Richard Burt Joins Open Letter & A Neocon Friend Poses Question

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Richard Burt.jpgFormer Assistant Secretary of State for Europe as well as Political-Military Affairs and former US Ambassador to Germany Richard Burt has joined the open letter I have helped organize asking President Obama to support the pending resolution at the United Nations Security Council condemning expanding Israeli settlements in Occupied Territories.
Within the UNSC, Russia has emerged as a heavyweight supporter of the Palestinian initiative. Thus far, the US Department of State has not indicated a position on the resolution itself and whether it will support, abstain, or veto the resolution.
Department of State Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both expressed reservations about the UN Security Council being the “venue” for deliberation of this issue.
One prominent neoconservative friend of mine wrote this note to me this morning:

Dear Steve,
Perhaps you might want to organize UN condemnation of this?
Or is that not such a high priority for you as winning international condemnation of Israel for building apartments for Jewish families in the Israeli capital of Jerusalem?
All best, XXXXX

un-logo.jpgMy friend is correct that Ahmadinejad’s statements are disgusting and reprehensible — and really do deserve push back.
If I had the time to push replay on some of my activities recently, I would have built in more support and a very large salute to the work of US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice who was unwilling to abide by a UN Committee vote that dropped language on sexual orientation being dropped from a resolution on extrajudicial killings.
rice un.jpgAmbassador Rice took this to the floor of the United Nations and got the language that Saudi Arabia had worked hard to remove restored. Her work was tremendous — and I wish I had organized such an open letter supporting her position.
That said, even though I believe that there are serious areas of underperformance by both Israel’s and Palestine’s political leadership in securing a better and more stable future for both of their peoples — the expansion of illegal settlements is adding to the toxicity of the situation. Israel wants to feel that it has unconditional support from the United States no matter what options it chooses — no matter whether it sets a temperature that is conducive to peace talks or not. I don’t believe in that kind of unconditional relationship. There are responsibilities that Israel has — as well as Palestine — in getting to a new stable equilibrium in their relations.
The consequences of failing at peace talks used to be minor and something that the US and its allies could absorb, but not any longer. The costs of failure are having larger echo effects throughout the Middle East, South Asia, and even globally. Israel and Palestine are, in my view, need to be shoved forward on a constructive track. Thus far, President Obama who outlined early on his administration and in two UN General Assembly speeches a vision for Palestine-Israel that was quite commendable has been timid in moving this game forward.
So, to my friend who wrote the note, the notion that settlement expansion is minor when compared to other atrocious issues is a non-sequitur. I disagree with Hillary Clinton’s framing that this ultimately must be an arrangement depending on Israel’s and Palestine’s political leadership to come to terms with each other. Their mutual incapability, weakness, and irresponsibility with their mutual interests has been long demanding more involvement and direction from key stakeholders.
Settlement expansion is, as interpreted by the US government — Israel’s closest friend and ally — illegal. We need to fix that. We need a deal on borders and security, as WINEP’s David Makovsky and others have been arguing. I think that some of Makovsky’s formula for land swaps needs tweaking (here is interactive map) — but it’s an important contribution that could lead the debate out of the endless convulsions over illegal settlement growth.
There is a way forward on borders and security that would obviate the need for such UN Resolutions. So, to my friend and his associates — why don’t we collectively find a way to put Makovsky’s and other such proposals into a working discussion with serious political leaders in Israel, Palestine, and across the region?
— Steve Clemons

