House GOP wants to ban “moral equivalence” from UN definition of terrorism

The House Foreign Affairs Committee under the leadership of anti-Castro firebrand Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) has introduced the legislation to impose conditions on US funding of the UN as well as direct the Executive Branch in its dealings with the UN. The full text of the proposed bill can be found here (PDF).

Here’s just one highlight (emphasis mine):

SEC. 306. TERRORISM AND THE UNITED NATIONS.
The President shall direct the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations to use the voice, vote, and influence of the United States at the United Nations to work toward adoption by the General Assembly of—
(1) a definition of terrorism that—
(A) builds upon the recommendations of the December 2004 report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change;
(B) includes as an essential component of such definition any action that is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do, or abstain from doing, any act; and
(C) does not propose a legal or moral equivalence between an action described in paragraph (1)(B) and measures taken by a government or international organization in self-defense against an action described in paragraph (1)(B); and
(2) a comprehensive convention on terrorism that includes the definition described in paragraph14 (1).

This is intriguing, because it suggests that there is no feasible way a governmental response to terrorism can be considered terrorism itself. There is no disclaimer, that I can see, that would disqualify intentional government assaults on innocent civilians from this exemption as long as they are done under the pretense of fighting terrorism. Taking to it’s logical extreme, this might not be a very smart bill for Ros-Lehtinen to endorse. Indeed, the Florida representative has a history of advocating for persons and groups accused of terrorism.

In February 1988, Orlando Bosch was arrested in Miami and implicated in the 1976 plot to blow up Cubana Flight 455, a terrorist act that killed 73 passengers. Joe D. Whitley, the associate U.S. attorney general at the time, called Bosch “a terrorist, unfettered by laws or human decency, threatening and inflicting violence without regard to the identity of his victims.” Bosch, however, had the distinct advantage of having Ros-Lehtinen make advocating for his release one of the cornerstones of her 1989 congressional campaign. Bosch had another advantage: Ros-Lehtinen’s campaign manager was Jeb Bush, President George H.W. Bush’s son. In 1990, after lobbying by Jeb Bush and Ros-Lehtinen, the Bush administration went against the Justice Department’s recommendation to deport Bosch and authorized his release. Since then, Bosch has become a permanent resident of the United States.

Ros-Lehtinen also supports the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a group [designated] by the State Department as a foreign terrorist group. Leading up to the Iraq war, in October 2002, Ros-Lehtinen circulated a letter in Congress expressing support for the MEK. She continues her support (LA Times, 23 Dec. 2009)

Upon Orlando Bosch’s death earlier this year, Roh-Lehtinen declared him to be “a freedom fighter for Cuba” (Associated Press, 27 Apr. 2011).

Ros-Lehtinen has expressed support for anti-Castro militants and the Iranian MEK, both of which have engaged in acts defined by the US as terrorism against foreign governments. The MEK is actually still listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department. Yet, here she is declaring that retaliatory acts by governments in response to terrorist activity cannot ever be equated with terrorism committed by irregular groups. If Cuba were to enlist its intelligence agents in assassinating suspected anti-Castro militants residing in the US, it is doubtful Ros-Lehtinen would stay faithful to this principle.

Aside from everything else, it should be common knowledge that the pretext of “counter-terrorism” is used by all repressive governments to demonize their opponents justify their atrocities. This includes regimes that are anti-American and/or anti-Israel. I can only conclude that the GOP-run Foreign Affairs Committee was so shortsightedly focused on legitimizing the US’ own counter-terror framing that it lost sight of the drawbacks to this outlook.

The clandestine manifesto of the Cyrenaican resistance celebrating the first anniversary of the execution of Omar al-Mukhtar (September 1932)

Enzo Santarelli et al., Omar al-Mukhtar: The Italian Reconquest of Libya (London: Darf Publishers LTD, 1986), translated by John Gilbert, pp. 167-169:

While official Fascist propaganda continued to exalt the pax romana established in Libya after the ‘liquidation’ of the rebellion, a noteworthy event was the silent reply of the Cyrenaican resistance movement in circulating, clandestinely, its manifesto on the occasion of the first anniversary of the death of the man now recognized as a Libyan national hero. This secret manifesto is reproduced in the present book for the first time from the original version luckily found in the colonial archives; as translated here, it strikes us as being an important political message in memory of the hero of the Green Mountain.

