A panel of top political commentators joins Diane to talk about some of the head spinning events of this last year and to get their perspectives on the challenges ahead.
Libya is back in the news as the U.S. Congress holds new hearings on the attack that killed an American ambassador. The U.S. warns an impending Russian arms deal with Syria could hinder efforts to stop the civil war. And in Bangladesh, rescuers find a woman alive in the rubble of a garment factory that collapsed weeks ago, killing more than 1,000 people. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Nathan Guttman Washington correspondent for Channel 1 Israeli News and The Jewish Daily Forward.
- Anne Gearan Diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post.
- Jonathan Landay Senior national security and intelligence correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Libya is back in the news as the U.S. Congress holds new hearings on the attack that killed an American ambassador. The U.S. warns an impeding Russian arms deal with Syria would hinder efforts to stop the civil war. And in Bangladesh, rescuers find a woman alive in the rubble of a garment factory that collapsed weeks ago, killing more than 1,000 people.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me for the week's top international news stories on the "Friday News Roundup," Nathan Guttman of Channel 1 Israeli News and the "Jewish Daily Forward," Anne Gearan of "The Washington Post" and Jonathan Landay of McClatchy Newspapers.
MS. DIANE REHMI hope you'll join in the conversation, give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org, follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning all.
MR. JONATHAN LANDAYGood morning.
MR. NATHAN GUTTMANGood morning.
MS. ANNE GEARANGood morning.
REHMGood to have you with us. Nathan Guttman, let's start with the Israeli strikes. Are they to aide the rebels, were they to hit Hezbollah? Talk about the background.
GUTTMANI think they had a few goals. The immediate goal would be to hit the Hezbollah and to make sure that these specific weapons, these rather advanced surface to surface missiles on their way from Iran to Hezbollah, just don't make it to the Hezbollah because Israel sees that as a threat to its northern border. It would upgrade the abilities of the Hezbollah.
GUTTMANOver -- there's probably a broader message here on the strategic level not necessarily to help the rebels, because I don't think Israel has any great interest in who controls Syria in the future as long as it's stable. But in sending a message to Assad that, we can get you where we are.
GUTTMANLook, we just launched this strike against targets in Damascus which means don't mess with us, we can reach you if we want to. And in the Israeli logic this means that you can kind of keep this mess in Syria under control and make sure that it doesn't spill over to Lebanon.
REHMBut did Israel actually take responsibility for launching those attacks?
GUTTMANNot officially. This is a pattern we see many times with Israeli attacks and the Israeli public learns about this from what they call foreign sources, from foreign media reports. Israeli unnamed officials will confirm the foreign reporters but they'll never talk about that in the Israeli press, so officially we don't know anything about it, but of course all sides agree that it actually happened.
REHMAnne Gearan, what about retaliation for those strikes?
GEARANWell, I mean, one way to look at this is that the Israeli strikes put pressure on just about everyone else, right. They put pressure on Assad to look like he can defend his own country, but he doesn't really have the ability to strike Israel so what's he going to do instead, if anything.
GEARANIt puts some pressure on the outside backers of the various rebel forces, but we've seen it, we've seen sort of an interesting development in that you would think that this would put military pressure on everyone but so far, the reaction has been to try to go back and seek a more, seek the revival of a moribund negotiation plan the U.S. and Russia are backing.
GEARANI still think that this does change the military situation, it does make it more likely that there will be some kind of outside military intervention just because we've stopped talking and started blowing things up.
GUTTMANOne of the more interesting things that actually, today there's a piece I believe it's in "Foreign Policy" magazine by a former Israeli intelligence chief who says that Israel actually sent quiet, covert messages to Assad saying we're not after you. We're actually just going after Hezbollah and the Iranian arms supplies that you're enabling, so that's really what our interest is.
LANDAYOur interest isn't taking you out, because quite frankly, Israel doesn't want to take him out because, you know, better the devil you know rather than the rebel groups that are the most effective fighting force, which is Jabal al-Nusra, which is aligned with al Qaeda, and the Israelis don't want to see them in the driver's seat.
