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July 28, 2014

Smart Diplomacy Redux


Despite the tendency to criticize US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts, credit should be given where credit is due. Over the weekend, Kerry did manage to facilitate something in the Middle East: unparalleled unanimity.

Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan were all in agreement that Kerry’s efforts were undermining the attempt to bring about a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas as quickly as possible. Moreover, Kerry’s framework and the ideas he presented led to an extraordinary phone call taking place between a senior Palestinian Authority official and an Israeli counterpart, during which the two mocked the senior diplomat’s naivete and his failure to understand the regional reality.

Kerry’s mistakes are embarrassing. A senior official in Washington on Sunday rushed to explain to Israeli reporters that the framework — the key terms of which were first published by The Times of Israel, and which then appeared in full on other media outlets — was but a draft that summed up a series of consultations between Kerry and the foreign ministers of Qatar and Turkey, Khalid al-Attiyah and Ahmet Davutoglu. But this is where the mistake begins: The US administration gambled on the camp that supports Hamas, bankrolls it and pushes it to go on shooting.

Kerry and his staff made an outrageous decision to turn their backs on the Egyptian framework for a ceasefire in a manner that encouraged Hamas to continue shooting rockets.

This first mistake was exposed by none other than the political leader of the organization, Khaled Mashaal, who said in a press conference in Doha, the Qatari capital, that Kerry had turned to al-Attiyah and Davutoglu two days after the Israeli operation in Gaza began and asked them to push for a ceasefire. At the time, Kerry knew full well that a major Egyptian effort was underway to persuade Hamas to stop firing immediately. By turning to Doha and Ankara behind the backs of Cairo and Jerusalem, Washington — no doubt unintentionally — strengthened Hamas’s resolve against Egypt and Israel.

But the mistakes didn’t stop there. The farce continued with the amateurish draft that was immediately rejected by Israel’s security cabinet; it then reached new heights on Saturday in Paris, when Kerry decided to participate in an international summit on Gaza, attended by his new friends al-Attiyah and Davutoglu as well as the foreign ministers of the European Union, but not by a few players that Kerry apparently perceives as marginal – representatives of Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and, of course, Israel.

It’s hard to say what caused the Obama administration to join forces with the Muslim Brotherhood of all camps — loyally represented by Turkey and Qatar — and turn its back on the movement’s sworn enemy, the Egyptian government. The best case scenario is that it might have been amateurism or a misreading of the situation. In a less ideal scenario, Washington decided to forge an alliance with organizations and entities that would be happy to see Israel disappear from the map. I prefer to bet on the first option, the one that was discussed with such ridicule by the senior Israeli and Palestinian officials — that Kerry just doesn’t understand who’s playing against whom in the Wild Mideast.

Of course this isn't the first time the former Junior Senator from Hanoi underestimated the dangers of cozying up to violent extremists:

Seeing an opening, Camil put his Phoenix plan on the table. Although a lot of the discussion is blacked out, there is reference in the documents to Hubbard and Camil being "closely aligned." There is also a passage suggesting that Hubbard proposed a variant of Camil's Phoenix program, which substituted kidnapping for killing:

"A second proposal, 'Phoenix Operation,' . . .was proposed by a national leader, possibly Hubbard. This proposal would have called for a well-trained VVAW group in Washington, D.C., to kidnap a United States senator, representative, or Government official to hold for ransom to pressure for ending of the war."

The documents don't say whether Kerry's diatribe against Hubbard began at this point. One document states: "John Kerry . . . reportedly in disagreement with Hubbard over VVAW participating in militant actions; Kerry wants VVAW to stay strictly nonviolent."

Several VVAW members have recounted details of this floor fight in interviews. Musgrave recalls how Hubbard clammed up and let Oliver speak in his defense. Others describe Hubbard cringing and looking close to tears as Kerry relentlessly battered him. Finally, as California-Nevada coordinator Lee Lubinsky recalls, Hubbard pulled down his pants to show a large scar on his back and thigh, offering it as proof that he had been in a plane crash in Vietnam.

Soon afterward, witnesses say, Hubbard fell against a table and dropped to the floor, making a crash so loud it was heard outside the church. Vets helped him to his feet, and he asked to be driven to the airport, saying his stomach ulcers were bleeding and he needed to rush to his doctor in New York. The FBI files say: "Hubbard remained at Kansas City until Saturday afternoon, at which time he claimed illness and said he was returning to New York to enter an unnamed hospital."

After Hubbard left, Camil's Phoenix proposal was voted on, and turned down—although, according to Camil, many members from Camil's southern following voted yes. The vote does not show up in the files but could be in a section the FBI blacked out. Then other proposals came up—many of which are listed in the FBI files, including the projected takeover of the Statue of Liberty, which the group approved.

Toward the end of the meeting, the rebellious Detroit delegates outside forced their way in. They accused Oliver of arranging secret hand signals with the Michigan regional coordinator to keep certain issues from being raised. Oliver confessed and offered to resign. The FBI files indicate that Kerry was still in the church at this point because he too was accused of "misconduct," apparently because of his close association with Oliver.

A file document states: "He [Kerry] inferred that he had been accused wrongly of misconduct in office, and therefore, he did not want to have anything more to do with [sic] any official capacity with the VVAW . . . it appeared that he was alienated by the incident involving the Detroit delegation."

After the two resignations, the meeting could not be brought back to order, and so it was adjourned for the night. The so-called Phoenix proposal was never officially raised again.

The files record that on Sunday, Nov. 14, with Oliver out, Camil chaired the morning meeting. According to a file document, Kerry "announced that he had resigned his post, but would continue to work with VVAW on his own terms." One of the regional coordinators, John Lindquist from Milwaukee, says that he heard Kerry read his letter of resignation.

Whether Kerry should have reported the "assassination plot" to authorities is a question some critics have raised.

Surprised? You shouldn't be:

... this is John Kerry. This is a man who swore he had seen and participated in great crimes of war in Vietnam, which he was obligated to report to his chain of command: but he made no such reports. So he is either a criminal of the worst kind, a murderer most foul who broke his nation's most sacred laws against his sworn oath as an officer; or he is a liar who has slandered his brothers in arms, for personal advantage.

Plus ca change, plus la meme chose.

Posted by Cassandra at July 28, 2014 08:51 AM

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Ah yes, John Kerry. We still don't have his full medical record, do we?

Posted by: CAPT Mongo at July 28, 2014 09:28 AM

I'd be willing to bet Kerry doesn't have one microsecond of doubt in which he wonders if he's really an awful, awful Secretary of State.

Posted by: Texan99 at July 28, 2014 07:56 PM