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Write to Help End Noble Lt. Watada Agony

May 2nd, 2009

End the U.S. Army’s prosecution of Lt. Ehren Watada! PDF Print E-mail Image The Justice Department can say no to Army’s legal appeal;

“Dear Solicitor General: Tell the Army to drop the appeal against Lt. Watada”

By the Ad Hoc Campaign to Free Ehren Watada. April 27, 2009 In June 2006, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada refused orders to Iraq on the grounds that the war was illegal and immoral. His court martial in February 2007 ended in an Army-contrived mistrial. In October 2007, the Army attempt to have a second court martial was stopped by a Federal judge who ruled that a second court martial would be double jeopardy. But the Army has not allowed Lt. Watada to leave military service. Instead, they have notified the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit of their plans to appeal the double jeopardy ruling. The Army has also threatened to revive old charges stemming from Lt. Watada’s speech in Seattle to the 2006 convention of Veterans For Peace. Justice Department to decide if Army will appeal double jeopardy ruling

The U.S. Solicitor General’s office in the Department of Justice will soon decide whether the Army can go ahead with its plans to appeal Federal Court rulings in Lt. Watada’s favor. An campaign of public pressure is being called by Lt. Watada’s supporters in the peace movement. The ad hoc campaign is being spearheaded by two Vietnam War resisters, Mike Wong and Gerry Condon, who are active members of Veterans for Peace in San Francisco and Seattle. The Call to Action is being issued in the name of Asian Americans for Peace and Justice, formerly the Watada Support Committee, in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Project Safe Haven, a war resister support group. We are sending out this email alert to all our contacts and organizations – including Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, United For Peace and Justice, ANSWER, Code Pink, American Friends Service Committee and others.

We ask you all to phone, write, and email Solicitor General Elena Kagan and Deputy Attorney General Neal Katyal immediately.

1. Ask the Solicitor General: Tell the Army to drop the appeal and any other charges against Lt. Watada, and to release him from the Army with an honorable discharge. If we all act quickly, we can flood the Solicitor General’s office with hundreds of phone calls, letters and emails, which could tip the balance in Ehren Watada’s favor.

Solicitor General Elena Kagan, 202-514-2201 Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal, 202-514-2206 Send letters to: U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20530.

E-mails to AskDOJ@usdoj.govThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it will reach the Solicitor General and Attorney General Eric Holder.

A sample letter is included below. Feel free to edit as you wish, or to write your own. It is possible that both the Solicitor General and her Deputy may be open to our plea. Please be respectful and polite in all your communications with these Obama appointees.

2. Please forward this alert to all activists, friends, and organizations you know that would be supportive. If you are involved in an organization, please ask that it forward this alert to its entire membership.

3. We will approach the friendliest of our allies in Congress and ask them to make inquiries to the Justice Department. If you or your organization has contact with any members of Congress, please email Gerry Condon at projectsafehaven@hotmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it so we can coordinate our Congressional outreach.

4. Various groups may also wish to mount demonstrations, press conferences, lobby, or use other means of peaceful political pressure. You may also call for an end to the persecution of all war resisters. Mike Wong, Vice President, SF Bay Area Veterans For Peace; Asian Americans for Social Justice Gerry Condon, Greater Seattle Veterans For Peace; Project Safe Haven Sample letter:

Date

Solicitor General Elena Kagan Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20530-0001

Dear Solicitor General Kagan and Deputy Solicitor General Katyal, I am writing to urge you to direct the U.S. Army to drop its appeal and any other charges in the case of 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, and to release him from the Army with an Honorable Discharge.

Lt. Watada was the first Army officer to publicly refuse to deploy to Iraq, because he believes the U.S. war in Iraq is illegal and immoral, and that orders to participate in it are therefore also illegal and immoral. Lt. Watada’s Army court martial in February 2007 ended in a mistrial that was illegally construed by the Army judge, Lt. Col. John Head. When the Army then attempted a second court martial in October 2007, U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Settle halted the proceedings on double jeopardy grounds. Judge Settle had just been appointed to his position by George W. Bush and was a former Army JAG lawyer.

I urge you to uphold U.S. and international law by directing the Army to end its prolonged prosecution of Lt. Ehren Watada. Thank you very much.

 

Sincerely yours,

Mike Wong

 

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Democrats’ “Battered Wife Syndrome”

April 30th, 2009


****************************************************************
DEMOCRATS’ ‘BATTERED WIFE SYNDROME’
By Robert Parry

Consortium News
April 25, 2009

http://consortiumne ws.com/2009/ 042509.html

In recent years, the Washington political dynamic has often resembled an
abusive marriage, in which the bullying husband (the Republicans) slaps
the wife and kids around, and the battered wife (the Democrats) makes
excuses and hides the ugly bruises from outsiders to keep the family
together.

So, when the Republicans are in a position of power, they throw their
weight around, break the rules, and taunt: “Whaddya gonna do ‘bout it?”

Then, when the Republicans do the political equivalent of passing out on
the couch, the Democrats use their time in control, tiptoeing around,
tidying up the house and cringing at every angry grunt from the snoring
figure on the couch.

This pattern, which now appears to be repeating itself with President
Barack Obama’s unwillingness to hold ex-President George W. Bush and his
subordinates accountable for a host of crimes including torture, may have
had its origins 40 years ago in Campaign 1968 when the Vietnam War was
raging.

President Lyndon Johnson felt he was on the verge of achieving a
negotiated peace settlement when he learned in late October 1968 that
operatives working for Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon
were secretly sabotaging the Paris peace talks.

Nixon, who was getting classified briefings on the talks’ progress, feared
that an imminent peace accord might catapult Vice President Hubert
Humphrey to victory. So, Nixon’s team sent secret messages to South
Vietnamese leaders offering them a better deal if they boycotted Johnson’s
talks and helped Nixon to victory, which they agreed to do.

Johnson learned about Nixon’s gambit through wiretaps of the South
Vietnamese embassy and he confronted Nixon by phone (only to get an
unconvincing denial). At that point, Johnson knew his only hope was to
expose Nixon’s maneuver which Johnson called “treason” since it endangered
the lives of a half million American soldiers in the war zone.

As a *Christian Science Monitor* reporter sniffed out the story and sought
confirmation, Johnson consulted Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Defense
Secretary Clark Clifford about whether to expose Nixon’s ploy right before
the election. Both Rusk and Clifford urged Johnson to stay silent.

In what would become a Democratic refrain in the years ahead, Clifford
said in a Nov. 4, 1968, conference call that “Some elements of the story
are so shocking in their nature that I’m wondering whether it would be
good for the country to disclose the story and then possibly have a
certain individual [Nixon] elected. It could cast his whole
administration under such doubt that I think it would be inimical to our
country’s interests.”

So, Johnson stayed silent “for the good of the country”; Nixon eked out a
narrow victory over Humphrey; the Vietnam War continued for another four
years with an additional 20,763 U.S. dead and 111,230 wounded and more
than a million more Vietnamese killed.

Over the years, as bits and pieces of this story have dribbled out –
including confirmation from audiotapes released by the LBJ Library in
December 2008 — the Democrats and the mainstream news media have never
made much out of Nixon’s deadly treachery. [See Consortiumnews. com’s “The
Significance of Nixon’s Treason.”
(http://www.consorti umnews.com/ 2008/120808. html)]

THE WATERGATE EXCEPTION

The one exception to this pattern of the Democrats’ “battered wife
syndrome” may have been the Watergate case, in which Nixon sought to
secure his second term, in part, by spying on his political rivals,
including putting bugs on phones at the Democratic National Committee.

When Nixon’s team was caught in a second break-in — trying to add more
bugs — the scandal erupted.

Even then, however, key Democrats, such as Democratic National Chairman
Robert Strauss, tried to shut down the Watergate investigation as it was
expanding early in Nixon’s second term. Strauss argued that the inquiries
would hurt the country, but enough other Democrats and an energized
Washington press corps overcame the resistance. [For details, see Robert
Parry’s *Secrecy & Privilege*.]

With Nixon’s Watergate-compelled resignation in August 1974, the
Republicans were at a crossroads. In one direction, they could start
playing by the rules and seek to be a responsible political party. Or
they could internalize Nixon’s pugnacious style and build an
infrastructure to punish anyone who tried to hold them accountable in the
future.

Essentially, the Republicans picked option two. Under the guidance of
Nixon’s Treasury Secretary William Simon, right-wing foundations
collaborated to build a powerful new infrastructure, pooling resources to
finance right-wing publications, think tanks, and anti-journalism attack
groups. As this infrastructure took shape in the late 1970s, it imbued
the Republicans with more confidence.

So, before Election 1980, the Republican campaign — bolstered by former
CIA operatives loyal to former CIA Director George H.W. Bush — resorted
to Nixon-style tactics in exploiting President Jimmy Carter’s failure to
free 52 American hostages then held in Iran.

The evidence is now overwhelming that Republican operatives, including
campaign chief Bill Casey and some of his close associates, had
back-channel contacts with Iran’s Islamic regime and other foreign
governments to confound Carter’s hostage negotiations. Though much of
this evidence has seeped out over the past 29 years, some was known in
real time.

For instance, Iran’s acting foreign minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh told Agence
France-Presse on Sept. 6, 1980, that he knew that Republican candidate
Ronald Reagan was “trying to block a solution” to the hostage impasse.

Senior Carter administration officials, such as National Security Council
aide Gary Sick, also were hearing rumors about Republican interference,
and President Carter concluded that Israel’s hard-line Likud leaders had
“cast their lot with Reagan,” according to notes I found of a
congressional task force interview with Carter a dozen years later.

Carter traced the Israeli opposition to him to a “lingering concern
[among] Jewish leaders that I was too friendly with Arabs.”

Israel already had begun playing a key middleman role in delivering secret
military shipments to Iran, as Carter knew. But — again for “the good of
the country” — Carter and his White House kept silent.

Since the first anniversary of the hostage crisis coincidentally fell on
Election Day 1980, Reagan benefited from the voters’ anger over the
national humiliation and scored a resounding victory. [For more details
on the 1980 “October Surprise” case, see Parry’s *Secrecy & Privilege*.]

GOP’S GROWING CONFIDENCE

Though much of the public saw Reagan as a tough guy who had frightened the
Iranians into surrendering the hostages on Inauguration Day 1981, the
behind-the-scenes reality was different.

In secret, the Reagan administration winked at Israeli weapons shipments
to Iran in the first half of 1981, what appeared to be a payoff for Iran’s
cooperation in sabotaging Carter. Nicholas Veliotes, who was then
assistant secretary of state, told a PBS interviewer that he saw those
secret shipments as an outgrowth of the covert Republican-Iranian contacts
from the campaign.

Veliotes added that those early shipments then became the “germs” of the
later Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal.

But the Republicans seemed to have little to fear from exposure. Their
media infrastructure was rapidly expanding — for instance, the right-wing
*Washington Times* opened in 1982 — and America’s Left didn’t see the
need to counter this growing media power on the Right.

The right-wing attack groups also had success targeting mainstream
journalists who dug up information that didn’t fit with Reagan’s
propaganda themes — the likes of the *New York Times* Raymond Bonner,
whose brave reporting about right-wing death squads in Central America led
to his recall from the region and his resignation from the *Times*.

This new right-wing muscle, combined with Ronald Reagan’s political
popularity, made Democrats and mainstream journalists ever more hesitant
to pursue negative stories about Republican policies, including evidence
that Reagan’s favorite “freedom fighters,” the Nicaraguan contras, were
dabbling in cocaine trafficking and that an illegal contra-aid operation
was set up inside the White House.