LANDAYThey would prefer to see Mr. Assad, who they've been dealing with for quite a few years, before that, his father, and both Assads have basically kept the northern border of Israel in the Golan Heights quiet, and that's what the Israelis' main, I believe, main interest is at least in dealing with Assad.
GUTTMANHi, I don't know if there are these messages, if they really exist or not, these secret messages, but definitely Israel had a very good working relationship Bashar al-Assad and with his father for decades, and the status quo in the Golan Heights that Jonathan mentioned definitely worked for both sides and if Israel could freeze that situation that would be great.
GUTTMANI don't think Israelis will go out on a limb to save Bashar al-Assad when the entire world is seeing the atrocities that are going on in Syria right now. But if it can keep stability, Israel's interest is not in democratic transformation in Syria, it's maintaining quiet along the border and stopping weapons from getting to (word?).
REHMAnne Gearan, U.S. ambassador Tom Ford crossed into Syria briefly, secretly, for what reason?
GEARANFord, Robert Ford was with Secretary Kerry in Moscow and then broke off officially to go to Istanbul to talk some of the rebel leaders who are housed there. From there he made a secret, unannounced trip across the border. It's a border crossing that is thoroughly in rebel hands and it is very easy for journalists, aide workers, others to cross.
GEARANWhat made his visit significant is that he didn't ask permission from the Assad government. Well, why would he? I mean, we want the Assad government out, right? Well, actually the U.S. does still diplomatically recognize the Assad government for the purpose of delivering aid. He's still the control for the country, through which aid is directed through the United Nations.
GEARANAnd so when U.S. officials want to try to go Syria or want to try to direct aid to Syria they do actually still have to go through the Assad government. Ford didn't, he just went across this open border crossing...
REHMTo do what?
GEARANTo talk to the leaders inside Syria, primarily the military command council under General Idris who is now the U.S. favorite, and to report out what happened in Moscow where Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, announced that they would work jointly to revive this year old plan for a negotiated political settlement and a transitional government in Syria.
GEARANIt didn't work a year ago, completely remains to be seen whether it can work now. But what they did effectively kicks any further decision about a no-fly zone or other kinds of intervention out a little ways. Could still happen but it does kick out a ways and they have to sell that to the rebels.
LANDAYAnd selling that to the rebels may be one thing but the fact is, you know, we, my colleague David Enders interviewed General Idris earlier this week and in this interview, General Idris was very candid. He doesn't have very many troops, he doesn't have much control of what's going on, he doesn't have much authority and he said that the rebels are too weak to overthrow the Assad government.
LANDAYThe question is, can you get, even if you were to get them, some of the rebels, the U.S. backed rebels like General Idris to a conference with whoever the Assad regime is going to send. The fact is that the rebel group that is the most effective fighting force against the Assad regime are, there's virtually, absolutely no chance that they're going to show up and this would be the Islamists led by Jabal al Nursa which is, you know, has pledged fealty to al Qaeda.
LANDAYThere is a Syrian Islamist group that doesn't feel very comfortable with that. At the same time, they are, have combined military operations that are going on together inside of Syria. And quite frankly, it's very doubtful that they're, I mean, more than doubtful that they're going to attend this kind of conference.
REHMNathan, what about Secretary of State Kerry's meeting in Moscow?
GUTTMANWell, I guess the purpose was to try and reach this kind of understanding with Putin about how can you, how the United States and Russia can work together to resolve this Syria situation, and it seems that both sides gave in a little bit. Russia doesn't seem to be backing the Syria regime, the Assad regime, as forcefully it has done in the beginning of this conflict.
GUTTMANThe U.S. kind of compromised on who will represent the Syrians at these meetings. So there is some, maybe some opening to an understanding here. However, it is difficult to see even after these meetings how a second Geneva meeting can move this process forward. Will the Assad regime negotiate its own demise? Will they show up? But the fact that the Russians seem to be moving a little bit may be out of recognition that the Assad regime isn't sustainable anymore. Maybe that is a beginning of progress there.
