the use others have made of her work, Rosett says, "I have focused on reporting the story, and where I have so far called for changes at the UN, have urged much greater transparency and accountability."

CONTINUED BELOW
There is indeed a lack of transparency at the UN, but all those contracts were examined by the sanctions committee and the US State Department. Rosett denies "going after" the UN and says that "whatever was done wrong should be brought to light." But she is adamant that the UN is most at fault and she has neglected to give similar attention to US diplomats and other actors.

In subsequent articles Rosett maintained the pressure, but the issue really only exploded into the wider media world in 2004, after her revelations last March in National Review that Annan's son had been employed by Cotecna (followed several months later with the news that he had continued to get "noncompete" payments after he left). From January onward, the claims by Washington's then-favorite Iraqi, Chalabi, that retiring oil-for-food chief Sevan was on a list of 267 people for whom Saddam had authorized commissions on oil trades led to a rash of stories by Rosett and others focusing, as Chalabi had, on the one alleged UN connection.

When asked about Sevan in the Senate, Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group, admitted that his only evidence against Sevan was "what was indicated in Iraqi documents"--i.e., Chalabi's list--which has still not been authenticated. Indeed, another person named on the list was George Galloway, a British MP who has just won a $290,000 libel claim against the Daily Telegraph for its unwarranted inferences from that fact.

Rosett and her colleagues ran hot with the story, not least on MSNBC and Fox, which retained her as a paid "oil-for-food" contributor. Soon the scandal was "the biggest in the history of the Universe," according to her FDD colleague and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer. William Safire picked up on Rosett's work and fulminated in the New York Times, drawing in House International Relations Committee chair Henry Hyde, who's since been on the case with all the assiduity one would expect of someone who'd said the United States should leave the UN.

Monica Crowley, hosting Scarborough Country on MSNBC in November, inadvertently substantiated the Star Tribune's claim of a "right-wing constellation." She complained that the "elite" press was ignoring the oil-for-food story, "with the exception of an intrepid reporter like our friend Claudia Rosett.... Bill Safire over at the New York Times, sort of the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal and the New York Sun, they have been covering it. But why haven't we seen more extensive coverage? This is the world's biggest swindle?" She modestly omitted MSNBC, Fox and the conservative radio circuit from the list.

The story of how the neocon echo chamber made oil for food into a UN scandal begins with Claudia Rosett, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who is now "journalist in residence" at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD). In a 2002 Journal op-ed, just after Bush broke with his own hard-liners by going to the UN to ask for backing for an Iraq invasion, she called the program "an unholy union between Saddam and the U.N.," in which "Saddam has been getting around the sanctions via surcharge-kickback deals and smuggling." In an April 2003 New York Times piece she said "lifting the sanctions would take away the United Nations' remaining leverage in Iraq. If the oil-for-food operation is extended, however, it will have a tremendous influence on shaping the new Iraq. Before that is allowed to happen, let's see the books." Denying that the foundation, or for that matter Chalabi, set her on her quest, Rosett says she began looking at the program as part of a broader look at the Iraq economy, and that as soon as its structure was explained to her, "it was obvious that there was enormous opportunity there for graft."

The idea that the UN has "failed" by not backing the US invasion of Iraq and that everything Saddam did could be laid at its door was very much part of the house philosophy of FDD, whose masthead is a comprehensive list of those who pushed for the invasion of Iraq. The organization itself, as one observer commented, is the Project for the New American Century--the major cheerleader for the Iraq war--in another form. Its board includes Steve Forbes, Jack Kemp, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Frank Lautenberg, Newt Gingrich and James Woolsey, not to mention Richard Perle and Charles Krauthammer. Tom Barry, policy director of the International Relations Center and historian of the neocon network, says FDD "has suddenly become a major player on the right and among neocon policy institutes, one reason being that it is so richly endowed." As its own website boasts, it is closely connected with the Iraqis around the Iraqi National Congress and Chalabi.

Clifford May, FDD president and former RNC spokesman, is eager to admit that "oil for food is something we have been working hard on" but denies "that either Claudia or I have called for [Annan's] resignation." That's not because May admires the UN; he calls it "an institution badly in need of reform, whether it's for the sex scandals in the Congo or for the pretense some people in it have to become a super government for the world, or a world Supreme Court." Asked her opinion about the use others have made of her work, Rosett says, "I have focused on reporting the story, and where I have so far called for changes at the UN, have urged much greater transparency and accountability."

There is indeed a lack of transparency at the UN, but all those contracts were examined by the sanctions committee and the US State Department. Rosett denies "going after" the UN and says that "whatever was done wrong should be brought to light." But she is adamant that the UN is most at fault and she has neglected to give similar attention to US diplomats and other actors.

In subsequent articles Rosett maintained the pressure, but the issue really only exploded into the wider media world in 2004, after her revelations last March in National Review that Annan's son had been employed by Cotecna (followed several months later with the news that he had continued to get "noncompete" payments after he left). From January onward, the claims by Washington's then-favorite Iraqi, Chalabi, that retiring oil-for-food chief Sevan was on a list of 267 people for whom Saddam had authorized commissions on oil trades led to a rash of stories by Rosett and others focusing, as Chalabi had, on the one alleged UN connection.

