Read the Letter: What We Want President Obama to Do in Saudi Arabia this Friday

This Friday, President Obama will travel to Saudi Arabia, a country whose government is highly repressive.   But instead of raising human rights, Obama’s trip has been described by The New York Times as focused on “fence-mending.”

This is the wrong approach.

As we say in our Amnesty International letter to President Obama:

For too long, the U.S. has put geopolitics and access to energy over support for human rights in its relationship with Saudi Arabia. As an ally of the United States, Saudi Arabia has been spared the blunt criticisms that U.S. officials make of other governments that commit serious human rights violations.

Want to read the full letter?  Scroll down, or download the PDF.

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CNN’s Navarrette gets Iran wrong

The Huffington Post
Posted: June 22, 2009
By Sanjeev Bery

 

CNN.com columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. is the latest to join the chorus of voices calling on President Obama to get tougher with the Iranian government. While tempting, the CNN commentator’s words fail to consider the legacy of 25 years of U.S. intervention against Iranian democracy.

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“Israeli Media Reads the Fine Print”

The Huffington Post
06/06/09
by Sanjeev Bery

In the 48 hours since President Obama’s speech in Cairo, Israeli journalists and pundits have had a lot to say. Their comments offer insights into U.S. foreign policy that many American observers might not get at home.

Some were particularly struck by Obama’s implicit linkage of Palestinian aspirations and other global struggles for freedom. In the liberal newspaper Ha’aretz, journalist Akiva Eldar wrote:

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Obama on Israel and Palestine

U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo is worth watching and worth reading.  Perhaps the best place to do both is at The New York Times website, where you can search the transcripts by keyword and simultaneously watch/read the sections you want.

I have excerpted Obama’s words on Israel and Palestine below.  But first, a few key sentences:

…Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful.

…it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation.

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U.S. soldiers on Afghan troops

The Guardian (UK) has done a video report on how U.S. soldiers feel about the Afghan soldiers they are tasked with building into an army.  The piece hints at a broader reality:  it is a bit difficult to build a national military on another nation’s behalf.

Interesting excerpts:

Supervising Afghan soldier to reporter (translated):

This army is really upsetting me now.  In fact, you can’t really call it an army at all.  I’m just losing interest in it.  But  what can we do?
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Building (good) government

Maria_Otero_fullThe Obama Administration has nominated a major microfinance leader to serve as U.S. Under Secretary of Global Affairs in the State Department.  It’s a great example of how to bring people into the U.S. foreign policy establishment who have a direct understanding of strategies for international poverty alleviation.

Read on for the full press release from Accion, the organization that is about to lose its CEO, Maria Otero

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Chris Matthews, Cold Warrior

Amidst all the buzz around new U.S.-Cuba relations, Chris Matthews found a way to sound the old Cold War alarm.  Avoiding the messy details of real history, Mr. Matthews criticized President Obama’s call for a new U.S.-Cuba relationship:

Well, I just am not a Castro fan. You know, he [Castro] bought the wrong ticket. He bet on communism. He bet on the Soviet Union. If that side had won, he would be marching through Fifth Avenue, overseeing the executions in Central Park….So, I don’t really want to help Castro.

Summoning ghosts from the 80’s flick Red Dawn, Matthews revealed a history of Cuba that never existed.  There was never such a “bet” to be made.  Continue reading