"At a Munich security forum on Saturday, Kerry touched a nerve in Israel by pointing to "an increasing de-legitimisation" campaign building up against it internationally and "talk of boycotts" if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict did not end. "Are we all going to be better with all of that?" asked Kerry, who is seeking a framework deal soon that will set a path toward a final accord on peace and Palestinian statehood. Steinitz seized on the top U.S. diplomat's remarks as a threat against Israel that would only encourage the Palestinians to harden their positions in the six-month-old negotiations, which have shown few signs of progress. "The things ... Kerry said are hurtful, they are unfair and they are intolerable," Steinitz told reporters." Reuters
"They are intolerable." Ah! I see. At last! Kerry is now unmasked as an anti-Semite. Bibi has said something similar.
Seriously, Kerry comprehends, however belatedly that Israel is isolating itself by virtue of its continued negotiating trickery as a strategy, its heavy handed occupation of Palestinian lands and its snarling hatred of the non-Jewish world.
Kerry is undoubtedly correct in his statements regarding Israel's destiny as heritor of the worldwide attitude towards South Africa in the "bad old days."
Can Israel turn itself around and actually seek comity on the basis of equality with the Palestinians? I doubt it. The hyper-nationalist attitude of revisionist Zionism is now so deeply imbedded in the Israeli electorate that the die is cast. pl
I used to be the Intelligent Correspondent for UPI and the “Washington Times,” and later for a UPI publication called “The Middle East Times.”
I came across these articles that date from 2003 and it is astonishing, even now, to realize how much US policy in Syria has been driven by pro-Israeli zealots within the U.S. government.
07/17/03 (Washington Times) ) Depicted by the Pentagon as a mere border skirmish, the June 18 strike into Syria by U.S. military forces was, in fact, based on mistaken intelligence and penetrated more than 25 miles into that country, causing numerous Syrian casualties, several serving and former administration officials said.
Although diplomatic relations between the two sides have been frosty after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, the two nations have close intelligence ties, which have become strained as a result, these sources said.
"I think this was a deliberate effort to disrupt cooperation between U.S. and Syrian intelligence agencies," an administration official said.
According to a report in The New York Times, administration officials said that attack, carried out by Task Force 20, a Special Operations force, was based on intelligence that a convoy of SUVs, heading for Syria, was linked to senior fugitive Iraqi leaders.
"The (intel) was that senior Iraqis, perhaps even (former Iraqi leader) Saddam Hussein were getting out of the country," a State Department official told United Press International.
The ensuing raid "was conducted under the rules of hot pursuit," an administration official told UPI on condition his name not be used.
In the same Times report, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended the attack, saying it was based on "solid intelligence."
"A week of UN-brokered peace talks between Syria's opposition and government has failed to achieve any tangible results, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said Friday. "I regret to tell you that we have not reached tangible results during this week," he told reporters after the closed-door negotiations wrapped up in Geneva. Muallem blamed a "lack of maturity and seriousness" on the part of the rival delegation, which he claimed had sought to "implode" the peace negotiations. "They acted as if we had wanted to come here for one hour and hand over everything to them. It's indicative of the illusions that they are living under," he said. Muallem spoke after UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi said he aimed to bring the two sides back to the table for a new round of talks from February 10. " pl
Why? Why "bring the two sides back" Why? The result will be the same, so why do it again? The various rebel factions are fighting each other. They will be doing the same thing in the future. Perhaps the goal is to persist in this futility in the hope that eventually a pretext can be found that will persuade the american people that air attacks in Syria are a good idea. In similar fashion there is now "log rolling" for the notion that Syria is failing to cooperate in the removal of chemical agents and precursor chemicals from its territory.
BTW, does anyone here believe that it would be a good idea to extradite the Knox woman to Italy?
A successful conversation requires two minds that are similar in strength. A conversation is an exchange of words derived from your experience and your feelings, ideals, aims, hopes, etc. Both minds must have some sound knowledge of the outside world and a grasp of some of its major events. Both speakers should also be talented listeners which implies extensive contacts with different and varying personalities, a wide range of circumstances, and both people speaking must possess a knowledge of the events of their life that they can recount truthfully. Every human being is a vessel of unique experiences of life.
So a conversation thus has to be based on the truth of facts and the truth of personal perceptions. Both listener and speaker should have a sincere desire to share what they’ve learned. You should never talk as if your virtues are a matter of personal accomplishment, The spaciousness and the range and amplitude of each mind will make itself seen in dialogue so there is no need to rush for results. It is natural for people to take each other’s measure, but one should hold back and simply perceive. Each should gauge the other in silence by listening. Half of the pleasure of conversation is sharing insightful perceptions that are accurate to the observed facts. The knowledge of each doesn’t have to be identical, but the replies of each have to form some kind of coherence. The alternative is a dreary exchange of half-thought, half-understood gibberish or merely repeating stale clichés and superficial commonplaces that rule the day and manifest no new knowledge.
Directed by: David Russell (who also did The Fighter, dispiriting flick about one of Nature’s lesser creatures who manages at length—great length—to stand on his hind legs and beard his tormentors; then Silver Linings Playbook, dispiriting flick about one of Nature’s lesser creatures who manages at length—great length—to stand on his hind legs and beard his tormentors… annnnnnnnd evidently co-written by him, the which make him, in the French, a co-auteur not to say co-hauteur… urf! urf!). Starring: Whoa! The lot…Christian Bale (who’s made a fetish of dropping weight till he’s positively cadaverous, then regaining, then dropping, then morphing back up to beer-bellitude, then… Hey! Worked for Tom Hanks). Anyhow; Bradley Cooper, making some weird choices of script lately and this won’t end well for him, mark my words; Jeremy Renner, ditto and who’d better get back to action flicks right quick; Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence in dueling décolletés as lovely but unlovable fee-males; Michael Pena, a Peruvian I think, as an Ay-rab; Louis C.K. (no, I don’t know why he does that) fresh from comic relief as comic relief (You think he was gonna play Hamlet?).
Dispiriting flick about one of Nature’s lesser creatures who manages at length—great length—to stand on his hind legs and beard his tormentors, which is not to say this director (co-auteur) has only a single note to sound though he does seem to dispose of a single instrument. Seem to me here that we have the Madame Bovary question writ Cineplex large: Do twelve pages of arsenic poisoning (Oh, man… sorry to ruin it for you. Well, at least I didn’t reveal who dies of arsenic poisoning, so there’s a little suspense left. Anyhow, you woulda guessed from the title. Oh, man… did it again. Okay, try Anna Karenina. You’ll never guess who throws herself under a train in that one.) wash away 384 pages of fornication, self-delusion, fornication, self-indulgence, fornication? Does a two-minute coda of virtue triumphant blot out 105 minutes of syrupy wallow in vice, duplicity, mendacity, venality, ennu-y? Does permitting these denizens of the demi-monde a flash of attenuated accomplishment compensate the hour(s) of humiliation, frustration, bondage to which they’re subjected and we treated? Low mimetic mode… yeah, low all right… low enough to crawl under a snake with an eighty-pound rucksack on (Okay, okay… silly image. Why’d a snake have an eighty-pound rucksack on?).
"While the proposals announced tonight may turn out to be constitutional – certainly administration lawyers will be ready to cite statutes they purport authorize the action. The president is doubtless using such language to emphasize what he sees as the obstinacy on the Hill. However, the (hopefully) overblown rhetoric about “bypassing Congress” because is harmful to constitutional discourse, and will certainly attract criticism suspicion and criticism. The president, on these matters, cannot bypass Congress. Nor is legislative inaction due to different views in the House and Senate a bug – it is a feature designed to promote deliberation and limit government action." Washpost
IMO Obama is wrapped up in his coccoon and walking towards a hole in the pond ice. The Republicans may not be able to secure a conviction in the senate for anything he might do but they might well impeach in the House if he presents them with a suitable target on the basis of actions that he may take that they can label unconstututional.