When asked about Sevan in the Senate, Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group, admitted that his only evidence against Sevan was "what was indicated in Iraqi documents"--i.e., Chalabi's list--which has still not been authenticated. Indeed, another person named on the list was George Galloway, a British MP who has just won a $290,000 libel claim against the Daily Telegraph for its unwarranted inferences from that fact.

Rosett and her colleagues ran hot with the story, not least on MSNBC and Fox, which retained her as a paid "oil-for-food" contributor. Soon the scandal was "the biggest in the history of the Universe," according to her FDD colleague and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer. William Safire picked up on Rosett's work and fulminated in the New York Times, drawing in House International Relations Committee chair Henry Hyde, who's since been on the case with all the assiduity one would expect of someone who'd said the United States should leave the UN.

Monica Crowley, hosting Scarborough Country on MSNBC in November, inadvertently substantiated the Star Tribune's claim of a "right-wing constellation." She complained that the "elite" press was ignoring the oil-for-food story, "with the exception of an intrepid reporter like our friend Claudia Rosett.... Bill Safire over at the New York Times, sort of the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal and the New York Sun, they have been covering it. But why haven't we seen more extensive coverage? This is the world's biggest swindle?" She modestly omitted MSNBC, Fox and the conservative radio circuit from the list.

Like the Swift Boat story, even though the fuss was essentially confined to these outlets, the conservatives made so much of the affair that the rest of the media seem to have concluded that there must be a flicker under all the smoke. Certainly the serious papers seem not to have thought they had a dog in this fight or that it was their job to exonerate the UN. And the UN's own response was, as usual, tepid.

Understandably, Annan had assumed that his appointment in April of former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker to head an inquiry, backed by the Security Council, would see a return to sanity. However, the same people who'd demanded the inquiry then began to accuse Annan of underfunding it. When he found $30 million for it from residual oil-for-food funds set aside for administration purposes, Rosett, Safire and the rest accused him of taking bread from Iraqi children's mouths. The New York Post denounced the investigation as a cover-up, while Safire referred insultingly to Annan's "manipulative abuse of Paul Volcker," whose reputation for integrity, he said, "is being shredded by a web of sticky-fingered officials and see-no-evil bureaucrats desperate to protect the man on top who hired him to substitute for--and thereby to abort--prompt and truly independent investigation."

The witch hunters kept the caldron bubbling along until, at the end of October, Annan wrote a private letter to Iraqi Interim President Iyad Allawi, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush, suggesting that a frontal assault on Falluja was not the way to win Iraqi hearts and minds. After all, at the request of Washington, the UN is supposed to be overseeing elections there. Then the pot bubbled over. Within days, Fox's Bill O'Reilly was pontificating that "it's becoming increasingly clear that UN chief Kofi Annan is hurting the USA." On November 18 former New York Mayor Edward Koch followed with a column in the New York Sun claiming that Annan's "ability to lead the UN is seriously impaired. He no longer has the confidence of America because of his failure to create a consensus on Iraq among the permanent members." On November 24 National Review declared that "Annan should either resign, if he is honorable, or be removed, if he is not." This was echoed on November 29 by Safire, who ended a New York Times column with the comment that the "scandal" would not end "until Kofi Annan, even if personally innocent, resigns--having, through initial ineptitude and final obstructionism, brought dishonor on the Secretariat of the United Nations." Finally, on December 1 in the Wall Street Journal, Norm Coleman, the chair of the Senate investigations committee, called for Annan's resignation. Inspired by his example, Representative Scott Garrett raved a few days later, "To me the question should not be whether Kofi Annan should be in charge. To me, the larger question is whether he should be in jail."

When asked, President Bush pointedly did not repudiate Coleman's call with any expression of confidence in Annan but simply called for the investigation to take its course. A week later, after Blair had joined the rest of the world in expressing warm support for Annan and delegates in the General Assembly had given him a standing ovation, even the White House realized the damage Coleman & Co. had done to American diplomacy.

The best that Bush could manage was to have his lame-duck UN ambassador, John Danforth, give a halfhearted expression of support on his behalf. An unabashed Coleman read between the lines and held his ground: "I simply do not share the Administration's position on this matter," he said. "It is my personal and steadfast belief that Mr. Annan should step down in order to protect the long-term integrity and credibility of the United Nations."

The attacks on Annan and the UN are not likely to abate soon. Bashing the UN is an issue that allows the unilateral interventionists to ring the till, gathering support from paleocon isolationists across the country. As one GOP staffer embarrassed by Coleman's Joe McCarthy imitations gloomily predicted, the right wing is not going to drop the subject, because "they raise too much money out of bashing the UN, from the big foundations and from those small-town Rush Limbaughs."

Former Gore 2000 campaign head Donna Brazile, who says she is reconsidering her affiliation with the FDD, denounced the calls for Annan's resignation before the investigation is finished. "I worked on Capitol Hill before Kofi Annan, and the UN has always been a dirty word there," Brazile noted. "It just goes back to the neocons and their entire approach to multilateral institutions and their role in the world. They've got the airwaves to themselves. I just hope the Democrats stand up against them on this issue."