Comments

23 comments on “Richard Burt Joins Open Letter & A Neocon Friend Poses Question

  1. DonS says:

    Abilify is a fairly new anti-psychotic med, so it’s a step up in insult from Valium, which is a mere minor tranquilizer.
    The idea of reducing rather than improving the mechanism of international law shows just how warped the wigwag view of world order is. Really, abrogating international law is an attempt to cover up national disgraces — like the treatment of detainees is for the US, and even the veritable torture of Bradley Manning by the US ‘security apparatus’.
    It’s been argued here that international law does not rewards the loser in the aftermath of aggressive war. But even after the world wars there were treaties, one may argue punitive, but there was clarity that provided a new basis. It is ridiculous for Israel to thwart international law and not gain a new basis for peace. But it is equally clear that the thwarting of international law is in the service of continuing the state of uncertainty that provides cover for continued absorption into Israel of the occupied territories it covets. That the US is a party to this is a disgrace.
    To hear an American, as wig wag claims to be, argue, or rather twist an argument to oppose international law, flies in the face of democracy writ large. Imperfect ;though it is, it’s more incredible to consider throwing out the baby with the bath water. Then what, rule by Microsoft, Google, Murdoch, or the central bank of China?

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  2. Dan Kervick says:

    I had to look that one up.
    I feel fine, actually. But I can see right through you.

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  3. WigWag says:

    “You don’t care about the United States. All you care about is your vacuous and morally imploding tribal solidarity of nothingness, grounded in nothing but a mass suicide-cult commitment to self-pity and resentment, devoid of aspiration, with no goals beyond enjoying the sadistic infliction of mindless payback on the weakest and most easily available victims you can find, before it all collapses into dust.” (Dan Kervick)
    Time to take your Abilify, Dan.

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  4. Dan Kervick says:

    “No, the world is already a steaming and anarchic pile of shit. What I want is for the United States and those nations who our democratically elected representatives determine are our allies to navigate to the safest port we can find in the steaming pile of anarchic shit.”
    You don’t care about the United States. All you care about is your vacuous and morally imploding tribal solidarity of nothingness, grounded in nothing but a mass suicide-cult commitment to self-pity and resentment, devoid of aspiration, with no goals beyond enjoying the sadistic infliction of mindless payback on the weakest and most easily available victims you can find, before it all collapses into dust.

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  5. WigWag says:

    “The world is what we make of it. And some want to make it a steaming and anarchic pile of shit, so that they can be the pathetic queens of it.” (Dan Kervick)
    No, the world is already a steaming and anarchic pile of shit. What I want is for the United States and those nations who our democratically elected representatives determine are our allies to navigate to the safest port we can find in the steaming pile of anarchic shit.
    The concept of international law does nothing to reduce the stench in the world; in fact, it makes that stench worse. Mulilateral approaches to problem solving rarely make the world less anarchic; more often than not, multilateralism makes the world’s problems much harder to solve.

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  6. Dan Kervick says:

    “without the consent of the governed, law is illegitimate.”
    All international law that is binding on Americans is so binding because it flows from treaty arrangements that the US Senate ratified.
    As I said, many American Jews – formerly liberals – have become among the greatest betrayers and opponents of international law.
    The world is what we make of it. And some want to make it a steaming and anarchic pile of shit, so that they can be the pathetic queens of it.

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  7. JohnH says:

    Well, well, well, Wigwag reveals itself as an opponent of international law, which Israel has constantly flaunted anyway. Instead, Wigwag reveals itself as a champion of might makes right. Which is a pretty brave position, considering that there are only 5 million Israelis in a world of several billion people. The odds against a belligerent Israel’s long term survival are overwhelming, except for protection from its sugar daddy, Uncle Sami.
    Question is–what position will Wigwag advocate when the sugar daddy can no longer protect Israel? And why doesn’t Wigwag warm to the idea of brown shirts’ might being right in Germany back in 1935?
    As I’ve said often enough here, a system of laws are a small minority’s only hope for peace and prosperity (as American Jews know well). Chaos represents a constant existential threat.
    Yet might makes right is precisely what Wigwag advocates…

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  8. Carroll says:

