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Posts Tagged ‘John Kerry’

We Support Nuclear Agreement with Iran

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

Atom PeaceOn Thursday, April 2, in Lausanne, Switzerland, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced that negotiators had reached an agreement on key elements of a detailed and comprehensive framework to limit Iran’s nuclear program.

From the outset, we have supported the idea of the United States negotiating with Iran, after decades of estrangement and suspicion, and seeking both to peacefully reduce that nation’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon and to lift the sanctions on that nation. We are impressed by what we have heard in President Obama’s explanation of this historic agreement (or blueprint of an agreement), as well as in the remarks of Secretary of State John Kerry and Javad Zarif. Even though they are making many substantial concessions, the Iranians appear to be pleased with the framework announced yesterday.

Among the key provisions:

  • Iran has agreed to not enrich uranium over 3.67 percent for at least 15 years.
  • Iran has agreed to not build any new facilities for the purpose of enriching uranium for 15 years.
  • Iran’s breakout timeline—the time that it would take for Iran to acquire enough fissile material for one weapon—is currently assessed to be 2 to 3 months. That timeline will be extended to at least one year, for a duration of at least ten years, under this framework.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will have regular access to all of Iran’s nuclear facilities, including to Iran’s enrichment facility at Natanz and its former enrichment facility at Fordow, and including the use of the most up-to-date, modern monitoring technologies.

Joseph Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund spoke to Rachel Maddow last night and hailed the agreement as an excellent and comprehensive agreement.

As far as we can see, the United States is not having to give up anything (except an unwillingness to negotiate), and in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, Iran is agreeing to a comprehensive system of safeguards, international inspections, monitoring, dismantling of centrifuges, reductions of plutonium stockpiles, etc.

This agreement has been worked out not only between the U.S. and Iran but with the active participation of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China. All nations’ foreign ministers have expressed approval of the basic framework announced on Thursday, April 2 in Lausanne, Switzerland. Philip Hammond, Britain’s foreign secretary, said in a statement:  “This is well beyond what many of us thought possible even 18 months ago and a good basis for what I believe could be a very good deal.”

Click here for a New York Times timeline of Iran’s nuclear program.

Give Peace—and Negotiations—a Chance

We just pray that the negotiators will be able to complete their work without obstruction by opponents. Illustrious members of Congress, and Republican presidential hopefuls, now would be a good time to not do something stupid. If you have no alternative plan, then don’t stand in the way. Let’s remember that the world is better off because President Ronald Reagan was willing to meet face-to-face with Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to discuss reductions in nuclear arms—there was substantial opposition to the Reykjavík summit at the time (1986)—just as critics opposed peace talks between Israel and Egypt, and President Nixon’s traveling to China, etc.

We should also note that President Obama and Secretary Kerry, with diplomatic assistance from Russia, succeeded in persuading Bashar al-Assad to agree to the destruction of all of Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons. Obama—who has been a vocal proponent of nuclear nonproliferation since his first days in the U.S. Senate—also signed the New Start Treaty of 2010 with Russian president Dmitri A. Medvedev, with help in the Senate from then-senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.).

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Further Reading

Hiroshima, 65 Years On: “Countdown to Zero” (LNW, 8/6/10)

Nagasaki, Not Forgotten (LNW, 8/9/10)

Disarmament Experts Clarify Film’s Position on Nuclear Power (LNW, 8/13/10)

Timeline on Iran’s Nuclear Program (New York Times)

On Iran, Obama Gets His Breakthrough,” by Amy Davidson, The New Yorker, 4-2-15

Kerry, the Negotiator,” by Amy Davidson, The New Yorker, 3-17-15

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John Kerry: Climate Change Is ‘World’s Most Fearsome’ Weapon of Mass Destruction

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

climate-change_Image Credit-kwest:Shutterstock

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“When 97 percent of scientists agree on anything, we need to listen, and we need to respond. . . . And the results of our human activity are clear. If you ranked all the years in recorded history by average temperature, . . . you’d see that all 10 of the hottest years on record have actually happened since Google went online in 1998.” —Secretary of State John Kerry in Jakarta, Indonesia, Feb. 16, 2014

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But Will He Oppose Keystone XL Pipeline?

In a speech in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry called climate change “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction,” and urged international action to combat greenhouse gas emissions.