The commemoration of Omar al-Mukhtar, martyr of the Arab nation

On this day in the year 1931 (16 September) the brave warrior and hero Omar al-Muktar was condemned to death.

On that day the tyrannical Fascist power struck down that eminent old man, that great fighter, and condemned him to death, without any consideration of his age or for his reputation in the heads of Moslems.

On that day the Fascists added to their history, full of abuse and injustice, a black page to cover this their greatest victory.

Neither history nor the writings of the ancients tell us that a prisoner captured on the field of battle, over eighty years old, has ever been condemned to death. This could only happen in Fascist times, to make the world forget the injustices of even darker ages.

We celebrate the memory of that man on this day, with great sorrow yet with love for that hero who with his sword wrote verses of courage and self-denial in the history of the Arab nation, that man who fought magnificently for the defense of his country.

Omar al-Mukhtar fought for twenty years against the armies of colonization, without ever fearing death and without any fear of the infernal instruments of his enemy, up to the time when, after his horse fell on the field of battle, he was taken prisoner by his oppressors.

How shameful is that crime which makes anyone blush, that crime repudiated even by the most ferocious animals.

History and humanity are innocent of that bestial deed. committed by the Fascists who even say they are civilized people.

We shall never forget that brutal and atrocious deed which makes our hearts bleed and pierces our breasts.

The Fascists believed that the condemnation of Omar al-Mukhtar to death would make it easier for them to occupy the country, but unfortunately for them the souls of the martyrs are an eternal flame which inspires the national spirit in the hearts of the people still living.

The martyr of the Tripoli-Barce nation is not dead, for he has left his people with an immortal monument of heroism which will be inherited by future generations.

This sad monument, built by the Fascist assassins’ hands will remain for ever and will never be forgotten because it has left mortal wounds in our hearts.

Woe to those oppressors who do not respect the age, the courage and the incomparable heroism of Omar al-Mukhtar: but they cannot understand the significance of this quality.

The years cannot wipe out the horror of this crime, which struck the heart of all Arabs, and which will always remain as a stain on their history, washed as it is in the blood of innocents, of women, of mean, of the aged and of children.

People of Tripoli and Barce!

Always remember that day when the greatest of misfortunes occurred.

You must always retain this memory so as to learn a lesson that will serve you in the future to tell you how to avenge yourselves for your martyrs.

In that memory there is a lesson that will encourage and bring about the vengeance on those who have colonized your country and who have deprived you of your rights and who have killed and driven far away many of your men.

On this day we ask the Arab nation and its patriots to join with us in grief and sadness for the misfortune that we commemorate today.

Omar al-Mukhtar was not only the martyr of the Tripoli-Barce people, but he was the martyr of the whole Arab nation. The lessons of heroism and courage that he gave the Fascist armies do honor to all Arabs, because the Arab people are like one body united in their griefs and joys, and this truth should be known to westerners, who should know that we are united. This memory should not be forgotten, it must be kept in your hearts until the day when the fascists have to account to the Arab nation for this assassination, unheard of in the history of the world.

Arabs!

Always remember our martyr who was condemned to death after being taken prisoner. Remember that hero who raised the banner of Arabism and who renewed the glory of your glorious fathers.

Remember and always celebrate this day so as to let the Fascists know that you are not asleep and that you are a unified nation which rejects the scorn of the colonizers.

And you Fascists, Blackshirts!

We await a day when you have to render account, and that day we see to be close, whereas you believe it to be far-off; on that day we shall ask the price of the blood of Omar al-Mukhtar and of our noble heroes.

