I watched World Focus with Martin Savidge tonight. The lead off story was on the cordial meeting between Richard Holbrooke and the under-secretary for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Sec. of State Hillary Clinton herself described the meeting in promising terms. What a break from those war mongers, Bush, Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld, who were looking for excuses to send bombs raining down in Teheran. The world is much safer thanks to Pres. Barack Obama's overture to Iranian leaders on the occasion of Now Roos, the Iranian New Year.
So why is Lisa Curtis, a guest on World Focus, so negative on Barack Obama’s wonderful and promising overture to the Islamic Republic of Iran? Oh, I get it - she is a senior research fellow with that neo-con Heritage Foundation. Martin, can’t you guys do a better job in screening these Bush left-overs who still think that Iran is the “enemy,” a country which they think should be bombed to smithereens? We know that the Heritage Foundation is on the same wave length as AIPAC, which thinks the best thing would be to start a war with Iran.
World Focus deserves better than Lisa Curtis as a guest “expert.”
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
I watched World Focus with Martin Savidge tonight. The lead off story was on the cordial meeting between Richard Holbrooke and the under-secretary for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Sec. of State Hillary Clinton herself described the meeting in promising terms. What a break from those war mongers, Bush, Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld, who were looking for excuses to send bombs raining down in Teheran. The world is much safer thanks to Pres. Barack Obama's overture to Iranian leaders on the occasion of Now Roos, the Iranian New Year.
Envoys from the United States and Iran had a "cordial" talk in The Hague, site of talks to discuss the problems of Afghanistan, reports the BBC.
Writes the BBC:
"The US envoy to Afghanistan has held "a cordial exchange" with Iran's deputy foreign minister, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said.
"The meeting between Richard Holbrooke and Mohammad Mehdi Akhoondzadeh took place on the sidelines of a meeting in The Hague to discuss Afghanistan.
"The US has welcomed Iran's presence at the meeting.
"Analysts say the easing of tensions between the US and Tehran is due to a new tone set by the Obama White House."
This is welcomed news. For too long during the eight years of rule by Bush and Cheney and Rice, there was always a danger that the U.S. and Israel would attack Teheran and the Iranian people. Thanks to Barack Obama and his desire to end the threats and military confrontations, we now have a safer world.
Reports the BBC:
""In the course of the conference today, our special representative for Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, had a brief and cordial exchange with the head of the Iranian delegation," Mrs Clinton told a news conference.
"She said the meeting had been unplanned, but Mr Holbrooke and Mr Akhoondzadeh had agreed to "stay in touch".
"She added that Iran's presence at Tuesday's meeting was "a promising sign that there will be future co-operation"."
Monday, March 30, 2009
Seymour Hersh was on Terri Gross' interview program today on NPR. Gross asked Hersh asked about his claims that there was a special operations force answerable only to Dick Cheney that went around the world assassinating people Cheney decided were threats to the United States.
One of Terri Gross's first questions astounded me. She asked what the big deal was about because in her view that was the job of special operations, to assassinate "bad guys." How can Gross so cavalierly accept that American military forces sneak into foreign countries and assassinate their targets? How many innocent people are caught up in this nightmare and killed?
Everyone is entitled to a fair hearing before an impartial court, with right to a lawyer and to present a defense including evidence on one's behalf. Now you might respond that this is not a legal right to people not citizens of the United States, at least not in U.S. courts. But I would argue that it is a basic human right belonging to everyone in the world.
The rule of law means that we don't approve of people going around and taking the law in their own hands, by being the judge and executioner. Or are there some including Dick Cheney and George W. Bush who think that the rule of law ends at the borders of the U.S.?
Hersh commented that he did not blame any of the special forces, they were just doing their job. This is just as outrageous as Terri Gross accepting that assassination was the job of American soldiers. Hersh may not blame these special forces but I do. A soldier just can't rely on the defense that he or she is just following orders. There is a decision to be made, is this moral or right? Do I have responsibility for taking someone's life without giving the person the right to speak in his own defense? Just because Dick Cheney says the target is a "terrorist," does that give a right to kill him without more? I don't think so.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
TORTURE OF ABU ZABAIDA OBTAINED NO USEFUL INFORMATION YET CHENEY/BUSH CONTINUE TO INSIST WATERBOARDING WORKED
Dick Cheney likes to say that locking up Al Qaeda suspects in Guantanamo without any rights to trial or to legal counsel, as well as waterboarding and other methods of torture on these detainees, made the U.S. safer. Witness no attacks sine 9/11.
Cheney's assertions of course come with no evidence or support. Cheney claims that he has seen intelligence reports saying that "harsh interrogation methods" work and have resulted in information which has foiled serious attacks in their incipient phase. But Cheney says the reports are classified, so we will just have to accept his word for it.
Today, however, Joby Warrick and Peter Finn write in The Washington Post that contrary to the assertions of George W. Bush and Cheney, the waterboarding and other torture applied to Abu Zabaida yielded no useful information, but wasted millions of dollars of investigation time by the CIA and FBI on unsubstantiated phony leads.
Write Finn and Warrick:
"When CIA officials subjected their first high-value captive, Abu Zubaida, to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods, they were convinced that they had in their custody an al-Qaeda leader who knew details of operations yet to be unleashed, and they were facing increasing pressure from the White House to get those secrets out of him.
"The methods succeeded in breaking him, and the stories he told of al-Qaeda terrorism plots sent CIA officers around the globe chasing leads.
"In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida -- chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates -- was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said."
So much for Bush & Cheney's baseless claims that waterboarding and other torture succeeded in foiling terrorist plots aimed at the U.S. Yet these guys, especially Cheney, continue to make the unfounded claims that because of their direction for tougher interrogation (aka torture), the United States was made safer from terrorist attacks.
Write Warrick and Finn:
"Despite the poor results, Bush White House officials and CIA leaders continued to insist that the harsh measures applied against Abu Zubaida and others produced useful intelligence that disrupted terrorist plots and saved American lives.
