Many say the current presidential race is the most uncivilized in modern American history. Civility in public discourse, why it seems to have hit a new low and long-term implications for the democratic process.
The Friday News Roundup. A top Chinese diplomat visits North Korea after the U.S. criticizes China for failing to rein in its ally; supporters of the jailed WikiLeaks’ founder retaliate; and the U.S. drops efforts for a settlement freeze in Israel. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Mark Landler diplomatic correspondent, The New York Times.
- Elise Labott senior State Department producer for CNN.
- Moises Naim chief international columnist, El Pais.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. In Norway today, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to an imprisoned Chinese dissident. China banned the honoree and his family from attending the ceremony. In the UK, thousands of students protested a college tuition hike. Demonstrators smashed the window of a car Prince Charles rode in with his wife.
MS. DIANE REHMIran and six global powers held talks on Tehran's nuclear program, and agreed to a second round next month. And Haiti announced a review of presidential election results following violent protests. Joining me here in the studio for the week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, Moises Naim of El Pais, Elise Labott of CNN, and Mark Landler of the New York Times.
MS. DIANE REHMThroughout the hour, we'll welcome your calls. 800-433-8850. Send your email to drshow@wamu. Join us on Twitter or Facebook. Good morning everybody.
MR. MOISES NAIMGood morning.
MS. ELISE LABOTTGood morning.
MR. MARK LANDLERGood morning.
REHMAnd welcome to you, Mark Landler. Good to have you with us.
LANDLERThanks for inviting me.
REHMYesterday, we talked with John Burns, who was in the UK, about what's happening with Julian Assange. Has his status changed at all?
LANDLERHis status has not changed. He continues to be held without bail. And the story, I think, is this counter attack that's developed around him, on his behalf. Not by Wikileaks itself, but by this loose affiliation of sort of cyber hackers, if you will, who are going after institutions that they believe are contributing to his legal problems. And so you're sort of seeing, I guess, the next phase of the Wikileaks story.
LANDLERIf phase one was the trove of documents that were released, phase two is now the hacker community fighting back. And this is a story that leads in all sorts of unpredictable directions.
REHMAnd Elise, Dutch authorities arrested a 16-year-old saying he confessed to attacks on the websites of MasterCard and Visa.
LABOTTWell, he, as Mark said, he's just one of many people that were working to shut down some of these organizations and their websites that were not taking payments by Wikileaks, such as MasterCard, Paypal, things like that. One of the statements from the activists says, we will fire at anything or anyone that tries to sensor Wikileaks. So it was just this one 16-year-old.
LABOTTBut it is the wild west on the internet right now. The Swedish Prosecutions Authority website, because the Swedish were the ones that arrested Assange on these sexual abuse charges, was also hacked into. And now it's going to be a series of attacks and revenge attacks. Just this one 16-year-old was arrested, but he's just one of many right now that are working in support of Julian Assange.
LABOTTAnd then, there's a whole host of others that some think are working on behalf of the U.S. Certainly they're working in support of the United States to shut down Wikileaks and the networks that are providing them the space to leak these cables.
REHMMoises, how firm is that rape charge, or those rape charges, that the Swedish government has put out, or are they backing away from those somewhat?
NAIMIt is a Rorschach test of what you think of Assange. Those that like him think that those accusations may be firm and grounded, and those that think that this is just a manipulation of the Pentagon or the U.S. government trying to silence and punish the leaker, will always think that. But this is a story that it's not -- paradoxically is not about Assange.
NAIMThe large story is about the Wikileaks. He is the charismatic leader and has presented the face, but we always knew that there was a wide community of activists and that -- this is a story about the internet that essentially is highly decentralized, that it gives individuals, even 16-year-olds, the capacity to have global consequences.
LANDLERYou know, the interesting thing also is that it puts the Obama administration in a bit of an awkward spot. If you remember, months ago, Hillary Clinton gave a very widely publicized speech on internet freedom which had a very absolutist tone to it. The internet would be open equally to everyone. It was to be a lever to use to free and make societies more open. And so now the administration is caught in this odd spot where they are, in fact, condemning the release of information on the internet.