If the Democrats want to do that, they should begin by distancing themselves from the Democratic Leadership Council's shameful call for Annan's resignation and join those who signed Representative Dennis Kucinich's letter deploring the attacks. And they should join Representative Henry Waxman in demanding that the Governmental Reform Committee investigate the real oil-for-food scandal: what happened to the more than $8 billion unspent from the oil-for-food program that the United States insisted be handed over to the "Iraq Development Fund," overseen by US occupation authority head Paul Bremer. The rest of the Security Council reluctantly agreed to this payment, but only on condition that the fund be monitored by international auditors. The auditors were never allowed to do their work, and it is now suspected that most of that money went to Halliburton on no-bid contracts. Now there are grounds for some resignations. But you know who won't be calling for them.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Rum and Revolution

And my new www.rumpundit.net site is up and walking and will soon be up to speed. Check it out!

Rum and Revolution


Ian Williams

Changesurfer Radio


Posted: Oct 20, 2007

Dr. J. talks with United Nations correspondent Ian Williams about his book Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776 and his thoughts on the future of multilateralism. (MP3) Ian Williams’ blog and website


Listen/View

Friday, November 09, 2007

Driving Them Out

Yesterday's Comment is Free piece (full text here below) was the bait to bring out exactly what I described - seems that many commentators were happy to have a class of illegal helots here with no rights.

Xenophobia at the wheel

New York's Democratic governor Eliot Spitzer makes a sensible proposal on driver's licences for immigrants - and promptly hits a red light.
Ian Williams


November 8, 2007 5:30 PM | Printable version

HL Mencken identified puritans as people with "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." It is in the same spirit that American xenophobes are attacking New York governor Eliot Spitzer's eminently sensible proposal to offer immigrants the opportunity to get a state driver's licence even if they don't have a social security number. The xenophobes would rather encourage hit and run driving by unlicensed, uninsured drivers than allow illegals to be in anyway recognised.

There are anywhere between eight to 20 million undocumented immigrants in the US, most of them economically active. Given the size and nature of the country, that means they usually need to drive.

Fulminating vigilantes aside, there is no coherent effort to identify and deport this massive reserve labour army. So the rational question posed by Spitzer, and the rational answer, is that instead of having 20 million untested and uninsured drivers on the roads, each a potential widow-maker and breadwinner-maimer in a country without universal health coverage, they should be able to pass the (very minimal) test of driving competence, and record their addresses and contact details and get insurance.

This is clearly a measure that, apart from being good for the immigrants involved, is good for the society as a whole. But of course it has run into a storm of objections, and even the Democratic primary candidates at the recent debate did not have the spine to stand up for it. Indeed Hillary's tortuously evasive response proved that "Clintonesque" is a gender neutral adjective.

There are indeed complications. In a democracy where an identity card would be rightly seen as an intrusion by the government into the life of citizens, the social security number and the driver's licence have been de facto ID cards for years. In a country where even most legislators did not hold passports when elected, driver's licences are needed to vote, to fly and even to enter most office buildings and the population is broken to the subservient habit because the puritanical raising of the legal age for drinking to 21, accustoms young people to using their licence as proof of age.

The objectors to Spitzer's proposal are in this great puritan tradition of xenophobia. The licence is not a simple proof of ability to move a motor. Rather, it is a "privilege" not to be lavished on illegals. The IRS, always more hardbitten, already makes taxpayer IDs available to immigrants without social security numbers, and the driver licence proposal would encourage even more of them to come forward. I have yet to hear the upsurge of protest against the IRS for extending the "privilege" of tax paying to undocumented immigrants.

If in fact, the objectors had serious plans to rid the country of illegals, they would welcome Spitzer's proposal since it would compile a database of addresses and names of millions of illegals.

Indeed, his compromise, that the the new licences be clearly marked as not valid as an ID would make them even more vulnerable, except that few outside the Ku Klux Klan are really envisaging the uprooting of families and dislocation to the US economy that mass deportations would entail. After all, who would mow the lawn, rake the leaves and plough the snow or wash the dishes for the legislators if that happened?

Spitzer deserves more support for a proposal that is clearly in the common collective interest, and at least ensures a modicum of security and dignity for people who, vigilantes notwithstanding, are here to stay. It seems yet another issue for the Democratic contenders to duck and weave, instead of stand and fight.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

China and the Democracy Thing

This is my reply to Yu Bin, whose reply to me strikes me as somewhat evasive. The thousand Chinese Missiles and the explicit threat to invade if Taiwan does not do what it is told are what we commonly call an ultimatum in the rest of the world.

Taiwan's Right to a State


Ian Williams | November 8, 2007

Editor: John Feffer

www.fpif.org

Yu Bin takes as axiomatic that Taiwan has no right to independence, regardless of the views of its people, although he admits that they are overwhelmingly in favor of it. Indeed, in his view Taiwan appears to be a metaphysical construct sundered from its own people. "Ultimately, Taiwan is cheating Washington, as well as the rest of the world -- all, ironically, in the name of democracy. One wonders if a democracy should be held to a higher, not lower, ethical standard," he said. Since when has implementing what people probably want been "cheating"?

The analogy he makes between North Korea and Taiwan had some relevance 30 years but contemporary reality strains it to breaking point. The only serious threat to the Kim regime in North Korea is its own spectacular economic incompetence, which is a necessary consequence of its idiosyncratic totalitarianism. South Korea's worse nightmare would be to inherit responsibility for the bankrupt North, even though both sides express nominal aspiration for unification.

However the differences are more salient than the superficial similarities. While Beijing maintains official state relations with Pyongyang in as normal a fashion as possible for such a regime, Washington bows to Beijing's pressure and extremely limited inter-state relations with Taiwan. As I said, this does pose serious problems, by sending the wrong message to the hawks in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and depriving Washington of influence in Taiwan.

