Monday, December 21, 2009


There is a big story brewing but I could find no mention of it in today's The New York Times. Tensions are mounting along the border between Colombia and Venezuela.

Colombia has announced that it will build a military base close to the Venezuela border housing five or six airborne battalions using American military helicopters. No wonder that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is upset not only at the Colombian president Alvaro Uribe but also and especially at Barack Obama.

If a war starts between Colombia and Venezuela, it will have been precipitated by the foolish and stupid American agreement to send 1,000+ U.S. forces to Colombian air bases. Nobel peace price winner Barack Obama will be directly responsible for causing a serious military conflict in Latin America.

How could Obama been so dumb as to authorize the U.S.- Colombia agreement? To station gringo troops on Latin soil is to offend the dignity and sovereignty of every Latin country. By this agreement, Obama has destroyed much of the good will generated in the hearts and minds of the Latin street.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Loud-mouthed Jim Cramer of CNBC often has moments of intelligent lucidity, such as his promotion of the virtues of natural gas: cheap, plentiful and clean-burning. So when Exxon recently made an offer to take over XTO, a natural gas driller, Cramer thought it was a smart move.

I bet Cramer would be surprised to find that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad agrees with him on the desirability of natural gas as one step in curbing man-made green houses gasses and global warming.

Juan Cole in his Informed Comment quotes Ahmadinejad's speech to the U.N. assembly in Copenhagen in a translation by the USG Open Source Center.

Ahmadinejad says:

"Every year millions of people lose their lives as a result of pollution, and skin and respiratory illnesses are on the increase. If greenhouse-gases continue to increase at the present speed, they will reach twice the level of gases before industrialization. In other words, instead of a reduction of 50 per cent, they will increase by 50 per cent and will pose a real challenge to the natural environment."

Ahmadinejad offers several concrete solutions, including ending the purposeless war in Afghanistan and spending the billions of dollars on Afghanistan's infrastructure and economic development:

"The so-called industrialized countries should fulfill their international commitments. At the same time, clear and feasible mechanisms should be drawn up which bring the disobedient governments and economic sectors under control and obligates them to pay fines to the countries which have experienced a loss. It has been said that more than 250 billion dollars has been spent on the expedition to Afghanistan and around 1,000 billion dollars has been the cost of the war in Iraq. Wouldn't 50 billion dollars spent on Afghanistan's infrastructure and economic development have turned this country into a developed country? And wouldn't 200 billion dollars on developing new technology and suitable use of fossil fuel have returned the pollution level to the period before industrialization?"

Ahmadinejad says that Iran is pursuing reduction of green-house gasses and global warming on different levels:

"And to this end the government has focused on the following plans:

- Reduction in energy consumption through improving standards in industries and productions,

- The management of consumption and elimination of energy subsidies in a planned and scheduled program,

- Extensive conversion of vehicles, industries and power plant to run on gas,

- Provision of access to natural gas for more than 90 per cent of cities and many villages,

- Extensive research on the use of clean energy including wind, solar, as well as plans for the production of nuclear fuel and 20,000 mw nuclear electricity."

Note Ahmadinejad's tress on natural gas. As I said above, Jim Cramer would love these proposals. And rightly so.


It looks like Senate Democrats have finally corralled Ben Nelson, senator from Nebraska, who has been holding out on health care reform.

Here's an article this morning from The New York Times website by Robert Pear, David M. Herszenhorn and Carl Hulse reporting on the breakthrough.

Write Pear, Herszenhorn and Hulse:

"As the Senate convened in a driving snowstorm, Democratic leaders said a breakthrough came when Senator Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, agreed after 13 hours of negotiations on Friday to back the bill, making him the pivotal 60th vote.

"“Change is never easy, but change is what’s necessary in America,” Mr. Nelson said during a morning news conference. “And that’s why I intend to vote,” he said, “for health care reform.”"

But Republicans still feverishly oppose any health care reform and they seem intent to use Senate procedures to run out the clock before Christmas recess.

Report Pear, Herszenhorn and Hulse:

"The majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, racing against the clock to complete the bill by his self-imposed holiday deadline, introduced a 338-page package of last-minute amendments, including the key provisions needed to win Mr. Nelson’s support.

"Republicans, who vowed to use every procedural weapon to stop the bill, immediately forced a reading of the Mr. Reid’s, which was expected to take 10 hours and had to be done by midnight to keep Democrats on track for a final vote on Christmas Eve."

Even Sen. Olympia Snow (R-Maine) seemed poised to vote against the bill even though she has shown that she is for health care reform overall.

The Senate is working through four consecutive weekends in an attempt to pass the bill by Christmas. Last night and today, the snow is falling heavily in the D.C. area. Report Pear, Herszenhorn and Hulse:

"The snow flying outside the Capitol added to what has already been a chaotic few weeks for the Senate, which has met every day since Nov. 30 and was convened for the third consecutive weekend.