The science of climate change is leaping out at us like a scene from a 3D movie. It’s warning us; it’s compelling us to act. . . . When I think about the array of . . . global threats . . . terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction—all challenges that know no borders—the reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them. . . . 

We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and . . . extreme ideologues to compete with scientific fact. . . . This is not opinion. This is about facts. This is about science. The science is unequivocal. . . . 

Notwithstanding the stark choices that we face . . . there is still time. . . . But the window is closing. . . . The United States is prepared to take the lead in bringing other nations to the table.

us-state-kxl-co2-scenarios-When he was a United States senator (1985–2013) and the Democratic candidate for president in 2004, Kerry was a strong advocate for environmental protection and action against climate change. However, as Think Progress points out, his fine-sounding speech “is utterly at odds with State’s logic-twisting Keystone-friendly Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.” Joe Romm of Think Progress writes:

A must-read new analysis by Oil Change International finds that “all of the scenarios used by the State Department” in their Final Environmental Impact Study (EIS) of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline “result in emissions that put us on a path to 6 degrees C (11°F) of global warming according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).” Talk about mass destruction! 

A report about Kerry’s speech on the BBC’s Global News podcast (2/16/14) includes comments by  environmental correspondent Matt McGrath suggesting that, with President Obama under intense political pressure to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and with a decision possibly to be announced this year (after the 2014 midterm elections?), “this is Kerry laying down [for the eyes of the world] the Obama administration’s green credentials, their determination to get a [climate change] deal in the future.” Kerry’s speech, he said, was not only for an international audience but also for American listeners.

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Back to 2009: How “Hopenhagen” Became “Brokenhagen”

Countdown-Copenhagen1In related news see BBC environmental correspondent Matt McGrath’s report, “Emissions Impossible: Did Spies Sink Key Climate Deal?,” on how the NSA helped U.S. officials monitor the communications of other nations’ negotiators at the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen, “according to documents released to a Danish newspaper by [Edward] Snowden.”

“All the spying in the world wouldn’t have secured an agreement in Copenhagen,” said a Danish source of McGrath’s. “We all knew the Gordian knot was that China wouldn’t accept an agreement that omitted the Kyoto Protocol and the US wouldn’t accept one that included it. This was impossible to cut through and everyone knew this beforehand.” 

And so it was that “Hopenhagen” rapidly became “Brokenhagen.”

•  See LNW’s “Copenhagen Climate Accord Better Than Nothing (Sound Familiar?)” (12/19/09), which includes links to many climate-related articles and web sites.

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Photo credit: kwest / Shutterstock

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Congress, Now Is the Time to Vote “Hell No”

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

NoWar

Wrong War, Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Not out of indifference to the plight of the Syrian people, and not from an automatic rejection of any and all military action, but rather out of grave concern about the uncontrollable consequences that a U.S. missile strike upon Syria could trigger—such as, quite possibly, a war between Iran and Israel—we urge the members of Congress to vote No—even “Hell No,” if you like—on President Obama’s request to authorize the use of force against the Assad regime in Syria.

Although this blog has long supported Barack Obama for president, and we are pleased that John Kerry, whom we supported (and campaigned for) for president in 2004, is secretary of state; although we generally trust their judgment in both domestic and international affairs; and even though we’ve been thankful for the judicious restraint that Obama has shown until now during the Syrian civil war, and we’re grateful that this past weekend he averted what appeared a rush to arms and decided to seek congressional authorization—

Despite the foregoing, this is one vote we want Obama to lose.

See Where Senators Stand  |  Contact Congress  |  Contact White House

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They Can’t Tell Us How This Would End

US-SYRIA-CONFLICT-CONGRESSAfter a day of testimony by Secretary of State Kerry, Defense secretary Chuck Hagel, and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Martin Dempsey, on Tuesday night the Senate Foreign Relations committee worked out a resolution that would set a 60-day limit on military action in Syria, with one 30-day extension possible. In the House, Democratic representatives introduced a resolution that would limit any military action to no more than 60 days. The Army Times reports that the House resolution “also specifically prohibits any American forces on the ground in Syria and restricts the president from repeating the use of force beyond the initial punitive strikes unless Obama certifies to Congress that the Syrian forces have repeated their use of chemical weapons.”

