Except for dissent from Representative Ron Paul of Texas and (to a lesser extent) former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, the Republican presidential candidates blazed their way in a November 12 debate toward foreign policies where the United States would engage in two new Middle Eastern wars against Syria and Iran, re-institute the Bush Administration torture policy, abolish trials for terror suspects, and allow unlimited presidential assassinations.
New Wars Against Iran and Syria
Mitt Romney came out for war against Iran at the beginning of the debate. "If all else fails," Romney told debate moderator and CBS News Anchor Scott Pelley in the South Carolina debate at Wofford College, "then of course you take military action. It is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon." Likewise, Romney sought war against Syria, suggesting "Of course it's time for the Assad dictatorship to end. And we should use covert activity."
Herman Cain told CBS moderator Scott Pelley that he wouldn't invade Syria, but would wage war against the country by funding a bloody insurgency instead: "I would not entertain military opposition. I'm talking about to help the opposition movement within the country."
A court martial sitting in Joint Base Lewis-McChord found an Army sergeant guilty of the premeditated murder of three Afghan nationals while serving as squad leader of a unit in the Second Infantry Division. In a series of gruesome attacks, Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs of Billings, Montana, led his “kill team” into conflict with unarmed Afghan civilians, admittedly chopping off fingers and pulling teeth of the dead victims to save as trophies.
Sergeant Gibbs, 26, faced life imprisonment without the possibility of parole following Thursday's verdict handed down by a five-member panel of jurors who deliberated for about five hours, according to the account of the proceeding published by Reuters. The same story relates that the jury of military men then decided that Gibbs could be eligible for parole after eight and one-half years of imprisonment.
Three other soldiers previously entered pleas on charges stemming from the killings and subsequent mutilations committed while serving under Gibbs. These three of the five members of the American armed forces accused of participating in these murders testified against their former leader, describing him as the instigator of raids on civilians in which the troops would construct fake combat scenarios that would justify the killings. A news article describing the court martial reported that Gibbs would bring “drop weapons” to the crime scenes so that it would appear to superiors that the squad was under attack and that the killings were made in self-defense.
“High-profile detainee” and alleged al-Qaeda operative Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was arraigned Wednesday before a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba. The U.S. government has charged al-Nashiri with war crimes related to his alleged role in the suicide bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, an attack that killed 17 sailors. The defendant is additionally charged with the bombing of a French merchant vessel in 2002, and a planned attack on the American naval warship the USS The Sullivans, also in 2000.
Guarded by an escort of American servicemen, al-Nashiri entered the courtroom dressed in his white prison jumpsuit. He was clean-shaven and wearing his hair very short.
Sitting at a table flanked by his cohort of defense attorneys, al-Nashiri appeared confident, smiling occasionally and at one point waving to the media and other observers sitting behind a glass barrier.
The arraignment of al-Nashiri is historic in that it is the first of such tribunals to be held since the system was created during the George W. Bush administration in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The proceeding is especially noteworthy in that not only is it the first military tribunal of a Guantanamo prisoner, but, if convicted, al-Nashiri faces the death penalty.
Speculation over a potential Israeli attack on Iran has circulated via media reports and governmental agencies, and was heightened following the release of an IAEA report this week that portrayed Iran as a major nuclear threat. According to a United Kingdom foreign official, an attack on Iran by Israel could take place as early as next month. A senior Foreign Office figure told the Daily Mail newspaper, “We’re expecting something as early as Christmas, or very early in the new year,” adding that Israel will attack Iran’s nuclear sites “sooner rather than later.”
Gadhafi is now dead. After more than four decades of brutalizing the Libyan people, he died a brutal death. His convoy was hit by NATO bombs as it fled the city of Sirte. Western-backed revolutionaries finished the job, wildly shouting “Allahu Akbar” — usually translated as “God is great” — as they ripped his hair out, smashed his face in, and finally, put the fatal bullet through his skull. American officials celebrated the ghoulish announcement.
Gadhafi was born in 1942 to poor parents outside of Sirte, Libya, a country then ruled by Italy. Raised in a tent, he eventually joined the military. And in 1969, while pro-Western Libyan King Idris was away, Gadhafi led a coalition of military officers in a bloodless coup that abolished the monarchy.
After seizing power, the budding despot promptly shut down Western military bases in Libya and set up “Revolutionary Committees” to quash opposition. While working to bring in his version of Arab socialism, Gadhafi also developed a massive system of informants to silence dissent. Critics were often publicly executed.
Using oil money instead of debt, Gadhafi’s regime did significantly raise Libyans’ standards of living — life expectancy and literacy rates surged. Blacks and women were also given equal “rights.” Many analysts cite the dictatorship’s socialist programs and robust welfare state as a reason he was able to cling to power for so long. Like most governments, Gadhafi ensured some level of popular support by using divide-and-conquer tactics and creating whole classes of citizens dependent on his regime’s largesse. Fear also played a key role.
While the global powers are speculating over the possibility of an Israeli military strike against Iran, many analysts are saying that such an endeavor would steeply raise the price of oil. As a preemptive attack by Israel — on its own — seems increasingly more likely, oil has already increased $1.17 a barrel to $115.73, the highest price in the last two months.
An attack on Iran would likely increase the cost of oil even more dramatically, however. In 2006, when Israel and the United States began to take issue with Iran’s nuclear program, Iran responded by dispatching its Revolutionary Guards to deploy mines in the Strait of Hormuz, through which one-third of the world’s oil passes.
As speculation continues over possibilities of a unilateral attack by Israel on Iran’s nuclear program, the Obama administration is sending a clear signal that it is prepared to work with the victorious factions arising through the Middle East in the aftermath of the Arab Spring — including self-avowed “Islamists.” In the words of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “what parties call themselves is less important to us than what they actually do.”
According to a story from the Associated Press, the Obama administration is now openly embracing the Islamist shift which is taking place as a result of the past year’s series of revolutions that have swept through a series of Islam-dominated countries. Speaking to the National Democratic Institute, Clinton made it clear that a profound shift is taking place in American foreign policy. In the words of the AP story:
Clinton offered a forthright embrace of the democratic changes enveloping North Africa and the Middle East at a time when the euphoria of the successful revolutions from Egypt to Libya is giving way to the hard and unprecedented work of creating stable democracies.
After decades of partnering dictators throughout the region, her message was that the U.S. would approach the new political landscape with an open mind and the understanding that long-term support for democracy trumps any short-term advantages through alliances with authoritarian regimes.
On Monday, a number of media outlets predicted that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s next quarterly report on Iran's nuclear potential (set to come out this week) would set the stage for a preemptive attack on that country. Experts indicated that the document would reveal the so-called “smoking gun” that would justify a war against Iran. Leaked portions of the report, however, reveal no such information, instead focusing on seemingly idle observations and speculation.