Monday, July 31, 2006

This is How Peace Works

Take a look at India and Pakistan, meeting together and deciding the best way forward is to "remain in touch," "to remain engaged."

What a world of difference from the Israelis and the Lebanese. There will not be any peace in the Middle East until both parties learn that they need to "remain in touch, and remain engaged."

The Ineffectual Condolezza Rice

As shown in this article that so-called 48-hour cease-fire never really existed. This just shows how ineffectual Rice is as a peace broker, and that her real intent right now is to delay delay delay the world. Give Israel all the time possible to carry out their attacks in Lebanon (which are not having the effect Israel is desiring---on Sunday 146 Hezbollah rockets were fired into Israel, more than at the start of the conflict!).

If in 20 days of fighting to this point, Hezbollah is still firing well over 100 rockets per day into Israel, how does Olmert think he can take down Hezbollah in 10 to 14 more days?

Perhaps it is time for people to start looking into other ways than violence to solve their problems.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Impossible Diplomacy

I wonder what Rice is thinking as she vainly and pointlessly goes around the Middle East. She keeps talking about wanting peace. But her boss doesn't want peace until Hezbollah is wiped out. In fact, Bush and his supporters would love nothing more than to have Israel continue their war into Syria.

How can Rice truly be a representative of peace in the Middle East when what she represents are warmongers? There is no other word for people who desire one country to expand a war against one country into another. After the bombing in Qana, where more than 50 civilians including 37 children were killed by an Israeli airstrike, Lebanon's prime minister told Rice he did not want to meet with her. He knows that Israel can only act as the United States gives it permission to act. He knows that if the United States wished for Israel to stop shooting, they would heed America.

If Rice truly wishes for peace, she needs to no longer represent George W. Bush or the Republicans of the United States of America. If she wants her name synonimous with peace, she needs to let go of all her ties to the Bush Administration. It is impossible for her to be an effective broker for peace while working in the Bush Administration. The reason is simple: Bush wants war. He wants Hezbollah destroyed. He wants Israel to attack Syria. How can his top diplomat even be considered a broker of peace?

It is impossible, and a contradiction in terms, to be called a peacemaker and a warmonger at the same time.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Bush Administration Inadvertently Supports Hezbollah

I know, it's shocking, but take a look:

The Bush administration will impose sanctions on two Indian firms for selling missile parts to Iran, government officials said yesterday, acknowledging privately that the secret decision should have been shared with the House before it voted this week to support U.S. plans to sell nuclear technology to New Delhi.

It is not the first time Indian companies have been sanctioned for supplying Iran's suspected weapons programs. But the timing of the sanctions, which were not revealed before the vote and are being imposed during fighting between Israel and the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia, elicited angry responses from Democrats and arms-control experts yesterday.

So in other words, the Bush adminstration delayed its report that India was selling missile technology to Iran in order to make sure they got the vote passed in the House. That means that the Bush Administration implicitly approved of India selling technology to Iran, which gives it to Hezbollah to fire on Israelis.

Looks Like Lybia Hasn't Given Up Her Terrorist Ways....

from the Somali Prime Minister:

"Egypt, Libya and Iran, whom we thought were friends, are engaged in fueling the conflict in Somalia by supporting the terrorists," Prime Minister Mohammed Ali Gedi said, citing unnamed sources within his government.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Three and a Half Years

Remember this number. Three and a half years. 3 and 1/2 years. That's how long it took Roosevelt to utterly defeat Japan and Germany and fundamentally alter the entire world for generations to come. I bring this up as a comparison to Bush's war in Iraq. It is almost three and a half years now since he invaded Iraq. Now, as this Washington Post article shows, Bush's Middle East is in tatters and in flames. Bush's supporters like to paint his war in the same vein as WWII. Fine. No problem. Let's compare the two. How long did it take for Roosevelt to complete his wars? Three and a half years. How about Bush? We don't know how much longer it will take. We do know he has said that he would let the decisions of Iraq be handled by "future generations" and "future presidents." i.e. he's going to remain at the status quo in Iraq and let someone else clean up his mess.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Dickey: Why The US is Letting Lebanon Bleed

Christopher Dickey on the "show" in Rome. Notice that Rice is now in Malaysia, and not shuttling back and forth in the Middle East to try and get peace going. It seems Rome was just a PR show, intended to give Israel more time to destroy Hezbollah. But as Christopher Dickey says, this strategy is actually boosting Hezbollah. He says:

Worthy-sounding meetings of ministers, like the International Conference for Lebanon held in Rome today, rarely get very much done. The participants here were high-powered, to be sure: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the prime minister of the country in question, Fouad Siniora, plus a slew of Europeans and Arabs (but no Israelis or Hizbullahis). Instigated by Washington, it was all for show.

The assembled dignitaries expressed their “determination to work immediately to reach with the utmost urgency a ceasefire” in the war that started two weeks ago today when the Hizbullah militia crossed the border to capture two Israeli soldiers, and Israel responded with a massive counterattack the length and breadth of Lebanon. But, at American insistence, the ceasefire would have to be one that’s “lasting, permanent and sustainable.” Which means the flames searing Lebanon, threatening Israel and endangering the most volatile region in the world will go on for weeks, if not months, to come. The consolation prize: a promise of “immediate humanitarian aid.”

Imagine, if you will, that arsonists have set your apartment block on fire. You call 911 and plead for help. The dispatcher tells you of her “determination to work immediately with the utmost urgency” to douse the flames, but only if plans can be agreed on for the new building to be erected when the decrepit old one has gone up in smoke. She’s stalling, hoping the arsonists will be eliminated by the conflagration. And she’s got a great vision for the way that block should look some day. That’s what counts. Not your furniture, or for that matter, your family inside … No wonder Siniora looked distraught as the conference closed.

But as irrational as the politicians who make policy may be, the professionals in their entourages often understand reality quite well. And in the corridors of today’s conference I met several men and women who, on background or off the record (meaning they were afraid of losing their jobs if caught talking too frankly) laid out a picture of the situation in the Middle East right now that was convincing, frightening, and seems to have escaped the notice of Dispatcher Rice altogether.