[ Update: On Weds., Sept. 4, the Senate Foreign Relations committee voted 10–7, with nay votes from both parties, to authorize the use of force against the Syrian regime. The full Senate is expected to vote next week. ]

The United States is seriously considering unilateral military strikes against a nation whose chief ally and arms supplier is Russia? Against a nation that says If you fire on us, we’ll fire on Israel? (Syria has already been in wars with Israel in 1967, 1973, and 1982.)

But let’s think about this a moment.

If the U.S. fires on Syria—a deliberate escalation of a highly complicated civil war—how could the U.S. keep the conflict from escalating further?

If the U.S. attacks Syria, can we be assured that Assad will not use chemical weapons again? The U.S. claims that he flouted international law once; why not again?

And if Assad were to use chemical weapons again, what would the U.S. do then? Escalate in order to not “lose face”?

And, just supposing the U.S. were to be opening confidential, “back-channel” talks with representatives of the newly elected moderate president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, as perhaps we might be, what effect might American missiles on Damascus have on those talks?

The British parliament voted last week against participating in military action against Assad, sidelining our usual closest ally. If the U.S. Congress votes no, will Obama say, as Prime Minister David Cameron said, “I get it,” and desist from a military strike?

Does the Obama administration really think it is wise, or even sane, for the U.S. to “go it alone” if necessary and use cruise missiles against yet another Arab nation? We know that military force against Arab nations only validates anti-Western propaganda, fuels al Qaeda’s recruiting efforts, and increases the likelihood of terrorist retribution here in the U.S., in London, and elsewhere in the West.

If it is true that forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against Syrian civilians—U.S. officials say that more than 1,400 were killed in an attack near Damascus on Aug. 21, and keep mentioning some 400 children among them—then that is indeed a sickening atrocity, but still, we do not agree that that requires unilateral action by the U.S. (The UN chemical weapons inspectors are expected to produce a report in late September.)

Syria is simply too dangerous, too interconnected with live wires and explosives—what’s called in international diplomacy a mare’s nest, a snake pit, or a death trap, among other technical terms. Look at the neighborhood: Syria borders Israel, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and is very close to Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Too many things could go wrong. Let’s not, for God’s sake, go there.

And, as we have said over and over from the very first days of Levees Not War (in 2005), the U.S. simply cannot afford endless war and habitual reliance on military solutions to crises overseas, but instead must redirect its resources to rebuilding our own crumbling national infrastructure and to augmenting social services, including jobs programs, education, unemployment relief, and health care. National security begins at home.

 

syria.map

Work through the United Nations

A complex and dangerous situation like this, one that requires fact-finding and deliberation and negotiation by a council of nations, is what the United Nations was founded to handle. If would-be interventionists are frustrated that the UN Security Council’s member nations Russia and China would not go along with Washington’s view that “something must be done” and would use their veto in the Security Council, that does not give Washington the right to bypass the UN.

(Russian president Vladimir Putin has told the Associated Press that Russia might vote for a UN resolution on punitive force against Syria if it is proved that Syria used chemical weapons against its own people. In the same interview, he warned that the West should not take “one-sided” action against Syria, that is, without the backing of the UN Security Council.)

The Arab League has called on the UN and the international community to take “necessary measures,” though the League did not specify what those measures might be. The secretary general of the Arab League did say, however, that there should be no military action without backing from the United Nations.

Some 100,000 have died in the Syrian civil war, which began with a pro-democracy uprising in March 2011. Some two million Syrians have been forced to flee to other countries. (Click here for a BBC News timeline of the Syrian civil war.)

Yale Law School professors Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro write in a New York Times op-ed that the choice of military force or nothing at all is “a false one.”

Most of international law relies not on force for its enforcement, but on the collective power of nations to deprive states of the benefits of membership in a system of states. Mr. Obama can cut off any remaining government contracts with foreign companies that do business with Mr. Assad’s regime. He can work with Congress to do much more for Syrian rebels and refugees—including providing antidotes to nerve agents, which are in short supply. He can use his rhetorical power to shame and pressure Russia and China.

