American War Crimes Awaits A Day of Reckoning

Morals in the Age of One Superpower

By Adil E. Shamoo, May 9, 2012

Equal Worth

Interjecting the consideration of moral values into foreign policy decisions is, unfortunately, often ridiculed by the political establishment of Republicans and Democrats in the United States. For instance, one supporter of Bill Clinton in 1992, Michael Mandelbaum, expressed how foolish it is to construct policies based on moral values.

Take the case of Afghanistan. While the al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on 9/11 were horrendous, the reaction of the United States and allied nations has been disproportionate and undertaken with little regard to the Afghan people.

The number of citizens of Afghanistan killed or injured has been way out of proportion to the number of deaths on 9/11, never mind that the initial targets of the attack, al-Qaeda, were not from Afghanistan. Yes, al-Qaeda had training bases in Afghanistan and they should have been dismantled. But the United States showed little regard to the parity of human life of Afghans with Americans.

More recently, there has been hope for a more humane set of policies from the Obama administration. However, such hope has not materialized in the form of a new policy toward the region. The Obama administration is bent on proving its “national security credentials” by following the old policy of vengeance and not of justice.

The U.S. role in Afghanistan should have been to educate Afghan citizens in modern forms of justice after the initial invasion. Afghanistan is under tribal rule and the central government has little control over the country. The United States should have promoted policies to advance social and economic justice, which slowly could have eroded the tribal hold over the people. The educational system promoted ought to have been sensitive to the cultural context but at the same time push modernity into the country. All this should have been done without boots on the ground. The task was difficult, but the United States could have made slow progress.

Finally, with the same educational process, the United States should have supported plans for self-government and assist in building institutions that foster liberty. The United States ought to have encouraged the Afghans to have free elections and build a government free of corruption.

The Case of Iraq

Another example involves the invasion of Iraq. The George W. Bush administration fulfilled the neoconservatives’ principles of placing America’s interest at the center of the world with all other interests or morality considered irrelevant. The Project for The New American Century’s Statement of Principlesfrom June 3, 1997 highlights this sentiment: “We need to accept responsibility for America’s unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.”

The statement makes clear that only America’s interest is under consideration by the statements of “our security,” “our prosperity,” and “our principles.” Zbigniew Brzezinski in his book Second Chance—Three Presidents and the Crises of American Superpower, opined that that Bush was on a mission “to spur the transformation of no less than the culture and politics of the entire world of Islam.” On the dust cover of the book, the well-known Washington Postcolumnist for national security, David Ignatius, lauds Brzezinski’s assessment of Bush administration’s policy regarding the invasion of Iraq: “Few prominent foreign-policy analysts have emerged from the Iraq debate with their reputations enhanced, but Zbigniew Brzezinski is one of them. In hindsight, it’s clear that his criticisms of the Bush administration’s policies were generally correct and, perhaps more important, that he had the gumption to speak out even when he risked losing a place at the Establishment table by doing so . . . Brzezinski emerges from the carnage and confusion of Iraq with an enhanced role as one of the nation’s most important voices on foreign policy.”

The invasion of Iraq was immoral by any standards. Iraq has suffered, due to the unprovoked invasion, greater death and destruction than any other nation in modern times. The U.S. actions in Iraq will be remembered for decades as the darkest chapter of U.S. foreign policy. If the world’s conflicts continue in this trajectory, the results assuredly will be catastrophic to the human race. The immoral course of actions undertaken by the powerful nations in these conflicts will increase the number and magnitude of immoral acts by others. The U.S. invasion of Iraq showed very little parity in respecting Iraqi lives in comparison to U.S. lives. Moreover, it showed a disregard for promoting social and economic justice. Corruption, mixed with sectarianism, became widely accepted in Iraq as long as the semblance of security was maintained and U.S. casualties were low.

The promotion of democracy was stripped down to electocracy. The election, and in this case with U.S. troops and tanks everywhere, was considered democracy-in-action especially by the U.S. media. Yet there were no attempts to build the institutional infrastructure needed before elections. The election of religious and tribal leaders became the only means the Iraqis could use to express their displeasure with occupation.

The moral failing in Iraq is that the United States invaded a country that did not pose an imminent threat resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis—most of them innocent civilians. Moreover, the U.S. occupation treated Iraqis as less than human through imprisonment, torture, sexual abuse, denial of freedom, and destruction of their infrastructure. The occupation structured the Iraqi government to be subservient to U.S. interests.