REHMBut you know at the same time, on Monday, President Putin encountered huge demonstrations right there.
GEARANYes, the largest anti-Putin demonstrations in a year. It was in the days running up to the anniversary of his taking office a second time as president on May 7th, and we, I mean, we saw these massive demonstrations in late 2011 which were in protest of what the protestors said was a rigged, stacked elections that Putin won.
GEARANThose were crushed and really at this time last year you didn't hear much from the very fractured and sort of sometimes feckless Russian opposition. So it was interesting to see them pull this together.
REHMAnne Gearan, diplomatic correspondent for "The Washington Post." When we come back we'll talk about testimony before Congress on Benghazi.
REHMAnd speaking of those Benghazi hearings on Capitol Hill this week, Jonathan Landay, you sat through all five hours.
LANDAYThat and the previous ones and everything else that happened. And there was some really emotional testimony from Gregory Hicks, who was the number two U.S. diplomat on the ground in Tripoli when this was all going down. And he described in blow-by-blow, very emotional details how he responded and the last phone calls he had with Ambassador Chris Smith before -- I'm sorry, Ambassador Chris Stevens before he and...
REHMThe line went dead.
LANDAYRight. The line went dead. But the bottom line is that the American people were told by Republican leaders that this hearing was going to disclose this great conspiracy equivalent to Watergate. And, in fact, we heard nothing really new. There were no major new revelations at all. To sustain what we've been told is this cover up of malfeasants and mishandling of what went on. And a cover up that was intended to cover up the culpability of the president and his top people in the midst of the president's reelection campaign. Again, nothing really new came out of those hearings at all.
GEARANYeah, I mean, there was a rehash of the two main Republican arguments here on Benghazi, that security was inadequate beforehand and the State Department knew it and should have done something about it and really failed its own people, argument one. And then argument two, the administration beyond the State Department, including the White House, covered up the known fact or suspicion at the start that this was a terrorist attack and connected to al-Qaida, because that would look bad for Obama.
GEARANThey did shed a little bit of light on the latter that, you know, by actually sort of walking through how some of the language changed. But it didn't materially change anything. I mean, we had conflicting reports from the start. There was a strong suspicion by intelligence agencies that there was terrorist involvement, but that was, you know, acknowledged by the administration within a couple of days. They didn't show really how any -- really fill in a lot of the blanks, other than to kind of show how the language did change and finger at least one State Department official in changing it.
REHMWe have an email here from Jeremy in Cincinnati saying, "Republicans keep wanting to make it seem that Obama and Secretary Clinton did something wrong that led to the deaths of the four people in Benghazi. They seem to ignore the biggest factor that led to the deaths, the decision by the ambassador's group to spend the night in Benghazi instead of heading back to Tripoli when they finished the day's business." Do you agree with that, Nathan?
GUTTMANWell, it's hard to tell in any kind of what-if situation what would've happened if they went back to Tripoli at the end of the day or not. Definitely I think we see here two competing narratives. There is the narrative of the State Department and the administration is trying to put forward, which is of a terrible accident that happened. In that even the testimonies we heard this week just showed the frustration of people there that wanted to help and saw their colleagues in a dire situation and couldn't help.
GUTTMANAnd there's the other narrative that Republicans are trying to put forward, which is this massive cover up motivated by political reasons. Now, whether the ambassador and his team would go back to Tripoli the same night, I don't know if that would've changed anything. It was -- we don't know what the plans of the terrorists were, so couldn't speculate on that.
GEARANWell, I mean, Stevens was there to perform a diplomatic function the next day. They were going to open this thing called the American Corner, which is sort of a rah-rah visit-America-we-like-you you-should-like-us kind of cultural exchange operation that they were going to open in Benghazi. He had been to Benghazi many times. I don't actually know whether he'd ever stayed overnight in that guest house before. But certainly if he didn't, other U.S. officials had without incident. So it probably didn't seem like a big deal to him.
REHMBut it was not as carefully guarded as the base in Tripoli.
GEARANIt was almost unguarded.