    I know I related this happening before, but I always think of it when someone claims the American people ‘support’ Israel. It was a surreal ‘moment’ for me and my convictions on I/P.
    It was during the Israeli assault on Gaza
    and my local paper had front paged pictures of dead Gaza children with an accompanying editorial condemning Israel.
    Two friends and I were at lunch at a popular deli
    when a lady (someone said was Jewish) started waving a copy of the newspaper around screaming and ranting about ‘how dare they show this!’..’what about attacks on Jews!” and etc,etc..
    She went on and on and everyone’s conversation stopped and people were just staring at her…until an older man stood up at his table and said… ‘lady, you and Israel can both go to hell”…and everyone broke out in applause for him. The woman slammed out of the resturant and I have never seen her around since so don’t know who she actually was.
    This was quite something because my town and newspaper were and are pretty conservative and we have a lot of retired military and retirees from other parts of the country and being a southern town, a lot of religion around, and as a group we are a pretty mixed and laid back population.
    But I can say with certainty, because I have followed and talked to so many people on the I/P issue, that the myth of a majority of Americans supporting Israel is just that..a myth.
    Those who have seen or know anything about Israel politically are against it and particulary the US relationship with Israel, and those who don’t know much, don’t care about it one way or another.
    What I hear in public pretty much matches the percentage of Israel critical commenters we see on articles about I/P and Israel here, and in comments sections across the net.
    For those of us who have followed this for many years it has been very interesting to see how more of the public has become informed and more critical of Israel, which I think we can say is thanks in large part to the non censored net and access to other press outside of the US…and of course Israel’s own actions.
    I think the most accurate guage of American’s attitudes was the World Opinion Poll which showed that 73% of Americans wanted the US to be even handed on I/P and not take either side.
    In the 10 or so years I have followed this it seemed at first poeple were loath to speak out too much but the last few years it has errupted and snowballed thanks mostly to public figures and opinion makers who braved the slings and arrows of character assassinations to tell the truth and bring objective reality to I/P..and it’s effect on the US.

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  9. WigWag says:

    Responding to a United States Supreme Court decision in the case of Worcester v. Georgia, Andrew Jackson famously said “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him go and enforce it.” To be fair to Jackson, the comment may be apocryphal.
    Whether he actually made the statement or not, the comment affirms two realities; without a mechanism to enforce laws, those laws are null and void. Secondly, laws enacted without the consent of the governed are illegitimate.
    Tibetans living with the Dali Lama in India can make all the laws or pass all the legislation that they want to; from the perspective of Tibetans living under Chinese sovereignty those laws are a nullity. Exiled Iranians living in Europe can pass all the resolutions or laws they want to, because they have no means of enforcement, for all practical purposes those resolutions and laws don’t exist.
    In the case of Worcester v Georgia the position adopted by President Jackson ultimately did not prevail. The reason for this is simple, American citizens believed in the rule of law articulated by the Constitution, they accepted the idea that the Supreme Court was the ultimate arbiter of laws as decided by John Marshall in Marbury v Madison and they elected Presidents and members of Congress who were willing to accept the rule of law as articulated by the Supreme Court. In short American citizens decided that the system was legitimate and they were willing to cede to the state a monopoly on the force needed to effectuate the laws that defined that system.
    So called international law has none of these attributes and it should be ignored. Without enforcement mechanisms, law is an absurdity; without the consent of the governed, law is illegitimate.
    The Wilsonian experiment cleaved to by American politicians is reaching the end of its day. All I can say is good riddance; A Wilsonian approach to world affairs isn’t in America’s interests and it has done nothing to make the world a safer or more peaceful place. The Wilsonian experiment and the multilateralism and “law-based” system it has fostered has made the world a significantly more dangerous and violent place. Steve’s New America Foundation colleague, Robert Wright, couldn’t have been more wrong about this in his last New York Times op-ed,
    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/18/cut-defense-spending-lead-the-world/?scp=1&sq=Robert%20Wright&st=cse
    The good news is that the system of international laws advocated by those on the left and other Wilsonians almost certainly won’t survive the next Republican Presidency. George W. Bush did a wonderful job of weakening the legitimacy of international law in the eyes of Americans and despite Obama’s best intentions, everything he’s done to prop up the multilateral system that serves to undergird international law has failed. The world trading system is falling apart; the International Conference on Global Warming was a huge failure, the last G-20 meeting exacerbated the bickering of G-20 nations. Even the European effort at multilateralism on the European continent is fraying and the European Monetary Union may be in its last days.
    The Republican Party has now exiled its realist colleagues and is now firmly, and probably permanently, in the hands of people suspicious of both international law and a multilateral approach to world affairs. Regardless of whether or not Obama is reelected, the next President is almost certain to be a Republican and because the Republican Party and the neoconservative movement are now one and the same, the next President is likely to be as hostile to the concepts of international law and multilateralism as the Bush Administration was.
    Most nations in the world have concluded that Israeli settlements in the West Bank violate international law. For the time being this is the same position adopted by the United States although it is entirely possible that the next Republican President will alter this view. The Israeli Government does not believe that the settlements violate international law.
    Regardless of which side in the debate is correct, if the imbroglio between Israelis and Palestinians erodes respect for international law or multilateral solutions to problems, it will be a wonderful thing. It’s time to drive the stake through the heart of the international system bequeathed to the world by the hopelessly clueless Woodrow Wilson.
    It’s going to happen anyway; without the support of the United States the fraud known as international law will be severely damaged; so will the effectiveness of a multilateral approach to the worlds

