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“Barack Obama Is Not Neville Chamberlain”: Have The Iranians Emerged Stronger From Lausanne? No

Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we have secured a long-lasting peace with Iran, or that Tehran’s deeply troubling bad behavior in the Middle East will be modified.

We all know the framework nuclear agreement between six world powers and Iran is far from perfect — when you’re sitting at the table with the Russians, Chinese, French, and Iranians, how could it be? — but it has bought something quite valuable: time. And now, the underlying, fundamental question — does the deal dampen the prospect of war itself? — must be answered, ever so cautiously, yes.

Predictably, hawkish critics have been quick to accuse President Obama over the last several months (before the agreement was even reached) of selling out Israel with these Iran negotiations, with comparisons writ large to Neville Chamberlain, the feckless British prime minister who threw the Sudetenland (a portion of sovereign Czechoslovakia) to the wolves to appease Hitler in 1938 (the French were in on the sellout as well). It is “peace in our time,” Chamberlain proclaimed, waving a piece of paper to prove it.

But wolves are always hungry. Six months after the Munich deal, Hitler gobbled up the rest of Czechoslovakia as well — before rolling into Poland six months after that. The second World War was on, and Chamberlain would go down in history as a naif, a coward, or both.

Unprepared and anxious to avoid war, British and French demands during the Czech crisis were directed not at the source of the problem — Hitler — but at his intended victim, the Czechs. The Germans were never asked to disarm or even scale back their growing military machine. The true appeasement of Munich was the feeding of the wolf with the naive belief that it would not wish to feed again.

Hitler emerged from Munich stronger, having won everything he desired and giving up nothing to Chamberlain. Have the Iranians emerged stronger from Lausanne? No.

Iran is giving up 68 percent of its nuclear centrifuges for at least a decade. Tehran has agreed to not enrich uranium beyond 3.67 percent purity — enough to produce electricity but nowhere near the level needed for nuclear weapons — for 15 years. Its current stockpile of low-enriched uranium —10,000 kiliograms — will be cut 97 percent. The once-secret enrichment plant at Fordo — discovered by American intelligence in 2009 — will be converted to a “research center.” A heavy water reactor at Arak — theoretically capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium — will be redesigned and rebuilt to prevent this.

Can Iran be trusted to actually do all this? Not on your life. For more than a quarter-century, Iran has lied about and hidden virtually every part of its nuclear program from the rest of the world. It has threatened to destroy Israel. To this day, it continues to support terror groups like Hezbollah and murderous regimes like Syria. Iran has since 1984 been considered by the U.S. to be a state sponsor of terrorism.

This is why as part of the Lausanne framework, the U.S. and its allies have demanded regular and intrusive access for international inspectors — not just of Iran’s nuclear facilities, but of their supply chains. And it’s why the sanctions that have crippled a broad swath of the Iranian economy will remain in place and be lifted gradually and only when the U.S. and others are satisfied that their demands are being met. Beyond this intrusive on-ground presence, U.S. ELINT (electronic intelligence gathering) and other measures will be stepped up to provide extra layers of scrutiny.

The WWII appeasement comparisons lobbed by Obama’s critics would only be remotely accurate if Chamberlain and France’s Édouard Daladier told Hitler in 1938 that he needed to dismantle two-thirds of the Wehrmacht to prove his intentions benign, or that Allied inspectors must be allowed into German armament factories in the Ruhr to ensure no further production of Panzers.

Obama, German Chancellor Merkel, French President Hollande (whose position on Iran has been toughest of all) and Britain’s outgoing Prime Minister Cameron know better. “Distrust but verify” is the phrase you hear in the West Wing — better than Reagan’s “trust but verify,” which he used with a far bigger and more dangerous enemy, the Soviet Union, back in the 1980s.

Is Obama Neville Chamberlain because he hasn’t insisted on the complete fantasy of total disarmament from Iran? Of course not. Iran isn’t a vanquished power, like Germany or Japan in 1945, when we had total command of the strategic situation and could dictate terms to a T. Diplomacy and arms reduction is a process of gradualism, with each side — wary and distrusting — cautiously taking interim steps and searching for common ground. The last four decades of relations between Washington and Moscow — frosty, warmer, and now frosty again — have been defined by competition, distrust, misunderstandings, and a series of gradual arms reductions pacts.