Bill Clinton may now be a populatrfellow but he will forever be an impeached president. I do not think Obama wants that for a legacy. pl
Directed by: Peter Berg, who also wrote the scenario, “based”evidently on the book of the same name (sorta) written by the SEAL who survived this action, Marcus Luttrell (he had a ghost… actually, twenty-some ghosts if you count his buddies lost in the fight and whose memory hangs over the thing like the fuzzy photos that serve as epilogue, the which bring us to an old question about fidelity to horror and the means by which to retrieve lived experience. Basil Liddel Hart—variously pronounced—for instance thought that “immediate experience” of combat had the effect of “fossilizing” perception, rendering it unreliable. The novelist Céline fancied that you have to “distort” reality to capture it for an audience of outsiders, offering the image of a stick thrust into water and bent by refraction; if you bend the stick first, the medium rights it. Yeah, well… ultimately, you have to ask if this is what happened in Lone Survivor though we’re assured that Luttrell himself oversaw the making of the flick. What are we spared in this version? What is Luttrell spared? Not a question of duplicity but of the effects of trauma even on the bravest of men). Starring (if you can tell the difference among the figurants on account of they all have scruffy beards and all wear the same panoply and for combat no rank): Mark Wahlberg, Emile Hirsch, Christian Bale, Taylor Kitsch (candidate for a Hollywood name-switsch), Ben Foster… annnnnnnd guess who Yousuf Azami plays?
Well, it’s a lousy movie even as war flicks go. Sorry. But I’m on record elsewhere as affirming that even a lousy movie about SEALs is worth the watch since the life and service of these guys remains a mystery (as does their motivation) to most (ptui!) civilians. Oddly, some of the corniest stuff seems to me (25-year Special Forces operator and veteran of close-quarters mountainside scraps not unlike the one here depicted) the most faithful. These ain’t not warrior-poets, alas: just tough guys sent by boneheads into a doomed fight, stuck with a collapsing situation from which there appears no exit yet refusing to acknowledge that fact (what good would it do?) or to consider capitulation (those ginks don’t take prisoners, anyhow). Sooooo… whaddaya do? You back up against your buddy’s back, stack your magazines, say good-bye to Mom and Suzie back home, and do what you’re paid to do, what Aaron sent that scapegoat out into the desert to do.
Don Bacon recently informed me that in addition to various headquarters, logistical facilities and rotating air units throughout the Gulf area, the US Army continues to maintain two ground combat brigades in Kuwait, presumebly at Camps Arfijan and Buehring. I was unaware of this.
After the First Gulf War, Kuwait proposed such a garrison arrangement to the United States. At the time I was in favor of this because Iraq remained a malevolent presence just to the north.
The situation is quite different now. There is no real ground threat to Kuwait. Iraq is not a threat and the notion that Iran might overrun southern Iraq to suddenly appear on Kuwait's border is so fanciful as to be unavailable as a justification for the continuing rotating deployments.
The unite presentoy deployed seem to be an armored brigade of the 4th Division and an additional brigade from the 34th USARNG division.
Presumably, Kuwait is paying the expenses involved in maintaining these troops in their country, but the mere presence of these ground combat units cannot be justified on the basis of Kuwait's desire to have an "insurance policy." The commander of one of the brigades recently said that his unit was in the ME to participate in various "exercizes' and to assist in training regional forces. Really? Where and when"?
IMO the two brigades are there at Kuawiti expense to act as a rescue posse for the embassy in Baghded if the need should arise. pl
"Since November 2012, when an adulterous affair felled David H. Petraeus, the CIA director and most renowned Army general of his generation, the armed forces have struggled to cope with tawdry disclosures about high-ranking commanders. The Navy has been humbled by a spiraling sex-and-bribery scandal, as well as a gambling incident involving a three-star admiral who authorities say they caught using counterfeit chips at a riverfront casino. The Air Force relieved a nuclear commander after investigators said he went on a drinking binge in Moscow. The Army fired one general for allegedly groping a woman, forced another to retire after he accepted expensive gifts from a foreigner, and demoted its top commander in Africa after an investigation found he treated himself and his wife to a $750-a-night Caribbean hotel suite at taxpayer expense. The subject is painfully sensitive inside the Pentagon, where many generals and admirals say they are appalled but reluctant to openly criticize their peers." Washpost
It would be foolish to imagine that flag officers have not taken personal advantage of their rank in the past. Most civilians will not be surprised that this is true because civilian life is largely about placing personal gain above all else. Nevertheless, it is true that military life demands something better. A life dedicated to the readiness to sacrifice all for the state demands something more.
These generals and admirals have not met that better standard and there seems to be an epidemic of that sort of behavior. Why? IMO this has been caused by the kind of expansion of the size of the officer corps that always accompanies prolonged war. What happens in such wars is that standards are inevitably lowered in order to have the people needed to fight the war. After the wars end, a Reduction in Force is alway done for the purposes of re-sizing the force and also to discard the deadwood and detritus accumulated in the the officer corps in the course of the war. After Vietnam some 10,000 officers were put out on the street by board action. These were, in the main, reserve officers on active duty in their commissioned ranks. A lot of them had enlisted ranks as well and many were put back in the ranks. This was painful but necessary.
During these latest wars standards fell far. Promotion rates to the field grades (major, lieutenant colonel and colonel) became ridiculously high in a system which is designed to function in an "up or out" manner within a steeply pyramidal rank authorization structure. I lecture several time at the service war colleges in the last ten years and can only say that many of the field grade students I saw there would not have been selected for the war college before 9/11.
Prolonged war can twist men's souls. The finer sides of our nature are hard to hang on to in those circumstances. Some people remain virtuous servants of the state. Some do not. These disgraceful flag officers are products of that phenomenon.
There should be a purge. pl
Robert Gates in his new memoir used very well chosen words to scorch the U.S. Congress for its defects, calling it, “uncivil, incompetent, parochial, and hypocritical.” Of course, he could have gone to say it is also narrow, self-serving, ill humored, boorish, egoistically self absorbed and largely ignorant of the affairs it pretends to manage.
But let’s leave that for another time.
We can enlarge on the perceptions of Gates by using the words of Vaclev Havel, a clear thinking, articulate and courageous opponent of the Soviet control of Czechoslovakia, a dissident who eventually became the president of his country for two terms.
Havel, during his second presidency, was confronted with the future of his country. He was a man of broad mind and generous sympathies, and he had great insight into the erratic and irresponsible Slovak politicians, and he was engulfed in the most pressing question of the time which was the debate over whether the Czechs and the Slovaks should separate and form two different countries. Havel thought that any such separation would be a “grave misfortune.”
Unfortunately, Havel was almost entirely helpless in debating the problem, and he grew furious over what he called, “the dictatorship of partisanship.” This very phrase is very telling. Havel abominated the “excessive influence of parties in the system of political power,” and accused political parties of being “a state within a state.” He accused the parties of loyalties they demanded counted more than the will of the electorate. He had seen firsthand the pre-election maneuvering that had a tendency to supersede and overpower the broad interests of society.
"... remarks the President made this week while announcing a task force aimed at protecting students on college campuses from sexual assault. "Sexual assault is an affront to our basic decency and humanity. And it's about all of us - the safety of those we love most: our moms, our wives, our daughters and our sons,” Obama said. Obama cited a report from a White House-convened council that shows nearly one in five women, totaling 22 million, have been raped in their lifetime - and that women in college settings were at particularly high risk for sexual assault." politicalticker
Here as in the "crusade" against "sexual assault" in the US military we see Obama in his true capacity as social engineer. In his first term he was more careful about revealing the extent of his ambitions for revolutionary social and human psychological change in the United States.
Very few US presidents would have assumed that it was their responsibility to "reform"the American people in some manner affecting criminal behavior already puishable by law. That is not true of Obama, he clearly finds us to be defective social animals, creatures to be "raised up" by the beauty and justice of his scheme of things.
