Commentary Magazine


Topic: International Criminal Court

International Law Is Broken

The redundancy, not to mention the hypocrisy, of the international law regime is hardly any great secret. Just how broken the system has now become was evidenced in recent weeks by two particularly striking rulings. On Thursday Russia and China vetoed the fourth attempt at a United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria’s referral to the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Given Syria’s use of chemical weapons against its own population, and the fact that the death toll in that country now stands at an estimated 162,000, it is unfathomable that a referral to the ICC hasn’t already been accomplished. Yet Syria is not a signatory of the Rome Statute and as such can only be referred to the ICC via the Security Council.  

Britain, however, is signed up to the ICC. And, in a striking juxtaposition to the Syrian case, Britain now finds itself under investigation by the ICC for war crimes that the British army is accused of having committed in Iraq between 2003 and 2008. This recent announcement puts the United Kingdom in the company of such rogue states as Libya, Colombia, and Afghanistan. The ICC’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda made the decision after a complaint lodged in January by the Berlin-based NGO the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. If Bensouda is not satisfied that Britain is sufficiently investigating the conduct of its own armed forces, then the ICC will move to carry out an investigation against the UK.

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The redundancy, not to mention the hypocrisy, of the international law regime is hardly any great secret. Just how broken the system has now become was evidenced in recent weeks by two particularly striking rulings. On Thursday Russia and China vetoed the fourth attempt at a United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria’s referral to the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Given Syria’s use of chemical weapons against its own population, and the fact that the death toll in that country now stands at an estimated 162,000, it is unfathomable that a referral to the ICC hasn’t already been accomplished. Yet Syria is not a signatory of the Rome Statute and as such can only be referred to the ICC via the Security Council.  

Britain, however, is signed up to the ICC. And, in a striking juxtaposition to the Syrian case, Britain now finds itself under investigation by the ICC for war crimes that the British army is accused of having committed in Iraq between 2003 and 2008. This recent announcement puts the United Kingdom in the company of such rogue states as Libya, Colombia, and Afghanistan. The ICC’s chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda made the decision after a complaint lodged in January by the Berlin-based NGO the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights. If Bensouda is not satisfied that Britain is sufficiently investigating the conduct of its own armed forces, then the ICC will move to carry out an investigation against the UK.

Writing for Gatestone last week, Colonel Richard Kemp noted that in previous years Britain has been silent in the face of the double standards and lawfare being waged against Israel at the UN. Kemp reminds us how, unlike America and five other European countries who voted against the Human Rights Council’s decision to endorse the Goldstone Report against Israel, Britain remained silent and simply abstained from voting at all on this matter. To this Kemp invokes the renowned words of German Pastor Martin Niemoeller: “Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me— and there was no one left to speak for me.” Britain remained silent when the utterly duplicitous forces of international law came for the Jewish state, and now Britain finds itself next in line.

Some might be tempted to gloat at this turn of events–at the fact that, unlike Israel and America, the British blindly signed themselves over to the Rome Statute, and that the tables have been turned against the British who failed in their fundamental moral obligations to stand up for Israel against the tyrannies that populate the UN. Yet anyone who cares about the West and about the world’s democracies can’t find anything to be pleased about here. The actions of China and Russia at the Security Council are a stark reminder of the folly that sits at the heart of international law. That is the notion that countries—including those who have no respect for the rule of law within their own borders—will police one another fairly, and not exploit the international law system to advance their own national interests and those of their allies.

The gap between the Utopian delusions of those who constructed the international law regime and the sorry reality of international law in practice could not have been better demonstrated than by the events of the last two weeks. A genocidal regime in Syria now finds itself rendered virtually immune from prosecution while Britain, a country that not only upholds human rights but acted in Iraq to overthrow a human-rights abusing regime, is now being hauled before the scrutinizing eyes of the ICC.        

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Putting Capitalism on Trial at the ICC

Sometimes you have to wonder whether the editors of the New York Times have a secret wish to sabotage the causes they promote.

Consider the International Criminal Court, the controversial tribunal set up as part of the United Nations human rights system. For years, the Times has promoted the ICC as a modest, last-resort, long-overdue prosecutor of such heinous offenses as war crimes and genocide.

For just as long, ICC skeptics have been warning that the Hague-based tribunal will not always stay confined to its original jurisdiction and will someday seek to prosecute a wider class of less obviously atrocious offenses. Some advocates might even try to turn the court into a roving tribunal mounting show trials against the hated Western power structure. The Times has always dismissed such worries as groundless paranoia.

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Sometimes you have to wonder whether the editors of the New York Times have a secret wish to sabotage the causes they promote.

Consider the International Criminal Court, the controversial tribunal set up as part of the United Nations human rights system. For years, the Times has promoted the ICC as a modest, last-resort, long-overdue prosecutor of such heinous offenses as war crimes and genocide.

For just as long, ICC skeptics have been warning that the Hague-based tribunal will not always stay confined to its original jurisdiction and will someday seek to prosecute a wider class of less obviously atrocious offenses. Some advocates might even try to turn the court into a roving tribunal mounting show trials against the hated Western power structure. The Times has always dismissed such worries as groundless paranoia.

So what turned up in the Times on Wednesday of last week? An op-ed demanding that the ICC be given broad new power to prosecute business people and corporations for taking part in “a vast and unregulated system of extractive capitalism.” “Treat Greed in Africa as a War Crime” blared the headline.

In the op-ed, Yale anthropology professor Kamari Maxine Clarke itemizes a varied list of offenders she seems to think should face ICC prosecution. Chocolate companies based in the West, for example, buy cacao from African farmers so poor that they have their small children work on the crop. The Chinese national oil enterprise plays footsie with the regime in Sudan so as to preserve its favored position. (Yes, in Times-land you can be a Communist state-owned enterprise colluding with another authoritarian government and still count as a representative of unregulated capitalism.) Professor Clarke also thinks the ICC should step in where a multinational enterprise did get punished for misconduct, but should have been punished more. Thus, in one widely noted case where a shipping firm allowed dangerous wastes to be disposed of improperly in West Africa, the firm paid more than $200 million in fines and compensation and two of its employees were sentenced to long prison terms, but critics say the penalties should have been set higher than that. So call in the ICC prosecutors!

Clarke appears to accept without question the various charges of abuse against global business that circulate among cause groups in what is called the human rights community. One complicating factor is that when such complaints are brought before legal systems that accord due process to both sides, we very often discover exaggerations, contradictions or downright inventions in the original sensational claims.  Last week a Dutch court threw out much of a highly-publicized complaint charging Shell with oil pollution in Nigeria. At one point in discussing the chocolate controversy, Professor Clarke recites the contentions of a U.S.-based class-action law firm. Is it necessary to point out that such allegations, levied by firms that face little or no downward risk if their charges don’t pan out, make a doubtful basis for criminal prosecution?

What is certain to happen, if the ICC gains an expansion of authority along the lines Professor Clarke recommends, is that more businesses will be hauled into the dock as a part of what has been called “lawfare,” the use of human rights complaints to provide leverage in the pursuit of international politics. In one of the best-known episodes along these lines, activist lawyers went after Caterpillar Tractor for having sold tractors to the Israeli government, which thus supposedly made the company legally at fault for the bulldozer death of pro-Palestinian protester Rachel Corrie. The suit failed as a legal matter, but might have succeeded in raising the perceived cost of being an American firm willing to trade with Israel.

No doubt some Times readers nodded in approval at Professor Clarke’s argument. But others, I suspect, passed the paper to colleagues with a comment like, “See, I told you the ICC was a bad idea.”

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The Travesty of “International Humanitarian Law”

Just about everything that’s wrong with the current conception of “international humanitarian law” was encapsulated in a UN official’s response to the recent escalation between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Surprisingly, it started off well. The agency’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, condemned the rocket attacks from Gaza, saying they were “in clear violation of international humanitarian law and endanger civilians.” Then, noting Israel’s retaliatory air strikes, he even declared that Israel had “a right to self-defense.”

Had the sentence ended there, it would have been fine. But it didn’t. Israel, said Serry, has “a right to self-defense consistent with international humanitarian law” [emphasis added] — which requires it to “exercise maximum restraint and take every precaution to ensure Israeli forces do not endanger civilians in Gaza.”

And that’s where the whole concept breaks down. Because what happens when “maximum restraint” and taking “every precaution” fail to stop the rocket fire? After all, we already know they will: Israel tried precisely this kind of pinpoint strike — in which pilots are strictly forbidden to fire if there’s any chance of hitting civilians — for three years after leaving Gaza in 2005, but it had no effect whatsoever on the daily rocket fire.

That’s why Israel finally went to war two years ago. It still worked hard to avoid hurting civilians: with even Hamas now admitting that it lost some 700 combatants, it’s clear that civilians constituted only about 40 percent of fatalities — far below the 90 percent norm for modern warfare. But this certainly wasn’t an exercise in “maximum restraint.” It was a full-scale military operation.

The war produced two results. One was a dramatic reduction in rocket and mortar strikes on southern Israel, from about 4,000 in 2008 to 180 this year. The other was the Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of “war crimes” and urged its prosecution in the International Criminal Court.

In short, under the modern conception of “international humanitarian law,” countries have two choices: either use “maximum restraint” and take “every precaution” to avoid hurting enemy civilians, with the result that lethal attacks against your own civilians continue undisturbed, or take effective military action to protect your own civilians and be branded a war criminal.

This is a travesty. International humanitarian law was never meant to strip countries of the ability to protect their own citizens, nor was it meant to force countries to protect enemy civilians at the expense of their own. The statesmen who drafted the agreements from which this law ostensibly derives, like the Hague Conventions and the Geneva Conventions, all understood that a country’s first duty is to protect its citizens. And nothing in the actual text of these documents would prevent any country from doing so.

The West needs to return to these original texts and abandon the warped interpretation promulgated by so-called human rights organizations and international bodies like the UN. Otherwise, it will find itself defenseless against any aggressor, from al-Qaeda to North Korea. For aggressors share one common denominator: they don’t consider themselves bound by any kind of international law.

Just about everything that’s wrong with the current conception of “international humanitarian law” was encapsulated in a UN official’s response to the recent escalation between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Surprisingly, it started off well. The agency’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, condemned the rocket attacks from Gaza, saying they were “in clear violation of international humanitarian law and endanger civilians.” Then, noting Israel’s retaliatory air strikes, he even declared that Israel had “a right to self-defense.”

Had the sentence ended there, it would have been fine. But it didn’t. Israel, said Serry, has “a right to self-defense consistent with international humanitarian law” [emphasis added] — which requires it to “exercise maximum restraint and take every precaution to ensure Israeli forces do not endanger civilians in Gaza.”

And that’s where the whole concept breaks down. Because what happens when “maximum restraint” and taking “every precaution” fail to stop the rocket fire? After all, we already know they will: Israel tried precisely this kind of pinpoint strike — in which pilots are strictly forbidden to fire if there’s any chance of hitting civilians — for three years after leaving Gaza in 2005, but it had no effect whatsoever on the daily rocket fire.

