Blog Posts by Olivier Knox

  • Obama backs repeal of law that green-lighted Iraq War

    The law that green-lighted the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq is still on the books but maybe not for much longer if President Barack Obama has his way, the White House said on Tuesday, two years after he declared the war officially over.

    “The Administration supports the repeal of the Iraq AUMF,” national security spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told Yahoo News, referring to the Authorization for Use of Military Force.

    Obama frequently cites the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq as one of his key foreign policy successes. He has repeatedly defended the pull-out, even as he pursues a strategy to leave only a residual force of maybe 8,000 to 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014. His administration recently promised it would not put boots back on the ground in Iraq in response to the current bloody chaos that threatens its stability.

    But leaving the Iraq military force authorization in place could probably come in handy if he, or a future president, wanted to send troops in.

    The last serious

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  • Escalating Iraq violence not a result of U.S. force withdrawal, says White House

    The White House pushed back hard on Monday against allegations that the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq is partly to blame for a surge in deadly sectarian violence there.

    “I've heard members of Congress suggest this, but if members were suggesting that there should be American troops fighting and dying in Fallujah today, they should say so,” spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. “The president doesn't believe that.”

    Al-Qaida-linked extremists have escalated attacks in Iraq and captured two cities in Anbar province, Ramadi and Fallujah, sites of some of the bloodiest battles U.S. troops waged in the aftermath of the March 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.

    Over the weekend, Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham blamed Obama’s decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011 for making that possible.

    “While many Iraqis are responsible for this strategic disaster, the Administration cannot escape its share of the blame,” they said in a joint statement. “Many of us

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  • Countdown clock for Iran nuke deal could start ‘soon’

    The United States and its diplomatic partners hope to seal an interim agreement restricting Iran’s nuclear program “soon,” the White House said Monday. Doing so will start a six-month countdown to reach a final accord — or face the possibility of war.

    U.S. officials say that the breakthrough deal, unveiled with great fanfare in late November, offers Iran gradual, limited and reversible sanctions relief in return for halting suspicious nuclear activities. It sets a six-month time frame for reaching a comprehensive agreement that could lift sanctions entirely if Washington and its partners are satisfied that the Islamic republic has verifiably abandoned what they fear might be a quest to develop the ability to build nuclear weapons.

    “Reagan said trust but verify. We say test but verify — test and verify,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in December.

    That “verifiably” is key. Ever since the interim deal was announced, negotiators from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia

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  • Kim Jong Un fed his uncle to 120 starving dogs: unconfirmed report

    Forget the hangman’s noose, the firing squad or lethal injection: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un executed his uncle and a handful of the man’s aides by feeding them to a horde of 120 starving dogs, according to a shocking (but unconfirmed) account.

    Warning: Even in their unconfirmed state, the details are a bit gruesome.

    Jang Song Thaek, the former No. 2 official in the secretive regime, was stripped naked and tossed into a cage along with his five closest aides.

    “Then 120 hounds, starved for three days, were allowed to prey on them until they were completely eaten up. This is called ‘quan jue’, or execution by dogs,” according to the Straits Times of Singapore. The daily relied on a description of the execution in a Hong Kong newspaper that serves as the official mouthpiece of China’s government there. More established outlets in mainland China have not repeated the account.

    “The entire process lasted for an hour, with Mr. Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader in North Korea, supervising it

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  • The New York Times, Guardian urge clemency for Edward Snowden

    Edward Snowden is a heroic whistle-blower who exposed wrongdoing by U.S. government spy agencies and deserves clemency — or even a full pardon from President Barack Obama.

    That’s the argument in a pair of editorials published on Thursday by the New York Times and Britain's the Guardian newspaper, pressing Obama to drop his insistence that the former National Security Agency contractor end his exile in Russia and come home to face trial.

    "When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the law, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government," the Times argued. "President Obama should tell his aides to begin finding a way to end Mr. Snowden's vilification and give him an incentive to return home."

