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9 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:15 pm

Compare and Contrast: Libya


Here’s what the State Department’s most recent human rights report has to say about Libya:

The Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya is an authoritarian regime with a population of approximately six million, ruled by Colonel Mu’ammar al‑Qadhafi since 1969. . . .Qadhafi and his inner circle monopolized political power. . . . The government’s human rights record remained poor. Citizens did not have the right to change their government. Reported torture, arbitrary arrest, and incommunicado detention remained problems. The government restricted civil liberties and freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association. The government did not fully protect the rights of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees. Other problems included poor prison conditions; impunity for government officials; lengthy political detention; denial of fair public trial; infringement of privacy rights; restrictions of freedom of religion; corruption and lack of transparency; societal discrimination against women, ethnic minorities, and foreign workers; trafficking in persons; and restriction of labor rights.

Now here’s what our favorite government blog, Dippynote said after The Condi finished her Weekend at Moammar’s:

Libya’s journey to rejoin the community of nations came after a long process of reengagement. Its historic 2003 decisions to voluntarily rid itself of its WMD program and renounce terrorism created the foundation from which Libya has today become a leader in Africa and a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. . . .Today, Libya is a vital partner in the fight against terrorism, helping to stem the flow of foreign fighters to Iraq. It works closely with its neighbors to combat the growth of terrorism in the Sahara and Trans-Sahel regions.

Libya is also a leader on the African continent. It maintains a humanitarian corridor that provides much needed supplies to the people of Darfur. Working with the African Union Contact Group, it is helping to mediate the conflicts in Chad and Sudan. Additionally, Libya provides development assistance to other African countries. . . .

The U.S. and Libya have shared interests, but have also differed at times on some key policy points and use of diplomatic tools. Naturally, we would prefer to have their support on some of these issues, but it is noteworthy that Libya — which serves as a model to others — voted in favor of placing additional sanctions against Iran for its non-compliance with international efforts to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.  Libya has come a long way in its transformation from an isolated pariah to renewed membership in the international community.

One of these things is not like the other.

By the way, this is the sixth consecutive Dippynote post on Libya.  That’s more than the total number of posts on Iraq (five) since the beginning of April — and equal to the number of posts on Afghanistan (six) since Dipnote began.  And they wonder why nobody takes them seriously?

Here’s the best part:  it’s very likely that the two statements above were written by the same person — Amanda Johnson, a Libya Desk Officer in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA).  Ms. Johnson is identified as the author of the Dippynote piece, and since there was no diplomatic presence in Tripoli at the time of the last human rights report, it probably would have fallen to Ms. Johnson to prepare the first draft of that report.

This is what drives me bananas about the State Department. I have no beef with Ms. Johnson, who in all likelihood is a fine foreign service officer.  But given her age (she says in the Dipnote piece that she was born in 1977), she is in all likelihood a fairly junior one.  And junior foreign service officers — those without tenure — might as well be party apparatchiks for all the influence they have on the policymaking process:  they either toe the party line or find themselves out of a job.

In Ms. Johnson’s case, that means writing something highly critical of Condi’s creepy stalker boyfriend wannabe, and then, eight months later, being told to write something highly complementary.  It’s no wonder that foreign service officers get cynical about political appointees — and about the U.S. government’s commitment to human rights.

So which one is right?  Let me offer you the following hint:  the happier the tone, the bigger the lie.

| posted in foreign policy, politics, world at home | 1 Comment

9 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:45 am

Diplospeak Translator: The Condi and The Sarahnator


Over the weekend, CNN asked Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State, scratch golfer, and yet-to-be-indicted war criminal, whether she thought Sarah Palin had the experience to be Vice President.  Watch:

Time for the Diplospeak Translatorâ„¢!

QUESTION:  [Do you think Governor Palin has the experience to be Vice President?]

THE CONDI:  I thought that Sarah Palin gave a terrific speech, and not to get into the politics of it.  She’s a governor of a state here in the United States and she spoke very well.

DIPLOSPEAK TRANSLATOR:  Nope. Not even close.  Even I can’t lie that convincingly, and I’m the freaking liar-in-chief.

QUESTION:  Does she have the kind of experience to handle the things you need to handle?

THE CONDI:  These are decisions that Senator McCain has made.  I have great confidence in him.  I’m not going to get involved in this political campaign. As the Secretary of State, I don’t do that.  But I thought her speech was wonderful.

