Thanks to Dan Froomkin in The Washington Post for alerting me to this opinion piece by Neil C. Livingstone in AJC.com, the web page of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Livingstone argues for waterboarding and other techniques including those in situations where there is intelligence that terrorists have planted a nuclear device, and the only way to find out where it is and stop it is through these "enhanced interrogation techniques." Livingstone of course stops short of saying that American forces or the CIA can inflict "torture," just like Bush, Cheney and the other apologists for the dark side. Livingstone argues against total prohibitions on such "techniques."
"Even if one believes that waterboarding should not be practiced by the United States, does that mean under all circumstances? What if a bomb has been hidden aboard a school bus and there is not enough time to find it? Do we simply write off the lives of the children on board, or do we use an extreme technique to avert an unfolding tragedy?
"Even more to the point, what if there is solid intelligence that a chemical, biological or radiological weapon has been smuggled into one of our great cities and set to detonate in an hour? The probable consequences are dire: thousands dead, the U.S. economy severely damaged, the public and policy-makers so traumatized that they are likely to take precipitous action, perhaps even a nuclear strike, against the nation that harbored the perpetrators. Is that really what we want, or should the president have the authority to use extraordinary means to try to prevent such a catastrophe before it occurs? . .
"The U.S. should employ them only with presidential authorization. Interrogators should come from the intelligence community, be highly trained and skilled, and be carefully monitored and held accountable for abuses."
Livingstone uses that argument about the deadly weapon about to go off in a U.S. city. We must find out where the device is, otherwise there will be thousands dead. If the bomb goes off, U.S. authorities will do crazy things, "perhaps even a nuclear strike, against the nation that harbored the perpetrators . . ."
Wait a second. This is the same argument all torturers make. "We have noble purposes in mind. We want to protect our citizens. We really don't like to inflict the torture on this prisoner, but . . ."
This was the same argument that the torturers in the Inquisition made when it came to interrogating a "heretic." "We know this lady is a witch allied with Satan. She poses a threat to the faithfuls' eternal salvation. A mortal threat to the morals of the community. If we leave her be, the devil will poison the immortal souls of our children. So let's get the information she has by one way or another (meaning on the rack or with the "water-test.") Eternal salvation demands that we learn what Satan plans against God's children."
How many "witches" were thus put up on the rack or subject to the water-test, as a result? How many "heretics" confessed that, yes, they were allied with the devil, and yes, they were trying to corrupt the souls of the children?
If we follow Livingstone's prescriptions, how many "terrorists" are going to admit they were allied with the bomb-planters just so that the waterboarding would stop? To get an ideal of the answer, let's subject Livingstone himself to these "techniques," and see how long it takes for him to admit that he himself is part of a plot to plant a nuclear device in New York City.
The argument by those like Bush and Livingstone and Cheney for applying "enhanced interrogation techniques" (not torture!) has always been the same. "There is a deadly threat. We must stop it!" Forget about the rights of the individual subjected to these techniques. Forget about human dignity. There are no absolute rights of man. Do anything you want as long as your motives are pure.
The Constitution of the United States was written to protect all of us from the results of this thinking. The group cannot trump the rights of the individual, or else we sink back into the Dark Ages of the pre-Constitution centuries when human life and basic liberties were strange and foreign and meaningless to whoever occupied the seat of power.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Thanks to Dan Froomkin in The Washington Post for alerting me to this opinion piece by Neil C. Livingstone in AJC.com, the web page of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Howard Kurz takes a shot at both Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright in his column today in The Washington Post. Kurz objects to Wright's, "God Damn America," notwithstanding the American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that led to Japan's unconditional surrender at the end of WWII.
"As for context, Moyers played a long clip from the post-9/11 "America's chickens are coming home to roost" sermon. Wright said that America had taken its land by terror from the Indians; had enslaved Africans; had bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki (weren't we in a death struggle with Japan, which had attacked Pearl Harbor?); had bombed Iraq, Sudan and Panama; and had backed state-supported terrorism against the Palestinians.
"Moyers's question after this diatribe: "When people saw the sound bites from it this year, they thought you were blaming America. Did you somehow fail to communicate?"
"Thought he was blaming America? Where did anyone get that idea? "
I guess Howard Kurz thinks that America should never be blamed. Not even for Hiroshima and Nakasaki, where, in each city, over 100,000 innocent men, women and children were either incinerated or poisoned with lethal nuclear radioactive materials. Kurz seems to believe the destruction of the two Japanese cities was justified:
" . . . (weren't we in a death struggle with Japan, which had attacked Pearl Harbor?)"
Should God bless America for this, or should as Wright says, should God damn America? Let's admit it. What the United States did to Japanese people when it dropped the nuclear devices was a WAR CRIME. Nothing less. It will do no good morally or ethically for Howard Kurz or other defenders of "American exceptionalism" to claim that the bombing saved the lives of American troops. President Harry S. Truman was a war criminal. So were the crew of the Enola Gay that dropped the bombs. The rules of war make that perfectly clear. The end does not justify the means, not in Hiroshima, not in Hamburg or Dresden, not in the "War on Terror.
Monday, April 28, 2008
I watched and listened to Rev. Jeremiah Wright on the Bill Moyers Show this past Friday, then again this morning via C-Span tape when Pastor Wright delivered a talk to the NAACP, and finally again today, when he appeared live at the National Press Club.
This is one intelligent, educated and fair man. Barack Obama should embrace Rev. Wright, not run from him.
But how about the "God damn America" quote that bothered all the "patriots"? But isn't this what pastors are supposed to do, point out society's failings and condemn them? How about the Jews in Israel during the time of the prophets? I am sure they hated it when Isaiah or Jeremiah damned them for their failings. This is what Rev. Wright means when he says "God damn America." He thinks of the unjust war in Iraq, or the firing of missiles into small Somali villages which kill innocent women and children, or the prevalent discrimination against undocumented immigrants because they speak a language other than English.
