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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Exactly WHAT Foreign Policy experience are you talking about Sen. Clinton?

It's Saturday morning, I just killed my eggs and washed it down with some terrible cherry limemenade. It's early, yet somethings are already causing my blood to boil: [Note: I began this post Saturday morning if you didn't already guess. I was kinda busy]

"What things?" you ask (well....ask already!!)

....Since you insist:

I've been getting sick and tired of hearing Hillary Clinton repeatedly tout her supposed "experience" in general and her foreign policy experience in particular as some kind of reason why she is a superior candidate to Barack Obama.

But that's not what pisses me off the most. What gets me is that she has been getting a free pass from the press when it comes to this issue.

Why has nobody called her on this?

First off: She was the First Lady, not the President. She was not party to NSC meetings, and wasn't a big part of the foreign policy formulation of the Clinton Administration. It baffles me that nobody stopped to scrutinize her "experience" claims.

Well some people finally started exploring how good her claims to "experience" were. The verdict: Her claims to experience are way overblown.

Chicago Tribune

First the back-and-forth

Surrounded by military leaders in a Cabinet-style setting, Hillary Clinton on Thursday said she has "crossed the threshold" of foreign policy experience to serve as commander in chief. Supporters of rival Barack Obama fired back immediately, arguing that the former first lady's trips abroad hardly constituted a practice run for managing global crises. "She was never asked to do the heavy lifting" when meeting with foreign leaders, said Susan Rice, who was an assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration and is now advising Obama. "She wasn't asked to move the mountain or deliver a harsh message or a veiled threat. It was all gentle prodding or constructive reinforcement. And it would not have been appropriate for her to do the heavy lifting."


And now the scrutiny of her claims:

Clinton says she is the answer, arguing that Obama's major achievement was his early opposition to the Iraq war in 2002. Indeed, Obama doesn't have much in the way of experience managing foreign crises, nor does Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, for that matter. In fact, it is rare for any president to have that kind of experience before coming into office. (snip) But while Hillary Clinton represented the U.S. on the world stage at important moments while she was first lady, there is scant evidence that she played a pivotal role in major foreign policy decisions or in managing global crises. Pressed in a CNN interview this week for specific examples of foreign policy experience that has prepared her for an international crisis, Clinton claimed that she "helped to bring peace" to Northern Ireland and negotiated with Macedonia to open up its border to refugees from Kosovo. She also cited "standing up" to the Chinese government on women's rights and a one-day visit she made to Bosnia following the Dayton peace accords.


But when those specific examples are examines closely?:

But her involvement in the Northern Ireland peace process was primarily to encourage activism among women's groups there, a contribution that the lead U.S. negotiator described as "helpful" but that an Irish historian who has written extensively about the conflict dismissed as "ancillary" to the peace process. The Macedonian government opened its border to refugees the day before Clinton arrived to meet with government leaders. And her mission to Bosnia was a one-day visit in which she was accompanied by performers Sheryl Crow and Sinbad, as well as her daughter, Chelsea, according to the commanding general who hosted her.


In other words: A goodwill trip...hardly the "experience" she claims it to be.

Her China Speech?

...Still, Rice questioned whether that trip amounted to the kind of preparation for a global crisis that Clinton has claimed. "How does going to Beijing and giving a speech show crisis management? There was no crisis. And there was nothing to manage," Rice said.


Experience vs. Judgement

She criticizes Obama for his lack of experience but in point of fact Senator Clinton has been a Senator only a few years longer that Senator Obama, hardly that much of a difference. They were both lawyers, community organizers and more prior to their political lives (in fact, Obama served many years in the Illinois state senate prior to running for US Senate).

Here's the thing: I don't care about experience necessarily. No position can prepare someone for the type of responsibility of being President. And in terms of foreign policy experience lets be clear:

Very few Presidents come in knowledgeable about foreign policy or experienced in dealing with international crises. Believe it or not very few get International Relations degrees, or related degrees (it's quite common that they don't actually).

As the article notes above, nobody running (Dem or Rep) really has substantial experience managing international crises. It's usually not incumbent for a president to know it all coming in, that's precisely why Presidents have expert advisers (and who one chooses as advisers then becomes important. Needless to say I like Obamas advisers much better).

What a President does need is this: To be relatively intelligent. And able to demonstrate reasonable judgment when unexpected (or expected) situations arise that require the Presidents attention.

And judging by that criteria, Barack Obama has shown a clear superiority to Clinton and all her "experience." (for what it is worth)

On one of the single most important foreign policy issues facing America today, and on the single most important foreign policy decision Senator Clinton and Barack Obama could make it is clear:

Senator Clinton DROPPED THE BALL. She made a bad choice. She showed bad judgment and/or was too much of a coward in the face of a political situation in which opposing war was unpopular that she choose to support the awful 2002 resolution authorizing force in Iraq. She claims it was a vote for "diplomacy", but anybody honest with themselves knew it was a vote for war...

Barack Obama on the other hand came to a different and very prescient conclusion (considering how things worked out)

From the 2002 speech that Clinton has the balls to make light of:

Good afternoon. Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances. The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union, and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil. I don't oppose all wars.

My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton's army. He saw the dead and dying across the fields of Europe; he heard the stories of fellow troops who first entered Auschwitz and Treblinka. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil, and he did not fight in vain. I don't oppose all wars.

After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this administration's pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such tragedy from happening again. I don't oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism.

What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne...(snip)

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history. I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars.




And this gets to the heart of what differentiates Senator Obama from Senator Clinton:

One had MUCH better judgment and MUCH better instincts and reasoning on such a serious foreign policy decision. So much so that he correctly saw that even a successful invasion would be fraught with problems in the post-invasion.

Just in this one instance he rightfully destroys any persuasiveness that might come from her claims to superior "exprerience". Experience that I might note (and have noted), is very dubious anyways. A clear reason why I would prefer Obama to answer that red phone at 3 AM (or anytime) over Senator Clinton.

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Some might argue that it was politically hard to oppose it as a Senator, and Obama wasn't a senator at the time so he gets off easy.

The argument is that he would have made the same decision in her shoes.

First: That's impossible to prove.
Second: Barack Obama was running for Senate at the time. Meaning he was taking a stand against war, as a candidate for Senate, at a time in which opposition to war was dangerous for politicians much less a candidate for Senator to make. Demonstrating not only judgment, but also courage. Where was Clinton's courage?

Absent...

I don't expect a Ph.D in International Relations to run our nation...

All I want is someone who can not only prove they have the intelligence to lead, but the necessary judgment and courage to lead as well.

Senator Barack Obama has that.

Senator Clinton gives me reason to doubt her.....

Goodnight

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

So I Guess Ron Paul IS a Racist.....

A couple days ago I gave Ron Paul the benefit of the doubt: That he was just a extremist fringe libertarian and not a racist.

Then came this (my update to the same post):

UPDATE 12/26/07: Holy crap!! I may have just spoken too soon about Ron Paul and the questions of racism that float around him.

Yersterday, on the question of whether Ron Paul was a racist or just hyper-militantly devoted to an extreme interpretation of property rights (god I hate libertarian nut-balls...) and a moron, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and concluded he was the latter.

