Nel's New Day

March 9, 2015

Will GOP Senators Start World War III?

In an act of possible treason, 47 GOP Senators have joined Iranian extremists in an effort to stop negotiations with Iran. In their attempt to undermine the U.S. foreign policy, the Republicans signed a letter to “leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” declaring the next president could reverse any agreement without legislative approval “with the stroke of a pen.” This action may support Iranian hardliners who want their to develop arsenal of nuclear weapons and lead the Middle East to greater instability.

The White House was not informed about the letter until after it had been sent to Iran, and Democratic senators were also not given advance warning. The secret action of these 47 GOP senators followed House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) secret invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who beat the drums of war in a speech before the U.S. Congress.

President Obama has been working with five other leaders of world powers to keep Iran from having a nuclear bomb. Secretary of State John Kerry plans to go to Switzerland within the next week to complete a framework agreement before the March 24 deadline, two weeks from now. If the pact lasted ten years, the world powers would lift its sanctions against Iran.

Fortunately, Iran leaders sneered at the GOP senators’ letter. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, issued a statement:

“In our view, this letter has no legal value and is mostly a propaganda ploy. It is very interesting that while negotiations are still in progress and while no agreement has been reached, some political pressure groups are so afraid even of the prospect of an agreement that they resort to unconventional methods, unprecedented in diplomatic history.”

Although the letter would most likely not stop any agreement, it could be used by Iranians if talks falter. The missive was called an “open letter,” meaning a statement and not an intervention in negotiations, but it is unprecedented. The purpose is another attempt to embarrass the president and keep him from carrying out the foreign policy of the United States. As Minority Leader Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-NV) said, “Republicans are undermining our commander-in-chief while empowering the ayatollahs.”

Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) drafted the letter. He said he did it because Iran’s leaders might not understand America’s constitutional system, in case those in Iran don’t know that presidents serve for only two terms. Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith describes the technical mistakes in the letter as “embarrassing”:

“The letter states that ‘the Senate must ratify [a treaty] by a two-thirds vote.’ But as the Senate’s own web page makes clear: ‘The Senate does not ratify treaties. Instead, the Senate takes up a resolution of ratification, by which the Senate formally gives its advice and consent, empowering the president to proceed with ratification.’  Or, as this outstanding 2001 CRS Report on the Senate’s role in treaty-making states (at 117): ‘It is the President who negotiates and ultimately ratifies treaties for the United States, but only if the Senate in the intervening period gives its advice and consent.’ Ratification is the formal act of the nation’s consent to be bound by the treaty on the international plane. Senate consent is a necessary but not sufficient condition of treaty ratification for the United States. As the CRS Report notes: ‘When a treaty to which the Senate has advised and consented … is returned to the President,’ he may “simply decide not to ratify the treaty.”

Negotiations require no congressional action because the president has the power to lift sanctions that he has imposed through his executive orders and suspend others imposed by Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) agreed to wait for any action in the Senate until talks with Iran were concluded.

The Republicans who did not sign the letter deserve a great credit. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Foreign Relations Committee chair who has been working with Democrats on Iran legislation, said, “We’ve got a bipartisan effort that’s underway that has a chance of being successful, and while I understand all kinds of people want to weigh in.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) also did not sign. She said it was “more appropriate for members of the Senate to be giving our advice to the president, to Secretary [of State John F.] Kerry and to the negotiators.” The other GOP senators who did not sign the letter are Jeff Flake (AZ), Lamar Alexander (TN), Dan Coats (IN), Thad Cochran (MS), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

Those who signed the letter fail to see that their action destroys any shreds of U.S. integrity for all future negotiations with foreign powers. The signers are part of a free-for-all climate in which they presume they have the autonomy to address foreign government with their own personal opinions—for example, when Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) criticized President Obama’s actions in Guatemala. Even worse, they have taken this action during delicate negotiations in the sole purpose of creating chaos. The end result is loss of U.S. influence in foreign affairs.

As Vice-President Joe Biden wrote in a statement:

“In 36 years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country—much less a longtime foreign adversary—that the President does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them.”

The letter’s author, Tom Cotton, has no interest in peace in the Middle East. During his campaign, he described ISIS and Mexican drug cartels joining forces to attack Arkansas as an “urgent problem.” Before he was sworn in, he said he wanted Congress to supply Israel with Boeing-made B-52s and so-called “bunker-buster” bombs. After less than a month in Congress, he called for offensive action and compared the negotiations with Iran to the appeasement of Nazi Germany. He also said that the president was wrong to not send U.S. forces into Syria. On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, he said, “The more we bomb … the safer we are.” He wants to create a regime change in Iran, just as George W. Bush wanted a regime change in Iraq. Cotton openly declared that he wants more sanctions on Iran to end current negotiations.