The Case of Palestine

The third and last example is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been immoral since its inception in 1948. Israeli-Arabs have been and continue to be treated as second-class citizens with fewer human rights than the Israelis. Palestinians in the occupied territories of West Bank and Gaza have been treated as animals suffering expulsion, destruction of their homes, occupation, targeted assassinations, and imprisonment. The ratio of Palestinian dead and injured to Israeli dead and injured has ranged from 10-to-1 to100-to-1. Some Palestinians have resisted the occupation.

And some of these have resorted to immoral means of resistance, such as suicide bombings in civilian areas. However, the magnitude and frequency of the Israeli immoral acts toward the Palestinians have been so extreme that no other nation could have carried out similar acts without international condemnation, especially in the United States. If any other nation has committed these atrocities, the outcry of the world would have been deafening.

But Israel used the great reservoir of global sympathy and good will based on the history of Jewish suffering to carry out its policy of vengeance. The world’s reservoir of good will toward Israel may finally be showing a very small crack by the continued abuse of Palestinians by Israel now seen in trickles in the mainstream press coverage. For example, Newsweek magazine author Dan Ephron wrote a piece regarding Israel’s claim of the Palestinians as ungrateful people for all of the good Israel has done for them. Ephron said: “Of course, that version ignores Israel’s own provocations and abuses, including the continued expropriation of Palestinian land, the dramatic growth of Jewish settlements in the 1990s and the siege Israel has imposed on Gaza.”

The outcome of increased immoral conflicts is the needless death of millions of people and the destruction of the infrastructure of many states. The destruction of infrastructure has led and will further lead to greater poverty and diseases that will further exacerbate immoral conflicts. The events described in the three case studies of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine will increase terrorism and other forms of immoral acts. Moreover, global tolerance of one people imposing its will on others for a long period of time is rapidly declining and is almost impossible. This rapid decline into the human abyss can only be prevented in this day and age by the transformation of the moral bases for dealing with these conflicts.

Why now and why morality? The need for this transformation now is necessary due to the globalization of conflicts and their resolution. And morality is confronting us because the whole world is communicating in real time with each other. The tolerance for immoral acts, however they are justified, can no longer last forever, and the yearning for fair and moral treatment to each other is on a rapid rise. The Arab Spring in 2011 is a good example of the increasing rejection of corrupt governements and the ill treatment of their people.

Adil E. Shamoo is an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, a senior analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus, and the author of Equal Worth – When Humanity Will Have Peacefrom which this piece is adapted. He can be reached at ashamoo@som.umaryland.edu.

State Dept Whining for More Money for Their Arab Spring Trouble-making

“On the one hand, we could disengage, and wait, and see what happens. On the other hand, we could engage pro-actively and seek to shape outcomes that are more favorable to our interests.”

[To pretend that we are serving democracy and furthering human rights, while all we are really doing is taking control of events and shaping them to US advantage is hypocritical and completely immoral.  If we were really interested in the people’s rights and not in our self-declared right to intervene in the affairs of foreign states, then we would be seeking to protect those interests and not to further our own.  Diplomats have an uncanny knack for making the most foul-smelling lies appear to be as savory as sugar.]

State Department to Congress: More money for Arab countries

By Julian Pecquet 
 
American influence in the Middle East will dwindle to Iran’s benefit if the United States responds to the Arab Spring upheaval by pulling government aid, the Obama administration’s top diplomat for the region told Congress Wednesday.

Instead, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman testified that lawmakers should approve the administration’s request to create a $770 million incentive fund to support democratic and free-market reforms in the region. The fund would address the root causes of the upheaval, Feltman said, while “lack of these reforms will continue to undermine our interests across the board.”

“During this historic period of transition, the United States government is faced with a clear choice: On the one hand, we could disengage, and wait, and see what happens. On the other hand, we could engage pro-actively and seek to shape outcomes that are more favorable to our interests,” Feltman told the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. “I understand the temptation to wait to deliver assistance until we are certain of what will happen. But that’s a recipe for diminished influence.”

Republicans on the panel were not convinced.

Chairman Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) said he was “cautiously optimistic” a year ago, but the rise of Islamic parties and the violence in Syria have darkened that outlook.