Has Obama sold out Israel as Chamberlain did Czechoslovakia? Of course not. Obama has stepped up funding of Iron Dome, the missile defense system that saved lives during last year’s war with Hamas. He quietly gave Benjamin Netanyahu bunker buster bombs — a request rejected by the Bush administration out of fear that Israel was sending U.S. military technology to China. “Even some of the hawks from the George W. Bush administration grudgingly give Obama credit for behind-the-scenes progress,” says former Reagan foreign policy advisor Elliott Abrams. And Ehud Barak — Netanyahu’s former defense minister and a former prime minister himself, tells CNN, “I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our security is more than anything that I can remember in the past.”

Some sellout.

No one says this deal is perfect. And given Iran’s history of lying and cheating, no one says we’ve achieved “peace in our time.” But if Iran cheats, as Obama said last week in the Rose Garden, “the world will know it. If we see something suspicious, we will inspect it…with this deal, Iran will face more inspections than any other country in the world.” Hardly an expression of confidence in the mullahs’ true intentions.

And hardly a betrayal of our good friends in Israel.

 

By: Paul Brandus, The Week, April 6, 2015

April 7, 2015 Posted by | Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, Iran | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Higher Courts Let Prosecutors Get Away With Murder”: Supreme Courts Bear Responsibility For Conduct They Accept From Attorneys

For anyone studying the bubbling issue of prosecutor misconduct, the LAT states—Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas—form a good lab. March alone brewed up:

—belated charges against a prosecutor in Texas, where the defendant was executed a decade ago;

—soul-searching in Louisiana, where a prosecutor bemoaned his win that sent an innocent man to prison;

—and absolution in Arkansas, where the state’s Supreme Court informed me that a prosecutor who withheld critical evidence from a man on trial for his life did not violate any rules of professional conduct.

The Texas case centered on Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in 2004 for the arson murder of his three young daughters. Now the State Bar of Texas has filed a formal petition accusing the prosecutor of obstructing justice by making false statements and concealing evidence favorable to Willingham’s defense.

“Before, during and after the 1992 trial, [Jackson] knew of the existence of evidence that tended to negate the guilt of Willingham and failed to disclose that evidence to defense counsel,” the bar said.

It won’t help Willingham, who protested his innocence to the end. But the move suggests that at least some Texans are paying attention.

Next door in Louisiana, a former prosecuting attorney reflected on a conviction he’d won that kept a man on death row for 30 years—and held himself accountable.

“As a prosecutor and officer of the court, I had the duty to prosecute fairly,” attorney A.M. “Marty” Stroud III wrote to a Shreveport newspaper. “Part of my duty was to disclose promptly any exculpatory evidence relating to trial and penalty issues of which I was made aware. My fault was that I was too passive. I did not consider the rumors about the involvement of other parties…”

Stroud agreed that Louisiana owed significant monetary compensation to the man whom he’d helped convict. Yet, he wrote, “The state does not accept any responsibility for the damage suffered by one of its citizens. The bureaucratic response appears to be that nobody did anything intentionally wrong, thus the state has no responsibility. This is nonsensical.”

Noting that evidence that would have cleared the defendant was available at the time of the trial, Stroud wrote: “The easy and convenient argument is that the prosecutors did not know of such evidence, thus they were absolved of any responsibility for the wrongful conviction.”

Stroud dismissed that argument. And he refused to absolve himself.

Last year, 125 men and women were released from prison because they were wrongfully convicted, according to a report by the National Registry of Exonerations. Two-thirds of those cases were overturned because prosecutors either reopened investigations themselves or cooperated with other investigators to ensure that justice was done.

But supreme courts, who bear the ultimate responsibility for the conduct they will accept from attorneys, have stood by like indulgent parents, tolerating outrageous behavior and even ruling that others must too.