That’s why Israel finally went to war two years ago. It still worked hard to avoid hurting civilians: with even Hamas now admitting that it lost some 700 combatants, it’s clear that civilians constituted only about 40 percent of fatalities — far below the 90 percent norm for modern warfare. But this certainly wasn’t an exercise in “maximum restraint.” It was a full-scale military operation.

The war produced two results. One was a dramatic reduction in rocket and mortar strikes on southern Israel, from about 4,000 in 2008 to 180 this year. The other was the Goldstone Report, which accused Israel of “war crimes” and urged its prosecution in the International Criminal Court.

In short, under the modern conception of “international humanitarian law,” countries have two choices: either use “maximum restraint” and take “every precaution” to avoid hurting enemy civilians, with the result that lethal attacks against your own civilians continue undisturbed, or take effective military action to protect your own civilians and be branded a war criminal.

This is a travesty. International humanitarian law was never meant to strip countries of the ability to protect their own citizens, nor was it meant to force countries to protect enemy civilians at the expense of their own. The statesmen who drafted the agreements from which this law ostensibly derives, like the Hague Conventions and the Geneva Conventions, all understood that a country’s first duty is to protect its citizens. And nothing in the actual text of these documents would prevent any country from doing so.

The West needs to return to these original texts and abandon the warped interpretation promulgated by so-called human rights organizations and international bodies like the UN. Otherwise, it will find itself defenseless against any aggressor, from al-Qaeda to North Korea. For aggressors share one common denominator: they don’t consider themselves bound by any kind of international law.

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Israelis Think No Concession Will Ever Satisfy the West

A newly released WikiLeaks cable quotes Ron Dermer, a top adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, telling a U.S. diplomat of Israelis’ frustration with the peace process. Surprisingly, however, Dermer didn’t focus primarily on Palestinian behavior. Rather, he charged, “the Israeli public is skeptical regarding the benefits of returning to negotiations” because “all the GOI [government of Israel] has received in return for its efforts [to date] was a ‘slap-down from the international community.’”

Dermer didn’t offer evidence to support his claim about Israeli frustration with the “international community,” but the data are shocking: according to the August Peace Index poll, fully 77 percent of Jewish Israelis think “it makes no difference what Israel does and how far it may go on the Palestinian issue; the world will continue to be very critical of it.” And in fact, Israelis have good reasons for this belief.

For instance, when Hezbollah continued attacking Israel even after Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, the world, far from condemning Hezbollah, excoriated Israel when it finally responded to these attacks in the 2006 Second Lebanon War. Moreover, after having certified the withdrawal as 100 percent complete in 2000, the UN Security Council then rewarded Hezbollah’s aggression in 2006 by voting to remap Lebanon’s borders, “especially in those areas where the border is disputed” by Hezbollah, with an eye toward forcing Israel to quit additional territory.

Then, when Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, evacuating 25 settlements in the process, it was rewarded by daily rocket fire on its cities from the evacuated territory. Yet when it finally fought back, in 2008, it was slapped with the Goldstone Report, which accused it of “war crimes” and urged its indictment in the International Criminal Court. And far from coming to Israel’s defense, most Western countries abstained in both UN votes on the report.

Moreover, even though two Israeli offers (in 2000 and 2008) to give the Palestinians the equivalent of 100 percent of the West Bank have been unmatched by any parallel Palestinian concessions, the West continues to demand ever more concessions from Israel while refusing to publicly demand anything of the Palestinians — even on issues like the “right of return,” where Palestinian concessions are clearly essential for any deal. For instance, a European Union statement earlier this month demanded several explicit Israeli concessions, including withdrawal to the “pre-1967 borders” and Jerusalem as the “capital of two states,” but made no similarly explicit demands of the Palestinians. It merely called for an “agreed, just, fair and realistic solution to the refugee question,” without specifying that such a solution cannot include resettling the refugees in Israel.

All this has made Israelis believe that no matter what they give, the world will still find new reasons to condemn it. And if the West actually wants a peace deal, that ought to concern it deeply, because Israelis thought a deal was supposed to give them two benefits: peace with the Arabs and support from the West. Instead, Israel discovered that concession after concession has brought neither. And if so, what’s the point of continuing to make them?

A newly released WikiLeaks cable quotes Ron Dermer, a top adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, telling a U.S. diplomat of Israelis’ frustration with the peace process. Surprisingly, however, Dermer didn’t focus primarily on Palestinian behavior. Rather, he charged, “the Israeli public is skeptical regarding the benefits of returning to negotiations” because “all the GOI [government of Israel] has received in return for its efforts [to date] was a ‘slap-down from the international community.’”

Dermer didn’t offer evidence to support his claim about Israeli frustration with the “international community,” but the data are shocking: according to the August Peace Index poll, fully 77 percent of Jewish Israelis think “it makes no difference what Israel does and how far it may go on the Palestinian issue; the world will continue to be very critical of it.” And in fact, Israelis have good reasons for this belief.

For instance, when Hezbollah continued attacking Israel even after Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, the world, far from condemning Hezbollah, excoriated Israel when it finally responded to these attacks in the 2006 Second Lebanon War. Moreover, after having certified the withdrawal as 100 percent complete in 2000, the UN Security Council then rewarded Hezbollah’s aggression in 2006 by voting to remap Lebanon’s borders, “especially in those areas where the border is disputed” by Hezbollah, with an eye toward forcing Israel to quit additional territory.

Then, when Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, evacuating 25 settlements in the process, it was rewarded by daily rocket fire on its cities from the evacuated territory. Yet when it finally fought back, in 2008, it was slapped with the Goldstone Report, which accused it of “war crimes” and urged its indictment in the International Criminal Court. And far from coming to Israel’s defense, most Western countries abstained in both UN votes on the report.

Moreover, even though two Israeli offers (in 2000 and 2008) to give the Palestinians the equivalent of 100 percent of the West Bank have been unmatched by any parallel Palestinian concessions, the West continues to demand ever more concessions from Israel while refusing to publicly demand anything of the Palestinians — even on issues like the “right of return,” where Palestinian concessions are clearly essential for any deal. For instance, a European Union statement earlier this month demanded several explicit Israeli concessions, including withdrawal to the “pre-1967 borders” and Jerusalem as the “capital of two states,” but made no similarly explicit demands of the Palestinians. It merely called for an “agreed, just, fair and realistic solution to the refugee question,” without specifying that such a solution cannot include resettling the refugees in Israel.

All this has made Israelis believe that no matter what they give, the world will still find new reasons to condemn it. And if the West actually wants a peace deal, that ought to concern it deeply, because Israelis thought a deal was supposed to give them two benefits: peace with the Arabs and support from the West. Instead, Israel discovered that concession after concession has brought neither. And if so, what’s the point of continuing to make them?

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Starstruck Clooney Misses the Point About Disastrous Sudan Policy

George Clooney’s visit to the White House yesterday sent the press corps into something like a swoon as press secretary Robert Gibbs cut short the daily press conference so all present could ogle the actor and pepper him with a few easy questions. Clooney was there to talk to President Obama about the trip he had just taken to southern Sudan, a place that may soon replace Darfur as the focus of fears about the genocidal behavior of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s criminal regime.

To Clooney’s credit, his interest in Sudan seems genuine. He has lent his name and support to the Enough Project (which is run out of the left-wing Center for American Progress), a group that seeks to prevent African genocides such as the ones that have taken place in Darfur and Rwanda. But as much as Clooney’s concern about the imminent threat of war in southern Sudan between the largely Christian inhabitants of the region and the Muslim government in Khartoum is justified, his prescription for preventing it is a bit vague.

As for his reception by President Obama, Clooney was rapturous in describing his joy at what he thought was Obama’s intense interest in the subject — “You could feel the energy in the room” — and the sharpness of his questions. But what Clooney and the similarly starstruck press coverage of his visit failed to understand is that the current mess and the strength of Bashir’s current position stems in no small measure from the lack of “energy” demonstrated by the administration on this issue in the last year and a half. In case Clooney hasn’t noticed, human rights concerns have been accorded the lowest possible foreign policy priority by the Obama administration, as its stances toward Iran and China have demonstrated.

Even more to the point, the president’s special envoy to Sudan, Scot Gration, has placed the United States firmly on the side of appeasing Bashir, to the dismay of many advocates for the Darfuri people. That policy has set up the southern Sudanese as Bashir’s next likely victims, since the only way to ensure that such genocides don’t take place is by helping to get rid of Bashir and his Islamist gang, not by buying them off.

But unfortunately, Clooney’s idea of “robust diplomacy” is not designed to generate much pressure on the White House. He wants America to do something, but he’s not sure what. At one point, Clooney discussed the possibility for increased sanctions on the Sudanese government and the indicted war criminal at its head. At others, he mooted the possibility of a U.S. decision to normalize relations with Bashir and even consent to the suspension of his indictment by the International Criminal Court if the Sudanese leader makes peace with both southern Sudan and Darfur. As a last resort, he spoke of U.S. military action to interdict the Sudanese government’s forces and prevent another mass slaughter.

The answer for Clooney is that Gration has already proved that appeasement won’t work and that getting Bashir off the hook on war-crimes charges will merely give him impunity to commit future atrocities. As for the prospect of American intervention, Clooney ought not to hold his breath waiting for Obama to act. Having come in to office decrying the “neoconservative” agenda of trying to promote human rights and democracy around the world, the president has demonstrated that such causes are unlikely to generate action from this White House.

The disconnect between the sincere desire of liberals like Clooney to do something to help the Sudanese and their unwillingness to draw serious conclusions about how America should deal with Islamist mass murderers like Bashir is the problem here. If Clooney wants something more than lip service from Obama, he’s going to have to confront the administration, not lend his star power to the White House media strategy.

George Clooney’s visit to the White House yesterday sent the press corps into something like a swoon as press secretary Robert Gibbs cut short the daily press conference so all present could ogle the actor and pepper him with a few easy questions. Clooney was there to talk to President Obama about the trip he had just taken to southern Sudan, a place that may soon replace Darfur as the focus of fears about the genocidal behavior of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s criminal regime.

To Clooney’s credit, his interest in Sudan seems genuine. He has lent his name and support to the Enough Project (which is run out of the left-wing Center for American Progress), a group that seeks to prevent African genocides such as the ones that have taken place in Darfur and Rwanda. But as much as Clooney’s concern about the imminent threat of war in southern Sudan between the largely Christian inhabitants of the region and the Muslim government in Khartoum is justified, his prescription for preventing it is a bit vague.

As for his reception by President Obama, Clooney was rapturous in describing his joy at what he thought was Obama’s intense interest in the subject — “You could feel the energy in the room” — and the sharpness of his questions. But what Clooney and the similarly starstruck press coverage of his visit failed to understand is that the current mess and the strength of Bashir’s current position stems in no small measure from the lack of “energy” demonstrated by the administration on this issue in the last year and a half. In case Clooney hasn’t noticed, human rights concerns have been accorded the lowest possible foreign policy priority by the Obama administration, as its stances toward Iran and China have demonstrated.