    The Times declared that Snowden's disclosures — the largest unauthorized publication of national security secrets in U.S. history — had proven that the NSA has "exceeded its mandate and abused its authority." The daily — one of

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  • For some troops, a holiday-dinner-in-a-box

    For the American servicemen and –women on the front lines – those who will be spending the winter at remote outposts or on patrol in places like Afghanistan – “home for the holidays” is just a dream. That’s why a special military lab has stepped up to give them a little taste of home: A holiday dinner of turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet-potato casserole, and green beans. Hot sauce? That too.

    The Natick Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., put the package together. It has to be rugged enough to survive being shipped to, and dropped into, where the troops will get it. There’s no chef, so the meal has to cook itself. And – oh yeah – it has to taste pretty good. (How good? This reporter has never liked sweet potato anything, but liked the dish served here.)

    The package weighs about 43 lbs and can feed up to 18 warfighters. Of course, if you want to spread some holiday cheer to the troops, consider giving to charitable organizations that get care packages and letters into their hands.


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  • Top Senator Reid hospitalized, will miss last 2013 workday

    Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has been hospitalized and will miss what is likely to be the chamber’s last day of work in 2013, his office said.

    “Early this morning, Senator Reid was not feeling well and as a precaution decided to go to the hospital,” spokesman Adam Jentleson said in a statement. “Tests have been conducted and everything is normal. He is alert, resting and feeling better.”

    But “doctors have asked that he remain in the hospital for observation so he will not be working today,” Jentleson said.

    Reid turned 74 on Dec. 2.

  • Proposed NSA reforms wouldn’t stop spying on foreign leaders

    Six months after Edward Snowden shocked the world with details of unprecedented U.S. spying programs, an independent review board's report says America should move from a “yes, we can” approach to espionage to one that also asks, “but should we?”

    President Barack Obama’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications produced a 300-page report with 46 recommendations addressing a wide range of topics such as how and when the government can scoop up personal phone records and electronic communications to how the National Security Agency should deal with spying on foreign leaders. The White House made the document public on Wednesday after the group met with Obama behind closed doors.

    Snowden, a former contract worker for the NSA, brought the spying debate into homes around the world, but his name never appears in the report — though there are unmistakable references to his disclosures as well as warnings against government infringing on press freedom.

    If implemented — and the White House

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  • New Obama adviser: Sorry for comparing House GOP to deadly cult

    In a notable de-escalation of the White House’s rhetorical war on its critics, an incoming senior adviser to President Barack Obama has compared House Republicans and the tea party to the infamous Jonestown cult that was behind one of the worst mass-murders of civilians in history. And then he apologized.

    The comment in question came from John Podesta, a veteran of political knife fights under Bill Clinton. Podesta later apologized on Twitter, saying, “my snark got in front of my judgment.”

    “I apologize to Speaker Boehner, whom I have always respected,” Podesta tweeted.

    Still, how is that first comment a de-escalation, you ask, quite reasonably? Well, it really wasn’t that long ago that the White House was unrepentantly comparing the House GOP and the tea party to terrorists with bombs strapped to their chests. This is arguably a little less inflammatory. The United States isn’t waging a global military campaign against cults, after all. Or that could just be my snark getting in front of

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  • Obama tweaks Putin with U.S. Olympic delegation

    President Barack Obama? Nope. Vice President Joe Biden? Nope. Current cabinet officials? Nope. First lady Michelle Obama? Nope. The White House on Tuesday announced the presidential delegations to the opening ceremony and closing ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and the lists are as notable for who is not going to Vladimir Putin's showcase event as for who is.

    The United States is not alone. France recently announced that its top officials would snub the games.

    Michelle Obama led the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremony of the 2012 Games in London. But Russia has drawn heavy fire over its human rights record — problems Putin fueled when he signed a law earlier this year targeting supposed "gay propaganda."

    But Obama seems to be sending a message by making former tennis superstar Billie Jean King one of the key figures in the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremony. The former world No. 1 player is regarded as the first globally prominent professional athlete to

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