The Rev. Wright is looking for reconciliation of all groups in American society, not division and dissension. How can anyone be against that?
Instead of disassociating himself from Jeremiah Wright's statements taken out of context, Barack Obama should take the time to point out how reasonable and fair Wright's comments really are.
Jeremiah Wright is not a bogeyman, he is a true American who follows in the footsteps of the prophets of old.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
I am getting antsy about Barack Obama, my candidate of choice. When Jimmy Carter went and met with representatives of Hamas, the Obama campaign disapproved. As a matter of fact, Steve Clemons in his The Washington Note says that the Obama campaign told him that it did not approve of Jimmy Carter as a negotiator.
Writes Steve Clemons:
"But for the Obama camp to say one thing and then to whisper another -- one formally and another through informal assertions that a campaign principal was misquoted -- is not something that inspires trust and confidence. . . .
"Obama's disparagement of Jimmy Carter for reaching out to Hamas was another such point. Obama needs someone of stature to try and do what can be done at developing an "internal solution" to Palestine's current civil war -- and needs to turn this new construct into something that might be able to be negotiated with. Obama will have to confront this as President -- either directly or through proxies. A senior Obama strategist told me that he didn't really disagree with my views -- but asked "If I were president, would I want Jimmy Carter to be my emissary?" "
Jimmy Carter is the only American statesman who has the fortitude to act on his belief that no good will come to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations as long as no one wants to talk and reason with Hamas. It is not enough for Barack Obama to agree with Bush/Cheney/Olmert that Hamas is a "terrorist organization" that should be excluded. We need Obama to follow through with his foreign policy articulation that the president of the United States should sit down with those perceived to be "enemies." That includes necessarily Hamas and Hezbollah and Syria and Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez.
For Obama then to turn around and criticize Jimmy Carter, someone whose family has expressed support for Obama, is disconcerting and confusing. Obama should be supporting Carter, wishing him good luck as Steve Clemons suggest, rather than denigrating Carter as a negotiator. We need Barack Obama to return to his original vision for talking, rather than shunning.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
There are several disturbing articles in today's The Washington Post on the presence of Barack Obama's race in the recent election in Pennsylvania.
Colbert King writes:
"It's not that the outcome was disturbing. Hillary Clinton's double-digit victory was forecast weeks ago. She also achieved a key objective: raising doubts about Barack Obama's electability in November.
"No, for me, the unpleasant tone that lingers is the exit poll in which 1 in 10 white Pennsylvania voters said a candidate's race mattered. Those voters went with Clinton by a proportion of 3 to 1."
Jonathan Weisman and Matthew Mosk report:
"The protracted and increasingly acrimonious fight for the Democratic presidential nomination is unnerving core constituencies -- African Americans and wealthy liberals -- who are becoming convinced that the party could suffer irreversible harm if Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton maintains her sharp line of attack against Sen. Barack Obama. . . .
""If this party is perceived by people as having gone into a back room somewhere and brokered a nominee, that would not be good for our party," House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (S.C.), the highest ranking African American in Congress, warned yesterday. "I'm telling you, if this continues on its current course, [the damage] is going to be irreparable."
"That fear, plus a more general sense that Clinton's only route to victory would be through tearing down her opponent, has led even some black Democrats who are officially neutral in the race, such as Clyburn, to speak out."
We need Sen. Clinton to bow out of the race. Her presence is toxic to the Democratic Party. Bill Clinton had his chance. He needs also to recede. There is no way Clinton can win with the most number of delegates. All she is doing at this point is to wear down the good will of loyal Democrats who believe in fairness and racial respect and harmony.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Why don't we have more condemnation from the talking heads and opinionists about Hillary Clinton's most recent reckless claim that she would as president order the "obliteration" of Iran if it attacked Israel?
The only serious discussion of the dangerous fatuousness of Clinton's comment that I have seen has been in the legal blog Balkinization in a commentary by Sandy Levinson.
Is this what we want in a president, the offhand comment of Clinton that she would direct the United States to "obliterate" Iran? How about the millions of innocent civilians and others who would be killed in a nuclear U.S. attack on Teheran and on other Iranian cities?
I see where Levinson or one of his respondents suggested that the questioner should have asked Clinton what she would do as president if Israel attacked Iran with nuclear weapons? Would she have answered the same way that the U.S. would bomb Tel Aviv? Of course not! This just shows the awful depths Hillary Clinton finds herself in as to foreign relations. Iran and Iranians are the demons, not Israel. Kill the Iranians!
Thursday, April 24, 2008
How can anyone support Ehud Olmert and the Israeli government when we see what Israel is doing to the Palestinians in Gaza? As a response to militant Palestinians shooting rockets from Gaza into nearby Israeli towns, Israel has now cut off the supply of fuel and oil.
Wait! This is collective punishment. Israel is punishing the whole people as a response to the actions of a few. And whom does collective punishment punish? The families in Gaza, the children, the old, the sick, the needy, the schools, the hospitals. This cannot be justified. Collective punishment is never allowed and should never be used.
So I ask, how can anyone say he or she supports the Israeli government when Israel does this to the Gazans? No wonder Israel creates enemies in the Middle East. Collective punishment is sure to engender hatred and animosity for a long time.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Now we have George Bush asking Felipe Calderon president of Mexico and Stephen Harper of Canada to come out and publicly ask Nancy Pelosi to reconsider not holding a vote on the Colombia free trade pact.
Stephen Lee Myers writes in today's The New York Times:
"President Bush pulled the leaders of Mexico and Canada into an unusually direct involvement in his domestic political efforts to expand free trade on Tuesday when his two North American allies joined him in a foray into both Congressional politics and the presidential campaign.