Seems I spoke too soon:

From Ron Pauls own political newsletters back in 1991 (and more), and in his own words: (via phenry of Dailykos who links back to supporting documentation)

Regardless of what the media tell us, most white Americans are not going to believe that they are at fault for what blacks have done to cities across America. The professional blacks may have cowed the elites, but good sense survives at the grass roots. Many more are going to have difficultly avoiding the belief that our country is being destroyed by a group of actual and potential terrorists -- and they can be identified by the color of their skin. This conclusion may not be entirely fair, but it is, for many, entirely unavoidable.

Indeed, it is shocking to consider the uniformity of opinion among blacks in this country. Opinion polls consistently show that only about 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions, i.e. support the free market, individual liberty, and the end of welfare and affirmative action.... Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the "criminal justice system," I think we can safely assume that 95% of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.

If similar in-depth studies were conducted in other major cities, who doubts that similar results would be produced? We are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, but it is hardly irrational. Black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings, and burglaries all out of proportion to their numbers.

Perhaps the L.A. experience should not be surprising. The riots, burning, looting, and murders are only a continuation of 30 years of racial politics.The looting in L.A. was the welfare state without the voting booth. The elite have sent one message to black America for 30 years: you are entitled to something for nothing. That's what blacks got on the streets of L.A. for three days in April. Only they didn't ask their Congressmen to arrange the transfer.


And more:

Texas congressional candidate Ron Paul's 1992 political newsletter highlighted portrayals of blacks as inclined toward crime and lacking sense about top political issues.

Under the headline of "Terrorist Update," for instance, Paul reported on gang crime in Los Angeles and commented, "If you have ever been robbed by a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be."

Paul, a Republican obstetrician from Surfside, said Wednesday he opposes racism and that his written commentaries about blacks came in the context of "current events and statistical reports of the time."

... [I]n the same 1992 edition ... [Paul wrote], "We don't think a child of 13 should be held responsible as a man of 23. That's true for most people, but black males age 13 who have been raised on the streets and who have joined criminal gangs are as big, strong, tough, scary and culpable as any adult and should be treated as such."

Paul also asserted that "complex embezzling" is conducted exclusively by non-blacks.

"What else do we need to know about the political establishment than that it refuses to discuss the crimes that terrify Americans on grounds that doing so is racist? Why isn't that true of complex embezzling, which is 100 percent white and Asian?" he wrote.

Daaaaaaaamn. I have nothing to say but...he's your candidate Ron Paul bots. Geez, and what about the African-America supporters of Ron Paul...that's just damn shameful to associate with such an ignorant racist.

Just because he manages to sound damn sensible when it comes to Iraq, Iran, and presidential power does not mean we should ignore the batshit craziness he displays on just about everything else.

Wake up Paulbots!! Wake the hell up!!


Now Ron Paul apologists are trying to spin away his past racist comments:

From Free Market News Network (sounds like a Libertarian news network...it figures):

Internet information claiming that presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX) is a racist – and made derogatory comments about African Americans - has been making the rounds within the blogosphere. But sources close to the editorial group that published the newsletter (or newsletters) that supposedly carried the comments claim that Ron Paul never had anything to do with them, and wasn’t even aware of them.

These sources say that editorial operation in question was a fairly large one, and profitable for its time - focused in large part on measures that one could take to generate a lifestyle independent of government influence and intervention.


The publication, or publications, comprised a business venture to which Ron Paul lent his name. Headquarters were “60 miles away” from Ron Paul’s personal Texas offices. At the time that the publications were being disseminated, primarily in the 1980s, Ron Paul was involved in numerous activities including Libertarian politics.
He eventually ran for U.S. president as a Libertarian.


“This was a big operation,” says one source. “And Ron Paul was a busy man. He was doctor, a politician and free-market commentator. A publication had to go out at a certain time and Ron Paul often was not around to oversee the lay out, printing or mailing. Many times he did not participate in the composition, either.”


This source and others add that publications utilized guest writers and editors on a regular basis. Often these guest writers and editors would write a “Ron Paul” column, under which the derogatory comments might have been issued.


Seriously!!!!???? That's his excuse?!

Lets put it together: A Newsletter he formed, that carried his name on the cover and published under his byline and he had no idea about it until afterwards?

So what if his office is 60 miles away: Lets assume it WAS written by someone else under Ron Pauls name. Lets assume he was so busy being a "libertarian politician" that he could not always come to the newsletters office.

There are faxes, UPS and more even in 1991...you mean to tell me that he didn't even bother to review (and then sign off on) a column published under his name, in his newsletter...sorry I don't buy it. He may not have had the time to manage everything but there is usually some time to sign off on something

Says one source, “Ron Paul didn’t know about those comments, or know they were written under his name until much later when they were brought to his attention.

There were several issues that went out with comments that he would not ordinarily make. He was angry when he saw them.”
Ron Paul has said that he did not write the comments in question, but, nonetheless, has taken "moral" responsibility for them.

An excerpt from an apparent interview with Texas Monthly as quoted on the blog Everything2.com clarifies the above information as follows: "In spite of calls from Gary Bledsoe, the president of the Texas State Conference of the NAACP, and other civil rights leaders for an apology for such obvious racial typecasting, Paul stood his ground.

He said only that his remarks about Barbara Jordan related to her stands on affirmative action and that his written comments about blacks were in the context of 'current events and statistical reports of the time.'

He denied any racist intent. What made the statements in the publication even more puzzling was that, in four terms as a U. S. congressman and one presidential race, Paul had never uttered anything remotely like this.


"When I ask him why, he pauses for a moment, then says, 'I could never say this in the campaign, but those words weren't really written by me. It wasn't my language at all. Other people help me with my newsletter as I travel around. I think the one on Barbara Jordan was the saddest thing, because Barbara and I served together and actually she was a delightful lady.' ...


"His reasons for keeping this a secret are harder to understand: 'They were never my words, but I had some moral responsibility for them . . . I actually really wanted to try to explain that it doesn't come from me directly, but they campaign aides said that's too confusing. "It appeared in your letter and your name was on that letter and therefore you have to live with it." '

It is a measure of his stubbornness, determination, and ultimately his contrarian nature that, until this surprising volte-face in our interview, he had never shared this secret. It seems, in retrospect, that it would have been far, far easier to have told the truth at the time."



Sooooo, supposedly he didn't know and was disappointed when he learned about them....right.

Sounds...not plausible. But, again, lets say for the sake of argument that he did not write them and that he did feel bad after learning about the comments.

If he really was so mad and disappointed with those comments why no retraction of the remarks? Why no apologies or explanations in subsequent editions of the newsletter? Why?

Probably because he wasn't all too offended by the words (because they were likely his), because most of his readers at the time weren't offended either, and because it wasn't such a big deal until some people started snooping around for his past statements.

This excuse is pathetic.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

"The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush" (and short roundup)

I came across this piece in Vanity Fair written by renowned Nobel Laureate (and I believe former World Bank or IMF President..not sure) Joseph Stiglitz where he argues that the economic and other damage wrought by this president surpass, and his stewardship of the economy is worse even than Herbert Hoover. [Herbert Hoover being the president at the start of the Great Depression]

Please. Read. This.

Here are some excerpts:

When we look back someday at the catastrophe that was the Bush administration, we will think of many things: the tragedy of the Iraq war, the shame of Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, the erosion of civil liberties. The damage done to the American economy does not make front-page headlines every day, but the repercussions will be felt beyond the lifetime of anyone reading this page.