The bottom line: Hizbullah is winning. That’s the hideous truth about the direction this war is taking, not in spite of the way the Israelis have waged their counterattack, but precisely because of it. As my source Mr. Frankly put it, “Hizbullah is eating their lunch.”

We’re talking about a militia—a small guerrilla army of a few thousand fighters, in fact—that plays all the dirty games that guerrillas always play. It blends in with the local population. It draws fire against innocents. But it’s also fighting like hell against an Israeli military machine that is supposed to be world class. And despite the onslaught of the much-vaunted Tsahal, Hizbullah continues to pepper Israel itself with hundreds of rockets a day.

The United States, following Israel’s lead, does not want an immediate ceasefire precisely because that would hand Hizbullah a classic guerrilla-style victory: it started this fight against a much greater military force—and it’s still standing. In the context of a region where vast Arab armies have been defeated in days, for a militia to hold out one week, two weeks and more, is seen as heroic. Hizbullah is the aggressor, the underdog and the noble survivor, all at once. “It’s that deadly combination of the expectation game, which Hizbullah have won, and the victim game, which they’ve also won,” as my straight-talking friend put it.

Neither U.S. nor Israeli policymakers have taken this dynamic into account. If they had, they’d understand that with each passing day, no matter how many casualties it takes, Hizbullah’s political power grows. Several of my worldly Lebanese and Arab friends here in Rome today—people who loathe Hizbullah—understand this problem well. Privately they say that’s one of the main reasons they are so horrified at the direction this war has taken: they fear not only that Lebanon will be destroyed, but that Hizbullah will wind up planting its banner atop the mountain of rubble.

When I heard Condi talking in pitiless academic pieties today about “strong and robust” mandates and “dedicated and urgent action,” I actually felt sorry for her, for our government, and for Israel. As in Iraq three years ago, the administration has been blinded to the political realities by shock-and-awe military firepower. Clinging to its faith in precision-guided munitions and cluster bombs, it has decided to let Lebanon bleed, as if that’s the way to build the future for peace and democracy.

No wonder the world will be at total war when the Savior comes again. Who are the publishers of peace in these last days?

Talks in Rome Fail

Is there any question as to why? Here's Monsters and Critics:

World leaders discussing the Middle East conflict in Rome agreed on the need for humanitarian aid and an international stabilizing force, with a number calling for a cease-fire, but efforts were undercut by the absence of the warring parties at the table.

Israel was not present. Hezbollah was not present. Syria was not present. Iran was not present.

Is this just another ploy by the United States to buy Israel some more time in their flawed strategy to remove Hezbollah from Lebanon?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

If This is the Start of World War III.....

then why are we not building our forces up to handle such a massive war? Why are we not raising taxes and asking Americans to make a sacrifice in order to be able to pay for such a war?

People like Newt Grinwich love hyperbole. They know it gets good copy and good airtime, but when confronted with how to pay for it, they back down. Gregory Djerejian brings up this and other massive holes in the logic of warmongers. He quotes Gideon Rachman who says:

But perhaps the most telling argument against the “world war three” thesis is that even many of those advancing it do not appear to believe their own rhetoric. In the same Fox News interview in which Mr Gingrich painted “a worldwide picture of efforts to undermine and destroy our civilisation”, he was asked by a clearly embarrassed interviewer about those who argue that “look, this is a costly war and maybe it includes raising taxes on the upper income to fight it”. Mr Gingrich was having none of it. The third world war will apparently not require “raising a penny in taxes”. Clearly, we are not yet at the blood, sweat and tears phase. The Bush administration is similarly reticent. It argues that we are engaged in a struggle to save western civilisation. But it is still all but inconceivable that the administration would re-introduce the draft – or even sharply raise taxes on petrol – to help win that struggle...

How dare one even conceive of raising taxes! Nothing can come in the way of giving the rich their "fair share" back! Mr. Rachman continues:
Incapable of offering the hope of a decent life (at least on earth), Islamism’s only real recruiting sergeant is an appeal to a sense of Muslim humiliation and rage against the west. There may be further occasions when the “war on terror” requires military action.

But each new military front will be eagerly greeted by Islamists as a validation of their world view. It is no accident that one man who would happily embrace Mr Gingrich’s vision of a “third world war” is Osama bin Laden.

Calls for peace fall on deaf ears in the latter days.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

How the United States Lost Iraq

A great article in the Washington Post on how the United States military lost Iraq, moved in the direction of the bloodbath Iraq is today. Highly recommended read. I'm glad to see the military has learned a few things, but I fear it is too late.

Meanwhile.....

Take a look at the response from the Indians who recently just had a horrific attack in their largest city. The Hindustan Times has a section on the Mumbai bombings. Do you see any talk there about taking the fight to the enemy, about saddling up, about war? No. They go after the terrorists, yes, but they don't start pushing missile buttons at their neighbors as a collective punishment.

Peace actually can work if the people desire to use it.

Israel's Actions in Lebanon

The Washington Post has a good analysis of the history of Israel's actions in Lebanon over the past thirty years. This is the third time they've entered Lebanon for the specific reason to clear out an enemy. Is this a policy that is working?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Predictably....

Muslims all over the Middle East and beyond are protesting Israel's actions and praising Hezbollah for standing up to Israel.

Yet events in Lebanon have further mobilized the Shiites across the Muslim world and, if Hezbollah survives the current Israeli onslaught, the sect stands to become even stronger.

