Foreign Policy

Guantanamo: Treating our enemies better than our friends

As many people have noted, including President Barack Obama, Guantanamo has caused a variety of self-inflicted wounds to the national security and economic interests of the United States. One of those injuries is the damage Guantanamo has caused to the relationships with America’s key military and economic allies. The recent announcement that the Obama Administration is negotiating with the Taliban about the possible release of Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo, while at the same it refuses to negotiate the repatriation of any Guantanamo prisoners to allied countries, is more collateral damage.
Kuwait is a good example.


United front is needed to counter nuclear terrorism

Despite the partisanship that currently afflicts our nation’s politics, there is at least one issue that both Republicans and Democrats can agree on – the need to prevent terrorist groups from acquiring nuclear bomb-making materials. Solidifying the historic legacy of American leadership in countering nuclear terrorism, more than fifty heads of state will gather today for the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit. The summit will bring together world leaders to strengthen global defenses against nuclear terrorism, one of the gravest threats to our security. The international nature of this gathering is critical; without a global effort to strengthen global defenses against nuclear terrorism, we could easily fall short.
In the United States, enhancing global nuclear security has been an area of bipartisan cooperation for more than two decades. In 1991, the collapse of the Soviet Union caused command and control of the vast Soviet nuclear stockpile to unravel, and there was no accounting system to track nuclear weapons or materials. Fences surrounding installations that housed the Soviet nuclear arsenal were riddled with gaping holes, and there was no system to detect individuals who might steal weapons-grade uranium or plutonium. Scientists with the knowledge to create weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were suddenly jobless, and countless individuals – including guards at nuclear facilities – were struggling under hard economic times, giving them an incentive to steal nuclear material and sell it to the highest bidder. The challenge to keep Soviet weapons, materials, and expertise off the black market was overwhelming.


For American jobs, China's cheating on rare earth trade must end

When China cheats, America loses jobs.

Members of the World Trade Organization, including the United States, are prohibited from using quotas on exports. When China joined the World Trade Organization it committed to follow these rules. At that time, China also agreed to avoid export taxes or duties. In flagrant disregard for the international trade rules it has agreed to, China is holding hostage rare earth elements and other essential raw materials needed for manufacturing.

With the growing use of electronics, rare earth elements have become essential to the production of everything from batteries and iPads to advanced weapons critical to our national defense. By hoarding these materials, China hurts American manufacturers. The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission has long-warned these policies disadvantage U.S. producers of advanced electronics, batteries for hybrid cars, and precision-guided weapons.


Stop the nightmare in Sudan

I recently joined Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), my co-chair on the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, in introducing the Sudan Peace, Security, and Accountability Act of 2012 (H.R. 4169).  This important legislation is aimed at developing a comprehensive strategy to bring lasting peace to Sudan and end the decades long cycle of violence and human rights abuses in the war-torn country.

This legislation has never been more necessary. Having recently returned from South Sudan, where spent time in a refugee camp in just miles from the border with Sudan, I was appalled by what I encountered.

There are more than 25,000 men, women and children living in Yida refugee camp, all of whom have fled the violence in the Nuba Mountains. Yida is the same camp actor George Clooney, NBC news correspondent Ann Currie and New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof have  visited in recent weeks.

Many of the women I met with in the camp recounted how their villages were pillaged and burned by uniformed Sudanese soldiers. They told of brutal attacks gruesome killing.  They relayed stories of women and young girls being raped.  They explained how they lived in fear of daily Antonov bombing raids that indiscriminately shelled civilian populations, a trademark of Sudanese president Omar Bashir’s regime.  There are now reports that the Sudanese Army has begun using long-range Chinese rockets to bombard the Nuba Mountains.


Trade relations with Russia will be a boost to the U.S.

If there is one thing Congress can agree on during an election year, it is a policy that will spur job creation, boost economic growth and be budget neutral at the same time. Here is why authorizing permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) for Russia will accomplish all three.  
Members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) formally approved late last year Russia’s terms for membership in the organization during a three-day meeting of the WTO’s ministerial conference in Geneva.   Russia will take its seat at the WTO 30 days after notifying the organization that the Russian Duma has ratified the membership terms.


No laughing matter: The cutting of UNESCO funding

In classic fashion cable television's The Daily Show recently reminded those of us who have conveniently forgotten that, for the most cynical of reasons, the US government has cut funding to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The cut was carried out in October 2011 as a US response to UNESCO accepting Palestine as a participating member nation.  The US Congress, in its wisdom, has ruled that any such actions by an international body should come at great cost, in this case, the elimination of US funding – some 22 percent of UNESCO's budget.
The Daily Show rightly made the members of Congress out to be curmudgeons, hacks, and misanthropes who would rather score political points against the Palestinians than protect innocents being assisted by UNESCO (Click here to watch the video). The program’s only shortcoming was its failure to assign blame to AIPAC for repeatedly pushing misguided policies toward the region.


In Iraq, mission not yet accomplished

This week marks the ninth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a date in which we should remember our wounded and fallen American servicemen and women who sacrificed so greatly to protect our nation.
It is also a time to consider any ongoing commitments we may have to the Iraqi people, who also have suffered from the conflict and still face threats to their security. While the costs of the war in American lives and treasure cannot be altered, the future of the Iraqis who our brave soldiers liberated can.


For American jobs, Ex-Im Bank should be reauthorized

A surreal debate is unfolding in Congress over the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im), which will hit its authorized lending cap within weeks. A band of critics is arguing that Ex-Im’s support for American exporters is costly, risky, and unfair. What are the facts?
Trade finance has been around for centuries. It’s one of the safest kinds of finance because the goods sold serve as collateral, and the buyer, the seller, and the price have already been set.
The vast majority of trade finance is provided by commercial banks, but Ex-Im still has an important role to play covering gaps in financing for U.S. exports where commercial-bank financing is unavailable or faces competition from foreign export credit agencies. Last year, Ex-Im supported export sales that in turn sustained nearly 300,000 U.S. jobs at 3,600 companies.


A life in the DRC – Madeleine’s story

Driving from Rwanda to the Democratic Republic of Congo, I prepare myself for certain things. I know I will be confronted with extreme poverty. I know I will meet people who are facing hardships that would be unendurable to many. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the incredible beauty of the country.

The DRC has to be one of the most breathtaking countries in the world. But that beauty belies the fact that this country is terribly broken.


U.S. remains first choice for Irish immigrants. Senate bill offers them a lifeline

Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona duit (Happy St. Patrick's Day).

St. Patrick’s Day – or as it is in the U.S. – St. Patrick’s week - is an important point of celebration of all things Irish in far flung places around the globe.

I have met the Irish diaspora in the U.S., in Canada and Mexico; in Europe and the Middle East; and in South Africa and Australia. The Irish are everywhere. All those I have met have had the same love of their ancestral home whether they are fourth of fifth generation, or newly arrived.

The St. Patrick’s celebrations are an opportunity to reconnect. To celebrate all things Irish while reminding Irish Americans and others in the diaspora, that Ireland still suffers from many of the problems that forced them or their grandparents or great grandparents to leave Ireland in the first place and that we need their help to change that.

This is especially true in Washington where Ireland has many friends within the republican and democratic parties. In good times and bad, and in dangerous times they stayed with the peace process.