Yu Bin claims that "North Korea strives for substance (survival and security), while Taiwan is obsessed with superficiality (self-identity and self-righteousness)." However, he also asserts, "Nor should it be interpreted that the Mainland is not prepared militarily in the event of crisis," which is clearly a matter of some objective substance compared with the paranoia of Pyongyang. A thousand PRC missiles pointing across the Straits toward its "compatriots" in Taiwan and the anti-secession Act "legalizing" military action against the island are hardly "superficial" issues.

Taiwan has abandoned the revanchist claims to the Mainland of the Republic of China (ROC). In the peculiar looking-glass view of the PRC, this means that the island's government is threatening stability in the region. History is generally more logical: it is the deliverer of ultimata rather than the recipient that threatens stability. In fact Taiwan's renunciation of the nuclear option is highly commendable and restrained in the circumstances.

It is not provocative to hold views different from the government of China, where even peaceful "secessionist activities," are treated as active treason. Just consider how unlikely it would be for a British or Canadian government to send troops to prevent a democratically mandated secession by Scotland or Quebec. In fact a British claim to Ireland based on a much longer occupation has more credibility than China's title to Taiwan but London wisely refrains from making it. In the modern world, countries do not annex territories against the will of the inhabitants.

Regardless, Yu Bin claims, "An independent Taiwan is unacceptable to any regime on the mainland, be it traditional, communist, or democratic." This is hypothetical since in stark contrast to Taiwan there is no mechanism to ascertain the views of the mainland Chinese. As I pointed out in my original piece, if Mao Zedong could envisage self-determination for Taiwan, and the Chinese Soviet Republic constitution could guarantee it for minorities, then so can any future regime in Beijing.

In contrast, while Taiwan's government is obviously playing to the gallery of public opinion with its referendum on the UN application, it will also unequivocally establish for the international community, not least that part of which professes democratic values and the right to self-determination, the will of the Taiwanese population, which Yu Bin admits is overwhelmingly against reunification.

He refers to desinification as a nefarious policy, which is a peculiarly PRC view. It is perfectly possible for countries to share languages and cultures but to form different polities, as the Austrians and the Germans, Spain and most of Latin America, and Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and even the United States so eloquently demonstrate. The Taiwanese government is certainly emphasizing the distinctive aspects of the island's life such as the indigenous tribes. In fact, one Kuomintang (KMT) official claimed that the emphasis on protecting and emphasizing tribal culture was the result of seeing the official policy toward minorities in the PRC. Singapore's overwhelmingly Chinese culture does not mandate annexation by Beijing.

"A more peaceful and mutually beneficial compromise on the Taiwan issue remains wide open," says Yu Bin. It takes two to compromise. Anything that does not leave Taiwan with effective recognition as a state will not be acceptable to the Taiwanese voters. If China could accept as a face-saver even as exiguous a relationship as, say the British queen as head of state of New Zealand, that could work. But the PRC's insistence on inheriting the mandate of heaven that the Manchus had is at odds with its own history and with modern democratic practice.

There is little doubt that many in the Bush administration would like to throw Taiwan to the wolves, in order to court China's cooperation in the way he suggests. But politically, at home and with its allies in the region, the administration cannot and in fact should not abandon its commitment to Taiwan.

Ian Williams contributes frequently to Foreign Policy In Focus (www.fpif.org) on UN and international affairs. More of his work is available on www.deadlinepundit.blogspot.com.


For More Information

This strategic dialogue consists of two original pieces -- Yu Bin's America's Rogue Ally and Ian Williams's Support Taiwan's Democracy -- and two responses, this one and Yu Bin's Making Democracy Safe for the World.

Spitzer Is Right

Latest Comment is Free on the need for support for Spitzers proposal for drivers' licenses for undocumented immigrants.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Neuer released

There is a certain irony: Hillel Neuer was arrested by panicked locals who saw someone who looked foreign behaving in strange ways in a Pizza Parlor. One would almost suspect that they thought he was an Arab and treated him accordingly, assuming that if there were any crimes locally he must be guilty.

But Arabs tend not to have the charges dismissed so lightly.

Ian


Judge dismisses charge against man caught during Needham frenzy
Jessica Fargen By Jessica Fargen
Tuesday, November 6, 2007 -

Police reports and 911 tapes released yesterday show how downtown Needham, already on edge with a murderer on the loose, sunk fast into hysteria Friday afternoon as panicked workers led police to believe an armed killer was holed up inside a pizza shop.

“Oh my God he has a gun,” screamed a woman who called 911 to alert cops about man inside Stone Hearth Pizza, her voice growing more fevered by the second. “We think he has a gun. Oh my God, we need someone here.”

That man was Hillel Neuer, an unarmed 37-year-old international human rights scholar, whose arrest at gunpoint was fueled by fear and broadcast on Boston TV stations.

Yesterday, a Dedham District Court judge found no probable cause for his disorderly conduct charge, but the damage is done, said his attorney, David Eisenstadt.

“Mr. Neuer was an innocent victim who went to a restaurant in Needham and was traumatized and almost killed,” he said. “There was no justification to charge Mr. Neuer with anything.”

Neuer was arrested amid the hunt for the man police say killed a Needham grandfather inside his home and fled on foot. William Dunn, 41, of Norwood, was arrested for the murder later that afternoon in the reeds off Route 128.

