Russian Pundit Describes Use of Drones, Other Obama Policies As `Barbaric`
Komsomolskaya Pravda Online
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Article by Dmitriy Voskoboynikov: “Dear Obama, Is This Not Barbaric?”
I am in favor of democracy, unless it enters into contradiction with an enlightened monarchy (joke).
And I am also a sincere advocate of improving Russian-American relations (not a joke). But I could not be more sick of hypocrisy. The yelping over Pussy Riot. The chatter about the American missile defense system in Europe as an alleged panacea against the nonexistent nuclear threat from Iran. The West`s battle for “democracy” in Syria alongside the notorious Al Qa`ida, and the West`s battle for democracy, but against Al Qa`ida, in Mali. The total contempt for human lives in the framework of moving toward a “bright future.”
I feel like asking Nobel Peace Prize winner US President Barack Obama a few questions.
1. You recently disseminated via the NBC television company something like a “white paper” from the US Department of Justice. It explains why you are allowed to kill whomsoever you like abroad, including Americans themselves, with the aid of unmanned airplanes (drones). The memorandum appeared after a drone launched by the CIA from a base in Saudi Arabia killed several people on the territory of Yemen 30 September 2011, which did not please all Americans: Two of them were their compatriots. One of them -- Anwar al-Aulaqi -- you accused without substantiation of planning terrorist acts of some kind; the second -- journalist Sameer Khan -- turned out to be an “error.” Soon afterward, Aulaqi`s 16-year-old son Adulrahman, who had gone in search of his father, was killed in the same way in Yemen (he has generally been forgotten). The decision to liquidate al-Aulaqi Sr was adopted by anonymous middle-ranking staffers of the National Security Council, who now, it follows from the “white paper,” are permitted to kill anyone they like, including Americans, and not reveal the reasons for so doing. Why have you rejected the right to life, which is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, and the supremacy of the Constitution, with its panel of jurors? Is the fact that you are vesting any “informed high-ranking official representatives of the US government” with the powers to eradicate people not appalling?
2. From the explanations in Congress of John Brennan, your nominee for the post of head of the CIA, it follows that the American executive authority is prepared to kill suspects merely because they will possibly wish to commit terrorist acts in the future. Moreover, those who have been sentenced to death behind the scenes do not even have the chance to surrender. It is sufficient if he (or she) was allegedly connected with abstract terrorists in the past. Surely this is barbaric?
3. On 7 February your press secretary Jay Carney informed journalists in Byzantine form that the Administration would disseminate no more information on the use of drones to kill American citizens. Surely this is barbaric?
4. A year ago Congress adopted a law allowing unmanned flying vehicles to fly over the heads of Americans on the territory of the United States itself. One of the programs will be capable of identifying whether someone has “hostile intentions,” and the police will be able to arrest people for potential crimes in the future. Surely this is barbaric?
5. Chris Hedges, a prominent American journalist and in the past a correspondent for The New York Times, continues to fight for the repeal of section 1021 (b) (2) of your law on national defense (the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012). This section allows the arrest of anyone, including a US citizen, if he or she “substantially supports” Al Qa`ida or “forces associated with it,” and then to keep him (or her) languishing in torture chambers “until the end of military operations” (read: for life). The formulas are vague; it is possible to cram whatever you like into them, and you basically have nothing to retort to Hedges. But you are in litigation with him. Why?
6. After the tragic events of 11 September 2001 the CIA opened a network of secret illegal prisons all over the world. According to the information of George Soros` Open Society (and surely he cannot be mistaken?), the Americans were helped to implement this project by at least 54 countries, including such “bastions of democracy” as Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe. Surely this is barbaric?
7. Just under 800 people have spent 11 years in Guantanamo prison, which you promised to close with your first executive order in 2009. Right now more than 160 people are still confined there. They were all detained unlawfully. Ninety-five percent by Afghan headhunters who delivered “Taliban” for $5,000 per prisoner, and “Al Qa`ida members” for $25,000. Without proof of guilt. They are being kept in tiny steel cells without windows or access to natural light (on the other hand, fluorescent bulbs blaze 24 hours a day). Seventy percent are in solitary confinement. For years without trial or charges, which, as everyone understands, never will be presented. Nine people have died. Surely this is barbaric?
8. And surely it is barbaric that already 25% of the entire world`s prisoners are currently confined in “ordinary” American jails?
9. Surely it is barbaric that 2 million people, mostly blacks and Latinos, produce, in jail, all the military helmets, belts, armored jackets, tents, and rucksacks of the US Armed Forces? This is a some kind of diabolical circle. But it is not only the military-industrial complex that is supplied by prisoners. Prisons account for more than 90% of all paints and paintbrushes produced in the country, around one-third of all domestic utensils, and one-fifth of all office furniture... Surely this is barbaric?
