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June 22, 2016

US Bombing Syrian Troops Would Be Illegal

In an internal “dissent channel cable,” 51 State Department officers called for “targeted military strikes” against the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, a proposal that President Barack Obama has thus far resisted. However, were he to accept the cable’s advice, he would risk a dangerous – possibly catastrophic – confrontation with Russia. And, such a use of military force in Syria would violate U.S. and international law.

While the cable decries “the Russian and Iranian governments’ cynical and destabilizing deployment of significant military power to bolster the Assad regime,” the cable calls for the United States to protect and empower “the moderate Syrian opposition,” seeking to overthrow the Syrian government.

However, Assad’s government is the only legitimate government in Syria and, as the sovereign, has the legal right to seek international support as it has from Russia and Iran. There is no such legal right for the United States and other countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, to arm Syrian rebels to attack Assad’s government.

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June 15, 2016

New York Governor’s Unconstitutional Order Enables Israeli Occupation

Over the past year, several attempts in the New York legislature to pass laws protecting Israel against the boycotts, divestment and sanctions collectively known as “BDS” have failed. BDS punishes Israel for its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. In an unprecedented end run around the legislative process, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order this month that would accomplish just what the legislature has refused to do.

Cuomo’s order directs all agencies under his jurisdiction to discontinue all dealings with companies and organizations that support BDS. It also mandates that Cuomo’s commissioner compile a list of institutions and companies that support a boycott of Israel. The blacklist will be publicly posted. The burden of proving that these entities do not support the boycott is on the companies and institutions themselves.Read more

June 6, 2016

The Racial Divide Between Sanders and Trump

As I sat in the San Diego sunshine yesterday listening to Bernie Sanders outside of Qualcomm Stadium, I was struck by the stunning contrast between the senator and Donald Trump, particularly on the issue of race.

Sanders emphasized racial justice, citing the courage of African Americans and their allies who fought against racism and bigotry during Jim Crow. He talked of the thousands of undocumented workers who are ruthlessly exploited, overworked and underpaid, vowing to end the current deportation policies. Sanders seeks to “unite, not divide families.” And he wants to “fundamentally change” the federal government’s oppressive relationship with the Native American community.Read more

May 16, 2016

Michael Ratner’s Death Is a Loss for Freedom, Peace and Justice

Legendary human rights lawyer Michael Ratner died Wednesday. His pathbreaking legal and political work on behalf of the poor and oppressed around the world is unmatched. His death is an incalculable loss for the cause of freedom, peace and justice.

The last time I saw Michael was shortly before he was diagnosed with cancer. We were in New York for the annual dinner of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG). Both of us had served as NLG presidents, he during the Reagan years, I during the George W. Bush administration. When we met in New York, Michael had just returned from Cuba, where he had a wonderful visit with Gerardo Hernández, one of the Cuban Five. I was about to leave for Cuba, where I would meet with René González and Antonio Guerrero, two other members of the Cuban Five.Read more

May 4, 2016

Obama Can Burnish His Legacy by Meeting With Agent Orange Victims in Vietnam

At the end of May, President Obama will visit Vietnam, where he will have an opportunity to burnish his foreign policy legacy. Obama has taken some bold steps in that direction: He engineered a critical agreement with Iran to defuse its nuclear program, and he recently traveled to Cuba and began the process of normalizing relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

But Obama needs to do more to overcome his hawkish foreign policy legacy. His administration has killed thousands of people — many of them civilians — with drones and manned bombers. The vacuum created by his regime change in Libya destabilized that country and led to the rise of ISIS (also known as Daesh).

With his forthcoming visit to Vietnam, Obama can fortify his legacy by meeting with victims of Agent Orange the United States sprayed on Vietnam during the war. He can then accurately assess the tragic situation the U.S. created there and take steps to remedy it.

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April 18, 2016

Sanders and Clinton: Palestinian Defender vs. Israel Apologist

An amazing thing happened at the prime-time Democratic debate in Brooklyn on Thursday. A few days ahead of Tuesday’s delegate-rich New York primary, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders dared to criticize Israel. Rival Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, stood firm as an uncritical apologist for Israel.

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Sanders to explain his assertion that Israel’s actions during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, after Hamas launched rocket attacks on Israel, was “disproportionate and led to the unnecessary loss of life.” Sanders stated that Israel has the right to defend itself and “to live in peace and security without fear of terrorist attack,” adding, “That is not a debate.”

But Sanders went on to say that 10,000 Palestinian civilians had been wounded and 1,500 were killed. Sanders actually understated the fatalities. According to an independent international commission of inquiry convened by the United Nations Human Rights Council, more than 2,100 Palestinians lost their lives in that conflict.Read more

March 18, 2016

Human Rights Hypocrisy: US Criticizes Cuba

In advance of President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba on March 20, there is speculation about whether he can pressure Cuba to improve its human rights. But a comparison of Cuba’s human rights record with that of the United States shows that the US should be taking lessons from Cuba.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights contains two different categories of human rights – civil and political rights on the one hand; and economic, social and cultural rights on the other.Read more

March 15, 2016

Hillary Clinton’s Link to a Nasty Piece of Work in Honduras

A critical difference between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton is their position on whether children who fled violence in Central American countries, particularly Honduras, two years ago should be allowed to stay in the United States or be returned.

Sanders states unequivocally that they should be able to remain in the U.S.

Clinton disagrees. She would guarantee them “due process,” but nothing more.Read more

March 12, 2016

Who Is the US Killing With Drones?

As the news broke on March 7, 2016, that US drone strikes had killed 150 people in Somalia, the White House announced it will reveal, for the first time, the number of people killed by drones and manned airstrikes “outside areas of active hostilities” since 2009. The tallies will include civilian deaths. This is a critical first step toward much-needed transparency. But it will not go far enough.

The Obama administration has been lying for years about how many deaths result from its drone strikes and manned bombings. In 2011, John Brennan, the former counterterrorism adviser, now CIA director, falsely claimed that no civilians had been killed in drone strikes in nearly a year.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and other nongovernmental organizations that calculate drone deaths put the lie to Brennan’s claim. It is believed that of the estimated 5,000 people killed on Obama’s watch, approximately 1,000 were civilians. But the administration has never released complete casualty figures.Read more

February 29, 2016

Occupy Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street Speeches

Hillary Clinton refuses to make public the transcripts of her speeches to big banks, three of which were worth a total of $675,000 to Goldman Sachs. She says she would release the transcripts “if everybody does it, and that includes Republicans.” After all, she complained, “Why is there one standard for me, and not for everybody else?”

As the New York Times editorial board pointed out, “The only different standard here is the one Mrs. Clinton set for herself, by personally earning $11 million in 2014 and the first quarter of 2015 for 51 speeches to banks and other groups and industries.”

Hillary is not running in the primaries against Republicans, who, the Times noted, “make no bones about their commitment to Wall Street deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.”
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