LANDLERAnd in Europe, for example, we reported this morning that a lot of European commentators and newspapers are very critical of the United States saying, isn't there a bit of hypocrisy here to be, on the one hand, internet freedom driven, and yet, on the other hand, calling for secrecy?
REHMBut as diplomatic correspondent for the New York Times, Mark, how serious is the information that has been leaked?
LANDLERWell, first of all, I think you need to say we don't know for sure what of the total amount of information, since the vast majority of it hasn't yet come out. There are 252,000 cables. We've probably seen about 9,000 or 10,000 be released. So we really don't know, ultimately.
LANDLERThe information that's been released so far ranges from embarrassing, for the most part, unfavorable things said about foreign leaders, Sylvio Berlusconi, to somewhat more damaging, allegations that American diplomats are doing more than just diplomacy, they're actually spying on people, to really important strategic issues, some of which don’t necessarily break badly for the United States.
LANDLERFor example, the fact that several Persian Gulf leaders are now publicly on record as being worried about Iran's nuclear program, one could argue that strengthens the administration's policy vis a vis Iran. On the other hand, then there are other countries like Russia, where the administration put a great deal of effort into resetting and rebuilding the relationship, and by all accounts there's been real damage done, genuine damage that will take a long time to fix.
LABOTTAnd then there's China. I mean, there's this one cable where you have then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd talking to secretary of state Hilary Clinton saying, you know, because to counter China's growing rise, apparently maybe some force will need to be used against China. And Secretary Clinton is saying, how do you become tough with your banker because we know that China has so much of the U.S. debt.
LABOTTAnd I don't think we really know what the kind of geo-political, if you will, or the big implications of this -- what they're going to be for some time to come. Certainly right now there's a lot of hesitancy and mistrust, and countries really feeling do we really know the United States. The Polish president this week in Washington said, listen, we saw these cables. We don't really have illusions about our relationships with the United States.
LABOTTWe've already heard that in some meetings there's not as many U.S. officials allowed in the meetings right now. People are asked to leave their notebooks outside the meetings, not to take notes. And so we don't really know what's going to happen, how this is going to shake out, but certainly there's going to be a lot of mistrust of the United States for some time to come.
NAIMWe lie to them, they lie to us. That is what that the Qatari prime minister said about their relationships in that part of the world, especially with the Iranians. The common denominator to all of these cables, especially the ones that are really embarrassing is the distance between -- is about hypocrisy. It is the gap between what governments and government officials say in public and their actual decisions in private.
REHMBut is this just the beginning? Is this the breaking of the dam? Is this the changing of the ballgame, as far as what is going on diplomatically and what is disclosed publicly? Mark?
LANDLERWell, I think the honest answer is it's too soon to tell. I mean, the State Department has taken short-term steps to take their cables off other networks -- other computer networks and the government. So they're going to try to maintain security and to have it be business as usual.
REHMBut that takes us back to how this happened in the first place with the wide dissemination of all this material.
LANDLERAbsolutely. And in fact, Secretary Clinton expressed a little bit of incredulity last week that two million people had access to the network where all of these confidential cables were lodged. So I think the answer to your question you posed earlier is, I think it does change things long term.
NAIMThere is -- there must be a lot of people thinking about how to make money out of this. By that I mean, private equity companies and private equity funds trying to fund new technologies.
NAIMTo provide the U.S. government and other governments to ensure that they are secure communications. So there may be a new wave of technologies that will -- but it's always a cat and mouse game because the hackers and people that know about these things would always be ahead of the game and finding ways around any secure communication tools.
LABOTTOne of the cables that has been very controversial was this list of many sites that the U.S. deemed critical to its national security, that if they were attacked by terrorists, that the United States would be in a lot of trouble. We're talking about power plants, bridges, tunnels, medical research facilities all around the world. And there was a lot of criticism and that's why the United States said it bolstered its case against Wikileaks because this is not the greater good trying to expose some kind of wrongdoing.
LABOTTThis is giving a roadmap to terrorists how to attack the United States.