Under the current agreement with Iran, the country’s nuclear program has been frozen and is even rolling back while the IAEA has “unprecedented access” to Iran’s nuclear facilities, according to Dylan Williams, a vice president of the pro-Israel advocacy group J Street. All this would end without an agreement with Iran.  Two years ago, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that economic sanctions, diplomacy, international cooperation, and defensive preparedness are having a positive effect on Iran’s nuclear program. The Pentagon stated that Dempsey’s assessment is still “accurate.”

About the new senators who wants to be the leading hawk in the chamber, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) said:

“Sen. Cotton is already on his way to marking himself as the premiere warmonger of the 114th Congress. I think this is just the beginning of his efforts to see that we’re involved not just in one war or two wars, but perhaps 15 or 20 wars; that’s the way he’d like to see it.”

Some people have brought up the Logan Act of 1799 that could declare Cotton’s actions as treason. Also the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp. (1936):

“The President alone has the power to speak or listen as a representative of the nation. He makes treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate; but he alone negotiates. Into the field of negotiation the Senate cannot intrude; and Congress itself is powerless to invade it. As Marshall said in his great argument of March 7, 1800, in the House of Representatives, ‘The President is the sole organ of the nation in its external relations, and its sole representative with foreign nations.’ Annals, 6th Cong., col. 613.”

That decision has never been overruled; it covers Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu to lobby for war in front of Congress.


cottonTomorrow, Cotton will attend an event with the National Defense Industrial Association, a lobbying and professional group for defense contractors.  His advocacy for higher military spending and attacks on the Middle East should gain him an increase in his next campaign’s “war chest.”

Patronizing, smug, arrogant, naïve, willful, controlling, ignorant, condescending—it’s hard to find enough words to describe the new senator from Arkansas. All I ask is that he also reinstate the draft to provide the “drone fodder” that World War III will cause. By doing so, people may stop the war hawks across the nation from leaving he United States in perpetual war.

February 16, 2015

GOP Supports Netanyahu Instead of U.S. President

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) declared yesterday on the Fox network that “we have every right to do what we did,” referring to inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a speech before Congress only two weeks before Israel’s election. Congress is on recess, and tomorrow Oregon’s Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. Kurt Schrader are appearing at a town hall on the coast of Oregon. Gilbert Schramm, has provided some background about Netanyahu for people who want to know more about the person who will be lobbying Congress to stop U.S. negotiations with Iran.

Fact checks of Netanyahu’s recent statements:

Iran: Speaking to the UN, Netanyahu claimed that Iran was only a year away from having a nuclear weapon. A top Israeli intelligence official admitted that Iran was 10 years away, and Israel doesn’t know if Iran will try to develop to develop one.

Syria: Netanyahu pushed the United States toward bombing Syria in 2013, and 200 lobbyists argued for a war that the U.S. people don’t want. Their claim that Syria would never divest itself of chemical weapons collapsed, leaving it the only major force opposing ISIL after the U.S.-created Iraqi army dissolved. Israel has not ratified the chemical weapons treaty and keeps its chemical weapons.

Missiles: Netanyahu’s story about “Syrian missiles bound for Gaza,” issued at the same time as U.S. negotiations with Iran, also blew up. The missiles were from Iran and headed to the Sudan. Iran’s peaceful nuclear program continues to be in compliance with the terms of the Non-Proliferation Treaty that Israel refuses to sign.

Gaza: Netanyahu claims to care deeply about “every single civilian in Gaza” while leveling whole neighborhoods with what he calls “precision strikes.” He also seals the borders of Gaza to keep everyone from escaping and then bemoans the Palestinian leadership “using human shields” and “placing its own people at risk.”

Threats: Hours after Netanyahu claimed that Israel was under a terrible existential threat, he told the FAA that U.S. tourists would be perfectly safe when they flew into Tel Aviv at the same time that flights had been forced to abort landings in the presence of rocket fire.

Two-state solution: For years, Netanyahu pretended that he would accept a two-state solution. Last month he admitted that he never would. He follows Ben Gurion’s 1947 argument to Zionists that they should accept the UN partition plan detailed in UN 181 and then ignore the parallel Palestinian state. A Palestinian state doesn’t exist 68 years later because Israeli has prevented its creation.

Celebrating murderers: In Israel, people debate the “permissibility” of genocide. Referring to six Israeli Jewish extremists burning a Palestinian boy alive, Netanyahu claimed that Israel punished murderers while Palestinians “celebrated murderers.” His claimed that Israelis never named streets or buildings after murderers, but streets and buildings throughout Israel are named after Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, both leaders of Jewish terrorist groups that committed awful atrocities. Places are also named for dozens of other Zionist killers. Palestine cannot do the same because they have no state and therefore cannot officially give names to streets.