"Two weeks ago, Bush's vice president, Richard B. Cheney, renewed that assertion in an interview with CNN, saying that "the enhanced interrogation program" stopped "a great many" terrorist attacks on the level of Sept. 11.
""I've seen a report that was written, based upon the intelligence that we collected then, that itemizes the specific attacks that were stopped by virtue of what we learned through those programs," Cheney asserted, adding that the report is "still classified," and, "I can't give you the details of it without violating classification."
"Since 2006, Senate intelligence committee members have pressed the CIA, in classified briefings, to provide examples of specific leads that were obtained from Abu Zubaida through the use of waterboarding and other methods, according to officials familiar with the requests."
Note Cheney's statement appearing to vouch for the bad intelligence that "itemizes the specific attacks that were stopped by virtue of what we learned through those programs . . ." He says, "I've seen a report that was written . . . that itemizes . . ." So Cheney has seen a report. Does he believe the contents of the report? Does he say that the contents were true? Someone wrote a report that Cheney now uses to imply that "specific attacks" were stopped. Who wrote the report? Was it someone on Cheney's staff, such as David Addington?
Cheney's statement is crafty insofar as Cheney says he has seen a report but cannot make it public because it is classified. But that does not mean that the content of the report was true, or that the information was solid, or that the author wrote the report for any other than biased political argumentation.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Pres. Barack Obama is making a huge mistake committing troops to Afghanistan. Yes, that country is still mired in the 8th Century, with women rarely seen on the streets and with the rule of law practically non-existent in the face of Islamic
So what role does the U.S. have fighting over there. Obama says he wants to rid Afghanistan and Pakistan of members of Al Qaeda. But Al Qaeda is composed of ordinary Afghanis and Pakis, young men barely in their twenties who have committed to Islam in the most fundamental way. There is no possibility that the U.S. and Obama are going to defeat those guys by force of arms or warplanes or tanks or special forces raids.
That's what I don't understand about Obama's move. I thought he was more committed to the use of America's soft power. Apparently he still believes in force of arms. Hasn't anybody ever told him the dirty little secret? - that military action never works, unless to create hatred and animosity that will last many generations if not hundreds of years in the minds of the invaded and occupied towards the invader and occupier.
I agree with Obama on this, that the U.S. should help build Afghanistan's schools, roads, bridges, hospitals, highways. That the U.S. should help train and outfit a rule of law police force that will keep public peace and welfare.
But I disagree with seeing the Al Qaeda problem as solvable by military means. Killing Al Qaeda adherents will have no beneficial effect. Shooting Afghan women and children by mistake will not make the U.S. safer, but just the opposite. Conducting special forces raids at 2 AM just reinforces the notion already in the hearts and minds of most Afghanis that the U.S. is a cruel and dishonorable people and nation that Afghans of all ages must repel and destroy.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
What is the purpose of the Department of Defense stirring up trouble by accusing China of building up its military and weapons systems? This is sure to rile not only Chinese leaders but also the common man in the street.
Here we have the United States, the most armed and militaristic of all countries on earth, telling China it has no right to beef up its military. Put yourself in China's shoes. What would you think? How would you react? Angry and resentful. Incredulous in the face of American hypocrisy.
The Washington Post carries a story by Trini Tran of AP today on its web site. Writes Tran:
"A U.S. Defense Department report released in Washington _ the first under the Obama administration _ said Beijing's rapidly growing military strength is shifting the military balance in the region and could be used to enforce its claim in disputed territories.
"China's objections were strong, signaling what continues to a bumpy start with the new U.S. administration. The two governments have tried to minimize differences, but frictions already have surfaced, including this month's confrontation between a U.S. naval ship and Chinese vessels and China's concerns over the weakened U.S. economy."
Where is Barack Obama on all of this? Was the DOD's statement first cleared with him? Does he approve the old Bush line of dictating to other countries how they should act and behave? It's hard to believe Obama would approve this imperialistic tactic. China's reaction of fury and resentment would have been easy to predict. So why stir up trouble?
Tran reports on China's anger:
"Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang lashed out at the report as "interference" in China's affairs and said his country had formally complained.
""It is a gross distortion of facts and interference into China's internal affairs. China resolutely opposes it and has made solemn representation to the U.S. side," he told a regularly scheduled news conference."
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Instead of sending more U.S. troops to the Mexican border, Barack Obama should concentrate on fixing the drug problem here in the U.S. I mean legalizing all street drugs and bringing them under the control of the state or federal government. The government could then tax all drug sales and keep track of all buyers and sellers in the market. Mexico could do the same.
But by sending troops to the border, we are making the same mistake as Felipe Calderon, president of the Republic of Mexico. The army has no business engaging in domestic police actions. The U.S. has laws against using its army in this way. Troops along the border raise questions of violating U.S. law.
I want an open border where people are free to come or go as they please. No one should be termed "illegal" for entering the U.S. without proper papers. We should welcome all immigrants who come here for peaceful and lawful purposes, such as to obtain jobs or to make a better life for their families. I call upon Barack Obama: tear down that wall built by Bush between Mexico and the U.S.!
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The New York Times runs an important and relevant editorial today, "Obama Flinches on Immigration."
A noted civil rights attorney and immigration advocate from California, Thomas Saenz, was going to be the next Assistant Attorney General for civil rights. However, after Saenz began drawing cries and howls from immigration opponents in Congress, Obama dumped Saenz for a less controversial choice, Thomas Perez, from Maryland. Here's another case where Barack Obama caved to the reactionary and conservative forces opposed to his progressive agenda.
Writes the editorial board of The New York Times:
"Mr. Saenz, the former top litigator in Los Angeles for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or Maldef, was privately offered the job in January. The floating of his name led to fierce outbursts from anti-immigrant groups and blogs, which detest him for being so good at what he does.
"He was a leader of the successful fight to block California’s Proposition 187, an unconstitutional effort to deny social services and schooling to illegal immigrants. He has defended Latino day laborers who were targets of misguided local crackdowns, from illegal police stings to unconstitutional anti-solicitation ordinances. An editorial in Investor’s Business Daily slimed Mr. Saenz by calling him “an open-borders extremist” and said Maldef wanted to give California back to Mexico.