Calls for Peace Fall on Deaf Ears in these Last Days

My calls for peace fall on deaf ears in these last days, because so many people want violence, have no problem in seeing other people die, no matter where or who they happen to be. It was prophesied that these last days would truly be sad days, with such violence as to make men’s hearts fail them. Why do we choose to destroy other human beings? (I’m speaking to everybody, Israelis, Americans, Iranians, Syrians, etc.). The irony in all this is that it is those hardcore religionists on both sides that find it easier to fight and kill and maim and destroy. So ironic.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Realities of Iraq

We are losing Iraq. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar, plain and simple. Cordsman and Burke at the CSIS have a great analysis of why we are losing Iraq. The fact that on average, 100 civilians die per day should be a sign that we've failed. Also, some have argued that the media are focusing on only the bad in Iraq, and they should paint a broader picture. Well, with modern technology, soldiers in Iraq are doing just that. Showing what they see. Is it rosy? you decide.

Videos uploaded to the internet by soldiers themselves depict, if anything, an even grimmer reality.
.................................
However, video is not the only medium, or the only way we remember. In "Combat Diary," a returning Marine talks about having to drink himself into a stupor every night in order to sleep. Making a music video out the horror of war won't keep the images from haunting your dreams.



There are even worse ones showing on YouTube. The reality of Iraq is that blood is spilling everywhere, that violence is unabated, and that, according to one YouTube video I saw, some American soldiers over there believe they are in Iraq to avenge the 9/11 attacks. With that in mind, just how are they going to view regular Iraqis?

In an article in the Ensign in January, 1973, Ezra Taft Benson said the following:
Let me ask, do we need a true prophet of the Lord on the earth today? Did the people in Noah’s day need a prophet to warn them spiritually and temporally? Had a man refused to follow Noah, would he have been saved from the flood? Yet the Bible tells us that in the last days in which we live, the wickedness of the people will become comparable to the wickedness of the people in Noah’s day when God cleansed the earth by flood. Do you think we need a prophet today to warn us and prepare us for the cleansing that God promised will come, this time by fire?

We know why God destroyed the world through a flood. He said to Noah in the book of Moses:
28 The earth was corrupt before God, and it was filled with violence. 29 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted its away upon the earth. 30 And God said unto Noah: The end of all flesh is come before me, for the earth is filled with violence, and behold I will destroy all flesh from off the earth.

Anyone who advocates for violence and war in these last days are not advocating for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

War Without End - The Neo-Conservative Vision of the World

A great article from the Cato Institute on the vision that neo-conservatives have of the world. Just today, two op-eds in the LA Times talked about letting Israel do its thing, and about possibly striking Syria and Iran. Just a few days ago, Kristol was talking about striking Iran. In the Weekly Standard, Kristol says, this is our war too. War War War!

Who talks of peace these days?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Israel: The Kidnappings Were Iran's Plot to Distract from Nuclear Showdown

Israel is claiming that Iran is behind the kidnapping for the express purpose of distracting the world's attention from its nuclear program. Fair enough. But if that's the case, why did Israel bite? Why did Israel take the bait? Which priority is more important for Israel? Getting the international community to halt Iran's nuclear program or getting their two soldiers back?

How to Protect Israel

From the Hindustan Times, probably the best advice on how to protect Israel, from a nation that also deals with terrorist attacks.

Suggestions of restraint usually fall on deaf ears in Tel Aviv because, understandably, they either sound naive or hostile to Israeli ears. But the strongest reason for Israel to show restraint is Israel’s security. In India, there have been hawks galore who have suggested ‘hot pursuit’ after terrorist strikes on our soil. Fortunately, neither this government or the previous one has considered it -- not for abstract, airy-fairy reasons but for practical ones. Israel’s sledgehammer-to-kill-a-fly policy has only resulted in swarms of flies erupting. Clearly, this tactic hasn’t worked. Instead, it has fed its enemies’ appetite. Israel needs to check its rage, if for nothing else, for its own well-being.

What the?!?!?!

I'm not sure what to say about this. Bush apparently reached behind Merkel, the German Chancellor, gave her a quick rub on the shoulders and walked on. Look at her reaction. She doth not look very happy about that. One of the commentators on this blog said the following:

Seeing her wince made me wince. In German culture, this approaches being unforgiveable. Nowhere is it appropriate, but Germans have one of the most sharply defined sense of privacy and space of any culture, even more so than frequently contact-phobic North Americans. This was a bully showing who was boss. Really, what type of married man puts his hands in a familiar way on the shoulders of a woman other than his wife? I never liked Bush but until today I did not actually hate him. I feel like writing a letter of apology on behalf of 295 million Americans, most of whom know better.

Just earlier you've got Bush cussing like a 13 year old to the Prime Minister of Britain. Michael Hirsh writes:
As he munched on a roll, Bush told the British prime minister, with whom he is very familiar terms: "See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hizbullah to stop doing this s--t and it's over." Bush added that he felt like telling U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who visited the gathered leaders, to get on the phone with Syrian President Bashar Assad to "make something happen."

We don't have Blair's answer to that remark. But another question might be: why doesn't Bush himself make something happen? And to whom was Bush referring when he told Blair that "they" need to pressure Syria? If "they" meant Annan and the U.N., it is true that under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, the world body has officially demanded that Syria stop its interference in Lebanon, including its support of Hizbullah. But the U.N. Security Council generally has little capacity to act on its own, and certainly no enforcement ability. The Council is mainly a tool of the major powers. It is prime ministers and presidents like Bush who are the ones who generally put teeth into those U.N. resolutions.

Interesting that the "decider" shifts the burden of action off to others in this case. Could it be that politically speaking at home, action against Syria at this time is imprudent? After all, you've got Congressional elections happening in just a few months.

Another interesting perspective on Bush's potty-mouthing Syria:
Personally, I could care less that a grown man used a swear word when speaking to another grown man. I'm more disturbed that the President used "irony" to describe what seemed to be an entirely unironic situation. Have we learned nothing from Alanis Morrisette?

Perhaps Bush needs a lesson on what is ironic and what is not.