REHMAnd that's where you get into the question of does Wikileaks get classified -- does Julian Assange get classified as a terrorist and, if so, what does that mean for disseminators like the New York Times, like El Pais, like National Public Radio. What does it mean?
LANDLERWell, it clearly raises a whole host of troubling and complicated questions, which is why I don't think you'd find beyond some voices on Capitol Hill, within the State Department, it's hard for me to imagine that senior policymakers would push hard to designate them as a foreign terrorist organization because to do that, they would then have to confront all the organizations that have worked with Wikileaks.
REHMMark Landler, he's diplomatic correspondent for the New York Times. We'll take a short break. Your calls are welcome. I'm looking forward to reading your e-mail as well.
REHMAnd if you've just joined us, our three international correspondents are here in the studio with me. Elise Labott, she's senior State Department producer for CNN. Mark Landler is diplomatic correspondent for the New York Times. Moises Naim is chief international columnist for El Pais. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Last night on television, I think we were all shocked to see the images of Prince Charles and his wife in a car moving through that student protest over the tripling of tuition for those students in Britain. They are outraged, Mark.
LANDLERWell, and this -- speaking of the first rate challenge to the David Cameron government, this is part of an austerity program that the conservatives ran on with the liberals. And now they're putting it to the test and seeing just what the threshold is with their own population. Tuition hikes and cuts in student loans are a recurring issue in Britain. The Blair government has had trouble with this in the past. But this is on a far more serious scale because the cuts...
REHM(overlapping) £5,000 to £15,000 for each student. Is that correct?
LANDLERThat's right, yeah. And so what happened last night was a combination of popular rage and a little bit of police mishandling. That motorcade with the Rolls Royce and the Prince and his wife should probably never have been driven into the middle of this malaise. So there's a lot of second guessing of that. The Prince and Camilla emerged unscathed and indeed smiled afterwards. Some of the protestors were heard saying that they only wanted to have a chat with them. It was a chat that involved shattering the window in the car, denting it and really utterly destroying the Jaguar that was following the Rolls Royce. So it was, in a way, an extremely symbolic image of what the Cameron government is facing in terms of a populous rage.
REHMWell, and as we, in this country, deal with the issue of tax cuts and spending cuts eventually, it made me wonder how the British Parliament could be taking this action at the very moment this kind of protest is taking place, Moises.
NAIMThere is a lot of anger in the streets, and not only in England. It's around the world. It is in the United States. There is great disappointment about how long this recession and economic troubles have lasted, how deep they are. And this accident last night, this clash is just one more in a long line of others that are not as iconic with the picture that we saw with Prince Charles and Camilla. But remember, Tony Blair had to -- he was on book tour in England and he essentially decided that he couldn't do it anymore because every time he showed up at the book store, there was some sort of incident.
NAIMBerlusconi was hit in the head recently when he was out. And Jose Luis Gonzales Zapatero, the leader -- Spain's Prime Minister was booed at a very important, very symbolic event in Greece also. So politicians around the world are now feeling the rage of people in the streets. And what we saw last night is just one more highly symbolic example and image of that.
LABOTTCountries across Europe are trying to pull back this austerity measure that's being taken in Britain, and has really been a vehicle for -- the students' protest has been a vehicle for wider outrage about what's going on in these austerity measures. But it's really taking place all across Europe and it's kind of causing a little tension with the United States that wants these countries to spend, to have stimulus packages, to grow the economy, grow the world's financial system. And the Europeans are saying, no, we really need to cut back. And this is causing a lot of problems between the U.S. and its European allies.
LANDLERJust picking up on what Elise said, there is a great philosophical divide in how you deal with the fallout for the economic crises. The Europeans, the Germans in particular but also now the English, are focused very much on belt tightening, cutting spending, cutting the excesses out of their economies. The U.S. has obviously gone another direction. One of the things that makes it difficult for some of the Europeans, although not the UK because they're not in the economic -- in the monetary union, the countries that use the Euro as their currency really have no choice, which is why you're going to see some unbelievably stringent belt tightening in Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Germany.