(In the infamous Louisiana case of Connick v. Thompson, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 2011 that a prosecutor could not be held liable for withholding evidence in a murder case because the defendant, who was a month from execution before the withheld evidence was discovered, had not shown that the prosecutor’s office displayed “deliberate indifference” to its duties.)

Echoes of that protectionism can be heard in the Arkansas case of Tim Howard, who will be retried later this month for a double murder that occurred 18 years ago near where these three states join. As I wrote here before, Howard is being retried because after he was sentenced to death, investigations turned up potentially exculpatory evidence that had been withheld from his attorneys.

I know firsthand how loath state officials have been to hold his prosecutor accountable. Four years ago, when I learned of the withheld evidence, I wrote an article for my newspaper first. Then, as a citizen, I wrote a letter to the state supreme court’s Committee on Professional Conduct, complaining about what the prosecutor, Tom Cooper, had done.

Supreme courts routinely sanction lawyers for offenses as minor as misspelled words in briefs or as serious as defrauding clients or showing up drunk in court. I thought that withholding evidence in a death case constituted a gross violation of the court’s Rules of Professional Conduct.

While I didn’t say as much in my letter, I viewed Cooper’s failure to turn over key evidence as horrific neglect, at best. To my mind, it rose to the same level as that of a surgeon who killed by failing to sterilize an instrument, or a driver who ran over a kid while texting. Given the high stakes of a capital trial, there seemed no kinder way to spin it.

The director of the court’s Office of Professional Conduct promptly notified me that he would wait for a court to rule on whether the misconduct I alleged—and which the state’s attorney general by then had tacitly acknowledged—had actually occurred.

The letter also informed me, in all caps and bold type, that I must not disclose the nature of my complaint to anyone, including, ironically, members of the news media. If I did, the letter warned, I could be held in contempt of court and “punished by fine or jail.”

While Howard’s case wound its way back to court for a ruling, I reflected on the Arkansas Supreme Court’s threat. I concluded that it was unlawful, a violation of First Amendment.

I wrote to the committee explaining my concern, but after receiving no response I filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state Supreme Court’s Committee on Professional Conduct. That was in 2011.

Arkansas’s attorney general represented the committee. My attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig, argued that the boiler-plate letter I’d received, which went to all persons filing complaints about attorneys, constituted prior restraint and struck at the heart of free-speech protections—protections that were voted into the Bill of Rights particularly so that citizens could discuss their elected officials.

The state never did admit error. But in January 2013, we settled. I withdrew my lawsuit and the court ordered that henceforth the content of complaints could be discussed.

The following November, the judge hearing Howard’s claim about the withheld evidence concluded that misconduct had indeed occurred, though he softened his ruling by opining that the misconduct had been “inadvertent.” Nevertheless, he vacated Howard’s conviction, opening the way for the new trial that will take place this month.

As soon as the judge announced his finding of misconduct, I wrote again to the Office of Professional Conduct. Pointing out that a court had now made a finding of misconduct, I would renew my complaint against Cooper.

Sixteen months passed without a response. During that time I learned that, of the hundreds of attorneys the committee has sanctioned during the past 25 years, not one has been a prosecutor.

I began to think that my letter about Cooper, like my earlier ones about the First Amendment, would be totally ignored. But in the middle of March, just three days after my article about Howard’s upcoming trial appeared here, a letter from the director of the Office of Professional Conduct arrived at my office.

Could it be? A judge had found misconduct serious enough to warrant a new trial for a man who’d spent 16 years on death row, and would the state Supreme Court’s Committee on Professional Conduct finally break with its long tradition and actually punish a prosecutor instead of threatening those who dared to complain about one?

Nope.

This latest letter advised me that, though my complaint against Cooper was “carefully reviewed,” “sufficient evidence” had not been found that Cooper—the former prosecutor who is now a judge—had violated even one tiny rule of professional conduct.

No doubt most defendants facing a judge would love to murmur the word “inadvertent” and be graciously forgiven. But that doesn’t work in America’s courts—unless you’re a prosecuting attorney.