Neuer, the executive director of the Geneva-based group U.N. Watch, was in Needham to meet with supporters when he popped by Stone Hearth Pizza, changed clothes in the bathroom and started acting “erratically,” according to police reports.

Chris Robbins, the restaurant owner, said his employees told him Neuer asked for a cab five times, changed into a suit and darted out to next-door CVS pharmacy halfway through his pizza.

“I don’t think there was any fault on our part,” he said.“He was pacing back and forth up and down the restaurant at enormous speeds. He was walking in and out of the restaurant.”

One pizza worker said Neuer looked nervous and was “constantly fixing himself and looking around,” a police report states.

At about 2 p.m., Needham police were flooded with 911 calls from Stone Hearth.

One of those calls was even from Neuer, who was ordered by police to walk out of the pizza parlor into the arms of SWAT team members.

Needham police maintain that they responded to the incident “with proper care and consideration for public safety,” according to a statement released yesterday.

Eisenstadt was outraged by the “reckless” arrest.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Day the Dark Ages Began: Full text

Yesterday, November 4, was the anniversary of the 1979 student takeover of the American Embassy in Teheran, where over 50 hostages were kept until Iran released them on the inauguration of Ronald Reagan as president of the United States 444 days later, perhaps coincidentally, although many argue otherwise.

For many people, the incident is ancient history. But it is one of those seemingly inconsequential, "for want of a nail", events that change the course of history in profound ways.

To mark the occasion, this weekend I was on PressTV, Iran's international network, along with Massoumeh Ebtekar, the spokeswoman of the students and known to the hostages, without fondness, as "Sister Mary". She is still active politically and now a reformist - but totally unrepentant about the hostage -taking. She has just >written a book about it, which was published in Canada because she could not find a publisher in the US prepared to take the risk of associating with the wrong side in the "war on terror" - and to be fair, the surviving hostages would almost certainly have litigated any royalties she was due.

She felt that occupying the embassy preserved the Islamic Revolution against American counter-coups. I differed. The student occupation was understandable in the context of American support for the Shah, but totally reprehensible when, unplanned, it turned into long-term hostage taking.

Of all recent American presidents, Jimmy Carter is the one who would have tried to accommodate a democratic regime in Iran. But he was a strongly moral man, and to turn away the cancer-stricken Shah from medical treatment would have been unthinkable. But for obvious reasons of history, Iranian students and Ayatollahs did not think in terms of American presidents having moral qualms. They were happier to come to a deal with Ronald Reagan.

By ensuring Reagan's defeat of Jimmy Carter, the hostage crisis ushered in one of the most regressive eras in US history. It also represented the end of the New Deal and Great Society era, and the resurrection of Gradgrindism as a philosophy in the domestic governance in the US. Since then, the rich have prospered beyond measure while working Americans have, if they are lucky, trodden water.

And it was not only at home in the US that it marked the end of any sense of community. Globally as well, it heralded the triumph of American militarism and unilateralism.

We are still living with the unintended consequences of the bushy tailed, bright-eyed enthusiasm of those Iranian students, and in Iraq, Americans and Iraqis alike are dying with them.

The crisis had its results closer to home as well. The Iranian revolution, which had joined more secular democratic and Islamist elements, became the hybrid theo-democracy it is now, with the Ayatollahs able to over-rule democratically elected politicians. Ms Ebtekar thinks this is a good thing. Many, not necessarily pro-American, inside and outside Iran would differ, and both the new regime and the hostage crisis left Iran pretty much friendless when Saddam Hussein invaded a year later.

The Iranian anchorwoman wanted to know if I could think of anything positive to conclude from the incident. The one small point I could think of was that it showed Americans how unpopular abroad their government's policies were. But as we saw after 9/11, there is strong trend in the US, in fact, the one now in power, that feels fortified by foreign disapproval. And, after all, taking diplomats hostage violated international law, as indeed the US forces have done by taking Iranian diplomats prisoner in Iraq - despite the protests of the Iraqi government.

In the past the US has found it convenient to overlook direct and indirect attacks agaianst it, such - for example - Franco's past as a Nazi ally, the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, not to mention the Korean and Vietnam Wars. If the embassy hostage issue were brought up in arguments against talking to Iran, after 28 years, it would be an excuse, not a reason - and not a very good one either. Perhaps Washington could apologise for the Shah, Tehran for the embassy - and the students to the world for the dark ages they inadvertently ushered in.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Day the Dark Ages Began

The Day the Dark Ages Began - how bright eyed bushy tailed students in Teheran gave us Reagan, Bush, Star Wars, Iraq and Ayatollahs in the Guardian Comment is Free

Sunday, November 04, 2007

UN Watch Under Guard!

It could just be a mistake.... but.

Hillel C. Neuer, a noted U.N. critic, was arrested in Needham Friday
.


The man arrested at a Needham pizzeria Friday leads a human rights watchdog group, has penned op-eds for international newspapers and delivered a scathing and widely publicized address on Israel before the United Nations earlier this year.

Hillel C. Neuer, 37, who lives and works in Geneva, Switzerland, was cuffed after an hourlong standoff with police when jittery pizza shop workers thought they spotted him with a gun. No gun was found. Neuer was charged with disorderly conduct.