The real irony is that this is what many conservatives call a "statesman." Now THAT is ironic. Arianna Huffington, though, excoriates the ineptitude on display at the G-8 meeting on the part of Bush:
Churchill it ain't. Indeed, it says all you need to know about how this president's disastrous mismanagement of foreign policy has undermined America's standing in the world. The Middle East is teetering on the brink, and the President of the United States is reduced to sitting on the sidelines, helplessly ruminating on what "they" need to do to try and broker a settlement. Even worse, he tells Blair: "I felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad and make something happen." You want irony? How about a president who has shown nothing but disdain for the UN, wistfully fantasizing about being bailed out by an organization his man John Bolton felt could lose 10 stories of its headquarters without it making "a bit of difference." You want impotence? How about a president who is so paralyzed he doesn't even tell Kofi to make the call.

Modern Day Secret Combinations: The Swiftboat Veterans for "Truth"

For those not familiar with what a secret combination is, I refer you to the wikipedia section on it. It states:

In the Latter Day Saint scriptures, including the Bible, Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, a secret combination is an evil fraternal organization which exists for the purpose of the economic and political advancement of its members at the expense of righteous people, believers in Christ, and society at large. Towards these ends, members of a secret combination commit murder, robbery, and acts of war and each member of the society is bound by an oath to maintain secrecy, as well as to do whatever is necessary to prevent the member's discovery, apprehension, and prosecution.

The Swifboat Veterans for Truth fit that description to a T. David Johnson on the Patriot Project has a good analysis of this secret combination, its ties to Republican leaders and their malicious efforts to undermine and destroy otherwise good people.

You have to question why Republicans want to use such tactics. Can't they stand on their own principles?

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Rise of Vladimir Putin

The Telegraph has a great analysis of Putin's rise to power; not just as a leader of Russia where he has systematically taken control of the country, but of his influence in the world.

"What makes Putin such a formidable opponent is that he knows how to identify your weak spot and he exploits it mercilessly," said a western diplomat. "Unlike any other G8 leader, he can use the most undiplomatic language and he can get away with it."
He can, with ease, tell off other world leaders, including Bush who chided Putin on the anti-democratic measures he's been using in Russia. Bush said that he should try Iraq-style Democracy to which Putin replied:

To that, Putin replied, "We certainly would not want to have the same kind of democracy that they have in Iraq, quite honestly."
How does he do it? The Telegraph article continues:

Yet no matter how much he humiliates his fellow statesmen, Mr Putin seems to be able to get away with it. That is partly because, despite his dour public persona, he charms those who meet him in private - even hardened politicians. He gives the impression, say those who know him, of not just listening to every word his visitor utters but of agreeing wholeheartedly with it too. So at a private dinner, when the issue of democracy was raised, Mr Putin soothed his guests, promising that he would abide by Russia's constitution and stand down in 2008. Diplomats said leaders appeared satisfied with the pledge. In reality, it seems there is not a lot that other leaders can do to rein in Mr Putin's autocratic tendencies. Unlike every country apart from America, Russia is directly involved in all the major crises: North Korea, Iran and Israel. On all three, it sees things differently from the White House and clashes over democratic issues risk making Russia more recalcitrant on the world stage, diplomats say.
It has been Putin's policy to bring glory back to Russia, as they had during their Soviet days. He is succeeding immensely. What does this mean for the United States? It means that not much will happen now in the future without Russian involvement, unless America goes unilateral as they did in Iraq.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Neo-Con's Iraq Reality

How sad it is, but this is the reality of the flawed neo-conservative vision of the Middle East. Let this philosophy die and be remembered only in history.

My Thoughts on the Current Middle East Troubles

Hezbollah fighters infiltrate Israel, kill four, injure three and capture two Israeli soldiers in a brazen and well planned attack. They take these two soldiers into Lebanon. This comes just a few days after Palestinians pull off the same maneuver in Gaza, capturing one Israeli soldier. As a result, Israel moves into Gaza in an attempt to find the soldier there, dropping bombs on apparent Hamas homes, leveling some homes and creating a large enough buffer zone so that Palestinian rockets don't land in Israel. In this action, scores of Palestinians are killed, both civilians and militants.

In the north, Israel moves some tanks into southern Lebanon, fires artillery into Lebanon, bombs the Beirut International Airport lanes, and several apparent Hezbollah buildings. To this point 57 or so Lebanese are killed, most civilians. Israel's justification for destroying the airport lanes was to cut off a possible route for the captured Israeli soldiers.

That's the story to this point. International reaction is typical. The United States is the only country to implicitly support Israel's moves into both Gaza and Lebanon. The United States is the only country to veto a UN resolution calling for peace in Gaza, calling it too one-sided and using the excuse that events have moved past the resolution. European nations have generally said that Israel's response is excessive for the crime committed. Iran warns Israel not to move on Syria.

So what does this all mean? Here are my thoughts.

1. Iraq

In the run up to the war in Iraq, Bush and his supporters made the argument, first of all, that we cannot wait for the smoking gun to be in the form of a mushroom cloud, i.e. the WMD angle. They also, on occasion, talked about transforming the Middle East (the neo-cons's flawed vision) into a flourishing democracy, with Iraq being the starting point. This was talked about at a far greater frequency after the war, when it was clear no WMDs were found in Iraq. With the WMD threat eliminated, what other possible justification could we use? Transform the Middle East.

Neo-cons argued that removing Saddam and creating a stable democracy in Iraq will cause a domino effect in the Middle East, capitulating other autocracies and totalitarian regimes. Neo-cons were thinking specifically of Iran, as Iran is the true Muslim power in the Middle East. It's a grand and noble vision, but unfortunately a flawed vision. Neo-cons think only from an American point of view. They have not, to this point, been able to grasp the complexity of the Middle East from any other point of view, even the Israeli, though neo-cons have strong ties to Israeli groups. Neo-cons have argued that the only real influence over Arab cultures is power. Show power and you are respected. Show off your "shock and awe" and the locals will somehow subjugate themselves to your will. Who knows where they got this thinking from.

In any case, the execution of this plan didn't even attempt to show America's real power. Rumsfeld argued that America only needed 150,000 troops to take hold of the country and transform it. He thought bombs would somehow cower the enemy. Well as the enemy has proven with their I.E.D.s, America doesn't cower to bombs. Why should they think their enemy will too? Real power comes from the presence of real force. Real force has always been, is, and always be human beings.