In mid-1986, when my Associated Press colleague Brian Barger and I put
together a story citing two dozen sources about the work of NSC official
Oliver North, congressional Democrats were hesitant to follow up on the
disclosures.

Finally in August 1986, the House Intelligence Committee, then chaired by
Democrat Lee Hamilton and including Republican Rep. Dick Cheney, met with
North and other White House officials in the Situation Room and were told
that the AP story was untrue. With no further investigation, the
Democratic-led committee accepted the word of North and his superiors.

LUCKY EXPOSURE

It was only an unlikely occurrence on Oct. 5, 1986, the shooting down of
one of North’s supply planes over Nicaragua and a confession by the one
survivor, Eugene Hasenfus, that put the House Intelligence Committee’s
gullibility into focus.

The plane shoot-down — and disclosures from the Middle East about secret
U.S. arms sales to Iran — forced the Iran-Contra scandal into public
view. The congressional Democrats responded by authorizing a joint
House-Senate investigation, with Hamilton as one of the mild-mannered
co-chairs and Cheney again leading the GOP’s tough-guy defense.

While the Republicans worked to undermine the investigation, the Democrats
looked for a bipartisan solution that would avoid a messy confrontation
with President Reagan and Vice President Bush. That solution was to put
most of the blame on North and a few of his superiors, such as NSC adviser
John Poindexter and the then-deceased CIA Director Bill Casey.

The congressional investigation also made a hasty decision, supported by
Hamilton and the Republicans but opposed by most Democrats, to give
limited immunity to secure the testimony of North.

Hamilton agreed to this immunity without knowing what North would say.
Rather than show any contrition, North used his immunized testimony to
rally Republicans and other Americans in support of Reagan’s aggressive,
above-the-law tactics.

The immunity also crippled later attempts by special prosecutor Lawrence
Walsh to hold North and Poindexter accountable under the law. Though
Walsh won convictions against the pair in federal court, the judgments
were overturned by right-wing judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals citing
the immunity granted by Congress.

By the early 1990s, the pattern was set. Whenever new evidence emerged of
Republican wrongdoing — such as disclosures about contra-drug
trafficking, secret military support for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and those
early Republican-Iran contacts of 1980 — the Republicans would lash out
in fury and the Democrats would try to calm things down.

Lee Hamilton became the Republicans’ favorite Democratic investigator,
because he exemplified this approach of conducting “bipartisan”
investigations, rather than aggressively pursuing the facts wherever they
might lead. While in position to seek the truth, Hamilton ignored the
contra-drug scandal and swept the Iraq-gate and October Surprise issues
under a very lumpy rug.

In 1992, I interviewed Spencer Oliver, a Democratic staffer whose phone at
the Watergate building had been bugged by Nixon’s operatives 20 years
earlier. Since then, Oliver had served as the chief counsel on the House
Foreign Affairs Committee and had observed this pattern of Republican
abuses and Democratic excuses.

Oliver said: “What [the Republicans] learned from Watergate was not
‘don’t do it,’ but ‘cover it up more effectively.’ They have learned that
they have to frustrate congressional oversight and press scrutiny in a way
that will avoid another major scandal.”

THE CLINTON OPPORTUNITY

The final chance for exposing the Republican crimes of the 1980s fell to
Bill Clinton after he defeated President George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Before leaving office, however, Bush-41 torpedoed the ongoing Iran-Contra
criminal investigation by issuing six pardons, including one to former
Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger whose cover-up trial was set to begin
in early 1993.

Special prosecutor Walsh — a lifelong Republican albeit from the old
Eisenhower wing of the party — denounced the pardons as another
obstruction of justice. “George Bush’s misuse of the pardon power made
the cover-up complete,” Walsh later wrote in his book *Firewall*.

However, the Iran-Contra investigation was not yet dead. Indeed, Walsh
was considering empanelling a new grand jury. Walsh also had come to
suspect that the origins of the scandal traced back to the October
Surprise of 1980, with his investigators questioning former CIA officer
Donald Gregg about his alleged role in that prequel to Iran-Contra.

The new Democratic president could have helped Walsh by declassifying key
documents that the Reagan-Bush- 41 team had withheld from various
investigations. But Clinton followed advice from Hamilton and other
senior Democrats who feared stirring partisan anger among Republicans.

Later, in a May 1994 conversation with documentary filmmaker Stuart
Sender, Clinton explained that he had opposed pursuing these Republican
scandals because, according to Sender, “he was going to try to work with
these guys, compromise, build working relationships. . . .

“It seemed even at the time terribly naïve that these same Republicans
were going to work with him if he backed off on congressional hearings or
possible independent prosecutor investigations.” [See Parry’s *Secrecy &
Privilege*.]

NO RECIPROCITY

But the Democrats — like the battered wife who keeps hoping her abusive
husband will change — found a different reality as the decade played out.

Rather than thanking Clinton, the Republicans bullied him with endless
investigations about his family finances, the ethics of his appointees –
and his personal morality, ultimately impeaching him in 1998 for lying
about a sexual affair (though he survived the Senate trial in 1999).

After the impeachment battle, the Republicans — joined by both the
right-wing and mainstream news media — kept battering Clinton and his
heir apparent, Vice President Al Gore, who was mocked for his choice of
clothing and denounced for his supposed exaggerations.

Though Gore still managed to win the popular vote in Election 2000 and
apparently would have prevailed if all legally cast votes had been counted
in Florida, the Republicans made clear that wasn’t going to happen, even
dispatching rioters from Washington to disrupt a recount in Miami.

George W. Bush’s bullying victory — which was finalized by five
Republican partisans on the U.S. Supreme Court — was met with polite
acceptance by the Democrats who again seemed to hope for the best from the
newly empowered Republicans. [For details on Election 2000, see our book,
*Neck Deep*.]

Instead, after the 9/11 attacks, Bush-43 grabbed unprecedented powers; he
authorized torture and warrantless wiretaps; he pressured Democrats into
accepting an unprovoked war in Iraq; and he sought to damage his critics,
such as former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Now, after eight destructive years, the Democrats have again gained
control of the White House and Congress, but they seem intent on once more
not provoking the Republicans, rather than holding them accountable.

Though President Barack Obama has released some of the key documents
underpinning Bush-43’s actions, he opposes any formal commission of
inquiry and has discouraged any prosecutions for violations of federal
law. Obama has said he wants “to look forward as opposed to looking
backward.”

In dismissing the idea of a “truth and reconciliation commission,” Obama
also recognizes that the Republicans would show no remorse for the Bush
administration’ s actions; that they would insist that there is nothing to
“reconcile”; and that they would stay on the attack, pummeling the
Democrats as weak, overly sympathetic to terrorists, and endangering
national security.

On Thursday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs admitted as much, saying
that Obama rejected the idea of a bipartisan “truth commission” because it
was apparent that there was no feasible way to get the Republicans to be
bipartisan.

“The President determined the concept didn’t seem altogether workable in
this case,” Gibbs said, citing the partisan atmosphere that already has
surrounded the torture issue. “The last few days might be evidence of why
something like this might just become a political back and forth.”

In other words, the Republicans are rousing themselves from the couch and
getting angry, while the Democrats are prancing about, hands out front,
trying to calm things down and avoid a confrontation.

The Democrats hope against hope that if they tolerate the latest
Republican outrages maybe there will be some reciprocity, maybe there will
be some GOP votes on Democratic policy initiatives.

But there’s no logical reason to think so. That isn’t how the Republicans
and their right-wing media allies do things; they simply get angrier
because belligerence has worked so well for so long.

On the other hand, Democratic wishful thinking is the essence of this
political “battered wife syndrome,” dreaming about a behavioral
transformation when all the evidence — and four decades of experience –
tell you that the bullying husband isn’t going to change.

–Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the
Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, *Neck Deep: The
Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush*, was written with two of his
sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook. com. His two
previous books, *Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from
Watergate to Iraq* and *Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press &
‘Project Truth’* are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com.

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Obama reversing nuclear cold war strategy?

April 6th, 2009

The 52 Minutes of Obama Magic That Changed the Nuclear Rules

Monday 06 April 2009

by: Ian Traynor  |  Visit article original @ The Guardian UK

photo
Obama in Prague, where he delivered a second call to rid the world of nuclear weapons. (Photo: Getty Images)

Two presidential speeches in two days signal end of cold war strategic thinking.

In his whirlwind debut European tour of summits in Britain, France, Germany and the Czech Republic, Barack Obama has delivered two speeches, both exactly 26 minutes long.

On Friday, in Strasbourg, he was rapturously applauded by French and German students when he said he wanted to rid the world of nuclear weapons. In Prague yesterday, he spelled out his hopes, outlining a host of means to that end and denouncing fatalism in the face of the nuclear threat as a “deadly adversary.”

Also see below:
Remarks by President Obama in Prague

The world’s estimated arsenal of 24,000 nuclear warheads – all but 1,000 in the US and Russian armouries – was the worst legacy of the cold war, Obama said. If the risk of all-out nuclear war had faded, the danger of nuclear attack had increased, he added.

Disarmament

The president pledged a drive on nuclear disarmament, possibly bigger than any ever attempted. He spelled out how he would accelerate arms control agreements with Russia, following his first summit meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev last week. The deal to conclude a new arms reduction treaty with Moscow, which would slash stockpiles by about a third was a beginning, setting the stage for further cuts.

Building on the momentum of a new agreement with the Russians, Obama said he wanted to cajole the other nuclear powers into agreeing international arms cuts.

This would include Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent as well as France’s force de frappe and could run into resistance.

John Hutton, the defence secretary, said at the weekend “there would have to be a very significant breakthrough in international nuclear weapons negotiations” before Britain’s arsenal could be put on the table.

Nuclear Testing

“It is time for testing of nuclear weapons to be banned,” Obama said. He called for a resuscitation of the 1996 comprehensive test ban treaty outlawing all nuclear tests. Obama’s Democrat predecessor, Bill Clinton, signed the treaty, but then gave up on it after running into resistance from the Republican-controlled Senate which refused to ratify it a decade ago. George Bush did not pursue the issue.

America is the most important country that has not ratified the treaty, although other nuclear countries such as China, Israel and Pakistan, as well as Iran have also declined to ratify.

Obama said he would pursue US ratification “immediately and aggressively”.

Proliferation

As well as supporting the test ban treaty, Obama pledged to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation treaty which dates from 1968 and is the cornerstone of the effort to try to curb the spread of nuclear weapons.

He specified two ways of reinforcing the NPT regime – banning the production of fissile material used for nuclear warheads and establishing an “international fuel bank” which would supply and keep tabs on low-enriched uranium for peaceful nuclear purposes in electricity generation for countries that need it.

This is aimed at keeping countries, such as Iran, from developing their own fuel enrichment programmes and at restricting the growth of nuclear knowhow.

Low-enriched uranium is used in power plants. High-enriched uranium is used for warheads. The material can be diverted for weapons use and once you have mastered the fuel cycle for power generation, it is relatively easy to produce bomb-grade material.

Obama also insisted on greater resources and authority for international inspections – and “real and immediate consequences” for countries that violate the treaty.

Loose Nukes

Over the past 15 years there have been various efforts, mainly by the US, to secure and store nuclear materials stemming from the collapse of the Soviet Union to offset the dangers of “loose nukes”, nuclear contraband, and black market trading in radioactive materials.

Obama said he wanted to re-energise this campaign to get all “vulnerable” nuclear materials in secure storage within four years.

He also said he would convene a world summit on nuclear security in the US within a year. The agenda and participants for such a conference remain unclear.

