Thursday, October 07, 2004

Ghanaian Envoy Commends US Leadership Role in War On Terror

United States Department of State (Washington, DC)

Ambassador Pooku says Bush's regional approach is especially helpful

The Bush administration's proactive leadership in the global war on terror and its emphasis on regional approaches to political and economic problems are policies that deserve the support of all the world's nations, says Ghana's recently appointed envoy to the United States, Ambassador Fritz Poku.

Speaking to the Washington File in his ornate embassy office September 29, the former Ghanaian ambassador to the United Nations declared: "The international community has a duty to fight all forms of terrorism. And if the United States, as a superpower and world leader, has taken a specific position toward fighting terrorism, I think that is the right direction and needs to be supported by regional groupings and regional powers."

In Africa, the White House has taken a regional approach to combating terrorists with programs like the Pan Sahel Initiative (PSI), a military training and supply program aimed at helping Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad combat terrorist incursions into the Sahara region.

"Terrorism should be fought on all fronts," Poku said. "As you know, terrorism has no boundaries, and so, therefore, I believe we should not allow instability in certain regions to become breeding grounds for terrorism. In this regard, it is very important that the international community fight poverty and underdevelopment. The goal should be to prevent governments from failing, because when you have failed states, states that are not capable of providing peace and stability, you have fertile grounds for terrorism."

According to the diplomat, one particularly "innovative approach" to addressing the root causes of popular discontent that al Qaida feeds on is "the development assistance program the United States embarked on in 2002, called the Millennium Challenge Account [MCA]."

The goal of the multi-billion-dollar MCA is to increase development in 16 countries -- eight in Africa -- by rewarding government policies that support good governance, economic growth and poverty reduction. The African countries deemed eligible thus far are Benin, Cape Verde, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique and Senegal.

Poku also mentioned the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI), a U.S. military training partnership with foreign nations that President Bush instituted earlier in 2004 to help Africans with peacekeeping on the continent.

Even though training initiative is aimed specifically at Africa, where the bulk of U.N. peacekeepers are now stationed, GPOI's goal is to help train up to 75,000 troops who can respond quickly and efficiently to conflicts worldwide.

Both MCA and GPOI "are complementary to the fight against terrorism," Poku said, and "Ghana will work with the United States to see how best we can fight a common foe that is an enemy of humankind and not just of a particular country."

Poku, who formerly served as ambassador to Austria and the U.N. International Development Organization (UNIDO) in Geneva, was asked about European criticism of America's proactive approach to terrorism. "I believe," he said, "that once an international problem has been defined, like the threat posed by terrorists to peace and stability, it is only natural that the Security Council should address the issue. However, in these matters when you are talking about realpolitik, you are talking about the leadership of the United States."

He said: "I think it is only to be expected that you will have strong leadership from the United States in matters that are of vital interest to its survival ... 9/11 had a profound effect on U.S. policies and one should be realistic enough to realize that it cannot be business as usual, and the international community will have to adjust itself to a new situation.

"Of course, in so doing, one is bound to tread on others' interests," the diplomat added. "So I believe some caution might perhaps be exercised in trying to also accommodate the concerns and sensitivities of other countries as well."

Addressing his bilateral role, Poku said he would be practicing "economic diplomacy" to find strategic business partners for Ghana, where, under the leadership of President John Kufuor, a former businessman himself, they would be creating an enabling environment that would attract both internal and foreign investment.

"So far we have been very encouraged by the economic assistance we have received from the United States," he added, "especially the African Growth and Opportunity Act [AGOA], which has spurred Ghanaian exports by allowing duty- and quota-free access to U.S. markets. By so doing, the United States is enabling us to trade our way out of poverty."

In general, Poku said, "All my efforts will be deployed to deepening and broadening the relationship that we have established with the United States, which I can characterize as strong and productive."