GEARANThere is a perimeter, which actually had been breached some months before. There was an explosion that breached the wall some months before. And one Libyan guard at the front and maybe, you know, a few others walking around, but one guy manning the front gate. And he abandoned the post pretty quickly.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about Bangladesh. Thank God, one miracle this morning after 17 days, a woman found in some lower portion where the demolition was clearing away. Gosh, to survive under those conditions. We don't know anything other than she is okay. That's all we know. But the news does, on the other hand, keep getting worse there. Now more than a thousand people who died in that fire after this string of disasters because certainly this is not the first. Are American retailers going to be less likely to try to sell goods made in Bangladesh to Americans?
LANDAYProbably not, because we know that economics drives the market. And it's -- Bangladesh is the second largest manufacturer of clothing next to China for the Western markets. There have been attempts, we know, by local unions and international unions to try and create a system which would improve the inspection and improvements of safety and labor conditions in this vast garment industry in Bangladesh that western retailers -- western wholesalers have refused to participate in.
REHMBut what about this fair trade certification now moving from coffee and food into apparel, Anne?
GEARANYeah, I mean, that goes along with something that American and other international businesses take very seriously, which is, you know, their reputational risk. And if they think it's good for their reputation and makes enough economic sense to do fair trade coffee, then they'll do fair trade coffee. If they make -- if they think it's good for their reputation and makes enough economic sense to scale back their business in Bangladesh, I could see them doing it.
GUTTMANIt also has to do, of course, with the -- and how gradual the process is because we already seen -- we've seen some pushback from the government in Bangladesh. When the EU started talking about withdrawing a favorable trade agreement with Bangladesh because of the working conditions over there and they said, well, you know, we have 4 million people working here at it or more, this will be a blow to our economy. These are people that are barely surviving as it is.
GUTTMANSo as we've seen with other cases of social -- trying to inject the social justice issues into international trade, I think a lot of it will have to do with how gradual the process is and how willing the other persons on the ground are to go ahead with it, with this international pressure.
LANDAYI also think that it's going to have a lot to do with what kind of internal pressure, what domestic pressure comes out of Bangladesh. Ninety percent of the 3 million workers in their garment industry are women. We've already seen enormous public anger in Bangladesh over this. It's a very politically active society. I've spent time there. And I think that there's going to be pressure internally on the government to do more about ensuring that there are better working conditions, labor conditions.
LANDAYLet's not forget corruption there is one of the biggest problems that have been inhibiting improvements in working conditions in this country. The garment industry is its biggest industry, $20 billion a year. It's vital for Bangladesh. And I think that you're going to see a lot more internal domestic pressure on the government to take action after this tragedy.
REHMWhen we talked about Syria, we did not talk about chemical weapons. Here's an email from Phil in Indianapolis. He says, "In Syria it seems the Russians have much more to lose if Syria's chemical weapons are captured by the anti-Assad rebels. What options do the Russians see ahead of them if Assad falls? Is Russia in a position to capture the chemical weapons in the worst case?" Nathan.
GUTTMANI don't think anyone can be sure of that. It's not clear that the Russians are in the position to secure the chemical weapons. We have seen, for the past year or so, an American effort to stage forces around the border to make sure that these chemical weapons are accounted for, and that if and when Assad falls, someone responsible will take care of them. But it's really not clear that that's in the scenario right now.
GUTTMANAccording to best reports that I've seen from Syria, currently most of the chemical weapons are accounted for and are under the control of the Assad regime. So we haven't seen any kind of leaking into opposition...
REHMAll right. So why all these conflicting reports we've had this week about the use of chemical weapons.
LANDAYWell, they're apparently -- U.S. officials apparently believe that there is some evidence that sarin has been used or some kind of chemical weapons is...
REHMWhere did that evidence come from?
LANDAYWell, that's the big question. They've talked about this chain of -- what they talk about this chain of evidence -- the chain of custody of the evidence. It appears that it's very questionable because it -- some of these samples apparently rode out of the country for four days in the back of a car. Nobody knows who handled them first. And so you talk about, you know, the degradation of these samples of evidence. Plus the circumstances in which these alleged use of chemical weapons took place are -- is unknown.