He faces a mighty obstacle to his ambitions for us in the Republican majority in the House of Representatives and a continuing conservative majority in SCOTUS. In the face of that, he says that he intends to govern by Executive Power to the extent that he can manage it. In trying to do that he will walk a fine line, a very fine line. There will be many people watching, people who do not think he has history and indeed biology, on his side. pl
"With no perceptible opposition from the Obama administration, Congress has quietly downscaled Washington’s ambitions for the final year of the Afghan war, substantially curtailing development aid and military assistance plans ahead of the U.S. troop pullout. As congressional appropriators put the final touches on a huge spending bill in recent weeks, they slashed Afghanistan development aid by half and barred U.S. defense officials from embarking on major new infrastructure projects. After making a bid last year for $2.6 billion worth of “critical” capabilities such as mobile strike vehicles for Afghan security forces, the Pentagon agreed it could do with just 40 percent of what it had sought." washpost
*Most diplomats now agree that Karzai is unlikely to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that would allow for some form of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, when most troops are due to leave. Along with reviving peace talks with the Taliban, Karzai is also demanding an end to all U.S. military operations on Afghan homes and villages, including strikes by pilotless trones. The United States has threatened to pull all of its troops out unless a deal is signed in good time, but embassies are examining alternative solutions behind the scenes that would enable the NATO-led mission to remain." Reuters
Time to go. pl
"Outraged Virginia Republicans quickly began searching for a way to preserve the state’s gay marriage ban Thursday after Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced that he would join a lawsuit seeking to have it declared unconstitutional. Some GOP legislators were exploring ways to defend the ban without Herring’s help. Herring’s most ardent opponents sought to take legal action against the attorney general for what they described as his misuse of the office. The National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex unions, called for Herring’s impeachment on grounds of alleged “malfeasance” and “neglect of duty,” though legislators did not go that far." Washpost
A Democrat won Herring's state senate seat in Loudoun County. The new senate will be evenly balanced and the lieutenant governor, a Democrat, might cast a vote in an impeachment trial. In any event conviction would require a two thirds majority.
Same sex marriage, expansion of medicaid by any means, abolition of the death penalty, Obama style gun laws; these are McCauliffe's early agenda items.
The Republicans are 67 in the new House of Delegates. The Democrats are 33. This is going to be a rough ride for someone. pl
"Gov. Terry McAuliffe wants lawmakers to give his office the authority to expand Medicaid if the panel authorized to allow expansion does not act by the end of this General Assembly session. But leaders of the House of Delegates immediately dismissed the governor’s proposal Monday, as competing strategies emerged between the House and Senate over resolving the biggest political dispute of the legislative session." Times Dispatch
Is there a "project" intended to "kneecap" Republican governors? That is probably so but the governors themselves are the enablers for the work.
As someone in Richmond observed to me today, "there is a reason why the governor's office is the smallest room in the state capitol." It is a reminder of the relative proportions of things.
Like John Kerry, McCauliffe seems to be a man of many illusions. Among them is the idea that he won easily. That was not the case. Cucinelli was yet another example of the Republican Party's lust for self destruction. In addition to that gift from the Republicans there was the question of the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor. That estimable gentleman of the cloth and color took positions in his public utterances that drove many transplanted yankees mad. and then there were the McDonnells, SWMBO opined today that Maureen should go to jail and not the former governor. According to the sages at the WP, Maureen took money from Williams without telling the fool who then sat in Mr. Jefferson's chair. To convict him the feds will need to prove that there was a "quid" above and beyond what a governor would normally do for a Virginia businessman in order to foster business in the Commonwealth. On the other hand, she must have done something, anything would do, that amounts to conspiracy. she evidently did not understand the first rule of Virginia which is that you can do anything you like if you are discreet, have good manners, and don't "frighten the horses."
IMO, McCauliffe has a similar problem. Somehow he thinks that all those super fine gents in the General Assembly will be easily overcome by his power plays. We will see. pl
"At a separate meeting with U.S., European and Arab businessmen, Rouhani said Iran was seeking investment particularly in car manufacturing, oil and gas, petrochemicals, road and rail infrastructure and mining, a participant said. He ignored a question from two U.S. businessmen who said they had Israeli passports and asked if they could invest in Iran. The Islamic Republic does not recognise the Jewish state. Most sanctions, including a severe squeeze on Iran's access to the international financial system, remain in force and the United States has stressed Western companies should not regard Iran as "open for business." Reuters
It will be interesting to see what wil be said by the Likudniks in the US Congress about this development. pl
"“We have come here to put an end to terrorism and its bitter consequences,” Moualem said, referring to the rebels fighting to unseat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “Diplomacy and terrorism cannot go in parallel. Diplomacy must succeed by fighting terrorism.” Opposition leader Ahmad Assi al-Jarba said those fighting Assad will never accept a negotiated settlement that keeps him in power, and implored the delegates from more than 30 nations to move quickly to end the conflict. “Time is like a sword,” Jarba said through an interpreter. “And for the Syrian people, time is now blood.”" Washpost
I, too, am tired of reading and writing about Syria but the subject seems unavoidable. One can only ask rhetorically what this collection of mountebanks now meeting in the pictured hotel can possibly think they are doing. Is it not obvious that the Syrian government is not going to agree to its own destruction? Is that not obvious ? Why would it do anything like that? They are actually winning the war.
And what is it that John Kerry believes is going to happen? Does he think that Lavrov and Putin are suddenly going to believe that they have been completely wrong and that the Ketchup prince has been right all along?
This situation is reminiscent of the farce of Kerry's "negotiations" with Bibi and the Palestinians. Someone referred to that situation the other day as an embarassment in Israel since the Israelis do not want to see him but are still a little hesitant to tell him to stay away. After all, from Natanyahu's point of view, it is he, the mighty Bibi who controls the votes in Congress, not Obama or Kerry.
Ah, I forgot, the Canadian PM told the knesset a few days back that anyone who criticizes Israel is an anti-Semite. I must be more careful in what I say, or think. pl
I don't suppose there are many reading this who will have heard of the "My Canh Cafe" bombing in Saigon in 1965. This was a restaurant barge floating in the Saigon River. There were about forty killed including nine Americans. It had been a popular place. Like the "Taberna du Liban" in Kabul, it had been a kind of "Rick's Place" where foreigners and the local uppoer class gathered as a haven from the outer world. The VC had set off a car bomb at an American billeting hoted the year before. Two Americans were killed in that event.
What distinguished those two attacks in VN was that they were nearly unique events. There may have been similar attacks in Saigon in the remaining eight years of war, but I would have to be reminded of them. The VC seem to have decided that the toll in Vietnamese lives was counterproductive.
In my two years in the country I often went to restaurants in Saigon. Meetings in town were usually the occasions for such luxury. "Guillaume Tell," the "Admiral," "Than-Tam's" in Cholon, the "Arc en Ciel," "Mayflower" for the onion soup, and the "Pizzeria" would be a few of the names. There were guards and locked doors, but nobody seemed worried enough about attacks to stop eating out. The standard of cooking and service was superb. I normally went to such establishment in uniform.
If anyone thinks that such culinary indulgence meant that we were not serious about the war, they should remember the fifty-eight thousand names on the monument on the mall in Washington and the six hundred thousand soldiers that the NVN government admits to having lost,
The bombing in Kabul seems to me to be very different. The communist/nationalist enemy in VN had no intention of waging war against Western civilization. This was entirely a political matter for them fought in the context of Marxist/Leninist control of their political movement. Because of that control they used intensive and violent methods to control the rural population where they could. Their agitprop teams did not hesitate to kill in order to intimidate. Nevertheless, the war was fought to being their idea of a Vietnamese national state into existence. They always expected that such a state would exist withing the galaxy of states made possible by the Peace of Westphalia.
The jihadi Islamists are very different. They ARE waging a war agsainst Western civilization. The Lebanese restaurant was seen by them as evidence of Western cultural penetration. There will be many more such attacks.
Islam is on the march in the Middle East. This is indisputable. For the past few years, in every Mideast election, the Islamic parties have won: in the Gaza Strip in 2006, in Iraq and Tunisia in 2010. In 2011, they won again in Turkey, Morocco, and Egypt where, the first parliamentary elections since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, Islamist parties have confirmed an overwhelming victory.