DIPLOSPEAK TRANSLATOR:  Are you kidding me?  I have more experience in my big toe than she has.  Nope, nada, nyet. Give me a minute and I’ll come up with “no” in ten other languages, none of which Sarah Palin has freaking even heard of.

QUESTION:  But a lot of Republicans are also saying that she just lacks the experience.  I mean you can dispatch Vice President Cheney to deal with Ukraine and Georgia but Sarah Palin just won’t be able to handle it.

THE CONDI:  There are different kinds of experiences in life that help one to deal with matters of foreign policy.

DIPLOSPEAK TRANSLATOR:  I can’t believe that McCain has made He Whose Name Must Not Be Uttered look good in comparison.  And I can’t believe that most people think that dealing with the PTA is the same as going face-to-face with Gadhafi, Hu Jintao, or Putin.

At least we now know why The Condi got sent to Libya in the middle of the Republican National Convention.

| posted in foreign policy, politics | 0 Comments

8 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:45 am

Caption Contest: Hot for Condi — The Meeting


More from globalization’s newest fun couple:

What the hell is The Great Gaddsby holding in hand?

You can find the backstory here.

I think it’s time for a caption contest.

Photo:  Dipnote

| posted in foreign policy, pop culture | 1 Comment

6 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
11:45 am

While You Were Away: Hot for Condi


You may have missed it, what with Sarahpalooza and everything, but Dick Cheney wasn’t the only Bush Administration official exiled sent overseas during the Republican National Convention.

For some reason, Condoleezza Rice, perhaps second only to the Vice President on the list of people George Bush actually listens to, was sent to Libya to meet with raving nutjob new ally Moammar Gadhafi (or however the hell he’s spelling it this week).

Libya was never major-league caliber evil, but they did make it to the high minors a couple of times, particularly during the Reagan Administration.  There are some who still think they have the stuff to be Axis-caliber, but the Bushies have decided to make nice.

Not everyone — particularly the families of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103 — shares that sentiment, so apparently the Administration thought that sending The Condi to Tripoli in the middle of the Republican National Convention might mean that most Americans would be too distracted by McCainia to realize she was meeting with the Gadster (or is it Qaddster?  Khadster? GQKaaadster?  I can never keep it straight):

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi - once reviled as a “mad dog” by a U.S. president - on Friday on a historic visit that she said proved that Washington had no permanent enemies.

Rice’s trip, the first by a U.S. secretary of state to the North African country in 55 years, is intended to end decades of enmity, five years after Libya gave up its weapons of mass destruction program.

“I think we are off to a good start. It is only a start but after many, many years, I think it is a very good thing that the United States and Libya are establishing a way forward,” Rice told a news conference after talks with Gaddafi at a compound bombed by U.S. warplanes in 1986.

For a couple of years now, the Bush Administration has bragged about how it forced the Libyans to give up its nucular nuclear ambitions and return to the community of nations.  But what we didn’t know was that Gadhafi had a secret motive for improving U.S.-Libyan relations:  love.

From a 2007 Al-Jazeera interview with the Lucky Gadhafella himself:

Qadhafi:  I support my darling black African woman. I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders. She beckons to the Arab foreign ministers, and they come to her, either in groups or individually.

Interviewer:  You are referring to the American secretary of state, right?

Qadhafi: Yes, Leezza, Leezza, Leezza… I love her very much. I admire her, and I’m proud of her, because she’s a black woman of African origin. I congratulate her on reaching this global status. When she beckons to the heads of the Arab security agencies, they come running. She’s the secretary of state, yet she heads the Arab security agencies.

I think we’ve just established a new gold standard in the category of creepy stalker boyfriend wannabes.

Dipnote, the State Department’s little blog that could (if it only had the proper clearances!), either didn’t see this little tidbit or has a much more twisted sense of humor than I thought.  This is the headline to their story about The Condi’s visit:

What Lessons Can Be Learned from the U.S.-Libyan Relationship?

Nudge nudge, wink wink.  Say no more!

But what do you do with a problem like Moammar?  I have a suggestion.  The Condi should invite him to play a round of golf.  And now that Dubya has set a timetable for withdrawal of our troops in an aspirational horizon for success in Iraq, he could give up giving up golf and join them.  Add Dick Cheney and you have a war criminal foursome!  Be careful:  if you don’t let them play through, you might be taking lessons from the golf pro at Guantanamo Country Club.