I can hear an irritated counterthrust already. The president has not driven the United States into a recession during his almost seven years in office. Unemployment stands at a respectable 4.6 percent. Well, fine. But the other side of the ledger groans with distress: a tax code that has become hideously biased in favor of the rich; a national debt that will probably have grown 70 percent by the time this president leaves Washington; a swelling cascade of mortgage defaults; a record near-$850 billion trade deficit; oil prices that are higher than they have ever been; and a dollar so weak that for an American to buy a cup of coffee in London or Paris—or even the Yukon—becomes a venture in high finance...(snip)

Up to now, the conventional wisdom has been that Herbert Hoover, whose policies aggravated the Great Depression, is the odds-on claimant for the mantle “worst president” when it comes to stewardship of the American economy. Once Franklin Roosevelt assumed office and reversed Hoover’s policies, the country began to recover. The economic effects of Bush’s presidency are more insidious than those of Hoover, harder to reverse, and likely to be longer-lasting. There is no threat of America’s being displaced from its position as the world’s richest economy. But our grandchildren will still be living with, and struggling with, the economic consequences of Mr. Bush...(snip)

On the tax cuts...


But the Bush administration had its own ideas. The first major economic initiative pursued by the president was a massive tax cut for the rich, enacted in June of 2001. Those with incomes over a million got a tax cut of $18,000—more than 30 times larger than the cut received by the average American. The inequities were compounded by a second tax cut, in 2003, this one skewed even more heavily toward the rich. Together these tax cuts, when fully implemented and if made permanent, mean that in 2012 the average reduction for an American in the bottom 20 percent will be a scant $45, while those with incomes of more than $1 million will see their tax bills reduced by an average of $162,000.

The administration crows that the economy grew—by some 16 percent—during its first six years, but the growth helped mainly people who had no need of any help, and failed to help those who need plenty. A rising tide lifted all yachts. Inequality is now widening in America, and at a rate not seen in three-quarters of a century. A young male in his 30s today has an income, adjusted for inflation, that is 12 percent less than what his father was making 30 years ago. Some 5.3 million more Americans are living in poverty now than were living in poverty when Bush became president. America’s class structure may not have arrived there yet, but it’s heading in the direction of Brazil’s and Mexico’s.



He deals with the Bankruptcy and mortgage mess, Iraq, oil and gas prices, our image internationally, our messed up trade policies and more. It is a real good read although it really does bring home just how much the next few President's and Congresses will have to work just to fix the damage of this man's stewarship.

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In a previous post ("Calm Before the Storm..") on tuesday, I noted that the US was in big trouble in the near future as it came to face some problems that are currently under the surface:

The US is in for a big shock when those groups that they are arming (al-Sahwa people) suddenly turn their guns on them, just as those just mentioned above (anti-US and AQI currently, but regrouping) also resume attacks on US soldiers and on the Shia government and people.

Matters will further get worse whenever Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr decides to end his ceasefire (and he will) and resume his attacks on Sunnis and on Americans.

No, this is not progress. This is not progress at all...

A triple wammy that will quickly end the relative (and it really is just relative) "quiet" in Iraq recently.

Number 3 on that list was Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Militia. He currently has declared a cease-fire, but it is obviously temporary and self-serving.

All we have to do is look back to 2004 when he last declared a ceasefire to see how that worked out.

Back then a ceasefire was called to allow time for the militia to regroup, recoup, rearm, and reorganize in a manner that will allow for greater control and loytalty to al-Sadr. Also a break to better train themselves into more effective fighters.


As many as 80 Iranian agents are working with an estimated 500 Sadr militiamen, known as the Mahdi Army, providing training and nine 57-mm Russian antiaircraft guns to add to stocks of mortars, antitank weapons, and other armaments, according to Iraqi and US intelligence reports.






"They are preparing for something, gathering weapons; people are coming in buses from other parts of Iraq," says Michael al-Zurufi, the Iraqi security adviser of Najaf Province. "The most important are the Iran- ians. The Iranian people are trying to reorganize Sadr's militia so they can fight again."

At the same time, heavily armed Sadr militiamen are waging fear tactics, kidnapping local Iraqi police and family members, occupying buildings, and arresting Iraqis deemed critical of Sadr or in violation of Islamic law, residents and officials say.

Signs that the Sadr militia is regrouping after heavy losses in April and May come even as Iraqi leaders are attempting to nudge the firebrand cleric into the political arena.

There is reason to be skeptical about the current ceasfire...and when that ends.

It'll be a disaster by itself, but it will be a bloodbath if the "al-Sahwa" Sunnis and the anti-US Sunnis join in...

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"Not us. We're not going"
- Troop unity, and morale are suffering in Iraq. A disturbing story about one such "mutiny"

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Monday, December 10, 2007

The Calm Before the Storm..

So, I guess I've been lagging ALOT on the blogging lately, which is bad considering the interesting developments out there (Iran NIE, CIA destruction of videotapes showing "enhanced interrogations i.e. torture)

What I'm going to do is get rid of all the things on my computer:

So first, I'll deal with Iraq matters

Next, with that done, I want to do a roundup-type piece within the next couple days devoted exclusively to the Iran National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that undercut the Administrations case for war. So far I have like 5 or six links related to that, although it could increase by the time I write something up.

It's a little late, but it could still prove useful to people who aren't TV news, or online news junkies like me. :)

Ok, lets begin

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Iraq - Fear of a Growing Sunni Militia

The al-Anbar province has seen a marked decline in violence as more an more Sunni sheiks, and former insurgent groups -- temporarily -- cooperate with the US in order to rid themselves of the Sunni foreign fighters of Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

This temporary state of affairs, along with the decision by powerful Shia militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr to unilaterally declare a ceasefire has accounted for most of the drop in violence seen in Iraq recently.

Ignorant types, or those who see it in their political interest to say so, point to the US Surge as the reason for the improving situation, but it really is quite ridiculous.

It completely ignores the previously mentioned factors and what's more it assigns the cause for the reduction in violence to a surge of only 30,000 extra troops -- most located within the Baghdad area. Leaving us to wonder how these extra troops could have pacified regions they are not even in...you'd think someone would think to ask.

Others also like to point to the "Al-Anbar Model" and the "Al-Anbar Awakening" -- which is a reason for the reduction in violence in the Sunni region of al-Anbar -- as a positive sign for Iraq.

That is conclusion that I seriously disagreed with, as demonstrated in these two blog posts from September19th and December 3rd.

Long story short: It sacrifices long and medium turn security, for short terms gains which not only are likely to be temporary, but have yet to foster the political progress that it was supposed to. In fact, it has actually added fire to the sectarian hatred an animosity that fuels the Iraqi civil war, and empowered a Sunni militia in Anbar that threatens the stability and power of the Shia-dominated Iraqi Central government in Baghdad, thus undercutting the goal of fostering Iraqi unity.

And the Shia's in the central government are definitely worried
about the growing Sunni might that the US is helping to foster in al-Anbar as part of it "al-Anbar" model.


The American campaign to turn Sunni Muslims against Islamic extremists is growing so quickly that Iraq's Shiite Muslim leaders fear that it's out of control and threatens to create a potent armed force that will turn against the government one day...

But that hasn't calmed mounting concerns among aides to Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, who charge that some of the groups include "terrorists" who attack Shiite residents in their neighborhoods. Some of the new "concerned citizens" are occupying houses that terrified Shiite families abandoned, they said.

It also hasn't quieted criticism that the program is trading long-term Iraqi stability for short-term security gains.

"There is a danger here that we are going to have armed all three sides: the Kurds in the north, the Shiite and now the Sunni militias," said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst who's now at The Brookings Institution, a center-left policy organization in Washington, D.C.