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“Real Men Go to Tehran”

It’s a matter of public record that this war with Iraq is largely the brainchild of a group of neoconservative intellectuals, who view it as a pilot project. In August a British official close to the Bush team told Newsweek: “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.” In February 2003, according to Ha’aretz, an Israeli newspaper, Under Secretary of State John Bolton told Israeli officials that after defeating Iraq the United States would “deal with” Iran, Syria and North Korea. 

—Paul Krugman, “Things to Come” (New York Times, 3/18/03)

What concerns us is not only the concerns raised above or the prospect of yet another U.S.-led war in the Middle East, but also the fact that neoconservatives and other hawks have been salivating for a war against Iran, and Syria could be an entry into just that. In early May, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, told Rachel Maddow that the same folks who brought us the Iraq war are pushing for a fight with Iran, and they see Syria as a backdoor entry into that war.

I think as Yogi Berra once said, it’s like déjà vu all over again. I see us walking down the same road with the same characters singing in the choir, the same people off the same sheet of music with a few changes trying to get us into war with Iran. The new momentum with respect to Syria is not just because of the brutal civil war there, it’s also because of people like Lindsey Graham and John McCain from my party and Bob Menendez from the Democratic party would like to use Syria as a back door to get us in a war with Iran. It’s another catastrophe brewing . . .

See “Syria Seen as a Backdoor to War with Iran” (LNW 5/2/13).

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Recommended Reading:

belle-syria-008-450x270New York Times updates on Syria

BBC News: Syrian civil war timeline and Syria profile

Jeffrey Frank at The New Yorker (9/4/13): “Eisenhower 1954, Obama 2013: Echoes of Vietnam in Syria

Amy Davidson at The New Yorker (9/4/13): “Kerry and the Senators: Unanswered Questions

Steve Coll at The New Yorker (9/9/13): “Crossing the Line: How Should Obama Respond to Syria?

On Syria, a U.N. Vote Isn’t OptionalNYT op-ed by Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro

Natasha Lennard at Salon (9/4/13): RAND study finds that to destroy Syria chemical weapons, “boots on the ground” would be needed

New York Times editorial (9/3/13): “Debating the Case for Force

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo (9/1/13): “A Skeptic’s Guide to the Syria Mess

Ed Kilgore at Political Animal (Washington Monthly): “The Road to War with Iran Runs Through Syria

Washington Post map of likely strike targets in Syria

Levees Not War (6/14/13): “Here We Go Again

Think Progress (4/29/13): “What You Need to Know About the Syrian Civil War

Steve Clemons at The Washington Note (8/20/12): “Syrian Conflict Not Just a Battle Against Assad

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Against-Next-War-T-Shirt-Northernsun

 

 



Republicans Against Medicare: A Long, Mean History

Monday, October 15th, 2012

“. . . let’s be brutally honest here. The Romney-Ryan position on health care is that many millions of Americans must be denied health insurance, and millions more deprived of the security Medicare now provides, in order to save money. At the same time, of course, Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan are proposing trillions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy. So a literal description of their plan is that they want to expose many Americans to financial insecurity, and let some of them die, so that a handful of already wealthy people can have a higher after-tax income.” —Paul Krugman, “Death By Ideology” [our emphasis]

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Maybe You Know Someone Whose Life Depends on Medicare

In a column showing that Paul Ryan himself once used the term “voucher” to describe his plan to replace Medicare with something considerably less beneficial, Paul Krugman refutes Romney and Ryan’s claims that no one lacking money for health care will have to go without care. As the compassionate conservative George W. Bush similarly assured us, “[P]eople have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room.” Before the Republicans decided that euphemisms like “guaranteed benefit” sound better, before the Democrats turned “voucher” into a pejorative, Paul Ryan used the term himself. Last week Romney said:

[Y]ou go to the hospital, you get treated, you get care, and it’s paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital. . . We don’t have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don’t have insurance.

(By the way, can we just point out that the proper pronoun when referring to human beings is who, not that? It’s called a personal pronoun. Almost every time we hear that instead of who, it is in a context of less-than-kind-regard for the people being referred to. It’s a distancing term. Watch for it.)