“While I am sure that the administration understands the nature of the challenges, I am not so sure that its policies are the most effective in addressing them,” he said.

He went on to criticize the proposed Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund as something that “appears to share the same core mechanism as many other assistance programs.”

“Furthermore,” Chabot said, “I fear this fund risks reinforcing a chronic bad behavior in the implementation of our foreign assistance: substituting money for thoughtful policy. Reflexively throwing taxpayer dollars at problems is not effective policy and I fear the lack of details about how this fund will operate – as well as the very broad authorities requested – make it more likely that the money will at best be wasted and will at worst enable hasty and reckless policy.”

Feltman however testified that the disbursement of any money will be tied to measurable progress on the ground.

The request for the new program comes as the State Department is already under fire for releasing $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt in March despite new congressional requirement linking it to democratic progress. Feltman said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had made the right call releasing the aid because of the progress Egypt has made on political and human rights despite its crackdown on U.S. pro-democracy groups.

Silk Road Nonsense Cannot Proceed Without Pentagon Protection and Logistical Support

Private investment key to success of ‘New Silk Road’ after 2014

by Dena Sholk

Though Northern Distribution Network (NDN) is being used for military purposes, it must shift to private sector to thrive post-2014

WASHINGTON, DC

A few weeks ago, Central Asia Newswire discussed the potential benefits of harnessing the improvements in transportation infrastructure along the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) as the basis of the U.S. State Department’s regional development strategy termed the “New Silk Road” (NSR).

The policy calls for a reduction in trade barriers, the harmonization of transportation systems, and the synchronization of customs policies and practices between the Central Asian states and Afghanistan.

Upgrading and harmonizing Central and South Asia’s infrastructure requires significant private sector investment and expertise. Yet, with the proposed withdrawal of NATO’S ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) contingents from Afghanistan in 2014, and the reduced need for the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) as a military supply line, comes a key consideration for private firms in the region: what are the incentives to stay beyond 2014?

According to Thomas Sanderson, Co-director of the Transnational Threats Project at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), it will be difficult to convince western firms to continue to operate in an unstable region without ISAF acting as “big daddy.”

With political support, coupled with the willingness and ability to spend billions of dollars a week on the war in Afghanistan, ISAF has played this role in Central Asia.

As such, ISAF military logistics planners and diplomatic personnel regularly engage with custom officials, local businesses, parliamentarians, and ministry personnel. Informally, members of ISAF forces developed personal relationships with local officials and suppliers, which helps promote U.S. diplomatic aims and strengthen ties along the NDN.

While ISAF’s presence in Central Asia has not been devoid of problems, as evidenced by the tension between Kyrgyz and U.S. officials stationed at Manas Transit Center, its presence in the region has served as a vote of confidence to risk-averse investors entering an unknown marketplace.

Sanderson notes that some firms will determine whether to stay in Central and South Asia beyond 2014 in part by projecting potential profits vs. the costs rendered by high-security requirements and other factors associated with conducting business in such a harsh environment.

If the costs of maintaining a private security force, constructing rail and road linkages, and providing a secure supply of electricity and clean water are offset by revenue generated from mining, then firms will continue to invest in the region, Sanderson says as an example.

The few firms with the operational capacity and cash to absorb such costs, in addition to providing under-the-table bribes, and still turn a profit are state-sponsored firms from China and India. Chinese companies in particular have the financial backing of the state and are therefore able to engage in high-risk business decisions that would otherwise frighten the private sector, the analyst says.

Once ISAF is out, Chinese firms possessing a dominant market position will assume the role of “big daddy”, Sanderson says. As such, Chinese firms, with their style of vertical management and adherence to different standards of business practices and ethics, will play the role of an authoritarian enabler, not a disciplinarian.

“Basic economic and geopolitical value judgments will determine investment decisions,” Sanderson asserts. Firms will measure costs against profits. While providing an important boost in foreign direct investment (FDI) for the region’s economies, Chinese investments will wreak “steep environmental and social costs” on local populations, he adds.

Quantifying the Costs and Challenges

Without ISAF, and in particular the U.S., there is no player in the region capable of ensuring adherence to good business standards as well as safeguarding assets.