I could go on about my thoughts on the failures of Iraq. In any case, Iraq is a failure right now from the American point of view. The violence there is horrendous. One Republican Congressman attempted to say that Washington D.C. is more violent than Baghdad. While D.C. does have the highest crime rate per capita of all of America's largest cities, at 28 per 1000 in 20004, that does not even come close to comparing to the average of over 100 per 1000 deaths in Baghdad alone. Last month, Baghdad morgues had over 1600 dead brought in, most from gunshots to the head. Did D.C. have more than 1600 killed last month?

This lack of progress in Iraq (closing in on the same amount of time that America was in WWII) has eroded America's credibility and influence in the region. America's failure to control the violence has emboldened Iran, which is a far more powerful country than Iraq ever was.

2. Iran
Bush had a chance with a moderate leader in Iran a few years back to create some kind of dialogue that would bring Iran into the fold of non-rogue states. Bush did not attempt any communication with Iran then. Now Bush is being forced into communications with Ahmadinejad, no friend of America. The continuing violence in Iraq has emboldened Iran to scoff at America's threats on its nuclear facilities. If America were to bomb the facilities, no doubt Iran would do all it could to further destabilize Iraq and put America's 130,000 troops there in further harm. Where would America then have the force required to attack Iran? Let's not even get into how America would fund such an adventure, seeing that our economy has been in the red ever since Bush has come into office.

Iran is further emboldened to take actions against Israel, actions it knows Israel hates, such as the capturing of its soldiers. What's Israel going to do? Invade Iran? Ahmadinejad would love nothing more than a confrontation with Israel.

3. Lebanon
Lebanon had their Cedar Revolution a little while back, in which they had moved closer to a democracy. Lebanon has been used as an example of Bush's policy (and neo-cons's) of working. Unfortunately, the problem that arises for a country like the United States when a country like Lebanon becomes democratic is that certain elements within that country that are no fans of the United States also come to power. Hezbollah won votes and is part of the governing coalition. That added legitimacy makes it all the harder to try and disarm them. Now Bush and Rice are urging Israel to restrain its actions, because further bombardment of Lebanon, sending it back 20 years, only will further strengthen hardliners in Lebanon. This happens to be the current analysis on these events:
With three Israeli soldiers kidnapped — one now in Gaza and two in Lebanon — and Israel carrying out military reprisals, there is for now less room in the Middle East for moderate voices, voices of peace, according to political analysts, government officials and security officials in Syria, Jordan and Egypt. The region’s agenda, as often in the past, is largely being set by militants — with the masses swept along in emotion, anger and vengeance. “They are happy, very happy,” said Marwan Shahadeh, an Islamist and researcher in Amman, Jordan, speaking about the groups that want to focus on war with Israel.

Lebanon's attempt at Western style democracy is in danger of becoming history.

4. Other Countries in the Region
As that article shows, moderate voices are losing to hardliners, both in Israel and her neighbors. I get the impression that all countries in the region have still not seen enough blood. In other words, they are not Japan in 1945, but Japan in 1941. People in Lebanon were passing out sweets in celebration of the capturing of the two Israeli soldiers. Most likely they understood that Israel would respond, as their general said, "very very painfully." That threat seems to not concern many.

The countries in proximity, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran are all monarchies or authoritarian ruled nations. As that article states, the leaders are having a tough time:
The same dynamics are true of governments. The leaders of Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab countries with peace treaties with Israel, are facing increasing hostility in the news media and on their own streets, while Iran and Syria, strong opponents of peace with Israel, have seen their credibility on the street increase. Sensing the tension among their people, Egyptian and Jordanian officials have stepped up domestic security efforts. In Egypt officials have moved to rein in the news media and stop street demonstrations. In Jordan, officials have pressed older members of the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, to rein in its more militant young members. “They are in great embarrassment,” Taher al-Masry, a former prime minister of Jordan, said of Jordan and Egypt. “These two countries have signed peace treaties, but having and observing peace with Israel is not the same as letting Israel do what it likes because we have peace with them. I think there is a major burden on both countries to do something. I don’t know what, but something.” Regional momentum is supporting hard-liners. Newspapers and television commentators have assailed Egypt and Jordan for trying to negotiate a peaceful solution between Hamas and Israel. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who planned to call a referendum on whether to support a two-state solution, has been increasingly silenced. Even the Hamas leadership in Gaza, which had sought to forge a consensus with other Palestinian factions, found itself trumped by its more militant members. Trying to explain his own impotence, Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, told an Egyptian newspaper that he had tried to negotiate a settlement between Hamas and Israel over the capture of Cpl. Gilad Shalit. He said he had worked out a deal — but a third party pressed Hamas to back out. Mr. Mubarak said he did not want to name the third party, but political analysts here said they believed that it was most likely Iran or Syria. “Politically active Islamist groups like these kinds of battles because they reap misery for the people who then automatically adhere to extremist groups,” said Aly Salem, an Egyptian playwright who has supported normalizing ties with Israel, but says now that there is no margin even to discuss such ideas.

Think about it. Neo-cons and Bush supporters claim that the war in Iraq was to help flourish democracy in the Middle East. But in all the countries, true democracies, with representatives elected by the people, would lead to countries at war with Israel. It is specifically by having authoritarian rule in these countries that keeps the mass at bay from making war with their neighbor. In other words, until the conflict between Israel and Palestine is healed, democracies cannot flourish in the Middle East. It is impossible. Groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and Hezbollah and Hamas will win elections because they are popular with the masses.