But the spread of nuclear knowhow and technology had to be stopped, he said, since it would become increasingly easy to “buy, build or steal” a nuclear bomb. The risk of terrorists being able to obtain a nuclear device was “the most immediate and extreme threat to global security.”

National Security

Obama also promised to rewrite American military and national security strategy to downgrade the centrality of nuclear weapons, reversing a tendency among some senior former military officials to argue in favour of an increased reliance on nuclear weapons and a commitment to embrace preemptive nuclear strikes as an option.

The Timetable

The president conceded the nuclear challenge was daunting, would be a long haul, and could fail. “This goal will not be reached quickly – perhaps not in my lifetime. It would take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change.” But he said it was time for a new, more robust international regime. “Rules must be binding, violations must be punished, words must mean something.”

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Remarks by President Obama in Prague
Hradcany Square
Prague, Czech Republic

Sunday 05 April 2009

President Obama: Thank you so much. Thank you for this wonderful welcome. Thank you to the people of Prague. Thank you to the people of the Czech Republic. (Applause.) Today, I’m proud to stand here with you in the middle of this great city, in the center of Europe. (Applause.) And, to paraphrase one of my predecessors, I am also proud to be the man who brought Michelle Obama to Prague. (Applause.)

To Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, to all the dignitaries who are here, thank you for your extraordinary hospitality. And to the people of the Czech Republic, thank you for your friendship to the United States. (Applause.)

I’ve learned over many years to appreciate the good company and the good humor of the Czech people in my hometown of Chicago. (Applause.) Behind me is a statue of a hero of the Czech people – Tomas Masaryk. (Applause.) In 1918, after America had pledged its support for Czech independence, Masaryk spoke to a crowd in Chicago that was estimated to be over 100,000. I don’t think I can match his record – (laughter) – but I am honored to follow his footsteps from Chicago to Prague. (Applause.)

For over a thousand years, Prague has set itself apart from any other city in any other place. You’ve known war and peace. You’ve seen empires rise and fall. You’ve led revolutions in the arts and science, in politics and in poetry. Through it all, the people of Prague have insisted on pursuing their own path, and defining their own destiny. And this city – this Golden City which is both ancient and youthful – stands as a living monument to your unconquerable spirit.

When I was born, the world was divided, and our nations were faced with very different circumstances. Few people would have predicted that someone like me would one day become the President of the United States. (Applause.) Few people would have predicted that an American President would one day be permitted to speak to an audience like this in Prague. (Applause.) Few would have imagined that the Czech Republic would become a free nation, a member of NATO, a leader of a united Europe. Those ideas would have been dismissed as dreams.

We are here today because enough people ignored the voices who told them that the world could not change.

We’re here today because of the courage of those who stood up and took risks to say that freedom is a right for all people, no matter what side of a wall they live on, and no matter what they look like.

We are here today because of the Prague Spring – because the simple and principled pursuit of liberty and opportunity shamed those who relied on the power of tanks and arms to put down the will of a people.

We are here today because 20 years ago, the people of this city took to the streets to claim the promise of a new day, and the fundamental human rights that had been denied them for far too long. Sametová Revoluce – (applause) – the Velvet Revolution taught us many things. It showed us that peaceful protest could shake the foundations of an empire, and expose the emptiness of an ideology. It showed us that small countries can play a pivotal role in world events, and that young people can lead the way in overcoming old conflicts. (Applause.) And it proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon.

That’s why I’m speaking to you in the center of a Europe that is peaceful, united and free – because ordinary people believed that divisions could be bridged, even when their leaders did not. They believed that walls could come down; that peace could prevail.

We are here today because Americans and Czechs believed against all odds that today could be possible. (Applause.)

Now, we share this common history. But now this generation – our generation – cannot stand still. We, too, have a choice to make. As the world has become less divided, it has become more interconnected. And we’ve seen events move faster than our ability to control them – a global economy in crisis, a changing climate, the persistent dangers of old conflicts, new threats and the spread of catastrophic weapons.

None of these challenges can be solved quickly or easily. But all of them demand that we listen to one another and work together; that we focus on our common interests, not on occasional differences; and that we reaffirm our shared values, which are stronger than any force that could drive us apart. That is the work that we must carry on. That is the work that I have come to Europe to begin. (Applause.)

To renew our prosperity, we need action coordinated across borders. That means investments to create new jobs. That means resisting the walls of protectionism that stand in the way of growth. That means a change in our financial system, with new rules to prevent abuse and future crisis. (Applause.)

And we have an obligation to our common prosperity and our common humanity to extend a hand to those emerging markets and impoverished people who are suffering the most, even though they may have had very little to do with financial crises, which is why we set aside over a trillion dollars for the International Monetary Fund earlier this week, to make sure that everybody – everybody – receives some assistance. (Applause.)

Now, to protect our planet, now is the time to change the way that we use energy. (Applause.) Together, we must confront climate change by ending the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, by tapping the power of new sources of energy like the wind and sun, and calling upon all nations to do their part. And I pledge to you that in this global effort, the United States is now ready to lead. (Applause.)

To provide for our common security, we must strengthen our alliance. NATO was founded 60 years ago, after Communism took over Czechoslovakia. That was when the free world learned too late that it could not afford division. So we came together to forge the strongest alliance that the world has ever known. And we should – stood shoulder to shoulder – year after year, decade after decade – until an Iron Curtain was lifted, and freedom spread like flowing water.

This marks the 10th year of NATO membership for the Czech Republic. And I know that many times in the 20th century, decisions were made without you at the table. Great powers let you down, or determined your destiny without your voice being heard. I am here to say that the United States will never turn its back on the people of this nation. (Applause.) We are bound by shared values, shared history – (applause.) We are bound by shared values and shared history and the enduring promise of our alliance. NATO’s Article V states it clearly: An attack on one is an attack on all. That is a promise for our time, and for all time.

The people of the Czech Republic kept that promise after America was attacked; thousands were killed on our soil, and NATO responded. NATO’s mission in Afghanistan is fundamental to the safety of people on both sides of the Atlantic. We are targeting the same al Qaeda terrorists who have struck from New York to London, and helping the Afghan people take responsibility for their future. We are demonstrating that free nations can make common cause on behalf of our common security. And I want you to know that we honor the sacrifices of the Czech people in this endeavor, and mourn the loss of those you’ve lost.

But no alliance can afford to stand still. We must work together as NATO members so that we have contingency plans in place to deal with new threats, wherever they may come from. We must strengthen our cooperation with one another, and with other nations and institutions around the world, to confront dangers that recognize no borders. And we must pursue constructive relations with Russia on issues of common concern.

Now, one of those issues that I’ll focus on today is fundamental to the security of our nations and to the peace of the world – that’s the future of nuclear weapons in the 21st century.

The existence of thousands of nuclear weapons is the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War. No nuclear war was fought between the United States and the Soviet Union, but generations lived with the knowledge that their world could be erased in a single flash of light. Cities like Prague that existed for centuries, that embodied the beauty and the talent of so much of humanity, would have ceased to exist.

Today, the Cold War has disappeared but thousands of those weapons have not. In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up. More nations have acquired these weapons. Testing has continued. Black market trade in nuclear secrets and nuclear materials abound. The technology to build a bomb has spread. Terrorists are determined to buy, build or steal one. Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered on a global non-proliferation regime, but as more people and nations break the rules, we could reach the point where the center cannot hold.

Now, understand, this matters to people everywhere. One nuclear weapon exploded in one city – be it New York or Moscow, Islamabad or Mumbai, Tokyo or Tel Aviv, Paris or Prague – could kill hundreds of thousands of people. And no matter where it happens, there is no end to what the consequences might be – for our global safety, our security, our society, our economy, to our ultimate survival.

Some argue that the spread of these weapons cannot be stopped, cannot be checked – that we are destined to live in a world where more nations and more people possess the ultimate tools of destruction. Such fatalism is a deadly adversary, for if we believe that the spread of nuclear weapons is inevitable, then in some way we are admitting to ourselves that the use of nuclear weapons is inevitable.

Just as we stood for freedom in the 20th century, we must stand together for the right of people everywhere to live free from fear in the 21st century. (Applause.) And as nuclear power – as a nuclear power, as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it, we can start it.

So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. (Applause.) I’m not naive. This goal will not be reached quickly – perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, “Yes, we can.” (Applause.)

Now, let me describe to you the trajectory we need to be on. First, the United States will take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons. To put an end to Cold War thinking, we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and urge others to do the same. Make no mistake: As long as these weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal to deter any adversary, and guarantee that defense to our allies – including the Czech Republic. But we will begin the work of reducing our arsenal.

To reduce our warheads and stockpiles, we will negotiate a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with the Russians this year. (Applause.) President Medvedev and I began this process in London, and will seek a new agreement by the end of this year that is legally binding and sufficiently bold. And this will set the stage for further cuts, and we will seek to include all nuclear weapons states in this endeavor.

To achieve a global ban on nuclear testing, my administration will immediately and aggressively pursue U.S. ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. (Applause.) After more than five decades of talks, it is time for the testing of nuclear weapons to finally be banned.

And to cut off the building blocks needed for a bomb, the United States will seek a new treaty that verifiably ends the production of fissile materials intended for use in state nuclear weapons. If we are serious about stopping the spread of these weapons, then we should put an end to the dedicated production of weapons-grade materials that create them. That’s the first step.

Second, together we will strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a basis for cooperation.

The basic bargain is sound: Countries with nuclear weapons will move towards disarmament, countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them, and all countries can access peaceful nuclear energy. To strengthen the treaty, we should embrace several principles. We need more resources and authority to strengthen international inspections. We need real and immediate consequences for countries caught breaking the rules or trying to leave the treaty without cause.

And we should build a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation, including an international fuel bank, so that countries can access peaceful power without increasing the risks of proliferation. That must be the right of every nation that renounces nuclear weapons, especially developing countries embarking on peaceful programs. And no approach will succeed if it’s based on the denial of rights to nations that play by the rules. We must harness the power of nuclear energy on behalf of our efforts to combat climate change, and to advance peace opportunity for all people.

But we go forward with no illusions. Some countries will break the rules. That’s why we need a structure in place that ensures when any nation does, they will face consequences.

Just this morning, we were reminded again of why we need a new and more rigorous approach to address this threat. North Korea broke the rules once again by testing a rocket that could be used for long range missiles. This provocation underscores the need for action – not just this afternoon at the U.N. Security Council, but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons.

Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something. The world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons. Now is the time for a strong international response – (applause) – now is the time for a strong international response, and North Korea must know that the path to security and respect will never come through threats and illegal weapons. All nations must come together to build a stronger, global regime. And that’s why we must stand shoulder to shoulder to pressure the North Koreans to change course.

Iran has yet to build a nuclear weapon. My administration will seek engagement with Iran based on mutual interests and mutual respect. We believe in dialogue. (Applause.) But in that dialogue we will present a clear choice. We want Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations, politically and economically. We will support Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear energy with rigorous inspections. That’s a path that the Islamic Republic can take. Or the government can choose increased isolation, international pressure, and a potential nuclear arms race in the region that will increase insecurity for all.

So let me be clear: Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran’s neighbors and our allies. The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles. As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven. (Applause.) If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe will be removed. (Applause.)

So, finally, we must ensure that terrorists never acquire a nuclear weapon. This is the most immediate and extreme threat to global security. One terrorist with one nuclear weapon could unleash massive destruction. Al Qaeda has said it seeks a bomb and that it would have no problem with using it. And we know that there is unsecured nuclear material across the globe. To protect our people, we must act with a sense of purpose without delay.