LANDAYWhat -- you know, there's been a lot of weapons that have -- ammunition that's been captured by the rebels. Some of it may not be marked. They could've been -- gone off accidentally. It's just not known. And one thing that is known is that this administration is extremely wary about following in the footsteps of the previous administration and its bogus case against Saddam Hussein and his so-called weapons of mass destruction.
REHM(unintelligible) in Iraq. Anne.
GEARANYes. I mean, you'll see the U.S. has been behind, you know, Britain, France and Israel in accusing the Assad regime of using chemical weapons. And it sort of -- the Obama Administration sort of backed into that accusation saying, you know, it...
GEARANWell, that's -- I mean, having drawn a red line then you have to decide whether you're going to cross it. And...
REHMWell, he's being very cautious about that...
GEARAN...being extremely cautious.
REHM...as well he should, considering questionable sources of information. I heard one report that the actual so-called chemical weapon was teargas.
GEARANThere were conflicting reports at the time of at least one of these incidents that the U.S. Intelligence Services knocked down as the source of it was probably not chemical weapons. That it was some other kind of chemical agent that caused all sorts of irritation, but not chemical weapons.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Jonathan Landay, Afghan President Karzai says he would be willing to allow the U.S. NATO to keep nine bases in his country beyond 2014. So is that an agreement? What is it?
LANDAYNo, there's no agreement. It's basically, we're in the (word?), we're in the bazaar and we're in negotiations. And the United States right now is in negotiations with the Afghan government over what they call the status of forces agreement that would govern the presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces in 2014.
REHMBut I thought there were only going to be some 10,000 troops that the U.S. had agreed to?
LANDAYWe don't have an agreement from the U.S. with -- the figure is 10 to 12. We know that NATO is planning for it. We know the Germans are the only country so far who have actually publically said they're willing to devote troops to a post-2014 troop presence. And it's pretty sure there's going to be some kind of troop presence, but it's going to depend on the outcome of these negotiations.
LANDAYThe negotiations over this status of forces agreement, one of the major parts of which will determine where the Americans go, as well as whether or not the American troops that stay there are subject to Afghan or United States military law. That is an issue that...
REHMBig sticking point.
LANDAYIt's a -- well, it's -- we don't know yet in Afghanistan. We know in Iraq it resulted in the fact that all the American troops came out. I'm not sure it's going to work in Afghanistan, simply because the situation there is so much more critical. You've got an ongoing insurgency, no political progress at all on an agreement. And the Americans would like to keep some kind of presence there, not just training presence but a counterterrorism presence to be able to deal with the remnants of al-Qaida.
GUTTMANI guess part of the question is also what is the mission of these 10,000 or so troops that would remain there. Karzai, of course, would want to see these troops there also as helping-hand protectives, border integrity in dealing with any kind of insurgency or intervention from Pakistan-based Taliban or Taliban supporters. And he feels that the U.S. could be helpful in that. But that's something he would like to finalize in advance as part of this agreement on leaving these nine bases or so on the ground.
REHMSo last week, President Karzai admitted that he was getting bags of cash from the CIA and had been doing so for decades. Is that cash still flowing in?
GEARANWe don't know for sure, but we can assume so. I mean, it's been a ten-year project apparently to underwrite his office. And the U.S. isn't the only country giving it to...
REHMHow is it being used?
GEARANHe hasn't said particularly but he said that the office has been using it for various purposes.
LANDAYWell, in theory, a lot of it is supposed to go, I believe, to his equivalent to the CIA to support his equivalent, the Afghan Intelligence Service. But, you know, there is some speculation that perhaps President Karzai has been using it to build and maintain his own political networks, very important in Afghanistan, particularly into the south of Afghanistan where the Taliban homeland is.