Background: Benjamin Netanyahu won the election for prime minister in 1995 after his opponent, Yitzchak Rabin, was assassinated by an Israeli terrorist. In Politicide, Israeli historian Baruch Kimmerling wrote that Netanyahu was a key figure in incitements against Rabin. Past leaders of Netanyahu’s political party, Likud, had supported Mussolini in World War II and were Zionist/Jewish terrorists responsible, among over things, for the bombing of the King David Hotel, assassinations of the British High commissioner and Count Bernadotte (the very first UN peacemaker sent to Palestine), executions of British troops, and numerous attacks on Arab civilians. Previously, the founder of Irgun, Likud’s predecessor, wrote to Adolf Hitler, promising that a Jewish state would protect Germany’s position in the Middle East. (Kati Marton, A Death in Jerusalem, p.54)

Loss of power: Once prime minister, Netanyahu immediately appointed as his defense minister Ariel Sharon, previously thrown out of the government for massacres in Lebanon including Sabra and Shatila. Sharon then defeated Netanyahu and derailed the Oslo peace accords in 2001, followed by his vigorous encouragement that the U.S. invade Iraq two years later. Although Netanyahu lost by a small margin in 2008, he united the Likud party with other even more extreme Israeli settler parties.

Palestinian state: Likud’s party charter rejects any possibility of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan River; “their activity shall be limited in accordance with imperatives of Israel’s existence, security and national needs.” The goal of the Likud party, led by Netanyahu, is not peace but total “victory” by whatever means necessary and achieved through violence, if they wish.

[Gilbert Schramm is a peace activist and international educator who currently lives in Oregon. He has previously lived and worked extensively in the Middle East and has studied the region for almost 35 years.]

Netanyahu’s hawkish, right-wing lies start wars, and Israel wants the might of the United States military behind them for whatever the Israelis want. In his speech to Congress, Netanyahu will urge legislators to go above President Obama’s interests of peace to support the right-wing Israeli wish list. In recent weeks, Israeli intelligence agencies have directly reported to U.S. officials that increasing sanctions on Iran would derail the current delicate negotiations. Allowing Netanyahu to follow through with his plans would also insult the president of the United States and violate existing international diplomatic precedents.

The two most effective opponents of ISIL are Iran and Hezbollah. When UN peacekeepers were surrounded by ISIL rebels on the Israeli border, Netanyahu’s troops, a few yards away, did nothing while Syrian troops used artillery fire to help the peacekeepers escape.

Democrats, some of them leaders in the Jewish caucus and others long supporters of Israel, also condemn Netanyahu’s lobbying for war. Veterans of the civil rights movement also condemn Netanyahu for his apartheid policies in Israel. From left to right, the U.S. Jewish community, including Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, is outraged that Netanyahu pretends to speak for them.

Netanyahu had hoped to use his speech before Congress as part of his re-election campaign, but Israel’s election chief Salim Joubran announced that the broadcast in Israel would have a five-minute delay, allowing editors to cut partisan statements. Several parties in Israel have condemned Netanyahu for his actions, along with Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. and five former Israeli ambassadors. Even right-wing allies fear that the speech will put the prime minister’s ties to the GOP ahead of the relationship between Israel and the United States.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said that he opposes “shallow” campaign tactics, adding that speaking about threats and dangers should be “in Hebrew to our citizens at home.”

A recent poll shows that people think that Boehner’s invitation was inappropriate  by 47 percent to 30 percent. All demographics show a majority of opposition to the invitation except for Republicans. In Israel, the opposition to Netanyahu speaking to Congress, 52 percent to 36 percent, is relatively the same as in the U.S.

After Netanyahu faced opposition in the United States for his planned speech, one of his officials, Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, accused Boehner of telling them that support for the speech was bipartisan. Hanegbi did not disagree with an interviewer who asked if Netanyahu had been “misled.” Nevertheless, Netanyahu plans to make the speech on March 3 because, Hanegbi said, it could help secure the two-thirds vote necessary to override a presidential veto on new sanctions in Iran.

Boehner told Fox’s Chris Wallace that he had asked Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., not to tell the White House about Congress’s meeting with Netanyahu “to make sure that there was no interference.” Boehner also complained about the “animosity” that the White House had shown Netanyahu. When Wallace asked if “the relationship between the U.S. and Israel be outside of politics,” Boehner dodged the question, saying that he looked forward to hearing what Netanyahu had to say.

Netanyahu said to Dan Shapiro, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, that the Obama administration was “not to ever second-guess me again.” No other foreign leader could get away with this tone and this message. Yet United States taxpayers send over $8 million a day in U.S. aid to Israel.

The leader of the U.S. House of Representatives has secretly partnered with a foreign government to undermine the foreign policy of the United States. Boehner admitted that he put the prime minister of Israel above the President of the United States, and Boehner did this after he lied about giving the White House sufficient warning regarding the invitation to Netanyahu.

The Republicans have been salivating for an opportunity to govern in Washington, D.C. This debacle, only two months into the 114th Congress, may be only an early one that leads the GOP toward failure in the 2016 election.

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