WORDS FOR REFLECTION: White House Response to Karzai Being Named President; Iranian Demonstrators

–From the White House and Presdent Obama following Abdullah’s withdrawal and declaration of Karzai as President of Afghanistan

–From demonstrators in Tehran on November 4, 2009

Briefing by White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, November 2, 2009

Q Thanks, Robert. A few questions about Afghanistan. Can you tell us, first generally speaking, what’s the President’s reaction to the end of this election? And is he in any way relieved that this sort of messy process is over?

MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think by all accounts, this has been a difficult process. This is the first election run by the Afghans. But I think the President, the embassy there, and everyone can take heart in the notion that the laws of Afghanistan and the institutions of Afghanistan prevailed in both instances.

Statement by President Barack Obama to reporters, November 2, 2009

In Washington, President Barack Obama told reporters in the White House that he had congratulated Karzai in a telephone conversation. “Although the process was messy, I’m pleased to say that the final outcome was determined in accordance with Afghan law,” Obama said.

— CNN Nov. 2, 2009

Newsweek, on anti-government demonstrators in Iran on Nov. 4:

They chanted, “Death to dictator,” as usual, to protest President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s contested election in June. But, for the first time anyone can remember, they also yelled, Obama, Obama! Either with them or with us!” The “them” in the chant means Ahmadinejad and the regime writ large.

–Newsweek, November 5, 2009


Throughout the world, many have the highest hopes for the success of President Barack Obama in all areas, and particularly in the area of foreign policy.

However, it should be recalled that in Germany the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, establishing harsh discriminatory policies against German Jews, were adopted in accordance with German national law.

Since that time, standards have changed. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), to which Afghanistan is a Party, provides:

Article 25

Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions:

(b) To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors;

What is the standard, Afghan law as interpreted by the Independent Electoral Commission (as preparations proceeded for a corrupt second round election), or the standard established in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights?

As for Iran, can we really assume that the way the U.S., NATO and the U.N. handle matters in Afghanistan has no impact on the Iranian government’s stance in negotiations on nuclear issues?

What will be the response of the U.S. and other countries to the question put by opposition demonstrators in Iran to President Obama: “Are you with them, or with us?”

The Trenchant Observer

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About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.