So today I am announcing a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years. We will set new standards, expand our cooperation with Russia, pursue new partnerships to lock down these sensitive materials.

We must also build on our efforts to break up black markets, detect and intercept materials in transit, and use financial tools to disrupt this dangerous trade. Because this threat will be lasting, we should come together to turn efforts such as the Proliferation Security Initiative and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism into durable international institutions. And we should start by having a Global Summit on Nuclear Security that the United States will host within the next year. (Applause.)

Now, I know that there are some who will question whether we can act on such a broad agenda. There are those who doubt whether true international cooperation is possible, given inevitable differences among nations. And there are those who hear talk of a world without nuclear weapons and doubt whether it’s worth setting a goal that seems impossible to achieve.

But make no mistake: We know where that road leads. When nations and peoples allow themselves to be defined by their differences, the gulf between them widens. When we fail to pursue peace, then it stays forever beyond our grasp. We know the path when we choose fear over hope. To denounce or shrug off a call for cooperation is an easy but also a cowardly thing to do. That’s how wars begin. That’s where human progress ends.

There is violence and injustice in our world that must be confronted. We must confront it not by splitting apart but by standing together as free nations, as free people. (Applause.) I know that a call to arms can stir the souls of men and women more than a call to lay them down. But that is why the voices for peace and progress must be raised together. (Applause.)

Those are the voices that still echo through the streets of Prague. Those are the ghosts of 1968. Those were the joyful sounds of the Velvet Revolution. Those were the Czechs who helped bring down a nuclear-armed empire without firing a shot.

Human destiny will be what we make of it. And here in Prague, let us honor our past by reaching for a better future. Let us bridge our divisions, build upon our hopes, accept our responsibility to leave this world more prosperous and more peaceful than we found it. (Applause.) Together we can do it.

Thank you very much. Thank you, Prague. (Applause.)

»


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Comments

This is a moderated forum.  It may take a little while for comments to go live. Be civil and on-topic, don’t threaten or advocate violence, please keep it under 300 words. Thanks for participating.

Perhaps Israel will reduce

Perhaps Israel will reduce its nuclear arsenal? I would support this initiative only if Israel is included in the deal. Otherwise we (US, China Russia, EU etc) might be facing Nuclear Israel and have nothing in our arsenal to respond with.

If Obama means what he said

If Obama means what he said in the speeches, why is he pushing Russia into a new era of development in nuclear weapons by putting anti-ballistic missiles in Poland? Why is he whetting Iran’s appetite for nukes by threatening Iran with attack? It seems his actions belie his words.

What “magic”? The talismanic

What “magic”? The talismanic mojo emanating from each and every word of the Great One seems to have eluded me. Major changes in nuclear policy have been proposed before, accompanied by declarations that the abolition of nuclear weapons is a worthy goal. Nothing earth-shaking here, folks, “rapturous” students notwithstanding. BO is the POTUS, the current face of the permanent government and its interests, not the herald of the Age of Aquarius. Really, this stuff is getting sillier by the day.

45 years ago Amitai Etzioni

45 years ago Amitai Etzioni published a little-noticed book: The Hard Way to Peace. In it he delineated what the process of unilateral, gradualist, disarmament from nuclear weapons might look like. JFK endorsed the ideas in the book, even if he was too cautious to follow them with action. It seems and feels clear that too many weapons exist and we cannot afford not to at the least begin the dismantling of them. Obama can start this but he needs support. That, as they say, is us.

America has never kept a

America has never kept a treaty. Why would you ever believe the US would ever bring their huge imperial arsenal to zero. Our “manifest destiny” mentality seems to allow us to lie, cheat, steal, deceive, and invade anyone we wish… if it goes against our “national interest.” I no longer trust Obama because of the people he’s put in his cabinet. Why should another country? When he takes back the monetary system from the Fed’s, helps other countries do the same, stop the theft of Wall Street, redistribute the wealth to the working class, and pass bills to help “we, the people” then I will begin to trust.

Nothing will happen so long

Nothing will happen so long as we continue to put negotiation ahead of action. We (the United States) have the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, far larger than we need to maintain a deterrent. We can declare significant unilateral reductions and then invite other countries to match us. Once that process begins, then we can compel not-NPT nuclear states (India, Pakistan, Israel) to join. Then the UN can negotiate a binding roadmap to zero, with inspections in all countries. The point is, someone has to act first, and, as we are the strongest power, that someone should be us. “We must think anew, and act anew, and then we shall save our world.”
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Col. Ann Wright–my HERO!

March 22nd, 2009


From Three Decades as a Colonel and Diplomat to Six Years as a Peace Activist

Friday 20 March 2009

by: Ann Wright, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

photo
Ann Wright speaks at an international meeting calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba. The former US Army colonel and career diplomat resigned in opposition to the invasion of Iraq by the Bush administration six years ago. (Photo: Getty Images)

    It was six years ago today that I resigned from the Bush administration and the US diplomatic corps in opposition to the war on Iraq. I remember the day so well. I woke up about 2 in the morning.

    Like so many mornings in the past months, I could not sleep through the night. I was very worried and upset hearing the comments out of Washington, that we, the US government, were being forced into taking military action against Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi government.

    I, like so many US diplomats and US citizens, was wondering, why must the United States attack Iraq right now? Should we not wait and hear the results of the United Nations weapons inspectors on whether there was a weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq? How could we take military action without the agreement of the member states of the United Nations Security Council?

    When President Bush launched “shock and awe” on Baghdad on the morning of March 19 (Mongolia time) and March 18 in the US, I decided I was not going to continue working in the Department of State.

    Upon arriving at the Embassy, I asked our communications officer to send my letter of resignation from the United States government to my boss, Secretary of State Colin Powell. I expected to join quickly the two other federal employees who had resigned (both were also US diplomats.)

    Several minutes later, the communications officer came back to my office and said “Ms. Wright, I read your telegram to the secretary of state and I wish that you would reconsider your resignation. I don’t agree either with the Bush administration’s decision to attack Iraq, but I’m not going to resign. I haven’t yet sent your telegram to Washington and wish you would not resign!”

    I told the communications officer that I appreciated very much what she felt, but I needed her to send my resignation telegram. She went back to her office visibly disturbed. Fifteen minutes later, I called her and asked: “Have you sent my telegram?” She answered, “No, I was hoping you would reconsider.”

    I told her of my appreciation of her concerns about my resignation, and repeated my request/order that she send the resignation telegram to Washington. A few minutes later, she brought me my copy of the telegram that she sent to Washington announcing my resignation from the federal government.

    As the telegram went to Washington, I forwarded emails to friends in US diplomatic missions around the world, explaining why I felt I must resign in opposition to the Bush administration’s war on Iraq. Within hours, I received over 400 emails in support and not one email in opposition to my decision.

    One week later, I left Mongolia. It took that long for packing materials to be brought from China into Mongolia, as there were no household packing/moving companies in Mongolia.

    Now, six years later, many have asked whether I have had any regrets about resignation from the US government.

    I must say that, honestly, my only regret has been that so many people who felt the same way that I did, did not resign too. For me, my resignation freed me to speak freely about my concerns over the Bush administration’s war on Iraq, the treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and the unnecessary curtailment of civil liberties under the Patriot Act.

    I cannot imagine working the past six years in the Bush administration, and I fully intend to hold the Bush administration accountable for what it has done.

    Since that fateful day, March 19, 2003, I have worked for peace in Iraq and have traveled for peace in other parts of the world, including Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran and Gaza.

    After six years of no longer working for the United States government, I have no regrets. I have met and become a part of a strong movement within the United States that works for peace in the United States and in countries throughout the world – Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran and Gaza.

    As I was honored to serve my country by working within our government for over 35 years, I am now honored to be serving my country by actively and visibly confronting our government, demanding peace and justice and accountability for actions of government officials. Challenging government policies that are harmful, much less illegal, is a responsibility for us as citizens.

    There are many ways to serve one’s country. I fully believe challenging policies that one feels are harmful to our nation is service, not treason.

    So, six years after my resignation, I am proud to have resigned and value so much the new friends I have made, as well as the old friends from the past.

    I will continue working for peace and justice every day.

    Peace!

»

Ann Wright is a retired US Army & Army Reserves colonel and former US diplomat, who resigned in opposition to the Iraq war. She was a US diplomat in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She is the co-author of “Dissent: Voices of Conscience”. Her March 19, 2003, letter of resignation can be read at http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0303/032103wright.htm.
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The Superferry vs. Surfers

February 28th, 2009

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090316/mander_paik

 

Surfers vs. the Superferry

By Jerry Mander & Koohan Paik

 

This article appeared in the March 16, 2009 edition of The Nation.

February 25, 2009

 

 

      Jerry Mander & Koohan Paik: How grassroots activists in Hawaii threw a wrench into plans for an environmentally hazardous superferry.

It all started in 2001 as a purportedly modest “local” effort to offer inter-island ferry service to “help local people more easily visit their relatives on other islands, and carry their farm produce to market.” Most locals liked the idea but soon found that this ferry, the gigantic Hawaii Superferry, was an environmental nightmare. It uses far more fuel (in total and per person) than big planes. It races at high speed (40-45 miles per hour) through zones teeming with endangered humpback whales, dolphins and rare sea turtles. It could transport dangerous invasive species to pristine islands. And it carries hundreds of cars to tiny places already choking on traffic.

 

Environmentalists demanded an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and its Hawaii equivalent (HEPA). But the Hawaii Superferry Company, with strong support from Governor Linda Lingle, the ambitious right-wing Republican lately famous for introducing Sarah Palin at the Republican convention, refused.

 

By 2004 the lead investor (nearly $90 million) and new chair of the board for this “local” ferry project was New York City military financier John Lehman, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of the Navy, a leading neocon with a famously aggressive military vision. (The Washington Post quoted him in 1984 as advocating first-strike nuclear strategies.) Lehman is a member of the Project for the New American Century and a 9/11 commissioner, but his great passion has been pushing for a vastly expanded, 600-ship Navy and a stronger US military presence in the Pacific to assuage mounting concerns about China as a future military superpower. After his company, J.F. Lehman, took over the Superferry project, Lehman appointed a new board with a majority of former top military brass. He later hired Adm. Thomas Fargo as CEO. Only four years ago Fargo was the commander of US military operations in the Pacific, answering directly to George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. So the question is this: why on earth would anyone need a board that qualifies as a mini-Pentagon to run a friendly transport for families and papayas between islands?

 

A key moment in this saga came in August 2007, on the small island of Kauai, called the Garden Island by tourist agencies for its folded green cliffs, cascading waterfalls and aloha spirit. But on this occasion about 1,500 locals–including a high percentage of Native Hawaiians, joined by people of Japanese and Filipino descent and a contingent of New Age haoles (recent white settlers seeking Shangri-La)–showed up at Nawiliwili Harbor to protest the Superferry’s maiden voyage from Honolulu to Kauai. Several dozen surfers also played a catalytic role.

 

When the protesters saw the oncoming speeding colossus on the horizon–bigger than a football field, four stories high and capable of carrying as many as 866 people and 282 cars–the outrage grew. The anger had been magnified a few days earlier when Governor Lingle and Lehman’s Superferry company indicated they would disregard a 5-0 Hawaii Supreme Court ruling demanding the boat suspend operations until it completed an EIS. As it approached, dozens of surfers and swimmers leaped into the water. Ignoring strident Coast Guard threats, they headed out under the Superferry’s terrifying catamaran blades, stopping the ship dead in the water. It created a sort of Tiananmen Square standoff in the waters of Kauai.