LANDLERThe U.S., because we print our own money and we're the default currency for the world, have the ability to keep blowing our deficit out and our debt out. And that's what this most recent deal that the Obama Administration's negotiated with congress will do. The European answer to that is, we don't have the luxury to do that. We also don't believe it's smart economics and we're going to go with the more painful route. And it'll be very interesting to see whether the Cameron government survives because the liberals are onboard for some of this but not wholeheartedly. And so there's even some questions about if this gets worse in England, whether they -- whether Cameron can keep that coalition together.
REHMLet's talk about the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony playing out both internally and in other countries. For the first time in the history of the prize neither the winner nor a proxy was on hand to receive it, Elise.
LABOTTThat's right. Liu Xiaobo is in a Chinese prison serving an 11-year sentence for writing about furthering democracy and rights in China. And it was a very symbolic ceremony where his chair was empty, the family -- the proxy's chair was empty, and the head of the Nobel Committee went and placed the metal on the chair to show that he's there in spirit. And, in fact, even though he wasn't there, this just shows the necessity of an award like this, is what they said. And the Chinese really put a lot of pressure around the world, sent missives out to all of the foreign embassies in Norway, don't you dare send a representative. About 15 countries held back, didn't send somebody because they are afraid of the economic repercussions that China threatened.
NAIMChina has exaggerated clearly on these reactions. More people in the world today knows about what's going on than if they would have allowed Liu Xiaobo to speak. He would have been -- I'm sure he would have given a wonderful speech and we would be talking about the speech, but it would not be as big a story as it now has become.
REHMAs it is now. Let's talk about the purpose of the visit by a top Chinese diplomat to North Korea yesterday, Moises.
NAIMYes. A top Chinese diplomat, Dai Bingguo went to visit Kim Jong-il, the leader of North Korea. As we know there have been clashes -- Arab clashes in which North Korea bombed an island -- a South Korean island that they claim as theirs. The story is that the world thinks that China is an enabler of North Korea. North Korea cannot get away with their behavior were it not for Chinese tolerance. And that is probably true. And the largest story there is that China knows that the unified Korean Peninsula will be a natural ally of the United States.
NAIMAnd so it is in the natural interest of China to have the two Koreas and support North Korea as a continuing state, even though it is a very troublesome state.
LANDLERWell, there was an interesting kind of a contrast. Admiral Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was out in the region saying very tough things about what the U.S. wants China to do to pull the leash tighter on North Korea at the very moment that Dai Bingguo was in Pyongyang giving presents and bringing the greetings of Hu Jintao to the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. And in some ways, I thought that really captured the different places that the U.S. and China find themselves on North Korea.
LANDLERThe Chinese are, I think, sincerely worried that if they pressure North Korea too much, it will cause a collapse in the regime and unleash such disruption and potential for further provocation or unpredictable behavior, that it's simply a risk they're not willing to take. Whereas the U.S. sees it as, if we continue to allow the North Koreans to behave with impunity, we're inviting more provocation. So they do view it differently.
REHMAnd there's been so much speculation as to whether this is all happening because of the succession of the son, Kim Jong-un.
LABOTTThat's right. And the Chinese have been -- basically endorsed the succession and have continued to support the North Koreans. And many believe that these provocations by North Korea are in an effort to bolster Kim Jong-un's credentials as the succession takes place. But I do think that there -- and these Wikileak cables -- this is why the Wikileak cables are so interesting because they introduce little things that we -- to these issues of diplomacy that we didn't know right now. For instance, China's vice prime minister told U.S. officials that Jong-un was acting like a spoiled child and was making these provocations. And that maybe China doesn't necessarily view North Korea as the ally it once did.
LABOTTSo there does seem to be a kind of debate going on within the Chinese regime about the cost benefit analysis as to how you want to stabilize North Korea and make sure that there's no collapse, make sure that no refugees are flowing into China. But at the same time knowing this is an unpredictable ally, we don't get all that much bang for our buck with the relationship, and our relationship with the United States and our position in Asia countries like Japan, South Korea. Although China doesn't have great political relationships with them, they do have very large economic relationships with them.
