Friday, January 23, 2009

What you mean OUR collective failure?

Paul Krugman raises his eyebrows in parsing economic issues tangentially referenced in President Obama's inauguration speech:

[I]n his speech Mr. Obama attributed the economic crisis in part to “our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age” — but I have no idea what he meant. This is, first and foremost, a crisis brought on by a runaway financial industry. And if we failed to rein in that industry, it wasn’t because Americans “collectively” refused to make hard choices; the American public had no idea what was going on, and the people who did know what was going on mostly thought deregulation was a great idea.

Perhaps our president did not want to cast aspersions on the financial industry, who supported his election with lots of campaign contributions.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The worst of the worst

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation issues a report on Guantanamo Bay Prison, where the U.S. public has been assured that we are holding the worst of the worst of the terrorists:

Of the 775 prisoners who have been held at Guantanamo Bay at one time or another since 2001, about 525 were released without charge, and two have been convicted of offences.

Australian David Hicks pleaded guilty in March 2007 to providing support for terrorism and was sent back to his home country to serve the remaining nine months of a seven-year sentence, while Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's one-time chauffeur, was found guilty last August of the same crime and sentenced to a further five months in prison on top of time served.

So goes the war on terrorism.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Everyone is a terrorist and everything is a legitimate target

The American Conservative features an analysis of the Israeli attacks upon Gaza written by University of Chicago Professor John J. Mearsheimer draws some obvious conclusions from some basic facts.

The best evidence, however, that Israel is deliberately seeking to punish the broader population in Gaza is the death and destruction the IDF has wrought on that small piece of real estate. Israel has killed over 1,000 Palestinians and wounded more than 4,000. Over half of the casualties are civilians, and many are children. The IDF’s opening salvo on Dec. 27 took place as children were leaving school, and one of its primary targets that day was a large group of graduating police cadets, who hardly qualified as terrorists. In what Ehud Barak called “an all-out war against Hamas,” Israel has targeted a university, schools, mosques, homes, apartment buildings, government offices, and even ambulances. A senior Israeli military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, explained the logic behind Israel’s expansive target set: “There are many aspects of Hamas, and we are trying to hit the whole spectrum, because everything is connected and everything supports terrorism against Israel.” In other words, everyone is a terrorist and everything is a legitimate target.

How successful are the Israeli state-sponsored terrorist on the Gazans likely to be? Mearsheimer considers the historical evidence:

[T]here is little reason to think that the Israelis can beat Hamas into submission and get the Palestinians to live quietly in a handful of Bantustans inside Greater Israel. Israel has been humiliating, torturing, and killing Palestinians in the Occupied Territories since 1967 and has not come close to cowing them. Indeed, Hamas’s reaction to Israel’s brutality seems to lend credence to Nietzsche’s remark that what does not kill you makes you stronger.

Israel is also losing its propaganda war against Hamas and the Palestinian peoples. A man from my parent's church visited Jerusalem and came back with an entirely different outlook. This life-long Republican who works in the pharmacuetical industry, had the eye-opening experience of waiting at check points, of seeing the Wall, and viewing the treatment of Palestinians.

There are too many sources of that other reality on the ground in Gaza, the place where 1,300 have been massacred, 5,000 have been wounded, schools and hospitals bombed. Mearsheimer describes it well:

There is also little chance that people around the world who follow the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will soon forget the appalling punishment that Israel is meting out in Gaza. The destruction is just too obvious to miss, and too many people—especially in the Arab and Islamic world—care about the Palestinians’ fate. Moreover, discourse about this longstanding conflict has undergone a sea change in the West in recent years, and many of us who were once wholly sympathetic to Israel now see that the Israelis are the victimizers and the Palestinians are the victims. What is happening in Gaza will accelerate that changing picture of the conflict and long be seen as a dark stain on Israel’s reputation.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sie sind alle Kriegspräsidenten

Hope that William Kristol does not get PAID by the New York Times to write this crap. From Sunday's The Next War President column:

...I’ve found myself thinking these last few days more about the man who has shouldered the burdens of office for the past eight years, George W. Bush.

The current "leader of the free world," recently reminisced on the burdens of office:

I believe this -- the phrase "burdens of the office" is overstated. You know, it's kind of like, why me? Oh, the burdens, you know. Why did the financial collapse have to happen on my watch? It's just -- it's pathetic, isn't it, self-pity.

I had a fabulous team around me of highly dedicated, smart, capable people, and we had fun. I tell people that, you know, some days happy, some days not so happy, every day has been joyous

Perhaps Bush has forgotten 9-11? Or maybe that too was a joyous day? Or maybe what's too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget (unless we're running for re-election).

Kristol continues with a sentence that epitomizes the great divide separating bi-partisans from the partisans; those who feel the only wrong a president can do is to accept oral sex from a white house intern (or perhaps to be a democrat).

But he has exercised his just and rightful authority in a way — I believe — that deserves recognition and respect.