Neo-cons and Bush supporters think the way to bring democracy to the Middle East is through war. In the end, only a resolution to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict will actually bring peace and democracy to the Middle East.
5. Israel and Palestine
I am personally very saddened at these two parties. I doubt they care much what I think, but I have to say it. Both sides are hitting each other where it hurts the other party the most. Israelis hate it when individuals are captured or killed. Palestinians hate it when they get blanket punishment. So what do both sides do? Palestinians take a soldier captive, incensing Israel. Israel hits homes with bombs, killing scores, incensing Palestinians. Both sides wonder why the one can't leave the other alone. It truly is sad. These two nations who share the same home cannot learn to live with each other. They are like a married couple who use their kids as leverage against the other in the most hateful, hurtful way possible, thinking that will show them! How dare they use suicide bombers to kill innocents! How dare they demolish homes of families of suicide bombers, what did they do?

It is clear that the two nations need a strong impartial moderator. Most U.S. presidents before our current ineffective leader did what they could, and for the most part, succeeded in keeping the temperature down. The fact that this situation has not been solved has been said by some as a sign of failure in fixing the problem. So Bush and his supporters are arguing that it is a waste of time. Let them deal with each other without outside support. What Bush and his supporters do not realize is that not doing a thing about this conflict impedes our other, far greater goals. It is impossible to create democracy in the Middle East without solving the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Moreover, now that there is a great conflict brewing in the Middle East, just how effective is Bush's democratic Iraq at solving this problem? Just what would a democratic Iraq do about Israel and Palestine? What kind of leverage could it use on the Palestinians? Iraq right now cannot do a single thing. It cannot even control events within its borders. And this is not going to change anytime soon.

Conclusion

Sixty years ago, a Democratic president took America into a battle brought on them by a brazen attack. This democratic president asked Americans to make a sacrifice. America did without much question. Within three and a half years, the battle was won and the whole world fundamentally changed. We are now approaching three and a half years since Bush began his attempt to fundamentally change one small part of the world, the Middle East. He did not ask Americans to make a sacrifice; in fact, he told them to consume, rather than save. He used minimal efforts to try and change a battle-hardened region, which makes it look so much like his war in Iraq was more about the 2004 election than about fundamentally changing the Middle East. Now that there is a true conflict in the which the utopian democratic Iraq might have had some positive impact, it is impotent and non-influential. It has no effect towards democratization of the Middle East. Furthermore, it puts the US in a bind in regards to the bigger players that are exacerbating this conflict. E.J. Dionne has a great analysis of the failure of our venture in Iraq.

Israel looks confident in its actions in Lebanon. It knows that the conflict might go further, on into Syria. They know America would love for Israel to do something about Asad. I think they are going to be more cautious about removing a leader, or changing the country, because they don't want to own it, to fix it. Israel might venture into bombing Iran, but I doubt it. That kind of escalation might cause Iran to act very aggressively.

In the end, we'll see just how far this goes. America needs to be a bigger player in this conflict than it is right now. We cannot sit on the sidelines in a conflict like this one. It will end badly if we do.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Steve Bradbury: "The President is Always Right"

That's what Acting Deputy Attorney General Steve Bradbury testified in front of Congress.

Really?

So....Clinton was right in having "sexual relations with that woman."

Shades of World War One

Israel is calling up its reservists along the border with Lebannon and promising to send Lebannon back 20 years by hitting its infrastructure, unless Hezbollah returns two soldiers they captured.

There are shades of World War One here. It seems that a storm is brewing in the Middle East between Israel and her neighbors, and all that was needed to ignite already simmering, perhaps boiling, tensions was a simple spark.

It seems neither side has been satisfied with the amout of blood already shed. It seems they want more.

Homeland Security: Insect Zoo Higher Priority Than Statue of Liberty!

yes, that is accurate. The Homeland Security Department, according to their database sees an insect zoo in Indiana as a greater target than the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, The Empire State Building, and the Brooklyn Bridge.

The report noted that Indiana has 8,591 assets listen in the database — more than any other state and 50 percent more than New York. New York had 5,687 listed. It did not detail which ones, but the Homeland Security assessment of New York this year failed to include Times Square, the Empire State Building the Brooklyn Bridge or the Statue of Liberty as a national icon or monument.

Now, I'm not dissing on protecting Indiana, but how can Indiana have nearly twice as many "critical assets" as New York when Indiana's population is just over six million compared to New York's nineteen million. New York has three times the population, including the Greatest City in the World and yet has only just over half the "critical assets" that need protections? The City of New York itself has more people than the whole state of Indiana!

General Casey's Opinion

General Casey, America's top general in Iraq, the one who should know what's going on in Iraq says the following about the secterian violence these past few days:

"I believe part of this is generated by al Qaeda, in the aftermath of Zarqawi's death, trying to demonstrate that they are still relevant and they have continuously been trying to provoke sectarian violence in Iraq," Casey said after meeting with Rumsfeld at the heavily-guarded U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad Wednesday afternoon.
Really? Al-Qaeda? Not Shi'ite gunmen and Sunni bombers? Or is the good general using talking points given him by Rumsfeld to keep the lie going that Iraq was all about al-Qaeda? Mr. General, does not the army have the "Know your enemy" motto firmly ingrained in its philosophy? No wonder America is losing Iraq. Our top general does not know who the enemy is.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Staying the Course or Fixing Iraq?

In my previous post, I argued that "staying the course" will not fix Iraq. I want to add that "staying the course" has nothing to do with Iraq and everything to do with the November elections. Staying the course in Iraq does not fix Iraq. It cannot. It is impossible. This is not a pessimistic fatalistic view, but a realistic view. We do not have enough troops in Iraq to stop the violence. Our presence there actually exacerbates the problem rather than fixes it. So "staying the course"---which means keeping the same troop level, with occasional leaks of possible troop withdrawals, which are test balloons floated out there to gauge public sentiment, with no real plan laid out--is a failure of a plan and will end in sorrow for the United States of America.

Failing in Afghanistan and Iraq; Will Anyone Hold Bush Responsible?