President Felipe Calderón of Mexico and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada lent their weight to what has been something of a lonely campaign by the president as he has traveled the country to make pro-trade speeches and angry statements about the “petty politics” that he sees threatening one of his administration’s major legacies. They joined Mr. Bush in sharply criticizing a decision by the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to scuttle a vote on a free trade agreement with Colombia."
This shows how impotent has become the Boy King. Not able to admit defeat for his lack of meaningful negotiations with Congress on other pressing national needs, Bush appeals to outside authorities to petition Speaker Pelosi.
Consider what is being sought. A free trade with Colombia, a country that on this past March 1st, launched an illegal intrusion into neighboring Ecuador to shoot and kill some 25 "members" of the FARC as they slept in their beds. The dead included four visiting Mexican college students who happened to be the camp to judge for themselves what was happening with the insurgent Colombian group.
The same Colombia which has a history of killing farmers by right-wing militias and justifying it by saying that the campesinos were FARC members. Just yesterday, Mario Uribe, cousin of Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe, was arrested by Colombian prosecutors and charged with complicity in the doings of the death squads. Mario immediately tried to seek refuge in the Costa Rican embassy, lending basis to the speculation that he did not want to answer questions about his cousin Alvaro.
So again, I say to Speaker Pelosi, don't be bullied by Bush to rush into this Colombian agreement. If George Bush is so desirous of the Colombian free trade pact, let him first agree to an expansion of the S-CHIP program granting health insurance to children. Let Bush first get serious about helping New Orleans, a project that he has forgotten about almost as soon as the flood waters receded.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
The more I consider Hillary Clinton's reckless and obscene words toward what she would do if president in the case of an Iranian attack against Israel, the less I think of her as a person and as a stateman. That she would say that the U.S. would obliterate Iran shows that this lady has no ethics or morals when it comes to using America's military force.
To obliterate Iran would be to kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of innocent Iranian civilians. And Clinton facilely says she is prepared to do this.
- Is Hillary Clinton thus any better than George Bush who has caused the death of over 600,000 Iraqi civilians by his reckless invasion and war?
- Is she any better than Joe Lieberman who is itching to start a war with Iran on behalf of Israel?
- Is she morally superior in any way to Harry Truman who opted to drop a nuclear bomb on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, thus causing over 200,000 human beings to be incinerated?
The answer is, Hillary Clinton is no better than those war criminals when it comes to willingness to bomb and kill civilians in the interests of American foreign policy. This lady should not be president. Or else we doomed to continue the cycle of endless war against anyone or any country that someone like George Bush or Hillary Clinton considers the "enemy."
Is it necessary for Hillary Clinton to state today that the United States would "obliterate" Iran in the event of a nuclear attack by Iran against Israel? These bellicose words are not necessary. They are provocative and intemperate.
Clinton is merely adopting the foreign policy of Bush, Cheney and Rice when she uses U.S. military power to threaten and bully other countries.
It is clear Iran has no intention of using atomic weapons against Israel. In fact, there has been no serious threat made by Iran against Israel. Yes, president Ahmadinejad's talk has allowed Israel to talk as if Iran were a serious threat, but in fact it is not. Juan Cole says that Ahmadinejad's comments were actually mistranslated when he was quoting Ayatollah Homeini in saying that the Israeli regime should disappear off the face of the earth. Just like I hope the Bush administration disappears.
Clinton would have been better advised to downplay any talk of Iran attacking Israel, perhaps adding that it would be foolish for any elements in the Iranian government to do so. Furthermore, Clinton could have stressed diplomacy if she were to be president.
Clinton decided to show how tough she was, perhaps appealing to some of the more neo-con elements in American society who have it in for Iran. One thing for sure, I will never vote for another anti-Iranian war monger for president, and that certainly includes Hillary Clinton.
Monday, April 21, 2008
The arch-conservative and Bush supporter Bill Kristol has a column in today's The New York Times on statements by Obama, Clinton and McCain commemorating this year's Passover. Apparently only McCain passes Kristol's muster because neither Obama nor Clinton apply the Passover of old to today's Israel fighting against Palestinian insurgents.
"McCain’s statement is also the only one to mention current assaults on Jews. He asks us to reflect on three young Israelis — Gilad Shalit, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser — who were kidnapped in the summer of 2006 by Hamas and Hezbollah, and “who will celebrate this occasion, once again, in captivity.” McCain recalls his meetings with the families of two of these men in December 2006, reiterates his commitment to seek their swift release, and urges others to do the same.
"So if Clinton’s Passover message is liberal, and Obama’s is multicultural, one might call McCain’s Zionist. There’s a clear choice of worldviews here — and not just for Jews, but for all Americans."
The reader is left to pick the right choice, meaning the one favored by Kristol. But wait! We know that the families of the three Israeli soldiers kidnapped are going through agony, and everyone wants them to be released.
But how about the Palestinians? Specifically, how about the families of those two dead boys harmlessly riding their bicycle last week when they were cruelly killed by steel darts from an exploding tank shell fired by Israeli soldiers? How about that Palestinian photographer killed in the same attack. Why does Kristol omit the atrocities suffered on the other side?
Palestinians have done horrible things to Israelis, such as firing missiles indiscriminately into neighboring Israeli towns. But the Israelis have responded in kind. Shelling Palestinian homes, killing Palestinian children, shooting innocent civilians.
If Kristol is going to apply the lessons of Exodus, he should take into account that in today's world, Israel is not without Palestinian blood on its hands. It is not fair to quote Exodus and apply it to today's Israeli government in a way that makes today's conflict a story about Israel's righteousness versus Palestinians' darkness.
But this is what Kristol seems to do:
"Sacrifices for the sake of freedom, the triumph of good over evil — if John McCain was at a Seder this past weekend, he surely would have liked this passage: “In all ages they rise up against us to destroy us; and the Holy One, blessed be He, rescues us from their hands.”"
The Palestinians could, if they wished, take the same passage and use it to justify their own insurgency.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
The BBC reports today that more people have been killed in Somalia in fighting between the invading Ethiopians and Somali insurgents.