"None of it was true, but it was apparently too much for the White House. Mr. Saenz was ditched in favor of Maryland’s labor secretary, Thomas Perez, who has a solid record but is not as closely tied to immigrant rights."
The history of the United States is one where anti-immigration forces attempt to keep out people with different languages, with different skin colors, from different racial backgrounds. It was not that long ago that the official policy of the U.S. was to ban any and all immigrants from Asia, especially the Chinese and Japanese. Today it is a movement against Latinos in general and Mexicans in particular. Some would deny immigrants health care for their families and education for their children because they are "illegals," as if it were okay to deny basic human rights because the parents lack "papers." Others like the American bigots of yesterday want to see all Mexicans returned to Mexico.
Obama had an excellent pro-immigration candidate in Thomas Saenz. Why he decided to desert him can only be guessed. But for whatever reason, the dumping of Saenz does Obama no credit.
Monday, March 23, 2009
The BBC reports that UN investigators have harshly criticized Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) for cruelty and war crimes committed during the IDF's invasion and bombardment of Gaza this past January.
Writes the BBC:
"UN human rights investigators have questioned the legality of Israel's Gaza offensive in a wide-ranging report to the UN Human Rights Council.
"One investigator, Richard Falk, asked how a military assault with modern weapons could have been made "against an essentially defenceless society".
"The report found civilians appeared to "have taken the brunt of the attacks" with schools and clinics also hit."
Gaza and the Palestinians living there were not only defenseless, they were not allowed to flee or escape the fighting. Israel had sealed all of its borders with Gaza so that civilians and families and children could not run away from the death and destruction.
Reports the BBC:
"Mr Falk argued that in order to determine if the war was legal, it was necessary to assess whether Israeli forces could differentiate between civilian and military targets in Gaza.
""If it is not possible to do so, then launching the attacks is inherently unlawful, and would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law," he said in Geneva.
""The overall ratio of deaths, 1,434 on the Palestinian side, 13 on the Israeli side, is suggestive of the one-sidedness of the military encounter," he added.
"Gaza's borders were closed, he stressed, so civilians were unable to flee the fighting.
"Mr Falk called for an independent inquiry to examine possible war crimes committed by both Israel and Hamas."
Some other UN investigators cited specific instances of Israeli soldiers firing and killing civilians and children.
The BBC writes:
"Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN secretary general's special representative for children and armed conflict, cited a long series of incidents to back her charges, in her report to the UN Human Rights Council.
"In one, she said, Israeli soldiers shot a father after ordering him out of his house and then opened fire into the room where the rest of the family was sheltering, wounding the mother and three brothers and killing a fourth."
Yes, the world needs to hold Israel and its IDF accountable for the unnecessary and cruel death and destruction they wrought upon the Palestinians in Gaza. The trouble is that it is almost impossible to hold a party like Israel responsible when its allies like the United States and many members of Congress give an imprimatur to Israel no matter what it does or no matter what war crimes it commits.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
I have called for the United States to stop shooting missiles from drones at Pakistani villages in the Waziristan. Why? Because the missiles kill civilians - women, children, non-combatants, non-jihadists. Furthermore, the U.S. has no business trying to kill jihadists. If anything, Pakistan should arrest those deemed violating the law and give them a fair trial. This is the civilized and fair method of punishing law breakers, not targeting them with a missile shot from an unmanned drone and fired by some CIA guy thousands of miles away.
Sunday's The New York Times carries an article by Mark Mazzetti in Week in Review on this very topic. The upshot is that for U.S. officials, sending armed unmanned drones into Pakistan is the best of many alternatives. I object to the policy.
Mark Mazzetti writes:
"But in Pakistan, some C.I.A. veterans of the tribal battles worry that instead of separating the citizenry from the militants the drone strikes may be uniting them. These experts say they fear that killing militants from the sky won’t undermine, and may promote, the psychology of anti-American militancy that is metastasizing in the country.
"“Unless we come up with a coherent Pakistan policy, then nothing works,” said Milton Bearden, who as C.I.A. station chief in Islamabad once led the agency’s campaign to arm Afghan mujahedeen against the Soviet Union."
Imagine having missile-carrying drones flying over your house. What would you think of the country that sends them above your head? Would you fear having a missile blow up your home and family, maybe fired in mistake by some CIA operative who has no idea who you are or where your children sleep or where your elderly parents sit?
The U.S. merely shows its contempt for Pakistani villagers, for human life, and above all for the rights of the individual. Stop the killing of innocent civilians in the quest to kill one Al Qaeda type. Firing these missiles merely tells the world that Americans have no respect for the individual, that they are willing to kill 25, 50 or 100 just to kill some Al Qaeda leader.
"Over the last six months, C.I.A. operatives wielding joysticks have launched more than three dozen strikes by Predator and more heavily-armed Reaper drones. Missiles fired from them have hit militants gathering in mountain redoubts, and they have hit truck convoys ferrying ammunition across the border into Afghanistan.
"Some agency veterans draw comparisons to the Israeli policy of “targeted killings” of Hamas leaders — killings that claimed scores of the group’s top operatives in the Palestinian territories, but didn’t keep new recruits from attacking Israel.
"Intelligence officials in Washington and Islamabad said it was nearly impossible to measure the impact of the strikes on the so-called “war of ideas.” Even when precise, the drone strikes often kill women and children in militant compounds. When that happens, local Pashtun customs of “badal” obligate their survivors to seek revenge."
Killing Pakistani villagers by missiles fired from drones will only exacerbate the hatred already felt by Pakistanis towards America. Revenge will be paramount. Having seen their children and family members destroyed by some deadly American missile, Pakistanis in Waziristan will consider any and all options to revenge and redress this cruel U.S. attack from the sky.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
I have complaints against The Washington Post for its headline on a story by Ali Akbar Dareini about Ayatollay Khamanei's response to Barack Obama's video message. The WashPo's headline is," Iran's supreme leader dismisses Obama overtures."