"The sergeant-at-arms had four-wheel drive vehicles at the ready to bring senators in for votes. And while senators wore the jackets and ties required on the Senate floor, dress shoes gave way to snow boots. Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, who is 92 years old and uses a wheelchair, received an ovation from colleagues when he arrived in the chamber."

Saturday, December 12, 2009


So Tony Blair now admits that even if he had known (wink, wink) that Saddam Hussein had no WMD, he still would have gone ahead with the War in Iraq. The BBC reports on Blair's claims. I agree with Hans Blix that such statements show that Tony Blair and by association George W. Bush decided to attack, invade and occupy Iraq even before one of their aides came up with the pretense of threats of a WMD being readied by Saddam within "45 minutes."

Let's ask both Blair and Bush: was it worth it? Were the deaths of some 600,000+ Iraqi civilians worth toppling Saddam? How about the 4,000+ U.S. soldiers or the 100+ British troops killed? Or the 40,000 American soldiers needing hospital care and the 6,000 British forces?

Were all these lives subservient to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein? Apparently Tony Blair and George Bush think the answer is yes, but then again, all of the people injured or killed as a result were someone else's son, daughter, mother, father, brother or sister, not those of George W. Bush or Tony Blair.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


One of the most disturbing parts of Pres. Barack Obama's policy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan is his approval of the use of U.S. unmanned drones to search out and kill insurgents and "terrorists." I have long argued for an end to this abominable practice of targeting mostly Pakistani villagers from the air and then incinerating them with American missiles. Why? Because these killings are extra-judicial, meaning that the victims have no say in whether they are "guilty" or not; that even if an American-hating member of the Taliban is killed, there is surely an innocent killed along with him; that these drone attacks make no distinction between killing children and their targeted "enemies."

Steve Clemons' The Washington Note has a guest blog by Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann on a story by The New York Times several days ago quoting an anonymous administration official who claimed that so far drone attacks have killed "just over 20 civilians."

Write Bergen and Tiedemann:

"What is troubling -- and in our view, highly unlikely -- is the official's claim that only some 20 civilians have been killed by these drone strikes, a fatality rate of only around 5 percent. Given that one strike alone on the funeral of a suspected Taliban militant in South Waziristan in late June killed at least 18 people described as civilians, according to a report in the London Times, it seems implausible that only a handful more were killed in all of the 81 drone strikes that have occurred since the beginning of 2008."

I fully agree with Bergen and Tiedmann. The government, no matter whose administration, always tries to play down events that don't favor its mythical account of warfare and aggression. Some anonymous official realizes that American voters do not like to think of themselves as killers of innocent villagers, especially women and children. So the government official tries to falsely minimize the number.

Here is Bergen and Tiedemann's estimate on civilian fatalities:

"Our own data shows that if we consider just the period from 2008 until the present, the average civilian fatality rate is between 35 and 40 percent; far more than the five percent claimed by the government official."

Given that Bergen and Tiedmann estimate some 500 militants killed by drones since 2008, their estimate of 40% additional in civilian casualities would put the number at 200.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Should the U.S. under Barack Obama be sending drones flying over Pakistan and firing missiles at Taliban leaders, and, in the process, killing their families as well? I argue, no. These are extra-judicial killings of people only suspected to be enemy combatants. Whether they are or not should first be determined in a court of law. Who knows how many innocent men, women and children have been incinerated by U.S. attacks from the sky?

And, furthermore, what gives the U.S. the right to kill members of the Taliban? Yes, they are backward, illiterate and often fanatical. But does this warrant their execution and destruction by U.S. attack drones?

Scott Shane reports in today's The New York Times that Obama has ordered an increase in these drone attacks:

"The White House has authorized an expansion of the C.I.A.’s drone program in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas, officials said this week, to parallel the president’s decision, announced Tuesday, to send 30,000 U.S. more troops to Afghanistan. American officials are talking with Pakistan about the possibility of striking in Baluchistan for the first time — a controversial move since it is outside the tribal areas — because that is where Afghan Taliban leaders are believed to hide."

I argue that these drone attacks will create 10 more enemies of the U.S. for each member of the Taliban killed. And 100 more for each innocent man, woman and child killed by mistake.

Americans claim their land is the land of the free and the home of the brave. Yet the American use of lethal drones tells the whole world that the U.S. is also a military killer that causes death and destruction in poor Pakistani villages.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Instead of putting on a big show at West Point Military Academy this evening, in which he rehearsed and re-tread all of the Bush bromides on how "we have to kill them because they represent a 'serious' national security threat to America," I would have liked to see Pres. Barack Obama end a foolish purposeless war and concentrate instead on pushing health care reform in the Senate.

I find it dismaying that Obama has been relatively silent on health care. He should be out stumping for passage. He should be buttonholing reluctant and recalcitrant senators the way Lyndon Baines Johnson did. He should be arguing incessantly why health care reform is essential to future prosperity and peace.

But please, Mr. Obama, no justifying a baseless unjustified war in Afghanistan.