"At least 13 people have been killed in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, in fresh clashes between Islamists and Ethiopian troops backing the interim government.
"The deaths bring to at least 33 the number of people killed in two days of heavy fighting in the city.
"Four civilians were said to be among the latest victims."
The BBC World Service also is broadcasting a report from its reporter in Mogadishu detailing the results of the violence on the civilian population. At times, it is hard to listen to the graphic cries of the wounded in hospitals devoid of basic equipment and anesthetics.
The Ethiopians need to get out of Mogadishu and all of Somalia. It should be left up to the people of Somalia what type of government to adopt. It should not be up to Ethiopia to determine.
Furthermore, since the Ethiopians are merely the proxy for Bush and Cheney in waging war against the Islamic Courts, the last stable government of Ethiopia, the United States should cease interfering. We are talking about a country that is largely rural and agrarian. Yet it is the target of the powerful U.S. war machine fronted by the Ethiopian army.
Moreover, the U.S. Navy sails off the coast of Somalia shooting missiles into small Somalian villages, in an effort to kill "Qaeda" adherents. Together with Ethiopian tanks, the U.S. is destroying the fabric of Somalian society.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Deb Reichmann writes in today's washingtonpost.com that George Bush is hectoring Nancy Pelosi and the Congress to approve the trade deal with Alvaro Uribe and Colombia. Pelosi and the Democratic majority in the House should stand firm and refuse to approve the pact unless Bush cooperates with Congress. As a sign of Bush's cooperation, Pelosi should require that Bush agree to sign an extended health insurance bill for children (S-CHIP) that he has vetoed at least twice in the last year.
In fact, if Bush wishes the Congress to go along and pass the Colombian trade pact, Bush needs to show his good will on other matters of importance as well. He needs to show cooperation on the matter of Congressional subpoenas given to Harriet Miers and Andrew Card. In other words, Bush needs to tell Miers and Card to show up and testify under oath. He also needs to do away with his flouting of the law by inserting signing statements that go against explicit provisions of laws that have been subject to bicameral approval and presentment. And most of all, Bush needs to confer with Speaker Pelosi about Iraq and admit it has been a disastrous foreign policy fiasco.
Until Bush cooperates with the Congress on the above matters, I urge Speaker Pelosi to stand resolute and not approve Bush's pact with Uribe or Colombia.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Fran and I attended the lecture today at the University of Utah by 2003 Nobel Prize winner and Iranian lawyer, Dr. Shirin Ebadi.
One thing Dr. Ebadi made clear. Iran and Iranians need themselves to work for an expansion of civil rights in Iranian society. They don't need or want outside intervention, especially by the United States. Advancement of civil rights will not be helped by outside military armies. Of course, Ebadi's reference was clear to all. Iranians do not want the United States and George Bush meddling in their society and with their ancient civilization.
In fact, Ebadi made clear that a U.S. invasion would only set back the cause of civil rights and especially women's rights in Iran. A questioner apologized to Ebadi for the U.S. plot that overthrew democratically elected Iranian prime minister Mossadegh in 1953. Iranians do not forget such machiavellian machinations of American foreign policy.
Ebadi also wished for a reduction in expenditures made for armies and armaments and an increase in the care and education of children. Instead of tanks and missiles, she urged governments to think more about the social welfare of their poorest citizens and children.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
BUSH THINKS HE IS MORALLY RIGHTEOUS EVEN AFTER APPROVING UNJUST INVASION, GUANTANAMO AND EVEN TORTURE
Dan Froomkin today has a good post about Bush's attempt to position himself as one taking the high road on ethics and morality during his formal greeting of Pope Benedict XVI in Washington yesterday.
Bush claims that his fight is against terrorists who invoke God's name in order to kill innocent people and deprive them of their God-given rights. Yet this definition of a "terrorist" applies to Bush himself. He is the one who started the unjust and immoral invasion of Iraq that probably has killed over 600,000 Iraqis not to mention the U.S. soldiers killed or maimed for life. Bush is the one who deprives suspects of their liberty and freedom by locking them up without recourse in Guantanamo. Bush is the one who approved the extraordinary harsh interrogation methods that are torture by any other name.
Bush tries to position himself as God-fearing and ethical, yet he is the one, as Froomkin points out, who constantly says that 9/11 changed everything, and his main job is to protect the American people, as if the horrible event of September 11th or his mandate to thwart any more attacks could justify the most evil of methods and procedures.
How about that awful boring waste of a debate last night by ABC? Talk about dull! And what were George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson thinking by asking all those trivial unimportant questions?
Instead of asking the candidates about the pressing questions of the hour, such as Bush's use of torture, or Guantanamo trials, or Bush's disastrous foreign policy, or the worsening Israeli-Palestinian quagmire, it seemed that all Gibson and Stephanopoulos could muster were "gotcha" questions, such as the meaning of Barach's "bitter" phrase or his association with Jeremiah Wright or participation on a board with a guy from the Weathermen of years past.
The ABC debate directed by Gibson and Stephanopoulos was not only a waste of time. It demeaned the candidates. It dredged up the worst practices of main street media, emphasizing the shallow and superficial, and neglecting the really important questions, just like what happened in the 2000 presidential elections where media personnel loved George W. Bush but hated Al Gore solely on the basis of who would make the best drinking companion.
I realize that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a Catholic born and raised in a Catholic family from Baltimore. But why did she think it necessary to kiss the Pope's hand when she met him yesterday? I hardly ever disagree with Speaker Pelosi and I hardly ever agree with George and Laura Bush, especially when it comes to foreign policy and W's war-making around the world. However, the Bushes handled it just right when they merely shook hands with the Pope but Nancy Pelosi did it all wrong.