Even more to the point, the president’s special envoy to Sudan, Scot Gration, has placed the United States firmly on the side of appeasing Bashir, to the dismay of many advocates for the Darfuri people. That policy has set up the southern Sudanese as Bashir’s next likely victims, since the only way to ensure that such genocides don’t take place is by helping to get rid of Bashir and his Islamist gang, not by buying them off.

But unfortunately, Clooney’s idea of “robust diplomacy” is not designed to generate much pressure on the White House. He wants America to do something, but he’s not sure what. At one point, Clooney discussed the possibility for increased sanctions on the Sudanese government and the indicted war criminal at its head. At others, he mooted the possibility of a U.S. decision to normalize relations with Bashir and even consent to the suspension of his indictment by the International Criminal Court if the Sudanese leader makes peace with both southern Sudan and Darfur. As a last resort, he spoke of U.S. military action to interdict the Sudanese government’s forces and prevent another mass slaughter.

The answer for Clooney is that Gration has already proved that appeasement won’t work and that getting Bashir off the hook on war-crimes charges will merely give him impunity to commit future atrocities. As for the prospect of American intervention, Clooney ought not to hold his breath waiting for Obama to act. Having come in to office decrying the “neoconservative” agenda of trying to promote human rights and democracy around the world, the president has demonstrated that such causes are unlikely to generate action from this White House.

The disconnect between the sincere desire of liberals like Clooney to do something to help the Sudanese and their unwillingness to draw serious conclusions about how America should deal with Islamist mass murderers like Bashir is the problem here. If Clooney wants something more than lip service from Obama, he’s going to have to confront the administration, not lend his star power to the White House media strategy.

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Toomey Demands Sestak Give Back Soros’s Money

The Pat Toomey campaign has put out a statement that cites the reports of J Street’s connection to George Soros and that lists the “far-left” groups Joe Sestak has aligned himself. They include MoveOn.org (“The radical group also funded by George Soros has received bipartisan condemnation for its anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric and its history of inaccurate and inflammatory ads. Joe Sestak has received MoveOn.Org’s endorsement and over $150,000 from the group this election cycle”), CAIR, and Citizens for Global Solutions. As to the latter, the statement explains:

Congressman Sestak has embraced this group’s radical views, supporting a doubling of foreign aid to corrupt regimes and the United States’ participation in the International Criminal Court.  Sestak has been endorsed by CGS every election cycle and received $9,200 from the group, making him their number one recipient. The group is so extreme, Senator Bob Casey returned CGS’s $5,000 contribution when he ran for Senate in 2006.

Toomey’s communications director says: “Congressman Sestak shows a very consistent and disturbing pattern of aligning himself with political organizations that attack Israel and the Jewish community, or are funded by individuals who are hostile to Israel. … Sestak says he’s pro-Israel, but at some point, his consistent alignment with the likes of George Soros, MoveOn.Org, CAIR, and J Street makes that claim just flat-out not believable.”

As I wrote earlier, how long before the rest of  the opponents of the J Street endorsees do this?

The Pat Toomey campaign has put out a statement that cites the reports of J Street’s connection to George Soros and that lists the “far-left” groups Joe Sestak has aligned himself. They include MoveOn.org (“The radical group also funded by George Soros has received bipartisan condemnation for its anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric and its history of inaccurate and inflammatory ads. Joe Sestak has received MoveOn.Org’s endorsement and over $150,000 from the group this election cycle”), CAIR, and Citizens for Global Solutions. As to the latter, the statement explains:

Congressman Sestak has embraced this group’s radical views, supporting a doubling of foreign aid to corrupt regimes and the United States’ participation in the International Criminal Court.  Sestak has been endorsed by CGS every election cycle and received $9,200 from the group, making him their number one recipient. The group is so extreme, Senator Bob Casey returned CGS’s $5,000 contribution when he ran for Senate in 2006.

Toomey’s communications director says: “Congressman Sestak shows a very consistent and disturbing pattern of aligning himself with political organizations that attack Israel and the Jewish community, or are funded by individuals who are hostile to Israel. … Sestak says he’s pro-Israel, but at some point, his consistent alignment with the likes of George Soros, MoveOn.Org, CAIR, and J Street makes that claim just flat-out not believable.”

As I wrote earlier, how long before the rest of  the opponents of the J Street endorsees do this?

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Another Liberal with Radical Ties (Part Two)

Joe Sestak’s answers on the questionnaire from the extremist group Citizens for Global Solutions on a range of foreign-policy issues reveal him to be to the left of the vast majority of Americans, even the president. The entire questionnaire should be read in full, but some items are particularly noteworthy. It starts out this way:

Within the last decade, the U.S. role in the geopolitical landscape has shifted away from being seen as a constructive leader. What role do you believe the U.S. should play in the world today?

After eight years of counterproductive, unilateral policies under President Bush, I believe it is time once again for the United States to be a true leader on the world stage and to engage with other states, including those with interests which may be adverse to our own. I have supported President Obama’s efforts to engage with rogue states such as Iran and his efforts to reassert our role as a leader in multilateral forums, such as the United Nations. I strongly support the Administration’s demonstrated commitment to global nuclear non-proliferation, and believe that the successful negotiation of the START follow-on treaty and convening of a nuclear security summit in Washington are constructive steps.

Plainly, this is precisely what the militantly pro-UN group wants to hear.

What about America’s war on Islamic terror?

I support President Obama’s stated withdrawal time lines from Iraq. I believe the President should establish benchmarks for success or failure in Afghanistan which, upon the meeting of certain conditions, would trigger an alternative or exit strategy. I have also voted for legislation requiring the Secretary of Defense to promulgate an exit strategy from Afghanistan.

Not even the Obami talk this way anymore.

Sestak’s apparent infatuation with international organizations and, specifically, the International Criminal Court matches up nicely with CGS’s agenda as well:

5. Will you support greater U.S. cooperation with the ICC in situations where it is in the United States’ interest to bring to justice perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity?
Yes
6. Will you support the continued U.S. participation as an observer in the Court’s governing body (also known as the Assembly of States Parties)?
Yes
7. Do you support the reinstatement of the U.S. signature to the Rome Statute [that would submit the U.S. to the ICC’s jurisdiction] and its eventual approval by the Senate for U.S. ratification?
Yes
I agree with President Clinton that eventual ratification should remain our goal, but that the United States should have the chance to observe and assess the functioning of the court before choosing to become subject to its jurisdiction.

He also says he wants to double foreign aid (presumably including aid to those countries that routinely vote against the U.S. and Israel in international bodies).

But of all his answers, the most troubling may be his unqualified yes to this one: “Will you support the call for the U.S. to refrain from the use or threat of a veto in the UN Security Council regarding situations involving ongoing genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes?” So, without knowing the context and without regard to the UN’s perpetual efforts to cast Israel as a criminal state, Sestak would call for the U.S. to tie its own hands. He’s ready — in advance — to throw away the one effective tool in its arsenal that allows it to defeat noxious UN Security Council actions. Good to know.

Sestak, then, is no garden-variety liberal on foreign policy. His association with CGS and his answers to its queries raise a number of questions. Recall Sestak’s odd letter calling not for the UN Human Rights Council to stay out of the flotilla incident but for it to conduct a “fair” investigation of Israel. It was ludicrous on its face. Now we wonder whether it was an effort to thread the needle between irate pro-Israel voters and his CGS backers (who fawn over the UNHRC). So don’t expect Sestak to support the U.S. withdrawal from that bile-gushing entity that his backers say “is direct, resultant, and demands accountability” and that vilifies Israel. Meanwhile, CGS declares that the U.S. is deriving such “goodwill” from sitting mutely on the council.

Does Sestak agree with CGS’s agenda? (In his answers No. 17 and No. 18, Sestak declares that he’d accept the group’s endorsement and its money.) If not, will he return the money, as Bob Casey did in 2006? And why, considering the group’s track record on Israel and its stance toward international bodies that routinely challenge Israel’s legitimacy, would he seek the group’s endorsement? I mean, if he really does “stand with Israel,” wouldn’t he recognize the danger to the Jewish state posed by such an extreme internationalist agenda? The Sestak campaign has not yet responded to these questions, but I’ll pass on any answers I receive.

In sum, Sestak is in a bind on foreign policy and a raft of other issues. The latest Democratic poll shows him nine points behind Pat Toomey. He’s getting hammered among independents (trailing by 50 to 23 percent). He’s had his hands full with the Emergency Committee for Israel ad attack, and now he faces a new ad assault by the Republican Jewish Coalition. (Sources tell me it will be one of the largest investments ever made in an ad campaign targeting the Jewish community, with an initial buy of two weeks with heavy cable in Philadelphia.) In other words, Sestak’s association with leftist groups may be far more damaging than helpful. To regain ground with Jewish voters and independents, will he shed some of his associations, perhaps give back money from the most objectionable of his donors? Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Rasmussen also has the margin in the race at 9 points.

Joe Sestak’s answers on the questionnaire from the extremist group Citizens for Global Solutions on a range of foreign-policy issues reveal him to be to the left of the vast majority of Americans, even the president. The entire questionnaire should be read in full, but some items are particularly noteworthy. It starts out this way:

Within the last decade, the U.S. role in the geopolitical landscape has shifted away from being seen as a constructive leader. What role do you believe the U.S. should play in the world today?

After eight years of counterproductive, unilateral policies under President Bush, I believe it is time once again for the United States to be a true leader on the world stage and to engage with other states, including those with interests which may be adverse to our own. I have supported President Obama’s efforts to engage with rogue states such as Iran and his efforts to reassert our role as a leader in multilateral forums, such as the United Nations. I strongly support the Administration’s demonstrated commitment to global nuclear non-proliferation, and believe that the successful negotiation of the START follow-on treaty and convening of a nuclear security summit in Washington are constructive steps.

Plainly, this is precisely what the militantly pro-UN group wants to hear.

What about America’s war on Islamic terror?

I support President Obama’s stated withdrawal time lines from Iraq. I believe the President should establish benchmarks for success or failure in Afghanistan which, upon the meeting of certain conditions, would trigger an alternative or exit strategy. I have also voted for legislation requiring the Secretary of Defense to promulgate an exit strategy from Afghanistan.

Not even the Obami talk this way anymore.

Sestak’s apparent infatuation with international organizations and, specifically, the International Criminal Court matches up nicely with CGS’s agenda as well:

5. Will you support greater U.S. cooperation with the ICC in situations where it is in the United States’ interest to bring to justice perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity?
Yes
6. Will you support the continued U.S. participation as an observer in the Court’s governing body (also known as the Assembly of States Parties)?
Yes
7. Do you support the reinstatement of the U.S. signature to the Rome Statute [that would submit the U.S. to the ICC’s jurisdiction] and its eventual approval by the Senate for U.S. ratification?
Yes
I agree with President Clinton that eventual ratification should remain our goal, but that the United States should have the chance to observe and assess the functioning of the court before choosing to become subject to its jurisdiction.

He also says he wants to double foreign aid (presumably including aid to those countries that routinely vote against the U.S. and Israel in international bodies).