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  10. JohnH says:

    Yes, DonS, I have a friend who recently acknowledged to me that AIPAC was willing to fully fund her campaign for Congress. They also gave her a free trip to Israel. But she had other plans and is today no friend of Israel, which means that she’s probably grateful that she doesn’t have to play the AIPAC duplicity game in Congress.
    But, according to Wigwag, the American public has perfect information when it goes to vote, Israel is a high priority for them, and AIPAC plays no role whatsoever in biasing elections. According to Wigwag, the Jewish lobby had nothing to do with the fact that Democratic voters in Colorado, a state with virtually no Jews, had a choice between two Jewish candidates. Or that other states with virtually no Jews–Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont and Oregon–all ended up electing Jewish Senators, merely because of their immense solidarity with Israel.
    What crap!

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  11. DonS says:

    “Your problem, Steve is that while you may not believe in that kind of unconditional relationship, the American people do.”
    Yeah, it’s right at the top of the electorate’s concerns. Way ahead of jobs, the economy, health care. But only if you look at the American political process through the eyes of an Israel Firster. But, of course, what Wig wag is referring to is not common schlump voter — who is only the victim in this game –but the importance of Israel to the all important Jewish high roller donor class, particularly in her little S. Florida enclave. And so, we return to the unholy impact of AIPAC on the American electoral and governing process.
    So we wouldn’t want to use a word as strong as ‘traitor’ for Wig wag and her ilk. Maybe something like subversive.

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  12. WigWag says:

    “Israel wants to feel that it has unconditional support from the United States no matter what options it chooses — no matter whether it sets a temperature that is conducive to peace talks or not. I don’t believe in that kind of unconditional relationship.” (Steve Clemons)
    Your problem, Steve is that while you may not believe in that kind of unconditional relationship, the American people do.
    In the only poll that actually matters, the American people overwhelmingly elected a large majority of members of the House of Representatives who are, if anything, to the right of Netanyahu on the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.
    Amazingly, they also just elected a United States Senate that is even more Pro-Israel and more anti-Palestinian than the Senate that just concluded its term. One of the few Senate candidates to actually agree with you about unconditional support for Israel, Joe Sestak, went down to an ignoble defeat to a Republican candidate widely considered unelectable just a few short years ago. And it wasn’t that Sestak’s position on Israel was irrelevant; it became a major campaign issue that contributed to his defeat.
    When the American people elected Barack Obama they elected a President who pretended to be pro-Israel even though after the election he changed his tune. In fact, the reason that Obama won’t have his UN delegate vote for a resolution that he undoubtedly agrees with, is because he fears the political consequences from defying the inclination of the American people to offer Israel support that is undcondtional and iron clad.
    Respectfully, it doesn’t matter what you or what former diplomats or what various journalists and bloggers think. As long as Americans keep supporting candidates who do believe in unconditional support of Israel the Israelis will keep getting nearly unconditional support.
    I know you don’t like it; but it’s called Democracy. As you know, we have it in the United States and Israel; it’s virtually absent from the Arab world.