Friday, October 01, 2004

Terror of War

Newspapers and TV news are splattered with messages about the subway being a target mentioned in terrorist communications; only half of the city's police have been trained in counterterrorism because of lack of funding; how to make your own terrorism preparation kit and what-to-do-in-case-of-a-terrorist-attack. Police are all over the place. A guy I know walked two miles to work instead of taking the subway. My train stopped yesterday for 15 minutes without an announcement, and because of something I read on another blog, a few things crossed my mind. (And the train was under the river at the time, and I wondered how difficult it would be to escape the tunnel if a train got stuck there.)I've been trying really hard to ignore all the war and terror news because I have so many other worries on my plate, that I really don't need any more. But it's aproaching such a fever pitch that it's becoming hard to ignore.I'm not changing anything about my days -- still taking the subway gladly, I have no emergency kit. Everything will be fine.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Human rights in the war on terror

NEITHER SIDE in this year's presidential election got it right in the recent exchange over a more "sensitive" war on terrorism. Dick Cheney knocked down a straw man by suggesting falsely that John Kerry wants more sensitivity to Al Qaeda. Kerry spoke not of Al Qaeda but of sensitivity "to other nations [that] brings them to our side and lives up to American values."

However, behind that thought Kerry seems concerned mainly with better diplomatic relations. He too has indicated a willingness to sacrifice the respect for international standards that make the counterterrorism effort more effective.

A campaign against terrorism that is sensitive not just to other nations but to the values they share would pay greater attention to international human rights and humanitarian law. These laws embody the restraints on war and law enforcement that the nations of the world have collectively agreed to, even in times of serious security threats.

The Bush administration, however, has fought terrorism as if these restraints don't apply. It has summarily detained Americans in this country as "enemy combatants," ripped up the Geneva Conventions at Guantanamo, and used military commissions that lack basic due process guarantees. It has misused laws on immigration and material witnesses to detain criminal suspects without granting them criminal justice rights and deployed coercive interrogation techniques that amount to torture and mistreatment. The administration has also backed repressive allies -- Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Afghan warlords, the Indonesian military -- so long as they join the war on terrorism.

Far from making us safer, this rejection of human rights has aggravated the terrorist threat. Admittedly, some terrorist suspects have been killed or detained, while others have revealed information of varying reliability under "stress and duress" interrogation. But even Donald Rumsfeld acknowledges that the real test of success is whether the administration neutralizes more terrorists than it breeds. So far, the signs are ominously negative.

Suppose we judge the counterterrorist effort in terms of a "swing vote" in the countries that have produced most of today's terrorists. Some citizens of these countries are committed terrorists beyond persuasion. Others -- the vast majority of people -- would never resort to terrorist violence. But what about those in between, the swing voters who could be persuaded to act on their political grievances either peacefully or violently?

To dissuade them from violence, they must be given a reasonable opportunity to pursue their concerns through legitimate political processes. That means opening the political systems of such countries as Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Their citizens must be free to launch independent newspapers, establish political parties and civil associations, elect their government, and hold its officials accountable.

Such swing voters are also affected by the culture around them. Because targeting innocent civilians is antithetical to the most basic rights, a strong human rights culture makes terrorist recruitment harder. But if the fight against terrorism undermines human rights standards, terrorist recruiters will have a field day.

The Bush administration has rhetorically recognized the need to promote democracy, but in fact has been more eager to build ties with cooperative security agencies, even if they are repressive. What ever the short-term gain, that approach carries dangerous long-term consequences.

Take, for example, the administration's embrace of Pakistan's General Pervez Musharraf. Before Musharraf overthrew an elected civilian government in 1999, Pakistanis voted overwhelmingly for one of two secular parties. Since the coup, the Bush administration has acquiesced in Musharraf's systematic destruction of those parties. With these moderate avenues of dissent increasingly foreclosed, many voters have flocked to more radical political parties.

The Bush administration could have vowed to fight terrorism by scrupulously respecting human rights, in part to build broad public rejection of any arbitrary violence. But the administration eschewed this "sensitivity" to international standards. America's plummeting esteem throughout most of the world -- and the apparent ease with which terrorists are attracting new accomplices -- suggest this approach hasn't worked.

Kerry, however, doesn't seem to have learned this lesson either. When he speaks of sensitivity, he seems to have in mind better relations with other governments, which is not the same as adherence to international standards. In a May interview with The Washington Post, he suggested that human rights would take a second seat in the fight against terrorism, saying he would play down the promotion of democracy as a leading goal in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China, and Russia. That would only replicate the shortcomings of current policy.

Sacrificing rights for "security" may seem tough and pragmatic, but it is fraught with peril. By breeding new resentments, foreclosing avenues of peaceful dissent, and undermining the international standards that help explain why terrorism is wrong, it risks exposing us to still greater dangers. It is time for the right kind of sensitivity.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

War Or Terror: What's Worse?