But of all his answers, the most troubling may be his unqualified yes to this one: “Will you support the call for the U.S. to refrain from the use or threat of a veto in the UN Security Council regarding situations involving ongoing genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes?” So, without knowing the context and without regard to the UN’s perpetual efforts to cast Israel as a criminal state, Sestak would call for the U.S. to tie its own hands. He’s ready — in advance — to throw away the one effective tool in its arsenal that allows it to defeat noxious UN Security Council actions. Good to know.

Sestak, then, is no garden-variety liberal on foreign policy. His association with CGS and his answers to its queries raise a number of questions. Recall Sestak’s odd letter calling not for the UN Human Rights Council to stay out of the flotilla incident but for it to conduct a “fair” investigation of Israel. It was ludicrous on its face. Now we wonder whether it was an effort to thread the needle between irate pro-Israel voters and his CGS backers (who fawn over the UNHRC). So don’t expect Sestak to support the U.S. withdrawal from that bile-gushing entity that his backers say “is direct, resultant, and demands accountability” and that vilifies Israel. Meanwhile, CGS declares that the U.S. is deriving such “goodwill” from sitting mutely on the council.

Does Sestak agree with CGS’s agenda? (In his answers No. 17 and No. 18, Sestak declares that he’d accept the group’s endorsement and its money.) If not, will he return the money, as Bob Casey did in 2006? And why, considering the group’s track record on Israel and its stance toward international bodies that routinely challenge Israel’s legitimacy, would he seek the group’s endorsement? I mean, if he really does “stand with Israel,” wouldn’t he recognize the danger to the Jewish state posed by such an extreme internationalist agenda? The Sestak campaign has not yet responded to these questions, but I’ll pass on any answers I receive.

In sum, Sestak is in a bind on foreign policy and a raft of other issues. The latest Democratic poll shows him nine points behind Pat Toomey. He’s getting hammered among independents (trailing by 50 to 23 percent). He’s had his hands full with the Emergency Committee for Israel ad attack, and now he faces a new ad assault by the Republican Jewish Coalition. (Sources tell me it will be one of the largest investments ever made in an ad campaign targeting the Jewish community, with an initial buy of two weeks with heavy cable in Philadelphia.) In other words, Sestak’s association with leftist groups may be far more damaging than helpful. To regain ground with Jewish voters and independents, will he shed some of his associations, perhaps give back money from the most objectionable of his donors? Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Rasmussen also has the margin in the race at 9 points.

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Another Liberal with Radical Ties (Part One)

In 2008, Obama’s supporters and campaign flacks assured us that his association with a grab bag of radical leftists (e.g. Bill Ayers), a racist and anti-Semitic preacher (Rev. Wright), and a PLO spokesman (Rashid Khalidi), and a Senate voting record that rated him more liberal than Ted Kennedy were irrelevant to his candidacy. It turns out that all that was more revealing of his values and political inclinations than his campaign platitudes. If it weren’t for Obama, Rep. Joe Sestak’s associations (CAIR, J Street) and voting record (97.8 percent agreement with Nancy Pelosi) might not be of concern to Pennsylvania voters. But frankly, they and voters around the country now should sense what is truly enlightening and what is not about a candidate’s associations and allies.

Sestak has made much of his service in the U.S. Navy, which certainly is worthy of respect (although he’s refused to release records that would shed light on the reasons for his resignation). But that service should not obscure his very radical foreign policy associates. Much has already been written about his views on the Middle East and Israel, but practically unnoticed is his association with a group that goes by the name Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS), until recently known by the Orwellian name “the World Federalist Association.” Who are they, and why have they endorsed Sestak and raised $5,700 for him this year and $4,000 in previous years? (The numbers are not extraordinarily large, but Sestak is far and away the top beneficiaries of the group’s largess.) Read More

In 2008, Obama’s supporters and campaign flacks assured us that his association with a grab bag of radical leftists (e.g. Bill Ayers), a racist and anti-Semitic preacher (Rev. Wright), and a PLO spokesman (Rashid Khalidi), and a Senate voting record that rated him more liberal than Ted Kennedy were irrelevant to his candidacy. It turns out that all that was more revealing of his values and political inclinations than his campaign platitudes. If it weren’t for Obama, Rep. Joe Sestak’s associations (CAIR, J Street) and voting record (97.8 percent agreement with Nancy Pelosi) might not be of concern to Pennsylvania voters. But frankly, they and voters around the country now should sense what is truly enlightening and what is not about a candidate’s associations and allies.

Sestak has made much of his service in the U.S. Navy, which certainly is worthy of respect (although he’s refused to release records that would shed light on the reasons for his resignation). But that service should not obscure his very radical foreign policy associates. Much has already been written about his views on the Middle East and Israel, but practically unnoticed is his association with a group that goes by the name Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS), until recently known by the Orwellian name “the World Federalist Association.” Who are they, and why have they endorsed Sestak and raised $5,700 for him this year and $4,000 in previous years? (The numbers are not extraordinarily large, but Sestak is far and away the top beneficiaries of the group’s largess.)

CGS has some very radical ideas, which make Obama seem like a raging nationalist. Its history as a champion of world government, multinational institutions and treaties (which subsume the laws of nation-states), and devotion to the international redistribution of wealth is no secret:

Seeking to create a world in which nations work together to abolish war, protect our rights and freedoms, and solve the problems facing humanity that no nation can solve alone, Citizens for Global Solutions has a long, proud tradition of activism. Tracing its earliest roots back to the years prior to World War II, United World Federalists (later the World Federalist Association) was created in 1947 as a partnership between a number of like-minded organizations that united to achieve their commons goals.

CGS and its predecessor group, the World Federalist Association (WFA), haven’t been shy about their views. They have decried the “myth” of national sovereignty, supported expansion of international entities like the UN Human Rights Council, the International Criminal Court, and even a standing UN army, all to be funded by the U.S. and new global taxes. (“The United States would benefit from an increased involvement in United Nations peacekeeping missions,” the group explains.) In 1999 in the Washington Times, the issues director for the WFA wrote in an op-ed: “This could bring into favor a global e-commerce tax that could be redistributed back to local, state, and national governments.” He explained the organization’s focus:

The crisis-filled future we face is primarily a result of policy-makers holding onto the myth of independence or national sovereignty and a reliance primarily on unilateral action for dealing with global problems. If Congress continues cutting foreign aid and undermining the vital work of the United Nations, we will have to give up either our personal freedoms or our security.

Under its new name (World Federalist Association probably creeped out too many people), CGS has kept up the internationalist drumbeat and the preference for a slew of agreements that diminish U.S. sovereignty, from the Law of the Seas Treaty to global warming accords to the enhancement of the UN authority. The group thinks the UN Human Rights Council is swell:

Currently, the HRC is the primary global intergovernmental body able to address human rights issues and this is the first time the U.S. has been an active participant. Membership will help generate goodwill toward the U.S. and prove the United States’ commitment to multilateral diplomacy. The HRC is direct, resultant, and demands accountability in human rights from its members and the world. Through HRC actions, a strong basis in international action is created so countries can collectively come to the aid of any human rights crisis.

(Of course, it should also get an A+ in Israel-bashing.) Unsurprisingly, this isn’t the only instance in which CGS has demonstrated a marked anti-Israel bias. Its deputy director of government relations, Drew Asson, went after Israel in the Lebanon war, bellowing from his website: “When will this senseless onslaught by Israeli hawks end? When will the UN Security Council step up to the plate and condemn this vicious obviously disproportionate response by Israel?”

You get the picture. This isn’t the first time a politician’s association with CGS has landed him in hot water. In his 2006 Senate run (the same year CGS started giving Sestak money), Bob Casey was pressured to return campaign donations from the group.

Sestak’s relationship with CGS is indicative of a pattern — he solicits support and receives backing from groups whose agenda is at the far left of the political spectrum. (As such, his supporters and donors have a decidedly anti-Israel cast.) So there is reason for the voters to ask what he sees in these groups’ agendas and, more important, what do they see in him?

The answer may lie in his answers on the CGS questionnaire. It’s an eye-opener, to be discussed in Part Two.

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Wikileaks and the Goldstone Precedent

Robin Shepherd of the London-based Henry Jackson Society makes an important point about the classified documents on Afghanistan that Wikileaks revealed this week: the descriptions of “accidental killings by our soldiers of hundreds of innocent civilians — revellers at wedding parties, kids in school buses, ordinary people going about their daily business who tragically found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time” — sound very much like the kinds of accidental civilian deaths for which the Goldstone Committee wants Israel charged with war crimes.

In both cases, Shepherd notes, the civilian casualties were the inevitable result of combat against a terrorist organization that “systematically hides behind the civilian population”: the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hamas in Gaza. Yet several coalition countries have been “cheerleading the passage of the Goldstone Report on Gaza through the United Nations,” not realizing that the precedent they’re setting could eventually be used against their own soldiers.

Shepherd doesn’t give the numbers, but they are shocking: of the 45 countries with troops in Afghanistan, only 12 voted against endorsing the Goldstone Report in the UN General Assembly. Twelve voted in favor, and 21 abstained.

Notable abstainers included Britain and France — which, as the second- and fourth-largest troop contributors to Afghanistan, are among the most vulnerable to Goldstone-style charges — and Georgia, which faces allegations of similar “war crimes” during its 2008 war with Russia. Turkey, which routinely kills civilians in its battles with the PKK, voted “yes.”

Granted, the Goldstone Report was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, which has never shown any interest in investigating any country but Israel. So coalition members probably don’t have anything to fear from that quarter. But the HRC is not the only player on this field.

An acquaintance recently reported being shocked when, at an academic conference, a guest speaker from the International Criminal Court explicitly described the court’s plan as establishing a precedent via the “easy” cases it’s tackling now (egregious human rights violators like the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and Sudanese officials involved in the Darfur genocide) that will grant it legitimacy to prosecute anyone for anything, worldwide, thereafter. And once it establishes this precedent, it intends to use it, the speaker added.

But that shouldn’t surprise anyone: it’s what smart courts do when trying to establish a new power (as anyone who has seen Israel’s Supreme Court in action would know). They always start with “easy” cases — ones where the public will like the outcome and will therefore ignore the dangerous procedural precedent. And Israel, due to its global unpopularity, is precisely such a case.

Then, with the precedent set, courts can proceed to “hard” cases, with potentially unpopular outcomes, without fearing serious backlash. After all, you can’t accuse a court of behaving improperly if it’s merely doing what it has done many times before without anyone objecting.

Thus if the Goldstone Report isn’t stopped, the U.S. and its allies will eventually pay the price. But since many of those allies clearly haven’t grasped this, it’s Washington’s job to drive the point home.

Robin Shepherd of the London-based Henry Jackson Society makes an important point about the classified documents on Afghanistan that Wikileaks revealed this week: the descriptions of “accidental killings by our soldiers of hundreds of innocent civilians — revellers at wedding parties, kids in school buses, ordinary people going about their daily business who tragically found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time” — sound very much like the kinds of accidental civilian deaths for which the Goldstone Committee wants Israel charged with war crimes.

In both cases, Shepherd notes, the civilian casualties were the inevitable result of combat against a terrorist organization that “systematically hides behind the civilian population”: the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hamas in Gaza. Yet several coalition countries have been “cheerleading the passage of the Goldstone Report on Gaza through the United Nations,” not realizing that the precedent they’re setting could eventually be used against their own soldiers.

