Saturday, November 25, 2006

Leadership Wanting on Iran/Iraq


Last spring, the United States called on all countries to stop all arms exports to Iran. Yet, the first of 29 Tor-M1 systems in a $700m deal have been delivered to Iran by Moscow. Hugh Hewitt points out the mixed messages being sent by Russia to Iran:
Iran must conclude that if Russia is willing to sell it the weapons necessary to defend nuclear facilities, it cannot really be intending to force the halt of construction on those facilities.
How long should Russia be allowed a "most favored nation" status in the UN? Former Senator John Edwards co-chaired a Council on Foreign Relations task force examining U.S.-Russian relations with Jack Kemp last winter. When asked by Newsweek last March whether or not he felt that the Russians have been helpful on Iran, he replied:
If I were going to choose a single test for our relationship with Russia, Iran is the test. We're united with the Europeans on this, so it really matters what Russia does in the Security Council. If ultimately the Iranians reject what we're demanding—us and the Russians—then we also should be saying to the Russians: "You should stop this Bushehr project because you can't continue to help them develop a nuclear facility while they're obviously in the process of trying to build a nuclear weapon.
Photo: Bushehr - 400 km south of Tehran

Libertarian writer Bernie Quigley of Free Market News believes that ideas like NATO expansion with nuclear potential into "Holy Roman Empire territory when Russia was perceived to be weak" was 'a mistake of historic proportions' by the best foreign policy minds" and continues proving to be so. [see foreign policy minds who disapproved] Mr. Quigley says:
Its strongest proponent was Vice President Al Gore. But the greatest danger of One Size Fits All Federalism is what we are seeing today in the Middle East; the smallest and quirkiest of well-funded political tribes can conjure influence and commandeer the will of the entire 300,266,521 of us, as they have in Iraq.
Here we are - millions upon millions of citizens, an alleged democracy - beholden to the whims of any one tribe at any given moment. How could we have allowed this to have happened to ourselves - to our democracy?

William Hartung, Senior Research Fellow at the World Policy Institute at the New School, said this in May, 1998:
Senators need to know that voting for NATO expansion could have serious political consequences down the road, once the public understands the full risks and costs involved.
With our foreign policy mistakes coming home to roost in the embers of a failed Iraq and in the light of Russia's bold hypocrisy and betrayal on Iran, will it now be time for the leaders who supported NATO expansion to be held accountable for the reality of the results of such a policy?



"He who wishes to fight must first count the cost. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be dampened. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor dampened, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue... In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns."

Sun Tzu
The Art of War

Consider this statement from Senator John Edwards from May, 2003:
One of the root causes of both the unease in the Middle East and terrorism is so many people in the Arab world live lives of hopelessness and despair. We have to make it clear that we care about addressing those root causes.... the political and economic stagnation in the Middle East and in the Arab world in general is astounding.

We can address the state sponsorship of terrorism in Iran, what Syria’s doing, Iraq, all of those issues, in a discreet way, one by one. But at the end of the day, unless over the long term we’re going to address the root causes of terrorism, we’re not going to get rid of the problem....the world needs to see America as a country that will reach out to them, that cares what they have to say, that cares about their problems, and that will work with them and the international community, including the United Nations, to solve the problems that exist in this world.

It is the only way that we’re going to be successful, number one. And it is the most effective way to keep the American people safe

If keeping America safe is our goal in foreign policy, and if the solution is tied to addressing the hopelessness, despair, political injustice and economic stagnation for so many in the Arab world, then we have failed - and miserably so. In Iraq, over a hundred thousand American troops have fought, risked their lives, and died on a lost-track mission with no clearly delineated goals at the whim of the head of one tribal faction or another (depending on what day it is) in a place where our presence has exacerbated hopelessness, despair, injustice, extremism, and hatred. In short, it is an insurance policy for the perpetuation of terrorism.

Well over three years ago retired Marine General Anthony Zinni said "There is no strategy or mechanism for putting the pieces together," we're in danger of failing."

Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey told the Army Times this week that the U.S. would have to slash combat forces in Iraq to 10 brigades by Christmas to keep the Army from breaking. Hope is not a strategy, but it should be a goal. Despair is not a method, but it is a real result of a misguided foreign policy that, as of tomorrow, will be a war that is longer than World War II, but with disastrous results. Generals are tap dancing around the fact that we need to leave Iraq to the Iraqis to not only let them decide their own fate, but also to remove our Military from the brink of disaster.

Recruiters hoping to appeal to military service in our society will never succeed while this blunder of major proportions continues in Iraq. A draft, if indeed reactivated, will have our children and their parents in the streets demanding for this insanity in Iraq to end. We'd be ignorant and remiss not to expect that reaction - take one look at the public opinion of this war. They all know it, too - the ones who generate the debate about the draft. In the Art of War, Sun Tzu advised
"Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys.
Look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death!"
What kind of father would mislead his children - telling them to expect roses and cheers - and then set them on a dangerous path with no clear plan for victory?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

My Brightest Days

My God, the spring of all my joys,
The life of my delights,
The glory of my brightest days,
And comfort of my nights.

In darkest shades if He appears,
My dawning is begun,
He is my soul's sweet morning star,
And He's my rising sun.

Sacred Harp 546
O.A. Parris, 1959
Isaac Watts,1707

I recommend Georgia10's post from today at Daily Kos on hunger and homeslessness:
Seeing the Shadows

You can read my response, which is related to today's Catholic feast of Pope St Clement I: The Shadow Is You and Me

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Mainstream Wrongly Relying on Right Sources

From the Daou Report to Digby to Eric Boehlert to Media Matters To Glenn Greenwald to A Tiny Revolution, everyone's talking about the intellectual bankruptcy of the right wing and the mainstream media that, for some reason beyond reason, still allow the proven-idiot wingers to pump their news machinery.

A Tribute to JFK

John Fitzgerald Kennedy
May 29, 1917 - November 22, 1963

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

China HIV Cases Up by 30%

China HIV Cases Up Nearly 30 Percent
BEIJING (Reuters) - The number of reported HIV/AIDS cases in China has grown by nearly 30 per cent this year, state media said on Wednesday, warning the virus seemed to be spreading from high-risk groups to the general public. [..]

[..] As of October 31, 12,464 people have died in China as a result of illnesses associated with the HIV virus, Hao Yang, deputy director of the Ministry of Health's Disease Control Bureau, said yesterday.

Hao added that virus appeared to be spreading from so-called high-risk groups to the general public.

Drug abuse accounted for 37 per cent of the cases reported in the first 10 months of the year, while unsafe sexual contact had caused 28 per cent, Hao noted, adding that these two activities had caused most of the infections. Before 2002, only 10 per cent of all infections were caused by sexual contact. [Reuters/Alertnet]

Archbishop Desmond Tutu's comments about the HIV/AIDS epidemic:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been asked about comments made by other religious figures that AIDS is "God's punishment" for sexual promiscuity or drug use. His response? An angry rebuttal: "If that were the kind of God we were told to worship, I would reject that God. My God is not a God who is so sadistic; why punish an innocent child?"
AIDS, he said is the new apartheid, the new enemy. "Let's stop playing around and roll up our sleeves and invoke the spirit that fought apartheid," he said. "We did it with apartheid, we can repeat it with AIDS."

In India, spiritual leaders, including Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Bishop Lawrence Pius Dorai Raj, have recently come together to fight HIV/AIDS, stressing the need for preventive care for a disease that has hit five million Indians. They discussed HIV/AIDS care, giving the much-needed prophetic voice to the stigma and discrimination related to the disease. Faith-based bodies have "historically provided a vital network for community based work". The voluntary Health, Education and Rural Development Society in India [known as "Vherds"] stresses that these groups should play the key role in "compassionate care" for HIV/AIDS infected.

A Prayer For AIDS Awareness

Weary from anger, fear and confusion
Wailing at the loss of audacious beauty -
The souls stricken with AIDS
I search.

In my risings, I search for the answers
Buried deep in the cold earth.
Why has become as useless
As battling the winds.

Hope scurries under my feet
She is present, but fleeting.
I trace her with my eyes
I do not want to lose sight.

I lay down
And beseech You
Spread over me Your canopy of peace
So I may rest and find wholeness in Your shards

I lay down
And look above
Where the memories have formed
A canopy embroidered as finely as the stars
I am renewed and will continue to ask You
Spread over us Your canopy of peace.

