Foreign Affairs

Monday, February 9, 2015

Sanders, Leahy to Boycott Netanyahu Speech; Welch to Attend

Posted By on Mon, Feb 9, 2015 at 11:11 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders at the Brookings Institution - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders at the Brookings Institution
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Monday became the first U.S. senator to say he would boycott Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to a joint session of Congress next month. 

During an appearance at the Brookings Institution, Sanders joined a growing chorus of criticism over House Speaker John Boehner's decision to invite Netanyahu to the nation's capital without going through the customary diplomatic channels.

"The president of the United States heads up our foreign policy," Sanders told moderator E.J. Dionne, a Washington Post columnist and fellow at the Washington, D.C., think tank. "The idea that the president wasn't even consulted — that is wrong and not a good thing for our country."

Asked by Dionne whether he was "thinking of not going," Sanders replied, "I'm not thinking of not going. I am not going. I may watch it on TV."

Prior to Sanders' remarks, several House members had said they would boycott the speech. Advisers to Vice President Joe Biden said scheduling conflicts would keep him from attending. Later Monday, Sanders' district-mate, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), said he, too, would skip it.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Morning Read: In Cuba, Leahy and Welch May Meet With Castro

Posted By on Mon, Jan 19, 2015 at 10:17 AM

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A month after President Obama announced plans to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) are spending the holiday weekend in Havana meeting with top Cuban officials and dissidents.

According to the Associated Press, those meetings could include a sit-down Monday with President Raul Castro. Leahy spokesman David Carle declined to corroborate the report Monday morning, telling Seven Days that the delegation's itinerary remains "tentative."

Leahy, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, is a longtime champion of restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba. He and a top staffer, Norwich native Tim Rieser, were widely credited with playing a major role in freeing imprisoned American contractor Alan Gross last month — in part, by helping a Cuban spy conceive a child through artificial insemination. Leahy flew to Cuba in December to accompany Gross home.

This time around, Leahy is leading a six-member delegation on a three-day trip to Cuba. In addition to Welch, he is joined by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

PLO's Top Diplomat in U.S. Speaks at Champlain College

Posted By on Wed, Oct 22, 2014 at 4:39 PM

Areikat addresses his audience. - KEVIN J. KELLEY
  • Kevin J. Kelley
  • Areikat addresses his audience.
As befits a veteran diplomat, the Palestinian Liberation Organization's chief representative to the United States knows how to work an audience.

Maen Rashid Areikat began his speech at Champlain College on Tuesday night by thanking Vermonters for their “warmth of hospitality.” He also showed he'd done some historical homework as he cited Vermont's period as an independent republic committed to democratic rights.

From there, Areikat segued smoothly into his main message to 150 attentive listeners: “My people are fighting for equality, social justice and to live a life of dignity and freedom.”

For the next 40 minutes and during a polite, 30-minute question-and-answer session, he presented a narrative counter to the pro-Israel point of view that he said prevails in the United States. Areikat depicted the Palestinians as victims of relentless and brutal oppression who nevertheless seek a peaceful political resolution to a conflict in which they are a blameless party.

“It is not easy for me to say I'm keeping my hand extended to the Israeli government, the Israeli people,” Areikat said. He suggested that Israel, enabled by the United States, has spurned all efforts by the Palestinians to make peace on the basis of a two-state arrangement.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

In Reversal, Leahy and Sanders Reject Syrian Resolution

Posted By on Fri, Sep 19, 2014 at 11:48 AM

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a town hall meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, on Sunday. - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a town hall meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, on Sunday.
When President Barack Obama outlined a new strategy last week to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Vermont's Senate delegation appeared to offer their full-throated support.

While Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) emphasized the need to act in concert with other nations and warned against the deployment of ground troops in the region, both said in written statements last Wednesday that they backed Obama's two-pronged strategy.

"He has authorized air strikes against ISIS and further support for Syrian rebels opposing ISIS, many of whom have been targeted by the cruel regime of [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad," Leahy said in his statement. "I support the President because I believe that ISIS must be stopped, that U.S. leadership is urgently required, and that he has no intention of allowing the United States to become entangled in another large-scale war in the Middle East."

Calling ISIS a "brutal and dangerous organization that must be defeated," Sanders said in his own statement that the U.S. must be joined in its efforts by "the international community" and "the people of Iraq and Syria."

"U.S. ground troops should not be sent back into combat," Sanders continued. "I support the president's airstrike campaign and help for the Syrian opposition."