10. Surely it is barbaric that the combined income of America`s two biggest private prison networks -- the Correction Corporation of America and the GEO group -- exceeds several billion dollars? To ensure that their profits steadily rise, these companies campaign for the delivery of as many severe sentences against accused persons as possible. Laws according to which a person receives life imprisonment in the event of a threefold conviction have already been adopted in 13 states. One poor devil got three 25-year terms for stealing a car and two bicycles. Surely this is barbaric?
11. Recently the Correction Corporation of America sent out letters to 48 states offering to buy their prisons in exchange for a 20-year contract to run them and a guarantee that the cells would be “at least 90% full.” Surely this is barbaric?
12. In June 2012 a New Yorker magazine writer, Ryan Lizza, wrote: “By cooperating closely with Israel in the development of the Stuxnet computer virus, which is targeted at Iran`s nuclear program, the United States became participants in the first known act of cyber warfare in pure form against another country.” No one has brought this Lizza to book for libel. Is he right? Is Stuxnet the first officially admitted incident of state cyber terrorism, which you oppose in words? Surely this is barbaric?
The 13th question was about the Nobel Peace Prize, but I decided not to ask it.
(Description of Source: Moscow Komsomolskaya Pravda Online in Russian -- Website of mass-circulation daily owned by the YeSN company of Grigoriy Berezkin, who has links to energy projects and the Russian Railways; it sometimes serves as a vehicle for Kremlin officials, security; URL: http://www.kp.ru/)
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Czech Commentary Criticizes Obama for `Naming, Not Solving Problems`
Monday, February 18, 2013
Commentary by Teodor Marjanovic: “State of the Mummy. Obama Is Everything, But Not a President for Hard Times.”
In his first speech on the state of the union since his re-election last year Barack Obama outlined what he wants to do. Apart from other things, he wants to continue disarmament, but at the same time strengthen missile defense. How exactly? In accordance with his previously established custom, he did not say.
The Democrats applauded, over and over again. The Republicans remained obdurately silent and only very rarely joined in the applause. The state of the union speech, which is something like a policy declaration on the part of the American President, was accompanied on Tuesday (12 February) at the Capitol in Washington by the already well-established, in fact ritualized, politicization.
Barack Obama talked assertively, emphatically, but, as analysts immediately noticed, he only rarely talked in detail. So, it was as though his grandiose plans, in which he abounded and for which he gained the applause of his party colleagues, were left hanging in the air. From where is he going to take the money for these things, when the country is in fact going bankrupt? Who Will Pay For It?
For instance, he proposed that every American child should have the possibility of going to a pre-school kindergarten before starting basic school. He even demanded that these be “very high-quality” kindergartens. Apparently, his administration is going to work toward this aim together with the governors of individual states. All this with the aim of ensuring that children know how to read and write earlier, so that consequently this leads to a higher number of completed diplomas, less teenage pregnancies and a curbing of youth crime. “So, let us guarantee that none of our children is left behind at the start of life. Let us give children a chance,” Obama fired up his speech.
This is certainly a praiseworthy idea. However, where to get the cash for it? Especially taking into account the fact that individual American states are already making savings where they can and, for instance, they are only with difficulty covering the costs connected with the Medicaid program, which guarantees care for the poor and socially needy.
However, the irony is in the end mainly in the fact that this is being said by a president who four years ago in his first speech at the Capitol insisted that he was going to take action to reduce the budget deficit, which at that time had reached roughly ten billion dollars. He promised that he would push it down to one half of this -- that is, to five billion. “It is not going to be easy,” he commented in a resolute voice, “and it is going to require some tough decisions. However, I refuse to leave as a burden on our children a debt that they are never going to be able to pay.” And how did it turn out? Today the deficit is 16 billion dollars.
Does this remind you of anything? Obama has become a kind of global allegory for that type of modern politician who knows how to define problems, but who is not capable of solving them. And thus he is once again merely naming them in the hope that some miracle occurs. Or, to put it in a different way, face to face with quite serious existential threats he is offering only empty words, or possibly old, superseded recipes, for instance in the form of tax increases or state investments. Precisely because of this his Tuesday speech is also interesting for us, even though it was for the most part devoted to domestic topics. Perhaps every reader is capable of thinking of Czech politicians who, let us say, resemble this. In this context is Miroslav Kalousek (finance minister and TOP 09 deputy chair) “more Obama-like” than, for instance, Bohuslav Sobotka (chairman of opposition CSSD (Czech Social Democratic Party))?
Obama`s speech also flashed past some foreign policy issues, and at one moment even on a matter that is relatively well known to people here in the Czech Republic. Is There Going To Be Missile Defense Umbrella After All?
Listen: “Provocations, such as the one yesterday, will lead only to further isolation (of the North Korean regime, which the previous day carried out a nuclear test -- author`s note). We are going to stand behind our allies, strengthen missile defense and lead the world in being able to reply emphatically to these threats.” He then spoke in a similar spirit also about Iran, but immediately after that he said that he was going to press Russia to continue in nuclear disarmament. How are we supposed to interpret this? Evidently that the best way to face up to a nuclear North Korea and also to a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran is -- to disarm one`s nuclear weapons.
