Miscellaneous Policy Snapshots

In a previous blog on campaign finance reform, I made a reference to an ad being run by the American Future Fund, which detailed Wall Street financiers and bankers that President Obama had appointed to high-level government positions. I have edited that reference out of the blog because FactCheck.org of the Annenberg Public Policy Center has found that more than half of the 27 people listed in the political ad are either flat wrong or greatly exaggerated. FactCheck.org lists the “most laughable” examples: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner as having worked on Wall Street; two men appointed by former president Bush, who left shortly after Obama took office; two men who never worked in the Obama administration; and two men who went to Wall Street only after leaving the Obama administration.


Dexter Filkin’s article in the September 12, 2011 The New Yorker, points up the challenges faced in countering the influence of Pakistan’s military and intelligence service (the I.S.I.). The Pakistan army is the world’s eighth largest and takes up a quarter of the country’s budget. Since the late 1979s, the military and the I.S.I. have trained and directed thousands of militants to fight in Indian Kashmir. I.S.I. agent Fida Muhammad estimated that the I.S.I. teams evacuated as many as 1,500 militants from Tora Bora and other camps. Those evacuated included Arabs, Pakistanis, Uzbeks and Chechens.

The military faces a problem of Islamization.

In September 2011, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, directly accused the I.S.I. as being directly involved in the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Iraq Rebuilding Horror Stories

The 513-page federal history of reconstruction in Iraq, released some time ago, contains some scary accounts of ineptitude, mostly involving very bad planning and lack of financial accountability; however, inflation of the number of Iraqi security forces was also a common happening: Secretary of State Colin Powell noted that the Department of Defense kept increasing the number of Iraqi forces, almost on a weekly basis. One week it might be 100,000 and the next week it would be 120,000 and the like. Both Lt. General Sanchez and top administrator L. Paul Bremmer III were in agreement with Powell on the made-up numbers.

The report shows that the rebuilding effort never did much more than restore what was destroyed during the invasion and the looting that followed. By mid-2008, $117 billion had been spent — $50 billion U.S.money.

A civilian official of the U.S. Agency for International Development was given four hours to determine how many miles of Iraqi roads needed to be reopened and repaired. Neighborhood project money was controlled by local politicians and tribal chiefs. No single U.S. agency had responsibility for the job to be done.

The report’s major conclusion was that the United States had neither the policies nor the technical capability to undertake such a vast program.

Bush-Era Memo Details Arguments for Rendition Power

The March 13, 2002 memo by Jay S. Bybee, then assistant attorney general in the Justice Department office of legal counsel, said the president has an unfettered right to transfer prisoners captured in the Global War on Terror to governments around the world without regard for whether they would be tortured there.

The March memo went much further. It said that prisoners held outside the United States were not protected by U.S. laws nor against a separate international treaty banning torture. It also said that a 1998 law making it U.S. policy not to hand over prisoners to a country where they may be tortured was invalid, because it unconstitutionally interferes with presidential powers.

The memo stated: “To fully shield our personnel from criminal liability, it is important that the United States not enter into an agreement with a foreign country, explicitly or implicitly to transfer a detainee to that country for the purpose of having the individual tortured. So long as the United States does not intend for a detainee to be tortured post-transfer, however, no criminal liability will attach to a transfer, even if  the foreign country receiving the detainee does torture him.”

CIA Director Leon Panetta, President Obama’s appointee, announced the continuation of extraordinary rendition but promised it would be used rarely and will be more selective about which countries to which prisoners will be sent.

Shortly after President Barack Obama took the oath of office, the Washington Post said that perhaps Obama had ended the Global War on Terror but his administration retained the right to use renditions; also, the detainees in Bagram air base and the thousands held in Iraq wouldn’t get the case-by -case review accorded to counterparts held in Cuba. Non-military agencies, like the CIA, were told that after a six-month review, they might get “additional or different guidance on interrogations.”

An article entitled “GWOT’s End?” in the January 27, 2009 issue of Foreign Affairs in Focus, expressed skepticism that the Global War on Terror had ended: “But so far the new president still treats terrorism as a war to be won rather than an endemic problem to be dealt with, patiently and largely by law enforcement agencies. We’re still at war in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and for the time being, in Iraq. We’re still selling arms to Indonesia, Israel and Colombia as part of an overall counterterrorism approach. The Pentagon’s new African Command (AFRICOM) still looks at counterterrorism through a military lens.”






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