Injustice is short-lived, where reason is strong, and the oppressors will not escape their destiny.

 

 

An acceptable distortion: The lies that lead to war in Libya

Al-Jazeera, 27 Feb. 2011:

Much of the information about the Libyan uprising that reached the West in recent weeks came from Libyan expatriates who were phoning, emailing or instant messaging with family and friends inside the country. Often, the Libyans abroad would relay incomplete or exaggerated news, as when false reports spread that protesters in Benghazi had found hundreds of political prisoners held underground for decades (in fact, a dozen or so were released, and their internment was several times smaller than had been reported, Sanalla said.)

“Some of it was well exaggerated,” he said. But in his mind, if it helped the uprising’s cause. It was an acceptable distortion.

“It put more pressure on the international people, it made it even more horrific.”

Russia Today, 1 Mar. 2011:

According to Al Jazeera and BBC, on February 22 Libyan government inflicted airstrikes on Benghazi – the country’s largest city – and on the capital Tripoli. However, the Russian military, monitoring the unrest via satellite from the very beginning, says nothing of the sort was going on on the ground.

At this point, the Russian military is saying that, as far as they are concerned, the attacks some media were reporting have never occurred.

International Crisis Group, 6 Jun. 2011, pp. 4-5:

Much Western media coverage has from the outset presented a very one-sided view of the logic of events, portraying the protest movement as entirely peaceful and repeatedly suggesting that the regime’s security forces were unaccountably massacring unarmed demonstrators who presented no real security challenge. This version would appear to ignore evidence that the protest movement exhibited a violent aspect from very early on. While there is no doubt that many and quite probably a large majority of the people mobilised in the early demonstrations were indeed intent on demonstrating peacefully, there is also evidence that, as the regime claimed, the demonstrations were infiltrated by violent elements. Likewise, there are grounds for questioning the more sensational reports that the regime was using its air force to slaughter demonstrators, let alone engaging in anything remotely warranting use of the term “genocide.”

Independent, 24 June 2011:

Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response adviser for Amnesty, who was in Libya for three months after the start of the uprising, says that “we have not found any evidence or a single victim of rape or a doctor who knew about somebody being raped”.

She stresses this does not prove that mass rape did not occur but there is no evidence to show that it did. Liesel Gerntholtz, head of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch, which also investigated the charge of mass rape, said: “We have not been able to find evidence.”
[...]
Rebels have repeatedly charged that mercenary troops from Central and West Africa have been used against them. The Amnesty investigation found there was no evidence for this. “Those shown to journalists as foreign mercenaries were later quietly released,” says Ms Rovera. “Most were sub-Saharan migrants working in Libya without documents.”

Others were not so lucky and were lynched or executed. Ms Rovera found two bodies of migrants in the Benghazi morgue and others were dumped on the outskirts of the city. She says: “The politicians kept talking about mercenaries, which inflamed public opinion and the myth has continued because they were released without publicity.”

Nato intervention started on 19 March with air attacks to protect people in Benghazi from massacre by advancing pro-Gaddafi troops. There is no doubt that civilians did expect to be killed after threats of vengeance from Gaddafi. During the first days of the uprising in eastern Libya, security forces shot and killed demonstrators and people attending their funerals, but there is no proof of mass killing of civilians on the scale of Syria or Yemen.

I’ve stated this before and I’ll state it again:

Lies helped lead America into the Vietnam War, Gulf War I, the NATO campaign against Serbia and the invasion of Iraq and undoubtedly many more international conflicts. So say what you will about 9/11 truthers and similar conspiracy theorists, their un-”acceptable” distortions of the truth are not enabling mass slaughter and aggression.

Racist ex-Trot warmonger says a thing

Norman Podhoretz, 2011:

To be sure, no white candidate who had close associations with an outspoken hater of America like Jeremiah Wright and an unrepentant terrorist like Bill Ayers would have lasted a single day. But because Mr. Obama was black, and therefore entitled in the eyes of liberaldom to have hung out with protesters against various American injustices, even if they were a bit extreme, he was given a pass. And in any case, what did such ancient history matter when he was also articulate and elegant and (as he himself had said) “non-threatening,” all of which gave him a fighting chance to become the first black president and thereby to lay the curse of racism to rest?

