No Ground Gained in Talk Palestine, Israel, U.S. Talks

Read the full article about the tri-lateral meeting with Obama, Abbas, and Netanyahu here

JERUSALEM—U.S. President Barack Obama finally got his wish for a meeting with the leaders of Palestine and Israel on Tuesday. After months of high-level diplomatic pressure, he hosted a highly anticipated meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in New York.

The meeting did not bear much in the way of results. It ended with a short remark made by President Obama urging the two sides to come together.

“We have to summon the will to break the deadlock that has trapped generations of Israelis and Palestinians in an endless cycle of conflict and suffering,” said Obama in televised comments after the three-way meeting. “We cannot continue the same pattern of taking tentative steps forward and then stepping back. Success depends on all sides acting with a sense of urgency.”

Obama wants to restart negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians and forge a permanent agreement for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. But the problem lies in the unwillingness or the inability of both the Israelis and the Palestinians to soften their basic demands.

Read the full article about the tri-lateral meeting with Obama, Abbas, and Netanyahu here

Politicians Don’t Decide What Information Illuminates a Story

by Genevieve Long for the Foreign Policy Association

U.S. President Barack Obama reversed a significant decision this past week. He decided to go back on his promise to release photographs of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan that were taken a few years ago. The popular sentiment among the more conservative-minded might be that Obama is well within his right as Commander-in-Chief to do what he considers in the interest of national security. On the surface this does appear to be a sound argument for the reversed decision.

But dig a little deeper, and the logic that national security and our troops are being protected by thwarting the publication of said photos is actually a hairline crack in the foundation of free speech. And it’s the type of decision that can weaken a democracy.

In 1798, Thomas Jefferson said:

“One of the amendments to the Constitution… expressly declares that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,’ thereby guarding in the same sentence and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press; insomuch that whatever violates either throws down the sanctuary which covers the others.”

The freedom to think, speak, and believe freely is a great source of strength for Americans. But it can also be a great challenge. We are given explicit protection to be free, but no explicit instructions how to use that freedom. Therein lies the genius of the founding fathers’ conclusion in the Declaration of Independence that government must draw it’s “just powers from the consent of the governed”. A consenting citizenry must be an informed citizenry, otherwise it will always be at odds over what exactly it is consenting to.

Photos of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, for this very reason, should be released. The world, not just Americans, learned in the worst way that what goes on overseas in dark prison cells in the name of the United States makes the citizens of the United States linked to those events by association. Abu Grahib. Guantanamo. Black sites in Europe. The world will never know the extent of suffering that has been inflicted, only the imagined possibilities based on pieces of the story.

During a press briefing in Washington on May 13, President Obama’s Press Secretary Robert Gibbs made the basic point in the President’s argument to a fiesty press corps confounded by Obama’s decision.

Gibbs’s response, in part:

SEE FULL POSTING HERE ON MEDIA AND FOREIGN POLICY

Guantánamo Bay Closure Order Elicits Swift Reactions

By Genevieve Long for The Epoch Times

SEE FULL ARTICLE HERE

The notorious Guantánamo Bay Detention Center in Cuba is set to close within the next year. As one of his first orders of business, newly inaugurated President Obama asked Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to pause military prosecutions at Guantánamo Bay on Wednesday. On Jan. 22, Obama signed an executive order to close the detention center within a year.

It is not yet clear how the nearly 250 current detainees, termed “enemy combatants” in the war on terror, will be handled.

Executive orders, which are controversial because they unilaterally legislate, can be challenged by a two-thirds majority in congress or through the federal courts. The issues tied to President Obama’s executive order on Guantánamo are rich in complexities.

“There are people who are being held at Guantánamo who are still bent on doing harm to America, Americans, and our allies,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell during a Jan. 19 press briefing. “There will have to be some solution for the likes of them.”

According to recent Pentagon statistics, about 11 percent of Guantánamo detainees have returned to fighting, a “substantial increase”. Of former detainees, 18 are confirmed and 43 suspected of returning to fighting—61 in all.

The current number of Guantánamo detainees is approximately 250.

Swift Congressional Response

The congressional response to Obama’s executive order was swift on both sides of the aisle, as several congressional leaders issued statements on their websites. The reaction was mixed—a common question being where detainees would go after the center closes.

“The Guantánamo Bay prison is filled with the worst of the worst—terrorists and killers bent on murdering Americans and other friends of freedom around the world,” said House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) in a statement on Thursday. “If it is closed, where will they go, will they be brought to the United States, and how will they be secured?”

SEE FULL ARTICLE HERE

My American Dream

By Genevieve Long

It has always been drilled into my head that voting is a civic duty. As Americans, we are told it is our privilege to walk into a booth and choose a candidate. But until November 4, 2008, I never really believed it.

I think my enthusiasm started with unusual cab rides I started having six months ago. As soon as I shut the door and gave my destination, the drivers would start chattering at me enthusiastically.

“So what do you think?” my driver from Egypt or Eritrea or India would ask, nearly yelling. “You think Obama can do it? Who do you like?” I would sit in the back of the cab, caught halfway between speechless and thrilled, seeing my country take a personal interest in who should run our government.

My favorite was a Muslim driver wearing an Islamic cap, who hailed from somewhere in the Middle East.

“Do you know the meaning of the word democracy?” he screamed conversationally as he careened down 10th Avenue, barely minding the treacherous street construction and oncoming traffic. He explained his definition in minute detail, replete with obscure historical references and personal philosophical nuances.

I was shocked to learn that his understanding of the word democracy had nothing to do with a government of the people. It was all about power and justification of acts of power—extremely complicated and far removed from the American ideal of the word and the concept. But maybe we were to blame for the distortion. After all, we have seen years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, a devastated economy, a mortgage crisis, and on and on. And all the while, so many struggling to have some control that is held by so few. Over the last few years, it has started to seem like our form of democracy is more about power, and less about people.

Today when I finally went to vote after two years of campaigns and promises, I thought about that cab driver and his definition of democracy. All day I had been excited about casting my ballot in what many Americans feel is an historic election. It is something I want to tell my children and grandchildren about. Not simply for the sake of the story, but to hand down to future generations a genuine love of freedom. My parents passed it to me, as their parents to them. That belief in the ability to make things better is the heart of my American dream. It has given me hope over some of the dark moments of the last eight years.

Most of my friends, colleagues, and family members asked and reminded and cajoled me to vote. Immigrants I know who cannot cast a ballot yet because of their status expressed regret that they cannot participate. Overall, it has been quite a buildup.

As I strode toward my polling place in New York City with a smile, I felt genuinely excited for the first time in my life about voting. Out of the blue, I thought about Iraq and a passage from Dexter Filkins’ book, “The Forever War”. In the book, Filkins describes an Iraqi man at the polling station in Iraq who said, “Get out of my way—I want to vote.” I suddenly understood how that man must have felt. If given the chance, human beings naturally want a say in their fate. On voting day, that manifests as using our one voice to state who we want to lead us.

But at the end of the day when the voices have been counted, the newly elected leader is still just a leader. They are one person and the civic duty of the citizens has just begun. If we have learned anything from the past eight years, it is that an engaged, questioning, and probing citizenry is core to the health of a democracy—regardless of who is elected to lead. The change we seek will not be found in one person, it will ultimately be found in ourselves.

As I approached the polling station and saw the sign stating, “Vote Here/Vota Aqui”, the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address came to mind:This nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”