The new preponderance of Islamic political power in the region poses serious and genuine threats to U.S. interests. A former veteran U.S. intelligence source who lived in Cairo for years, told me that America’s main worry had centered on the possibility that Egypt at some point would experience an Islamic landslide in which the Islamics secured a majority and who would then gradually leveraged its legislative authority to divest the military of its traditional power and outlaw political opponents. If that occurred, he feared that Egypt could start linking up with similar groups in Tunisia, Syrian, Libya and Yemen which would be catastrophic.
When the Muslim Brotherhood came to power, its efforts were directed to controlling Egypt by outlawing its opposition and imposing a very strict version of Islam on what basically a secular country. This they did until they were booted from power by the Egyptian military who, in turn, outlawed the Brotherhood. It was an example of circular despotism, but at least the military was secular. Just recently, Egypt’s military scored a significant victory in the latest election aimed at setting up a new constitution, and the attempts by American pundits who claim that the triumph of strongman General Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi was due to manipulations, intimidations, and bullying ignore the popular popularity of the military among the Egyptian mass. It is true that the election results were deeply skewed by the fact many of the Salafist parties abstained from it, mainly on the grounds that democracy – government by men -- is a blasphemy in Islam where men are supposed to be governed only by God.
"This morning I spent an hour in a closed room with six Members of Congress: Rep. Lofgren, Rep. Sensenbrenner, Rep. Scott, Rep. Goodlate, Rep Thompson, and Rep. Amash. No staffers, no public: just them. Lofgren asked me to brief her and a few Representatives on the NSA. She said that the NSA wasn't forthcoming about their activities, and they wanted me -- as someone with access to the Snowden documents -- to explain to them what the NSA was doing. Of course I'm not going to give details on the meeting, except to say that it was candid and interesting. And that it's extremely freaky that Congress has such a difficult time getting information out of the NSA that they have to ask me. I really want oversight to work better in this country." (Schneier on Security)
I found this story of Bruce Schneier's visit to Congress more interesting than President Obama's speech on NSA reforms. Does anyone else find it astounding that Congressmen have to ask someone who's viewed the documents stolen from the NSA by Snowden in order to find out what the NSA is doing? Does this make the NSA look like an imperious rogue agency with nothng but contempt for Congress, the American people and the Constitution? I got to know a lot of competent, caring and patriotic people at the NSA. They do an important job and they do it well. Those who insist on protecting the unconstitutional collection and surveillance activities of the NSA are doing us all a disservice, especially those good people I knew at the NSA.
Obama proposed some modest reforms to our signals/digital collection and surveillance activities. That's better than nothing and certainly better than totally dismantling the NSA. There's a lot more work to be done. The NSA and their misguided supporters are going to be dragged kicking and screaming into meaningful reform only by those who support both the NSA and the Constitution and know the technology like Bruce Schneier.
"Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was "time to stop this hypocrisy" and "inject some balance and fairness to this discussion". "The EU calls our ambassadors in because of the construction of a few houses? When did the EU call in the Palestinian ambassadors about incitement that calls for Israel's destruction?" he said at a meeting of foreign journalists on Thursday. The Israeli government has accused the Palestinian Authority of taking no action to stop inflammatory language against Israel and Jewish people in its official media. "This imbalance and this bias against Israel doesn't advance peace," Mr Netanyahu said. "I think it pushes peace further away because it tells the Palestinians: 'Basically you can do anything you want, say anything you want and you won't be held accountable.'"" BBC
This diatribe is indicative of the utter futility of Kerry's "obsession." pl
"... at issue is the fundamental mission of the CIA, which during the past decade has morphed into a paramilitary force. Senior officials, including CIA Director John O. Brennan, have warned that the agency’s emphasis on lethal operations deviates from its traditional mission and could impair its ability to focus on gathering intelligence. The administration first signaled its intent to shift control of drone operations to the Pentagon last year, when Obama announced new guidelines for counterterrorism missions — including a pledge of greater transparency — during a speech at the National Defense University. At the time, administration officials briefing reporters said there would be “a preference for the Department of Defense to engage in the use of force outside war zones.” The remark was a reference to Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia — countries beyond the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, where the United States has carried out drone strikes against al-Qaeda targets." Washpost
The "Authorization for the Use of Force" law (AUF) has been interpreted as restricting the USAF to employing armed UAVs (drones) in active war zones. This has been convenient to those who wish to restore some of CIA's power within the US Government since this situation could be understood to require a presidential "finding" for strikes outside active war zones. CIA is legally able to act on such presidential authority but not the armed forces, or at least that is the legal justification. CIA lost a lot of functions in the intelligence community reorganization of ten years ago and this drone business has served to give them important functions again.
CIA is supposed to be the lead agency in the IC for clandestine HUMINT. Clandestine HUMINT is a game to be played by masters of human psychology who devote themselves to a lifetime pursuit of the subtle skills needed to persuade people to inform against their own. Having done this, the clandestine operative must maintain control over the recruited agent under what are inevitably difficult conditions. This requires a great deal of skill and is a very specialized job. Most recruited foreign assets are obtained after long, carefully orchestrated cultivation. People like Aldritch Ames or the egregious Walker family are anomalies. These people jumped into the arms of the Soviets but that is not the normal case.
The skills and mentality needed by a fighting organization like the USAF have little to do with the the clandestine HUMINT task. In fact they are such as to degrade the clandestine HUMINT capability of an agency with clandestine HUMINT as its primary work. There are clandestine HUMINT groups within DoD but these groups are restricted to their own particular work, often in cooperation with CIA.
John Brennan, the current director of CIA wants to get CIA out of the killing business in order to work on restoring the quality of CIA HUMINT. IMO he is absolutely right in wanting this. pl
Once again, mention the person you are writing to in your comments. pl
For half a century, Syria has intermittently been the object of hostile actions by the United States and Israel. Most of these actions were covert; some were carried out overtly with Americanassistance in money and equipment by the Israelis; and from 2004 the US Government imposed sanctions. Since at least the Spring of 2012, US Government policy hardened toward regime change in Syria, with increased assistance to the rebels in the civil war that began in 2011 and encouragement of allies to boycott or otherwise weaken the Syrian Government and economy.
As Joshua Landis wrote in Foreign Policy already in June 2012, “Let's be clear: Washington is pursuing regime change by civil war in Syria. The United States, Europe, and the Gulf states want regime change, so they are starving the regime in Damascus and feeding the opposition. They have sanctioned Syria to a fare-thee-well and are busy shoveling money and helping arms supplied by the Gulf get to the rebels.”
Although not publicly acknowledged, clandestine moves against the Assad regime were becoming more invasive in the early months of 2013. Had some of the actions been undertaken by a foreign power inside America they would have been regarded as acts of war. However, the Syrian Government was in no position to respond militarily as the American Government would have done.
"The military-backed government that took over from Mursi in July has billed the two-day referendum, which is to pave the way for presidential and parliamentary elections, as a crucial step toward stability. Mursi backers denounce it as an attempt to legitimize what they see as a military coup against Egypt’s first freely elected civilian leader and are boycotting it. Violence marred the balloting early on, with clashes killing three people, state-run Middle East News Agency reported. Health Ministry officials in Cairo couldn’t be reached for confirmation. Security forces, including more than 160,000 soldiers, were stationed around the country after violence flared in the run-up to the referendum. Authorities blamed some of the unrest on the Muslim Brotherhood that fielded Mursi for office, declaring it a terrorist group, a charge it denies. Egypt’s generals may interpret a strong backing of the charter as an endorsement of Mursi’s overthrow and the political process that followed. The man who led the ouster, Defense Minister Abdelfatah al-Seesi, hasn’t ruled out running in presidential elections due later this year." Businessweek
As I have said before in this space, it is comical to watch American TV anchors question reporters on the ground in Cairo concerning the sentiment of the Egyptian masses with regard to the army backed government that replaced MB rule. The anchors are sure that the masses must be hostile to the military's rule and they question the reporters in the field with the obvious intention of eliciting reponses that will confirm the expected narrative.
They seem befuddled when the most they can tease out of reporters is an admission that there still exists a sizable minority in the population who back the Salafists including the MB in their desire to create a sharia law state in Egypt.