Norman Podhoretz, 1963:

The hatred I still feel for Negroes is the hardest of all the old feelings to face or admit, and it is the most hidden and the most overlarded by the conscious attitudes into which I have succeeded in willing myself. It no longer has, as for me it once did, any cause or justification (except, perhaps, that I am constantly being denied my right to an honest expression of the things I earned the right as a child to feel). How, then, do I know that this hatred has never entirely disappeared? I know it from the insane rage that can stir in me at the thought of Negro anti-Semitism; I know it from the disgusting prurience that can stir in me at the sight of a mixed couple; and I know it from the violence that can stir in me whenever I encounter that special brand of paranoid touchiness to which many Negroes are prone.

World Likud hires PR scion for publicity and damage control in the US

According to documents filed with the Justice Department, the Israeli Likud Party’s “wing for global communication and networking” has recently hired a PR firm run by a publicist whose clients include well known American figures such as Donald Trump and Alex Rodriguez. A contract signed this past June lists “publicity,” “reputation reinforcement,” “sustaining coverage,” and “damage control” as some of the services that will be provided.

The World Likud is lead by Knesset member Danny Danon, who often meets with US conservatives and is currently helping Glenn Beck plan his “restoring courage” rally in Jerusalem. While meeting with US Congressmen and conservative activists at the Zionist Organization of America’s 2010 annual dinner he complained that Obama was “bullying” PM Benjamin Netanyahu over Israel’s continued colonization of the West Bank. In response to this, “the Republicans apologized for Obama and said he was not representing the view of America.”

Rubenstein Public Relations was founded by Richard Rubenstein in 1987, “a third-generation publicist.” He is the son of none other than Howard J. Rubenstein, whom Rudolph Giuliani referred to as “the dean of damage control” and was previously hired by the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Gawker once declared Richard Rubenstein to be the “black sheep of the Rubenstein PR dynasty.”

According to the Foreign Agents Registration Act statement:

Rubenstein Public Relations has agreed to offer advice and guidance to World Likud in regard to its political activities. In performing this duty, Rubenstein Public Relations plans to reach out to potential media outlets including television, print, radio and online publications to publicize World Likud’s political positions.

The political platform on World Likud’s own English language site declares that “Israel will annex a designated part of Judea and Samaria [sic]” and–more ominously–that “Israel and its neighbors will jointly bear the costs of relocation.”

One of the future activities listed in the June contract is “conduct damage control.” In Rubenstein PR’s own words:

In the event of negative publicity about the Client, RPR will conduct and manage damage control activities, including but not limited to, developing appropriate and timely message points and press releases that seek to minimize negative publicity or counteract negative media or other statements.

Free trade and the bipartisan consensus for global corporate oligarchy

Washington Post (4 Aug. 2011):

Three long-delayed trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia are moving closer to a vote after the Senate’s leaders announced that they had reached an agreement to bring the pacts up for consideration when Congress returns from recess in September.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also agreed to hold a vote on a program favored by Democrats, called Trade Adjustment Assistance, which provides aid and retraining to workers who have lost their jobs because work was sent overseas.
[...]
Congressional approval is by no means guaranteed, but passage of the deals would fulfill a plank of President Obama’s economic policy. Obama, who expressed skepticism as a candidate about free trade, has hailed the agreements as crucial to increasing U.S. sales overseas. Obama has called for a doubling of U.S. exports by 2015.
[...]
With jobs returning to the top of Obama’s agenda, he has been pushing measures to stimulate the economy, including the renewal of temporary tax breaks and funding for highway construction and other infrastructure, in addition to the trade deals. The trade agreements are especially attractive because they could help the economy without requiring more government spending.

