Archive for June 13th, 2008
During an interview last night on Fox News’s Hannity and Colmes, conservative pundit Dick Morris said that after all the American sacrifices in Iraq, he wants “bases out of that,” essentially arguing that the more American casualties there are, the more the United States deserves bases from Iraq. He then explained that he envisioned the permanent bases would be “like they are in Okinawa or North Korea”:
After we’ve sustained 4,000 casualties, I don’t know about you, but I want bases out of that. I want the ability to have troops near Iran. And I’m not saying they go off base. They’re like they are in Okinawa or North Korea.
The United States military bases are actually in South Korea, where approximately 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed.
During his town hall event in New Hampshire yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) got into a verbal back and forth with a voter over his support for Social Security privatization. McCain told the man, “I’m not for, quote, privatizing Social Security. I never have been. I never will be.” Watch it:
But McCain’s record begs to differ:
- “Without privatization, I don’t see how you can possibly, over time, make sure that young Americans are able to receive Social Security benefits.” [C-Span Road to the White House, 11/18/2004]
- “As part of Social Security reform, I believe that private savings accounts are a part of it—along the lines that President Bush proposed.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/3/2008]
Not only was McCain “a big booster” of Bush’s 2005 plan to privatize Social Security, but one of his top economic advisers, Carly Fiorina, recently told conservative radio host Bill Bennett that McCain “supports private accounts as one of the ways to reform the system” and that “he will continue to be supportive of those.”
Bush’s Bluffing Has Made Mideast Peace a Bad Bet
Michael Shtender-Auerbach, Forward, Jun 12, 2008
From Taba to Tony, from the Rose Garden to Riyadh, from Geneva to Gaza—in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, no American president has been presented with more opportunities for reaching a true and lasting peace than George W. Bush. But with just a half a year to go before he leaves the White House and little indication of a breakthrough, it is all but certain that Bush will leave behind a conflict more intractable than ever, not to mention a situation in Gaza that ranks as the world’s third-largest humanitarian crisis after Somalia and Darfur. This is more than just an exercise in historical finger pointing. When the 44th president of the United States is sworn in next January, he will inherit a legacy of failed chances at Middle East peacemaking. To borrow a phrase from Abba Eban, the president has never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity—to be exact, 21 opportunities over the past eight years to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Twenty-one: That’s blackjack, with no jackpot. The next president, be it John McCain or Barack Obama, would do well to revisit those missed chances, for they offer an instructive lesson: American diplomacy in the Middle East needs to be about more than lofty rhetoric and half-baked initiatives—it needs to be about strategically pursuing the path of peace, supporting those that seek peace and following through on the necessary steps to achieve peace.
1 — Taba Summit, January 2001: As Bill Clinton left office and Bush assumed it, the Israeli and Palestinian negotiation teams met in Taba, Egypt, to continue what was started in 2000 at Camp David. The summit dealt with final-status questions and were by far the most robust, complete and hopeful talks between Israelis and Palestinians since Oslo.
2 — Mitchell Report, April 2001: While the second intifada raged on, former Senator George Mitchell headed a fact-finding mission whose report outlined a set of confidence-building measures to end the intifada, stop settlement expansion and bring the parties back to the negotiating table.
3 — Tenet Plan, June 2001: CIA Director George Tenet, hoping to solidify the recommendations of the Mitchell Report, went to Jerusalem to detail a security plan to end the violence and resume negotiations.
4 — Arab Peace Initiative, March 2002: The initiative, also known as the Saudi Peace Initiative, was a watershed in peacemaking efforts. Based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, the Arab League unanimously agreed to normalize relations with Israel as the outcome of a negotiated two-state solution. It also included a reference to an agreed-upon solution to the question of Palestinian refugees, signaling that Israel’s objections to a massive return of refugees were beginning to find acceptance in the Arab world.
5 — The Madrid Quartet, April 2002: A quartet of Middle East mediators was constituted with the purpose of multi-lateralizing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It combined the political superpower of the United States with the financial backing of the European Union and the international legitimacy of the United Nations, as well as with the balancing influence, as seen through Arab eyes, of Russia.
6 — Rose Garden Speech, June 2002: Bush, to the surprise of many, became the first American president to openly state that a major American foreign policy objective would be to support and bring about a two-state solution and an end to Israeli occupation. A trailblazing speech, it signaled that some in the White House were beginning to understand the significance of the American role in the conflict.
7 — U.N. Security Council resolution 1397, June 2002: The resolution affirmed unanimous international support for the vision outlined in Bush’s Rose Garden speech.
8 — Road Map for Peace, April 2003: Based on the parameters set out by Bush’s Rose Garden speech, the Madrid Quartet developed a comprehensive plan, with the goal of delivering an independent Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with a secure Israel.