LANDAYBut, you know, I think that he was masterful in dealing with this subject. And don't forget, this isn't the first time he's been accused of taking bags of foreign cash into his office. There was also the reports that he was taking bags of Iranian money. And how did he handle both situations? He admitted that he was doing it. What's the big deal, he said. This is foreign aid. This is to support my office, which doesn't have enough cash to keep itself going, to support my intelligence operations. Now, by the way, I just met with the CIA chief earlier and this is going to continue.
REHMJonathan Landay. He's senior national security and intelligence correspondent for McClatchy newspapers. When we come back it's time to open the phones. I look forward to speaking with you.
REHMAnd welcome back to the international hour of our "Friday News Roundup." Here's an email from Lee in Arlington, Va. who says, "While I agree Benghazi is not on the level of Watergate, the hearing on Wednesday highlighted that no one on the ground believed the assault on the consulate was connected with a demonstration, but rather was viewed as a planned attack from the beginning. What the press needs to investigate is the basis of Ambassador Rice's talking points."
REHM"If no one on the ground in Libya believed it was a demonstration, why did our intelligence agencies believe otherwise?" Jonathan Landay…?
LANDAYLet me toot McClatchy's horn a bit. We reported within 12 hours of that, that there was no demonstration, talking to witnesses who were there. However, there weren't. It's not true there weren't people on the ground who said there wasn't a demonstration. The deputy Libyan interior minister said there was a demonstration.
LANDAYMost other major news reports quoted other people as saying there was a demonstration. But today I believe that ABC News is reporting that it has obtained 12 different versions or rewrites of the original talking points that show that the State Department was definitely, a senior official in the State Department, Victoria Nuland was definitely trying to protect her bosses, her superiors from Congressional criticism about inadequate security at the consulate.
LANDAYAnd that they took out references to al-Qaida because, accordingly to at least one of the emails, they didn't want to prejudice the outcome of the investigation. However for me the most important point was this, that beginning with the very first version of the talking points put together by the CIA, those said it was believed that the attack did grow out of a spontaneous demonstration against a crude anti-Islamic video that had also prompted a demonstration against, an attack on the U.S. embassy in Cairo.
LANDAYSo that is the heart. That is really the heart of this case that the Republicans are making, that these talking points were somehow, that the administration rewrote them to obscure the fact that this was a terrorist attack, to protect President Obama's reelection campaign.
LANDAYBut now we know from these leaked, different versions of the talking points that from the get-go, the CIA was telling the administration and Congress, and by the way, Congress has had these different versions for a long time, that they believe, the intelligence community believed that the attack grew out of this spontaneous demonstration.
GUTTMANI think going back to the question of the listener, there is a problem when you turn this whole debate into a political football and that you actually ignore these operational malfunctions that obviously did happen. You have American, four American officials, dead in an attack and definitely something went wrong there.
GUTTMANTurning it into this huge political debate just kind of obscures that fact and in a sense distracts the media and I think the politicians as well from dealing with these problems and fixing them for the next time.
REHMAlright, to Fayetteville, N.C., hi there, Mary.
MARYHello, good morning.
MARYMy husband is, lives in Fayetteville. My husband is stationed at Fort Bragg. He has personal friends in (word?) that received a call the night before the attack saying get ready, get your bags packed. The day of, they were in Italy. It doesn't take ten hours as far as I know to fly from Italy to get to Libya.
GEARANThis goes to another large point of discussion during the hearings this week which is whether or not there was any meaningful military response that the U.S. could have summoned and the State Department and Pentagon contention there is that they couldn't.
GEARANBut there was some very emotional, very raw testimony from the number two official back in Tripoli about trying to summon somebody from Aviano in Italy, from somewhere else where, in Africa, if there were any assets. Maybe they could fly a couple of jets low over the town, over the compound and scare off the militants with the idea that the Americans were going to bomb them.
GEARANYou know, maybe there was someone who could come and help protect or rescue the officials who had retreated to the CIA base. And in every case this, Hicks said that he was told, no they couldn't get there in time or no, they didn't have anything available.
GEARANAnd that, that you know, it may completely be the case that, you know, man, you are just out of luck. I'm sorry we cannot get there in time and that's that. But it definitely was something that I think a lot of people watching those hearings thought, well gosh, I mean, why couldn't you? Why don't you have somebody closer?
