Call for posts: Help IntLawGrrls cover this week’s global array of counter/inauguration events

posterEven as we mark the achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the many women and men who have kept the movement for human rights and human security on the march, today we at IntLawGrrls look toward events later this week:

► Friday’s transfer of power from President Barack Obama to his elected successor; and, not least,

► Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington, organized around “Unity Principles” that will be familiar to our readers. Accompanying that Capitol counterinaugural event  will be a myriad of Sister Marches – at this writing, it’s estimated that more than 700,000 persons will march at more than 380 sites around the globe. The worldwide map is stunning; in the words of organizers:

“Women’s March Global is a proactive international movement, not a U.S. election-specific protest per se, which has galvanized people to defend women’s rights and those of others in response to the rising rhetoric of far-right populism around the world.”

Eight years ago, we ‘Grrls commemorated Obama’s inauguration with celebratory posts from around the world (here and here), as we had the 2008 election itself (see here). This week we hope to repeat that coverage – this time in a spirit of determination rather than celebration. A number of us plan to march and post, and we welcome all of you to join us in this effort.

If you already have an IntLawGrrls account at this ilg2 site, simply post, ideally with photos, according to our usual process. If you haven’t an account but would like to get ready to post, or if you have one but will need assistance getting your text and photos online while you’re marching, please e-mail our editors at intlawgrrls@gmail.com.

Onward.

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Flashback to pre-Iowa 2008: “Why this IntLawGrrl’s for Obama for President”

With the President delivering his final State of the Union address as I write these lines, I couldn’t help but have a look at my own very early endorsement of and pledge to work for (as a member of his campaign’s Human Rights Policy Committee) then-Senator Barack Obama. It holds up pretty well 8 years later, even if not everything turned out as, well, hoped. Here, once again, is my Jan. 3, 2008, IntLawGrrls post:

(An Iowa Caucus Day item) Soon after the 2d inauguration of George W. Bush, whose Presidency already had been marked by abuse scandals at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, by the folly of the Iraq invasion, and by the failure to incapacitate Osama bin Laden, I began to prepare for the next election cycle.
My road to 2008 began on the freeway, listening to politicians read aloud the books in which they endeavored to tell their own stories in their own words. My Life, the memoir by Bush’s immediate predecessor, Bill Clinton, filled in some details about a man who in the 1990s had dominated current events. In Living History his wife, Hillary Clinton, read her precise account of those same times. The works left me appreciative yet disengaged.
Then, on a colleague’s recommendation, I listened to Barack Obama read Dreams from My Father, the “story of race and inheritance” he’d written a decade earlier. The last thing I expected to discover were things in common. And yet here was someone who’d also moved about as a child, been raised at times by grandparents. Who’d also witnessed Harold Washington’s milestone mayoral election while working in Chicago — who’d worked a few years before moving on to law school, then to law teaching. Whose family ties put him in close contact with newcomers to America and with relatives overseas. (Yesterday, in the Voice of America interview here, Obama urged political rivals in Kenya, his father’s homeland, to “address peacefully the controversies that divide them.”) A progressive Illinoisan who preferred consensus to conflict.
His campaign’s followed lines sketched in Dreams and detailed in his 2d book, The Audacity of Hope. The operative word remains “hope” — discussed by means not of doe-eyed promises of the impossible, but of substantive policy prescriptions. There’s a focus on building a movement, one that underscores the significance of a fact seldom studied despite the reams of copy written about Obama: This is someone whose sensibilities were shaped by years of organizing poor people in job-starved communities, a real world experience that all politicians could use but few have. The campaign’s unabashed reaching across the aisle, moreover, comes as a relief to all exhausted by the pitched political battles of the recent past.
And then there’s Obama’s foreign policy.
This is a candidate who fears not to speak with favor of the United Nations and other international bodies. Who speaks of the essential need for the United States not simply to demand from its allies, but rather to earn from them, respect and assistance. Who understands “security” to mean more than military might. A candidate who persists in a plan to meet personally with world leaders of all political persuasion, to cut in on diplomatic dances of avoidance that sometimes extend distance between cultures.
Not least is Obama’s denunciation of Guantánamo and all it stands for: indefinitedetention for purposes of interrogation, abandonment of habeas corpus, cruelty and torture. It’s unequivocal and delivered to all audiences.
Aiding Obama are scores of foreign policy experts and international lawyers. They include many noted and respected women, among them: Pulitzer Prizewinning Harvard ProfessorSamantha Power; Patricia Wald, former judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District ofColumbia Circuit and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; and Dr. Susan E. Rice, formerly assistant U.S. Secretary of State for African Affairs.
It may seem odd that someone who’s spent nearly a year blogging the achievements of the world’s women leaders is working for this candidate. Would I welcome as President a woman who’s made her own way, who stands on her own feet, who promises to bring the best to the job? Certainly. I’ll embrace that candidate, when she emerges.
Now, though, this IntLawGrrl’s honored to be doing her wee bit for Barack Obama, the human who pushes people to “Change the World.”