 

It was a dangerous business, but next day when the Superferry returned, the crowd of protesters had grown, and the surfers and beach brigades had too. In the ensuing eighteen months, the boat has never returned to Kauai and now has only one daily run, from Honolulu to Maui. The “spirit of Nawiliwili” has become the stuff of legend in Hawaii.

 

On the island of Maui, similar outrage led to a series of large if less spectacular protests. But the Maui resistance settled on legal actions from groups like the Sierra Club, Maui Tomorrow and the Kahului Harbor Coalition. It was these groups that had won the unanimous Hawaii Supreme Court ruling demanding the EIS. Everyone thought that decision would settle matters. Instead, it stimulated Lingle to demonstrate her Machiavellian chops by coercing the State Legislature (many of whose members had received Superferry largesse, as had Lingle) to pass a law theoretically circumventing the court ruling and permitting the boat to operate. It was an in-your-face move worthy of Bush/Cheney at their peak. Lingle’s new law, Act Two, invented an EIS process with few features from NEPA or HEPA. The new law, for example, has no power to stop the Superferry from operating, no matter what the environmental findings. It’s a fake EIS.

 

The Maui groups have gone back to court to charge that Act Two is unconstitutional–violating separation of powers and directly favoring a single company, among other problems. The final decision is expected any day.

 

Three weeks after Nawiliwili, another huge throng filled the 1,500 seats of Kauai’s War Memorial Convention Hall, with many more outside, for a “public meeting” called by Governor Lingle. Imperiously she warned that she would not discuss whether there would be a Superferry–that had been decided. Her purpose was to instruct people that if they repeated their protests, they would be charged under new anti-terrorism laws that carry prison terms up to five years and/or a $10,000 fine.

 

Her statements were met with hoots and laughter and then a series of eloquent testimonies about protection of sacred lands (aina in Hawaiian) and sea creatures and the rights of local communities to protect themselves from invasive species and invasive corporations with militaristic intentions. Many indicated they were not opposed to a ferry if it would operate within community and environmental standards rather than those of an absentee owner with profit motives and military intentions. Others denounced Lingle’s embrace of the project and its owner, suggesting she’d abandoned Hawaii for personal ambition.

 

Lingle’s goals surely go beyond providing a useful local ferry. They certainly seemed to have far more to do with getting closer to powerful Republican Party figures–notably Lehman, slated, as the New York Times reported, to have been John McCain’s chief of staff, had he won.

 

Throughout all this, the governor and the Superferry company denied the ferry’s long-range military implications, despite earlier statements by Lehman and other executives about transporting Stryker tanks and other military services along with similar statements from the US Maritime Administration, which had issued a loan guarantee. Pacific Business News reported in March 2005 that Timothy Dick, Hawaii Superferry’s original chair, confirmed that “Hawaii Superferry provided the Army with a cost analysis and expects to negotiate a long-term contract.” The article also noted that “with Lehman’s expertise, the Superferry plans to…carry military equipment and ferry vehicles from Oahu to the Big Island on a daily basis” and quoted Lehman saying that “the Superferry is strong enough to take Stryker vehicles.”

 

Then in November the Superferry’s manufacturer, Austal USA of Mobile, Alabama, was awarded a $1.6 billion Pentagon contract to build ten high-speed catamarans under the Navy’s Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) program in preparation for possible future conflicts with China. The model that Austal submitted for that contract competition was almost identical to the Hawaii Superferry’s large-scale, aluminum-hulled high-speed catamaran design, except for military fittings and accommodations. The fact that the Superferry was already in the water, proving its seaworthiness while the JHSV contract was being considered, suggests that it may have always been intended as a prototype or demo model for the larger deal. It also explains the consistent refusals to do an EIS, which might have delayed getting the boat operational and visible.

 

Two years earlier, Lehman had also purchased a shipyard, Atlantic Marine, adjacent to Austal in Mobile. It’s not yet clear if Lehman’s company, or Superferry, stands to gain from the Austal award, possibly by subcontracting aspects of that huge construction project, but speculation in Hawaii runs wild.

 

All parties await the next ruling from the Hawaii Supreme Court on the Maui appeal. A new diverse grassroots community of activists on Kauai is warily assessing whether it will again need to respond. Will the company try to send the boat back to Kauai? Or will the Superferry quit Hawaii altogether as too much trouble, selling the boat for military uses, or to someplace with no activist surfers? As for Lingle’s future, it’s not bright. While touring with Palin during the presidential campaign, Lingle was quoted saying that Barack Obama’s “claim” to be from Hawaii is “disingenuous.” That enraged the Hawaiian public more than the Superferry. She may no longer be politically viable.

  

 

 

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DoD Officials Must vow Secrecy on Budget

February 27th, 2009


http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?i=3956514 <http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?i=3956514>

W. House: DoD Officials Must Vow Secrecy on Budget
By JOHN T. BENNETT
Published: 19 Feb, 2009

The Obama administration has directed defense officials to sign a pledge stating they will not share 2010 budget data with individuals outside the federal government.

In an undated non-disclosure agreement obtained by Defense News, the administration tells defense officials that “strict confidentiality” must be practiced to ensure a “successful” and “proper” 2010 defense budget process.

The secrecy pact comes as dozens of Bush-era Pentagon appointees remain on the job, asked to stay on by the Obama administration until replacements are confirmed to ensure continuity during wartime.

The Pentagon and Office of Management and Budget have agreed on a fiscal 2010 defense budget top line figure of $537 billion. That level is nearly $50 billion lower than the $585 billion defense plan created during the final months of the Bush administration, and $24 billion higher than the already enacted $513 billion 2009 defense budget.

The pledge covers any data about the 2010 budget, including: “planning, programming and budgeting system documents and databases, and any other information” that concerns the administration’s internal discussions about “the nature and amounts of the president’s budget for fiscal year 2010, and any supplemental budget request during the current fiscal year.”

The administration is requiring defense officials to promise they will not divulge the kinds of information covered in the document “to any individual not authorized to receive it.”

“Under no circumstances will I disclose such information outside the Department of Defense and other government agencies directly involved in the defense planning and resource-allocation process, such as the Office of Management and Budget,” the agreement said.


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January 19th, 2009

MONDAY 19 JANUARY 2009 Signup for updates * * * * * * * * * * * * Opinion Olbermann | Bush Years: 8 in 8 Minutes Friday 16 January 2009 » by: Keith Olbermann,

George Walker Bush. 43rd president of the United States. first ever with a criminal record. our third story tonight, his presidency: eight years in eight minutes. early in 2001 the U.S. fingered Al Qaeda for the bombing of the USS Cole Bush counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke had a plan to take down Al Qaeda. instead by February the NSC had already discussed invading Iraq, and had a plan for post-Saddam Iraq. by March 5 Bush had a map ready for Iraqi oil exploration and a list of companies. Al Qaeda? Rice told Clarke not to give Bush a lot of long memos. not a big reader. August 6, 2001 a CIA analyst briefs Bush on vacation: “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” Bush takes no action tells the briefer – quote all right, you’ve covered your ass now. next month Clarke requests using new predator drones to kill Bin Laden the Pentagon and CIA say no. September 11th Bush remains seated for several minutes to avoid scaring school children by getting up and leaving. he then flies around the country and promises quote a full scale investigation to find those folks who did it Rumsfeld says Afghanistan does not have enough targets we’ve got to do Iraq. when the CIA traps Bin Laden at Tora Bora it asks for 800 rangers to cut off his escape Bush outsources the job to Pakistanis sympathetic to the Taliban Bin Laden gets away in February General Tommy Franks tells a visiting Senator Bush is moving equipment out of Afghanistan so he can invade Iraq. one of the men who prepped Rice for her testimony that Bush did not ignore pre 9-11 warnings later explains quote we cherry picked things to make it look like the president had been actually concerned about Al Qaeda they didn’t give a bleep about Al Qaeda July and Britain‘s intel chief says Bush is fixing intelligence and facts around the policy to take out Saddam January 03 Bush and Blair agree to invade in March Mr. Bush still telling us he has not decided telling Blair they should paint an airplane in UN colors fly it over Iraq and provoke a response a pretext for invasion the man who said it would take several hundred thousand troops fired the man who said it would cost more than a hundred billion fired the man who revealed Bush’s yellowcake lie smeared his wife’s covert status exposed the White House liars who did it and covered it up not fired one convicted Bush commutes his sentence then in Iraq, stuff happens: Iraq’s army, disbanded the government de-Baathified 200,000 weapons, billions of dollars just lost foreign mercenaries immunized from justice political hacks run the Green Zone religious cleansing forcing one out of six Iraqis from their homes Abu Ghraib the insurgency Al Qaeda in Iraq other stuff does not happen: WMD post-war planning body armor vehicular armor the payoff? oil and billions for Halliburton, Blackwater and other companies while Mr. Bush denies VA healthcare to 450,000 veterans tries to raise their healthcare fees blocks the new G.I. Bill and increases his own power with the USA PATRIOT Act with the Military Commissions Act public orders exempting himself from a thousand laws and secretly from the Presidential Records Act The Geneva Conventions FISA sparking a mass rebellion at the Justice Department secret star chambers for terrorism suspects, overturned by Hamdan v Rumsfeld. denying habeas corpus, overturned by Boumediene v Bush. 200 renditionings sleep deprivation abuse Rumsfeld warned in 2002 that he was torturing that it would jeopardize convictions out of 550 at Gitmo hundreds ultimately go free with no charges dozens are tortured eight fatally three are convicted on U.S. soil twelve hundred immigrants rounded up without due process without bail without court dates without a single charge of terrorism it wasn’t just Mr. Bush no longer subject to the rule of law he slashed regulations on everyone from banks to mining companies appointed 98 lobbyists to oversee their own industries weakening emission standards for mercury and 650 different toxic chemicals regulators shared drugs and their beds with industry reps the Crandall Canyon mine owner told inspectors to back up because his buddy, Republican Mitch McConnell was sleeping with their boss McConnell’s wife is Bush Labor Secretary Elaine Chao her agency overruled engineer concerns about Crandall Canyon and was found negligent after nine miners died in the collapse there Mr. Bush’s hands off as Enron blacks out California doubling electric bills after months of rejecting price caps Mr. Bush bows to pressure the blackouts end Mr. Bush further deregulates commodity futures midwifing the birth of unregulated oil markets which just like Enron jack up prices to an all time high until Congress and both presidential candidates call for regulations and the prices fall deregulating financial services and lax enforcement of remaining rules created a housing bubble creating the mortgage crisis creating then a credit crisis devastating industries that rely on credit from student loans to car dealers firms that had survived the Great Depression could not survive Bush those that did got seven hundred billion dollars no strings, no transparency no idea whether it worked unlike the auto bailout which cut workers’ salaries. a GOP memo called it a chance to punish unions but Bush failed even when his party and his patrons did not stand to profit investigators blamed management cost cutting communication for missed warnings about Columbia Bush administration convicts include sex offenders at Homeland Security convicted liars every kind of thief in the calendar and if you count things that were not prosecuted the vice president of the United States actually shot a man in the face the man apologized. Mr. Bush faked the truth with paid propaganda in Iraq on his education policy tried to silence the truth about global warming rocket fuel in our water industry influence on energy policy politicized the truth of science at NASA, the EPA, the National Cancer Institute, Fish and Wildlife and the FDA his lies exposed by whistleblowers from the cabinet down “complete BS” the treasury secretary said of Mr. Bush on his tax cuts. Rice’s mushroom cloud Powell’s mobile labs Iraq and 9-11 Jack Abramoff Jessica Lynch Pat Tillman Pat Tillman again Pat Tillman, again. the air at Ground Zero most responders still suffering respiratory problems. global warming carbon emissions a Clear Skies initiative lowering air quality standards the Healthy Forests initiative increasing logging faith based initiatives the cost of medicare reform fired US attorneys politically synchronized terror alerts the surge causing insurgents to switch sides that abortion causes breast cancer that his first recession began under Clinton that he did not wiretap without warrants that we do not torture. that American citizen John Walker Lindh’s rights were not violated that he refused the right to counsel heckuva job Brownie some survivors still in trailers New Orleans still at just two-thirds its usual population the lie that no one could have predicted the economic crisis except the economists who did no one could have predicted 9-11 except one ass-covering CIA analyst or thirty no one could have predicted the levee breach except literally Mr. Bill in a PSA that aired on TV a year before Katrina Bush actually admitted that he lied about not firing Rumsfeld because he did not want to tell the truth. look it up. all of it all of it and more leaving us with ten trillion in debt to pay for 31% more in discretionary spending the Iraq War a 1.3 trillion dollar tax cut median income down two thousand dollars three-quarters of all income gains under Bush going to the richest one percent unemployment up from 4.2 to 7.2 percent the Dow, down from ten thousand five hundred eighty seven to eighty two hundred seventy seven six million now more in poverty seven million more now without health care buying toxic goods from China deadly cribs outsourcing security to Dubai still unsecure in our ports and at our nuclear plants more dependent on foreign oil out of the international criminal court off the anti ballistic missle treaty military readiness and standards down with two unfinished wars a nuclear North Korea disengaged from the Palestinian problem destabilizing eastern european diplomacy with anti missile plans and unable to keep Russia out of Georgia 2000 miles of Appalachian streams destroyed by rubble from mountaintop mining at his last G-8 summit, he actually bid farewell to other world leaders saying quote – goodbye from the world’s greatest polluter consistently undermining historic American reverence for the institutions that empower us education, now “academic elites” and the law, “activist judges” capping jury awards and Bin Laden? living today unmolested in a Pakistani safe haven created by a truce endorsed and defended by George W. Bush and among all the gifts he gave to Bin Laden the most awful, the most damaging not just to America but to the American ideal was to further Bin Laden’s goal by making us act out of fear rather than fortitude leaving us with precious little to cling to tonight save the one thing that might yet suffice: hope.