Neuer’s shocked colleagues at the American Jewish Committee in New York said he was in the United States on a speaking tour regarding his new report on anti-Semitism in the U.N. Earlier in the week, Neuer spoke in New York and at Yale University, and he’d stopped in Needham to meet with a fund-raiser. Neuer is slated to speak to the Boston chapter of the AJC today.

“Hillel Neuer seems to have been an unfortunate victim of a profound mistake which led to his arrest,” said Kenneth Bandler, national spokesman for the American Jewish Committee. “We are hopeful that with legal help, this will be resolved this weekend.”

Just before Neuer walked in to Stone Hearth Pizza Friday afternoon, news of a brutal murder and a killer on the loose had spread through the suburban enclave. A pizza shop worker said Friday night that Neuer had entered the shop acting as if he was in distress, carrying several large bags and saying he wanted a taxi to Newton.

“He was just really nervous when he came in talking to me. He said, ‘I want you to get me a cab.’ Right after that, he got up, went to the bathroom to change and came back with new clothes on,” said Dante Rogers, 24, of Needham.

Rogers said Neuer emerged wearing a blue suit and tie, sat down to eat his pizza, took one bite, then left and ran next door to CVS. Rogers said he was in the back making himself a pizza when Neuer returned and someone screamed.

“Someone yelled, ‘Gun. Gun. Gun,’ ” Rogers said. “Everyone was on the phone with 911. He saw the cruisers and he dove behind the tables and I ran out the back door.”

Yesterday, Rogers said his co-workers were likely jittery from the news coverage of the murder, but he said they did not overreact.

“They hear there’s a murder. They see a guy acting funny. They’re going to go crazy,” he said. “People are people, you know? They do what they have to do to make themselves feel safe.”

Neuer, a Montreal native, holds three law degrees. Since 2004, he has worked as executive director of U.N. Watch, a 14-year-old Geneva-based nongovernmental organization affiliated with the AJC. The group believes in the United Nations’ mission to “provide for a more just world,” according to its Web site.

Neuer has written nearly a dozen op-eds blasting the U.N.’s Council on Human Rights for papers including the International Herald Tribune, The Jerusalem Post and The Boston Globe. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN, Fox New

s and the BBC, and testified before Congress last year on human rights issues.

In March, he appeared before the U.N. Human Rights Council, calling it a “do-nothing, good-for-nothing council” that seeks to “scapegoat the Jewish people.”

The speech made the rounds on the blogosphere and was viewed more than 267,000 times on YouTube.com’

Deja Vu All Over Again: full text

When it comes to Iran's nuclear capabilities, whose word would you rather take: that of a Nobel prize-winning head of an international agency specializing in nuclear issues who was proved triumphantly right about Iraq, or that of a bunch of belligerent neocons who make no secret of their desire to whack Iran at the earliest opportunity and who made such a pigs ear of Iraq?

That is the stark choice facing the sane people of the world, given the smearing of IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei for not joining the hysterical lynch mob building up against Iran. Criticised by Condoleezza Rice and others in the Bush administration, it is uncannily reminiscent of the slurs against him and UN weapons inspector Hans Blix in the run up to the invasion of Iraq - and we should remember that the US vindictively tried to unseat him afterwards for not joining in the lying game.

ElBaradei is hardly acting as cheerleader for the Iranians. He says that his inspectors have not seen "any concrete evidence that there is a parallel military program," though he could not yet swear to its absence. But he does believe that our issues with Iran can be resolved through negotiations - in which it would help if the US were not implicitly threatening war. But it looks as though we have reached a similar stage to when Saddam let in the inspectors. When they found no WMDs Washington cried foul, ordered the UN inspectors out and sent the troops in. The US and its allies will not accept anything short of regime change in Teheran - no matter what ordinary Iranians might want and what the IAEA says.

The only difference from last time is that France has defected, and France's opposition to the war in Iraq was as much because of Saddam's oil contracts with Total and Elf-Aquitaine as any deep attachment to international law. Teheran should sign a contract immediately!

There are, of course, several separate issues here. One is whether Iran has the right to enrich uranium. The second is whether it is abusing the putative right to build nuclear weapons. A third is whether the nuclear issue is not just some sort of White House feint, since we all know that if the shooting starts, it will really be about fighting terrorism, liberating gays and women, restoring democracy and taking down a major rival in the region to both Saudi Arabia and Israel - or any permutation of the above.

On the first question, stupid though it is, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty does not ban countries from reprocessing and purifying uranium. It should have done, and it should have allowed more intrusive inspections, but it doesn't, and one reason for that is that the US, under the influence of the people who now want to cite non-proliferation against Iran, fought against attempts to strengthen the treaty. These are the same people, in fact, who have successfully fought against the senate ratifying the comprehensive test ban treaty.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's maladroit diplomacy led to Iran being outmanoeuvred. His comments on Israel and the Holocaust, no matter whether interpreted correctly or not, have made it difficult for many countries to support him. The US got a resolution against Iran through the IAEA council calling on Iran to stop its uranium reprocessing, largely by promising council member India a free pass for developing nuclear weapons outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and with the enthusiastic support of Israel, the only definite nuclear state in the Middle East.

The US then took that IAEA council resolution to the UN security council, whose word, whether Iran likes it or not, is law under the UN charter, even though it is manifestly a political rather than a judicial body. (The law is not always just, and that goes for international law as well). It does not help Iran as much as it should that Washington, a major scofflaw in the international field, is once again talking piously about the need to enforce UN resolutions, with its own interpretation and its own timetable - just as was the case with Iraq.

