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October 5, 2010

UPDATE OF THE GHAILANI CASE (see Sept.20 for previous coverage):

The Obama justice department has commenced the prosecution of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, an aide to Osama Bin Laden and a main a participant in the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa, which killed over 200 people. Ghailani is accused of purchasing and assembling the explosives used in the attack before fleeing the area the day before it was launched. Interestingly, prosecutors plan to use period recordings of Osama Bin Laden threatening jihadist attacks against Americans as evidence against Mr. Ghailani. (Recall that Bin Laden’s complicity in the embassy bombings was sufficiently clear that the Clinton administration targeted him with a missile strike.)

Ghailani’s lawyers filed for dismissal based on the circumstances of his interrogation and detention. But, in light of the overwhelming evidence of Mr. Ghailani’s complicity, Judge Lewis Kaplan has ruled that US actions (including rendition and detainment at Guantanamo Bay) were justified.

The latest controversy in the case also relates to the treatment of Mr. Ghailani while in detention. Many assert that US interrogation techniques during the Bush presidency (namely waterboarding) were not only unacceptable, but inefficient. However, it appears that Mr. Ghailani’s interrogation (about which we can only speculate) resulted in the identification of Mr. Hussein Abebe, who claims to have sold Mr. Ghailani the explosives under the impression they would be used for mining purposes rather than terrorism (see blog post from September 20).

Of course, there is some question as to whether Mr. Abebe’s testimony will be admissible because of the circumstances under which he was identified

After 91 years, the Treaty of Versailles has been resolved.

Conventional critiques of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles focus centrally on the excessive magnitude of the war reparations incurred to Germany. However, this approach overlooks arguably the treaty’s most egregious myopia, which was left largely unaddressed by historians until the publication of AJP Taylor’s The Origins of the Second World War (1961): the problem was not merely that the reparations were draconian, but that they were left open-ended, subject to increase.

Because the reparations were left subject to amendment and discussion, they preoccupied European diplomacy throughout the 1920’s; the matter should have been closed as soon as possible.  An additional complication cited by Taylor (and relatively few others) was that as an act of protest against the harsh reparations, there is evidence of understandable post-war German efforts to injure their own economy so that the reparations would not be further increased.

Notice the lackluster account of the Telegraph, which observes, “The bill would have been settled much earlier had Adolf Hitler not reneged on reparations during his reign.” This may be true, but the bill would have ultimately been far less controversial (and vulnerable to Hitler’s propaganda) had it not been a prime subject of debate throughout the 1920’s.

In from the cold?

The story of the “most damaging spy in the history of NATO.” It’s a terrific read about the now-jailed Estonian, Hermann Simm who’s crowing feat may have been providing Vladimir Putin with a CD containing the names of all known and suspected Russian NATO spies.

Georgi Arbatov, adviser to five Communist Party General Secretaries and “bridge between Cold War superpowers,” has died.

Henry Kissinger publicly discusses his regrets relating to the Vietnam War at the Department of State conference on the history of the Vietnam War.

The conference coincided with the publication of a new volume of a new volume of Foreign Relations of the United States which provides documents about Vietnam from January 1973 to July 1975.

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