In the vice presidential debate on Thursday night, Joe Biden looked into the camera and appealed to the American voter:

. . . these guys haven’t been big on Medicare from the beginning. Their party’s not been big on Medicare from the beginning. And they’ve always been about Social Security as little as you can do. Look, folks, use your common sense. Who do you trust on this? A man who introduced a bill that would raise [seniors’ required contributions to Medicare] $6,400 a year, knowing it and passing it, and Romney saying he’d sign it? Or me and the president? . . . Folks, follow your instincts on this one. [full transcript here]

The vice president has a good point here: Shouldn’t we trust the party that designed and pushed for Medicare—and Social Security, not to mention the WPA, the minimum wage, unemployment insurance, and many other social safety net programs—to protect this life-saving program, rather than the party that has long fought against it? Look at how the Republicans in Congress voted for or against Medicare in 1965, compared with the Democrats—and consider that only 3 Republicans voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) in 2009, and have voted 33 times to repeal it:

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Among the congressional Republicans who voted against the Medicare bill in 1965 were George H. W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Bob Dole, Barry Goldwater, and Strom Thurmond. And as early as 1961, then private citizen Ronald Reagan was speaking out against “socialized medicine.” His LP (shown above) was part of “Operation Coffee Cup,” a stealth campaign in the late 1950s and early ’60s sponsored by the American Medical Association to oppose the expansion of Social Security. Click here and here for a brief history of Republican efforts to cut or kill Medicare.

Republicans can call it “socialized medicine”—and they probably always will—but consider this:

Prior to Medicare, “about one-half of America’s seniors did not have hospital insurance,” “more than one in four elderly were estimated to go without medical care due to cost concerns,” and one in three seniors were living in poverty. Today, nearly all seniors have access to affordable health care and only about 14 percent of seniors are below the poverty line.

Don’t Cut Medicare—Expand It!

Further, a 2009 Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 53% of Americans “strongly” favor expanding Medicare coverage to those aged 55 to 64, and an additional 26% support it “somewhat.” (see page 4). This is an idea pitched by John Kerry when he was running for president in 2004. Kerry suggested enrolling children in Medicare and lowering the age for adults by 10 years, and incrementally moving the eligibility up for the young and downward in age for older Americans, and eventually meeting in the middle so that all Americans would be covered. We love this idea and have often written to members of Congress to support it. We urge you to join us. We should not only protect Medicare as it is, but go stronger and push for wider coverage and fuller funding.

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In closing, we would like to quote a governor of the great state of Massachusetts:

There ought to be enough money to help people get insurance because an insured individual has a better chance of having an excellent medical experience than the one who has not. An insured individual is more likely to go to a primary care physician or a clinic to get evaluated for their conditions and to get early treatment, to get pharmaceutical treatment, as opposed to showing up in the emergency room where the treatment is more expensive and less effective than if they got preventive and primary care.

—Gov. Mitt Romney, address to Chamber of Commerce, April 2006

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President Lyndon B. Johnson, with First Lady Lady Bird Johnson behind him (in blue), and former President Harry S Truman at his right, signs the Medicare bill into law, July 30, 1965.

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Democrats Grow a Backbone

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

John Kerry, Deval Patrick, and Other DNC Highlights

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My message is this—it is time for Democrats to grow a backbone and stand up for what we believe. Quit waiting—quit waiting, quit waiting for pundits or polls or super PACs to tell us who the next president or senator or congressman will be. We are Americans. We shape our own future. —Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick

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Before the energetic and well-run Democratic National Convention recedes into the mists of time, overtaken by the 24-hour news cycles and flocks of tweets and counter-tweets, we wanted to point to a few moments from the big show that we think are worth remembering. In these speeches (and there were many others we missed) are some inspiring messages we hope will be carried and used on the way to reelecting President Obama. They’ll also prove useful in the struggles that are sure to continue after the election.

We were delighted with the courageous, fiesty tone in this convention. This time around the Dems weren’t inoffensively “playing it safe” as they so often do. In Charlotte the DNC was facing issues head-on, taking a stand for what we believe in, with such passionate and sharp-focused speakers as Sandra Fluke and Elizabeth Warren.  As Charles M. Blow observed, “The Democrats came to the party ready for a fight” (“The Defiant Ones,” NYT 9/6/12).

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John Kerry’s Heavy Artillery

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“So here’s the choice in 2012. Mitt Romney: out of touch at home, out of his depth abroad and out of the mainstream. Or Barack Obama: a president who is giving new life and truth to America’s indispensable role in the world . . .”