GUTTMANThere was also an issue with the special ops force that could have been maybe flown in from Tripoli to Benghazi. There was discussion about that. Apparently they got an order not to go. But all these things in hindsight seem to be, as if there's this big conspiracy going on. On the ground it really may be all just a matter of luck and of available assets on the ground.
REHMAnd here's another email on Benghazi. The writer says, "I have a simple question. Was the CIA annex unguarded? It's part of the same complex as the guest house. This is not a scandal or a crime, it's a question of CIA capability to fight," a completely legitimate question. Jonathan?
LANDAYActually the CIA annex was not part of that compound. It was in another part of Benghazi and it did have a security force which was the security force that responded to the attack on the compound, went there and rescued the Americans that were in the compound, brought them back to the CIA annex, and took them to the airport. Two of those people were CIA, two former SEALs, CIA contractors, and security guard contractors who died on the roof of the annex in a mortar attack.
LANDAYAnd that is a part of the story that we're not -- if something bears scrutiny right now it's the question of what kind of presence, why the CIA had such a large presence in Benghazi. There were seven State Department employees or personnel in Benghazi and about 30 CIA officers and contractors who were there.
LANDAYAnd the fact is that if you want to look at that, you've got to go back right to the beginning of the removal of Gaddafi. Muammar Gaddafi who was forced basically to come, start cooperating with the United States because of the discovery of his nuclear program had in fact been cooperating on the question of counterterrorism and going after al-Qaida and Islamists who had been going to Iraq to kill American troops.
LANDAYSo while he was in power he was keeping a lid on and keeping an eye on those people. When the rebellion took place and he was overthrown with the help of the United States and NATO air power, the ability of the Libyan government to keep track of the Islamists in Libya disappeared.
LANDAYAnd in fact, those Islamists were among the leading rebel forces that overthrew Gaddafi. And so it seems that because he was gone, the CIA needed to be able to keep an eye on people who he had been keeping an eye on. That part of this whole terrible tragedy has really yet to be talked about and that is where perhaps any kind of Congressional inquiry should be going.
REHMAlright, let's turn to another subject in the news this week. Marion in Roachdale, Ind. good morning.
MARIONHi Diane, thank you for taking my call.
MARIONI'm wondering. I'm so concerned about the Bangladesh garment factory tragedy and my question is, why don't we focus on educating Americans on the consequences of our food and clothing and lifestyle choices? I have a (unintelligible) for the earth and the animals in Indiana and I find so many people are totally unaware of, you know, what big-ag is doing to feed us.
MARIONAnd then instead of us taking responsibility, like, I only wear secondhand clothes. I won't even buy new clothes anymore because of the sweat things but it seems like the industry is trying to keep the public unaware of what they're doing in order to feed and water us.
MARIONAnd you know, right now, I think there's a lot of Americans who would be willing to forego buying brand new clothing made in Bangladesh if it meant that these kinds of tragedies not happening. It seems like there's an industrial, corporate, you know, I know the food industry is trying to do...
REHMAlright, thank you, Marion and to follow up on that, an email from Brian in Little Rock, Ark. who says, "I'd like to know why Western governments allow goods to be sold in their countries produced by exploited workers. Are there international workers' rights? If so, why are they so weak? If not, what's standing in the way?"
REHMAnd a tweet regarding Bangladesh, "So we're supposed to accept slave labor in Bangladesh so they aren't left without jobs?" Nathan?
GUTTMANWell I think it's probably a process. It is 100 years ago, 100 years passed since the famous fire in the garment factory on the Lower Eastside that was basically a tragedy that shocked the nation and started this whole process of labor laws and labor legislation. And unfortunately maybe this tragedy in Bangladesh can start a similar process on the international level and actually raise awareness.
GUTTMANI really don't think in practical terms it's something that can be done overnight, that a ban on, in garments from Bangladesh would be possible at all. But in raising the awareness and starting this process right now can get us in (unintelligible).