However, let us leave irony to one side, no matter how pertinent it is. What did Obama want to say by this mention of missile defense? After all it was him who cancelled the robust umbrella proposed by the administration of George W. Bush, which reckoned with the building of a radar base in the Czech Republic. Instead of this, according to Obama, a more limited system should be built in Europe -- on account of the Iranian threat.
However, the entire plan, as is known, remains in a kind of mummified form: buried, even though on the surface officially preserved. So, does Obama want to surprise us and roll up his sleeves? Also here in Europe? However, from his Tuesday speech we do not learn anything concrete. Therefore, the missile defense shield sounds like those kindergartens for children. Like a castle in the air.
If you were sitting in the gallery for guests in the Capitol on Tuesday, perhaps you would have been inclined to applaud. These speeches are a piece of ceremonial political theater such as the Americans know how to stage excellently. Possibly the silent, obstinately seated Republican legislators might have seemed quite unbefitting to you. However, once you then read through the speech in peace at home, then it is not impossible that you would have found a lot of understanding for them.
(Description of Source: Prague iDnes.cz in Czech -- Website of Mlada Fronta Dnes, best-selling, independent, center-right daily; most popular print source among decisionmakers; URL: http://idnes.cz)
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Italian Commentary Faults Obama`s Middle East Policy Ahead of Israel Trip
Monday, February 11, 2013
Commentary by Fiamma Nirenstein: “From Syria to Iran: Obama`s Disaster”
The great confusion in the US skies is reverberating on the world at large. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamene`i`s tough rejection of Vice-President Joe Biden`s offer to open direct negotiations has the makings of a slap in the face: “The naive public loves the idea of negotiating with the United States... but negotiations will resolve nothing, and if anyone wants US power to dominate Iran again, the people will rise up and they will beat him.”
If we shift our gaze, immense excitement has taken hold of the Middle East at the news that Obama is planning a trip to Israel in March. That is certainly an important piece of news because he has never done so yet, but it is unlikely to lead to a resumption of negotiations. Abu Mazin (Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmud Abbas) yesterday publicly thanked (Iranian President Mahmud) Ahmadinezhad for the support he has been offering to the Palestinians: Iran threatens Israel, and the Palestinian president thanks it!
Encouragement is the major issue that Obama will be addressing in addition to the usual problems of the territories, and he is not going to find it easy to dismantle (sentence as published). This, because it is already common knowledge that he is not setting off with any peace proposals in his pocket, but he will be discussing Iran and Syria. That is not much for someone who is always asking people to return to the negotiating table, yet who does not have the strength to persuade the parties involved this time around either.
The mark that Obama has impressed on his foreign policy has been the mark of reconciliation, but his first mandate got under way with a visit to Cairo which soon turned into a historic paradox. His entire strategy clashed with a growing spiral of violence, of which Syria is the peak. Now, the unusual overtures made to Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and by his other European counterparts (including by (Italian Foreign Minister) Giulio Terzi di Sant`agata) in Munich when they met in that German city last Saturday (2 February), are simply a reflection of the pacifistic signals coming from the United States. But his decisions are hesitant, often twofold, weighed down by what is left unsaid, by guilt feelings toward the 65,000 Syrian citizens slain without Obama making a move, and by the hope that Iran will be the one to take the chestnuts out of the fire in return for a little appeasement.
In the course of an interview with the New Republic, the US President responded thus to the journalist who asked him why he has not intervened. “How should value the tens of thousands of slain Syrians be compared to the tens of thousands of people slain in the Congo?” But the major issue of interest to the United States, the Wall Street Journal reminded him, suggests that it is obvious to act first and foremost against the Iran - Syria - Hizballah axis. It then faults him for leaving innocent people, and thus American values, in the lurch, and that is actually the worst aspect for a President who has made ethics his banner.
Hillary Clinton and General Petraeus decided to supply the Syrian rebels with weapons and with trainers. Apparantly also Leon Panetta agreed, but the White House then vetoed the whole operation. Now, just as Panetta, who is on the point of leaving the government, accuses Iran of destabilizing the Middle East by supplying shoulder-borne antiaircraft missiles (discovered in Yemen in January) and is busy finalizing plans for a joint anti-Syrian exercise with the Emirates, along comes Joe Biden making overtures to Iran, only to then be told “no” by Khamene`i.
In any event, in his second mandate Obama is going to continue in the furrow plowed by his inaugural speech; thanks to him “the era of endless war has been closed.” The trouble is that the war, or rather the various wars, are still under way, and the United States is no longer as beloved by the world as it once was.
(Description of Source: Milan il Giornale.it in Italian -- Website of right-of-center daily owned by the Berlusconi family; URL: http://www.ilgiornale.it)
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