“We’ve all learned Mitt Romney doesn’t know much about foreign policy. But he has all ‘neocon advisors’ who know all the wrong things about foreign policy. He would rely on them—after all, he’s the great outsourcer.”

Senator John Kerry was given a prominent speaking position Thursday night, and several days later is still featured on the front page of the convention web site (“Showing a fire indicative of a man resolute in his beliefs . . .”). “Ask Osama bin Laden if he’s better off than he was four years ago.” Kerry used heavy artillery against Mitt Romney on foreign policy, for saying Russia “is without question our number one geopolitical foe” and for not even mentioning the war in Afghanistan in his RNC acceptance speech. • Madam Secretary Hillary Clinton has made it known that she will be stepping down from the State Department after the election. We hope that Senator Kerry’s prime-time address, with a relatively generous allotment of time, is a sign that the 2004 presidential candidate and chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations is at the top of the president’s list to replace Hillary. We wish he had been this tough in 2004!

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Video tribute to Edward Kennedy

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See also:

David Corn, “A Tale of Two Conventions.” The nation is deeply divided, but the gatherings in Charlotte and Tampa show how starkly dissimilar the Democratic and Republican visions of the American experience are.

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Yes We Can Pass Good Legislation

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Our last post was illustrated with a big YES and this can do no less.

Congratulations to the 111th Congress—especially Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (with emphasis on “Leader”) and the suddenly productive Senate in the last days of this so-called lame duck session. Not so lame, after all. Let’s set aside for a moment the regrettable extension of the Bush tax cuts, now properly called the Obama-Republican tax cuts, or “Kumbaya for Billionaires.” This extension, however hateful to us, seems to have opened the gates toward better things. We want to briefly celebrate the last few days’ repeal of the odious Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, passage of a health bill for 9/11 responder-heroes sickened by (some dying from) the toxic ash at Ground Zero, and Senate passage of the New START treaty with Russia that will reduce nuclear stockpiles and provide for closer monitoring of old weapons facilities in the former Soviet Union. (See “Hiroshima, 65 Years On” and “Nagasaki, Not Forgotten.”) (The photo above shows President Obama and Russian President Dmitri A. Medvedev signing the treaty in Prague in early April.)

We also want to thank the Republican senators who joined the Democratic majority and helped put these bills over the top. We understand that these votes were not politically easy for them, and we’re grateful for their votes of conscience. Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana, in particular, helped move his colleagues to vote for New START. The nation should be grateful to Mr. Lugar, one of the true grown-ups of the Senate, and the Republican senators who listened to him.

The bills approved in the last week were passed in a flurry of activity because they had been deliberately held up for an unconscionably long time by the Republican leadership. They—particularly Jon Kyl of Arizona—repeatedly delayed dealing with the New START treaty, then whined about being rushed into action. Senator John Kerry deserves praise, too, for his steady, patient leadership on New START. The GOP also stubbornly, coldly stonewalled passage of the 9/11 responders health bill until they were shamed into submission by Jon Stewart (dead serious on Comedy Central) and Shepard Smith of Fox News, to both of whom we tip every hat on the rack. How many sick and dying workers suffered needlessly as Republicans postured about fiscal austerity while pushing for the billionaires’ tax cut extension? (The bill, we note with dismay, was whittled down from the $7.4 billion legislation passed by the House to $4.3 billion.) New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand deserves great credit for her leadership on the DADT repeal.

While praising the accomplishments of the 111th Congress under the leadership of Senator Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, let us point you to a piece from just after the midterm elections, “A Failure to Communicate—Not a Failure to Govern,” that shows the accomplishments of the House and Senate in the last two years. The Democrats, with scarcely a vote from the other side, passed an impressive, indeed historic amount of public-friendly legislation. They deserve our gratitude, which can come in the form of phone calls, letters faxed and mailed (see our Political Action page for contact info), and votes. Campaign volunteering, too.