I attribute this headline to bias and prejudice of the editors at WashPo against Iran and Iranian leaders. Tell the world that Iran is not willing to compromise or engage in serious negotiation and diplomacy. This sets the world (and Americans) up for an attack against Iran. First demonize Iranians, this makes it easier to justify bombing and killing them.
But read the article by Dareini carefully:
"Khamenei enumerated a long list of Iranian grievances against the United States over the past 30 years and said the U.S. was still interfering in Iranian affairs.
"He mentioned U.S. sanctions against Iran, U.S. support for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during his 1980-88 war against Iran and the downing of an Iranian airliner over the Persian Gulf in 1988.
"He also accused the U.S. of provoking ethnic tension in Iran and said Washington's accusations that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons are a sign of U.S. hostility. Iran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, like energy production, not for building weapons.
"Have you released Iranian assets? Have you lifted oppressive sanctions? Have you given up mudslinging and making accusations against the great Iranian nation and its officials? Have you given up your unconditional support for the Zionist regime? Even the language remains unchanged," Khamenei said.
"Khamenei, wearing a black turban and dark robes, said America was hated around the world for its arrogance, as the crowd chanted "Death to America."
"Prominent political analyst Saeed Leilaz said Khamenei's comments did not amount to a rejection of better ties with the Obama administration. Rather, Iran's current hard-line leaders need to publicly maintain some degree of anti-U.S. rhetoric to bolster their own position, especially with their conservative base, he said."
Khamenei and Iranians have legitimate grievances against the U.S. Remember it was Eisenhower and the U.S. that toppled an Iranian elected government in 1953 because of desires to take control over Iranian oil production. So the C.I.A. overthrew Mossadegh and replaced him with the Shah. Iranians have not forgotten or forgiven Americans for doing this. Furthermore, it was the U.S. Navy that shot down an Iranian airliner in 1988, killing dozens of Iranians.
Khamenie wants the U.S. to apologize and this is what Obama should do next. Americans can't expect Iranians and their leaders simply to forget about the downing of the Iranian airliner and the overthrow of an Iranian democratic government without having the U.S. admit that it was wrong on these and other actions aimed against Iran.
The WashPo is wrong to run the headline that Iran dismisses Obama's message. This is only the first step for both the U.S. and Iran. But Obama's message is a first step in the right direction, and Khamenei's response does not dismiss but really points forward to the direction that rapprochement requires.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Hurray for Barack Obama and his overture to Iranian leaders and people by videotape on the occasion of the Iranian New Year that began today.
Obama was respectful of the great and long traditions of the Iranian people and wished all a Happy New Year.
Debbi Wilgoren and Thomas Erdbrink write in today's The Washington Post web site:
"The message, issued at midnight in Washington,, coincides with the ancient festival of Nowruz, which marks the start of spring and the Persian New Year. It follows promises by Obama on the campaign trail and in his initial months in office to engage Iran more directly, as a way to end decades of confrontation and address Iran's links to terror groups and its nuclear program.
"In the holiday message, Obama showed respect for Iran by referring to the country twice by its full official name, the Islamic Republic of Iran. In contrast, President George W. Bush routinely called Iran's government a "regime" that can't be trusted by its people and referred to the country as part of the "axis of evil.""
Gone was the Bush/Cheney rhetoric that threatened Iran at every phrase with nuclear destruction and catastrophe for daring to want nuclear power and proceeding with nuclear development.
I have long insisted that the United States should not consider Iran as a threat or enemy. After all, how many countries have the Iranian people invaded in the last 50 years? The answer is none. Compare that with the sorry example of the U.S. - militaristic campaigns and occupations of Vietnam, Iraq, Panama, and many more. An impartial observer would say that between Iran and the U.S., the real threat to world peace comes from the U.S. when led by those war mongers - Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld, Addington, et al.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
In today's The Washington Post, Senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain write an op-ed arguing that the U.S. should not be scaling down military operations in Afghanistan.
Write Lieberman and McCain:
"As the administration finalizes its policy review, we are troubled by calls in some quarters for the president to adopt a "minimalist" approach toward Afghanistan. Supporters of this course caution that the American people are tired of war and that an ambitious, long-term commitment to Afghanistan may be politically unfeasible. They warn that Afghanistan has always been a "graveyard of empires" and has never been governable. Instead, they suggest, we can protect our vital national interests in Afghanistan even while lowering our objectives and accepting more "realistic" goals there -- for instance, by scaling back our long-term commitment to helping the Afghan people build a better future in favor of a short-term focus on fighting terrorists.
"The political allure of such a reductionist approach is obvious. But it is also dangerously and fundamentally wrong, and the president should unambiguously reject it. Let there be no doubt: The war in Afghanistan can be won. Success -- a stable, secure, self-governing Afghanistan that is not a terrorist sanctuary -- can be achieved. Just as in Iraq, there is no shortcut to success, no clever "middle way" that allows us to achieve more by doing less. A minimalist approach in Afghanistan is a recipe not for winning smarter but for losing slowly at tremendous cost in American lives, treasure and security."
Lieberman and McCain are notorious war mongers who think that all problems can be solved by dropping cluster bombs and shooting people with tank shells. These guys believe that the U.S. needs a war every ten years so that it can kill people who speak different languages and have different skin colors. Thank the stars we don't have McCains or Liebermans running the country. They would involve us in multiple wars, multiple lives lost, multiple civilians killed, blinded, maimed, multiple adventuristic invasions and occupations.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Here's another good post by Juan Cole in his Informed Comment on Dick Cheney's baseless statement that "we have achieved almost everything we started out to do in Iraq."
Does Cheney think that the deaths of close to one million Iraqis represents victory of the Bush/Cheney foreign policy?
Or that 4,000+ American soldiers lost their lives in the foolish adventure that did not have to be. Is this something Cheney is proud of and considers worthwhile and an accomplishment? Not to mention the other 40,000 American troops maimed, blinded or left permanently disabled.