(Cross-posted from Diane Marie Amann)

Obama Announces Shift in Executive Policy on Cuba

President Obama announced on Wednesday that he was pursuing a marked shift in policy to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. This included a future U.S. embassy in the capital city of Havana, as well as the possibility of official visits to the island. Other aspects of the policy agenda called for a review of Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism and the opening of channels of travel, commerce, and information. Full details of the updated policy approach here.

Photo credit http://cubanos.org.uk/news/75-a-letter-to-barack-obama-cuba

Photo credit

Notable in this key moment in U.S-Cuba relations was the role of Pope Francis, who President Obama acknowledging for playing a strong role in facilitating the release of U.S. citizen Alan Gross. Gross, a USAID employee, was working in Cuba when he was arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in prison for crimes against the state. The Pope made personal appeals to both President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro to encourage a dialogue between the two nations and issued a warm congratulations following President Obama’s public address.

Reactions to this historic shift in policy have been mixed. Some hailed the move as an obvious one, considering the lack of positive results from the long-running Cuban embargo. Others, like Senator Marco Rubio, vehemently objected and criticized Obama’s apparent concessions to the Cuban “dictatorship” by exchanging three Cubans held as spies for Gross’s return. Rubio represents a powerful voice against the implementation of many of Obama’s stated goals; he is set to take seat as the Chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, and would be in a critical position to block funding for a new embassy in Cuba. After publicly stating that he is “committed to doing everything [he] can to unravel as many of these changes as possible,” Rubio will also be one of the most vocal voices in Congress blocking any changes to the current Cuban embargo.

While Obama’s address certainly marked a key point in thawing of U.S.-Cuban relations, only cooperation between both branches of government will enact a true breakdown of the Cold War policies that have governed for the last 50 years.

 

 

Thoughts on President Obama’s African Trip (June, 2013)

President Obama’s second trip to the continent of Africa since assuming the U.S. Presidency has been overshadowed by details

Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

of the costly and extensive logistics and security arrangements and reports of African disappointment at lack of attention to the continent by America’s first black President.

“. . . Africans expected more from Obama, . . . [we] don’t feel the voice of the United States,” is how the Washington Post reports the comments made by one blogger. However, the blogger appears to have forgotten that up through much of the 20th century, America’s “voice” in Africa was not particularly benign. It included decades of military interventions to prop up authoritarian regimes or to depose democratically-elected leaders who the United States did not like. Like the Soviet Union, the United States saw African countries primarily as pawns of their cold war with each other for supremacy. And who can forget the long-lived US support for the South African apartheid regime?

Current U.S. policy in Africa is evolving. President Obama’s schedule suggests a strong focus on trade and investment. Like Vice President Biden’s May tour of Latin American and the Caribbean just ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the region, this focus can also be seen as a response to China’s presence in Africa.

Senegal National Flag, Wikipedia Commons

Senegal national flag, Wikipedia Commons

South Africa national flag, Wikipedia Commons

South Africa national flag, Wikipedia Commons

Tanzania national flag, Wikipedia Commons

Tanzania national flag, Wikipedia Commons

The Obama Administration has also continued predecessors’ strong focus on security and military arrangements. US State Department Bureau of Africa site and evident focus on military support seemed to underscore this. As a result, in South Africa, President Obama’s visit is expected to meet protests from trade union and other activists.

There are also calls for President Obama to use his trip to look at the continent’s development concerns. In addition to continuing initiatives begun under his predecessor, President George Bush, the evidence suggests that in this area, President Obama has channeled support for Africa’s development challenges in partnership with other major powers, international organizations and private sector. The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition and the recently-signed (June 8, 2013) Global Nutrition for Growth Compact are examples. This multilateral approach does make it harder to see or feel the “voice” of the United States.

This may be a good thing. US policy to any country or region anywhere in the world is always going to be shaped by US perceptions of what is in its best interests. The more that perception incorporates an understanding of our mutual interdependence and shared humanity, the better it is for the United States and its partners. Africa needs a U.S. policy that evolves irrespective of the heritage or color of the occupant of the White House. So, perhaps the best thing that President Obama can do for Africa is to use the rest of his term to shape a rational and humane Africa policy that will persist independently of whoever is the next U.S. President.