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Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity insight on the war

November 25th, 2008

Robert Gates Wants to Keep His Pentagon Gig, so He’s Pandering to Obama’s Bad Ideas for Afghanistan

By Ray McGovern, Consortium News
Posted on November 24, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/108318/
It may become a biennial ritual. Every two years, if the commander-in-chief (or the commander-in-chief-elect) says he wants to throw more troops into an unwinnable war for no clear reason other than his political advantage, panderer-in-chief Robert Gates will shout “Outstanding!”

Never mind what the commanders in the field are saying — much less the troops who do the dying.

After meeting in Canada on Friday with counterparts from countries with troops in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Gates emphasized to reporters there is a shared interest in “surging as many forces as we can” <http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-afghan24-2008nov24,0,5733953.story>  into Afghanistan before the elections there in late September 2009.

At the concluding news conference, Gates again drove home the point: “It’s important that we have a surge of forces.”

Basking in the alleged success of the Iraq “surge,” Gates knows a winning word when he hears one — whether the facts are with him or not. Although the conventional wisdom in Washington credits the “surge” with reducing violence in Iraq, military analysts point to other reasons — including Sunni tribes repudiating al-Qaeda extremists before the “surge” and the de facto ethnic cleansing of Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods.

In Washington political circles, there’s also little concern about the 1,000 additional U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq since President George W. Bush started the “surge” early in 2007. The Americans killed during the “surge” represent roughly one-quarter of the total war dead whose numbers passed the 4,200 mark last week.

Nor is there much Washington commentary about what Bush’s grotesque expenditure in blood and treasure will mean in the long term, even as the Iraqis put the finishing touches on a security pact that sets a firm deadline for a complete U.S. military withdrawal by the end of 2011, wording that may be Arabic for “thanks, but no thanks.”

And most Americans do not know from reading the reports from their Fawning Corporate Media that the “surge” was such a “success” that the United States now has about 8,000 more troops in Iraq than were there before the “surge” rose and fell.

The real “success” of the Iraq “surge” is proving to be that it will let President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney leave office on Jan. 20, 2009, without having to admit that they were responsible for a strategic disaster. They can lay the blame for failure on their successors.

Gates a Winner?

Gates stands to be another beneficiary of the Iraq “surge.”

Already, he has the defense secretary job. In November 2006, he was plucked from the relative obscurity of his Texas A&M presidency and put back into the international spotlight that he has always craved, because he was willing to front for the “surge” when even Donald Rumsfeld was urging Bush to start a troop drawdown.

Now, the perceived “success” of the “surge” is giving hawkish Washington Democrats an excuse to rally around Gates and urge President-elect Barack Obama to keep him on.

Ever an accomplished bureaucrat, Gates is doing what he can to strengthen his case.

On Friday, Gates seemed at pains to demonstrate that his approach to Afghanistan is identical to the one publicly espoused by his prospective new employer who is currently reviewing Gates’ job renewal application. And, as he did with the Iraq “surge” over the past two years, Gates now is talking up the prospects for an Afghan “surge.”

“The notion that things are out of control in Afghanistan or that we’re sliding toward a disaster, I think, is far too pessimistic,” Gates said. Yet the argument that Gates used to support his relative optimism makes us veteran intelligence officers gag — at least those who remember the U.S. in Vietnam in the 1960s, the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and other failed counterinsurgencies.

“The Taliban holds no land in Afghanistan and loses every time it comes into contact with coalition forces,” Gates explained.

Our secretary of defense is insisting that U.S. troops have not lost one pitched battle with the Taliban or al-Qaeda. Engagements like the one on July 13, 2008, in which “insurgents” attacked an outpost in Konar province, killing nine U.S. soldiers and wounding 15 others, apparently do not qualify as “contact,” but are merely “incidents.”

Gates ought to read up on Vietnam, for his words evoke a similarly benighted comment by U.S. Army Col. Harry Summers after that war had been lost. In 1974, Summers was sent to Hanoi to try to resolve the status of Americans still listed as missing. To his North Vietnamese counterpart, Col. Tu, Summers made the mistake of bragging, “You know, you never beat us on the battlefield.” Colonel Tu responded, “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.”

As Vietnamese Communist forces converged on Saigon in April 1975, the U.S. withdrew all remaining personnel. Summers was on the last Marine helicopter to fly off the roof of the American Embassy at 5:30 a.m. on April 30. As he later recalled, “I was the second-to-the-last Army guy out of Vietnam — quite a searing experience.”

More Vietnams?

Why is this relevant? Because if Obama repeats the mistakes of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford, U.S. Marine choppers may be plucking folks not only off the U.S. embassy roof in Baghdad, but also from the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan. No ignoramus, Gates knows that his comments about the Taliban losing “every time” that there is contact with coalition forces is as irrelevant as those of Col. Summers 34 years ago.

Yet, it would be folly to expect Gates to give advice to a superior that challenges the policies that Gates thinks his superior favors. Gates has been the consummate career careerist, going back to his days as head of analysis at CIA in the 1980s when he fashioned intelligence reports that gave the policymakers what they wanted to hear. Instead of the old-fashioned “bark-on” intelligence, the Gates variety was “apple-polished” intelligence.

Time running out for Gates

He wants to stay on as Defense Secretary and apparently thinks that his lifelong strategy of telling his superiors what they want to hear will now work with Barack Obama. Gates is nearing the end of a highly sophisticated campaign to convince Obama and his advisers that the current defense secretary is just who they need at the Pentagon to execute Obama’s policies — and look really bipartisan to boot.

The president-elect’s position has long been that we need to send “at least two additional brigades” (about 7,000 troops) to Afghanistan. So the defense secretary would have us believe, as he said Friday, that “surging as many forces as we can” is an outstanding idea. And with troops having to leave Iraqi cities by next June, in the first stage of the U.S. withdrawal demanded by the draft status-of-forces agreement, there will be more soldiers available to send into the mountains of Afghanistan. Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?

Ironically, this resembles closely the proposed policy of Sen. John McCain, who argued during the debate with Obama on Sept. 26 that “the same [surge] strategy” that Gen. David Petraeus implemented in Iraq is “going to have to be employed in Afghanistan.” For good measure, Gov. Sarah Palin told Katie Couric “a surge in Afghanistan also will lead us to victory there, as it has proven to have done in Iraq.”

Reality bites

Oops! Within a week, Gen. David McKiernan, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, undercut McCain and Palin, insisting emphatically that no Iraq-style “surge” of forces will end the conflict in Afghanistan. Speaking in Washington on Oct. 1, McKiernan employed unusual candor in describing Afghanistan as “a far more complex environment than I ever found in Iraq.” The country’s mountainous terrain, rural population, poverty, illiteracy, 400 major tribal networks, and history of civil war make it a unique challenge, he said.

“The word I don’t use for Afghanistan is ‘surge,’” McKiernan continued, adding that what is required is a “sustained commitment” to a counterinsurgency effort that could last many years and would ultimately require a political, not military, solution. McKiernan added that he doubts that “another facet of the Iraq strategy” — the U.S. military’s programs to recruit tribes to oppose insurgents — can be duplicated in Afghanistan. “I don’t want the military to be engaging the tribes,” said McKiernan.

Recently, President-elect Obama has been relatively quiet on Afghanistan, and one lives in hope that, before he actually commits to sending more brigades to Afghanistan, he will assemble a group of people who know something about that country, the forces at play in the region, and insurgency. If he gathers the right people, and if he listens, it seems a good bet that his campaign rhetoric about Afghanistan being the good war will remain just that, rhetoric.

In any event, press reports suggest that Gates has only another week or so left to pretend to the president-elect that he thinks the ideas reflected in Obama’s rhetoric are outstanding. And, as Gates’ predecessor Rumsfeld might have put it, you have to go with the rhetoric you’ve got. Right now, the word “surge” brings nods of approval at influential dinner parties in Washington.

What does Gen. McKiernan know, anyway? Gates’ Pentagon says that McKiernan now has requested three additional brigade combat teams and additional aviation assets. And yet, he says he’s allergic to a “surge”?

If past is precedent, Gen. McKiernan already realizes he has little choice but to salute smartly, do what he is told, and not diverge from what inexperienced civilians like Gates are promoting. After all, didn’t McNamara know best in the early days of Vietnam and didn’t Rumsfeld know best at the start of the Iraq war?

As the saying goes, if you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you are a general assigned a mission — though it appear to be Mission Impossible — you salute smartly and use those troops entrusted to you to do what armies do. At least that has been the tradition since Vietnam. Such behavior is a disgrace when generals know better.

Ambitious but empty suits

I’m all for civilian control of the military. But I see much more harm than good in political generals — like the anointed David Petraeus — who give ample evidence of being interested, first and foremost, in their own advancement. Why do I say that? Because Petraeus, like McKiernan, knows Afghanistan is another quagmire. But he won’t say it.

Rather than do the right thing and brief his superiors on the realities of Afghanistan, Petraeus and the generals he has promoted seem likely to follow the time-honored practice of going along to get along. After all, none of them get killed or wounded. Rather the vast majority get promoted, so long as they keep any dissenting thoughts to themselves.

It is the same pattern we witnessed regarding Vietnam. Although the most senior military brass knew, as the French learned before them, that the war/occupation could not be successful, no senior officer had the integrity and courage to speak out and try to halt the lunacy.

Are there Army generals with guts?