Although we’ve been harshly critical of the president about the tax deal among other issues, we thank him for his steadfast push on New START and applaud his careful, strategic planning on repeal of DADT (he wanted to build military brass support + Senate repeal rather than letting the courts kill it). The president says “we are not doomed to endless gridlock.” We can hope, but we expect insane and raucous fights, often over nothing, in the 112th Congress. We pray that the president and (still) Senate Majority Leader Reid and congressional Democrats have learned a few things about standing up for what they believe in, persisting, getting the message sharp and clear, and not backing down. The tax bill was a horrible, costly, long-damaging error that didn’t have to happen. It hurt Obama’s relations with his own party, but may have earned a little goodwill from a few members of the opposition party (we’re not holding our breath). Let’s hope Democrats have learned some lessons in fighting. And let’s keep after them to keep the gloves on. They’ll need them.

These positive developments, after so many months of obstruction and passivity, all make for a merrier holiday season. They will bring a healthier new year for the long-suffering 9/11 responders (not just New Yorkers: volunteers poured in from every state), some relief for military service members oppressed by the unjust, 17-year-long DADT policy, and a safer new era for every person and nation endangered by aging and unsupervised nuclear stockpiles and weapons systems.

Now, back to writing those last Christmas cards (including ours to you) and wrapping a few last gifts . . .

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Obama/Medvedev photo by Doug Mills/New York Times

U.S. Capitol by E. McKnight Kauffer

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WikiLeaks’s Afghan War Diary:
A “Pentagon Papers” for Our Time

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

“In releasing the Pentagon Papers I acted in hope I still hold: that truths that changed me could help Americans free themselves and other victims from our longest war.” —Daniel Ellsberg, Papers on the War (1972)

There’s a kind of appropriate, ironic justice that the Internet, which was originally developed by the Defense Department (as ARPANET)—with taxpayer dollars, naturally—now serves as the delivery system for spilling to the world a trove of secret U.S. military reports on the war in Afghanistan (also funded by the American public): a “Pentagon Papers” for our time. WikiLeaks.org, which in April released a U.S. military video of an Apache helicopter gunship killing civilians and Reuters journalists in Baghdad, has posted on the Internet about 92,000 SIGACTS (significant activity reports) from the Afghan war written between 2004 and 2009. Before posting the secret field reports, WikiLeaks provided to the New York Times, the Guardian (U.K.), and the German magazine Der Spiegel an advance peek. (Click here for a video of a press conference with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, shown above.)

(We meant to write about this earlier, but we’ve been so busy reading all 92,000 documents. Hey, the New York Times had a two-week jump-start! And this leak comes just a week after we bought a first edition of Daniel Ellsberg’s Papers on the War (1972)—in Woodstock, no less. Coincidence? You decide.)

WikiLeaks’s Afghan War Diary was unloaded within days of Newsweek’s publication of a “Rethinking Afghanistan” cover story bluntly titled “We’re Not Winning. It’s Not Worth It” by national security veteran Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations (not a hotbed of radicalism), and just weeks after the Rolling Stone profile of “The Runaway General” Stanley McChrystal IED’d the war effort and cast doubt on the troops’ support of the whole counterinsurgency strategy that Washington hoped would turn the war around. (As the New Yorker’s Amy Davidson points out, Gen. McChrystal himself leaked a report last September when it suited him, an early instance of the insubordination that got him fired.)

“What Does It Mean to Tell the Truth About a War?”

Although much of the WikiLeaks material is dismissed as routine—the White House predictably says there’s “nothing new here”—the documents reveal facts that will be news to the general public, further depressing an already war-weary, crisis-strained nation. Among the reports’ key revelations or substantiations:

  • The double-dealing of our “partner” Pakistan, whose intelligence service, ISI, has colluded with the Taliban to fight against U.S. and Afghan and coalition forces
  • New documentation of close working relationship, including financial support, between Pakistan’s military elite and the Afghanistan Taliban
  • Pakistani ISI agents have coordinated with the Taliban to kill American soldiers and have plotted to assassinate Afghan leaders
  • The U.S. has covered up evidence that Taliban insurgents are using surface-to-air missiles to bring down U.S. helicopters
  • Civilian deaths from drone attacks and other operations are far higher than admitted by the U.S.
  • The Taliban have massively escalated their roadside bombings, killing more than 2,000 civilians
  • A secret U.S. Special Forces unit hunts down and kills Taliban leaders for “kill or capture” without trial
  • To destroy Taliban targets, the Coalition is using Reaper drones remote-controlled from a base in Nevada

(more…)

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