A prayer by Rabbi Joshua Lesser of Atlanta, Ga.

Bush 41 Defends Son Angrily at Abu Dhabi Conference

I feel badly for former President George H.W. Bush. As a parent, it certainly would not be easy to hear the kind of criticism that he heard about his son George W. at a leadership conference in Abu Dhabi. [ [Raw Story] I would imagine it would only be natural for Bush 41 to defend hisson, but the way in which he defended his son likely was not convincing to those global business leaders who voiced their concerns. Insulting current and future global business partners, calling them "nuts" over their real concerns that could have been addressed with reason isn't good for business or politics, plain and simple.

What happens when reasoning cannot work because there is no way of rationalizing what has happened? Is that why the elder Bush got so upset - because there was nothing else for him to have done or said? Why did Bush 41 decide to walk away from capitalism-in-globalization as if it was a sinful and greedy concept when he said to one audience member concerned that globalization was front-loaded to serve American interests:
"To suggest that everything we do is because we're hungry for money, I think that's crazy. I think you need to go back to school."
If I didn't know better, I'd say that Bush 41 seems ashamed to admit he's a staunch capitalist. What sense do we make of capitalism when we're not looking out for Numero Uno? Let's face it, his son's administration is far - about as far as you can get - from being identified as any bleeding heart socialists.

Bush 41 further insulated what most people already view as his son's secretive, non-transparent administration when he refused to answer questions because reporters were present.
Bush said the presence of reporters in the audience prevented him from revealing his advice, or, for that matter, what policies the bipartisan Baker Commission ought to urge the president to follow in Iraq.

"I have strong opinions on a lot of these things. But the reason I can't voice them is, if I did what you ask me to do — tell you what advice I give my son — that would then be flashed all over the world,"

Bush said. "If it happened to deviate one iota, one little inch, from what the president's doing or thinks he ought to be doing, it would be terrible. It'd bring great anxiety not only to him but to his supporters."

Lieberman's New Communications Man Hates Bloggers

From Raw Story:
At his blog, Bull Moose, Wittmann has accused liberal and Democratic critics in the blogosphere of comprising "a left wing Cult of Bush Hatred."

"Because in the left wing universe, one must oppose everything the President supports," Wittmann wrote in February.
If a 31% presidential approval rating means anything, I guess that (fake Democrat) Senator Joe Lieberman's new communications director Marshall Wittmann must believe that today's booming majority of Americans is nothing more than a "big old left wing cult of Bush hatred." Wouldn't that make sense to you?

I don't hate President Bush. But I do hate hypocrisy. There's just no room for hypocrisy in today's politics. Worse, a communications director for any modern politician who starts out taking jabs at today's political bloggers at a time when most politicians are courting their favor has to be certifiably insane if they think they're doing their boss any favors.

Bush Gets An "F" For Moral Leadership on Sudan

Chad's falling off a cliff - and it's not a man I'm talking about. It's a nation. I'd wager that most people would have trouble finding Chad on the map of the world, but if there's one thing we surely have in common with the people who live in the African nation, it's that we are human beings. Even though you may live worlds apart, you can enter a young man's world at the point where you both understand what hatred means. Imagine your neighbors being hunted down day and night by people who want to kill you. When the innocent - the helpless and hopeless - lose faith in their fellow man to help them, there is little option but to fall victim to hatred, extremism, and violence.

We all can avoid this from happening if we want - if we will work together. If Chad collapses into civil war for years to come, there will be millions more deaths in surrounding nations. This kind of hatred and chaos has an easy way of spreading if it goes unchecked. As much and as hard as General Colin Powell tried when he was our Secretary of State, our White House either could not or would not act as a moral leader on behalf of people in this world who have no voice and are no better off than wild hunted animals under constant threat from the janjaweed in places like the Sudan-Darfur/Chad border region.

Two years after declaring a genocide in the region, the Bush administration is still only relying upon unsuccessful economic sanctions and has recently sent the new special envoy for Sudan, Andrew Natsios, on a dog-'n-pony trip to Sudan, where he met - low-key - with government officials and visit war-torn Darfur who have long refused to allow 20,000 U.N. troops to replace a poorly funded, ill-equipped African Union force of 7,000.