It will be interesting to see what McKiernan actually does if and when more troops are surged down his throat. If he has the courage of his convictions, maybe he’ll quit and perhaps even say something.

As a former Army officer, I would love to see an Army general display the courage that one saw in Admiral William Fallon, former commander of CENTCOM, who openly refused to “do Iran” on his watch, and got cashiered for it. Two years ago, Army Generals John Abizaid and George Casey, speaking on behalf of their senior commanders in the field, pushed back strongly against the idea of adding more U.S. troops to those already in Iraq. They finally succeeded in persuading former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld of the merits of their argument.

It was when Rumsfeld himself started to challenge the advice Bush was getting (to “surge” and thus not “lose” Iraq on his watch) that Robert Gates was brought in to replace Rumsfeld, relieve Abizaid and Casey from command, and help anoint Gen. Petraeus as surge-savior. (For details on Rumsfeld’s break with Bush, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Robert Gates: As Bad as Rumsfeld?”)

But rather than speak out, Abizaid folded his tent like an Arab and silently stole away. Casey accepted the sinecure of Army chief of staff as hush money. And a thousand more U.S. troops died. The temporary respite provided by the 29,000 troops who survived the surge helped achieve the administration’s main purpose — deferring the inevitable U.S. troop withdrawal (not in “victory” as Bush liked to say, but by demand of the Iraqi government) until Bush and Cheney were safely out of office.

As for Gates, what he does not know about Afghanistan and insurgency could fill a medium-sized library. So could what Gates does know about how to ingratiate himself with the next level up.

If it is true that serious consideration is being given to keeping Gates on past January, it will be interesting to see if the pandering padding of his resume eventually wins the day with the president-elect.

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. 

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Accountability for the War in Iraq

November 23rd, 2008

The Iraqi people’s human and civil rights were – and remain -swept aside by the occupation.

By Burhan Al-Chalabi.

The U.S. Presidential Election has sent a clear and unequivocal message to the world. The American people have rejected the foreign and domestic policies of President George W. Bush.

In Britain, the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, found his position unsustainable and resigned, leaving the invasion of Iraq and its awful consequences as his political legacy. The new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has talked about the need to be open and transparent in order to win the trust of the British public, but has so far shown no sign of addressing or redressing his predecessor’s failed policies in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. The military occupation of Iraq and the exploitation of its vast mineral wealth continue unabated.

To justify the invasion of and war against Iraq, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair cited two violations by the Iraqi regime: of human rights and of UN Security Council resolutions passed just before and after the first Gulf War of 1991. The purpose of the war, it was claimed, was to hold the Iraqi regime accountable under international law.

But by invading Iraq, the U.S. Administration and the British Government were themselves violating UN resolutions and international law, as stated in the Report by Lord Bingham, the Law Lord, and published in the Guardian on 18th November 2008. The Iraqi people’s human and civil rights were —and remain—swept aside by the acts of war and the continuing fact of occupation.

Today, Iraq’s sovereignty has been destroyed. Its wealth of cultural heritage has been looted or vandalised. Iraq’s natural resources have been squandered, and its once-elaborate and sophisticated infrastructure has been laid to waste. Safety, security, and the processes of the rule of law are virtually non-existent. The legal and moral authority of the UN has been undermined. Terrorism is on the increase.

The whole Middle East region has either been destabilised or is as a result of the chaos in Iraq at high risk of instability or even meltdown. To all intents and purposes Southern Iraq is under the control of the Tehran Government, an outcome that many familiar with the region foresaw as talk of an invasion mounted in 2002 but the Bush White House and its associated agencies somehow failed to anticipate.

To get rid of one man, the two Anglo-American powers have brought an entire nation to the brink of devastation. This man, Saddam Hussein, was not at war with the U.S. or the UK, and could not realistically have posed a threat, at any level. He was not even considered any longer, in 2002, to be a serious threat to his Arab and Persian neighbours. Neither did Iraq pose any threat to American or British national interests or security, as it has since been proved to the satisfaction of all but a few of the most die-hard and tunnel-visioned supporters of the failed Bush regime and the departed Mr. Blair.

More than 3million Iraqis have left their homes, most of these having to flee to neighbouring Arab countries or the West. Iraqis now form one of the largest refugee communities in Europe. More than 600,000 civilians have been killed. Tens of thousands more are maimed or injured, traumatised or homeless, often all of these. Wild dogs feast on Iraqi remains. Holy places have been desecrated. Hundreds of people are assassinated or kidnapped every day. Puppet Iraqi Governments under the occupation are prevented from publishing the details and numbers of dead Iraqis.

During the 13 years of the U.S.-led economic and other sanctions imposed by the Security Council, Iraqi children suffered from malnutrition and genetic disorder caused by depleted uranium (DU). Some eminent Western medical authorities estimated in the early 1990s that Iraqi children – babies, toddlers and infants – were dying at the rate of one every six minutes. All the most telling evidence from UN agencies and NGOs and visiting experts in the medical and scientific fields was ruthlessly ignored by the U.S.- and British-dominated sanctions authorities. Between 1991 and 2003 the lifeblood of the nation was drained.

Since the American military occupation, Iraqi children are growing up in what is an even worse situation. The sanctions have been replaced by anarchy, institutionalised sectarian division, mayhem and murder. These children remain in fear of their lives, with no hopes, no dreams, no education, and no health care. They are helpless. For the lucky ones, play time is spent on rubbish dumps, even seeking food amongst this filth. Many others are kept at home for fear of being kidnapped or blown up.

This is a demeaning sight in one of the richest countries in the world, one which had developed fast and successfully in areas such as health, welfare, medicine, education, roads, housing and literacy, a model for other Middle East nations in how to use and spread oil wealth, and for the developing world—until just 19 years ago. Modern Iraq, if such a term can be used, is now a permanent and shameful scar on the conscience of those who conspired to invade and occupy Iraq to further their national and personal ambitions.

Iraq is a failed state. For Iraqis, life is hell. Things worsen by the day. Secular Iraq had made great strides in improving the lot of all of its people in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, in all social and economic areas. Sectarian Iraq is the most corrupt nation in the world, a perfect export model of U.S. political hypocrisy in action.

The occupiers use every conceivable excuse to justify the failure of the war in Iraq. They dismiss resistance to the occupation as mere terrorism, and other labels insulting to the Iraqi people but considered palatable to U.S. domestic consumption. All that is bad and violent is attributed to the Iraqis and their traditions or nature; the Americans and the British, of course, bear no responsibility for the breakdown in order and the monumental increase in sectarian violence since 2003. Abuse, torture, humiliation and rape are treated as a side show, left to committees to get it out of the glare of negative publicity and to dampen public anger and frustration of the conduct of the war.

The war was never intended to be one of liberation. There was never an exit strategy. Instead, initiatives are taken to divert attention from the true extent of human and financial losses by the war, and to justify continuing the occupation.

The real quagmire of the U.S. Administration is not just to be found in the catastrophic failure of the war, which was doomed to fail from the start; it is not even in the extent of human and financial losses and suffering, both Iraqi and American. Death and destruction is the business of war.

No, at the heart of this swamp is dishonesty with the American (and British and Iraqi) public. The American and British public, legislators and voters were inveigled into this disaster. The true aims of the war were never shared by its architect with the American people for fear of being rejected for what they really were— American Imperialism, a modern day spin for politically, commercially and religiously motivated colonial imperialism. The American and British Governments conspired with much of the western media and pulled the wool over the eyes of most of the others—who largely seemed all too ready to listen to their masters—to hide the facts, continue the deceptions, and prolong the suffering and pain of the Iraqi people.

President-elect Obama’s message to the American public is that of change. The most fundamental change needed is honesty, transparency and accountability with respect to the war against Iraq. The American public deserve to know what their loved ones died for. Iraqis also want to know the Bush administration’s hidden agenda for the invasion, destruction and continuing occupation of Iraq.

In Britain, bereaved parents also deserve to be told for whom their sons and daughters died. This was no war for the greater good, Queen and Country. It was for oil.

In March, 2005, it was revealed by The Sunday Times that in 2002 the then head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, told Tony Blair and his leading advisers after a visit to Washington that “the facts and intelligence” were being “fixed round the policy” by George W Bush’s Administration.

In his resignation speech, Tony Blair said: “I did what I thought was right for our country”, all this in the face of irrefutable evidence that he and his closest aides deliberately misled the British public and the Labour Party into believing there was palpable national risk to Britain at the hands of a WMD-bearing Saddam Hussein. To date, the British Government has ignored all attempts to set up a proper public, judicial or parliamentary inquiry into what led to the Anglo-American invasion—the biggest western blunder in the Middle East since Suez, and one of far greater consequences.

In a democracy, the executive must be held accountable to the people. Only this can and will restore faith in the most fundamental principles of democracy, namely accountability.

Officials of the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein were quickly held accountable for their crimes, and punished, some—including Saddam Hussein himself—executed for their felonies and atrocities. But to date; there has been no independent judicial or political process in the US or UK to hold anybody accountable for the violations and crimes of invading Iraq and what has happened since—what is still happening without an end in sight.

Hiding behind “dodgy dossier” or expressions of faith, hope and belief in the so-called Western system or “spread of democracy” are not legal justifications for avoiding responsibility. Advocating the politics of fear to pursue personal or national agendas cannot be accepted in the civilised world.

Real not politicised justice must be seen to be done, to right the wrongs committed by the Bush Administration against the Iraqi people. The first step is to announce a date for the withdrawal of American forces and their imports of Iranian and Iraqi cronies.

– Dr. Burhan Al-Chalabi (FRSA) is Chairman of the British Iraqi Foundation.

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TomDispatch: The legacy of the “War President”

November 5th, 2008

The legacy of the “War President”………….

 

Tom Engelhardt: The End of a Subprime Administration

 

Source: TomDispatch.com (11-2-08)

 

[Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. He is the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of the American Age of Denial. The World According to TomDispatch: America in the New Age of Empire (Verso, 2008), a collection of some of the best pieces from his site and an alternative history of the mad Bush years, has recently been published. To listen to a podcast in which he discusses Bush's record abroad, click here. ] 

 

They may have been the most disastrous dreamers, the most reckless gamblers, and the most vigorous imperial hucksters and grifters in our history. Selling was their passion. And they were classic American salesmen — if you’re talking about underwater land in Florida, or the Brooklyn Bridge, or three-card monte, or bizarre visions of Iraqi unmanned aerial vehicles armed with chemical and biological weaponry let loose over the U.S., or Saddam Hussein‘s mushroom clouds rising over American cities, or a full-scale reordering of the Middle East to our taste, or simply eternal global dominance. 

 

When historians look back, it will be far clearer that the “commander-in-chief” of a “wartime” country and his top officials were focused, first and foremost, not on the shifting “central theaters” of the Global War on Terror, but on the theater that mattered most to them — the “home front” where they spent inordinate amounts of time selling the American people a bill of goods. Of his timing in ramping up a campaign to invade Iraq in September 2002, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card infamously explained: “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” 

 

Indeed. 

 

From a White House where “victory strategies” meant purely for domestic consumption poured out, to the Pentagon where bevies of generals, admirals, and other high officers were constantly being mustered, not to lead armies but to lead public opinion, their selling focus was total. They were always releasing “new product.” 

 

And don’t forget their own set of soaring inside-the-Beltway fantasies. After all, if a salesman is going to sell you some defective product, it always helps if he can sell himself on it first. And on this score, they were world champs. 