Or consider the fractious nature of Iraqi politics, ready to break out at any time into a bloody civil war, where the Sunnis dislike the Kurds, and they both hate the Shias. If one of the aims of the Bush/Cheney occupation was to create a stable society, their goal is way off in the distant future.
Cole brings up the 4 million Iraqis left homeless or displaced by Bush/Cheney war mongering, including those stranded in Syria and Jordan. Surely when Cheney claims that he and Bush achieved their goals, he cannot mean all the children out of school or all the widows eking out a threadbare existence for their families.
"Some 2.7 million are internally displaced inside Iraq. A couple hundred thousand are cooling their heels in Jordan. And perhaps a million are quickly running out of money and often living in squalid conditions in Syria. Cheney's war has left about 15% of Iraqis homeless inside the country or abroad. That would be like 45 million American thrown out of their homes."
Monday, March 16, 2009
At last we see the Pakistan government allow the reinstatement of Pakistani supreme court chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Former president and military dictator Pervez Musharraf booted Chaudhry out of office for refusing to rule in the general's favor. Talk about the rule of law! And I thought the era of absolute monarchs had disappeared in the 18th century. Musharraf's actions amounting to "get rid of the judge who won't rule in my favor" evokes memories of Henry II's famous line about Thomas Becket in 1170, "who will rid me of this troublesome priest?"
The new Pakistan leader and president, Asif Ali Zardari, whose deceased spouse was the assassinated Benazir Bhutto, continued in opposing Chaudhry's reinstatement. Why? Because he was worried that Chaudhry would rule against him too. Fortunately, because of the street protests and marches led by Pakistan's lawyers, Zardari has now backed down and agreed to Chaudhry coming back.
Note that Zardari has shown himself as bad as Musharraf in trying to quell peaceful protests by the lawyers with canes, clubs and threats of imprisonment.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Dick Cheney is continuing to make the defenseless and unsupported claim that the changes wrought by Barack Obama in ending torture, such as waterboarding, in the interrogation of suspects is setting the U.S. up for another terrorist attack. Cheney claims his harsh methods paid off by stopping inchoate attacks before they matured.
The Washington Post web site carries an AP story on Cheney's claim.
Writes the AP:
"Since becoming president, Obama has ordered the closing of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and banned certain methods of interrogation for suspected terrorists.
"To Cheney, those changes are raising the risk of attacks on the U.S."
The fatal flaw in Cheney's claim is that no one has any idea of what incipient attacks the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld regime of torture stopped. Everything is classified, and Bush never ordered such material declassified. Cheney wants the American people to accept his word, that's all. The only support Cheney has for his grand assertions is his own opinion. He thus feels immune from any counter-argument.
Therefore I call upon Barack Obama to order the Department of Justice to begin a thorough criminal investigation of the use of torture by the Bush administration. So far Obama has said he is not inclined to do this, but in the face of repeated accusations by Cheney, Obama does not have any choice. He can either stand by while neo-cons and warmongering Republicans like Cheney claim he is weak on defending against radical Islamists or else he can fire back against these guys with their non-existent evidence and let all the people see how Bush and Cheney almost destroyed the bill of rights of the U.S. constitution in their overreaction to the dangers posed by a very few screwballs.
Today the BBC reports that a roadside bomb has killed four U.S. soldiers in eastern Afghanistan.
Writes the BBC:
"A roadside bomb attack in eastern Afghanistan has killed four US soldiers, the Nato-led Isaf peacekeeping force has confirmed.
"Taleban insurgents reportedly claimed responsibility for the explosion which killed the servicemen in the province of Nangarhar.
"Reports suggest that the bomb went off as a convoy was passing.
"More than 60 foreign soldiers have been killed in the country this year, many of the losses claimed by the Taleban."
I have longed argued that the United States has no business sending its troops into any foreign country, especially a country like Afghanistan. No foreign invading and/or occupying force has ever conquered the Afghanis since the time of Alexander the Great. The desire to arrest Oasama bin Laden and Mullah Omar is understandable, but this operation should have been a small police action, not a military one carried out by an invading and occupying American army.
Just as it is a serious mistake for Mexican president Felipe Calderon to send the Mexican Army into towns like Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez to help conduct anti-narcotic raids, so it is a serious mistake for Barack Obama to commit 17,000 soldiers, sailors and marines to Afghanistan. This is sheer madness, having no explainable purpose and designed to end in more needless loss of life, such as we see today, not to mention the hatred and anti-Americanism such an occupation generates.
James Traub has a review of Rashid Khalidi's Sowing Crisis in today's Sunday Book Review in The New York Times.
Khalidi argues that for at least the last 75 years, the United States has been meddling in Middle East affairs with a goal of establishing a hegemonic control over the oil and wealth of the countries there. The case of Iran is no exception.
"Khalidi’s central argument is that the Bush administration’s interventionist posture toward the Middle East is no mere post-9/11 aberration, but represents an especially bellicose expression of a longstanding campaign. Today’s enemy is terrorism; yesterday’s was Communism. And just as the threat of Communism was wildly exaggerated 50 years ago, so, these days, “the global war on terror is in practice an American war in the Middle East against a largely imaginary set of enemies.” Khalidi’s point is not that American policy toward the Middle East has been consistently hysterical; rather, he says, it has been consistently cynical, exploiting an apocalyptic sense of threat in order to achieve the kind of dominance to which great powers, whatever their rhetoric, aspire."
Khalidi reminds readers that it was the U.S. that overthrew Mohammed Mossadegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran in 1953 when Mossadegh threatened to nationalize Iran's oil industry. Because of U.S. plotting against Mossadegh, the C.I.A. was able to bring back and install the Shah, a hated figure for many nationalistic Iranians.
"Most histories of America’s role in the Middle East, like Michael B. Oren’s Power, Faith and Fantasy,” focus on the naïveté and misguided idealism of a nation much given to moral crusades. Khalidi looks to interests rather than principles. His story of America’s active role in the Middle East begins in 1933, when the consortium known as Aramco signed an exclusive oil deal with Ibn Saud, the king of Saudi Arabia. Khalidi reminds us of familiar if squalid acts of American intervention, like the role of the C.I.A. in the 1953 overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh, the prime minister of Iran, who had championed the nationalization of his country’s oil industry. Khalidi also describes lesser-known ones, including the delivery of “briefcases full of cash” to Lebanon’s pro-Western president Camille Chamoun in order to help Chamoun rig the 1957 parliamentary election."