This is not moral leadership. The whole world's watching. People are dying in front of our eyes. We can delicately tap dance around the Sudanese govenment only for so long before the tap dance is seen as the greatest sin we could all ever have committed together.

Nichlas Kristof has a recommendation for those who aren't sure what they can do:

The most common question I get from readers about Darfur is: What can I do? The simplest answer is to write or call the White House and members of Congress. (See how your representative does on the issue at Imagine if Mr. Bush had made Darfur an important issue at the Asian summit meeting last week, if he had returned via Cairo for a meeting with Arab leaders, if he had dispatched Condi Rice to Chad to shore it up.

Beyond pushing our own government, we can write the embassies of countries like France and Egypt that could play especially crucial roles. The same is true of China, which provides Sudan the guns used to shoot children like Ismail. We in the news business, including Arab and European television networks, could use a few pokes to appreciate that genocide is newsworthy.

Related sites [for NYT Select subscribers]

NYT On the Ground
Darfur Videos
Kristof Columns

You can see, from the very latest news, that the U.S. is still not presenting a strong moral voice to stop this genocide.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday he expected Sudan's government to respond within two days on outstanding issues of an agreement signed last week that would allow U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur. [..]

[..]The United States has said it is prepared to move to a "Plan B" for dealing with Sudan if no agreement is reached by Jan. 1, but has yet to specify what that would entail.

"We need to put a time limit on where this is going," presidential envoy Andrew Natsios said Monday, declining to describe what consequences Sudan would face if the deadline was not met. "Making threats is not a wise thing to do."

Making threats is "not a wise thing to do"?

Boy, I wish Bush had believed in that theory during the lead-up to the insanely unjust Iraq War. The way I see it, this President makes threats when they're worth it to his political advantage and when we look to him for clear moral leadership in the world, all of a sudden it's not good to appear threatening.

This Olbermann Video Should Go Down in History

Keith Olbermann has made a statement on his MSNBC show that should go down in history as a defining moment when the public not only felt great dissatisfaction with a misguided, unjust, and failed war, but began to scream for the President conducting the war to take concrete steps to end the insanity immediately - before one more troop dies.

Watch it.

From YouTube

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Muhammad Yunus on Jon Stewart's Daily Show

Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and recent Nobel Peace Prize winner, is one of my favorite public figures. He's a delightful, wise, and compassionate entrepreneur. In case you missed him on Jon Stewart's Daily Show last week, I found a video at YouTube. All people have the capacity for enormous creativity - even beggars. Yunus provides small loans to some of the poorest people in this world through microfinancing. Out of 7 million Granmeen bank microcredit loans, 97% of these loans have gone to poor women, many of them farmers in developing nations. In doing so, Yunus changes their lives for the better and shakes up the powers that be in the developing world. 80% of farmers in Africa are women and they aren't getting access to markets because they are women. To my way of thinking, Dr. Muhammad Yunus' idea is certainly a better idea than bombing other people's homelands in order to "bring them democracy."

I wrote a related post last September from the 2006 Clinton Global Initiative meeting. See CGI: Senator Clinton's Panel on Women and the Power of Economic Opportunity, where Citicorp's Ajay Banga suggested that, to build on Muhammad Yunus' new theory, large corporations can, in the future, show social responsibility by assisting smaller financial institutions to secure loans to enable them to facilitate microfinancing.

Hear NPR interview from November 21, 2006: Nobel-Prize Winner on the Power of Microcredit
Hear NPR story with Michelle Norris October 13, 2006

O, Mr. McCain - How Soon We Change

If there is one fact that has been evidenced by the need for the Baker/Hamilton-led Iraq Survey group, it is that for the first three years of the Iraq war, President Bush has failed to employ a strategy of diplomacy that would have included speaking with all nations to secure a level of international cooperation required to gain us an advantage in the overall war on terror. From the start of the Iraq war, Senator John McCain of Arizona has not been as strongly forthcoming on Bush's leadership shortcomings as we would expect a leader of honesty, strength and conviction should be.