Iran is playing a dangerous game. Most countries have deep reservations about what the US, France and, to a lesser extent, the UK are up to, but few of them are prepared to go to the wall, diplomatically, let alone militarily, for the ayatollahs.

Iran should accept the additional and more intrusive inspections that it did before, and throw open its program to the IAEA inspectors, but the war talk in Washington and Jerusalem gives it a plausible excuse not to, since it would be tantamount to offering them a list of targets.

Of course it is difficult to support someone like Ahmadinejad, even when he does for once have a point in the nuclear stand-off. But we can support ElBaradei and the IAEA, as the only sane voices around. With enemies such as ElBaradei has marshalling against him, he must be right.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Support Taiwan's Democracy

This piece is being riposted by mainland Academic Dr Yu Bin, and I will be replying to that as well.

Ian Williams | November 1, 200

Foreign Policy In Focus
www.fpif.org

Neville Chamberlain famously excused the abandonment of Czechoslovakia at Munich by calling the victim “a faraway country of which we know little.” His infamy is not totally deserved. Britain had no treaty ties to Prague, nor did it have the military capacity to take on Germany at the time, and Chamberlain on his return immediately kick-started British rearmament.

For most Americans, Taiwan is even farther away and even less well known. Probably even less well known still is the U.S. commitment to defend the island against any attack from the Mainland. That commitment, made when Taiwan was an offshore counter-revolutionary base area run by Chiang Kai-shek who had open military ambitions to invade the mainland, now actually has both moral and realistic force. Taiwan is today a thriving democracy and a mid-level economic power in its own right. What is sometimes forgotten, it has voluntarily eschewed nuclear weapons in return for that U.S. military guarantee.

Taiwan’s unique anomalous position means that if it is part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), it is covered by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and allowed to have nuclear weapons, or it is not part of China and not a signatory to the NPT, and so no treaty obligations prevent it from developing them. It certainly has the expertise to do so. Despite the temptations to go nuclear in the face of the nuclear-armed mainland’s thousand missiles pointed its way, and the massive manpower superiority of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), it is in everyone’s interest that the island maintains its pledge. On a wider scale, because U.S. guarantees to South Korea and Japan also dissuade them from the nuclear option, Seoul and Tokyo would certainly factor any abandonment of Taiwan into their own long-term military plans.

Bizarrely, however, the Bush administration does not have any serious high-level relations with Taipei, despite the commitment to defend it against another nuclear power. Washington even refuses to allow Taiwan’s senior leaders to visit the United States. Taiwan’s President Chen is restricted to brief stopovers in Alaska or Hawaii when he is in transit across the Pacific.

Bush apparently considers President Chen a troublemaker – but he is after all a democratically elected troublemaker, which rather makes nonsense of the administration’s claims that spreading democracy is a major plank of its foreign policy. The United States seems to share China’s view that a democratic referendum on Taiwan’s future is provocative and unreasonable. However, it is not conducive to reasoned exchange of views when the only meaningful communication between the United States and Taiwan is to restrict or extend how many minutes Chen can stop over at outlying airports.
Beijing v. Taipei

Cross-strait relations are a major issue in the domestic politics of both sides. In the PRC, in the absence of any ideological cement to bind the Communist Party together, the contenders for position in the leadership play the tough-on-Taiwan card as a trump. Taiwanese officials concerned with cross-strait relations discern a good cop/bad cop routine with their mainland counterparts. Both CPC factions want “reunification.” But while one thinks that open relations and sweet-talking are the way forward, the other has stationed a thousand missiles aimed at the island and passed the PRC’s “Anti-Secession” law, “legalizing” military action against the island.

The present obduracy of the PRC on the issue disguises some earlier wobbles. The constitution of Mao Zedong’s 1931 Chinese Soviet Republic promised the right of self-determination to the peoples of the former Chinese Empire, and Mao himself told Edgar Snow, in Red Star over a China, in a section that was fact-checked by the Chinese Communist Party, that Formosa, as Taiwan was then known, could choose its own fate.

Oddly, the Communist party is happier with the heirs of its old adversary Chiang Kai Shek. Chiang’s Kuomintang (KMT) has maintained a residual claim to the whole of China as the “Republic of China” while the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) wants to abandon both the title and the grandiose ambitions of the former Republic of China (ROC). “Reunification” with the PRC has infinitesimal support among Taiwanese. So, the KMT’s adherence to “One-China” is based partly upon the residual pan-Chinese politics of its rapidly deceasing members who came over in 1949, but mostly because annoying the mainland is bad for business.

The DPP’s independence position is extremely popular with Taiwanese, which is why President Chen is holding the referendum next March on applying to the UN under the name of Taiwan. The popularity of the issue forces the KMT to be pragmatic, instead posing the question of whether the application should be in any name that can get the island in the organization. Since in any case the UN defers to the unilateral mainland interpretation of the resolution that admitted the PRC to the organization, neither method will lead to Taiwan’s admission. But it will raise political heat on the issue from which the DPP is likely to benefit for both the presidential and legislative elections in the New Year.