Friday, March 13, 2009
Why is it necessary for the U.S. government to compound and worsen matters with China over the presence of the U.S. navy ship Impeccable? Supposedly doing scientific work in the South China Sea, but in all probability spying on the Chinese submarine program centered on Hainan Island, a few miles away, the Impeccable has no business being where it is now.
Ann Scott Tyson reports for The Washington Post that Obama is sending a Navy destroyer to accompany the Impeccable and keep it safe from protesting Chinese fishing boats.
"The U.S. Navy has dispatched a guided-missile destroyer to the South China Sea after Chinese ships allegedly harassed an American ship operating there last weekend, a Pentagon official said yesterday.
"The USS Chung-Hoon, armed with torpedoes and missiles, is stationed in protection of the USNS Impeccable, an ocean surveillance ship. On Sunday, five Chinese vessels surrounded the Impeccable, which is unarmed. The Chinese ships approached to within 25 feet and blocked the Impeccable's path with pieces of wood, the official said."
Oh, by the way, the name of the U.S. destroyer is ironic. Chung-Hoon no doubt is named after a Chinese American, but have we forgotten that the United States had adopted a vehement anti-Chinese policy on immigration, and that the harsh racist immigration laws were relaxed only in the 1950s? Chinese were not welcomed into the United States for fear they would subvert American way of life and culture. The very same arguments that anti-immigration voices now make against Mexicans and Latinos. Now the U.S. is sending an American war ship having a Chinese name into the South China Sea to protect another American vessel engaged in spying upon the Chinese!
How would Obama and Americans like it if the Chinese Navy sent one of their spy ships and stationed it 100 miles off the Eastern Seaboard? There would be much gnashing of teeth and complaining that the Chinese were engaged in hostile acts towards the U.S.
Obama, call off the Navy spy ship and get both ships out of Chinese waters. You are no better than George W. Bush if you allow the military to continue on this provocative course.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
The current protests and street demonstrations in Pakistan are a continuation of the rightful demands of Pakistan's legal profession to reinstate Supreme Court Justice Iftikhar Chaudry and all the other judges and lawyers who have been illegally dismissed from office or imprisoned at the hands of former strongman Pervez Musharraf.
Pamela Constable reports from Islamabad for The Washington Post:
"Pakistani authorities arrested hundreds of political activists and banned public gatherings in two provinces Wednesday as President Asif Ali Zardari attempted to squelch a massive protest march organized by a coalition of opponents that includes lawyers and a former prime minister.
"The march, slated to begin Thursday, was originally planned by Pakistani lawyers as a peaceful action to demand the reinstatement of the deposed Supreme Court chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry. But in recent weeks it has been overtaken by the clash between Zardari, the leader of the Pakistan People's Party, and the rival Pakistan Muslim League faction led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Shahbaz.
"In scenes reminiscent of repression under Pakistan's former military regime, television footage Wednesday showed activists being dragged into police vans, even as major opposition leaders addressed boisterous rallies in several cities."
The current president Asif Ali Zardari, husband of the late Benazir Bhutto, is proving himself no better capable of preserving the rule of law and a democratic government in Pakistan than Pervez Musharraf, former president and general of the Pakistan army.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Juan Cole at Informed Comment has a "must-read" posting on why and how Obama called it quits on Charles Freeman as chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Cole says that Sen. Chuck Schumer called Rahm Emanuel to complain about Freeman, thus doing the bidding of those who cannot tolerate a U.S. foreign policy that wants to play fair with both Palestinians and Israelis. The knock against Freeman was that he was too pro-Palestinian.
"What happened to Freeman is further evidence for the resilience of the Israel lobbies and their enormous power in US politics. The Neoconservatives were roundly defeated on the budget, and even had to swallow George Mitchell as a special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. But they still have the power to exclude a Washington Arabist such as Freeman even from an appointive position.
"Israeli Apartheid will continue unabated under Obama."
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Washingtonpost.com has an article today from the AP reporting on head U.S. intelligence personnel testifying to Congress that Iran has not weapons-grade plutonium and that they believe Iran has not decided whether to actually produce any.
The AP reports:
"A top U.S. intelligence official says Iran does not have any highly enriched uranium, the fuel used to power a nuclear warhead.
"Defense Intelligence Agency chief Lt. Gen. Michael Maples says that Iran has not yet made the decision to build a nuclear bomb. Maples is testifying Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee."
I have been writing in the past that the U.S. under Bush has produced no credible evidence that Iran has been developing nuclear weapons. Yes, there has been a lot of speculation and exaggeration, even outright claims that Iran wants nuclear weapons so that it can destroy Israel. But all of it has been propaganda from the war mongers in both Israel and the U.S.
The fact that American intelligence now admits there is no evidence for believing Iran is engaged in nefarious nuclear bombmaking is good information for those of us who suspect that Israel is trying to justify an attack against Iran either by itself or in conjunction with the United States by hyping non-existence "intelligence" around its own war-mongering policy.
This disclosure of U.S. intelligence will make it almost impossible for Israel to proceed to bomb Teheran. But Israel does the unexpected so everyone must remain wary of propaganda emanating either from Israel or AIPAC here in the U.S. that tries to demonize Iran and Iranians for wanting peaceful nuclear power.
Monday, March 9, 2009
What is the United States doing with a navy ship in the South China Sea? Why does the U.S. need a naval vessel on the other side of the world?
Today, the Navy announced that five Chinese ships had "harassed" the American spy ship.
The BBC reports:
"The incident happened as the USNS Impeccable was on routine operations in international waters 75 miles (120km) south of Hainan island, a US statement said.
"The ships "aggressively manoeuvred" around the Impeccable "in an apparent co-ordinated effort to harass the US ocean surveillance ship while it was conducting routine operations in international waters", according to the Pentagon.