It was just a little over two years ago at the RNC convention that Senator McCain heaped such unrealistic and undue praise upon Bush, saying:
Only the most deluded of us could doubt the necessity of this war...[Democrats] emphasize that military action alone won't protect us, that this war has many fronts: in courts, financial institutions, in the shadowy world of intelligence, and in diplomacy. [..] We agree. [..] That is what the president believes. That is what the president believes. And thanks to his efforts, we have received valuable assistance from many good friends around the globe..[...] Our president will work with all nations willing to help us defeat this scourge that afflicts us all. [...]And while this war has many components, we can't make victory on the battlefield harder to achieve so that our diplomacy is easier to conduct. This is not just an expression of strength. It is a measure of our wisdom. That's why I commend to my country the re-election of President Bush, and the...and the steady, experienced, public-spirited man who serves as our vice president, Dick Cheney.
Today on ABC News This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Senator McCain said that Iraq, on its present course - long and stubbornly held and defended by the Commander in Chief - is "doomed to failure."

This quote Senator McCain is in regard to our troops:
"They're fighting and dying for a failed policy."
It's getting closer to 2008. I'm sure that Senator McCain would like you to totally blank out what he said just over two years ago when we all could see that the Iraq policy was on the Nowhere Road.

How soon we change - the fickle - the ambitious.

Unless we're not supposed to take him at his word, it appears that Senator McCain had some horrific intuition in 2004 about what constitutes good, trustworthy, and solid national leadership. Look at the kind of leadership that he so fully supported in his public RNC Convention speech when he so strongly recommended Bush for four more years.

"I’m not sure that it’s turned into a civil war."

Senator John McCain on Iraq, Meet the Press, August 20, 2006

Either he couldn't be honest with us about the obvious shortcomings of the Bush policy on Iraq in 2004 or he honestly thought that the Bush leadership of the Iraq war was solid and worthy of his trust.

Either way, come 2008, Americans will want an honest president who would surely know poor leadership and immediately call it out when he (or she) sees it. Senator McCain loses on both ends of this spectrum.

Consider what I wrote on September 1, 2004:
I have not lost hope, but I've lost faith and trust in the Bush administration. I can't look, with realistic hope, to the future and imagine this leader, GW Bush, forming the strength-in-alliance necessary to defeat the terror that is stalking not only our nation, but the world. Some of the world's leaders are not acting in their own nation's behalf by joining in this fight, and while John McCain said we have every right to expect they should, GW Bush (who should be the one to set the best example for the world) has never found a way to convince world leaders to trust him.

I don't trust George W. Bush as our Commander-in-Chief. I believe he's an ignorant fellow who's in way over his head and that frightens me and by God, it should frighten you

The question for 2008: Who will make us proud again?

The 2006 elections proved that Americans can no longer accept gray areas or hedging and equivocation on Iraq. Senator McCain has been guilty of the kind of willful perversion of reality that has driven clear-thinking citizens to vote for anyone other than Republicans. Too many times we've heard McCain refusing to call out the Bush administration on its dangerous incompetence. Yet, the closer we get to 2008, the more he backs away from his own public statements about supporting President Bush. McCain spoke highly of his trust in Bush's leadership on Iraq at the 2004 RNC convention, yet on August 20, 2006,

"It’s never been the right strategy as far as I’m concerned, since the beginning when I came back from my first trip to Iraq after every military person, including the British, told me that we didn’t have sufficient troops to control the situation."

Senator McCain, NBC Meet the Press, August 20, 2006

*yet he publicly upheld and praised the Bush strategy at the RNC convention almost two years after the war had begun.

he told NBC's David Gregory that he had anticipated many problems from the get-go because of the insufficient number of troops in Iraq. Why didn't he say so in 2004 when we all had a chance for different leadership? Because it would have come from a Democratic leader. In rational essence. that has made McCain a rubber stamp on the miserably failed Bush Iraq policy, even as his lips speak other words.

Hiding behind flowery rhetoric in his RNC Convention speech, a cleverly partisan Senator McCain gave Bush political power to perpetuate failure in Iraq. McCain should be made sorry that he ever sucked up to Bush. The right Democratic candidate in 2008 will chew Senator McCain up on this point in the 2008 presidential debates, providing that Senator McCain makes it that far. He could wind up humiliated mincemeat if the right Democrat knows how to deftly wield the political grinder.