Shepherd doesn’t give the numbers, but they are shocking: of the 45 countries with troops in Afghanistan, only 12 voted against endorsing the Goldstone Report in the UN General Assembly. Twelve voted in favor, and 21 abstained.

Notable abstainers included Britain and France — which, as the second- and fourth-largest troop contributors to Afghanistan, are among the most vulnerable to Goldstone-style charges — and Georgia, which faces allegations of similar “war crimes” during its 2008 war with Russia. Turkey, which routinely kills civilians in its battles with the PKK, voted “yes.”

Granted, the Goldstone Report was commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, which has never shown any interest in investigating any country but Israel. So coalition members probably don’t have anything to fear from that quarter. But the HRC is not the only player on this field.

An acquaintance recently reported being shocked when, at an academic conference, a guest speaker from the International Criminal Court explicitly described the court’s plan as establishing a precedent via the “easy” cases it’s tackling now (egregious human rights violators like the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and Sudanese officials involved in the Darfur genocide) that will grant it legitimacy to prosecute anyone for anything, worldwide, thereafter. And once it establishes this precedent, it intends to use it, the speaker added.

But that shouldn’t surprise anyone: it’s what smart courts do when trying to establish a new power (as anyone who has seen Israel’s Supreme Court in action would know). They always start with “easy” cases — ones where the public will like the outcome and will therefore ignore the dangerous procedural precedent. And Israel, due to its global unpopularity, is precisely such a case.

Then, with the precedent set, courts can proceed to “hard” cases, with potentially unpopular outcomes, without fearing serious backlash. After all, you can’t accuse a court of behaving improperly if it’s merely doing what it has done many times before without anyone objecting.

Thus if the Goldstone Report isn’t stopped, the U.S. and its allies will eventually pay the price. But since many of those allies clearly haven’t grasped this, it’s Washington’s job to drive the point home.

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Vindication on Sudan?

The Washington Post reports:

The International Criminal Court’s judges on Monday charged Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir with orchestrating a bloody campaign of genocide against Darfur’s three main ethnic groups, the first time the Hague-based court has accused a sitting head of state of committing the most egregious international crime.

The three-judge pretrial chamber issued a formal arrest warrant for Bashir — the second time it has done so — on three counts of genocide. They include the crime of targeted mass killing, the causing of serious bodily or mental harm to members of a target group, and deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the group’s physical destruction. “There are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. al-Bashir acted with specific intent to destroy in part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups,” the judges concluded.

But then the Post makes the assertion that this provides a “a degree of vindication to the United States, which has stood largely alone in characterizing the killing in Darfur as genocide.” Well, yes, but it also represents a complete repudiation of this administration’s attempts to engage Sudan, not to mention the work of its much criticized envoy Scott Gration. For sometime now, activists have been hammering the administration precisely because it has failed to treat Bashir as a war criminal and has instead pursued a feckless policy of engagement. The criticism has come from both the left and the right.

In sum, Obama has been dragging his feet rather than leading on this issue. There are plenty of reasons to be wary of giving the ICC too much latitude, but in this case it is filling a void left by the utter absence of leadership from the U.S. This is how America loses standing and forfeits its superpower status to multilateral institutions. It can hardly been seen as a vindication, then, when the ICC grasps the mantle of leadership on human rights from an indifferent U.S. president.

The Washington Post reports:

The International Criminal Court’s judges on Monday charged Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir with orchestrating a bloody campaign of genocide against Darfur’s three main ethnic groups, the first time the Hague-based court has accused a sitting head of state of committing the most egregious international crime.

The three-judge pretrial chamber issued a formal arrest warrant for Bashir — the second time it has done so — on three counts of genocide. They include the crime of targeted mass killing, the causing of serious bodily or mental harm to members of a target group, and deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the group’s physical destruction. “There are reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. al-Bashir acted with specific intent to destroy in part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups,” the judges concluded.

But then the Post makes the assertion that this provides a “a degree of vindication to the United States, which has stood largely alone in characterizing the killing in Darfur as genocide.” Well, yes, but it also represents a complete repudiation of this administration’s attempts to engage Sudan, not to mention the work of its much criticized envoy Scott Gration. For sometime now, activists have been hammering the administration precisely because it has failed to treat Bashir as a war criminal and has instead pursued a feckless policy of engagement. The criticism has come from both the left and the right.

In sum, Obama has been dragging his feet rather than leading on this issue. There are plenty of reasons to be wary of giving the ICC too much latitude, but in this case it is filling a void left by the utter absence of leadership from the U.S. This is how America loses standing and forfeits its superpower status to multilateral institutions. It can hardly been seen as a vindication, then, when the ICC grasps the mantle of leadership on human rights from an indifferent U.S. president.

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Stumping the State Department

Quick — name three good things that have come from the U.S.’s participating in the UN Human Rights Council! OK, it was a trick question. We have accomplished nothing there. P.J. Crowley couldn’t even come up with one:

QUESTION: P.J., earlier today, the UN Human Rights Council passed a pretty strong condemnatory resolution about the flotilla incident. Among the items in this resolution is the creation of a independent fact-finding mission to go and investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, resulting from the Israeli attacks on a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance. I realize that you guys voted against this along with two of your stalwart allies, but it passed pretty overwhelmingly. I’m wondering if this is the kind of thing that you were thinking about when you were talking about an international component to the Israeli investigation. 

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think you heard in our explanation of vote that we considered this to be a rush to judgment. I would call attention in the resolution that it actually condemned the attack by Israeli forces before Israel or anyone else has had the opportunity to fairly evaluate the facts. So that is the reason why we voted no.. .

QUESTION: So in the 18 months that you are — 15, 16 months that you’ve been on the council, have you seen it improve? 

MR.CROWLEY: We think our presence on the council is positive and constructive. 

QUESTION: How did that manifest itself in this vote? 

CROWLEY: Well, we — there was a — I mean, all we can do — we have — we don’t — we don’t dictate what the Human Rights Council. …

QUESTION: The previous administration didn’t — didn’t — I mean, didn’t — they basically ignored the whole council because — because of situations like this. 

CROWLEY: Well, and we don’t think ignoring, you know, these issues. …

QUESTION: So your no vote is enough? 

CROWLEY: Well, I mean, the no vote is what we’re empowered to do as part of the Human Rights Council. We will continue to work — you know, I mean, we’ll — we’ll engage in the Human Rights Council, just as we’re engaging on the margins of the International Criminal Court review conference. You had a briefing about that earlier this afternoon. 

We — we are willing to work constructively with countries around the world on the most urgent issues that face us all. We understand that there will be times where our view may carry the day, and there will be times where our — you know, other countries have different points of view.

Got that? In fact, we’ve done plenty of damage by being there — displaying our impotence and elevating the profile of regimes that are among the worst human rights abusers. The administration keeps saying it defends Israel in international bodies. When? How?

The administration’s participation in the Human Rights Council is a sop to the thugocracies. The notion that we are doing good by showing them deference is based on nothing but wishful thinking. Hillary told us that “ideology is so yesterday.” Actually, it’s alive and well in the State Department.

Quick — name three good things that have come from the U.S.’s participating in the UN Human Rights Council! OK, it was a trick question. We have accomplished nothing there. P.J. Crowley couldn’t even come up with one:

QUESTION: P.J., earlier today, the UN Human Rights Council passed a pretty strong condemnatory resolution about the flotilla incident. Among the items in this resolution is the creation of a independent fact-finding mission to go and investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, resulting from the Israeli attacks on a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance. I realize that you guys voted against this along with two of your stalwart allies, but it passed pretty overwhelmingly. I’m wondering if this is the kind of thing that you were thinking about when you were talking about an international component to the Israeli investigation. 

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think you heard in our explanation of vote that we considered this to be a rush to judgment. I would call attention in the resolution that it actually condemned the attack by Israeli forces before Israel or anyone else has had the opportunity to fairly evaluate the facts. So that is the reason why we voted no.. .

QUESTION: So in the 18 months that you are — 15, 16 months that you’ve been on the council, have you seen it improve? 

MR.CROWLEY: We think our presence on the council is positive and constructive. 

QUESTION: How did that manifest itself in this vote? 

CROWLEY: Well, we — there was a — I mean, all we can do — we have — we don’t — we don’t dictate what the Human Rights Council. …

QUESTION: The previous administration didn’t — didn’t — I mean, didn’t — they basically ignored the whole council because — because of situations like this. 

CROWLEY: Well, and we don’t think ignoring, you know, these issues. …

QUESTION: So your no vote is enough? 

CROWLEY: Well, I mean, the no vote is what we’re empowered to do as part of the Human Rights Council. We will continue to work — you know, I mean, we’ll — we’ll engage in the Human Rights Council, just as we’re engaging on the margins of the International Criminal Court review conference. You had a briefing about that earlier this afternoon. 

We — we are willing to work constructively with countries around the world on the most urgent issues that face us all. We understand that there will be times where our view may carry the day, and there will be times where our — you know, other countries have different points of view.

Got that? In fact, we’ve done plenty of damage by being there — displaying our impotence and elevating the profile of regimes that are among the worst human rights abusers. The administration keeps saying it defends Israel in international bodies. When? How?

The administration’s participation in the Human Rights Council is a sop to the thugocracies. The notion that we are doing good by showing them deference is based on nothing but wishful thinking. Hillary told us that “ideology is so yesterday.” Actually, it’s alive and well in the State Department.

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RE: Peter Beinart and the Destruction of Liberal Zionism

Noah Pollak’s superb piece on Beinart prompts, first, my regret that I left Yale just before Noah arrived, so I can’t claim to have taught him anything.  But it, along with Benjamin Kerstein’s essay on “Liberalism and Zionism,” prompts a further reflection. Both Noah and Ben argue that Beinart exemplifies the vacuity of liberalism. As Noah puts it, “Because the history of the peace process repudiates so many of liberalism’s most cherished premises, liberalism is increasingly repudiating Israel. … In this way, the failure of the liberal vision is transformed from being a verdict on liberalism to being a verdict on Israel.”

True. But it is both more and less than that. For Beinart is not really writing about Israel at all. For him, and for the thousands of allies this lonely man possesses, the real issue is that, as Ben points out, Israel was born of a 19th-century nationalist impulse. At the time, that was not illiberal. On the contrary, support for national self-determination, as long as the people in question were capable of founding and sustaining a legitimate, sovereign state, was the essence of liberalism. The only difference was that the Jewish people, instead of being oppressed by one foreign power — as the Poles were by the Russians, or the Greeks by the Turks — were being oppressed by many.

The problem today is not that the peace process has failed or that this reveals the failure of the liberal vision. All that is true enough. The problem is that the liberal vision itself has changed. Not all liberals reject the nation-state, but suspicion of the nation-state as the organizing unit for the world does stem predominantly from the left. In view of the importance that the left attaches to the state as the provider of welfare benefits, this is both ironic and contradictory. But it does not change the fact that one reason liberals (especially those of a European persuasion) have fallen out of love with Israel is that it — along with the United States — was founded on and persists in maintaining a democratic and nationalist vision.