Kissing the Pope's hand or ring is unseemly and inappropriate for a public official of the United States. It is a throw back to medieval practices that were meant to demonstrate fealty and subservience. Someone should have warned Nancy Pelosi. I am ashamed and embarrassed by her ring-kissing.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Is Jimmy Carter the only sane world leader when it comes to talking with Hamas? Both the Israeli government and Bush refuse to meet or talk to Hamas which they call a "terrorist organization." The result is as yesterday, three Israeli soldiers are killed and scores of Palestinians including women and children dead or injured.
AP's Ian Deitch reports in today's The Washington Post:
"Carter, who was scheduled to fly to Egypt after wrapping up the first leg of a weeklong Mideast peace mission, has drawn criticism from the U.S. and Israel for meeting Hamas officials. . . .
"All of Israel's senior political leaders declined to meet Carter, and only the country's ceremonial president, Shimon Peres, made time to meet with him."
Like Bush, Israel's senior leaders think the way out of the deadly relationship with the Palestinians is through the use of tanks and missiles. This approach has never worked, anywhere. The use of force always begets more force, more killings, more hatred.
Hamas has encouraged inhumane and cruel acts on the part of its population. Firing missiles into nearby Israeli towns, killing innocent people, terrorizing whole populations. Yet the way to deal with Hamas is to talk with its leaders and to negotiate in good faith. That's what Jimmy Carter is doing. And for that, the whole world should commend him.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
The Pope has begun his visit to the United States. Benedict will visit New York City and plans to pay his respects at the 9/11 site in lower Manhattan. Dana Perino, Bush's press secretary, says that the president values that Benedict will visit the World Trade Center site.
Recall that last September at the start of the United Nations General Assembly, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wanted also to pay his respects. But Bush and the State Department would not allow it. Why?
Iran had nothing to do with the attack of September 11th. The hijackers were Sunnis most from Saudi Arabia. Iran is predominantly Shia. No hijacker was Iranian. Yet Bush and Cheney kept Ahmadinejad from paying respects on the part of Iran and Iranians.
So Bush's policy is to allow Pope Benedict but bar president Ahmahdinejad. Sounds like Bush's foreign policy as well as his decency is all messed up.
Dan Froomkin has an excellent run-down in washingtonpost.com on the signals coming out of the Bush administration about its bellicose policy towards Iran. Froomkin lays out many of the reckless statements of Bush, Cheney, Gates and the generals on how Iran is arming "special groups" and Shiite militias, and how these weapons kill U.S. troops.
But as Froomkin notes, there is never any proof. Everything is innuendo and conjecture. Like Defense Sec. Robert Gates claiming Ahmadinejad knows about weapon shipments from Iran to Iraq. Here Froomkin quotes Yochi J. Dreazen of the Wall Street Journal:
"Yochi J. Dreazen reported in Saturday's Wall Street Journal (subscription required): "Senior U.S. defense officials accused Iran of stepping up its shipments of weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq, underscoring a marked hardening of American rhetoric about Iran in recent days.
"Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Iranian support for the Shiite-extremist groups had grown, while Defense Secretary Robert Gates said for the first time that he believed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad knew about the shipments.
"'I find it inconceivable that he does not know,' Mr. Gates told reporters at the Pentagon, adding that Iran was playing a 'malign' role in Iraq.""
Note all that Gates can say is, "I find it inconceivable . . . " But where is the proof that Ahmadinejad knows or directs these shipments? And where is the proof that "Iranian support for the Shiite-extremist groups had grown," as Admiral Mullen claims?
As Froomkin writes:
"Where's the proof? Who knows? Also left unaddressed is the widespread assumption that the Iranians actually supported both sides in the recent Shiite-on-Shiite conflict. And then there's the fact that it was Iran that brought both sides together to end hostilities. . . "
"A rare voice of skepticism about these claims came on Sunday from Sen. Richard Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He told CNN's Wolf Blitzer: "[I]n this hearing on Iraq, Iran kept being mentioned. The fact that the Iranians are intruding. A proxy war is being fought. In other words, it was almost as if we were justifying our continued presence in Iraq with the fact that we may be in a conflict with Iran, and furthermore, the al Qaeda, wherever they may be. It's a very confusing picture to say the least.""
Monday, April 14, 2008
Jimmy Carter is in Israel but Israeli officials seem to be snubbing him because of his forthcoming meeting with a Hamas official in Syria.
Adam Entous writes for Reuters:
"Israeli leaders shunned former U.S. President Jimmy Carter during a visit because of his plans to meet Hamas and Israel's secret service declined to assist U.S. agents guarding him, U.S. sources said on Monday."
Carter knows an important principle in establishing peaceful coexistence between Israel and the Palestinians is to show respect to both sides, and that includes Hamas. If Israel refuses to talk with Hamas leaders, we will have another hundred years of missiles raining down on Israeli towns and Israeli Defense Forces storming little Gazan villages and killing civilians as well as militant Palestinians.
Israel of course claims Hamas is a "terrorist" organization, but the Palestinians say the same thing about the Israeli government. Whether a group is "terrorist" seems to depend on who does the judging. Many observers say Bush is the greatest "terrorist" when he orders the U.S. Navy to shell small Somali villages because he wants to kill Qaeda "members."
After his 2006 book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, Israeli officials and many American Jews accused Jimmy Carter of being an anti-Semite. However, Carter has in no sense done or said anything that is anti-Semitic. But he does believe, contrary to George Bush's retarded policy of shooting-first-and-talking-later diplomacy, in talking and negotiating with both sides.
"Carter visited the Israeli border town of Sderot on Monday and said he was "distressed" by cross-border rockets fired by militants in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. "I think it's a despicable crime for any deliberate effort to be made to kill innocent civilians," Carter said, adding that he hoped a ceasefire would be reached soon.
"Hamas leaders have offered a long-term truce with Israel in return for a viable Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but the group's 1988 founding charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.
"Israel said it rejected Carter's request to meet jailed Palestinian uprising leader Marwan Barghouthi, who is seen as a possible successor to Abbas."