GEARANYeah, I mean I think there's a, you've seen some of this play out in other industries. I mean remember the controversy over the Apple products and cell phone manufacture and was there slave labor involved. And it affected Americans' buying habits or it appeared to, that people were willing to give the benefit of the doubt.
GEARANAbsolutely, that is, that's the biggest example.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." To Orlando, Fla., good morning, John.
JOHNGood morning, can you hear me?
JOHNOkay, I saw you changed subjects from Benghazi so, but one of your guests this morning, I think was a little closer to I guess the way I'm thinking in terms of the Benghazi issue being somewhat of a red herring in Congress. Orlando has 12 consulates, no embassies.
JOHNMexico has, I believe, according to Google, has 45 consulates in the United States. I have never seen a consulate guarded. They're in storefronts. They're on strip malls. I've seen them in office buildings and they range obviously in size and scope depending on the size of the foreign country or the amount of business we do with the other countries like Brazil.
JOHNOrlando being a great tourist attraction there's a ton of consulates all over the area. None of them are guarded.
REHMAlright, thanks for your call. Anne…?
GEARANYeah, I mean of course the caller is talking about diplomatic missions inside the United States as opposed to...
GEARAN...U.S. diplomatic missions overseas, but his point is basic. I mean, a consulate is supposed to be a frontline office for, to help tourists and business and process visas and so forth. It is not intended to be, to be much more. Of course in Benghazi, as Jonathan highlighted, the embassy was all wrapped up in the CIA operation there and some people charged just a front for it so it was doing a very different kind of work and the work that Stevens was there to do the next day is a larger operation than consulates often undertake.
REHMAlright, Pakistan is holding elections Saturday. The son of Pakistan's former prime minister was kidnapped. How does this relate to the election?
LANDAYIt relates in this way. He was running as a member of the Pakistan People's Party. This was the dominant party in the ruling coalition for the last five years, hugely, hugely unpopular but also has been one of the main targets of a very bloody campaign by the Taliban to disrupt the election and that a lot of experts believe is giving an unfair advantage to more right-wing parties.
LANDAYBecause the People's Party and the party, two of the other parties, the MQM and the ANP have been also targeted and unable to mount the same kind of very large campaign meetings and rallies because they lack security. And large numbers of these people, their candidates and party workers have been killed in bombings, shootings, and this kind of thing.
LANDAYThis is a tragedy but you know, it's not something that's not, that Pakistan, is unheard of in Pakistan. You know, there was a, one of their more popular governors, the governor of the province of Punjab who was assassinated, his son was subsequently kidnapped and has not been heard of since.
REHMSo what can we expect on Saturday? Nathan?
GUTTMANWell to a great extent there will be just a show of force of both sides. Can those forces disrupt the elections, mainly Taliban supporters? Can they actually launch all these in terror attacks and attacks on polling stations that they're saying they're going to do and derail this whole democratic process or will the sort of, democracy prevail?
GUTTMANAnd despite all these acts of violence we'll see some kind of democratic process going on this weekend. And the thing is that even if it does work there still are complications down the road. It seems to be now a tight race between the party of Nawaz Sharif and the PTI party of Imran Khan who is...
REHMWho fell off a scaffolding?
GUTTMANRight, and is in the hospital, but his supporters are gaining force and they seem to be going into some kind of a coalition government or some kind of a lengthy negotiation on how to move the country forward after the elections.
REHMLast quick comment Anne...
GEARANThe, one thing that will happen after tomorrow's election in Pakistan is that the U.S. can finally really start to try to forge a different relationship with this new government ahead of the African withdrawal next year as everything has been on hold.
REHMAnne Gearan, diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post, Nathan Guttman, of Channel 1 Israeli News and The Jewish Daily Forward and Jonathan Landay of McClatchy Newspapers thank you all so much. Have a great weekend.
REHMThanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Susan Nabors, Rebecca Kaufman, Lisa Dunn and Jill Colgan. The engineer is Aaron Stamper. Natalie Yuravlivker answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is email@example.com and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington, D.C. This is NPR.
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