This is why the liberal critics bracket Israel and the U.S. They claim they do so because the U.S. supports Israel. Actually, they do it because they reject the worldview on which both nations are founded, the worldview that has motivated the U.S. to support Israel. For the critics, democracy and nationalism must ultimately be in conflict. Hence the importance of the EU and transnational initiatives like the International Criminal Court. This is a worldview founded in the European reaction to the Second World War. The fact that this war led to the destruction of the European nations and the rise of the Israeli one is another reason for anti-national liberals to look upon it with scorn: to them, Israel appears to be resisting the lessons of history.

The failure of the peace process undoubtedly contributes to the rising scorn. But the liberal retreat from Israel began long before Oslo and its failure.  It dates from the 1967 war, which shocked the newly sensitive souls of many on the left. Israel, in other words, is really a case study. It was protected for a time from the decay of the ideology of liberal nationalism on the left by the socialism of many of its founders and by the horror of the Holocaust. But that immunity began to expire two generations ago, and the process is continuing, as essays like Beinart’s reveal. The fact that Beinart himself believes he is writing uniquely and revealingly about Israel is just more evidence that liberals of his ilk have no idea how far they have drifted from the ideology their forebears celebrated.

Noah Pollak’s superb piece on Beinart prompts, first, my regret that I left Yale just before Noah arrived, so I can’t claim to have taught him anything.  But it, along with Benjamin Kerstein’s essay on “Liberalism and Zionism,” prompts a further reflection. Both Noah and Ben argue that Beinart exemplifies the vacuity of liberalism. As Noah puts it, “Because the history of the peace process repudiates so many of liberalism’s most cherished premises, liberalism is increasingly repudiating Israel. … In this way, the failure of the liberal vision is transformed from being a verdict on liberalism to being a verdict on Israel.”

True. But it is both more and less than that. For Beinart is not really writing about Israel at all. For him, and for the thousands of allies this lonely man possesses, the real issue is that, as Ben points out, Israel was born of a 19th-century nationalist impulse. At the time, that was not illiberal. On the contrary, support for national self-determination, as long as the people in question were capable of founding and sustaining a legitimate, sovereign state, was the essence of liberalism. The only difference was that the Jewish people, instead of being oppressed by one foreign power — as the Poles were by the Russians, or the Greeks by the Turks — were being oppressed by many.

The problem today is not that the peace process has failed or that this reveals the failure of the liberal vision. All that is true enough. The problem is that the liberal vision itself has changed. Not all liberals reject the nation-state, but suspicion of the nation-state as the organizing unit for the world does stem predominantly from the left. In view of the importance that the left attaches to the state as the provider of welfare benefits, this is both ironic and contradictory. But it does not change the fact that one reason liberals (especially those of a European persuasion) have fallen out of love with Israel is that it — along with the United States — was founded on and persists in maintaining a democratic and nationalist vision.

This is why the liberal critics bracket Israel and the U.S. They claim they do so because the U.S. supports Israel. Actually, they do it because they reject the worldview on which both nations are founded, the worldview that has motivated the U.S. to support Israel. For the critics, democracy and nationalism must ultimately be in conflict. Hence the importance of the EU and transnational initiatives like the International Criminal Court. This is a worldview founded in the European reaction to the Second World War. The fact that this war led to the destruction of the European nations and the rise of the Israeli one is another reason for anti-national liberals to look upon it with scorn: to them, Israel appears to be resisting the lessons of history.

The failure of the peace process undoubtedly contributes to the rising scorn. But the liberal retreat from Israel began long before Oslo and its failure.  It dates from the 1967 war, which shocked the newly sensitive souls of many on the left. Israel, in other words, is really a case study. It was protected for a time from the decay of the ideology of liberal nationalism on the left by the socialism of many of its founders and by the horror of the Holocaust. But that immunity began to expire two generations ago, and the process is continuing, as essays like Beinart’s reveal. The fact that Beinart himself believes he is writing uniquely and revealingly about Israel is just more evidence that liberals of his ilk have no idea how far they have drifted from the ideology their forebears celebrated.

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Mia Farrow Speaks Up Again

Mia Farrow has been sounding the alarm about Sudan and risking the ire of her movie pals by calling out Obama for his abominable human rights record. She is at it again:

Last week U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that although he remains supportive of “international efforts” to bring Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to justice, the Obama administration is also pursuing “locally owned accountability and reconciliation mechanisms in light of the recommendations made by the African Union’s high-level panel on Darfur.” … Perversely, Mr. Gration has now thrown U.S. government support to a [African Union] tribunal that does not and probably will never exist. Even if it did, the “locally owned accountability” he refers to is not feasible under prevailing political conditions, as any Sudan-based court will be controlled by the perpetrators themselves.

This is a far cry from candidate Obama. And Farrow isn’t shy about reminding her readers that Obama has badly let down human rights activists — and more important, the suffering 3 million Sudanese:

When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, hope abounded, even in Darfur’s bleak refugee camps. Darfuris believed this son of Africa could understand their suffering, end the violence that has taken so much from them, and bring Mr. Bashir to justice. The refugees hoped that “Yes we can” was meant for them too. They believed President Obama would bring peace and protection to Darfur and would settle for nothing less than true justice. … Such hopes did not last long.

Her advice is clear-headed and equally applicable to many rogue regimes that continue to brutalize their people: “lead a diplomatic offensive to convince the world to isolate [war criminal Omar] al-Bashir as a fugitive from justice.” (I’m not a fan of the International Criminal Court, in which she suggests trying him, but in this case, there may be no alternative.) But the Obama team is not in the isolating business. Rather, Obama engages thugs, sends envoys hither and yon to accomplish nothing, and leaves the oppressed to their own devices. Obama’s academic exercise in “smart diplomacy” has failed, and in Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Burma, Eygpt, China, and elsewhere, the despots cheer.

Mia Farrow has been sounding the alarm about Sudan and risking the ire of her movie pals by calling out Obama for his abominable human rights record. She is at it again:

Last week U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that although he remains supportive of “international efforts” to bring Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to justice, the Obama administration is also pursuing “locally owned accountability and reconciliation mechanisms in light of the recommendations made by the African Union’s high-level panel on Darfur.” … Perversely, Mr. Gration has now thrown U.S. government support to a [African Union] tribunal that does not and probably will never exist. Even if it did, the “locally owned accountability” he refers to is not feasible under prevailing political conditions, as any Sudan-based court will be controlled by the perpetrators themselves.

This is a far cry from candidate Obama. And Farrow isn’t shy about reminding her readers that Obama has badly let down human rights activists — and more important, the suffering 3 million Sudanese:

When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, hope abounded, even in Darfur’s bleak refugee camps. Darfuris believed this son of Africa could understand their suffering, end the violence that has taken so much from them, and bring Mr. Bashir to justice. The refugees hoped that “Yes we can” was meant for them too. They believed President Obama would bring peace and protection to Darfur and would settle for nothing less than true justice. … Such hopes did not last long.

Her advice is clear-headed and equally applicable to many rogue regimes that continue to brutalize their people: “lead a diplomatic offensive to convince the world to isolate [war criminal Omar] al-Bashir as a fugitive from justice.” (I’m not a fan of the International Criminal Court, in which she suggests trying him, but in this case, there may be no alternative.) But the Obama team is not in the isolating business. Rather, Obama engages thugs, sends envoys hither and yon to accomplish nothing, and leaves the oppressed to their own devices. Obama’s academic exercise in “smart diplomacy” has failed, and in Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Burma, Eygpt, China, and elsewhere, the despots cheer.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Harry Reid has even managed to stiffen Olympia Snowe’s spine: “For a second day in row, Democrats failed to open debate on a Wall Street reform bill after Senate Republicans held ranks to block it. The vote was 57 to 41, with all Republicans who were present voting no. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) was the lone Democrat to vote no on Monday, and he voted no again. … In fact, some of the moderates who might be most likely to vote yes — such as Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe — have expressed displeasure that Reid is forcing the votes even as bipartisan negotiations on the bill go forward.”

Tom Goldstein thinks Obama will pick Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court. Among his smart observations: “Elena Kagan has significant demonstrated success in working with conservatives at Harvard Law School, which is an exceptionally challenging environment, and has parallels to the relationships at the Court. But she has never been a judge, and would as a consequence presumably take longer than the others to adapt to the new role.”

Israel isn’t going to buy into “containment” if that’s where Obama is heading with Iran: “Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the world cannot afford to wait too long to see if Iran backs down on its nuclear program while in Washington on Tuesday. In a news conference with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Barak said he supports the US focus on tougher economic sanctions against Teheran, but he added that only time will tell to what extent sanctions are effective in persuading Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. Barak says that if the international community waits too long, Iran could acquire a nuclear weapon that he says would ‘change the landscape,’ and not just of the Middle East.”

According to Robert Gates, “Syria and Iran are providing Hezbollah with so many rockets that they are at a point where they have more missiles than most governments in the world.” So what are we going to do about it?

Not remotely the most transparent administration in history: “The Obama administration has only partially complied with congressional subpoenas for information on the deadly November shootings at Fort Hood, Texas. The failure by the Defense and Justice departments to turn over all the requested documentation — which they say they do not intend to do — is not likely to ease the growing tension between some key senators and the Obama administration over the incident at the Army base on Nov. 5, 2009.”

Jeb Bush speaks out against Arizona’s immigration law. “I think it creates unintended consequences. … It’s difficult for me to imagine how you’re going to enforce this law. It places a significant burden on local law enforcement and you have civil liberties issues that are significant as well.”

Michael Gerson: “American states have broad powers. But they are not permitted their own foreign or immigration policy. One reason is that immigration law concerns not only the treatment of illegal immigrants but also the proper treatment of American citizens. And here the Arizona law fails badly. … Americans are not accustomed to the command ‘Your papers, please,’ however politely delivered. The distinctly American response to such a request would be ‘Go to hell,’ and then ‘See you in court.'”

The Obami’s multilaterialism fetish continues: “Step by tentative step, the Obama Administration is getting closer to embracing the International Criminal Court. The White House won’t join the Hague-based body soon, but that’s its logical endpoint. Answerable to virtually no one, the ICC was created by the 1998 United Nations’s Rome Statute to prosecute war and other ‘serious’ crimes.”

Harry Reid has even managed to stiffen Olympia Snowe’s spine: “For a second day in row, Democrats failed to open debate on a Wall Street reform bill after Senate Republicans held ranks to block it. The vote was 57 to 41, with all Republicans who were present voting no. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) was the lone Democrat to vote no on Monday, and he voted no again. … In fact, some of the moderates who might be most likely to vote yes — such as Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe — have expressed displeasure that Reid is forcing the votes even as bipartisan negotiations on the bill go forward.”

Tom Goldstein thinks Obama will pick Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court. Among his smart observations: “Elena Kagan has significant demonstrated success in working with conservatives at Harvard Law School, which is an exceptionally challenging environment, and has parallels to the relationships at the Court. But she has never been a judge, and would as a consequence presumably take longer than the others to adapt to the new role.”