In my view they have a legitimate concern. Iraqi Sunnis are highly suspicious of the central government who they see dominated and controlled by Iraq's Shias. They see the Iraqi central government as under the grip of the Shias, who stubbornly refuse to deal with Iraqi Sunnis and give them more real political power and influence in the central government.

The Shia's certainly have a troubled history of subjugation by the minority Sunnis which is the root of all the mistrust of giving Sunnis power, but I see little way to resolve the situation unless the Shia's relax some of their grip on power in the central government. Jeez, I went on an unrelated tangent there...

Anyways, as I was saying, the Shia-dominated central government is fearful of the rising strenght and organization of the Sunni militias that the US is helping to foster.

But the US and the central government have addition problems:

We already know that the Sunni groups currently working with the US to rid AQI from Anbar are only doing so on a temporary basis -- vowing to resume fighting Americans when the job is done --

Further evidence of the shortsightedness of the "Anbar Model" is provided in the following news items which explains how Sunni insurgent groups have deliberately scaled back attacks on US troops in order to regroup and retrain for when the extra troops finally leave Baghdad.

Iraq's main Sunni-led resistance groups have scaled back their attacks on US forces in Baghdad and parts of Anbar province in a deliberate strategy aimed at regrouping, retraining, and waiting out George Bush's "surge", a key insurgent leader has told the Guardian.

US officials recently reported a 55% drop in attacks across Iraq. One explanation they give is the presence of 30,000 extra US troops deployed this summer. The other is the decision by dozens of Sunni tribal leaders to accept money and weapons from the Americans in return for confronting al-Qaida militants who attack civilians. They call their movement al-Sahwa (the Awakening).

The resistance groups are another factor in the complex equation in Iraq's Sunni areas. "We oppose al-Qaida as well as al-Sahwa," the director of the political department of the 1920 Revolution Brigades told the Guardian in Damascus in a rare interview with a western reporter.

The US is in for a big shock when those groups that they are arming (al-Sahawa people) suddenly turn their guns on them, just as those just mentioned above (anti-US and AQI currently, but regrouping) also resume attacks on US soldiers and on the Shia government and people.

Matters will further get worse whenever Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr decides to end his ceasefire (and he will) and resume his attacks on Sunnis and on Americans.

No, this is not progress. This is not progress at all...

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Roundup

South America launches new bank to rival the International Monetary Fund - Interesting move by the various South American nations. Certainly the IMF and its strict loan conditions have caused problems in the borrower countries often enough...I can see where the desire for an alternative comes from. Not exactly my cup of tea...I'd sure love to hear what my old International Political Economy professor would have to say on this.

Tom Tancredo Hires Illegal Laborers to Renovate His Mansion - Rabid anti-immigrant personality Tom Tancredo has problems practicing what he preaches. Smell that hypocrisy...

That's all for tonight. I'll get on that Iran NIE post sometime in the next couple days.

Goodnight.


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Monday, December 03, 2007

There are Dangers to Further Stoking Ethnic Hatred in Iraq

A November 30, 2007 post in Wired details the ongoing US efforts to reduce violence in Sunni parts of Iraq.

Psychological operations specialist Sgt. Joe Colabuno spent a year-and-a-half helping convince the Sunni residents of Fallujah to turn against local extremists by appealing to citizens' sense of civic pride, pumping up their love of the national soccer team, citing the Koran, and provoking jihadists to overreact. Colabuno also appealed to the Sunnis hatred and fear of Shi'ites, and of Shi'ite Iran.

"For 7 or 8 months," Colabuno tells me, "all we hear about is 'Iran is doing all [of the attacks], Iran is behind everything.' There was frustration from them [Fallujah's locals] because we wouldn't 'admit it.' Like maybe the U.S. was conspiring with Iran."

"We'd stress in our SITREPS [situation reports] that in order to get these people on our side, we've got to play into their fears abut Iran," he adds.

Then, in January, "the White House suddenly got involved," talking tough about how Tehran was stoking instability in Iraq. "That overnight changed the attitudes of the people towards us. They took it as almost an apology," he adds.

In local newspaper articles, in radio and loudspeaker broadcasts -- and in talks on the street -- Colabuno started playing up "operations against Shi'a militia." He played up how the U.S. troop "surge" was silencing Shi'a leader Moktada "al-Sadr's yipping and yapping."

The tactics seems to follow quite nicely from previous "successes" that the US had with its 'Al-Anbar Model.' This model sought to reduce the power of the Sunni extremist group Al-Qaeda in Iraq -- made up mainly of foreign fighters -- by working with/bribing/making deals with/etc Sunni sheiks and (formerly insurgent groups) so that they crack down on AQI.

As I remarked at the time (September): It was a dangerous move

I gave several reasons why such a strategy was potentially very dangerous:

First, that the Anbar Model was arming former enemies who promise to return to fighting us:

We are arming groups (or at the very least giving them money that they use to buy arms) that promise to turn those guns on us once they finish with al-Qaeda in Iraq.

You see, the problem with enemy-of-my-enemy marriages of conveniences is that they are good until, well...it's no longer convenient. The Sunni insurgency already has the American's number. They are well seasoned in how to attack American's. But now they want to get rid of AQI and know the US will provide them the arms and funding to do so.

But these groups have promised [in public no less] to resume attacks on US soldiers once they have finished dealing a sufficient blow on AQI.


Second, and most relevant for today's post, was that such a strategy only poured more gasoline on the already raging Iraqi civil war by increasing the ethnic hatred that's feeding it. And that this undercuts the goal of Iraqi unity and stability.

It feeds the specter of full-scale civil war by arming and funding different and competing sides in a civil and ethnic conflict.

The Sunnis in Anbar, or anywhere in Iraq, do not trust or want the Shia-dominated [and US supported] government in Baghdad. They want nothing to do with it.

By funding and arming the Sunni insurgent groups in al-Anbar Province they are effectively funding and arming a rival to the government in Baghdad. The US has propped up and helped the Government in Baghdad, and now is undercutting it by funding and empowering a rival in Anbar province. In essence fueling multiple sides in any civil war. That is counter productive towards the goal of Iraqi unity, and makes it less likely that the central government can exercise any control over all of Iraq outside Shia regions, and even that might not be true (I'll explain in the Roundup). The US is ensuring that Iraq will break into a Sunni region, a Kurdish region in the north, and Shia region in the center and south...and these groups will fight it out in full-scale bloodbath once the US leaves. We should NOT make the bloodbath any worse than its going to be.

What the US is doing in the Wired piece at the top follows along the same lines - in fact it is in fact a lot stupider because in this case the US occupation forces are specifically, directly, and knowingly trying to rally Sunnis (who are a minority in Iraq) behind the US by inciting hatred and mistrust of Iraqi Shiites and of Iran (who is mainly Shia).

Colabuno also appealed to the Sunnis hatred and fear of Shi'ites, and of Shi'ite Iran [From the Wired link at the top of this post - Oscar]

In effect, the US is trying to decrease violence and increase stability in Iraq by, yep...inciting further ethnic hatred, arming and empowering a rival to the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad.

This, along with the rest of the "Anbar Model" have the Shia's dominating the Iraqi central government very worried: (and with good reason)

The American campaign to turn Sunni Muslims against Islamic extremists is growing so quickly that Iraq's Shiite Muslim leaders fear that it's out of control and threatens to create a potent armed force that will turn against the government one day.