News reports have shown that the Taliban have been strengthening recently, and more and more violence prevails in Afghanistan today since the bombing of the country in 2001. One British reporter, embedded with British troops writes about her thoughts. She notes presciently:

Far from Afghanistan being a model for Iraq, Iraq has become a model for Afghanistan. There have been 41 Afghan suicide bombings in the past nine months, compared with five in the preceding five years. IEDs — improvised explosive devices — have become a fact of life. Three were left in roadside handcarts in Kabul last week to detonate as buses went past.

According to United Nations officials, not a day passes without a school being burnt down or a teacher being murdered, often in front of schoolchildren.

If there is one factor most responsible for the Taliban resurgence it is the war in Iraq, which distracted the attention of London and Washington at a critical time. While US marines were toppling statues of Saddam Hussein and then finding themselves fighting a bloody insurgency, the Taliban regrouped and retrained in Pakistan.

From just a few hundred guerrillas last year, Mullad Dadullah, the Taliban commander, now claims that he has 12,000 men under arms in the southern provinces of Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan.

The southern third of the country, which British troops are supposed to “secure for development”, has long been ungovernable and a no-go area for aid agencies. It is all too easy here for the Taliban to tell local people that the West — and the pro-western government in Kabul — promised aid but has done nothing for them. Where the Taliban are not openly controlling districts, they have set up shadow administrations that assume power as soon as dusk falls.

More alarmingly, the Taliban are no longer just in the south but have even moved into the province of Logar, 25 miles from Kabul. Among their Afghan victims they particularly target police and their relatives as well as guards, road builders and interpreters for western contractors. About 1,500 Afghans were killed by the Taliban last year; 400 have died this year.

Last week an Afghan friend travelling from Kandahar to Kabul on a bus was shocked when a bearded passenger got up, walked to the front and replaced the music cassette that had been playing with a tape of Taliban chanting: “For the next 2½ hours we all sat listening to this terrible stuff and nobody said a word. Two years ago that would have been unthinkable.”

So confident are the Taliban that leaders of the once secretive group have started giving interviews on Afghanistan’s new US-funded Tolo television station. This prompted Karzai last month to impose reporting restrictions that he was forced to rescind by the international community, which felt “censorship” did not sit well with attempts to showcase Afghanistan as a liberal democracy.

“People are scared when they see the Taliban on TV,” said Jamil Karzai, MP for Kabul and a nephew of the president. “Every day I get constituents coming and asking: what does this mean, are the Taliban coming back? We could never have imagined we would get in a situation where such a thing was conceivable.”

“We need to realise that we could actually fail here,” warns Lieutenant-General David Richards, British commander of the Nato-led peacekeeping force. “Think of the psychological victory for Bin Laden and his ilk if we failed and the Taliban came back. Within months we’d suffer terror attacks in the UK. I think of my own daughters in London and the risk they would be in.”

She continues:

Just as damaging have been the continuing air raids across Afghanistan, sometimes on wedding parties or innocent villagers, which have led to the loss of thousands of civilian lives. In May this year there were an astonishing 750 bombing raids, according to American Central Command.

Karzai has repeatedly complained to the Americans about the bombers and the lack of cultural sensitivity of raids on the ground — doors kicked down in the middle of the night, male soldiers entering women’s quarters or taking in dogs which are considered unclean.

Another bitter complaint is of American convoys driving too fast and not stopping when they run someone down. It was such an incident in Kabul that provoked a six-hour riot last month — yet two weeks later a US truck ran over a child in exactly the same place.

“How can we go in offering school sets and candy to people when the Americans have just bombed someone’s family or run over their daughter?” asked an exasperated senior ISAF officer.

Few Afghans see any difference between ISAF activities and America’s Operation Enduring Freedom. The result is that even in the mosques of Kabul, mullahs have started preaching that ISAF are “infidels here to destroy Islam”.

Compare that also to what US soldiers experienced recently in an attempt to find Taliban fighters.

After pitching camp in an abandoned building, the U.S. forces began trying to win the confidence of residents. Wallace, who fought in Afghanistan in 2002 against remnants of the ousted Taliban government, said he had been eager to try "the hearts and minds approach" this time.

His men built a new school next to their base, erected a swing set and slides outside and offered to guard the whole compound. But teachers and students were reluctant to return. This week, there were just 74 boys in class -- a fraction of the number working or idling in the main bazaar -- and the playground equipment had been vandalized.

"The bad men don't know we are open, yet," said Safar Mahmad, 58, a teacher, as he listened to a small boy read aloud from a Pashto-language text on nature conservation. "I am safe because I live here in town, but those who have to walk or bicycle from the villages are still in danger."

................................................

Wallace, irritated and impatient, called for the village mullah and elders. He asked them how recently Taliban fighters had visited, how long they had stayed and whether any had been wounded. He said he had proof they had been there. If the elders would only let him know next time, he would happily come and kill the insurgents -- and pay a reward to boot.

Hajji Obaidullah, the most talkative elder, frowned anxiously as he listened. He rubbed his hands and shook his head.

"You have searched my village three times, and you have found nothing," he told Wallace, as dozens of children watched solemnly and donkeys drank from a nearby irrigation stream. "No matter how many times you search it, you will never find anything."

Obaidullah admitted that Taliban fighters had been there from time to time, but only to ask for food. He said that once he had offered tea to U.S. troops, and the Taliban had returned and threatened him.

"The people are afraid of the Taliban, and they are afraid of the Americans, too," he told the officer, who towered over him. "It is our duty to help you, but they may come after you leave. If anything bad happens to you after this, please don't come back here."

How can we let the Taliban back? Is the blinding power of partisanship so strong that so many Americans cannot hold their leaders accountable for failing so terribly at destroying our enemies? There is a massive failure right now both in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over on the Belgravia Dispatch, Mr. Djerejian writes in depth over the major problems found in Iraq right now. On the news today you have violence flaring all over Baghdad as secterian violence gets hotter than the July noon sun! In full blatant public view, Shi'ite gunmen killed over 50 Iraqis assumed to be Sunnis. Two car bombs go off killing ten more today.

