Archive: April, 2011
Having spent years travelling to the Middle East and Pakistan, where people believe in conspiracy theories because they can’t get real information, I’ve been horrified to watch my country get infected with the same mindset.
So I can’t cheer when the President Obama gets Hawaii to bend its rules and release his long-form birth certificate. There was/is no shortage of real information on this subject. Just yesterday, the former Health Director of Hawaii, Dr. Chyome Fukino, a lifelong Republican, who had seen the certificate, told CNN bluntly: “He was absolutely born here in Hawaii.”
Yet, before his announcement, according to Public Policy Polling, 51% of Republicans who planned to vote didn’t believe Obama was born in Hawaii. I’d bet the majority of them won’t be convinced by the facts, because they are not interested in facts.
Why are the countries of the Arab League who unanimously endorsed a no-fly zone over Libya showing little interest in denouncing the ugly human rights violations in Syria?
Answer: the vote on Libya had little to do with Arab leaders' concerns about human rights and everything to do with those leaders' detestation for Muammar Gadhafi. As I wrote in a column, the Libyan ruler had managed to anger just about every ruler in the region, insulting the king of Saudi Arabia, nearly provoking a war with Egypt, etc.
The Lebanese government even introduced, and heavily promoted, Security Council resolution 1973 that called for a no-fly zone over Libya. Why Lebanon? Because the powerful Lebanese Shiite political bloc, Hezbollah, hates Gadhafi, who is believed to have murdered the Iranian-born cleric, Musa Sadr. Sadr became the revered leader of Lebanon's downtrodden Shiites in the 1970's. Sadr disappeared while on a visit to Libya.
I opposed the intervention in Libya, but once in, I don't think we can be half-hearted.
That doesn't mean boots on the ground. But it does mean that, once President Obama said Gadhafi must go, he can't afford to let the Libyan war turn into a stalemate that leaves Gadhafi in power. Nor can NATO, as an institution, afford that.
The entire Middle East, including the leaders of Iran and Syria, is watching, as Gadhafi's men aim heavy artillery at civilians in Misurata. All are waiting to see whether Obama's pledge meant, well, nothing. Also watching are the leaders of North Korea.
So Muammar Gadhafi has accepted a "road map" for peace proposed by the African Union to end the conflict in his country, according to South African president Jacob Zuma.
It's impossible to take this effort seriously.
The supposed deal calls for a ceasefire, and for NATO to cease bombing to allow give it a chance, while Gadhafi and the rebels negotiate. But the Libyan leader has ignored previous ceasefire calls, and his troops began bombing Misrata again, just after the AU announced he'd accepted their road map.
A new poll, conducted by the New York-based International Peace Institute, finds that the vast majority of Egyptians want to keep their peace treaty with Israel.
Almost two thirds would approve of a party that favored keeping the peace treaty, and this appeals strongly to half those polled. A little over one third prefer a party that seeks to break the peace treaty and end diplomatic relations with Israel.
The same two thirds also prefer a party that will work for a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestine issue.
Former Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Curt Weldon (1987-2007) is in Tripoli, Libya, trying to persuade Colonel Qaddafi to step down.
Weldon met Qaddafi before, in 2004, when he travelled to Tripoli as part of a bipartisan congressional delegation expressing support for the Libyan leader’s decision to give up his nuclear weapons. And the former congressman had lots of experience in dealing with bad regimes: he made repeat visits to Pyongyang trying to persuade leaders there to give up their nukes.
Prominent Israelis, including the former heads of the countries internal and external intelligence services, scholars, businessmen and the son and daughter of PM Yitzhak Rabin, have put forward a new initiative for peace with the Arab world. It is billed as a response the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, a very important plan put forward by the Arab League in 2002, which was never seized upon by an Israeli government.
I will be writing for my Thursday column about why this plan is so important, at a time when the peace process has virtually died: President Obama is taken up with domestic problems and the Arab revolts, and can't make up his mind whether to put forward a new U.S. peace proposal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put forward no viable ideas on negotiations; the Palestinians are preparing to ask the U.N. General Assembly in September to recognize a state on the 1967 borders, a move which would probably receive overwhelming approval. And the many Arab revolutions are bound to put more pressure on Israel to move on the Palestinian issue.
For those who are interested in knowing more about the Israeli plan, the text is is here.
I attended a discussion yesterday with the Libyan rebels' representative in Washington, Ali Aujali, who insisted that the rebels would never accept a deal whereby one of Muammar Gadhafi's sons could take over from their father, as his son Saif al-Islam has proposed. The younger Gadhafi told the BBC that his father could assume a ceremonial role like "the Queen of England."
"Gadhafi and his family have to leave, there is no compromise on this," said Aujali. He is Gadhafi's former ambassador to Washington who defected after one of the dictator's sons, Saif al-Islam, called for a no-mercy-on-civilians assault on the rebel capital of Benghazi. A slight bald man in a grey suit jacket, lavender shirt, and dark tie, Aujali looked rather lost at his eagerly awaited appearance at the Center for American Progress think tank (you can watch his appearance here.)
Aujali offered little clarity about the leadership of the rebellion, which, he said, included some former Gadhafi officials, who had resigned when they saw "reform was not possible." When I asked if the rebels could win militarily, he insisted they could - if they received arms and training. While admitting that rebel fighters had performed badly, he said things would improve now that army units that had defected were taking the lead.