When the US death toll in Iraq crossed 1,000 last week, the number seemed like a shocker. However, that figure pales in comparison with the 30,000 Afghans and Iraqis estimated to have died in the War on Terror.

While there isn't anyone keeping official count - Iraq Body Count, an independent website that keeps track of only media-reported civilian deaths, states that a minimum 11,798 Iraqi civilians have died in the war so far. Independent estimates of Iraqi military deaths puts their toll close to 5,000.

Afghanistan was an even more skewed story. The number of US military deaths in Afghanistan was 132. Once again, though there wasn't anyone keeping official track of the Afghan death toll, a study by an American academic estimated that at least 3,800 civilians died in Afghanistan and independent estimates suggest that military deaths could be close to 10,000.

The total figure of 30,000 is more than the number of people killed in terrorist acts in the last 35 years - studies show 22,000 people have been killed in terrorist incidents since 1968.

The cost of reconstruction and related aid has been estimated at $23 billion in Iraq and $30 billion in Afghanistan which seems much smaller than the $100 billion loss caused by the WTC attacks. But while the WTC losses translate to 0.91% of US GDP, it amounts to 59% of Iraq's GDP and 150% of Afghanistan's GDP in 2003.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

War against terror is a failure, ex-White House official says

The Bush administration has bungled the war on terrorism, doing little to provide security at home while breeding legions of new enemies abroad, the government's former anti-terrorism chief, Richard Clarke, told a large Berkeley audience Tuesday night.

Clarke, who made international headlines last spring when he emerged as the highest-ranking whistle-blower from inside the White House's war on terrorism, painted an alarming picture of a White House still pursuing a losing strategy while America's safety hangs in the balance.

"The pool of people who really hate us is so much greater than it was on 9/11 because of this needless and counterproductive war in Iraq," Clarke said to applause from nearly 2,000 people at UC Berkeley's Zellerbach auditorium.

On the home front, except for improved airline safety, little or nothing has been done to protect the many other vulnerable targets such as trains, chemical plants, Wal-Marts and financial headquarters, said Clarke, who served as counterterrorism czar under both Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, he and other counterterrorism officials urged a wide range of protective actions, such as security for commuter trains vulnerable to the type of backpack bombs that later blew up a train in Madrid.

"That could happen in the BART system today," he said. He described most homeland-security measures in the past three years as "token efforts."

He also called the war on terrorism a misnomer.

"We're not engaged in a war on terrorism, a war against a tactic," he said. "We're not concerned here with all terrorist groups." There are many terrorist organizations around the world that the U.S. government is not actively fighting, he noted.

The enemy, he said, consists of about 100,000 members of about 14 jihadist groups, loosely linked to al Qaeda and representing "a virulent strain of Islam." This strain, he said, is a violence-embracing form of the Sunni fundamentalist movement known as Wahabism.

America needs to confront such enemies directly, but it also needs to wage a "war of ideas" with the hundreds of millions of Muslims who currently support the hardcore fanatics, he said.

Clarke was a senior White House adviser to the last three presidents and was the government's "foremost expert on al Qaeda," in the words of U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Richard Posner writing in the New York Times last week.

Clark's bombshell book earlier this year, "Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror," became a No. 1 New York Times best-seller. The book says the Bush team failed to give sufficient attention to the al Qaeda threat both before and after Sept. 11, focusing instead on a preoccupation with Saddam Hussein and invading Iraq.

Clarke, who left the White House in frustration in February 2003, issued high-profile criticisms as a star witness before the national Sept. 11 commission and on CBS News' "60 Minutes," both in March this year.

He had been dissatisfied before he left. In what Clarke viewed as a sign of the Bush administration downgrading counterterrorism, for example, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice told him that he could stop attending the "principals" meetings of the National Security Council.

His book provoked strong reactions from the White House, with Vice President Dick Cheney saying Clarke hadn't been "in the loop," and others suggested he resented working for Rice.

Hoping to avert another Vietnam, he began a career in Washington in 1973, working for the Pentagon for five years before joining the State Department. He worked on security in the Reagan administration and, as assistant secretary of state for politico-military affairs under President George H.W. Bush, he coordinated international support for the Persian Gulf War.

Clarke's appearance at Berkeley was sponsored by UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy, the campus Institute of International Studies and the chancellor's office.

He was interviewed on stage by Michael Nacht, dean of the Goldman School, and Steven Weber, director of the Institute of International Studies.