Former Afghan Ambassador to the U.S. and President of Capitalize LLC, Said Jawad, echoed Sanderson’s sentiments in an interview, noting that western firms are more responsive to public pressures about their business ethics, interactions with local communities, and environmental practices than are their Chinese or Indian counterparts.

“We want Western firms who have to adhere to good practices such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. This is good for Afghanistan,” Jawad noted. Similarly, most Afghans do not care about the race of the investors’ skin or the flag that is flying, but are concerned with how investments affect their employment opportunities and quality of water, he added.

Convincing cautious, risk-averse firms to invest in Afghanistan’s immediate post-conflict environment is no easy task. For investors, the main concerns are access to market, security, transport and logistics.

“The departure of ISAF forces in 2014 is not the determining factor for firms contemplating investing in Afghanistan,” Jawad adds. “Investment calculations account for the long-term political, institutional, and security vision for Afghanistan – how stable will it be in 2014?”

That question will also weigh heavily on the minds of company leaders looking to expand into the Central Asian market.

Infrastructure vs. Institutions

Despite improvements in regional infrastructure, the intransigence of authoritarian regimes in resisting regional coordination stands in the way of the NSR becoming reality. Constructing infrastructure is one thing, but obtaining the support and commitment of political leaders at the highest levels of power to adjust domestic trade and customs policies in order to promote regional cooperation is quite another.

Both Sanderson and former Ambassador Jawad note the significant political barriers to regional cooperation. In order to overcome the numerous “political, historical, personal” issues between the Central Asian regimes to implement the NSR, Ambassador Jawad says there is a need to focus on transit corridors rather than on broader policy themes. 

The emergence of trade and transportation corridors will satisfy the demands of private investors seeking greater market access without getting bogged down in the technicalities and complexities of Central Asian politics, he says.

One way in which the NDN has helped establish the groundwork for the NSR is through the “backhaul-2” (BH2) concept established by the Geneva-based International Road Transport Union (IRU), which would establish an independent fleet of 1000-1500 trucks to transport U.S. army goods from Europe and Asia to Afghanistan, and vice versa.

According to an IRU Background Paper obtained by Central Asia Newswire, state-controlled management companies or public-private partnerships (PPPs) would be established to manage the BH2 routes under the control of auditing representatives designated by the U.S. Government. These management companies would then lease Russian KAMAZ trucks to transport goods to and from Ulyanovsk to Afghanistan.

But improved management of borders is also essential in the overall success of the NSR project, Philippe Elghouavel, a former UNDP official who now consults with the New York-based GPRA group, said in an interview with Central Asia Newswire.

“There was a potato famine in Tajikistan, because there was a very harsh winter,” he says.

“Kyrgyzstan sent trucks full of potatoes but were stopped at the border. These countries have to make sure borders are open to products while they also have to control drug trafficking. Trade is not easy…because of the way they are managing borders.”

In that vein, the most critical factor to the NDN’s success is the willingness of political elites to “buy in at the top political levels”, former Ambassador Jawad notes. More often than not, delays at the border by ministry officials are caused because there is no clear direction from the top political leaders as to whether shipments are allowed.

But the U.S. is encouraged by progress on its NSR policy initiative, Deputy Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Geoffrey Pyatt said in remarks in the Kazakh capital Astana on Saturday.

“The New Silk Road isn’t a theoretical construct – it is already being built,” he said.

“As I deliver these remarks, electricity from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan is powering small businesses and government buildings in Afghanistan; rail connections are being built between Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan and a new rail line from the Uzbek border to Mazar-e-Sharif has been completed; Turkmen, Afghan, Pakistani, and Indian officials are also actively negotiating a pricing agreement for the TAPI gas pipeline, which will one day ship billions of dollars worth of natural gas from energy-rich Central Asia to energy-hungry South Asia.”

Why not engage?

Improvements to regional transport infrastructure are welcome and should be continued. But physical infrastructure alone will not lead to a successful NSR development. The creation and development of institutions and a collective appreciation for the value of collective gains from policy integration and coordination are critical to the success of the plan.

“Once each country realizes that there is an alternative route to the one through its territory, and that if it wants to get in on all that continental transport brings it will have to be competitive. This is definitely happening, albeit slowly,” Chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at The Johns Hopkins University, S. Frederick Starr, emphasizes.