"Impeccable is designed specifically to detect underwater threats such as submarines for the US navy.
"Aggressive manoeuvring by ships by rival navies in sensitive international waters is not uncommon but Washington was sufficiently disturbed by the incident involving the Impeccable to make its concerns public, the BBC's Kevin Connolly reports from Washington."
I want Obama to pull U.S. war ships out of far-away seas and oceans. They have no business being there anyway other than to spy on foreign countries and cause resentment and incidents like the above.
Suppose China had one of its spy ships sail 75 miles off the coast of Long Island? What would the American people say about that? That it was justified by international law and that China had every right to be there? Or that China was engaged in spying on the American people and that it should immediately pull its ship away from the United States.
Some Americans will say that China is merely testing a new U.S. president but this is patently ludicrous. China has no reason to "test" Obama. Most Chinese hope that Obama will reverse Bush's antagonistic policies towards China and that Obama will establish more friendly relations. So there is no inner dynamic in China or its government to put Obama to a test.
This incident in the South China Sea underlines once again the imperialistic, militaristic and hegemonic foreign policy of the United States. Obama, call off the Navy ships and bring them home. The world awaits a new American foreign policy and hopes for a Pax Obama that relies not on guns and bombs but on diplomacy and mutual respect.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
I have posted here about the evident bias of many CNBC hosts and reporters against Obama and his plans for the economy, taxes and health care. Here is a link to my post several days ago.
On the same topic, here is Frank Rich writing in today's The New York Times about the meanies on CNBC railing against Obama's plans for health care reform, banking regulation and cutting tax deductions for the wealthy:
"Last week Jon Stewart whipped up a well-earned frenzy with an eight-minute “Daily Show” takedown of the stars of CNBC, the business network that venerated our financial gods, plugged their stocks and hyped the bubble’s reckless delusions. (Just as it had in the dot-com bubble.) Stewart’s horrifying clip reel featured Jim Cramer reassuring viewers that Bear Stearns was “not in trouble” just six days before its March 2008 collapse; Charlie Gasparino lip-syncing A.I.G.’s claim that its subprime losses were “very manageable” in December 2007; and Larry Kudlow declaring last April that “the worst of this subprime business is over.” The coup de grâce was a CNBC interviewer fawning over the lordly Robert Allen Stanford. Stewart spoke for many when he concluded, “Between the two of them I can’t decide which one of those guys I’d rather see in jail.”
"Led by Cramer and Kudlow, the CNBC carnival barkers are now, without any irony whatsoever, assailing the president as a radical saboteur of capitalism. It’s particularly rich to hear Cramer tar Obama (or anyone else) for “wealth destruction” when he followed up his bum steer to viewers on Bear Stearns with oleaginous on-camera salesmanship for Wachovia and its brilliant chief executive, a Cramer friend and former boss, just two weeks before it, too, collapsed. What should really terrify the White House is that Cramer last month gave a big thumbs-up to Timothy Geithner’s bank-rescue plan.
"In one way, though, the remaining vestiges of the past decade’s excesses, whether they live on in the shouted sophistry of CNBC or in the ashes of Stanford’s castle, are useful. Seen in the cold light of our long hangover, they remind us that it was the America of the bubble that was aberrant and perverse, creating a new normal that wasn’t normal at all."
Frank Rich is right on about the sophistry yelled and screamed at viewers by CNBC market "gurus." I don't know who is the worst on CNBC, they are all pretty bad. Rich did not name others exhibiting symptoms of equal irrational Obama animus. How about mean Michelle Cabruso Cabrera who asks why her tax dollars should help Detroit as if Detroit caused its own demise by being mostly black. Or Maria Bartiromo who condemns Obama for wanting to make the tax code fairer because it will raise taxes on those who make more than 250K, which certainly includes herself and her multi-millionaire spouse. Or Joe Kernen who believes government should stay out of the free market place unless his own 401k is on the line, in which case, he's all for government bailout.
To be fair, there are several CNBC hosts who come across in favor of fairness and rationality, such as John Harwood and Steve Liesman. But these guys are in the minority. Most of the others on CNBC seem to be bitten by the Republican sourness bug and so suffer from the "what's in it for me" syndrome.
With all this anti-Obama Republican venom spewed on CNBC, I find myself watching less and less.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
The BBC has a report today on "wanton destruction" of Palestinian homes by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) during the three-week bombardment of Gaza this past January.
The BBC reports that Amnesty International found evidence that IDF intentionally destroyed apartment buildings and homes:
Human rights investigators say Israeli forces engaged in "wanton destruction" of Palestinian homes during the recent conflict in Gaza.
"Amnesty International has told the BBC News website the methods used raised concerns about war crimes.
"Israel's military said buildings were destroyed because of military "operational needs".
"The Israeli Defense Forces said they operated in accordance with international law during the conflict.
"However, the use of mines to destroy homes contradicted this claim, the head of the Amnesty International fact-finding mission to southern Israel and Gaza, Donatella Rovera, has argued."
This is only one facet of Israel's barbaric destruction of Palestinian infrastructure, including police stations, schools, mosques and hospitals.
"There were also whole neighbourhoods reduced to rubble in areas where the Israeli ground forces were present.
"Ms Rovera said Amnesty International was concerned about "large scale destruction of homes and other civilian properties" during the conflict.
""The destruction was, in our view, and according to our findings, wanton destruction - it could not be justified on military grounds," she said.
"Ms Rovera said her team found fragments of anti-tank mines in and around destroyed properties."
The International Court of Justice needs to pursue its investigation of these IDF actions. Destroying civilian homes as a form of collective punishment is a war crime, not allowed by any country including Israel. Of course Israel will say that there were "terrorists" hiding in the buildings, or that Hamas "terrorists" were hiding behind women and children and using them as "shields." This is just more spin put forth by Israel to attempt to justify the indefensible.