The truth is that most Egyptians want a continuation of the long tradition of a semi-westernized, mildly Islamic culture in Egypt. That culture extends back in history to the Muhammad Ali dynasty and the middle of the 19th Century. The khedival government in Egypt at that time was an extension of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman government of that time followed a path called the "tanzimaat" (reorganization). That path led in the direction of the West. It did not reach the West but it led in that direction. Egypt followed much the same path and a society developed in Egypt that was a hybrid of Western and Islamic values. In that system it was possible for reasonable lives to be had by the great majority in spite of the general poverty brought on by an ever growing population.
Governments came and went. Political systems changed over time. Khedival Egypt was replaced by a sultanate and then monarchy that tolerated some degree of parliamentary function. That government was followed by military rule for more than half a century. Naguib, was followed by Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak. Mubarak's resignation was accomplished by a wide coalition of largely urban political groups who seem to have assumed that elections would produce a civilian government satisfactory to the groups that had made the revolution a success. That was certainly the expectation in the United States in liberal political circles as well as among the ever hopeful neocons and the R2P posse.
What had been missed (largely because of wide spread belief in the "progress" of mankind) was the continuing existence of a large rural population who thought that the culture of the cities was corrupt and deeply sinful. The existence of this politically malleable mass inspired the MB and other salafist groups to enter the electoral process. Once in power, Mursi and company proceeded to modify the Egyptian state to fit their conception of God's will reflected on earth.
Women, Christians, homosexuals, the westernized secular elites, ordinary Egyptians in the cities, all these groups came to understand that if the Mursi government was allowed to continue in its drive to Islamize all aspects of Egyptian life then Egypt would become yet another open air prison camp. Seeing the level of discontent the army acted.
The same Americans who have believed that nothing is more important than elections still believe that to be true. The lead editorial of the Washington Post today reflects the pathos of that attitude.
Most Egyptians do not accept that view of human affairs. pl
As some of you may know I am fascinated by the history of World War I. I have been since my first semester in graduate school, when I took a seminar entitled, “Europe in the Age of World War I.” This course taught by the formidable professor of European history at James Madison University, Dr. Catherine Boyd sought to guide us to understand why the European powers stumbled, bumbled, and fumbled their way war; and why despite all evidence to contrary continued to fight a war of attrition. Like historians before and since there was no easy answer.
"American Orbital Sciences Corporation's (OSC) Cygnus freighter docked three days after blasting off from Virginia. It brought just over 1.2 tonnes of supplies to the ISS's six astronauts, including food, clothing, spare parts, scientific experiments, and long-awaited gifts from their families. It is the second OSC freighter trip. Last September's visit was a demonstration flight. This mission, on the other hand, constitutes the first cargo delivery under a $1.9bn, eight-flight commercial resupply contract that Orbital has with the US space agency (Nasa)." BBC
Good news. One can only hope that commercial opportunities independent of government subsidies will soon begin to appear. pl
"The EU has reported "very good progress" at talks with Iran on the implementation of a deal on Iran's nuclear programme. The issue was now "under validation at political level in capitals", the EU's External Action Service said. Earlier Iran's deputy foreign minister was quoted as telling state media all outstanding issues had been resolved. In November Iran agreed a deal to freeze its nuclear programme in return for sanctions being eased. In recent weeks Iranian negotiators have been meeting with representatives of the "P5+1" group (US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany) to discuss how technical details of the deal would be implemented. "We found solutions for all the points of disagreement," Iran's deputy Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister earlier told state television, according to AFP. However, Mr Araqchi also said implementation of the agreement depended "on the final ratification of the capitals". He added that no further meetings at expert level were planned for the moment. For its part the US state department also said "good progress" had been made. "There have been a few outstanding issues, but at this point, the reports that everything has been finalised are incorrect," state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, according to Reuters." BBC
What will happen if this progress in the talks is blocked by a veto proof majority in the US Congress that is determined to block an agreement by imposing additional sanctions? pl
"A former mayor of Livingston who was known for his brashness and ambition, Wildstein morphed into a New Jersey political svengali. He operated in secrecy running an influential website, PolitickerNJ.com, where he chronicled state politics and saucy political gossip under the pen name Wally Edge. Wildstein was outed in June 2010, just after he was named the director of interstate capital projects at the Port Authority. He quickly retreated back into the shadows, rarely attending the agency’s public events or speaking to the press. Critics claimed Wildstein was more interested in carrying out the agenda of his old GOP buddy rather than working to improve the oft-beleaguered bistate agency. " NY Daily News
IMO Christie will be lucky if he survives this crisis in his political life. Having watched prosecuters and legislative committees work on things like this I am pessimistic on the governor's chances. There is a civil class action lawsuit for damages, but worst of all is the performance yesterday of Wildstein before the NJ legislature. He refused to answer many questions while citing his right to do so under the 5th Amendment. In my experiece someoone who does this is often constructing a negotiating position for a "deal" with some future prosecuter.
My guess is that there are many people who can be pressured in one way or another into "dropping a dime" on Christie. Rats do not "hang together" under fire. pl
With Maliki focused on Anbar and protecting his Shia flank in the run up to elections, and given the likelihood of a continued significant role of the Kurds in shaping national politics in the election's aftermath, it would seem that Erbil is keen to press its tactical advantage at least from an external optics / atmospherics perspective. Much may be riding on whether Maliki is able to come through his 3rd election with the premiership intact, or whether the Shia decide on the need for new leadership. In the latter scenario if Shahristani goes there may be further opportunity for Erbil to press ahead and further shape a federal system that would eventually - in their strategic view - be a platform for future independence. If Maliki stays and is successful at further fragmenting the Sunni communities into irrelevancy (or the scenario of ongoing low level insurgency that doesn't threaten him politically) while fending off competing Shia visions for the state and Shia priorities, the potential for him to return to the issue of the Kurds with a vengeance will loom large.
Then of course there are the internal Kurdish dynamics, with the trajectory of Goran and the increasing concern over growing Kurdish Islamist groups factoring into the KDP's calculations. Not to mention the fate of Erdogan and how Ankara chooses to proceed. It wants Kurdish volumes, but not an independent Kurdish state. A Kurdish wilayet might be workable, but assuming the Kurds press ahead and put real volumes through to Ceyhan and construct the gas line then Erbil may feel it has leverage over an energy hungry Turkey to push things forward - timelines here are a bit fuzzy. If Baghdad's control over Arab Iraq deteriorates significantly another indicator to suggest that Erbil will make its move. But if it over reaches and tries to claim disputed territories such as Kirkuk it will draw Arab anger and see Kurdish interests come under direct threat. The Virginian
The lead American negotiator in talks over a long-term security agreement with Afghanistan has privately warned the Obama administration that its efforts to persuade President Hamid Karzai to sign the document on the U.S. timetable are likely to fail, according to officials. The assessment, if borne out, could raise the chances of a hasty and messy troop withdrawal by the end of the year and would leave the administration with little time to assemble a military coalition to remain in Afghanistan after the pullout.
No immunity from Afghan law, no coninuing presence. IMO the administration released this cable to the press for the purpose of preparing the public for a total US withdrawal. pl
"In the worst setback to Indo-US ties since Devyani Khobragade's case turned into a full blown diplomatic row, US energy secretary Ernest Moniz cancelled his visit to India to attend the annual dialogue on energy cooperation between the two countries. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said, "in order to find a time to allow both sides to deliver on the important issues that we need to from both sides, we're looking for a mutually convenient time in the near future that will permit both sides to do that." This comes as a US court refused Ms Khobragade's request to extend the January 13 deadline for her indictment. Ms Khobragade was transferred to India's Permanent Mission to the UN, but she is yet to receive a clearance from the US. More than 20 days after the UN submitted it, America continues to 'review' the visa application of Ms Khobragade, which would give her full diplomatic immunity. The unusual delay has upset Indian officials. India has ratcheted up pressure on the US to send a message that it means business." NDTV
The Indian American who is US Attorney in New York City says this is all just a matter of the "rule of law." That is undoubtedly true but it is more than that, and is he not eager to demonstrate the present distance between him and the inerests of the country of his birth?