LABOTTSo I think this week there were talks in the United States between South Korea, Japan and China -- excuse me, South Korea, U.S. and Japan all designed to send a message to China, because China was not invited, that you really need to stand with us not against us. It's kind of like a new Cold War in Asia right now.
NAIMNext week Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg is going to visit China to continue the conversation. He's going to lead a high-level litigation again to develop the conversation with China along those lines. And it will continue. But the reality is that there is a long history of North Korea being rewarded every time that they do something crazy. And they have been using these tools to extract aid and food and money because they are bankrupt.
REHMAnd talk about ongoing conversations and pauses therein, Mark. Why did the Obama Administration decide to stop seeking a new Israeli settlement freeze?
LANDLERThe decision was made for a couple of reasons. The immediate reason was that the administration and Israel were not able to come to terms on the security guarantees that the Israeli prime minister said he needed in order to sell an extension to his cabinet. His cabinet is a very pro-settler cabinet. And so there was a long discussion, almost a haggling session, over whether the U.S. would give 20 advanced aircraft to Israel at a reduced price or for nothing. Whether the U.S. would guarantee in writing to oppose any anti-Israel resolutions introduced at the U.N. And in the end the U.S. was unwilling to put it all in writing. And then there was a second issue which was, what do you accomplish during the 90-day freeze itself.
REHMMark Landler. He's diplomatic correspondent for the New York Times. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." So what does all this mean for the future of peace talks?
LANDLERWell, at the moment the talks are influx. The Palestinians have said, we won't come back to the table unless there is a settlement freeze. They've even gone further than what was originally contemplated, which was they would like a freeze of all building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. That was actually never even conceived by the administration. The freeze the administration was looking for would've applied only to the West Bank. So the administration is now, as we sit here Friday, preparing a speech that Secretary of State Clinton will give this evening at the Saban Forum, at which we may get a glimmer of where the administration wants to take the process.
LANDLERBut I think that from what I understand, they're really rethinking it, they're stepping back. they're talking about going back to a model that they used for several months without much evidence of progress. It's called proximity talks. The Americans talk to the Palestinians then they talk to the Israelis. There's a lot of shuttling of messages back and forth. But I think what everyone is waiting for is if President Obama is serious as he says he is about a breakthrough in this area, at some point he will have to put his own blueprint on the table. And whether it's in the form of bridging proposals or a more elaborate set of parameters, that is the moment when we'll really know whether this is going to happen during this administration. And we're not there yet.
NAIMEveryone is losing their patience with this process. And, in fact, there are people calling to the end of the process (unintelligible) ...
REHM(overlapping) for the U.S. to get out of (unintelligible) ...
NAIM(overlapping) to get out. And that was tried, not very successfully as it turns out, early in the Bush Administration. And there seems to be inevitability for the United States' presence there, but it's not accomplishing much. One thing that did happen this week is that there is a letter from a whole slew of European leaders. Seven former prime ministers, three former presidents, seven former foreign ministers in Europe signed the letter and sent it to the European Council saying that Europe should stop acting the way it has in terms of trying to tolerate a situation, especially with the settlements. And that they should stop even funding initiatives because it is supporting an inertia that it's not taking the process forward.
LABOTTBasically after two years the administration said this is going to be its major priority. It's not for lack of effort, but after two years of all this they're back to the drawing board. And as Mark said, they're going to go back to these proximity talks, talking to one, talking to the other. But right now the question for this administration is, given all the other priorities that they have, the domestic priorities that they have, how important is this to the Bush -- excuse me, to the Obama Administration, how much are they willing to risk. And right now the Palestinians are talking about taking unilateral action by themselves. If there's no process, if there's nothing that's moving forward, they're talking about something like going for declaring an independent Palestinian state. And countries like Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay have already signaled that they're ready to accept that.
LABOTTSo the United States, of course, won't accept it but there's certainly a movement for some kind of change, some kind of change to the status quo, this continuing dragging on of a process that's not going anywhere.