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Contrary to the opinion expressed in the lead editorial in today's The New York Times, Congress and Speaker Pelosi should not allow Bush to push through his free trade agreement with Colombia. There are several reasons:
One. We need first to make Bush come up with a plan to rescue the two million families that are in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure in the sub-prime mess. Bush so far allows the financial markets to be be bailed out by the Fed but refuses to offer any rescue line to those in foreclosure. What needs to be done is a readjustment of the mortgage principal so that people don't owe more for their mortgages than the amount of their home equity. So before Congress even considers a free trade pact with Colombia, Bush needs to do something about homeowners in peril.
Second. Colombia still suffers from death squads targeting trade union members and other campesinos. The extra-judicial killings of workers and farmers originally caused the FARC to come into existence to fight Colombia's injustice to the lower economic classes. Even today, campesinos are being killed by Colombia's army in an effort to show Bush/Cheney how much progress the government is making against FARC.
Third. The agreement between Bush and Colombia's president, Alvaro Uribe, is just a proxy for U.S. battle against Hugo Chavez and Venezuela. Bush is still fuming from Chavez calling him "Satan" and the greatest threat to peace in the whole world. That's why Condoleeza Rice recently termed Chavez "a very hostile" threat to the U.S. It is not because Chavez or Venezuela has actually done anything bad, it is all because Chavez insulted Bush during a U.N. forum. Bush's silly and amateurish foreign policy must not be allowed to succeed. Stop the campaign against Hugo Chavez. Don't allow the free trade pact with Colombia to be passed. It is only a slap at Venezuela.
Congress and Speaker Nancy Pelosi did the right thing to block Bush's scheme. The NY Times has got it wrong on Colombia.
Friday, April 11, 2008
I see where Barack Obama is excluding Hamas from his pledge to sit down and talk with heads of governments with whom the United States has had rocky relationships. I think this is a big Obama mistake. Steve Clemons has a good post in The Washington Note on this.
One of the reasons that I support Sen. Obama is precisely because of his pledge to begin negotiations with officials from Iran and Venezuela instead of continuing the Bush failed policy of threatening them with bombs and missiles. So for Obama to exclude Hamas is a big disappointment.
I realize that Israel has a powerful lobby here in the U.S. But the neo-cons in Israel must not be allowed to determined U.S. foreign policy. They would like nothing better than to bomb Iran. And kill all the Palestinians. But this is just as ineffective as the Bush/Cheney doctrine of pre-emptive war.
We need to break through the deadly impasse between Israel and the Palestinians by talking, not shooting. Hamas was elected two years ago in fair elections. It is unfair to say that the U.S. won't deal with Hamas because Israel says it is a "terrorist" organization. Jimmy Carter deserves credit for planning to meet with a Hamas official in Syria in the coming weeks.
I want Barack Obama, my candidate, to emulate Mr. Carter and at least show a willingness to talk.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
What Nancy Pelosi did with regard to George Bush's free trade pact with Colombia was ingenious and brilliant. Thank you, Madame Speaker, for resisting that bully Bush in his push to reward his crony, Alvaro Uribe who is president of Colombia.
Paul Kane and Dan Eggen write in today's The Washington Post:
"The House today voted to delay consideration of a free trade agreement with Colombia despite fierce opposition from the Bush administration and accusations from Republicans that Democrats were subverting long-standing laws regarding bilateral trade pacts.
"On a mostly party line vote of 224 to 195, the House approved an internal rule change that altered the statutory timeline for congressional approval of trade deals negotiated by an administration. The rule, which was supported by all but 10 Democrats, gives House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as much time as she wants to bring the agreement to the floor, rather than the 60-day standard for previous trade deals."
Colombia and Uribe allow the Colombian military to kill Innocent campesinos and then claim they were members of the FARC, the Colombian revolutionary group fighting the government. Colombia has not put a stop to these killings, nor has it stopped the extra-judicial killings of trade union members.
However, Bush sees Uribe as a counter-weight to Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, a person Bush intensely dislikes. Condi Rice claims Chavez is very hostile to the U.S. Why? Chavez' mistake was calling George Bush "Satan" at a United Nations convocation. Because he called Bush the "devil," Rice and Bush now imply that Chavez and his Venezuelan government are the "enemy."
This is the worst form of diplomacy where George Bush uses his personal likings and animosities to decide which country is friend or foe. Which country to reward and which to bomb.
To stop this madness, Nancy Pelosi put a hold on the free trade deal. Again, thanks and kudos to Speaker Pelosi.
On a negative note, Rep. Jim Matheson, Second Dist. Utah, was one of 10 Democrats who voted against revising House rules. Shame on you, Jim Matheson.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Dana Milbank has a perceptive column in today's The Washington Post on the testimony yesterday of Gen. Petraeus.
"You can't tell the enemy in Iraq anymore without a scorecard.
"When the United States invaded Iraq five years ago, the enemy was Saddam Hussein and his Baathists. When Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ryan C. Crocker, respectively the U.S. commander and the ambassador to Iraq, came to testify to Congress last year, the enemy was al-Qaeda in Iraq. Yesterday, Petraeus and Crocker returned to Congress to report that the enemy had changed once again.
"We are now fighting Iran-backed "special groups" in Iraq.
""Unchecked, the special groups pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq," Petraeus testified."
Who are these special groups? Surely Petraeus means the various Shiite Militias like the Badr Brigade allied with Prime Minister Maliki or the Sadrists under Moqtada al Sadr. But why call Shiite militias "special groups"?
Maybe to confuse the issue of Iranian aid for their Shiite co-religionists. Perhaps to give the false impression that Iran is backing Qaeda groups as well. Or other Sunni insurgents. All of which is pure bull.
But the Senators questioning Petraeus seem to have been taken up with all this talk about "special groups."