The United States, which credits much of the drop in violence to the campaign, is enrolling hundreds of people daily in "concerned local citizens" groups. More than 5,000 have been sworn in in the last eight days, for a total of 77,542 as of Tuesday. As many as 10 groups were created in the past week, bringing the total number to 192, according to the American military....(snip)

Despite US efforts to reassure them that they can keep those Sunnis from taking up arms against the Shia government, the Iraqi government is not too convinced (again, it has good reason to be scared)

But that hasn't calmed mounting concerns among aides to Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, who charge that some of the groups include "terrorists" who attack Shiite residents in their neighborhoods. Some of the new "concerned citizens" are occupying houses that terrified Shiite families abandoned, they said.

It also hasn't quieted criticism that the program is trading long-term Iraqi stability for short-term security gains.

"There is a danger here that we are going to have armed all three sides: the Kurds in the north, the Shiite and now the Sunni militias," said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst who's now at The Brookings Institution, a center-left policy organization in Washington, D.C.

I though this was all foolish back in September...but it is no less foolish today.

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The United States' current strategy seeks gains in short term security (and there have been some recently if you watch the news), at the price of pouring gasoline on a raging civil and ethnic conflict and making Iraq less stable and more violent in the medium and long term.

In reference to the Anbar Model I asked in my September blog post: "But the question is: Is this policy good for Iraq? Is this progress?" to which I answered in the negative.

Noah Shactman of the Wired post asked a similar question on Sept. 30 regarding the current strategy of rallying Sunnis:


The successes of the American counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq have, so far, been hyperlocal: local watchmen, patrolling their mini-neighborhoods; local tribal and political leaders, making deals with American commanders. And in that context, playing on fears on Shi'ite boogeymen in Sunni regions makes a ton of sense.

The question, though, is what are the national consequences of this local strategy. How can the U.S. encourage country-wide reconciliation -- while riding a wave of sectarian hate?


Exactly.

It will eventually come back to haunt the US, punishing it and Iraq, for its short-sightedness.

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PS: I'll have a short roundup added to this post tomorrow as an Update. I'm a little tired and would rather watch TV or screw around on Myspace than keep going...yeah, I know. Laaaazy. lol.

Goodnight.


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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New Yorkers Paying for Giuliani's Booty Calls?

Or as Josh Marshall (of TPM) calls it "Government Funded Shagging."

[This is the missing "miscellaneous" items that I didn't blog about in yesterday's post plus the juicy new Rudy Giuliani stuff.]

ooooo this is very juicy stuff, very juicy stuff that combines both scandalous sex (he was visiting a mistress...you know, cheating on his wife...again) and ripping off the tax payers.

As New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani billed obscure city agencies for tens of thousands of dollars in security expenses amassed during the time when he was beginning an extramarital relationship with future wife Judith Nathan in the Hamptons, according to previously undisclosed government records.

The documents, obtained by Politico under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, show that the mayoral costs had nothing to do with the functions of the little-known city offices that defrayed his tabs, including agencies responsible for regulating loft apartments, aiding the disabled and providing lawyers for indigent defendants.

At the time, the mayor’s office refused to explain the accounting to city auditors, citing “security.”


Mmmm, delicious. You know, it is well known that this guy is a serial womanizer and that he's never been able to remain faithful to any woman so it's not as if this is a surprise. But this does reinforce that image and provides a good story easy for media dissemination that will continually highlight such personal flaws.

Now, we all have personal flaws (ask Bill Clinton) so I don't think these things necessarily should disqualify one from office but there is more to this than simple infidelity:

1) He is running for the Republican nomination and he is trying to court the votes of conservatives including social conservatives. When you run a party so freakin high and mighty and "morality" based you would think that, I don't know...stuff like this matters.

2) It's not just infidelity, it is corruption, abuse of power, and a scandal that shows how Rudy has taken the taxpayers of New York for their money, all so he could get him some tail. Add this with the stench of corruption that follows him due to his (former) best buddy Bernie Kerik -- who ALSO used taxpayer money to get him some sex -- and there is a perfect narrative that Democrats and other Republican candidates can use to pummel Giuliani with.

I hope this seriously undermines his campaing because I DO NOT LIKE GIULIANI!! Look at my profile, click the video, watch it....you'll understand why I'm so afraid that a man like this could even possibly be the next President of the United States.

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FBI: Widely Reported Threat to Fort Huachuca unfounded


Just read, the original scare was like a Republicans wet dream..

A plot by dozens of foreign terrorists who purportedly planned to attack Fort Huachuca with rocket propelled grenades and mines has proved unfounded, an FBI spokesman said Monday.

The threat, detailed by a local television station and The Washington Times [had to be..] after information was recently leaked to them, involved Iraqi and Afghan terrorists working with a Mexican drug cartel to smuggle themselves and weapons across the U.S. border.

It's got it all. Iraqis, Afghans, terrorist attacks at home, plus they even managed to add in Mexicans kingpins and smuggling things across the border!! It's a damn wingnuts wetdream. It's the kind of headlines that they dream about. The kind of headline that would produce instant wood at a very embarrassing moment that one time in gym class when I was in front of everyone doing sit up...*cough* sorry...anyways...

Seriously though, all that's missing from the story is to add that the terrorists were also gay and made man-love with the Mexicans prior to the operation, while a group of black thugs performed an abortion and then had sex before marriage.

And there was a midget...yeah, I bet you didn't know they hated midgets.

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UN Human Development Report: World Must Fix Climate in 10 years


Unless the international community agrees to cut carbon emissions by half over the next generation, climate change is likely to cause large-scale human and economic setbacks and irreversible ecological catastrophes, a U.N. report said on Tuesday.

The U.N. Human Development Report issued one of the strongest warnings yet of the lasting impact of climate change on living standards and a strong call for urgent collective action. "We could be on the verge of seeing human development reverse for the first time in 30 years," Kevin Watkins, lead author of the report, told Reuters.

The report, presented in Brasilia on Tuesday, sets targets and a road map to reduce carbon emissions before a U.N. climate summit next month in Bali, Indonesia. Emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere help trap heat and lead to global warming.

"The message for Bali is the world cannot afford to wait. It has less than a decade to change course," said Watkins, a senior research fellow at Britain's Oxford University. Dangerous climate change will be unavoidable if in the next 15 years emissions follow the same trend as the past 15 years, the report said.

To avoid catastrophic impact, the rise in global temperature must be limited to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius). But carbon emissions mostly from cars and power plants are twice the level needed to meet that target, the U.N. authors said.

Climate change threatens to condemn millions of people to poverty, the UNDP said. Climate disasters between 2000 and 2004 affected 262 million people, 98 percent of them in the developing world. The poor are often forced to sell productive assets or save on food, health, and education, creating "life-long cycles of disadvantage."

HOMES, FOOD, WATER IMPERILED

A temperature rise of between 5.4 and 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (3 and 4 degrees Celsius) would displace 340 million people through flooding, droughts would diminish farm output, and retreating glaciers would cut off drinking water from as many as 1.8 billion people, the report said.

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Evidence for a Parallel Universe?
- I don't to even understand most of the stuff here, but I thought it might be interesting to someone. Hey does anyone remember that show 'Sliders'? I used to watch that show all the time!!

Well that it for tonight. I have a lot of thinking to do (decisions) and I've put off thinking about it long enough. But I needed everything off my plate first so here I am two days in a row.