9 — U.N. Security Council resolution 1515, May 2003: The resolution affirmed unanimous international support for the Quartet’s Road Map for a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
10 — Geneva Initiative, December 2003: Drafted by former Israeli negotiators and their Palestinian counterparts, the Geneva Initiative maps out in comprehensive detail a blueprint for a permanent status solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with goals based on the parameters spelled out at Camp David, as well as on the Road Map and the Arab Peace Initiative. While not an official document, most credit it as the impetus for Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.
11 — James Wolfenshohn appointed envoy, April 2004: The former World Bank president was appointed as the Quartet’s special envoy for Israel’s Gaza disengagement. An American Jew trusted by both Israel and Washington, Wolfensohn would resign his post in 2005 in deep disappointment at the way the Bush administration systematically undermined his efforts.
12 — Death of Yasser Arafat, November 2004: While Arafat was revered by Palestinians as the founder of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Palestinian national movement, his death also entailed an enormous opportunity for change and for greater democratic governance for Palestinians.
13 — Mahmoud Abbas elected president, January 2005: A non-violent pragmatist and long-time advocate of negotiations, after being elected he immediately called for an end to the intifada, a cessation of the armed struggle for independence and the resumption of peace negotiations with Israel.
14 — Sharm el-Sheikh Summit, February 2005: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak hosted Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Abbas and King Abdullah of Jordan to re-commit the parties to the Road Map and formally bring an end to the second intifada.
15 — Gaza disengagement, August 2005: The disengagement showed that Israel was capable of and willing to cease its settlement enterprise and withdraw from Palestinian territory. But instead of building momentum for a further withdrawal of settlers from the West Bank and reviving peace talks, the Bush administration expressed understanding for Israel’s painful domestic struggle and rewarded Sharon with the promise that existing demographic realities in occupied territory would be taken into account in eventual final-status talks.
16 — Agreement on Movement and Access, November 2005: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice negotiated an 11th-hour agreement to improve Palestinian living conditions by creating parameters for better movement and access for Palestinians. The main purpose was to re-open the Rafah border crossing from Gaza to Egypt, a fundamental precondition for a peace deal. The border remains closed.
17 — Baker-Hamilton Commission, May 2006: James Baker and Lee Hamilton’s commission, officially known as the Iraq Study Group, opened up the previously taboo “linkage” discussion by arguing that the “United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the United States deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
18 — Prisoners Document, June 2006: Palestinian prisoners held by Israel from groups including Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine drafted a “National Reconciliation Document.” The signatories agreed to a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, marking a potentially crucial opportunity to co-opt Islamist militants and create a broad Palestinian consensus in favor of negotiations and territorial compromise.
19 — Mecca Agreement, March 2007: To address the emerging crisis between Hamas and Fatah in the West Bank and Gaza, Saudi Arabia convened national unity talks in Mecca to hammer out a unity government. Instead of embracing the accord, the Bush administration reportedly engaged in a clandestine effort to arm Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan against Hamas, which reacted with a military takeover of Gaza that June.
20 — Tony Blair appointed envoy, June 2007: The former British prime minister, with his high profile and stature, was tasked with improving Palestinian governance, economics, and institution–building. While Washington supported Blair’s involvement, the State Department made clear his mandate did not include that of peacemaker.
21 — …and blackjack, November 2007: Bush convened a major summit in Annapolis, Md., and coaxed Israelis and Palestinians into a commitment to try to reach an agreement by the time he left office in January 2009. Six months later, the president has yet to deliver any real progress.
but here is an interesting bit from Israel Policy Forum, Jun 11, 2008
The current consensus is that the end of Olmert’s term as prime minister is only a matter of time. It could be a few weeks or a few months. Meanwhile, a majority within the Knesset has been declaring that they support a bill to dissolve the Knesset and, therefore, bring on a new election. However, there is a game of chicken going on, with parties like Labor and Shas saying, “Yes, yes. We will vote for an election,” but possibly also hiding ulterior motives. It is not certain that elections are very close. A more interesting question is whether there will be a Kadima primary. If there is a primary, and assuming that Olmert will not be re-elected (he may not even run), then his successor will be waiting in line. As long as he doesn’t have a successor, he’s got a bigger hold on his own party.