Israel isn’t going to buy into “containment” if that’s where Obama is heading with Iran: “Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the world cannot afford to wait too long to see if Iran backs down on its nuclear program while in Washington on Tuesday. In a news conference with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Barak said he supports the US focus on tougher economic sanctions against Teheran, but he added that only time will tell to what extent sanctions are effective in persuading Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. Barak says that if the international community waits too long, Iran could acquire a nuclear weapon that he says would ‘change the landscape,’ and not just of the Middle East.”

According to Robert Gates, “Syria and Iran are providing Hezbollah with so many rockets that they are at a point where they have more missiles than most governments in the world.” So what are we going to do about it?

Not remotely the most transparent administration in history: “The Obama administration has only partially complied with congressional subpoenas for information on the deadly November shootings at Fort Hood, Texas. The failure by the Defense and Justice departments to turn over all the requested documentation — which they say they do not intend to do — is not likely to ease the growing tension between some key senators and the Obama administration over the incident at the Army base on Nov. 5, 2009.”

Jeb Bush speaks out against Arizona’s immigration law. “I think it creates unintended consequences. … It’s difficult for me to imagine how you’re going to enforce this law. It places a significant burden on local law enforcement and you have civil liberties issues that are significant as well.”

Michael Gerson: “American states have broad powers. But they are not permitted their own foreign or immigration policy. One reason is that immigration law concerns not only the treatment of illegal immigrants but also the proper treatment of American citizens. And here the Arizona law fails badly. … Americans are not accustomed to the command ‘Your papers, please,’ however politely delivered. The distinctly American response to such a request would be ‘Go to hell,’ and then ‘See you in court.'”

The Obami’s multilaterialism fetish continues: “Step by tentative step, the Obama Administration is getting closer to embracing the International Criminal Court. The White House won’t join the Hague-based body soon, but that’s its logical endpoint. Answerable to virtually no one, the ICC was created by the 1998 United Nations’s Rome Statute to prosecute war and other ‘serious’ crimes.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

All Republican challengers are within single digits of Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Dana Perino on the parliamentary hanky-panky Democrats may use to pass ObamaCare: “There is another way to win passage of legislation — the old-fashioned, bipartisan discussion, school-house rock kind of way. The Bush Administration managed that even at the lowest of approval ratings — FISA reauthorization in July of ’08 comes to mind. Imagine the hootin’ and hollerin’ if George W. Bush had tried to ram through a bill like health care reform using parliamentary tricks — the left would be screaming bloody murder.”

Among its foreign-policy debacles: “In the U.S., the Obama Administration’s Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration faces bipartisan criticism for his approach to the Khartoum government headed by Umar al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes.” Learn more if you are in the D.C. area at the Foreign Policy Initiative’s April 13 program.

Well, he is best at campaigning. Jeffrey Goldberg on Obama’s gambit: “I think it’s fair to say that Obama is not trying to destroy America’s relations with Israel; he’s trying to organize Tzipi Livni’s campaign for prime minister, or at least for her inclusion in a broad-based centrist government.”

Obama’s pollster says a plurality of voters oppose ObamaCare.

Charles Krauthammer on the Slaughter Rule: “You have an issue of democratic decency: It is rare enough, unusual enough, and really indecent enough to change a sixth of the American economy with a bill that has not a single support from Republicans. But to do it by a procedure which doesn’t even approve of the bill itself is simply staggering.”

Democrats are saying pretty much the same thing: “A plan that would allow House Democrats to bypass a direct vote on the Senate’s healthcare bill is causing ‘discomfort,’ a key centrist Democrat said Tuesday. Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), a member of the Blue Dog and New Democrat Coalitions, said that the plan to pass the plan using the so-called ‘deem and pass’ procedure is ‘wrong’ and unpopular among his constituents. ‘There’s a lot of discomfort with the reconciliation process, the self-implementing rule, where you wouldn’t have a formal vote on maybe the most important policy of the past 40 years,’ he said on Fox Business Network. ‘I have a big issue with the way they’re doing the process. I think it’s wrong and my constituents don’t like it.'”

Oops. More bad news for the Democrats (subscription required): “House Democratic leaders are still struggling to produce a final health care overhaul bill at an acceptable official cost estimate, but Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Tuesday they continue to plan a final vote this week. House leaders were to huddle late Tuesday afternoon, following a noon session of the full Democratic Caucus. There were reports they are having trouble drafting a bill that meets their budgetary targets. … Rank-and-file Democrats did not talk about the details, but said that the CBO scores had come up short. ‘They were less than expected’ in terms of deficit reduction, said Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, who plans to vote for the bill.” (And he still plans to vote for it?) Sounds kinda chaotic.

All Republican challengers are within single digits of Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Dana Perino on the parliamentary hanky-panky Democrats may use to pass ObamaCare: “There is another way to win passage of legislation — the old-fashioned, bipartisan discussion, school-house rock kind of way. The Bush Administration managed that even at the lowest of approval ratings — FISA reauthorization in July of ’08 comes to mind. Imagine the hootin’ and hollerin’ if George W. Bush had tried to ram through a bill like health care reform using parliamentary tricks — the left would be screaming bloody murder.”

Among its foreign-policy debacles: “In the U.S., the Obama Administration’s Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration faces bipartisan criticism for his approach to the Khartoum government headed by Umar al-Bashir, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes.” Learn more if you are in the D.C. area at the Foreign Policy Initiative’s April 13 program.

Well, he is best at campaigning. Jeffrey Goldberg on Obama’s gambit: “I think it’s fair to say that Obama is not trying to destroy America’s relations with Israel; he’s trying to organize Tzipi Livni’s campaign for prime minister, or at least for her inclusion in a broad-based centrist government.”

Obama’s pollster says a plurality of voters oppose ObamaCare.

Charles Krauthammer on the Slaughter Rule: “You have an issue of democratic decency: It is rare enough, unusual enough, and really indecent enough to change a sixth of the American economy with a bill that has not a single support from Republicans. But to do it by a procedure which doesn’t even approve of the bill itself is simply staggering.”

Democrats are saying pretty much the same thing: “A plan that would allow House Democrats to bypass a direct vote on the Senate’s healthcare bill is causing ‘discomfort,’ a key centrist Democrat said Tuesday. Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), a member of the Blue Dog and New Democrat Coalitions, said that the plan to pass the plan using the so-called ‘deem and pass’ procedure is ‘wrong’ and unpopular among his constituents. ‘There’s a lot of discomfort with the reconciliation process, the self-implementing rule, where you wouldn’t have a formal vote on maybe the most important policy of the past 40 years,’ he said on Fox Business Network. ‘I have a big issue with the way they’re doing the process. I think it’s wrong and my constituents don’t like it.'”

Oops. More bad news for the Democrats (subscription required): “House Democratic leaders are still struggling to produce a final health care overhaul bill at an acceptable official cost estimate, but Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Tuesday they continue to plan a final vote this week. House leaders were to huddle late Tuesday afternoon, following a noon session of the full Democratic Caucus. There were reports they are having trouble drafting a bill that meets their budgetary targets. … Rank-and-file Democrats did not talk about the details, but said that the CBO scores had come up short. ‘They were less than expected’ in terms of deficit reduction, said Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, who plans to vote for the bill.” (And he still plans to vote for it?) Sounds kinda chaotic.

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Huckabee’s “Bunker Mentality”?

Over at National Review Online, Pete Wehner has a good deconstruction of Mike Huckabee’s Foreign Affairs article. I have little to add to Pete’s comments except to note the contradictory nature of Huck’s second paragraph. It runs as follows:

American foreign policy needs to change its tone and attitude, open up, and reach out. The Bush administration’s arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad. My administration will recognize that the United States’ main fight today does not pit us against the world but pits the world against the terrorists. At the same time, my administration will never surrender any of our sovereignty, which is why I was the first presidential candidate to oppose ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty, which would endanger both our national security and our economic interests.

It is telling that Huckabee seemingly cannot see the tension between the first three sentences of that paragraph, which contain standard liberal boilerplate denouncing the Bush administration’s alleged failure to “reach out” to the rest of the world, and the final line, which contains standard right-wing boilerplate denouncing the Law of the Sea Treaty, of all things.

It is odd even to mention the Law of the Sea Treaty so high up in an essay laying out foreign policy priorities. Although it has been denounced by some conservatives who claim the treaty would infringe on American sovereignty, whether you are for or against it, the treaty is a mere footnote in terms of American foreign policy priorities. It may or may not be a good idea—I’m agnostic—but it’s a stretch to claim that it “would endanger both our national security and our economic interests,” much less to suggest that it is the top threat to those interests.

But it is especially odd for Huckabee to trumpet his opposition to a treaty that has been embraced by most of the rest of the world and even by the Bush administration, while claiming that his administration will be more “open” than the current one to the rest of the world. Rejecting the Law of the Sea Treaty is exactly the kind of move—along the lines of the Bush administration’s rejection of treaties on global warming, landmines, and the International Criminal Court—that drives other countries, especially our European allies, batty. It is hardly the kind of gesture that the next president would pick to suggest that his administration is going to end an alleged “bunker mentality.”

Over at National Review Online, Pete Wehner has a good deconstruction of Mike Huckabee’s Foreign Affairs article. I have little to add to Pete’s comments except to note the contradictory nature of Huck’s second paragraph. It runs as follows:

American foreign policy needs to change its tone and attitude, open up, and reach out. The Bush administration’s arrogant bunker mentality has been counterproductive at home and abroad. My administration will recognize that the United States’ main fight today does not pit us against the world but pits the world against the terrorists. At the same time, my administration will never surrender any of our sovereignty, which is why I was the first presidential candidate to oppose ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty, which would endanger both our national security and our economic interests.

It is telling that Huckabee seemingly cannot see the tension between the first three sentences of that paragraph, which contain standard liberal boilerplate denouncing the Bush administration’s alleged failure to “reach out” to the rest of the world, and the final line, which contains standard right-wing boilerplate denouncing the Law of the Sea Treaty, of all things.

It is odd even to mention the Law of the Sea Treaty so high up in an essay laying out foreign policy priorities. Although it has been denounced by some conservatives who claim the treaty would infringe on American sovereignty, whether you are for or against it, the treaty is a mere footnote in terms of American foreign policy priorities. It may or may not be a good idea—I’m agnostic—but it’s a stretch to claim that it “would endanger both our national security and our economic interests,” much less to suggest that it is the top threat to those interests.

But it is especially odd for Huckabee to trumpet his opposition to a treaty that has been embraced by most of the rest of the world and even by the Bush administration, while claiming that his administration will be more “open” than the current one to the rest of the world. Rejecting the Law of the Sea Treaty is exactly the kind of move—along the lines of the Bush administration’s rejection of treaties on global warming, landmines, and the International Criminal Court—that drives other countries, especially our European allies, batty. It is hardly the kind of gesture that the next president would pick to suggest that his administration is going to end an alleged “bunker mentality.”

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Not-So-Slick Willie

Slick Willie is at it again. This time it comes in the form of his assertion that he opposed the Iraq war from the start. You can see new contributor Abe Greenwald’s post below for details about Clinton’s claims.

