Posted on March 19, 2013 in Countdown
Or would we? Today marks the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War, and it’s an opportunity for us all to reflect on how we let a small group of neo-conservatives capitalize on the fear of terrorism to launch our country into an unnecessary and counterproductive war. Good thing that kind of broken foreign policy-making is a thing of the past, huh? There’s no way, in our modern enlightened age, that we would sit idly by while Congress pushed the country ever-closer to war, relying on circumstantial evidence of an “imminent threat” based on weapons of mass destruction that no one has actually confirmed. And there’s certainly no way we’d believe that a military confrontation with a large, populous state in the greater Middle East would somehow improve regional stability, instead of driving the region deeper into chaos. After all, the majority of American people don’t favor military intervention right now, and our president has stressed the importance of diplomacy with even the most intractable regimes. So, rest easy, Countdown readers, there’s just no way our government is foolish enough to attack any countries that start with I-R-A anytime soon, right? Right?
We just passed another significant anniversary this past week as well: ten years ago, American activist Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli military bulldozer. At the time, she was demonstrating against the Israeli policy of home demolitions as a method of collective punishment, a tactic that has only increased in frequency in the intervening years. Indeed, Rachel’s story is only one among countless other instances of human rights activists – foreign and Palestinian – who have been killed or injured while protesting the human rights violations of the Palestinian people. We should all take this moment to remember the lives that have been lost by the many individuals of all backgrounds who have given their lives to bring justice and peace to the region, but we can all derive some solace from the fact that the ideals that Rachel stood for – an end to the occupation, peace for all people, and accountability for those who undermine it – have grown stronger by the day. We hope President Obama will remember these ideals on his trip, and renew his efforts to bring the endless, unnecessary bloodshed to an end.
The fourth amendment to the US Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, but these important protections have been eroded in the name of security after 9/11. But, recent days have brought some hopeful signals that that tide may be turning. A recent court ruling we reported previously in Countdown restricted the ability of law enforcement officials to search the contents of laptops in DHS designated “border zones.” Yesterday, conservative anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and Laura Murphy, Director of the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), teamed up and published an op-ed in Politico that calls for the government to treat data stored on servers the same way it treats physical data, like documents or mail. As it stands now, government agencies can access emails older than 180 days through an internet service provider without a warrant. Norquist and Murphy’s proposal would extend the protections afforded to physical documents or local hard drives to information stored on Internet Service Provider servers. It’s great to see such diverse support for such an important issue which unfortunately disproportionately affects communities like ours. The attention generated by the partnership will certainly add new attention to a debate about the government overreaching on civil liberties.
As President Obama heads to the Middle East this week, the usual requests from Israeli political figures like President Shimon Peres for President Obama to release Jonathan Pollard, an American convicted of spying for Israel, have commenced. Without violating our own headline above, these particular calls are interesting for two reasons. First, as J.J Goldberg leads us to believe, Obama is not well-liked in Israel and some Israelis might like him better if he releases the convicted spy. And if you are looking for insight on how this case plays out in American national security circles, here is the second reason this is interesting. Former spokesperson for the NSC Tommy Vietor sent the following tweet on the issue: “Can't understand why Israelis make this their cause. Pollard was a spy. Period. MT @JeffreyGoldberg Ms Israel will ask Obama to free Pollard.” Clear enough. Talk of Pollard’s release is a distraction from what the President’s trip should be about: laying the groundwork for peace talks to resume and building an Israeli and Palestinian constituency for peace by speaking directly to both peoples. Besides, given the apparent bad blood between Netanyahu and Obama, the two should have plenty of awkward conversations without the Pollard chat.
After getting pummeled at the polls this past election, Republican Party leaders decided it was time for the GOP to undergo a change in messaging to appeal to a broad-based group of voters including women, minorities, and younger demographics. And while their effort is commendable, there is only one problem with it: it lacks fundamental support from the party’s actual base. Here’s a case in point: Just as the Conservation Political Action Conference (CPAC) was letting out last week, a new report paid for by the Republican National Committee (RNC) called the Growth & Opportunity Project was released. The report suggests the GOP needs to get on board with issues like gay rights and immigration reform. Oh yeah, it also suggests that candidates should stop saying dumb things about women. Shocking! Despite the fact that the RNC has been pushing this report as the remedy to the GOP’s election woes at CPAC, which by the way is the largest gathering of Republicans in the country, a different tune was sung by some of the most popular speakers with the GOP’s base. Headliners included the notoriously anti-gay Rick Santorum, Islamophobe and former Florida Congressman Allen West, and media personality Anne Coulter, who said this about immigration: "If amnesty goes through, America becomes California and no Republican will ever win another national election." Sounds like the RNC is right: there is a messaging problem, or maybe it’s deeper than that.