It is true that a consular officer enjoys only limited diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention. A "diplomatic agent" has complete immunity. I had that several times and it was good. Nevertheless, there are relationships of reciprocity between various countries on a bilateral basis. These relationships make foreign operations (either diplomatic or consular) a practicsl possibility. It should be expected that whatever happens to Indian personnel in the US will be reflected in treatment of US diplomats in India.
Not surprisingly, diplomats abroad wish to continue to live as they do in their home country. Diplomats are not immigrants to the country in which they are stationed for a few years. they are stationed here and there for a few years at each post. For that reason, their lives are supported by their clubs, schools and government provided housing. Americans behave in these circumstances exactly the same way as foreign diplomats.
This consular officer seems to have thought that the American government would not press the matter of how much she intended to pay her Indian national servant or how many hours she would make her work. This happens often. There have been a lot of similar incidents in Washington. The normal sequence of events is the expulsion of the offending diplomat without further molestation.
That did not happen in this case. A decision to arrest this Indian Consul rather than to simply expel her had to have originated high up in the Obama Administration since it was clear that there would be major repercussions in India. This decision seems to reflect the generally "missionary" attitude of the United States. It is reminiscent of the recent BHO decision to send a gay delegation to Sochi to teach the Russians to behave according to the generally self important attitude of the Obama Administration.
It is clear (to me) that the United States has not learned as yet that it cannot act as "mother" to the world. The R2P ladies are behind this, they and our first breast fed president.
We have once again met the enemy "and he is us." pl
"Per discussions with contacts in Baghdad that have links in Anbar, ISIS / AQ are not re-embedded into Anbar – yet. The government is mainly fighting local groups that are opposed both to Baghdad and the Sunni tribesmen on Maliki’s payroll. At the same time some local groups have been targeting AQ elements plus fighters flowing back in from Syria. Maliki is using this effort as a means to bolster his electoral chances (get the Shia base aligned against the Sunni threat) and further fragment the Sunni communities in support of a broader strategy to ensure Shia dominance and enable Baghdad to turn its full attention north. For AQ, it may yet see enough space open wherein the tribes will invite them back in to battle Baghdad in full, but the tribe’s will want it on their terms. As such a multi-dimensional battle will continue to evolve in Anbar; Shia vs. Sunni communities / tribals, Shia vs. Sunni Jehadists, Sunni faction vs. Sunni faction, and Sunni faction vs. Sunni Jehadists." The Virginian
TV is well known to me and he has access to this information. pl
""I really see the International Space Station as the first step in exploration," said David Weaver, NASA's associate administrator for the Office of Communications, during a teleconference. "We're getting a significant amount of research on the space station. It lets us look back at the Big Bang. It gives us clues on dark matter. The space station is really hitting its stride. We're doing a lot of science there. It's a pretty productive time." Extending the life of the space station, which took 13 years to construct and recently marked 15 years in orbit, is a much better scenario for scientists around the world than abandoning the orbiting lab and letting it fall out of orbit and crash into the ocean. The space station, which is about the length of a football field and carries several robotic arms, has a talking robot and a humanoid robot. It also has been the site of about 1,500 scientific experiments and is expected to receive dozens more when the next commercial cargo mission launches." Gaudin
Well, thank God! I can't imagine who thought it was a good idea to let this magnificant accomplishment just fall into the sea. pl
"Iraq's prime minister urged people in the besieged city of Falluja on Monday to drive out Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents to pre-empt a military offensive that officials said could be launched within days. In a statement on state television, Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite Muslim whose government has little support in Sunni-dominated Falluja, said tribal leaders should help expel the militants, who last week seized key towns in the desert leading to the Syrian border. "The prime minister appeals to the tribes and people of Falluja to expel the terrorists from the city in order to spare themselves the risk of armed clashes," read the statement. A provincial official said security forces had regained control of another town, Ramadi, forcing militants to the east where they were holding out in mosques and homes. Air raids would flush them out, he told Reuters. "The airforce will end this battle in the next few hours," said Falih al-Essawi, a member of the council running Anbar province, adding that government workers and students in Ramadi had been told to return to work and school on Tuesday. " Daily Star
Saddam Hussein was a tyrant, but he held Iraq together in the same brutal way that all Middle Eastern states are held together and always have been. I note a few exceptions; the Hashemite Kingdom of Iraq and the perliamentary period in Egypt in the 30's and 40's.
Saddam did not tolerate ethno-sectarian divisions and contrary to the opinion of the propagandized American citizenry, there were many Shia and Christians in the Ba'ath Party and armed forces. Tariq Aziz, Saddam's foreign minister, was Christian. He may not have been a good Chrsitian, but he nevertheles was Christian by sect, birth and heritage. The commanding general of the Republican Guards armored corps in the invasion of Kuwait was Shia. This was a stable system.
Iraq did not attack the United States on 9/11. The Bush Administration nevertheless decided to invade Iraq for the purposes; of removing Saddam, reducing a supposed threat to Israel and to foster a revolutionary shift in Middle Eastern societies. It was imagined that a shift to control of these countries by minorities would make them more malleable and willing to accomodate US policy desires. Oh yes, there was also the bogus, deliberately lying nonsense about a non-existent nuclear weapons program. There had been such a program before the First Gulf War but it had been destroyed by the inspection regime that followed that war. But, as Wolfowitz said, the Bush Administration went with what it could sell to the American people. This was a people who proved in the post 9/11 period to be remarkably chicken-hearted, given to panic and easy to feed falshoods.
The US easily defeated the Iraqi military and then found that the various Iraqi peoples were not going to accept a prolonged foreign occupation. The exceptions to this were found among the Kurds and various collections of emigres, exiles and ancien regime figures who flocked to occupied Iraq for the purpose of seeking to live out their dreams.
The US viceroy, Paul Bremmer, (Medal of Freedom) was sent to Iraq with the mission of destroying the Iraqi state and its permanent institutions in order to create a "year zero" situation. As part of that process, new military, police and civil service institutions were created. These were often staffed with sectarian militias returned from abroad. For the first few years these new "police" devoted themselves to fostering the interests of their own ethno-religious groups often through the use of what can only be called "murder squads." The analogy that a French person made here to the Phoenix program is false. That program had as its goal the capture of VC political cadres so that they could be "re-educted." Kill was a fall back position. The US had nothing directly to do with this process in Iraq but it had undoubtedly created the situation in which the Iraqis could indulge themselves in inter-communal murder, and they did.
Eventually, all the fumbling around with purple thumbed elections produced a Shia run government in central and southern Iraq. Maliki was the third to audition for the job of PM. He is a former Dawa party activist. In other words he is a complete Shia partisan and inclined towards Iran. He promised the US to play nice with the other children in the Iraqi sand box, and then shoved us out the door when it was clear that we might try to make him do that.
In the course of its precipitous withdrawal, "une chute vertigineuse" I have heard it called, the US abandoned its Sunni tribal allies in Anbar Province to their fate. We are good at abandonment. Maliki reneged on all his political undertakings. The Sunni tribes grew more and more embittered and now some of them are siding with the AQ galaxy of enemies of humanity. Not all are doing that, but some.
At the bottom of this mess, the mess in Egypt, the mess in Afghanistan, the mess in Vietnam, and all the various messes I participated in, is the simple truth that the USA is not fit to run the world.
Why? We haven't a clue about the nature of the game and the academics in the social sciences are some of the worst. pl
Obamacare was written by and for the insurance companies. United Healthcare dispatched lobbyists and lawyers onto the Senate staff of Max Baucus to write the bill that had the backing of the Obama White House. The bill diverts hundreds of billions of dollars that previously went as payments to doctors and hospitals directly into the pockets of the big private insurance companies.
Whatsmore, under Sections 1341 and 1342 of the Affordable Care Act, the insurance companies are guaranteed their projected profits. If there are shortfalls in their profits due to changes or failures in the Obamacare bill, taxpayers have guaranteed 80 percent payouts to the insurance companies. Now that there has been a delay in deadlines for small businesses to comply with ACA, now that people with previous individual insurance policies have been allowed to keep those policies ("if you like your previous policy you can keep it") and now that young healthy people are going to be able to buy cheap catastrophic care insurance at a fraction of the costs of ACA-compliance policies, the insurance companies are going to see their projected profits shrink.