REHMAnd in anticipation or just before this evening's speech, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is planning to see the Palestinian prime minister, the lead Palestinian negotiator, the Israeli defense minister, Israel's former foreign minister and the U.S. special envoy for the region. So you've got a whole big push going on here.
LANDLERAlthough you notice that if you look at the Secretary of State's schedule it's -- we're back to the model of she'll meet with the Israeli, then an hour later she'll meet with the Palestinian, then she'll meet with another Israeli. So it's proximity talks. She's investing a great deal of time without much to show for it.
REHMMark Landler, diplomatic correspondent for the New York Times. When we come back, it's time for your calls, your questions. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd welcome back. We'll open the phones now first to New Bern, N.C. Good morning, Roger, thanks for joining us.
ROGERGood morning. My comment is on WikiLeaks. And whether they are a journalist or not, they're still protected by the First Amendment. You don't have to a journalist to have freedom of speech. And the idea that the government is trying to shut them down in any form, in any way smacks of hypocrisy when we have just had someone from China unable to go to the awards ceremony because they did disseminate and argue against their government. They've embarrassed the government. They haven't destroyed it.
LANDLERWell, the administration would obviously argue that this was classified information. It was stolen and put up in an unauthorized way, so they would argue that there isn't a First Amendment protection. Of course it's a slippery slope because The New York Times, The Guardian and El Pais and several other papers have posted the information and they would claim First Amendment protection, so it does get at the complexities of the case. And as I said earlier, there is an inherent contradiction between the internet freedom message that this administration is advocating and the way they've responded to the WikiLeaks issue.
REHMAll right. One more question on WikiLeaks and then we'll turn to what's happening in Haiti. This from Roland in Fredericksburg, Va., who says, "What is the actual charge against Julian Assange? It's my understanding it involved consensual sex without a condom which is vastly different from rape. Can you clarify?" Moises.
NAIMWhat I understand is that there is a very specific set of laws in Sweden that govern these issues. The story I read is that there is Assange goes to Sweden, meets an activist and stays at her house. And eventually they end up having sex and in the process his condom breaks. Then there's another story where he meets another admirer and he goes with her and has sex without condom. Then the two of them...
REHMThe two women.
NAIM...the two women discover each other and then start talking, and together they decide to file a lawsuit against him.
NAIMAnd then the prosecutor acts on it. And it's still pending and we don't know the facts is one of these things and, you know, she says, he says. But in this case, she is two women. So it's a very complicated thing that again if you believe that it's entrapment and it's just manipulation to silence a critic, you will believe that that's the case. And if not, that he is just taking advantage of his notoriety.
REHMAll right. Let's turn to the issue of Haiti where election officials have announced an urgent review of the presidential election results. What does that mean, Mark?
LANDLERWell, it possibly means there will be a recount in an election...
LANDLERWell, I -- that's right. I mean, I think it's not totally settled yet. But my -- basically you had a situation where the president's designated anointed successor finished second by a very narrow margin over a very popular singer who was viewed as one of the clear front runners. And there's a widespread belief among the population which has rioted and taken to the streets that these results are wrong or somehow fraudulent. And so -- and there's outside observers who say the same thing.
LANDLERSo you have sort of yet another case of an election in Haiti that's tainted by fraud, that's under a shadow and that plus the misery of a cholera epidemic, the continued problems of righting the country after the earthquake have led to a very combustible situation, and once again Haiti is a place where we see lots of violence and street violence and unrest.
REHMHere's a question from Sonny, "Is the man who is designated to run in the runoff election Préval's son-in-law? I thought I heard that on the BBC, but now I only hear he is from Préval's party."
LABOTTI think he -- I'm not -- I didn't hear anything about him being a brother-in-law. He's a former...
LABOTT...state -- son-in-law. He's a former state construction company executive named Jude Celestin. He was Préval's protégé if you will. And, you know, there's a lot of consternation that Préval is continuing to -- these elections were marred by fraud because of him. This is the second candidate that the election commission -- originally disqualified Wyclef Jean, the popular singer from the United States. He's a Haitian American that was singing and singing and he was a Haitian activist. And so they disqualified him because of the some residency disqualifications. And there was a lot of consternation about that. And now this candidate was also -- the candidate that René Préval edged him out and now this is why there are these protests.