The two main contenders in a possible Kadima primary seem to be the current Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and the Minister of Transportation Shaul Mofaz. Livni is very popular with the public. She is far less popular within her own party. More importantly perhaps, Olmert does not like Livni and does not want her to be the leader of the party. Therefore, a lot of his maneuverings are not only aimed at saving his own skin, but also at outflanking Livni and doing as much as he can to support Mofaz. Mofaz has said that if he headed the party, he would try to constitute a government that would be led by him, Binyamin Netanyahu, and Ehud Barak. Without a doubt, that triumvirate would be further to the right than the current triumvirate of Olmert, Livni, and Barak. Of course, it is unclear whether Kadima would have the votes in the Knesset to build the governing coalition. If elections are held in the near future, particularly if they are based on security issues, Netanyahu is likely to be the frontrunner. But there is an unknown element now because corruption is so high on the public agenda. It is therefore possible that Livni, who is considered to be the “cleanest” of all the current politicians, or an unknown, centrist “knight in shining armor” promising to come in and save us all from corruption, could be the wild card that would change everything.
via al Jazeera
Further, it was announced by the Pentagon that the attack that killed soldiers in blatant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty was “a legitimate strike in self-defence.” One can only regard such utterances with contempt, because those who spoke in such a way, and those who ordered them to say what they did, have no concept of loyalty to a friendly country. Nor, for that matter, do they take the slightest heed of international law and custom. The Pentagon quickly distributed a video showing an attack that was said to be a strike on an “enemy” position. There was no indication of where it was, when it was, what ordnance was used, or results of the attack. It was a fatuously amateur exercise in attempted damage control. And of course, later, in the inevitable reassessment (for which read : “We’ve been found out and had better think up a more believable version of the lies we told”), it was revealed that “a US Air Force document indicates bombs were dropped on buildings near the border, and Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman conceded there may have been another strike that occurred outside the view of the drone’s camera.”
Today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) criticized to the Supreme Court’s ruling granting Guantanamo Bay detainees the right to challenge their detention in civilian courts:
It obviously concerns me. These are unlawful combatants. They are not American citizens. We should pay attention to Justice Roberts. It is a decision the Supreme Court has made and now we need to move forward. As you know, I always favored the closing of Guantanamo Bay, and I still think we ought to do that.
McCain’s statement mirrored remarks by President Bush, who said, “I strongly agree with those who dissented.” Watch reactions from McCain and Bush:
McCain’s desire to close Guantanamo Bay and his dislike of torture have nothing to do with this case. When it comes to upholding the rights of detainees, McCain has a long history of opposing them:
Army Shows Its Colors
Phillip Carter, WaPo Intel Dump Blog, June 12, 2008
The Army’s public affairs office publishes a daily roundup of Army-related news called “Stand To“–named for the set of procedures combat units do just prior to dawn, when they go to full alert for a possible enemy attack. The daily wrapup contains links to mainstream media articles, Army press releases, foreign media stories and blogs. It’s similar to the Defense Department’s Early Bird–but much briefer, and obviously more focused on the Army. Tuesday’s edition contained an entry under “WHAT’S BEING SAID IN BLOGS” that struck me as unusual–both for its headline and its patent political bias:
Obama: World peace thru surrender (KDIHH)
The link goes to a milblog called “Knee Deep in the Hooah.” The author is a former Army officer whose son is serving in Iraq now. After citing a column on some curious Pentagon planning for an Obama administration, he goes on to write:
Roger that Redleg six, throwing away all ammo now and preparing to surrender … Redleg five, out.
After all, what better time to surrender than when we are winning? The article cited above also includes a Youtube link so that you can see the end for yourself in the end makers own words. Sure. This is all old news for those of us who care. But it still ticks me off anyway. So I thought to myself,”Why not share the wealth?” Now I can be ticked off in good company. Enjoy.
Seriously? Have any of these people actually read the Obama defense policy papers or speeches–or are they simply going on what they hear on Fox News and the Limbaugh network? And more to the point, why is the Army’s official in-house public affairs shop linking to this kind of stuff? Just a few weeks ago, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told all hands to stay out of politics: “As the nation prepares to elect a new president, we would all do well to remember the promises we made: to obey civilian authority, to support and defend the Constitution and to do our duty at all times…. Keeping our politics private is a good first step.” He added: “The only things we should be wearing on our sleeves are our military insignia.” Unfortunately, the message didn’t get to through to the Army. Let’s be clear: It is okay for the services to have a message. Both the Early Bird and Stand To speak for the Pentagon and the Army as institutions, and that’s okay. They generally support the troops, the military, the chain of command, and the current endeavors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nothing wrong with that.
And I have no objections to what Mr. Hooah wrote, besides the fact that I think it’s factually wrong. He has his opinion; I have mine. But the Stand To page is different–and Tuesday’s edition crosses the line. This isn’t some citizen’s blog or website. It’s the in-house public affairs digest of the United States Army. It should not be amplifying partisan political attacks, nor should it be airing them at all. This appears like yet another example of the unusually cozy relationship which has developed over the last generation or so between the military and the right wing of American politics — an unhealthy development, to say the least. Last time I checked, soldiers and civilian officials didn’t swear an oath to either political party or to their current president. Rather, they swear their fidelity to the Constitution, and the ideals it embodies, including the subordination of the military to civil authority. Adm. Mullen is right: As we enter a contentious election year, where issues of national security are likely to dominate the debate, the military needs to stay on the sidelines.