Look what happens when the public learns that they are committed to another bailout! Furthermore, even the New York Times has documented that more than 9 million Americans will be stuck in the "gap" between Medicaid and affordable policies. If they can't pay the premiums, they can't get the policies offered on the exchanges, even if they are slated to have the government subsidize their policies. Of the first 1.6 million people who successfully navigated the website, 1.4 million were automatically signed up for Medicaid due to low incomes. But many people are finding that doctors are not taking Medicaid patients anymore because the cuts in payouts for Medicaid are so severe that they can't afford it. This is a disaster that will be playing out more and more in the coming months. Coming out of World War II and the experience of the military, Congress passed the Hill Burton Act, which was on the books until the mid-1970s when the for-profit HMOs were legalized. Under Hill Burton, there were regular surveys of America's medical needs and there were mandatory amounts of doctors, specialists, hospital beds, etc. per geographic area. A recent report indicated that if we had a Medicare for all single-payer program, $400 billion in overhead costs would be saved in year one. But the Obama White House told Congress that single-payer was off the table and that the system would center on for-profit insurance companies. This is yet one more example of the Obama Administration's slavish loyalty to the big Wall Street banks and insurance companies that paid for his two election campaigns.
"The Iraqi government has lost control of the strategic city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, eyewitnesses say. Al-Qaeda-linked militants now control the south of the city, a security source told the BBC. An Iraqi reporter there says tribesmen allied with al-Qaeda hold the rest of Fallujah. Fighting there erupted after troops broke up a protest camp by Sunni Arabs in the city of Ramadi on Monday. They have been accusing the Shia-led government of marginalising the Sunnis. The recent fighting in Fallujah and Ramadi has pitted government troops on the one hand and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), which is affiliated with al-Qaeda, and Sunni tribesmen on the other." BBC
"A powerful al-Qaeda affiliate is on the defensive in north Syria, reports say, as it comes under attack from Islamist and other rebel factions. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) is accused of tacitly assisting the regime and imposing a reign of terror on areas it controls. Dozens of fighters are reported to have been killed in clashes which erupted on Friday in Aleppo and Idlib provinces." BBC
This situation is a perfect example of why we should stay out of the internal messes created in the ME by stirring the "pot" of revolution. Western encouragment of the Arab Spring revolts further destabilized a political universe that had been weakened by American overthrow of the dictator Saddam. Just as the neocons anticipated, this weakening brought on a wave of political change that has shaken the region to its "roots" and the process of violent change is nothing like ended.
In Syria ISIS is fighting the Islamic Front and the Free Syrian Army while the actual Syrian Army watches with what must be great satisfaction.
In Iraq, ISIS has taken advantage of the Shia run government's abusive treatment of Sunni Arabs to seize control of much of Fallujah and Ramadi in Anbar Province. In doing this they have some Sunni tribal allies. The Government of Iraq also has Sunni tribal allies.
We created the basis for this situation in Iraq when we effectively transferred political power from the Sunni Arabs to the Shia Arabs. The Sunnis despise the Shia.
The neocons will argue that if we had not left Iraq this would not have happened. They would be wrong in arguing that. This would have happened whenever we left. Ten more years, fifty years, a hundred years, it mattered not.
Why? It is because the Iraqis are still who they were when we invaded the country. Their struggle for power is real. It is not a matter of misunderstanding and a lack of communication among the groups. pl
"... 2013 will go down as Barack Obama’s annus horribilis. The President of the United States (POTUS) currently faces a 55 percent disapproval rating on “the way he is handling his job,” according to the latest Washington Post-ABC poll. Not exactly a train wreck, considering POTUS has been presiding over the unforgiving destruction of the American middle class, with a whopping 76 percent of working Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck. Moreover, in his year-end press conference, POTUS still insisted his administration has struck the right balance between spying and privacy, although admitting, “there may be other ways of skinning the cat.” In foreign policy, “other ways of skinning the cat” has been largely interpreted by frightened US puppets – of the House of Saud kind – as the hyperpower dangerously receding. Not really; the strategy of team POTUS is rather an attempt at re-jigging the game while trying to stay in the lead." Escobar
Yup. It was pretty bad and possibly the worst thing is that he now has a reputation as a liar. His government lies as well. The spin on numbers for ACA enrollments is impressive.
The foreign policy establishment is more or less united with regard to their own collective wisdom and have "circled the wagons" to resist any thought that in the main this "borg" was mainly wrong over the last ten tears.
On the other hand there was BHO's acceptance of the Russian sponsored deal on CW weapons in Syria and there is the interim agreement on Iran, so.... barring a few more inevitable pratfalls over things like Israel/Palestine, Obama, just might have a better year in 2014. pl
"... let’s be frank as the New Year begins: This sort of relentless pessimism is destructive and, what’s more important, it’s inaccurate. We in the media pride ourselves on purveying bad news, so it’s easy for our readers to overlook the abiding reality that America is generally at peace and, relative to most of the world, wildly prosperous. In our national funk, we paint the present in darker colors than warranted and the past in brighter hues. One way to position the country more accurately is to look back at the time of triumph in World War II, when our modern myths were created, and unpack what really happened. That’s possible thanks to an extraordinary work of history completed this year by my colleague Rick Atkinson. His “Liberation Trilogy” revises many of the things you thought you knew about the war in Europe – and teaches the greatest lesson of all for the present, which is the need for patience and perseverance against obstacles." Daily Star
Well, well. David Ignatius does not seem to grasp the difference between optimism and damned fool delusion. Paul Bremer was on BBC News America tonight, still filled with self importance and unwilling to take responsibility for the disastrous mess that he made in Iraq. He blames it on Iraqi politicians. That is a bit like blaming a lion for his behavior as he chews your leg off.
Ignatius calls on us all to remember the spirit of "the greatest generation." What? Japan attacked the US in Hawaii and the Phillipines. Germany and Italy then declared war on the United States in support of their alliances with Japan. How is that time anything like the gauntlet of self imposed misadventure that the US has endured since 2001?
Ignatius does not see that our malaise is the result of ten years of hubris and false optimism, hubris that that was based on all that "city on the hill" nonsense about how exceptional we are.
I fought a lot in obedience to my oath and I deeply resent this kind of crap. Where would he have us set out next to inflict our ideas in obedience to our optimism? Perhaps the duration of the next war can be calculated in "Ignatius units" rather than "Freedman units." pl
"The first Democrat to run New York in 20 years pledged to move swiftly on an agenda that calls for affordable housing and community health centers. He renewed a proposal to tax the wealthy to pay for universal pre-kindergarten classes and after-school programs, a levy that would require state approval in an election year. “We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love,” de Blasio, 52, said in his 18-minute address delivered on the steps of City Hall in lower Manhattan. “And so today, we commit to a new progressive direction in New York. And that same progressive impulse has written our city’s history. It’s in our DNA.” Business Week
"We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities"
That could not be more clear. This is a call for socialist revolution. Will Albany allow de Blasio to realise his goals? I know not. If he does not succeed in his program or if his measures result in adverse results in NYC then the Clintons may regret their early and ardent embrace of this left wing politician.