It remains unclear whether Western firms will invest in the NSR region post-2014 without ISAF acting as “big daddy.” More apparent are the political incongruities between Central Asian regimes. To overcome the region’s challenging politics, firms and policymakers should focus on the development of transit corridors which will at least allow some form of investment inflows.

Still, convincing Central Asian regimes, particularly the security-obsessed leadership in Uzbekistan, to entertain a policy of freer transit corridors will be a long shot.

Twin Terror Bombings In Damascus Kill Dozens

Damascus blasts kill 40, injure 170: Syrian TV

Smokes rises from burning vehicles at the site of an explosion in Damascus May 10,2012. Two explosions shook the Syrian capital Damascus on Thursday killing and wounding dozens of people, state media said, in a district that houses a military intelligence complex involved in President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on a 14-month uprising. REUTERS-Sana-Handout
Smokes rises from burning vehicles at the site of an explosion in Damascus May 10,2012. Two explosions shook the Syrian capital Damascus on Thursday killing and wounding dozens of people, state media More…
Credit: REUTERS/Sana/Handout 

By Oliver Holmes and Mariam Karouny

BEIRUT

(Reuters) – Two large explosions killed 40 people in Damascus on Thursday, state media said, destroying dozens of cars on a highway and damaging an intelligence complex involved in President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on a 14-month-old uprising.

Syrian television blamed “terrorists” for the morning rush-hour blasts, which were the deadliest to hit the capital since the revolt began. It showed mangled, burnt and smoldering vehicles, some containing incinerated human remains, and said more than 170 people were wounded.

One of the explosions wreaked damage over a wide area, punching a crater 3 meters (10 feet) deep into the tarmac. Bloodied corpses and body parts could be seen on the road.

The explosions occurred a day after a bomb blast near U.N. observers monitoring a U.N. ceasefire deal – which state forces and rebels have both violated – and two weeks after authorities said a suicide bomber killed at least nine people in Damascus.

“This is yet another example of the suffering brought upon the people ofSyria from acts of violence,” said Major-General Robert Mood, the head of the U.N. monitors who toured the site.

“We have seen it here in Damascus and we have seen it in other cities and villages across the country… I call on everyone within and outside Syria to help stop this violence.”

Opposition to Assad, which began with peaceful protests in March last year, has grown increasingly militarized and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said this week he was worried by an “alarming upsurge” in bombings.

Damascus residents said Thursday’s explosions struck in the same area almost simultaneously, shortly before 8 a.m. (0500 GMT). Video footage sent to media by activists showed two columns of smoke, one of them forming a dark heavy cloud.

State television showed the crater in the city’s southern ring road and at least one overturned lorry. Walls of buildings on either side of the wide avenue had collapsed.

ANGER AT GULF STATES

Shooting could be heard in the background of the footage, filmed shortly after the blasts.

A man walking around the wreckage pointed at the charred remains of cars. “Is this freedom?” he said. “This is the work of the Saudis,” he added, referring to the Gulf state that has advocated arming rebels seeking to oust Assad.

Nadine Haddad, a candidate in Monday’s parliamentary election which was boycotted by most opposition figures, blamed Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, who also says Syrian rebels should get weapons.

“I am addressing Sheikh Hamad and I tell him shame on you. You are now destroying the Syrian people, not the Syrian regime. You are killing children going to school,” she said.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least one of the explosions was caused by a car bomb and that the target was intelligence buildings.

The blasts caused limited damage to the facade of the nearby Palestine Branch Military Intelligence complex, one resident told Reuters. The Palestine Branch is one of the most feared of more than 20 secret police organizations in the country.

The United Nations says Syrian forces have killed more than 9,000 people in their crackdown on the protests. Syrian authorities blame foreign-backed Islamist militants for the violence, saying they have killed 2,600 soldiers and police.

A U.N.-brokered ceasefire was declared four weeks ago but despite an initial drop in the level of violence, bloodshed has continued. Activists say government forces have shelled several cities, and rebels have kept up attacks on security forces.

Ban told the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday he was worried by the increase in bomb attacks in Syria.

“There is no escaping the reality that we see every day,” he said. “Innocent civilians dying, government troops and heavy armor in city streets, growing numbers of arrests and allegations of brutal torture, an alarming upsurge in the use of IEDs and other explosive devices throughout the country.”

(Additional reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing byAlistair Lyon)