Israel and the IDF have tried to starve the Palestinians in Gaza and thus eliminate all of them. When closing the borders did not have its desired effect, Israel then tried to eliminate the Palestinians by bombs, war planes and tank shells filled with white phosphorous.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Why must we viewers of Nightly Business Report have to put up with Paul Kangas' guest on tonight who blames the market sell-off on Barack Obama?
Is there no one in charge at NBR who makes sure guests don't go off on a political tirade? I watch NBR especially on Friday nights to see what guests recommend as to stocks and bonds. I don't appreciate being lectured by right wing nut jobs like Mark Skousen on how Obama's reform of health care is too costly or extreme.
But I blame Kangas and the producers of NBR for even allowing this to occur. Hint to NBR - first screen your potential guests so that you can prevent mean Republicans like Skousen from even appearing on the program.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Have you noticed all the Republicans on CNBC's market shows during the day trying to pin the stock market's fall on Barack Obama? Some of the worst shills for Republican spin are Larry Kudlow, Michelle Cabruso Cabrera and Maria Bartiromo. These people love to say that Obama's budget and/or tax policy is (are) the cause of stocks going down, as if Obama started the present precipitous fall instead of inheriting it from Bush, or that he caused the banks for the last several years to purchase billions of mortgages whose risk they had not a speck of understanding.
I am tired of all the whining and carping that this whole mess, created by Bush and his policy of deregulating banking, securities and housing regulations, is somehow all the fault of Obama.
Did I mention Jim Cramer as a member of CNBC's conservative chorus? Cramer calls Obama a "socialist," thus dating himself as growing up in the 40s and 50s. This guy knows nothing. Consider that this is the same Cramer who recommended his viewers purchase Wells Fargo at 35, Goldman Sachs at 190, and Bank of America at 40. Look where these stocks are now, cut in half or thirds. So Cramer is no expert even though that's what his oversized ego would like to pretend.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
How can the United States government and Hillary Clinton pledge eternal support and friendship to Israel after what Israel did to the Palestinian people in Gaza at the beginning of January?
The Israeli Defense Forces bombed mosques, schools, yes even a university, police stations and worst of all homes and apartment buildings. Can anyone come up with a better example of "collective punishment?" Israel responding to rocket fire from Gaza decides to punish and bomb the entire Gazan population.
But this is nothing new for Israel. For the last year and half preceding its attack on Gazan infrastructure and the Palestinian people living there, Israel closed all border crossings, letting in meagre rations of food, fuel and medicine. Again we have a classic example of punishing the population for the sins of a few.
Of course rocket firings into Israeli towns must stop. But that is no excuse for Israel to try to kill the entire Palestinian population.
So how could Clinton commit the U.S. to everlasting support of Israel in view of all the above?
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Finally after several years of being special envoy to the Middle East, Tony Blair has seen fit to actually visit Gaza. The BBC reports that Blair's visit was only brief, and that he did not plan to meet with any members of Hamas.
Last year Blair was to go into Gaza, but, at the last minute, the Israelis scared him by spreading rumors that there would be an attempt to either kidnap or assassinate him. So wimpy Blair called off his trip.
Blair's visit is overdue. It is about time. Blair needs to see with his own eyes the destruction and misery caused by the IDF's disproportionate bombing and shelling of schools, hospitals, mosques and homes in Gaza.
Larry Kudlow, that Republican ideologue on CNBC, calls the Democratic budget and tax policy "socialistic." As the use of this term seems to date Kudlow back about 50 years, I would not think other Republicans would pick this up. Does anyone out there in Republican land really believe that universal health care is "socialistic?" Or that a progressive tax policy that increases income taxes on people who make over $250K indicative of an unfair "soak the rich?" Or how about establishing more regulation for banks and brokerage firms to prevent stuff like the Bernie Madoff scam?
But in today's Week in Review in The New York Times, Mark Leibovich writes:
"The early fiscal activism of President Obama has provided a heap of new fodder for anti-socialists, effectively turning a useful label meant to inspire fear into a we-told-you-so taunt. Last week’s blizzard of economic developments — the administration’s new budget, its partial takeover of another major bank — was fortuitous timing for CPAC, which ran from Thursday to Saturday, giving conservatives an opportunity to give full-throated voice to this re-fashioned refrain."
This is all too reminiscent of hearing people in Queens and Brooklyn some 50 years ago criticize FDR and the Democrats for their socialistic programs. Back then, providing social security retirement income was a radical communistic program for some Irish Catholics at St. Thomas parish who thought that Joe McCarthy was a Catholic saint and that there should be a law against Jews, Italians and Puerto Ricans moving in and "disrupting" Irish neighborhoods like Woodhaven.
"Of course, there is nothing remotely new about “socialism,” or the willingness of conservatives to hit the opposition over the head with the term, just as the name callers among the liberals have bludgeoned conservatives as “fascists,” “fundamentalists” and “plutocrats” and whatnot for decades.
"But the socialist bogey-mantra has made a full-scale return after a long stretch of relative dormancy. . . .
"“The right would use ‘socialist’ against Franklin Roosevelt all the time in the 1930s,” said Charles Geisst, a financial historian at Manhattan College in the Bronx. “To hear him referred to as Comrade Roosevelt during that period was not unusual.” But while socialism is being invoked repeatedly now, Mr. Geisst said, it is a less potent slam than it once was."
Calling Obama and Democrats "socialists" seems to highlight a lack of coherent and rational opposition in the Republicans these days. The Republican platform seems thin and weak. Other than tax cuts, what do Republicans stand for? They have no program for the forty million without health care, they have no program to restore the economy, they have no program for withdrawal from Iraq. So in the absence of any thought-out policies, Republicans fall back like children and start to call names.
"“Americans are just genetically opposed to socialism,” said Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group headed by Dick Armey, the former House Republican leader.
"Mr. Kibbe had just finished moderating a CPAC panel in a packed ballroom on Friday morning called “Bailing Out Big Business: Are We All Socialists Now?”
"After four speakers took turns whacking the S-beast, Mr. Kibbe ended the proceeding with a quick survey:
“If anyone here is not a socialist, raise your hand,” he said, before heading off to a reassuring mass of palms."