 

Because events made it look so foolish, the phrase “shock and awe” that went with the initial attack on Iraq in March 2003 has now passed out of official language and (together with “mission accomplished”) into the annals of irony. Back then, though, as bombs and missiles blew up parts of Baghdad — to fabulous visual effect in that other “theater” of war, television — the phrase was constantly on official lips and in media reports everywhere. It went hand-in-glove with another curious political phrase: regime change. 

 

Given the supposed unique technological proficiency of the U.S. military and its array of “precision” weapons, the warriors of Bushworld convinced themselves that a new era in military affairs had truly dawned. An enemy “regime” could now be taken out — quite literally and with surgical precision, in its bedrooms, conference rooms, and offices, thanks to those precision weapons delivered long-distance from ship or plane — without taking out a country. Poof! You only had to say the word and an oppressive regime would be, as it was termed, “decapitated.” Its people would then welcome with open arms relatively small numbers of American troops as liberators. 

 

It all sounded so good, and high tech, and relatively simple, and casualty averse, and clean as a whistle. Even better, once there had been such a demonstration, a guaranteed “cakewalk” — as, say, in Iraq — who would ever dare stand up to American power again? Not only would one hated enemy dictator be dispatched to the dustbin of history, but evildoers everywhere, fearing the Bush equivalent of the wrath of Khan, would be shock-and-awed into submission or quickly dispatched in their own right. 

 

In reality (ah, “reality” — what a nasty word!), the shock-and-awe attacks used on Iraq got not a single leader of the Saddamist regime, not one of that pack of 52 cards (including of course the ace of spades, Saddam Hussein, found in his “spiderhole” so many months later). Iraqi civilians were the ones killed in that precise and shocking moment, while Iraqi society was set on the road to destruction, and the world was not awed. 

 

Strangely enough, though, the phrase, once reversed, proved applicable to the Bush administration’s seven-year post-9/11 history. They were, in a sense, the awe-and-shock administration. Initially, they were awed by the supposedly singular power of the American military to dominate and transform the planet; then, they were continually shocked and disbelieving when that same military, despite its massive destructive power, turned out to be incapable of doing so, or even of handling two ragtag insurgencies in two weakened countries, one of which, Afghanistan, was among the poorest and least technologically advanced on the planet. 

 

The Theater of War 

 

In remarkably short order, historically speaking, the administration’s soaring imperial fantasies turned into planetary nightmares. After 9/11, of course, George W. and crew promised Americans the global equivalent — and Republicans the domestic equivalent — of a 36,000 stock market and we know just where the stock market is today: only about 27,000 points short of that irreality. 

 

Once upon a time, they really did think that, via the U.S. Armed Forces, or, as George W. Bush once so breathlessly put it, “the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known,” they could dominate the planet without significant help from allies or international institutions of any sort. Who else had a shot at it? In the post-Soviet world, who but a leadership backed by the full force of the U.S. military could possibly be a contender for the leading role in this epic movie? Who else could even turn out for a casting call? Impoverished Russia? China, still rebuilding its military and back then considered to have a host of potential problems? A bunch of terrorists? I mean come on! 

 

As they saw it, the situation was pretty basic. In fact, it gave the phrase “power politics” real meaning. After all, they had in their hands the reins attached to the sole superpower on this small orb. And wasn’t everyone — at least, everyone they cared to listen to, at least Charles Krauthammer and the editorial page of the Washington Post — saying no less? 

 

I mean, what else would you do, if you suddenly, almost miraculously (after an election improbably settled by the Supreme Court), found yourself in sole command of the globe’s only “hyperpower,” the only sheriff on planet Earth, the New Rome. To make matters more delicious, in terms of getting just what you wanted, those hands were on those reins right after “the Pearl Harbor of the twenty-first century,” when Americans were shocked and awed and terrified enough that anything-goes seemed a reasonable response? 

 

It might have gone to anyone’s head in imperial Washington at that moment, but it went to their heads in such a striking way. After all, theirs was a plan — labeled in 2002 the Bush Doctrine — of global domination conceptually so un-American that, in my childhood, the only place you would have heard it was in the mouths of the most evil, snickering imperial Japanese, Nazi, or Soviet on-screen villains. And yet, in their moment of moments, it just rolled right out of their heads and off their tongues — and they were proud of it. 

 

Here’s a question for 2009 you don’t have to answer: What should the former “new Rome” be called now? That will, of course, be someone else’s problem. 

 

The Cast of Characters 

 

And what a debacle the Bush Doctrine proved to be. What a legacy the legacy President and his pals are leaving behind. A wrecked economy, deflated global stock markets, collapsing banks and financial institutions, soaring unemployment, a smashed Republican Party, a bloated Pentagon overseeing a strained, overstretched military, enmired in an incoherent set of still-expanding wars gone sour, a network of secret prisons, as well as Guantanamo, that “jewel in the crown” of Bush’s Bermuda Triangle of injustice, and all the grim practices that went with those offshore prisons, including widespread torture and abuse, kidnapping, assassination, and the disappearing of prisoners (once associated only with South America dictatorships and military juntas). 

 

They headed a government that couldn’t shoot straight or plan ahead or do anything halfway effectively, an administration that emphasized “defense” — or “homeland security” as it came to be called in their years — above all else; yet they were always readying themselves for the last battle, and so were caught utterly, embarrassingly unready for 19 terrorists with box cutters, a hurricane named Katrina, and an arcane set of Wall Street derivatives heading south. 

 

As the supposed party of small government, they succeeded mainly in strangling civilian services, privatizing government operations into the hands of crony corporations, and bulking up state power in a massive way — making an already vast intelligence apparatus yet larger and more labyrinthine, expanding spying and surveillance of every kind, raising secrecy to a first principle, establishing a new U.S. military command for North America, endorsing a massive Pentagon build-up, establishing a second Defense Department labeled the Department of Homeland Security with its own mini-homeland-security-industrial complex, evading checks and powers in the Constitution whenever possible, and claiming new powers for a “unitary executive” commander-in-chief presidency. 

 

No summary can quite do justice to what the administration “accomplished” in these years. If there was, however, a single quote from the world of George W. Bush that caught the deepest nature of the president and his core followers, it was offered by an “unnamed administration official” — often assumed to be Karl Rove — to journalist Ron Suskind back in October 2004: 

 

 

 

“He] said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…. and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’”

 

“We create our own reality We’re history’s actors.” 

 

It must for years have seemed that way and everything about the lives they lived only reinforced that impression. After all, the President himself, as so many wrote, lived in a literal bubble world. Those who met him were carefully vetted; audiences were screened so that no one who didn’t fawn over him got near him; and when he traveled through foreign cities, they were cleared of life, turned into the equivalent of Potemkin villages, while he and his many armored cars and Blackhawk helicopters, his huge contingent of Secret Service agents and White House aides, his sniffer dogs and military sharpshooters, his chefs and who knows what else passed through. 

 

Of course, the President had been in a close race with the reality principle (which, in his case, was the principle of failure) all his life — and whenever reality nipped at his heels, his father’s boys stepped in and whisked him off stage. He got by at his prep school, Andover, and then at Yale, a c-level legacy student and, appropriately enough when it came to sports, a cheerleader and, at Yale, a party animal as well as the president of the hardest drinking fraternity on campus. He was there in the first place only because of who he wasn’t (or rather who his relations were). 

 

Faced with the crises of the Vietnam era, he joined the Texas Air National Guard and more or less went missing in action. Faced with life, he became a drunk. Faced with business, he failed repeatedly and yet, thanks to his dad’s friends, became a multi-millionaire in the process. He was supported, cosseted, encouraged, and finally — to use an omnipresent word of our moment — bailed out. The first MBA president was a business bust. A certain well-honed, homey congeniality got him to the governorship and then to the presidency of the United States without real accomplishments. If there ever was a case for not voting for the guy you’d most like to “have a beer with,” this was it. 

 

On that pile of rubble at Ground Zero on September 14, 2001, with a bullhorn in his hands and various rescuers shouting, “USA! USA!” he genuinely found his “calling” as the country’s cheerleader-in-chief (as he had evidently found his religious calling earlier in life). He not only took the job seriously, he visibly loved it. He took a childlike pleasure in being in the “theater” of war. He was thrilled when some of the soldiers who captured Saddam Hussein in that “spiderhole” later presented him with the dictator’s pistol. (“‘He really liked showing it off,’ says a… visitor to the White House who has seen the gun. ‘He was really proud of it.’”) He was similarly thrilled, on a trip to Baghdad in 2007, to meet the American pilot “whose plane’s missiles killed Iraq’s Al Qaeda leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi” and “returned to Washington in a buoyant mood.” 

 

While transforming himself into the national cheerleader-in-chief, he even kept “his own personal scorecard for the war” in a desk drawer in the Oval Office — photos with brief biographies and personality sketches of leading al-Qaeda figures, whose faces could be satisfyingly crossed out when killed or captured. He clearly adored it when he got to dress up, whether in a flight suit landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier in May 2003, or in front of hoo-aahing crowds of soldiers wearing a specially tailored military-style jacket with “George W. Bush, Commander In Chief” hand-stitched across the heart. As earlier in life, he was supported (Karl Rove), enabled (Condoleezza Rice), cosseted (various officials), and so became “the decider,” a willing figurehead (as he had been, for instance, when he was an “owner” of the Texas Rangers), manipulated by his co-president Dick Cheney. In these surroundings, he was able to take war play to an imperial level. In the end, however, this act of his life, too, could lead nowhere but to failure. 

 

As it happened, reality possessed its own set of shock-and-awe weaponry. Above all, reality was unimpressed with history’s self-proclaimed “actors,” working so hard on the global stage to create their own reality. When it came to who really owned what, it turned out that reality owned the works and that possession was indeed nine-tenths of one law that even George Bush’s handlers and his fervent neocon followers couldn’t suspend. 

 

Exit Stage Right 

 

The results were sadly predictable. The bubble world of George W. Bush was bound to be burst. Based on fantasies, false promises, lies, and bait-and-switch tactics, it was destined for foreclosure. At home and abroad, after all, it had been created using the equivalent of subprime mortgages and the result, unsurprisingly, was a dismally subprime administration. 

 

Now, of course, the bill collector is at the door and the property — the USA — is worth a good deal less than on November 4, 2000. George W. Bush is a discredited president; his job approval ratings could hardly be lower; his bubble world gone bust. 

 

Nonetheless, let’s remember one other theme of his previous life. Whatever his failures, Bush always walked away from disastrous dealings enriched, while others were left holding the bag. Don’t imagine for a second that the equivalent isn’t about to repeat itself. He will leave a country functionally under the gun of foreclosure, a world far more aflame and dangerous than the one he faced on entering the Oval Office. But he won’t suffer. 

 

He will have his new house in Dallas (not to speak of the “ranch” in Crawford) and his more than $200 million presidential “library” and “freedom institute” at Southern Methodist University; and then there’s always that 20% of America — they know who they are — who think his presidency was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Believe me, 20% of America is more than enough to pony up spectacular sums, once Bush takes to the talk circuit. As the president himself put it enthusiastically,”‘I’ll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol’ coffers.’ With assets that have been estimated as high as nearly $21 million, Mr. Bush added, ‘I don’t know what my dad gets — it’s more than 50-75′ thousand dollars a speech, and ‘Clinton’s making a lot of money.’” 

 

This is how a legacy-student-turned-president fails upward. Every disaster leaves him better off. 

 

The same can’t be said for the country or the world, saddled with his “legacy.” 

 

Still, his administration has been foreclosed. Perhaps there’s ignominy in that. Now, the rest of us need to get out the brooms and start sweeping the stables. 

 

 

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Netscape.  Just the Net You Need.

 

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