HC was challlenged on the left when last she ran for president. George Wallace lost an election early in his career for the House of Representatives to a man who ran specifically on the basis of an advocacy of segregation. Wallace said afterward that he would never be successfuly challenged by a segregationist again because he would be more segregationist than they
Has she/he decided that like Wallace she must be as extreme as any of her possible challengers for the nomination? pl
"So far, more than 2 million Americans, many previously uninsured, have enrolled in private health plans, thanks in large part to new federal subsidies for low- and middle-income people to buy coverage. Their difficulties in navigating the system since its rocky launch Oct. 1 have dominated the headlines. A far greater number — about 3.9 million — took steps in October and November to sign up for Medicaid, according to federal figures. That includes people who became eligible for the state-federal program under the expansion as well as those who could have enrolled previously, but for one reason or another did not sign up until now. Although the Medicaid expansion has gotten less attention in recent months, it remains a flash point. The issue has split the nation in half and has become a proxy for the broader debate over the role and responsibilities of government." Washpost
The ACA is a strange beast. People are required under the original law to have health insurance acceptable to the federal government. A failure to do that is supposed to lead to a fine on a rising scale over years. Obama keeps delaying the mandates but the original law is still in effect. People with enough money can simply buy from an insurer. People who can't afford to pay the whole cost of this insurance can search in federal or state run "exchanges" for insurance. A complex formula then decides if they deserve a subsidy from the taxpayer in order to pay for that "private" insurance. If they are qualified they are paid this subsidy both in cash and in tax credits. The tax credit is paid in advance based on estimated income for the coming year. What will happen if income does not meet expectation is unclear to me. Does the government seek to recover the money advanced? There are other formulas in the "exchanges" that calculate whether or not a person has such a low level of income that they qualify for a form of the "dole" called Medicaid. People who so qualify would not normally pay federal or state income tax. Medicaid is essentially a single payer system. It is given gratis to the recipients. Medicare, a health care plan for wealthier, older, people, is not free. Premiums are paid for parts of Medicare. The ACA has made Medicaid available to a large number of people who would not have been qualified before.
A couple of observations:
- It should not be surprising that people who are qualified for private insurance subsidie or Medicaid choose Medicaid. It is free to them however costly it is to the taxpayer.
- This result was easily predictable. This raises a question as to whether or not the expansion of Medicaid was not the real goal of the ACA. The subsidies for private insurance are a huge windfall for the insurers. Was this a price paid in order to make Medicaid expansion politically possible.
- The taxpaying citizenry pay the cost of all this and it will be a high cost, but the biggest "losers" in this deal are people who are not eligible for subsidies or Medicaid because of income that is too high but not high enough to make unsubsidized but required insurance affordable. How many will there be in that group? pl
January 1, 2014: "Ring Out, Wild Bells"- Alfred Lord Tennyson/Symphony # 40 In G Minor- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
"The Jonathan Pollard Spy Case: The CIA's 1987 Damage Assessment Declassified New Details on What Secrets Israel Asked Pollard to Steal CIA Withholding Overturned on Appeal by National Security Archive National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 407 Posted - December 14, 2012 UPDATED January 9, 2013 Edited by Jeffrey T. Richelson"
Bibi wants to bargain with the US over this Israeli spy. Natanyahu says that he won't negotiate with us over the Palestinians unless we give them their spy, a spy they helped commit treason against the US. Fine. He has served 28 years? He should not be given a pardon, just released as a criminal convicted of numerous felonies. pl
"The cable news host and guests made the comments on her Sunday programme about the Romney family Christmas photo. The photo shows infant Kieran Romney with his grandparents and their 21 other grandchildren, all of them white. "As black child born into large white Mormon family I feel familiarity w/ Romney family pic & never meant to suggest otherwise," Harris-Perry tweeted. "I apologise to all families built on loving transracial adoptions who feel I degraded their lives or choices." In the segment, one of panellists, actress Pia Glenn, sang lines from a Sesame Street song: "One of These Things Is Not Like the Others."" BBC
Those are Harris-Perry's parents. She is "black" to the same extent that Obama is "black" and don't even try to feed me that c--p about people not being white in the States if they have a drop ofblood from something else. That is long gone and we have Obama to prove it. People like this Tulane Professor are the product of America's policy of outreach and favor offered to talent. In spite of that as well as her family history she still is filled with hatred for white people. Does that include her mother?
Duckman Robertson was suspended however briefly for his inane remarks. Why is this woman not suspended? pl
"Saudi Arabia has granted the Lebanese Army $3 billion in military equipment to be bought from France, President Michel Sleiman said Sunday. "The kingdom has decided, following ongoing contacts, to offer exceptional and admirable support to the Lebanese Army of $3 billion which would allow [the military] to buy newer and more modern weapons," Sleiman said in a televised speech, describing the grant as the largest in the history of Lebanon and its Army. "The Saudi grant will allow France to equip the Army, and I hope Paris will swiftly carry out this initiative,” he said. "After decades of unsuccessful efforts with no tangible results, I was able through contacts with the Saudi King Abdallah to provide the Lebanese Army with this exceptional grant," Sleiman added." Daily Star
The Saudis are usually more subtle than this. They (like the Israelis) are upset with the US for not obeying. In both cases the disobedience has to do with Syria and Iran. The US has wisely declined to destroy the present Syrian government. This task would be easily and bloodily accomplished if a decision were made to do so. the US armed forces are designed for that kind of destruction as opposed to pacification of god awful places like Afghanistan. In the case of Iran both Saudi Arabia and Israel yearn for an Obama Administration decision to wreck Iran's nuclear program and economy generally. An Iran reduced to a Morgenthau model state would be pleasing to them. The US has thus far declined these tasks.
Therefore the US must be punished like an errant child. The grant of $3 billion to Lebanon for the purpose of buying French military equipment and training should be seen in that context. It has been suggested in Lebanon that the acquisition of ths equipmentwill counter the military power of Hizbullah in Lebanon. I find that amusing. the Lebanese Army has never shown any apetite for fighting anyone and the thought of a Lebanese Army/Hizbullah confrontation is funny.
In much the same way Bibi has apparently declared that he demands Pollard's release as a condition for any future "progress" with Kerry over the Palestinians.
Expect more of this as various little countries seek to demonstrate their domination of American policy. pl
It is discouraging to hear media people marvel that there apparently was no AQ connection to the Benghazi attacks. It has always been true that Sunni jihadism is a movement rather than a group. Get it? pl
"A new American intelligence assessment on the Afghan war predicts that the gains the United States and its allies have made during the past three years are likely to have been significantly eroded by 2017, even if Washington leaves behind a few thousand troops and continues bankrolling the impoverished nation, according to officials familiar with the report. The National Intelligence Estimate, which includes input from the country’s 16 intelligence agencies, predicts that the Taliban and other power brokers will become increasingly influential as the United States winds down its longest war in history, according to officials who have read the classified report or received briefings on its conclusions. The grim outlook is fueling a policy debate inside the Obama administration about the steps it should take over the next year as the U.S. military draws down its remaining troops." Washpost
Foreign affairs as a human activity is supposed to work in the following way:
Policy people seek to create a future that is acceptable to them.
Strategic intelligence people describe the present and future the way it is or seems likely to be.
Not surprisingly there is always a lot of tension between these two groups. The policy people endlessly try to influence the conclusions and assesments of the intelligence people so as to extract from them judgments that are politically useful and personally assuring of the genius of their policy.
Sometimes they succeed. The most notable success of our time in this field was the creative use by the Bushies of shreds of discredited data to create a media firestorm in favor of invading and occupying Iraq. In this effort the Bush Administration was supported by an army of exiles, emigres, and ancien regime figures. At the core of this group were a "band" of Iranian operatives headed by "you know who."
To insure IC compliance with this view analysts in the major US intelligence agencies were figuratively beaten into line through direct and indirect pressure exerted by intelligence agency chiefs who understood what they were expected to do by the Bush Administration. We know the result. The NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) on Iraq that was produced in 2002 was an abomination. NIEs are negotiated documents. They are not written by divine inspiration. In the process of negotiating that NIE only State INR and at times USAF intelligence showed any guts or integrity at all. The document was worse than worthless. It was a betrayal of the American people and armed forces. The betrayal was a disgrace for which the heads of the IC agencies were solely responsible.
Now we have something different. We have an NIE (produced inprobably under the leadership of James Clapper) on Afghanistan. This NIE predicts failure of the COIN effort launched by Obama in 2009. It predicts precipitous, catastrophic collapse in the event of a total US withdrawal at the end of 2014. It predicts a more gradual collapse of the present government's authority even in the event that the US leaves some small number of troops behind to do CT missions and support the Afghans with training and supply.
The predictable reaction from the Obama Administration was to look with scorn on the forecast of the NIE. "Well, that's one view..." someone said. Yes! Yes! It is the view of the body of wise people whose duty it is to stand behind you in the chariot and tell you that you, too, are mortal and filled with hope rather than reality. pl