NAIMThe winner of that -- of this first election is Milan Manigat, the former first lady, the wife of Leslie Manigat. And she won this first round with 31 percent. So the dispute about who came in second and who's gonna run against the winner in a second round. That's important context.
NAIMThe other important context is that Haiti is a failed state. The state, the government institutions, public institutions like the electoral missions don't work very well. However in this election, the good news so to speak is that the electoral council has been better staffed, better funded and more supported than ever before. International observers have been stronger and more widespread in the country. And so there is a little bit of progress. That doesn't mean that there wasn't fraud and it doesn't mean that Préval's probably doing whatever he can to influence the outcome.
REHMHere is a question regarding Israel and the US backing away from demanding that Israel stop building new settlements. It says, "I believe as a formal policy this dates back to 1976 and informally even longer. This move will impact the potential for repartitioning. It won't bring about peace talks for some time." Mark.
LANDLERBy the move, you mean backing away from...
REHMBacking away from demanding that Israel stop.
LANDLERWell, you know, the counterargument to that is that many rounds of previous peace talks have been held without such a settlement freeze in place, that the Palestinians have been willing to come to the table. And this goes to the heart of why the settlements are viewed as such a mistake by the administration. It was the administration that thought that if they brought settlements front and center that they could break the law jam. But by doing so, they raised an issue for the Palestinians. They made it very difficult for the Palestinians to accept anything less than a freeze, as well as for Israel's Arab neighbors.
LANDLERSo the argument is, look, in the past the Palestinians have negotiated with a freeze, but now because the US chose to put it front and center, we have to demand it. In other words, we invited the Palestinian leader to climb way out on the edge of a tree and gave him no ladder to climb down.
LABOTTAnd then they were trying to say that during the settlement freeze you would be able to negotiate something on borders in that 90 day freeze. And that was considered completely impossible, unrealistic. And the question was even if the United States was able to get Israel to have this one last temporary freeze and the Israelis and the US already negotiated, that there wouldn't be another one after this. What do you on day 91 if you haven't had an agreement on borders? You don't have another freeze. Then you're back to the drawing board once again. So it was a lose, lose.
REHMAnd back to the WikiLeaks question, Jonas in McClain, Va. asks, "If the panel can compare of the furor over WikiLeaks with the furor over the Pentagon Papers." Mark.
LANDLERWell, I think the important distinction between the Pentagon Papers and the WikiLeaks case from the government's point of view is the following. The Pentagon Papers were leaked because the leaker felt that there had been a grave deception of the American public, that there had been real misconduct in the way the government handled Vietnam and Cambodia, and that was designed to write what was viewed as a huge injustice.
LANDLERNow, Julian Assange would make a variant to that case. He would say, we are showing mendacity and dishonesty and doubletalk on the part of the United States. The US argument would be, look at the cables, they're embarrassing, they show that we don't say the same thing in public that we say in private, but there's no grave evidence of dishonesty, of misconduct, of malfeasants on the level of the Pentagon Papers. So really what you're doing here is making mischief and damaging the United States rather than trying to right a huge wrong. That's -- I've giving you an argument. I'm not necessarily siding one way or the other.
LANDLERYeah, but from the point of view, just a final point on this, also it's clear already that the Pentagon Papers will be much more of a milestone case. Remember, that led to a Supreme Court case. It became one of the critical First Amendment legal battles. It's not clear to me yet that we're headed in that direction with WikiLeaks. I certainly haven't heard the government suggest that they want to take The New York Times to the Supreme Court over this.
REHMBut Eric Holder is in the process of deciding whether he is going to prosecute Julian Assange, ask the UK to extradite him which could be a huge battle in and of itself. And if that were to be the case, wouldn't you see that going all the way to the Supreme Court, Moises?
NAIMI don't know. What I know is that the world is watching this in horror. Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula de Silva just yesterday said that he is in horror looking at the way the United States is going after Assange. Others have also said the same. Again, this is less a story about him than about a huge security breach on the part of the US government. That is what needs to be center.
