04 21 2015
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  • When should we use military to enforce US goals? NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — Rand Paul lashed out Saturday at military hawks in the Republican Party in a clash over foreign policy dividing the packed GOP presidential field. Paul, a first-term senator from Kentucky who favors a smaller U.S. footprint in the world, said that some of his Republican colleagues would do more harm in international affairs than would leading Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton. "The other Republicans will criticize the president and Hillary Clinton for their foreign policy, but they would just have done the same thing — just 10 times over," Paul said on the closing day of a New Hampshire GOP conference that brought about 20 presidential prospects to the first-in-the-nation primary state. "There's a group of folks in our party who would have troops in six countries right now, maybe more," Paul said. Foreign policy looms large in the presidential race as the U.S. struggles to resolve diplomatic and military conflicts across the globe. The GOP presidential class regularly rails against President Barack Obama's leadership on the world stage, yet some would-be contenders have yet to articulate their own positions, while others offered sharply different visions. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose brother, President George W. Bush, authorized the 2003 invasion of Iraq, declined to say whether he would have done anything different then. Yet Jeb Bush acknowledged a shift in his party against new military action abroad. "Our enemies need to fear us, a little bit, just enough for them to deter the actions that create insecurity," Bush said earlier in the conference. He said restoring alliances "that will create less likelihood of America's boots on the ground has to be the priority, the first priority of the next president." The GOP's hawks were well represented at the event, led by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has limited foreign policy experience but articulated a muscular vision during his Saturday keynote address. Walker said the threats posed by radical Islamic terrorism won't be handled simply with "a couple bombings." "We're not going to wait till they bring the fight to us," Walker said. "We're going to bring the fight to them and fight on their soil." South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham addressed the question of putting U.S. troops directly in the battle against the Islamic State group militants by saying there is only one way to defeat the militants: "You go over there and you fight them so they don't come here." Texas Sen. Ted Cruz suggested an aggressive approach as well. "The way to defeat ISIS is a simple and clear military objective," he said. "We will destroy them." Businesswoman Carly Fiorina offered a similar outlook. "The world is a more dangerous and more tragic place when America is not leading. And America has not led for quite some time," she said. Under Obama, a U.S.-led coalition of Western and Arab countries is conducting regular airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. also has hundreds of military advisers in Iraq helping Iraqi security forces plan operations against the Islamic State, which occupies large chunks of northern and western Iraq. Paul didn't totally reject the use of military force, noting that he recently introduced a declaration of war against the Islamic State group. But in an interview with The Associated Press, he emphasized the importance of diplomacy. He singled out Russia and China, which have complicated relationships with the U.S., as countries that could contribute to U.S. foreign policy interests. "I think the Russians and the Chinese have great potential to help make the world a better place," he said. "I don't say that naively that they're going to, but they have the potential to." Paul suggested the Russians could help by getting Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power. "Maybe he goes to Russia," Paul said. Despite tensions with the U.S., Russia and China negotiated alongside Washington in nuclear talks with Iran. Paul has said he is keeping an open mind about the nuclear negotiations. "The people who already are very skeptical, very doubtful, may not like the president for partisan reasons," he said, and "just may want war instead of negotiations."
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(CNN) -- An international court in the Netherlands ruled Thursday to uphold the 50-year sentence handed down last year to Liberia's former president, Charles Taylor, after he was convicted of aiding war crimes in neighboring Sierra Leone.

The ruling by the appeals judges in the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague brings to an end a lengthy legal battle.

Taylor, 65, was found guilty last year of supplying and encouraging rebels in Sierra Leone in a campaign of terror, involving murder, rape, sexual slavery, looting and the conscription of children younger than 15.

He was also convicted of using Sierra Leone's diamond deposits to help fuel its civil war with arms and guns while enriching himself with what have commonly come to be known as "blood diamonds."

Both the defense and prosecution lodged appeals after the court convicted the former president of all 11 counts against him, following a trial lasting nearly four years.

Taylor's defense appealed the court's judgment and sentence on multiple grounds, arguing that the trial chamber had made mistakes in evaluating the evidence and in applying the law.

But the appeals judges rejected those arguments, saying that the trial chamber had "thoroughly evaluated the evidence for its credibility and reliability," and that its assessment of Taylor's criminal responsibility and liability was in accordance with international laws.

The appeals judges also dismissed defense claims that Taylor was not given a fair trial.

The defense also argued that the 50-year sentence handed down was "manifestly unreasonable," while the prosecution had argued that it should be increased to 80 years to adequately reflect the gravity of his crimes.

The appeals judges dismissed both claims, saying the sentence was fair and reasonable.

Rights group Amnesty International welcomed the ruling, saying it sent a clear message to leaders around the world.

"The Court's landmark ruling underlines that no one is above the law," said Stephanie Barbour, head of Amnesty International's Centre for International Justice in The Hague.

"The conviction of those responsible for crimes committed during Sierra Leone's conflict has brought some measure of justice for the tens of thousands of victims. The conviction of Charles Taylor must pave the way for further prosecutions."

Role in atrocities

Taylor was the first former head of state to be convicted of war crimes since the Nuremberg trials that followed World War II.

The trial chamber heard that rebels from the Revolutionary United Front, which the former president backed, committed horrendous crimes against Sierra Leone civilians, including children. Some were enslaved to mine the diamonds used to fund the rebels' fight.

The presiding trial judge described Taylor as responsible for "aiding and abetting as well as planning some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history."

But Taylor said during his sentencing hearing in May 2012 that his role in the conflict was much different than represented. "I pushed the peace process hard, contrary to how I have been portrayed in this court," he said.

A pivotal figure in Liberian politics for decades, he became president in 1997 and was forced out of office under international pressure in 2003. He fled to Nigeria, where border guards arrested him three years later as he was attempting to cross into Chad.

The United Nations and the Sierra Leone government jointly set up the special tribunal to try those who played the biggest role in the atrocities. The court was moved to the Netherlands from Sierra Leone, where emotions about the civil war still run high.

CNN's David McKenzie contributed to this report.

 

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