Meet The Tarnished Bureaucrat Who Is Running Our Negotiations With Iran
You may be shocked when you discover who is in charge of our "negotiations" with Iran over its nuclear weapons program. British Baroness Catherine Ashton, so-called foreign minister of the European Union, has emerged as spokesperson and de facto chair of the P5 plus 1 (UN Security Council permanent members plus Germany) which met with Iranians in Istanbul in mid-April. I started to explore the notion that the only result of the Istanbul meeting -- i.e., to hold another meeting in Baghdad on May 23 -- was to confirm that Tehran will enjoy ample time to continue enriching uranium. But when I discovered who Baroness Ashton is, I was shocked. I will leave it to the reader to decide whether Ashton is fit to represent our side in these crucial discussions.
Ashton has never been elected to public office and has scant experience in international affairs. Born in 1956, she entered public life in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a paid organizer (do you recall anyone else in that line of work?) in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), becoming the group's treasurer in 1979. CND agitated for unilateral British nuclear disarmament and opposed NATO missile deployment to counter the Soviet Union's arsenal of SS-20 nuclear missiles. CND, urging the false dichotomy of "better Red than dead," never recognized the USSR as an expansionist power and to this date denounces all aspects of U.S. foreign policy.
From Russia With Money
The conservative Brussels Journal, keeping a wary eye on EU miscues, says that while Ashton worked for CND, it was "infiltrated by Marxists (and) received Soviet money to thwart the policies of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher." Vladimir Bukovsky, a Russian dissident exchanged for a Chilean spy in 1976 after 12 years in Soviet detention, says his subsequent research in Soviet archives confirms that the 1980s disarmament campaign in the West was partly orchestrated and financed from Moscow. I can vouch for Bukovsky. When I was visiting refuseniks in Moscow in 1970, the resident New York Times correspondent explained to me in disappearing ink (we could not talk in his bugged apartment) how Bukovsky was inspiring western journalists to resist KGB blackmail.
Of course Ashton now denies receiving Soviet money while serving as CND treasurer. Money is notoriously fungible. Does anyone believe Comrade Putin would be so stupid as to sign checks in his own name? Gerard Batten, a Brit member of the European parliament, says that "38% of CND's income could not be traced back to the original donors. The person responsible for CND fund-raising from anonymous donors was a member of the Communist party."
A Matter of Some Delicacy
Alas, at the risk of appearing indelicate, there is more about Ashton's infatuation with the Left. Ashton lived with Duncan Rees from 1977 to 1980 in upscale Notting Hill, according to Rees himself, as quoted in the Daily Mail article. Their relationship would be no one's concern except that at the time, Rees, now 58, was doing double duty as a member of the Communist Party's peace advisory committee and general secretary of CND.
I know I will be tarred for McCarthyism -- notwithstanding my youthful years as an ACLU attorney -- for citing Ashton's leftist history. Eager to explore other blemishes in Ashton's record, I will close this section by quoting the venerable neo-liberal Economist (it supported Obama in 2008) as it urged scrutiny of Ashton:
"The real scandal is the West's amnesia about the cold war. Given the Soviet Union's history of mass murder, subversion and deceit, it is astonishing that even tangential associations with Soviet-backed causes does not arouse the moral outrage so readily evoked by connections with the regime in South Africa....Imagine a 1980s Europe where CND had triumphed, with left-wing governments in Britain and Germany scrapping NATO and surrendering to Kremlin pressure. Her opponents claim that Lady Ashton is ineffective. As a CND organizer, that may have been a blessing.".
How to Succeed in Brit Politics Without Really Trying
You may be wondering: How does a woman with this kind of record and without academic or professional distinction rise so high in European bureaucracy? You will be surprised by the answer. After failing to save the Soviet Union, Ashton filled a number of feel-good positions, e.g, Director of Lancashire Community Business for affirmative action (1983-89), chair Hertfordshire Health Council (1998-2001), and Vice President of National Council for One Parent Families. By this time, she had attracted the attention of Labor Party mandarins. Ordinarily, a politician in this orbit would stand for election to the House of Commons. I can only surmise that Labor elders found Ashton so personally unlikable (forgive me) and inclined to inserting her foot in her mouth that she could not be elected even to a safe seat. So in 1999, Tony Blair awarded Ashton a lifetime peerage in the House of Lords. Cathy from CND was transformed into Baroness Ashton of Upholland (her birthplace). Do not be shocked. British pols award life peerages like Chicago pols award paving contracts. The standard is: "What have you done for me lately?" The peerage qualified her for appointment to several minor ministerial positions as well as leadership of her party in the House of Lords.
It is noteworthy that while Labor was in power (i.e., until 2010), neither Prime Minister Blair nor Brown wanted Ashton in his cabinet or as an ambassadress. European political parties do not need term limits to dispose of superfluous personnel: they ship the unwanted to the well-paid EU bureaucracy in Brussels. This brings us to another scandal, the dimensions of which could fill an encyclopedia. Stated succinctly, hapless citizens of EU states support a bloated and unaccountable bureaucracy in Brussels as well as a feckless but powerless parliament in Strasbourg. None of these people are elected, and most could not be. When Gordon Brown recalled the EU trade commissioner in 2008 to help his sagging election campaign, Ashton was shipped to Brussels as replacement.