Better yet, Moammar could tour with Van Halen.  They need a new lead singer (again), and “Hot for Condi” has a nice ring to it.

Hat tip:  Somewhere in Africa

Photos:  Wikipedia

| posted in foreign policy, politics, pop culture, world at home | 1 Comment

12 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:55 pm

Wonk’d: Why the UN Human Rights Council Blows


As I’ve noted in my two previous posts, I’m both a fan and a critic of the United Nations.  But if there’s one thing the United Nations does really really really badly, it’s human rights.

It wasn’t always this way.  Thanks in part to the leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt, the early years of the United Nations adopted both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention.  Over the next several decades, a number of other important treaties followed, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture, and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, among others.

Lately, however, not so much.  The UN Commission on Human Rights became so disreputable — by doing things like electing Libya as chair and failing to take action on Rwanda — that the UN decided to abolish it and replace it with a new body that would address many of its shortcomings.

During the 2005 UN Millennium Summit, the General Assembly agreed to the creation of a new Human Rights Council, supposedly putting into place safeguards that would prevent similar problems in the future.  Sadly, the United States chose not to play a central role in the negotiations over how the Council would be constituted or how it organizes itself.  Thank you, John Bolton, you self-righteous paleocon jerk.

(Full disclosure:  Steve Clemons, Scott Paul (both of the Washington Note), Don Kraus (my successor as CEO of Citizens for Global Solutions) and I organized the successful opposition to the Bolton nomination.)

(And for the UN wonks out there, yes I know I’m oversimplifying this timeline.  But please keep in mind that I’m not writing for you.)

So there we were, a new start, a new opportunity to do serious human rights work.

Whoopsie.

Sigh.

Today we have a body that in many ways is worse than its predecessor.  There are a lot of issues that the Council should be looking at these days — Darfur, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Burma, Pakistan, and Iraq, to name just a few.  Instead, the it has spent almost all of its time on one issue:  Israel.

The reasons for this have to do not with human rights in that country –- which, to be clear, should be looked at, as should human rights issues in every country.  Rather it’s the product of those who currently sit on the Council.  Dictatorships make up over half the Council’s membership. They have spotlighted Israel to deflect attention from the human rights abusers within their own ranks, as well as to stick it to the West (and, to be clear, Israel).

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration continues to refuse to engage the Council, deciding not to stand for election and even failing to send an Ambassador to Council meetings.  Of course that’s assuming it could even get elected to the Council, given its own human rights record.  Either way, its actions have only encouraged the misbehavior and discouraged those who would stand up to such nonsense.

And then, late last week, we have the latest outrage:

A former spokesman for Cuba’s foreign ministry was appointed this week to head the United Nations Human Rights Council’s advisory committee.  Radio Rebelde says Miguel Alfonso Martinez, is president of the Cuban Society of International Law, was appointed this Monday to head the Advisory Committee of the UN Human Rights Council.

Oy vey.  Oh wait — saying that might get me investigated by the Council.

This isn’t the first bad appointment either.  Richard Falk, a Princeton professor who has compared Israeli policy in the Gaza Strip to Nazi Germany, is the Council’s Special Rapporteur on. . . wait for it. . .Israel.  And Jean Ziegler, who once helped Muammar Qaddafi establish a peace prize named after the dictator and who has praised, among others, Robert Mugabe and Fidel Castro, was elected to the Council’s Advisory Committee.

The Council has more than a bad joke.  It’s a black eye for the UN and and embarrassment to the entire world.  Furthermore, it has become a convenient whipping boy for the paleocons here in the United States.

It’s time to start over. . .again.

Maybe the third time will be the charm.

| posted in foreign policy, globalization, politics, world at home | 0 Comments

30 July 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:56 pm

Thabo Mbeki Is So Bad….


…that he’s starting to make George W. Bush look good in comparison.  At least on Sudan.  From Reuters:

South Africa and Libya, backed by Russia and China, want to include a paragraph halting any ICC moves in a resolution to extend the mandate of a joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), which expires on Thursday.

But the United States, France and other Western countries made it clear that they wanted to keep two issues separate. As a result, The council failed to reach any agreement.

“We have a division in the council at this point,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters. He said there was no point in linking the UNAMID mandate to any possible future indictments by the ICC.

First the ChiComs, now the Americans.  If The Mbekster were a college student, he’d be hired by dorks to hang out with them so that they could look cool in comparison.

| posted in foreign policy, war & rumors of war | 0 Comments

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