Reports Dana Milbank:
"The special talk caught the attention of Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.). "Is it fair to say that the Iranian-backed special groups in Iraq are responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians?" Lieberman asked.
"It certainly is," Petraeus assured him.
"Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) asked about the violence in Basra. Petraeus blamed the 107mm rockets of the "special groups." Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) asked about the Mahdi Army. Petraeus mentioned the "special groups." Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) asked about Iran. Crocker invoked the "special groups." Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) also got the "special group" rate from the witnesses."
So all the talk about "special groups" allowed Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, abetted by that war-monger, Joe Lieberman, to put all the blame on the lack of political and military progress in Iraq on Iran and its support for those "special groups." When you are losing battle, find a bogeyman to pin the blame. IRAN.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
George Bush claims that Congress should quickly okay the free trade agreement between the U.S. and Colombia because it involves "national security." This is a joke. The implication is that Hugo Chavez is going to attack the U.S. and that Bush needs Alvaro Uribe, the president of Colombia, to protect American interests.
See what happens when you call George Bush "the devil" at a U.N. convocation! You make yourself and your country Venezuela "enemies" of the United States.
But another thing that appears ridiculous in Bush's tossing around of the words "national security" is that Venezuela is one of Colombia's largest trading partners.
AP's Christopher Toothacher writes on ABC News website:
"Venezuela is Colombia's second-largest trading partner after the U.S. Trade between the nations totaled $5.7 billion from January through November 2007, according to Colombian government statistics.
"Venezuela imported $4.4 billion in goods from its neighbor, nearly doubling from 2006 because of high demand for Colombian-made vehicles, car parts and clothing. Colombia, meanwhile, purchased only $1.2 billion worth of Venezuelan goods, mostly petrochemical products and plastic goods."
So if it is important for Bush to want to finalize a trade agreement with Colombia, doesn't this mean that Bush's United States will be indirectly trading with Bush's nemesis, Hugo Chavez? Whatever might be the benefits for Colombia from a trade agreement, they would appear just as substantial for Venezuela, only indirectly. So with this trade agreement, Bush is really adding to Venezuela's bottom line.
Monday, April 7, 2008
Congress must resist the pressure coming from George Bush to approve the free trade agreement between the U.S. and Colombia.
AP's Martin Crutsinger writes in today's washingtonpost.com:
"The need for this agreement is too urgent, the stakes for our national security are too high to allow this year to end without a vote," Bush said.
"Bush signed a document to transmit the trade agreement to Congress, but Congress won't formally receive it until lawmakers return on Tuesday. Bush's action will force Congress to take up the proposal under a fast-track process that requires votes within 90 days. Officials said Bush is acting now in order to force a vote before Congress leaves in the fall for the campaign season.
""If Congress fails to approve this agreement, it would not only abandon a brave ally, it would send a signal throughout the region that America cannot be counted on to support its friends," Bush said."
For one thing, these free trade agreements don't do enough to protect the indigenous farmer and small business in the Latin countries. As we have seen from NAFTA, the benefits of free trade usually go to the large American agri-businesses and mega-businesses. The subsistence-level Mexican farmer is left to suffer the severe economic consequences. The question for Mexicans is then, how does a small farm compete with the large corporate American mega-farms that can produce corn or tomatoes so much more cheaply? NAFTA has done nothing to answer this question, and I am sure neither does the proposed agreement with Colombia.
Second, Colombia is rife with para-military groups intent on preserving landowners from the lower classes. This is the reason for FARC, the Colombian insurgency, that for the last 20 years plus has waged guerrilla war against the Colombian government. We have Alvaro Uribe now as president of Colombia. He is a direct scion of the privileged classes. This past March 1st, Uribe directed Colombian army units to cross the border and mount an attack against FARC in a camp in Ecuador, something that violates all international norms on the sovereignty of countries and their borders. The result was that some dozens were killed, including four Mexican college students who were investigating FARC's modus vivendi. Also killed was a high FARC commander, Raul Reyes, who seemed willing to negotiate the release of some two thousand hostages held by FARC. Reyes' killing has effectively put an end to further FARC releases of hostages, including the most famous, Ingrid Betancourt, former Colombian presidential candidate.
Congress should turn down George Bush's agreement with Colombia until Uribe and his Colombian supporters agree to root out the para-militaries and guarantee Colombian subsistence farmers a fair deal in any agreement on trade with the U.S. George Bush has sent billions of dollars of military aid to Uribe in the hopes of countering Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Boliva and Rafael Correa of Ecuador. Congress cannot and should not allow Bush to get away with this free trade pact, above all designed to punish Latin countries that see Bush for what he is, the worst war monger and American imperialist since Richard Nixon.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
I am glad to see Morgan Tsvangirai, head of Zimbabwe's Movement for a Democratic Change (MDC), reject Robert Mugabe's call for a recount of the Zimbabwe presidential election. Mugabe's Zanu-PF party has not allowed the release of the results of the elections that took place more than a week ago, but nevertheless now is calling for a recount. You don't have to know much about politics to suspect the worst. Mugabe has lost the election but refuses to allow the results to be made public. And now he wants a recount.
Tsvangirai has personally known the brutality of the Mugabe regime. Mugabe's police beat him up about four months ago, requiring stitches on his head and a visit to the hospital. Now Mugabe's Zanu-PF party threatens to send "war veterans" out and beat up anyone who does not agree to the recount.
The BBC reports:
"Mr Tsvangirai . . . has claimed victory in the election and called on Mr Mugabe to step down to allow a peaceful handover of power.
He has accused the 84-year-old ruler - in power since independence in 1980 - of plotting a campaign of violence to stay in office."
Mugabe has been in power some 28 years and now refuses to go out gracefully. Having lost the presidential election, Mugabe now seems intent on engaging in illegal thuggery.
According to the BBC:
"Information Minister Bright Matonga told the BBC the anomalies were to do with the collation of the election results - there was a discrepancy between the results put outside polling stations and the form sent to the ZEC. He insisted the request did not amount to a recount.
"Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's Commercial Farmers' Union said a number of white-owned farms had been briefly invaded by self-styled war veterans' groups loyal to Mr Mugabe in southern Masvingo."
Saturday, April 5, 2008
The BBC reports that Bush is now in the Black Sea town of Sochi meeting with Vladimir Putin at his seaside resort dacha. Writes the BBC:
"US President George W Bush has arrived in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi for the last in a series of talks with President Vladimir Putin.
"The two are not expected to clinch agreement on a planned US missile defence system in Europe during this weekend's talks, the White House said."
If Putin is smart, he will not agree to Bush's grandiose plans to put up a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. First of all, Bush wants the system in order to be able to shoot down an attacking Iranian missile. This is pure science fiction. Iran does not have missiles that fire into Europe, and even if it did, Iran has made no threats against any of its neighbors, not even against Israel.
Secondly, Bush's missile system could easily be turned into an offensive weapon pointed at Moscow and other Russian cities. If Putin agrees to allow Bush to install it, he has endangered the whole Russian nation against a nuclear attack from the West.
Thirdly, Putin should do the United States a favor and absolutely reject the missile defense system. It has not been proved that it will work, and it will cost multiple billions of dollars. Bush does not care how much he spends. His sole motivation is his "legacy." So that he can pretend he was a great American patriot and saved the nation from Iranian and other enemy missiles. No matter that the system is not needed. No matter that there is no Iranian threat. No matter that its cost will add to the hundreds of billions in deficit spending.
Please, Mr. Putin, do us all a favor. Don't agree with Bush and don't permit him to go ahead with this crazy, dangerous, necessary, spendthrift scheme.
Friday, April 4, 2008
Mohamed Olad Hassan reports for The BBC that things are growing desperate for the civilian population in Mogadishu. The Ethiopians shelled the city's major market several days ago, killing and wounding dozens. Food supplies are scarce and some are living out in the open in rudimentary shelters made of twigs and other detritus.
"The once-bustling streets of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, are now eerily empty. The southern neighbourhoods are littered with the scars of recent fighting between the insurgents and Ethiopian-backed forces of the transitional government. Ethiopian tanks have taken up positions outside the houses of the hundreds of thousands of residents who have fled the city - estimated to be 60% of the city's population."
Somalia needs Ethiopian soldiers to go back to Ethiopia. Somalians need to be able to dictate their own government. It should not be left to the Ethiopians, who, by the way, are merely fronts for the Americans and Bush who encouraged them to invade.
The United States needs to pull its navy warships out of Somali waters. The U.S. Navy needs to stop shooting cruise missiles into Somali homes and villages. Irrational fear of Islamic Courts caused Bush and Cheney to interfere in Somalia, and today the miserable state of Somali civilians is the result.
Writes Hassan about a Somali family:
"Every morning destitute Somalis line up in their thousands to receive a handout of corn, beans and oil. "We sometimes line up for food early in the morning and go back to our children at sunset empty-handed," complains Fadumo Khalif, a 26-year-old pregnant mother, with a baby strapped to her back. "Sometimes the food runs out and sometimes the agencies do not come."
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Instead of trying to get NATO to go along with his hair-brained scheme to put missiles in Poland the Czech Republic, Bush should try to establish friendship and comity with nations like Iran. But Bush would rather toss missiles at a country and kill its population than try to come to a detente and understanding.
Peter Baker writes in today's The Washington Post:
"President Bush won support from NATO on Thursday for his plans to build a limited missile defense system in Eastern Europe and finalized a separate agreement to station part of it in the Czech Republic.
"The twin developments represent significant advances for Bush's plans to establish a sophisticated new radar facility in the Czech Republic and station 10 interceptor missiles in Poland as a hedge against potential threats from Iran or other Middle East nations. They came just as Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has strongly fought the system, was arriving here to meet with NATO leaders."
Suppose you were an Iranian living in Teheran. How would you react to the Bush proposal to put missiles in Eastern Europe aimed at your home and country? You might wonder what type insecure and mean human being is so afraid of you and your country that he would work to set up missiles that could incinerate you, your family and Teheran's whole population in a few seconds.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
George Bush wants NATO to take in Georgia and Ukraine as members. This should not be allowed. Good relations between Russia and the rest of the Western world are the reason NATO members should not follow Bush's arguments. Both Georgia and Ukraine are Slavic nations like Russia, united by a common language base as well as by their religious Orthodoxy.
Bush's attempt to enroll them in NATO is merely a political move by Bush to embarrass Russia and Vladimir Putin. Bush has this compulsion to show how much he is in charge of the world order and how more powerful he is than Putin. By taking Georgia and Ukraine away from Russia's influence and by enrolling them in NATO which was designed to militarily oppose the Soviet Union - this would be part of George Bush's legacy about which Americans would never hear the end of from Bush supporters.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Richard Cohen writes in today's The Washington Post that the Second World War was a "good war" worth fighting for. It reminds me of my post several months ago in my other blog, Public Radio & TV Stations in Utah, complaining about KUED-TV Channel 7's series on Utahns fighting in WWII, and how I thought that series glorified what seemed to me to be a horrible mistake.
A reader complained that I had not considered the Holocaust as a justifying reason. I backed down, agreeing that the Holocaust would be about the only cause to go to war.
But since then, I have been reading up on WWII and much to my surprise, I found that the Holocaust was not the reason why the U.S. entered the war. In fact, historians say that the Holocaust came to be seen for its terrible product only after WWII ended in 1945. The United States did not enter WWII to rescue the Jews in Hitler's concentration camps but to support England. Furthermore, both England and the U.S. sided with the USSR and Josef Stalin, who, it turns out, was as evil and as cruel as Adolf Hitler in killing and torturing people on account of their race and ethnicity.
More on this in future posts.