But when the Senate voted Thursday night on whether to authorize the U.S. to train Syrian rebels, Leahy and Sanders joined eight liberal Democrats and 12 conservative Republicans in opposing the measure, which was attached to a larger spending bill. The vote was 78 to 22 in favor.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sanders Tells Disruptive Members of Town Hall Meeting Crowd to "Shut Up!"

After anti-Israel protesters shout him down, the senator tells them to shut up. Sanders' staff call the cops.

Posted By on Wed, Aug 20, 2014 at 7:11 PM

Interrupted repeatedly at a town hall meeting last weekend, an irate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) yelled at disruptive audience members: "Shut up!"

The meeting, at Cabot's Willey Building Auditorium on Saturday, grew so heated that Sanders' outreach director, Phil Fiermonte, called the cops, according to Vermont State Police spokeswoman Stephanie Dasaro. Four troopers arrived partway through the event, but took no action.

"They basically were just there as a presence," Dasaro said. "Other than that, we didn't get involved. There was no disorderly conduct. No one was arrested."

A seven-minute video of the meeting was posted to YouTube Sunday by Marie Countryman, a Montpelier activist:
  

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Vermont Nobel Laureate: I'm Just a Grassroots Activist

Posted By on Thu, Feb 13, 2014 at 7:55 AM

Vermont resident and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Jody Williams talked about the activist's life at the UN. - KEVIN J. KELLEY
  • Kevin J. Kelley
  • Vermont resident and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Jody Williams talked about the activist's life at the UN.

An audience of about 200 college students listened raptly at United Nations headquarters in New York on Tuesday as Jody Williams recounted her life journey from small-town Vermont to international activism and acclaim.

Williams, 63, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 for her leadership of a grassroots campaign that led to a global treaty banning production and use of landmines.

It was schoolyard bullying in Putney that first provoked her to confront the harmful exercise of power, Williams recalled. She said she stood up to “the stud of fourth grade who was being mean to a little, nonathletic kid.” And that boldness arose, Williams explained, from having earlier seen her parents defend her older brother, Steve, whom “kids nearby loved to torture” because he was deaf.

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

This Week's Issue: A Neighborly Noise Feud in Burlington, 'Border' Security and Maple Saplings

Posted on Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 11:44 AM

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Find these news and politics stories in this week's Seven Days...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

This Week's Issue: Union Drives, Big-Money Developers and a Long Time in the Clink

Posted By on Wed, Nov 20, 2013 at 5:17 PM

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Another week, another Wednesday, another Seven Days. Here's this week's lineup of news and politics stories:

Pick up this issue in print, online or on the iOS app.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

On Trip to North Africa, Welch Monitors Diplomatic Security in Libya, Peace-Keeping in Egypt

Posted By on Thu, Nov 14, 2013 at 10:52 AM

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In the fourteen months since Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in a terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has become an epicenter of outrage over the incident.

Its Republican members have criticized the Obama administration for failing to keep U.S. diplomatic personnel safe and, they allege, for covering up details of the attack.

Last weekend, four committee members — including Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) — traveled to Libya to review the State Department's progress in implementing security improvements to American embassies. It was a rare chance, Welch says, to put aside the partisan rancor and focus on substantive changes.

"The Oversight Committee, I think, unfortunately politicized what happened in Benghazi," he says. "But this trip, I thought, was an opportunity for two Republicans, two Democrats to start looking at this in a broader perspective and hopefully bring that back to the committee."

Joining Welch on the four-day trip to Libya, Egypt and Malta were U.S. Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.). Chaffetz, a conservative Republican who chairs an oversight subcommittee focusing on national security and foreign operations, has been particularly critical of the administration's handling of the embassy attack.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Green Mountain Police State? Vermont's Spy Guy to Speak at ACLU Event

Posted By on Tue, Oct 29, 2013 at 9:54 AM

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South Pomfret resident Bill Arkin isn't shocked by recent revelations about the worldwide and domestic spying operations of U.S. intelligence agencies.

That's because he and colleague Dana Priest reported extensively on privacy invasions by U.S. espionage agencies in an investigative series, "Top Secret America," published in the Washington Post more than three years ago.

Arkin and Priest showed how the national-security state had expanded exponentially in the years following the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. They reported, for example, that more than 3000 government organizations and private companies are engaged in "homeland security" activities in 10,000 locations around the United States, six of them in Vermont.

Arkin will update and analyze his findings as they relate to Vermonters and millions of other Americans at a conference on Wednesday in Montpelier. He's the featured speaker at the free, day-long event in the Pavilion Auditorium sponsored by the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Arkin's talk will focus on "the big national picture and how Vermont fits into it," he said in a telephone interview on Monday. He'll also be touting his newly published book, American Coup: How a Terrified Government Is Destroying the Constitution.

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