Goodnight

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Return of the Roundup

[I'm not saying the blogging hiatus is done for sure....but suddenly I had the energy to do a regular post, as opposed to the lazy stuff I've been doing the last couple post (for the MySpace blog at least).

In good news, I finally did what I should have done long ago: I uninstalled and then re-installed Firefox. God, I LOVE Firefox!! Internet Explorer is horrible. I mean, how is it that I updated to a newer version yesterday and its actually slower, and more prone to crash and lose all tabs than the older version? Maybe its no coincidence that today is the day I chose to start blogging again.]

[End of Post Update: I decided against adding a Miscellaneous section, opting to add those in a latter post, or perhaps in a stand alone post]

For todays roundup I have a few things in store:

- The Middle East Peace Summit in Annapolis
- Immigration and Racism
- Miscellaneous (but interesting stuff)

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The Middle East Peace Summit in Annapolis

Recently Israel and the Palestinians (and by that I mean only the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority...more on that in the next story) have come together, along with with the US and representatives of various Arab governments in an international summit to revive the stalled Peace Process. (AFP)

Israel and the Palestinians opened a major international conference here Tuesday with a pledge to immediately resume talks frozen for seven years and seek a deal by the end of 2008.

Flanked by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, US President George W. Bush read out a joint statement agreed just moments before the meeting began in Annapolis, Maryland.

"We agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations and shall make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008," the statement said.

Abbas said the conference and international climate presented an exceptional opportunity for peace that would "not repeat itself," while Olmert vowed Israel was prepared to make a "painful compromise" to achieve peace.

Launching the biggest initiative of his presidency to revive the Middle East Peace process, Bush, who is nearing the end of his eight-year term, said the time was now ripe for an end to the six-decade conflict.

"In light of recent developments, some have suggested that now is not the right time to pursue peace. I disagree," Bush told delegates from more than 50 countries and organizations.

"I believe that now is precisely the right time to begin these negotiations -- for a number of reasons," he insisted, citing a new willingness among the leaders of both sides, and global support for fresh negotiations.

Also he added "the time is right because a battle is underway for the future of the Middle East -- and we must not cede victory to the extremists."

Now, I'm not sure how this international summit will end, but I have nothing but all the best wishes that President Bush (and I have no choice but place my faith in him here...), the Israelis, Palestinians, and the surrounding Arab countries can really come together and hammer a peace deal.

Such a deal would be such a great achievement and development in the Middle East (and for perceptions of the US in the Middle East).

In an administration that has failed in everything, and deservedly wrought the shame and criticism of the whole world, I seriously would not mind one bit if he partially saved his legacy and pulled out something good with this summit...in fact I would be ecstatic for a true deal.

With that said, it should never be forgotten that the deterioration of Israel/Palestinian relations was enabled in no small part by the "green-light" President Bush gave at the beginning of his administration for Israel to "get tough" with the Palestinians. Well, they certainly did, and violence ensued for quite a while, making coming together for negotiations again extremely unlikely until now.

But there are some concerns with the conference. For one neither Hamas will attend, nor will Iran attend.

Hamas has denounced the conference and thousand of Hamas supporters waving the group's green flag demonstrated in Gaza City Tuesday to reject the US-championed conference.

Why is this a problem? Well, you may remember a while back that there was a mini-Palestinian civil war between Islam-oriented Hamas and the secular-oriented Fatah, the end result being the forceful expulsion of Fatah from the Gaza Strip.

In other words, the Palestinians and their lands are divided. There is no one person controlling or purporting to speak for all Palestinians. And that complicates the international summit because, without the presence of Hamas (which I doubt the US would accept anyways) at the summit, any agreement entered into by the Palestinian Authority (Fatah) would not cover or bind the other Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. And that is problematic.

And Iran, as one of the big backers of Hamas, and a significant (and ever increasing) power in the region, really should be at that conference as well. Again, I doubt the US would let them in...they would probably think it was rewarding Iran with legitimacy or something...

Actually, I might have jumped the gun a bit since the next link in the roundup deals with the reactions of many foreign policy heavy-weights: Hamas and Iran should be involved in the Summit

Via Steve Clemons of TPMuckracker:

This tidbit just appeared in Robin Wright's recent reporting on the Annapolis Summit in an article titled "Iran: The Uninvited Wildcard in Mideast Talks":

Iran will still have leverage in the event of peace, Arab officials concede. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said yesterday that any peace agreement would eventually have to include Hamas, since it controls Gaza and half the Palestinian Authority. Moreover, the two major Palestinian parties -- Hamas and Fatah, which controls the West Bank -- would need to join a national unity government, he said.

An agreement signed by Israeli and Palestinian leaders would need ratification by their respective parliaments, and Hamas still controls the Palestinian parliament.

"Unless you bring Hamas in tune with what is happening on the peace side, you are really not fulfilling a basic requirement," Faisal said. "One man cannot make peace; not even half a people can make peace," he told a roundtable of U.S. journalists. "There has to be consensus about peace among the Palestinians for this to go smoothly."

I just thought it worth noting that people ranging from former Secretary of State Colin Powell to former New Jersey Governor and Bush administration cabinet member Christine Todd Whitman (who headed the National Democratic Institute election monitoring mission of the 2005 Palestinian elections) to former US Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki to former National Security Advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft to former Senators Nancy Kassebaum Baker, Gary Hart, Lincoln Chafee, Larry Pressler, Birch Bayh and many others from both sides of the aisle agree with the Saudi Foreign Minister.

And that is why it is so important to have Iran at the table: The leverage they have with Hamas, and the pressure only they could put on Hamas could make a deal palatable to both sides that much more likely. Of course this all assumes that Iran would be invited...

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Immigration and Racism

Pat Buchanan is back, and he's coming out with a new book. For those who don't know Pat Buchanan all too well he can properly be described as a big time nativist on immigration, and I would argue...well, he's kinda racist. Let's read what he had to say on Sean Hannity's show.

Buchanan: "America [is] committing suicide" while "Asians, Africans, and Latin American children come to inherit the estate"


MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan appeared on the November 26 edition of Fox News'
Hannity & Colmes to discuss his new book, Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, And Greed Are Tearing America Apart (Thomas Dunne Books, November 2007), in which he writes that America is "on a path to national suicide" and later asks: "How is America committing suicide?" answering: "Every way a nation can." He proceeds to claim that "[t]he American majority is not reproducing itself. ... Forty-five million of its young have been destroyed in the womb since Roe v. Wade, as Asian, African, and Latin American children come to inherit the estate the lost generation of American children never got to see."

On
Hannity & Colmes, Buchanan asserted: "You've got a wholesale invasion, the greatest invasion in human history, coming across your southern border, changing the composition and character of your country. You've got the melting pot that once welded us all together, which has broken down." Co-host Sean Hannity went on to ask him: "Do you really believe that America, the country we all love as we know it, is in jeopardy of existing?" Buchanan responded: "I think America may exist, but I'll tell you this: I do believe we're going to lose the American Southwest. I think it is almost inevitable." He continued: "If we do not put a fence on that border ...you're going to have 100 million Hispanics in the country, most of them new immigrants from Mexico, which believes that belongs to them.

There are several things here which set me off.

First is this whole nutball conspiracy that grips the imaginations of Republicans, conservatives, and anti-immigrant people that Mexicans coming into the US want to bring the Southwest US back to Mexico and they are achieving this by demographics first, and when there are soooo many Mexicans you can't go 2 steps, they suddenly secede back to Mexico....