What ought we to make of this?

First, if it’s true that Bill Clinton opposed the war but held his tongue because it would have been “inappropriate at the time for him, a former President, to oppose—in a direct, full-throated manner—the sitting President’s military decision,” one might ask: Why then would it be appropriate to criticize now—in a direct, full-throated manner—the same sitting President’s military decision? In fact, it would have been more responsible to voice his objections before the war, when it was being debated, rather than now, when the decision has been made.

Beyond that, Bill Clinton, unlike George H.W. Bush, has not been shy about criticizing the actions of the President who followed him. Bill Clinton has been a constant critic of President Bush, on a range of issues, including the Kyoto Treaty, the withdrawal of U.S. support for the International Criminal Court and the ABM Treaty, tax cuts, education funding, homeland security, and more.

The core point, of course, is that Bill Clinton did not oppose the war from the beginning; if he had, he would have made his views clear. He didn’t, and it’s no surprise he didn’t. Remember that support for the war at that time was quite high—and there have been few politicians in our lifetime who are less principled and less willing to take an unpopular stand than Bill Clinton. If at that point the country was for the war, he simply would not have been against it.

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Slick Willie is at it again. This time it comes in the form of his assertion that he opposed the Iraq war from the start. You can see new contributor Abe Greenwald’s post below for details about Clinton’s claims.

What ought we to make of this?

First, if it’s true that Bill Clinton opposed the war but held his tongue because it would have been “inappropriate at the time for him, a former President, to oppose—in a direct, full-throated manner—the sitting President’s military decision,” one might ask: Why then would it be appropriate to criticize now—in a direct, full-throated manner—the same sitting President’s military decision? In fact, it would have been more responsible to voice his objections before the war, when it was being debated, rather than now, when the decision has been made.

Beyond that, Bill Clinton, unlike George H.W. Bush, has not been shy about criticizing the actions of the President who followed him. Bill Clinton has been a constant critic of President Bush, on a range of issues, including the Kyoto Treaty, the withdrawal of U.S. support for the International Criminal Court and the ABM Treaty, tax cuts, education funding, homeland security, and more.

The core point, of course, is that Bill Clinton did not oppose the war from the beginning; if he had, he would have made his views clear. He didn’t, and it’s no surprise he didn’t. Remember that support for the war at that time was quite high—and there have been few politicians in our lifetime who are less principled and less willing to take an unpopular stand than Bill Clinton. If at that point the country was for the war, he simply would not have been against it.

The attempt to persuade us that Clinton was in favor of the authority to go to war but opposed President Bush’s decision to use that authority is not credible—but it is entirely predictable. After all, it is part of a well-known pattern when it comes to William Jefferson Clinton.

Bob Woodward put it this way:

People feel, and I think rightly, that they’re not being leveled with. . . . There is this tendency in Clinton which you see all through his life of, “How do we spin our way out of it? How do we put out 10 percent of the truth? How do we try to conceal or delay or obfuscate?” And that is a profound problem.

Michael Kelly, then of the New York Times, summarized things this way:

Mr. Clinton’s tendency to make misleading statements, renege on promises, and waffle on difficult questions has been a part of the story of his record in matters of public policy and politics, not just in personal terms.

Former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey put it more bluntly:

Clinton’s an unusually good liar. Unusually good.

One can imagine that Bill Clinton, if asked under oath about this matter, would say something like: “It depends on what the meaning of the words ‘the beginning of the war’ is.”

Bill Clinton’s comments cannot help Hillary Clinton, if only because it reminds people of some of the worst aspects of the Clinton presidency: the mendacity, the reckless disregard for the truth, the self-justification, self-indulgence, and shamelessness of the man. Hillary Clinton has enough negatives to last her a lifetime; her husband, in trying to rewrite history, is simply adding to them.

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Secretary Slaughter?

Who will be Secretary of State or National Security Adviser in the Hillary Rodham Clinton administration? The answer as of now is still rather unclear. But one woman who might be angling for the job—as we see from her essay, “Undoing Bush: How to Repair Eight Years of Sabotage, Bungling, and Neglect,” (link requires a subscription) in the latest issue of Harper’s—is Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School.

Of course, just because she wants such an important job, doesn’t mean she’ll get it. Dean Slaughter may think of herself as a Democratic Condoleezza Rice, but she does not yet have even the minimal level of experience Condi had when Bush tapped her for office. What’s more, she’ll be up against some very power-thirsty competitors. Perhaps, given her interest in international organizations—the subject of her academic research—she will end up as Ambassador to the United Nations, or some such mid-level post.

Whatever her prospects, Slaughter’s Harper’s essay is significant. It casts light on what mainstream Democratic foreign-policy thinkers are talking about at a moment when George Bush has “taken a prosperous nation and mired it in war, replaced our national composure with terror, and left behind him a legacy of damage so profound that repairing it will likely be the work of generations.” Or so the editors of Harper’s say in their preface. 

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Who will be Secretary of State or National Security Adviser in the Hillary Rodham Clinton administration? The answer as of now is still rather unclear. But one woman who might be angling for the job—as we see from her essay, “Undoing Bush: How to Repair Eight Years of Sabotage, Bungling, and Neglect,” (link requires a subscription) in the latest issue of Harper’s—is Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School.

Of course, just because she wants such an important job, doesn’t mean she’ll get it. Dean Slaughter may think of herself as a Democratic Condoleezza Rice, but she does not yet have even the minimal level of experience Condi had when Bush tapped her for office. What’s more, she’ll be up against some very power-thirsty competitors. Perhaps, given her interest in international organizations—the subject of her academic research—she will end up as Ambassador to the United Nations, or some such mid-level post.

Whatever her prospects, Slaughter’s Harper’s essay is significant. It casts light on what mainstream Democratic foreign-policy thinkers are talking about at a moment when George Bush has “taken a prosperous nation and mired it in war, replaced our national composure with terror, and left behind him a legacy of damage so profound that repairing it will likely be the work of generations.” Or so the editors of Harper’s say in their preface. 

Interestingly, Slaughter is not quite as pessimistic as they are. According to her, undoing the damage wrought by Bush won’t take generations; it can be done right away. “The paradox of American foreign policy,” she writes, “is that the United States, though more powerful than ever, has rarely been so lost in the world and never more reviled.” But as recently as September 12, 2001, “everyone was with us—until we told them, both in word and in deed, that if they weren’t with us they were against us.” All a new President need do is “restore American moral and political leadership in the world” by taking five steps.

The first of these is very simple: “we must close Guantanamo.”

The second is a little less simple: “we must get serious about nuclear disarmament.” It is time, says Slaughter, for America to reduce its nuclear arsenal. If we do, and if we provide them with civilian nuclear aid, even the three members of the “axis of evil” might agree “not to pursue nuclear weapons”—a remarkably elegant solution to a perplexing problem. It is a wonder that no one (apart from Jimmy Carter) ever thought of it before.

Steps three and four are a little more simple: the U.S. should join the International Criminal Court and reform the United Nations to expand the Security Council. “Why isn’t a single African, Middle Eastern, or Latin American country permanently represented on the world’s highest decision-making body?” she asks. The time for global inclusiveness has come.

The final item, number five, is very simple: “we must try to stop global warming.”

Is number five a case of hedging one’s bets in case Al Gore becomes President? Perhaps. But such long-range calculations can be as difficult as forecasting the climate.

My favorite among Slaughter’s easy steps is number four: expanding the Security Council to bring in a third-world country. Consensus in the Council itself will of course be required to implement any such proposal. So which country should be invited by us to join? Sudan? Venezuela? Syria? I am sure our good friends on the Security Council, the Russians and the Chinese, would be very happy with any or all of the three.

Let’s wish Anne-Marie Slaughter godspeed in her pursuit of high office. Even if many of her ideas are ludicrous, she’s right about one thing. When it comes to foreign policy, the Bush coterie can be strikingly incompetent. Exhibit A is the fact that even as Slaughter trashes the President for “sabotage, bungling, and neglect,” his administration has turned around and showered her with honors, naming her to chair an important State Department initiative to promote democracy. It is going to take more than five easy steps to undo that particular piece of damage.

 

 

 

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Time to Close Gitmo

The New York Times recently ran a story revealing that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice favor the closing of the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. My friend David Rivkin has now co-authored an article with Lee Casey in the Wall Street Journal arguing in favor of keeping terrorist suspects locked up in Gitmo. My heart is with Rivkin and Casey, but my head tells me that Gates and Rice are probably right at this juncture.

On the merits, Rivkin and Casey have, to coin a term, a slam-dunk case. Terrorists captured on the battlefield can’t be treated with the niceties of normal criminal law. Even if there isn’t sufficient evidence to convict “beyond a reasonable doubt,” some terrorists are so dangerous that they need to be locked up anyway. And Gitmo is as good a place as any to keep them confined. It’s on a U.S. naval base but beyond the jurisdiction of domestic criminal law, and the facilities there are now as nice as any in a domestic prison.

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The New York Times recently ran a story revealing that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice favor the closing of the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. My friend David Rivkin has now co-authored an article with Lee Casey in the Wall Street Journal arguing in favor of keeping terrorist suspects locked up in Gitmo. My heart is with Rivkin and Casey, but my head tells me that Gates and Rice are probably right at this juncture.

On the merits, Rivkin and Casey have, to coin a term, a slam-dunk case. Terrorists captured on the battlefield can’t be treated with the niceties of normal criminal law. Even if there isn’t sufficient evidence to convict “beyond a reasonable doubt,” some terrorists are so dangerous that they need to be locked up anyway. And Gitmo is as good a place as any to keep them confined. It’s on a U.S. naval base but beyond the jurisdiction of domestic criminal law, and the facilities there are now as nice as any in a domestic prison.

I completely understand why the Bush administration decided to go down this route. Unfortunately, unfair as it is, the President’s decision to confine terrorism suspects at Gitmo has turned into an international debacle. Al Qaeda members have skillfully played on the sympathies of foreign audiences by claiming all sorts of abuse. Even if the claims are false—as most surely are—they have been widely believed. Gitmo has been demonized, especially in Europe and the Middle East, as some kind of American Gulag. The allegations are absurd but they have become the received wisdom abroad—in part because the administration has done such a poor job of defending its detention policies.

The public relations damage is so severe and continuing that I’m afraid it probably warrants closing Gitmo. Of course that doesn’t mean the detainees should be released to return to a reign of terror. Ship them to other detention facilities in the U.S. or abroad—for instance the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., where dirty-bomb suspect Jose Padilla was held. Rivkin and Casey are right that some “human-rights advocates” will never be satisfied until all terrorist suspects are granted trials either in domestic courts or, better still, in the International Criminal Court. It is worthwhile exploring whether laws and procedures can be created to make this a viable prospect; it is very much in our interest to have an international tribunal that can imprison international terrorists, taking the onus off us. In the meantime, simply closing Gitmo will have tremendous symbolic value and will allow us to win a valuable victory in the court of international opinion. That, in turn, will make it easier to win the kind of cooperation abroad we need to successfully prosecute the struggle against jihadist extremism.

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