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  13. Carroll says:

    Let’s not be silly–
    Ahmadinejad spouting off is about the same as those government payroll Rabbis in Israel who publish books calling for all non Jews to be killed and the Jewish and Israeli politicians who ‘deny’ Palestine or Palestinians ‘exist’.
    The world is much more interested in what people actually ‘do’. Ahmadinejad’s babbling is minor compared to say– Israel dropping white phosphorus all over Al Quds Hospital in Gaza or it’s many other similar acts.
    Actually it’s crazy to think you can control what people say about you in any way other than changing your own behavior.

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  14. WigWag says:

    “I think that some of Makovsky’s formula for land swaps needs tweaking (here is interactive map) — but it’s an important contribution that could lead the debate out of the endless convulsions over illegal settlement growth.” (Steve Clemons)
    It seems to me at least reasonable to contemplate the possibility that Makovsky’s map is the Denis Ross map. After all the two are very close; they’ve worked together and they’ve published together. Steve Clemons has suggested that Ross has seen his stock rise quickly within the Administration; this presents the interesting possibility that the Makovsky map is also the Barack Obama map or will become the Barack Obama map.
    I don’t expect Obama to do anything consequential in the Middle East between now and the time of the next election but if Obama were to win reelection it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if the so called American plan that Steve Clemons and others have been calling for incorporated the Makovsky map.
    The map does include plenty for both sides not to like and Makovsky remains silent on whether the Israeli settlers in the communities not included on the Israeli side of his hypothetical border will be allowed to remain under the jurisdiction of a Palestinian state. It also remains silent about the relatively population-free Jordan Valley.
    Of course, all of this is irrelevant because the peace process is going nowhere. The Palestinians will never give up on the right of return for their refugees and the Israelis won’t (or shouldn’t) agree to Palestinian or Arab sovereignty over the Holy Basin. Perhaps the Israelis could consider sharing sovereignty in Jerusalem when the Saudis agree to share sovereignty in Mecca.
    And then there’s the unsolvable problem of security. Given the penchant for violence, terrorism and Islamic extremism that has reached epidemic proportions in the Arab world, the idea that anything can substitute for the IDF in providing security to Israel is simply unrealistic. Who exactly is going to prevent Hamas or other Islamic extremists from launching rockets into Israel from the new Palestinian nation? Are the French going to provide that protection? Look at the job they did as peacekeepers in Southern Lebanon. Can the Americans get the job done? How many years did it take for the Americans to secure the ten mile road from the Baghdad Airport to the Green Zone?
    As an interim step designed to reduce tensions, the Makovsky map might help. But the other impediments to a resolution to the conflict are too steep a climb to achieve.
    The Palestinians will remain stateless until the dysfunction and pathology gripping the Muslim world in general and the Arab world in particular subsides.
    That, of course, could take generations.

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  15. Carroll says:

    Doesn’t sound like a message from a ‘friend” to me.
    Sounds like they think you are becoming too influential.
    ‘Life is like a dogsled team. If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes
    …Lewis Grizzard

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  16. jdledell says:

    Nadine – You don’t seem to understand the focus on Israel vs other countries. To paraphrase another famous expression – It’s the occupation, stupid. What other first world democracies have held another people stateless for 43 years.
    You know as well as I do if Israel wants out of this negative box, it can AGGRESSIVELY work to solve the Palestinian issue. The arab countries have publically put their offer on the table. Abbas has publically put his offer on the table (the 67 borders with slight land exchanges).
    Where is Israel’s public counter offer? The reason Netanyahu doesn’t want to publicly announce his position is he knows that the entire International community will ridicule it as unreasonable. According to everything I hear he is preparing to unveil an offer of Area A and some of B for the Palestinians with Israel remaining in control of Area C and most of B with no settlements or outposts being dismantled. He is going to call this an interim agreement with no future talks scheduled and thus the interim is indefinite (ie until enough Jews fill Area C to make transfer to Palestinians impossible).
    This is not a state – it is “reservations

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  17. Dan Kervick says:

    If my child goes off the reservation and engages in destructive and anti-social behavior, then I need to address and correct my own child’s behavior. If my child has a run-in with the law, I ought not respond by writing letters to the paper about all of the other bad children in the world. I need to take care of home business.
    Israel is America’s wayward child. Iran is not America

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  18. JohnH says:

    Of course Nadine would find Ahmadinejad’s statements disgusting, but she never found an Israeli atrocity she didn’t like–like the recent razing of a village where Palestinians have lived for decades.
    http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/748850–israel-razes-palestinian-homes-in-west-bank?bn=1

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  19. nadine says:

    “My friend is correct that Ahmadinejad’s statements are disgusting and reprehensible — and really do deserve push back.” (Steve Clemons)
    That’s it in a nutshell, isn’t it? Ahmadinejad’s statements, not to mention his ongoing executions of gays, “deserve push back” (does that mean a strong scolding, or what?). But you don’t have time to do any “push back” right now, because you are occupied with the real number one human rights scandal of the Middle East, Israeli apartments in East Jerusalem.
    That’s the outrage against human rights which you have to concentrate on. Isn’t it just obvious that building apartments on the wrong side of a truce line is the true destroyer of peace in the entire Middle East? Hundreds of millions chanting “Death to the Jews” well, it’s so understandable considering the provocation, isn’t it? That explains totally why they won’t negotiate a border around existing populations.
    How warped does your view of reality have to be, to believe this? It really is fit for a French farce of the Feydeau style. “Not mad, merely Prussian!” as he used to say. It is totally irrational, and will continue to fail as abjectly in the future as it has for the past 40 years. Which leads one naturally to wonder what the real motive is for pushing this line.

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  20. Anthony says:

    How fascinating. Neocons reactions to criticism of Israel is very similar to tyrants of the middle-east reaction to criticism of their policies. Neocons react: but but what about Iran, what about the Arabs, what about this or that.. Arab regimes, Iranian regime react, but but what about Israel?

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  21. non-hater says:

    “Or is that not such a high priority for you as winning international condemnation of Israel for building apartments for Jewish families in the Israeli capital of Jerusalem?”
    Your friend is particularly disingenuous. WORDS from Ahmadinejad are in no way equal to DEEDS by the government of the state of Israel (specifically, evicting Palestinian residents so those apartments can be built). To suggest otherwise is just wrong.
    I’ll also point out – again – that Tehran doesn’t suckle at the teat of the Eagle. If your friend doesn’t like the condemnation he hears in the United States of Israel’s actions, then he can help see to it that Israel no longer receives assistance from the United States government. Most of the attention paid to Israel in the US stems from the fact that billions of American taxpayer dollars a year goes to a government that is conducting a policy of ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem. That attention would mostly disappear if the funding was eliminated. Of course, neocons wouldn’t consider for a second cutting US financial support for Israel, so they constantly engage in attempts to turn attention away from Israel, such as pointing out what Ahmadinejad, an official with very little power over the unsavory parts of the Iranian state, says.

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  22. Bill Pearlman says:

    Wow, a long time state department veteran, ambassador to Germany no less. Who went through the revolving door and now works for both Kissinger and the Carlyle Group. He signs on to The Clemons letter ( which should be better known has Munich 1938 redux ) What were the chances. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

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  23. Karin says:

    I started a #NoVeto hashtag on twitter…if you start one, many people could support your letter through twitter. Just a thought.

    Reply

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