Yeah, I KNOW that sounds crazy!!! But these people live in real fear of such a ridiculous notion...as if that would ever happen!!

That's just crazy, but it is the next thing which really rubs me the wrong way about these people.

Read what he says again: The implicit assumption, the implicit argument that Buchanan and people like him make are that anybody that is not from the white-majority (even US citizens by birth like myself who happens to be Mexican-descended) is not really American like white people are the "real Americans."

"as Asian, African, and Latin American children come to inherit the estate the lost generation of American children never got to see."

And this is what makes some of these nativists racist: They believe, I mean it goes without saying for them, that only Americans of the "majority" (i.e. White) are true Americans. What it also means is that Buchanan and his type would never consider me, my family, nor most of my friends as "real Americans." Because my parents where both from Mexico, am I not an American like all others?

And that really does piss me off. The nerve of this jackass to tell us who is the real American and who isn't!!

And if you think about it, it's so amazingly ridiculous: Unlike many countries, being American has never been about any particular race or ethnicity. It is the very nature of this nation that it has served as a place where many peoples, races, colors, and religions have come together, all at once different, and at the same time all American.

Because being American is not about any race, it is about what binds all these people of such diverse backgrounds as one people: It is not any one religion, or race, but a shared abstract identity of being American.

Our shared American history, our shared perception as being American, and our shared veneration of our "civic-religion" that is our knowledge, respect, and veneration for The American System as it is embodied in the system passed down to us from the Founders in the United States Constitution.

This is not Japan, where ethnicity and nationality are more closely involved in what goes into definining what "being Japanese" means. In America, it is more abstract...and in that way it has the potential to be much more inclusive. One of the reasons, I suspect, that this nation has always benefited and gained from every wave of immigration it has seen, and not suffered so much as in many European nations:

Here it doesn't matter where you come, or where your parents came from because any and all people can become Americans.

And they are all "real" American, no matter what people like Buchanan have to say.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Roundup: Beware Guiliani, Iraq & Turkey, Problems For Iran, and more!!

It's been a while but the roundup should be ok. I'm tired and I'm not sure why now...just assumed it was lack of food plus the drinking in the previous few days, but today I'm still sleepy even when I just wake up. Even took a big nap in the afternoon and still woke up tired (though not as much). Weird, huh? So, please excuse any fogginess in though, it probably won't be 100%. j/k (well, mostly)

Anyways, the roundup will follow in a similar fashion to previous ones. If your not sure what that is, see any other post (except in the Myspace blog...look down past the previous two in that case). This will be organized in the following way (in order)

- Bush's Failed Foreign Policy
- Beware a Rudy Giuliani Presidency
-
Turkey's Threatened Invasion of Northern Iraq
- Iraq
- Iran
-
Threats of Torture and Government Censorship

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Bush's Failed Foreign Policy

There is one piece, written by noted Middle East scholar and expert Juan Cole that I believe everyone should read. It is the perfect preamble, it is the perfect piece to read in order to give everyone here the proper context in which to read all the other links that follow this, especially the Rudy Guiliani stuff. This is a must read and it's only two pages long...seriously go read it now!! Well, OK the link is below.

Juan Cole -- The Collapse of Bush's Foreign Policy
-- Now read it all. But here are some interesting parts:

The Bush administration once imagined that its presence in Afghanistan and Iraq would be anchored by friendly neighbors, Turkey to the west and Pakistan to the east. Last week, as the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan continued to deteriorate, the anchors themselves also came loose.

On Sunday, just days after the Turkish Parliament authorized an invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan, Kurdish guerrillas ambushed and killed 17 Turkish soldiers inside Turkey. In Karachi, Pakistan, a massive bomb nearly killed U.S.-backed Benazir Bhutto, who was supposed to help stabilize the country. The Bush administration's entire Middle East policy is coming undone -- if it even has a policy left, other than just sticking its fingers in the multiple, and multiplying, holes in the dike. (snip)...

Cole's conclusion puts it all together nicely. Explaining the complete failure and crumpling of Bush's foreign policy:

Along with the failed state in Iraq, which has neglected to use any decrease in violence temporarily provided by the recent U.S. troop escalation to effect political reconciliation, the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan raises the specter of a collapse of both of Bush's major state-building projects. The turmoil in Turkey and Pakistan damages U.S. relations with two allies that are key to shoring up the countries under American occupation.

After Sept. 11, when the Bush administration launched its global "war on terror," the United States enjoyed some clear assets in fighting the al-Qaida terrorist network. In the Middle East, the United States had the support of secular Turkey, a NATO member. The long relationship of the powerful Pakistani military with that of the United States enabled Bush to turn the military dictator Musharraf against the Taliban, which Pakistan had earlier sponsored. Shiite Iran announced that it would provide help to the United States in its war on the hyper-Sunni Taliban regime. Baathist Syria and Iraq, secular Arab nationalist regimes, were potential bulwarks against Sunni radicalism in the Levant.

Like a drunken millionaire gambling away a fortune at a Las Vegas casino, the Bush administration squandered all the assets it began with by invading Iraq and unleashing chaos in the Gulf. The secular Baath Party in Iraq was replaced by Shiite fundamentalists, Sunni Salafi fundamentalists and Kurdish separatists. The pressure the Bush administration put on the Pakistani military government to combat Muslim militants in that country weakened the legitimacy of Musharraf, whom the Pakistani public increasingly viewed as an oppressive American puppet. Iraqi Kurdistan's willingness to give safe haven to the PKK alienated Turkey from both the new Iraqi government and its American patrons. Search-and-destroy missions in Afghanistan have predictably turned increasing numbers of Pushtun villagers against the United States, NATO and Karzai. The thunder of the bomb in Karachi and the Turkish shells in Iraqi Kurdistan may well be the sound of Bush losing his "war on terror."


I have nothing to add to this brilliant piece by Professor Cole.

I mentioned that the above piece is important in that it helps properly view all of the links that follow, and I mean it.

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Beware a Rudy Guiliani Presidency

Why is the collapse and utter failure of Bush foreign policy so important to note when it comes to Republican presidential candidate Rudy Guiliani? Quite simply, it is because when it comes to matters of foreign policy and terrorism policy Guiliani is nearly identical or worse than President Bush on the very same issues.

I've had a video on my profile of Giuliani taking on neoconservative foreign policy advisors (some too crazy even for the White House) (here the link from TPMTV), a very important thing to note, especially for a potential president with very little foreign policy experience and thus increasingly reliant on his advisors.

What is no doubt a little disconcerting about Giuliani to those who follow politics (except for Republicans of course!) is how eerily similar to President Bush he is

Rudy Giuliani, to quote a Democratic rival, would be like President Bush on steroids in the way he would go about protecting the U.S. from terrorists. In reality, Giuliani doesn't seem very different from Bush on the issue.

The former New York mayor says the government shouldn't be shy about eavesdropping on citizens. He is prepared to use military force to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons and root out terrorists in Pakistan. And he opposes a U.S. pullout from Iraq.

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh, a Giuliani friend and adviser on homeland security issues, said in an interview: "I would say they're very much joined at the hip on these policies, and particularly the mind-set and commitment of both the president and Mayor Giuliani to stay on offense."