In summary, the two party system that runs America is proceeding to sell off American sovereignty through economic treaties that benefit the ruling class–not just America but in foreign lands as well. Consider the following example: the passing of NAFTA had ruinous effects on Mexican farmers by allowing US subsidized corn to flood its markets. This jeopardized the livelihoods of millions of farmers and arguably help create the undocumented immigration crisis we see today as desperate farm workers began looking north. To make matters even worse, when the price of corn started rising in the late 2000s, Mexicans found themselves still hopelessly dependent on US agribusiness because their own domestic agricultural system had been neglected for so long. As GRAIN pointed out at the time: “Wal-Mart’s Mexican division, Wal-Mex, which handles a third of overall food sales in Mexico, reported an 11% increase in profits for the first quarter of 2008. (At the same time Mexicans are demonstrating in the streets because they can no longer afford to make tortillas.).”

At home, NAFTA has resulted in an erosion of sovereignty over environmental policy. As Public Citizen explains:

NAFTA’s investment chapter (Chapter 11) contains a variety of new rights and protections for investors and investments in NAFTA countries. If a company believes that a NAFTA government has violated these new investor rights and protections, it can initiate a binding dispute resolution process for monetary damages before a trade tribunal, offering none of the basic due process or openness guarantees afforded in national courts. These so-called “investor-to-state” cases are litigated in the special international arbitration bodies of the World Bank and the United Nations, which are closed to public participation, observation and input. A three-person panel composed of professional arbitrators listens to arguments in the case, with powers to award an unlimited amount of taxpayer dollars to corporations whose NAFTA investor privileges and rights they judge to have been impacted.

As I put it months ago:

An illustrative case is that of Methanex v. United States, concerning a California state ban on a methanol-based gasoline additive (MTBE) that was getting into water supplies. The Nation noted that “even small amounts of MTBE leaking from storage tanks, pipeline breaks or car accidents made water unfit to drink–and extremely difficult to clean up.” In 1999, the Canadian company Methanex filed a lawsuit demanding that California pay $970 million in compensation for the damage California may inflict on its profits. Instead of being heard before a US federal court, the case was heard before a private three-judge panel. Perhaps most concerning is the fact that the proceedings were secret and closed to the public. Arbitration records under NAFTA can only be disclosed upon the consent of both parties.

So now we are being presented with new free trade agreements to make out state, local and national governments answerable to unelected arbitration boards for policies perceived as impeding multinational profits. The Tea Parties, who once prided themselves on an opposition to “globalism” and “New Word Order,” are silent as expected:

The lead US negotiator on NAFTA’s chapter 11 was a Washington lawyer named Daniel Price. At a scholarly forum in Cleveland he claimed that the free trade agreement “checks the excesses of unilateral sovereignty” and advised those disturbed by violations of US sovereignty to “get over it.” Just think about that for a second. Imagine George Soros ranting about “excesses of unilateral sovereignty” in supporting a human rights treaty that the Obama administration is considering signing. It would be a scandal. Glenn Beck would devote an entire show to such a cavalier attitude in dismissing US sovereignty and his “do-gooder” human rights ideology. Yet because the efforts of Price and other conservative legal minds succeeded in putting the protection of capital over the interests of national sovereignty, Beck would probably sing his praises. After all, what harm is there in a New World Order if it defends the “right” of foreign investors to make profit at the expense of public health and the environment?

The Tea Partiers have an ample opportunity to show they are consistent in their proclaimed principle of supporting US sovereignty by opposing Obama’s attempts to put America further under the control of foreign companies. But they aren’t making a sound despite the fact that the rank-and-file among them generally oppose free trade agreements.

In fact, it’s incredibly intriguing that our government is about to sign such far-reaching treaties with three different countries and barely a word of it is being spoken by any media outlets at all. Is it just business-as-usual for our government to join hands across aisles and sign away America’s economic sovereignty? Shouldn’t we, the people, have some input or at least be informed of what is happening?