Those who believe that the U.S. Constitution limits the powers of the President and that treaties to which the U.S. is signatory also limit the powers of the President are angered and distressed that Bush has seized powers never vested to the Presidency, and has thus violated the Constitution of the United States that he swore to uphold. This is a matter of law. The Bush administration committed fraud upon the U.S. citizens using a propaganda campaign to gather national support for an illegal invasion and occupation of the sovereign nation of Iraq, the Bush administration authorized illegal wire taps upon U.S. citizen phone calls and e-mails, the Bush administration issued secret signing statements countervening laws pass by the U.S. congress among other matters.

Kristol proffers more praise upon the leader of the "free" world:

Bush stood with Israel when he had no political incentive to do so and received no political benefit from doing so. He was criticized by much of the world. He did it because he thought it the right thing to do.

To state that Bush had "no political incentive" to stand with Israel ignores the reality that to do other than "to stand with Israel" is to be politically marginalized unto the fringes of Dennis Kucinich wing of the Democratic Party. There is NO issue upon which the U.S. congress is in greater agreement than in its support of Israel's occupation and massacre of the Palestinians.

Here is the perhaps the most astounding paragraph that will ever be written on the history of the Bush Presidency.

But I don’t think keeping us safe has been Bush’s most impressive achievement. That was winning the war in Iraq, and in particular, his refusal to accept defeat when so many counseled him to do so in late 2006. His ordering the surge of troops to Iraq in January 2007 was an act of personal courage and of presidential leadership. The results have benefited both Iraq and the United States. And the outcome in Iraq is a remarkable gift to the incoming president, who now only has to sustain success, rather than trying to deal with the consequences in the region and around the world of a humiliating withdrawal and a devastating defeat.

Winning the war in Iraq? By what measure are we winning the war in Iraq? By what measure are we winning the occupation in Iraq?

Jeff Huber has some thoughts on the success of the surge:

The surge has been so successful that, after two years, it's still in effect; we have several thousand more troops in Iraq than we did when the surge began in January 2007, and it still hasn't produced its stated purpose of political unification.

Who counseled Bush to "accept defeat" in Iraq. The American public simply came to believe the occupation was an ongoing disaster, that the cost in soldier's lives, broken bodies and wounded minds is not worth continuing occupation.

Apparently, the only way we can continue to "win" the war in Iraq is to avoid withdrawal (which Obama has promised - withdrawal from Iraq into Afghanistan) and devastating defeat.

The secret to "winning" the invasion of Iraq seems to be to spend more money there every year. At some point in time, that formula for success must become our undoing.

The Guardian has quite a different view from Kristol on the so-called winning of the occupation of Iraq:

[T]he surge has failed to achieve its central objective of advancing Iraq's political transition and encouraging power-sharing deals among Iraq's competing factions.

The greatest myth promoted by Bush in his speech was found in this line: "Political reconciliation is moving forward, and the Iraqi government has passed several major pieces of legislation." By overstating the meagre steps taken by Iraq's leaders in barely passing a few relatively insignificant laws in their parliament, Bush's statement ranks right up there with his 2003 "mission accomplished" speech and vice-president Dick Cheney's assertion that the insurgency was in its "last throes" in 2005.

A more honest look at the balance sheet on Iraq's political transition yields an inconvenient conclusion: The surge has frozen into place the accelerated fragmentation that Iraq underwent in 2006 and 2007 and has created disincentives to bridge central divisions between Iraqi factions. Moreover, rather than advancing Iraq's political transition and facilitating power-sharing deals among Iraq's factions, the surge has produced an oil revenue-fuelled, Shia-dominated national government with close ties to Iran. This national government shows few signs of seeking to compromise and share meaningful power with other frustrated political factions.

William Kristol - resident war monger for the New York Times. To be fair and balanced, perhaps every newspaper need some.

How many would have been just enough?

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown comments on the massacre being perpetrated by IDF upon the Gazans:

Britain's prime minister, Gordon Brown, announced a tripling of UK humanitarian aid to Gaza, pledging an additional £20m. He also criticised Israel for using excessive force. "We are yet to discover the full scale of the appalling suffering. But what is already clear is that too many innocent civilians, including hundreds of children, have been killed."

Since "too many innocent civilians, including hundreds of children have been killed", then apparently, there is a just right number of innocent civilians including children that could have been massacred such that PM Brown would not have felt compelled to comment.

With the Palestinian death toll standing at more than 1,300, and rising as more bodies are found under the Gaza rubble, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, said he was sending a humanitarian needs assessment team to compile a report within 10 days.

The previous day, the Guardian reported:

After 22 days of air strikes, artillery from land and sea, tank shelling and ground combat the Palestinian death toll stands at more than 1,200, with bodies being discovered every day under the rubble. Around 5,000 were injured, many of them left with terrible disabilities. On the Israeli side 13 were killed, three of them civilians and four soldiers mistakenly hit by their own troops.

Perhaps Israel declared its unilateral cease-fire because the kill ratio of 100 to 1 (1300 to 13) has garnered the comments from the British PM.