And given how "well" these policies have worked out for us the past 7 years, this observation is a very serious cause for concern. Do we really want another 7 years of Bush, or worse, "Bush on steroids" as Democrat John Edwards opined? Do we really want more Guantanamo's, more Abu Ghraibs, an indefinite occupation of Iraq, a new war in Iran and possibly Syria...do we really want someone who is so like our current President? A candidate for President so blinded that he would undermine our very Constitution (in much the same ways as our current President) and all that makes America America in order to "protect you."

In such a way as to give people the false dichotomy and choice that freedom MUST be sacrificed for security. That is a false choice: While some risk is always inherent in any system (and thats the price we pay) with many freedoms, our protection is always achievable within the bounds of our rule of law.

How is it that America lived through the most dangerous times; the Revolution, the War of 1812, fought off one of the most dangerous foes to freedom (fascism) during World War II, and faced off against an enemy with the capability of annihilate us in a nuclear holocaust during the Cold War without having to sacrifice our core American ideals, and our core Constitutional order?

The terrorist do not pose anywhere near the same level of existential threat as earlier ones yet some overreact to it and propose policies unthinkable during yet worse threats!! Why!?

It brings to mind a famous quote from Benjamin Franklin: "Those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither."

Anyways lets get on with this Rudy section...I need to further detail the crazy.

More on and his aggressive foreign policy

Bad huh? But it gets worse. Mr. Giuliani asks to have a briefing from Neoconservative godfather Norman Podhoretz on the war....World War IV.

That is NOT a typo

Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

Check out what nattering nabob of neoconservativism Norman Podhoretz, a top foreign policy adviser to Rudy, has just confided to The New York Observer about a recent private conversation he had with the candidate:

Norman Podhoretz believes that America needs to go to war soon with Iran. As far as he knows, Rudy Giuliani thinks the same thing.

“I was asked to come in and give him a briefing on the war, World War IV,” said Mr. Podhoretz, a founding father of neoconservatism and leading foreign policy adviser to Mr. Giuliani. “As far as I can tell there is very little difference in how he sees the war and how I see it.”

So what does Podhoretz have to say about our Middle East policy?

America should be working to overthrow governments in Saudi Arabia, Syria and Egypt and “every one of the despotic regimes in that region, by force if necessary and by nonmilitary means if possible,” he said. “They are fronts of the war. You can’t do everything at once. And to have toppled two of those regimes in five years or six years is I think a major achievement. And maybe George Bush won’t be able to carry it further, but I think he will. It may have just been given to him to start act one of the five-act play.”

Giuliani is surrounding himself...personally asking for advice and briefings, from a freakin' maniac!! Seriously, if Giuliani somehow wins the presidency (I doubt he will) than I will literally crap my pants in terror...seriously. Now, I don't know if it's possible to actually crap yourself in disgust as well, but I'm sure there will be some disgust mixed with that terror. Not sure how it works but I sure I'll manage it somehow.

But enough about my bowels, lets move on to Northern Iraq

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Turkey's Threatened Invasion of Northern Iraq

Iraqi govt and US rhetoric against PKK militants have stepped up in recent days. Promises by Iraq's central government and the regional government to promise to shut down PKK offices have been met with skepticism and doubt. Likely because previous promises only led to the re-opening of such offices the very next day in another location.

Turkey sees Iraqi Kurdish authorities as very lax on stopping Kurds in their territories and lax on border enforcement

I saw an interview either yesterday morning or this morning with the Turkish ambassador to the United States and he more or less expressed that these assurances are not enough to satisfy Turkey or nearly enough to stop their drive to invade northern Iraq...they want more, and I'm not sure there are practical things the US or Iraqi forces can do that will satisfy the Turks.

This pressure seems to be getting to the US though because it recently has been reported that President Bush has offered to bomb PKK positions in Iraq

No doubt stemming from the desire not to move troops into Kurdish regions and out of other regions. I think he sees this as a way to thread the needle and satisfy Turkish rage, while not pissing of Kurds who would likely object to seeing US soldiers in their territory.

I'm honestly not sure if this will do, but it's actually possible that this could satisfy the Turks. The article offers up other alternatives: US forces (not gonna happen), or convincing the Kurdish regional government to use their security forces (Peshmerga ) to surround PKK camps and prevent them from moving beyond their mountain camps.

I'm not sure how likely it is, but the threat of invasion may just be enough of a fear that it provokes the normally lax Kurds to turn on fellow Kurds (Turkish Kurds).

Then again, this doesn't exactly fill me with confidence...no doubt it has the same effect on Turkish observers. Iraqis aren't exactly cracking down like they say they would.

Despite Turkey’s demand that the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq clamp down on the PKK, there was no sign of any action against them.

On our way to the mountain, every checkpoint manned by the Iraqi army waved us through, and cheerfully provided directions on how to get to guerrilla positions.

Nor have the supply lines been cut. Several four-wheel-drive vehicles steered by toothless old men crawled along the tracks ahead of us, piled high with sackfuls of food.


If this is the result of future Iraqi assurances, than a Turkish invasion is much more likely to occur.

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Iraq

"I Don't Think This Place IS Worth Another Soldiers' Life" - (Washington Post)

The subheading says it all: "After 14 months in a Baghdad district torn by mounting sectarian violence, members of one U.S. unit are tired, bitter and skeptical."

Some troops just aren't seeing the point of 'being a bouncer between two brawling customers'. An interesting read.

10 anti-al-Qaeda sheiks are kidnapped - (CBS news) Pronouncements of Al-Qaeda's demise aside, this goes to show that AQI should not be counted out or written off just yet if they can still pull something like this off. Although in actuality AQI is not the most dangerous actor in Iraq, even among the Sunnis and never was.

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Iran

Khamenei vs. Ahmadinejad - There's some interesting internal Iranian political games being played which makes for intriguing reading. "Khamenei" of course refers to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who is considered more of the true power in Iran than Iranian President Ahmadinedjad (or any person who holds the title of President in Iran).


But with the firing, which Larijani learned through news reports rather than directly, Ahmadinejad is challenging Khamenei's authority over Iranian state matters. Ahmadinejad knows that Larijani is an agent of those who actually want to resolve Iran's nuclear situation in a constructive way while Ahmadinejad benefits from the crisis and tension with the US and Europe...(snip)

There has been fragile but real deal making going on -- and it is progress on this front that Larijani wanted to have the government announce -- but Ahmadinejad refused.

More on this soap opera later -- but the big story here is that Ahmadinejad is challenging Khamenei directly and openly with Ali Larijani's firing. It will be interesting to see if Khamenei turns the other cheek or further undermines the "Dick Cheney of Iran" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

I'll definitely need to follow this story

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Threats of Torture and Government Censorship

I have to concur with the sentiment expressed by the author: Holy Shit!!

Basically, the FBI coerced an innocent man into confessing by threatening his family with torture, eventually the man's innocence became clear and an appeals court ruled in his favor, but the opinion was swiftly pulled off the web. Then up came a new version:

A new version that conceals and censors the fact that...you know...the guy was coerced into confessing using threats of torture against his familiy.

People tell you anything you want to hear under circumstances like that, as well as under actual physical and psychological torture too. That's why as a practice (which doesn't touch how horribly immoral and wrong it is), torture and even rough tactics as threatening relatives should not be practiced.

Anything we learn is highly suspect. In worst-case scenarios we may base important decisions and policy, decisions with large-scale implications, on the "evidence" gathered from desperate people who just want to protect their family, or just want the pain to stop. And that would be a disaster.

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Good night folks, that's all for tonight.



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