This is "staying the course". I see no plan written up by military strategists or political leaders and commentators who back Bush over how to deal with this rampant and bloody violence in Iraq right now. Where are they? Where are the policy makers? Is "staying the course" the best you guys can come up with?

"Staying the course" means letting the violence continue while American troops sit idly by. Worse, American troops are now being investigated for adding to that violence. How horrendous this situation is!

There are two options, and staying the course is not one of them, that will solve this massive ugly problem created by the Ameircans in Iraq.

1. Flood the country with American troops.

2. Leave Iraq to the Iraqis.

Staying the course exacerbates the problem because the insurgency was started because of American presence in Iraq. It can only be snuffed out if there is no hiding place, or if we leave. Staying the course does nothing to stop the insurgency. It is not in its last throes, it is in fact getting more and more deadly. June had the highest total of Iraqis killed, with nearly 1600 in Baghdad alone!

While history will not be kind to the Bush administration, that unfortunately does not solve our problem today. Bush has punted the resolution of the war in Iraq to future generations, something he said he would never do:

When you become President you cannot predict all the challenges that will come. But you do know the principles that you bring to office -- principles that should not change with time or with polls. I took this office to make a difference, not to mark time. (Applause.) I came to this office to confront problems directly and forcefully, not to pass them on to future Presidents or future generations. (Applause.)

So here's the question: will anyone hold Bush responsible?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Goodbye Political Moderates!...and don't let the door hit you on your way out!

I'm liberal on many issues, and conservative on some issues and libertarian on others. What does that make me? none of the groups mentioned want someone like me. I noticed this with liberals on the DailyKos, which surprised me. Now, a tiff between Sullivan and Punuru shows that conservatives feel the same way. This hardening of positions, of sides, is not good for America. It will destroy America. Liberals are grabbing hold of the Democratic party just like conservatives have done with the Republican party. Do you think you can find any "Bush Democrats" like you once were able to find "Reagan Democrats?" Any voting by Democrats on something that benefits Bush gets bashed, while on the other side, how often has a Republican supported Democratic policies?

Instead, for political points, we've reduced our two ruling parties to snivling polemic hurlers, wasting precious lawmaking time with divisive election-year gambits while our enemies foment around us. Bin Laden is still alive and threatening us. What is our government doing worrying about flag-burning (only four flags were burned this year from a source I saw).

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Rape and Murder in an Iraqi Village

The Los Angeles Times has interviewed witnesses who came to the house where American soldiers allegedly came to rape and murder a young girl and her family. Horrendous.

Lay's Death and His Sentencing

I don't usually like to pick on a man who just passed away, out of respect for his family, but Ken Lay's death is very suspicious in regards to the timing. Mr. Lay was a CEO, a man who looked in pretty good shape, not overweight, and probably on a good diet. He suddenly dies of a heart attack. It has not been mentioned he having a previous heart attack or heart problems, from what I've read, (perhaps other sources had more info). Maybe the stress of the past five years since he was caught with his beloved company going down and he and his top men taking millions got to his heart.

But now, according to this L.A. Times article Mr. Lay's conviction may now be in doubt, and erased all together because he died before his sentencing.

But when a defendant who pleaded not guilty dies before sentencing, as Lay did, in most cases the conviction is wiped out on the grounds that the defendant did not have the opportunity to appeal, legal experts said.

"Fifth Circuit law in particular is clear on this point," Stanford University law professor Robert Weisberg said Wednesday, referring to the federal region that includes Houston.

I don't know about anyone else, but this is pretty fishy to me. Elitists love to leave behind a legacy for their children. What a terrible thing for an elitist to leave behind a criminal record in their family. It hurts the future. I don't know, I'm just making a stab in the dark, but timing is the key in life, and the timing of Mr. Lay's death is very suspect.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

June: Deadliest Month in Baghdad

According to this report June has been to this point the deadliest month in Baghdad, with the morgues reporting nearly 1600 bodies for the month, most of them shot in the head. Many are trying to compare the post-war Iraq situation to that of Japan and Germany in post-WWII. I'm working on a larger post showing the differences, but plainly put, in Japan, we had nearly half a million soldiers on the ground, and in Germany 370,000. How many are in Iraq? 140,000. Not only that, but you are dealing in Iraq with people who are not tired of war yet, who are not soundly defeated. Japan and Germany were both tired of war, so they took their reconstruction medicine with comparative ease.

"Be polite, be professional and have a plan to kill everyone you meet."

That's apparently the motto for soldiers in Ramadi, a town still in heavy war zone. No wonder that according to this report,

In three years here the Marine Corps and the Army have tried nearly everything to bring this provincial capital of 400,000 under control. Nothing has worked.

Is this really the way to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis? Can the situation be changed from the direction it is heading?

If Iraq Had Launched Seven Missiles....

I have to repeat this once more. If Iraq had launched seven missiles as North Korea has just done, what would have been Bush's reaction? What would have been his supporters's reactions? It is so baffling that when a real threat is made to America, and let's not kid around, North Korea is a real threat--Iraq was not--Bush and company play it down. What gives?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Fourth of July

boy it has been some time since i've posted on this blog. been a busy week or so. if you check out my family blog, here you'll see why. Pennsylvania got flooded big time, and our house was pretty close to the flooding. Today is Independence Day for the United States of America and also for me and my family. It was 24 years ago this day that we arrived in the United States from Romania. I've been writing about my experiences in life in moving to the United States on my blog, such as this recent post about how my father escaped. Independence Day means very much to me. I am a free man politically. I can choose whatever religion I desire and what ever political party I desire. These things lead to many other freedoms, including speaking out against a policy I disagree with. America is an amazing country, nation, and people. It is a light on a hill and the example for all other countries to emulate should they so desire. There are many things that America can improve on, as with any and all nations and people. But generally speaking, America is a great place with good people, people who help each other out in times of trial, as shown during the flooding here recently. America is a country I can trust to do things right (most of the time), whereas few other countries get that distinction. I can only hope our leaders don't squander this trust. Happy Fourth of July and Happy Independence Day everyone.