The Middle East is experiencing its most tumultuous wave of political change in decades. From Egypt to Syria to Yemen, the people of the Arab World are rejecting the status quo dictatorships and demanding democracy. Those who have been silenced for their whole lives are standing up to their oppressive leaders. Their cries for democracy, human rights and dignity are ringing loud throughout the Middle East and we hear their voices loud and clear. The United States must stand with the freedom fighters in the Middle East and support their desire for the basic values and principles that Americans enjoy every day.
On July 29, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) practically branded President Barack Obama an apologist for the human rights abuses of an African regime, for having met in the White House with President Alassane Ouattara of the Ivory Coast. Yet, for all of Inhofe's accusations against the President, the senior Senator has been a Washington advocate for Christian African strongmen with appalling records of human rights abuses.
While Inhofe is correct to point out abuses by Ouattara that undercut his inclusion in a meeting in honor of model African democracy leaders, the record shows that the Senator has not been a consistent voice in defense of human rights in Africa.
For two decades, the policy of appeasement has dominated the relationship between the West and Iran. Realpolitik was top of the agenda as the Iranian regime’s cronies in the U.S. cloaked as “Iran experts” and analysts recommended offering incentives to the regime in Tehran in return for constructive coexistence with Iran.
Strong rhetoric had to be replaced with constructive dialogue for improving relations, they argued, claiming that such an approach would in the long-term lead to reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Iran, severed since 1979.
The advocates of appeasement were fully convinced that this doctrine would eventually prompt a hidden reformist inside the clerical system who in the long run could improve the situation in Iran through subsequent reforms and achieve constructive coexistence between the US and Iran. Believing the theocracy in Tehran to be a lasting regional superpower, they pushed for dialogue and ignored the regime’s barbaric violations of its citizens’ human rights, its pursuit of nuclear weapon and its support for terrorism throughout the world.
Over three million people are on the brink of starvation in Somalia alone. Failed crops, dead livestock and thousands streaming across borders in search of food, water and safety. In the past few weeks, as the debt ceiling debate has hogged the headlines, the crisis in the Horn of Africa has become a steadily noisier roar.
How has it come to this again in Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti? The Eastern Horn has experienced two consecutive seasons of significantly below-average rainfall, resulting in one of the driest years since 1995. Decades of conflict and poor governance have exacerbated existing challenges and also prevented many aid groups from operating. And world food prices are already at all-time highs, leading to twelve million people in the region now needing access to food, water and basic sanitation.
The Assad regime’s ruthlessness is on vivid display as the Syrian security forces, with Iranian assistance, continue their bloody campaign to crush a four-month long democracy uprising.
This week, members of Congress are waking up from a debt-ceiling hangover to consider a bipartisan energy sanctions bill that would exert peaceful pressure on Bashar Assad’s regime in an effort to stop the bloodshed. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), as well as Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) have introduced bills targeting investment in Syria’s energy sector, as well as petroleum exports and imports, and the transfer of technology. These bills are modeled on Iran sanctions laws that are successfully squeezing Iran’s energy sector.
Will President Obama move quickly to sign this bill into law and use a peaceful instrument of pressure to try and stop the killing? Or will he yield to the argument of Robert Ford, his ambassador to Syria, who argued in his confirmation hearing Tuesday that, “additional American measures probably aren’t going to have that big of an impact. The big companies working in the energy sector in Syria are from Europe or Syria’s neighbors.”
There is some rosy fantasy that the pending U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement will create tens of thousands of well-paying jobs in both countries and strengthen and expand the U.S. relationship with Korea. This is a fabrication of multinational corporations that have no allegiance to either country. As a member of the Korean National Assembly, I would like to set the record straight: In reality, the deal is lose-lose.
Contrary to the PR campaign by the Korean Embassy, it is simply not true that most Koreans wholeheartedly welcome the trade deal. The Democratic Party of Korea and a multitude of civic groups in Korea have fought to stop it. And the majority of the Korean people are gravely concerned.
In a White House meeting last week, President Barack Obama praised four recently elected heads of African states as “effective models” for democratization who are “absolutely committed” to good governance and human rights. Yet, as the New York Times noted, ambitious promises and lofty rhetoric in Washington glossed over troubling, but all too familiar, reports of coup plotting, an assassination attempt, and fresh human rights and press freedom violations.
With the exception of President Boni Yayi of Benin, three new African leaders, Presidents Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast, and Alpha Condé of Guinea, have each been in office for less than a year after emerging from some of the most contested ballot tussles on the continent. Yet, in their short time in office, two of the leaders Washington has most embraced in “building strong democratic institutions,” Ivory Coast President Ouattara and Guinean President Condé, have already been implicated in rights abuses.
Ambassador to China Gary Locke made the following remarks at his swearing-in ceremony.
I’m deeply humbled and honored to become the next United States ambassador to the People’s Republic of China. I’d like to thank President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and the United States Senate for their support, their confidence and their trust in me. I also want to recognize and thank Chargé d’Affaires Deng from the People’s Republic of China, and many other friends and colleagues who are here today. With my family -– my wife Mona and our children Emily, Dylan and Madeline -- we’re excited to have this opportunity to serve the President and the people of the United States of America.
These are heartless times. Issues that should never be partisan, like helping the poorest of the poor survive, are falling to the wayside in the name of ensuring the top 1% of our wealthiest get to keep their disproportionately large tax cuts.
It is extraordinary to see how far we seem to have come down the road of self-interest. We know that there are many members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, who understand and care about serving the long-term interests of the United States by tackling global poverty. Unfortunately, their voices are not being heard. Today, we witnessed the passage of a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations bill that eliminates even the relatively miniscule amounts of funding for such programs in the name of cutting our deficit. But this only puts many of our most vulnerable global citizens – women and children - at further risk.
In the village of Nehal Khan Burchand, Pakistan, signs of rebuilding are underway. One year ago today, unprecedented, torrential rains hit northern Pakistan. Back then, little did these poor farmers of Nehal Khan Burchand know that a water mass the size of Great Britain was coming their way down the Indus River. In a matter of weeks, it would submerge their village.
Little did they know that they would spend the next eight months living in a camp - one of thousands set up to provide shelter for the roughly seven million people displaced by last year’s floods.
When I visited Pakistan in September of last year, the situation could not have been more dire. With twenty million people in need of emergency relief, the country was facing a crisis larger than the 2001 tsunami, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and the 2005 Kashmir earthquake combined.