REHMWhat about the young man, Manning, Elise, who apparently downloaded all of this material to his computer and then released it?
LABOTTWell, he's in jail right now. They're building a case against him for espionage and working on classified material and stealing classified material. And the question when the US tries to build its case against Assange is whether he helped Manning, whether he solicited the information, whether he told him to look for specific things, whether he gave him any clues or any type of ways to get into the computer, whether he was an active participant in stealing the classified material, then they would have more of a case against him in that way. Otherwise maybe he is protected under the First Amendment rights, but there's a lot of discussion right now whether he served a greater good or not.
REHMElise Labott, she's senior State Department producer for CNN. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Moises.
NAIMThere is an argument that I don't subscribe, but I wanna share that Assange did a favor to the United States by showing the big, big hole it had in its security operation. Because what we know is that Private Manning took and downloaded hundreds of thousands of secret cables and gave it to Assange. But what we don't know if others like Manning that had some access did the same thing. And instead of giving it to someone that would show the world, it gave it to some other intelligence services in exchange for money or for just ideology. So again, one needs to center, I think, on the high vulnerability of the systems that needed to be far more protected.
REHMAll right. To Raleigh, N.C., good morning, Gina.
GINAGood morning, Diane. Thanks for taking my call.
GINAJust wanted to make a brief point about Haiti. Many people in Haiti are very, very frustrated with the elections because they weren't allowed to vote. Many Haitians were displaced because of the earthquake. So when it came time to go to the poll, they arrived to their closest locations, but they were not allowed in. And many of them had no way to get to their old polling locations. So there's a deep sense of frustration with the Haitians that I'm in communication with that they just were not able to voice their opinion in the polls this year.
NAIMAnd it's even worse than that. A lot of Haitians don't have identity papers so that you don't know who they are. The logistic -- this is a country that has a hard time doing far easier things than staging an election. The state, as I said before, does not function well in almost any aspect, and corruption and violence and also...
REHMBut the cholera outbreak on top of all this which has already killed about 2,000 people. How do you get sufficient medication through? How do you deal with illness? I heard one doctor say this morning on "Morning Edition" he had a patient die two hours after that person got to the hospital. Cholera moves very quickly. And the effort to inoculate this number of people against cholera, it seems to be it would be a gigantic and almost impossible effort.
LABOTTWell, and also, I mean, the American Red Cross and a lot of -- International Red Cross and a lot of other international organizations are doing the best they can. But this is the problem when you have an earthquake, when you have a natural disaster like this that disease is like the second wave of disaster...
LABOTT...because they don't have clean water, they don't have clean sanitation. And as much as they're trying to treat the people that are getting the disease and give them aid and give them food and give them shelter, they have to, as you said, inoculate them and continue to stop the spread of this type of disease from even a third wave.
LANDLERAnd it also I think is yet another challenge for the Obama administration. If you remember, President Obama made earthquake response a huge priority when this happened. He devoted an unusual amount of time to it, held five or six meetings in the White House Situation Room, dispatched a lot of his top people immediately. But the problem with this kind of response is it can't just be over weeks. It has to end up being over months.
LANDLERAnd if you look at another very big natural disaster in Pakistan, there is the continuing effect there as well in terms of destroyed crop land, in terms of disease, a huge need to rebuild. And so what happens is you have these natural disasters. They occupy a great deal of time and great deal of attention for the first days and weeks, but they really are months and even years long processes. And the administration understandably has so many other things on its plate, it's not clear you can keep that level of intensity.
REHMJust one point of difference, didn't Pakistan say, we can deal with this ourselves?
LANDLERThey did indeed. And in fact Pakistan made the argument that we were in fact exaggerating some of the damage. So there is a difference between the two. In the case of Haiti, you had genuine devastation. In the case of Pakistan, you had somewhat of a response.
REHMMark Landler, diplomatic correspondent for The New York Times, Elise Labott, senior State Department producer for CNN, Moises Naim, chief international columnist for El Pais, thank you all so much. Have a great weekend everybody. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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