Another Scandal: The Bland Leading the Bland
Now emerges another scandal. EU bureaucrats are always eager to enlarge their payroll and influence, which is easy when you do not face voters (think of the GSA magnified to a scale of 5000 without congressional oversight). So in 2009 they hatched a plan to anoint the new positions of EU "president" and "High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, "a/k/a foreign minister." These anointments are decided behind closed doors at horse-trading summit dinners of 28 prime ministers; little is known of what really transpires. These are classic smoke-filled rooms, the likes of which are no longer tolerated in our country. The Brits put forward Tony Blair for EU president. But Blair had too much charisma for the faceless EU bureaucrats to contend with. Secret deals had been made to divide the spoils among continental Christian Democrats and Social Democrats. So the PMs selected a Belgian non-entity for president; I will wager you do not know his name, and I've already forgotten it. The Brits needed a consolation prize. Thus, in that smoke-filled room -- without any public discussion of her qualifications or lack thereof--Ashton was anointed EU foreign minister. Ashton's consolation is scandalously massive (again, think GSA). Her salary is 270,000 pounds (~ $435,000), higher than Obama's $400,000, making her the highest paid woman pol in the world!
Another uncomplimentary reason for Ashton's appointment was that the major EU powers sought an inept appointee who would not detract attention from their experienced foreign ministers. Danny Cohn-Bendit, the 60s radical who now heads the Greens in the European Parliament, said of the two appointments; "Europe is sinking to a new low." TIME Magazine ridiculed the appointments as "The Bland Leading the Bland."
Ashton Snubs Haiti But Flatters the Arab League
Ashton enjoys a sinecure where she has no responsibility other than to make noise for her favorite causes. Remember that her "foreign ministry" has no experienced foreign service, no ambassadors, no embassies, and no foreign policy agreed to by the 28 EU countries. To further exemplify her lack of qualifications, she speaks only English, a defect remarkable in the post awarded her. She came under immediate fire for failure to visit Haiti, a vast global aid project, after the 2010 earthquake. Why go to Haiti when you can go to the Middle East to ventilate your leftist prejudices?
So Ashton took her maiden voyage as EU foreign affairs chief to address the Arab League in Cairo in March, 2010. She told the League that "Europe and the Arab world share a common history and a common destiny....with footprints of (Arab) culture scattered through Europe." Does she know of Poitiers, Lepanto, the London subway bombings and the gates of Vienna? She perfunctorily spoke of Iran in terms of "a nuclear weapons free Middle East" (subtext: Israel must surrender nuclear defense).
The heart of Ashton's message was "the primary purpose of my visit is to show the continued importance that the EU attaches to resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is central to the solution of other problems in the region." Does Ashton really believe that mass killings in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, or the slaughter of Copts in Egypt or the torment of Kurds in Turkey and Iraq will be "resolved" if a Hamas flag flies over the Temple Mount? There was not a word about human rights or ending torture in Arab lands. All of Ashton's outsized remuneration did not give her prescience to see the mis-named Arab Spring coming. Nor was there a word about curbing Palestinian terror and incitement or the Iranian missiles deployed by Hamas and Hezb'allah. As the astute Emanuele Ottolenghi commented: "Lady Ashton has just made it abundantly clear that Europe has reverted to its old habits of appeasing Arab authoritarianism while chastising Israeli democracy."
Ashton's Latest Scandal: Insensitivity to Massacre of Jewish Children in the Heart of Europe
Worse was to come from the tongue of the Baroness. Much worse. Last month, a Jihadi proudly massacred (while filming) three small Jewish children and a rabbi in Toulouse, France. Ashton promptly inserted both feet in her mouth while delivering the official EU eulogy. She said that when we think about the massacre in Toulouse "we see what is happening in Gaza and other places." Even Al Jazeera knows that Arab children are not being massacred in Gaza, but they are being used as human shields for Hamas rockets. As the roof crashed on her, someone told Ashton to try to rewrite the record and correct her grotesque mis-speak by adding the words "and Sderot" after the word Gaza. But Ashton has exposed herself as a crass anti-Semite who is insensitive to massacre of Jewish children in the heart of Europe and will stoop to using Jihadi murders as a tool to defame Israel.
Now that you begin to understand who Ashton is, you will not be surprised that nothing positive happened in Istanbul other than an agreement to meet again in Baghdad on May 23. The press was fed mainly soporific accounts of "progress." Our best source for learning what really happened in Istanbul is the online journalism of Laura Rozen. Rozen tells us that Ashton and not Obama is in charge of the P5 + 1 and that at a three-hour private break-the-ice dinner with unsmiling Iranians, Ashton told them about "political party funding in the U.S.," a slur about Jewish influence in American democracy. Rozen says Ashton also told the Iranians of "President Obama's need to sound tough about the nuclear question." One commentator observed: "This nugget raises the inescapable conclusion that Ashton's position may actually be closer to the Iranians than it is to that of Washington."
Are You Comfortable with Ashton?
I've tried to lay out salient facts about who Ashton is. Obviously, I've made some interpretations, which are always skeptical when I analyze the E.U. You may not accept my interpretations. But have I troubled you enough to motivate you to ask your senators and congresspeople--and perhaps even the Administration--whether Ashton should be leading, or even participating in, these crucial negotiations?