 

By: Mara Leveritt, The Daily Beast, April 6, 2015

April 7, 2015 Posted by | Criminal Justice System, Prosecutors, State Supreme Courts | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hispanic Jeb vs Identity Politics”: The Most Damaging Gaffes Are The Ones That Reinforce A Preexisting Narrative

In case you haven’t heard, the New York Times is reporting that, ”In a 2009 voter-registration application, obtained from the Miami-Dade County Elections Department, Mr. Bush marked Hispanic in the field labeled ‘race/ethnicity.’”

Native American Elizabeth Warren, meet Hispanic ¡Jeb!

What with all the serous news in Iran and Indiana, this might seem like a silly thing to talk about. Team Bush has responded to the story, and – based on this Tweet from Jeb Bush, Jr.  (which his dad Re-Tweeted) – the strategy appears to be to try to downplay the story by poking fun at it.

That might be there best hope, because there is potential this could turn into a big deal, electorally speaking. That’s because this kind of symbolic thing is easy to mock (see Elizabeth Warren) — and easier to understand — than some policy proposal.

The most damaging gaffes are the ones that reinforce a preexisting narrative about someone. A very vocal and activist segment of the Republican primary base is vehemently opposed to anything that looks like “amnesty,” and Jeb’s support for immigration reform already has him in hot water with this contingent of the GOP. This latest revelation is amnesty on steroids. It personalizes what was, heretofore, a policy story. Bush can now be portrayed as someone who has “gone native” with the amnesty gang, and is no longer “one of us.”

When Sen. Marco Rubio was pushing immigration reform, buttons started popping up branding him a “RINO” who wants “AMNISTIA.” The fact that these buttons looked similar to a Mexican flag, and featured Rubio wearing a sombrero, only added to the subtlety. Already, the New York Times and The Week (where I also write) have associated photos with stories about this topic showing Bush surrounded by mariachi bands and/or men wearing sombreros. Those are the mainstream outlets. Wait till the blogs get hold of this. (And don’t get me started on talk radio…)

Unless this gets fixed, the conservative base (which is decidedly and passionately opposed to immigration reform, and already hostile to Bush) will use this as a cudgel to relentlessly mock and attack Bush.

To a certain extent, they have a point: Bush’s cultural experience is far different from that of most Americans. I have no idea why he checked that box, but it is reasonable to say he’s married to a Latina, his kids are Hispanic, and he lives in an area where he can probably go till lunch before speaking anything other than Spanish. This is not to say he’s un-American, but it is to say he’s international and cosmopolitan, and really, to a lot of folks, that’s pretty much a distinction without a difference.

In reality, though, the difference is huge. As noted earlier, there will be comparisons to Sen. Warren. But Elizabeth Warren presumably benefited from her bogus Native American status. Bush had nothing to gain (and as it turns out, a lot to lose) by identifying as Hispanic.

Jeb’s political ideology is such that he doesn’t think anyone should benefit from identity politics — that merit, not ethnicity, is what should matter. Liberals like Warren believe that certain minority groups should get preferential treatment; Jeb, as a conservative, does not, and as such it doesn’t really matter what ethnicity he chooses to identify as. Heck, as Florida governor, Bush even went so far as to end affirmative action in the state.

As the New York Times reported in 2000:

“There is widespread support among whites for Mr. Bush’s program, which would end preferences for businesses owned by women and minorities in bidding for state contracts. And it would end college admissions preferences based on race, substituting a program guaranteeing admission to at least 1 of the 10 state universities for high school students who graduate in the top 20 percent of their class.”

Bush is wise to try and diffuse this with humor, but only time will tell if that works. This could still be politically damaging. But that doesn’t mean it should be. Jeb’s WASPy family background only makes this story more delicious, but practically speaking, he probably is culturally Hispanic, and of course there’s nothing wrong with that. What we should be interested in is the fact that, as governor, he supported conservative policies, and has a long history of rejecting identity politics. For that, at least, we should be saying ¡Viva Jeb!

 

By: Matt Lewis, The Daily Beast, April 6, 2015

April 7, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Hispanics, Jeb Bush | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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