Cannily, Chen timed the referendum not only with the elections in view, but also in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics. He is tweaking the dragon’s tail with relative confidence that the Games are too important for China to risk disruption from overt action against Taiwan. Seen as an act of self-determination by the Taiwanese, the referendum plays to their biggest strength. Instead of legalisms about successor states, ROC versus PRC, the best argument for Taiwanese independence is that its 23 million people overwhelmingly want it.
Washington’s Approach

When the United States and the Western powers recognized the PRC, in general they accepted the reality that Beijing represented China. This was made easier because at the time the Chiang Kai-shek regime insisted that the Republic of China based on Taiwan was the legitimate government of all China and indeed of Tibet, Mongolia, Tannu Tuva in the Soviet Union, and the northern part of Burma! It broke off relations with any country that signed up with the PRC, thus setting the conditions for its own isolation.

But the countries that sent ambassadors to Beijing still hedged on the issue of whether Taiwan was part of China. The joint communiqu├ęs tended to “note”, “understand,” or “respect” Beijing’s position. The United States “acknowledges” China’s position. But its different interpretation is expressed in the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which states that “Whenever the laws of the United States refer or relate to foreign countries, nations, states, governments, or similar entities, such terms shall include and such laws shall apply with respect to Taiwan.”

While the United States has not officially changed its position since, Bush administration officials have done so, in effect kowtowing to Beijing and implicitly accepting the PRC version of the relationship. That sends dangerous signals to the PRC, which may well encourage it to assume that a cross-straits adventure would not invoke the defense that the United States has otherwise pledged. It was the Thatcher government’s insouciance about the British South Atlantic territories that enticed Argentinean President Galtieri to attack the Falkland Islands. That was an expensive and relatively bloody conflict. But it never risked a global or nuclear conflict the way that a PRC invasion of Taiwan would.

Indeed, the eagerness to avoid giving offense to Beijing on issues of protocol is even more puzzling in the light not just of the willingness, but also of the eagerness, of Washington to sell weaponry to Taiwan, which is surely much more substantially provocative. Indeed recently Bush asked indignantly how the Taiwanese expected Americans to put their troops on the line “if they don’t buy our weapons,” according to a anonymous source at the meeting.

In fact, Taiwan celebrated the end of half a century of martial law in the 1990s with a conscious strategy to prioritize health, education and economic progress rather than military spending. This is not a decision that the Bush administration would necessarily understand. While there is a consensus that the Taiwanese military does need to re-equip to face the threat from the PRC, legislators have been haggling about the precise nature of those needs, and there is a strong suspicion that some of the items the United States is hawking are big on bucks and low on bangs. But politically, Taiwan may end up paying the price to ensure support in Washington, where both houses of Congress in bipartisan resolutions have called for Taiwanese officials to have free access to the United States.
The Ties That Don’t Quite Bind

Ironically, even as cross-strait political relations have chilled, the economic ties between the two sides are closer than ever. There are a million Taiwanese working in the mainland for Taiwanese companies who have invested billions of dollars there. The island’s businesses specialize in high-tech research and development, but manufacture their products on the mainland. However the relationship does not leave Taiwan totally at the mercy of the mainland. Taiwanese capital, management and technology are essential for the development of China’s high-end electronic export trade, responsible for over 100 million jobs on the Mainland.

Taipei’s plans for the island to become a regional financial center have not prospered. The government has yet to take the risk of opening up its financial markets to mainland companies. Presently, to avoid being snagged by the government’s restrictions on investment, few of the vast revenues of Taiwan’s corporate presence on the mainland are repatriated.

The talks with the mainland are constrained by the PRC’s refusal to accept the legitimacy of the Taipei government and the latter’s understandable suspicion of Beijing. So, Taipei maintains much-evaded restrictions on investment in the mainland as well as a total ban on PRC investment in Taiwan and restrictions on mainland visitors. Talks on scheduled direct flights have also foundered. The PRC side is deliberately stalling in the hope that it will influence the impending election.

The PRC wants victory for Ma Ying-jeou, the KMT candidate for presidency. But the DPP’s Frank Hsieh is the favorite. Hsieh is considered to be more pragmatic that Chen Shui-ban, whose politics were hardened in the long struggle against Chiang’s dictatorship. Many Taiwanese hope that he can deliver some normalization of relations with the mainland while keeping the PRC politically away from the door.

A mutually satisfactory solution, however, is not yet on the horizon. The ham-fisted way in which Beijing abused the Hong Kong “one country two systems” solution for Hong Kong has excluded any such deal. The PRC’s insistence on one China confronts the desire of most Taiwanese to convert their de facto independence into de jure independence, with UN membership being the most tangible symbol.

Since the issue is so prominent in domestic politics on both sides there is an inherent danger of escalation and instability. The stalemate across the straits, with China’s threatened military options facing the promised U.S. defense, has dangerous implications for the region and the world. By its insouciance toward Taipei and its deference to the PRC on what one might call ceremonial issues, Washington has incurred military liabilities to defend a government over whose behavior it has only indirect influence.

The lack of U.S. diplomatic support for Taipei lessens the chance of a negotiated solution. It weakens the Taiwanese hand while encouraging Chinese obstinacy. If the United States has no official relations with the island, then why should Beijing? The recent appearance of President Bush at the presentation of the Congressional Medal of Honor to the Dalai Lama demonstrates that the sky does not fall in when Beijing is displeased. It is time for serious and open relations with Taiwan, predicated on the latter's abdication of any revanchist claims to the Mainland.

Ian Williams contributes frequently to Foreign Policy In Focus (www.fpif.org) on UN and international affairs.