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What’s the true cost of War on Terror?

20 Mar

In interesting take on the cost of the War on Terror can be read here.

So you can assess the value for money, remember Fukuyama’s quote: –

By invading Iraq, the Bush administration created a self-fulfilling prophecy: Iraq has now replaced Afghanistan as a magnet, a training ground and an operational base for jihadist terrorists, with plenty of American targets to shoot at.

Americans must be patient….

14 Mar

You have to give it to Dubya; the guy’s got some front.

It seems that the American people are going to have to be patient, while US and Iraqi forces fight “the enemies of a free Iraq.? The obvious question is: haven’t the American people been patient enough?

Almost daily, reports are emerging as to how the administration bungled its post-invasion ‘strategy,’ and how requests for more troops – always denied by the Whitehouse – were ignored. The post-invasion handling of the fractious state has been an unmitigated disaster, which has utterly destabilised any chance of peace in the Middle East. And yet still we have the same myopic nonsense being spouted by the President.

One has to wonder, if the presence of Coalition troops is actually the root cause of the insurgency, and that their removal would usher in some semblance of peace? Either way this ongoing war of attrition will only have one winner, as the US people will not continue to watch their troops being ground down. Yes, yes, I know Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s real goal is bringing the Shia into a civil war with Sunni fighters, but it may take the wind out of the Sunni insurgency (which is not, and has never been, Al Qaeda) and turn genuine Iraqis against the foreign terrorists.

After all, what have we got to lose? Iraq already appears to be sliding into a civil war, and this is the worst possible outcome. We need to harness whatever goodwill is left among the Shia and Sunni communities, who have proven their commitment to progress in the fledgling parliament, and trust the Iraqi people to decide their own destiny.

Iraq needs our help, our support, and our investment. What it doesn’t need are troops on the ground, many of whom have shown nothing but contempt for Iraqis and their country.

Reader request – The Henry Jackson Society…UPDATED

7 Mar

I think this article, in today’s Guardian is relevant to the recent debate we had here.

It’s an interesting piece by Chris Mullin, who wrote the novel A Very British Coup, and discusses the possibility of the US government and the British establishment usurping a democratically elected Labour government during the eighties.

The Neocon’s Break Ranks

25 Feb

Power

The polarising effects of the Bush administration have been assessed many times, both by ideologues on the left, and on the right. Pragmatic centrists such as myself, have also considered them, and found that it’s idealism that separates the two camps.

The Bush of 2000 was of course, we now know, and have always suspected, a puppet. A simple, affable, front for a conglomerate of interests that sought to use political influence to address its causes. This is not some left-wing conspiracy theory (as it is oft dismissed), but a hard-headed acceptance of the realities of the current incumbents of the White House. The less than photogenic Dick Cheney was never going to win over the electorate, not after the saxophone playing Clinton and the movie star Reagan.

Bush was plucked by Karl Rove from his Texan fiefdom and modelled into an all-American poster boy for the Compassionate Conservatism that would carry Cheney’s team to power. Bush was a blank sheet, with a good name, and a knack for down-to-earth oratory that made the audience feel they were being addressed personally. It was a recipe that, with a little intervention from a Republican Supreme Court, delivered victory over a capable and proven Democratic candidate. With power in their hands, Bush was dispatched early to bed, given a copy of Natan Sharanski’s biography to send him to sleep.

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Bush tells Iran US-backed NGO’s are coming

16 Feb

So it seems Bush has abandoned the Bush doctrine, and plumped for good ol’ Clintonite psych-ops in a $75m drive to subvert the Tehran regime, and promote democracy throughout Iran.

As the Theocratic administration in Washington Tehran has its tentacles in all institutions and NGO’s, the US would create new, shiny, dissident networks. Now in principle, I welcome any move to empower nonconformists as they challenge totalitarianism. Freedom and liberty is an innate right, and we should encourage those who do not share these privileges to claim them. But, yet again, I am troubled by the Bush administrations handling of this project.

In my understanding propaganda operations are subversive and clandestine. Propaganda drives are not announced to the Associated Press, in the hope that this will create a good news day (hell the Whitehouse could use one right now). The recklessness of announcing you plan to setup new dissident non-governmental organisations in Iran to the whole world, including the mad-mullahs, is beyond comprehension. Not only will this announcement endanger those ‘operatives’ and dissidents who will attempt to subvert the theocracy, it alerts the Iranian people that they are being deliberately manipulated. What the hell happened to sensitive information?

The Whitehouse has vetoed the release of more public records than any US administration in history several times over, and yet they wheel our poor old Condoleezza Rice to tell Iran to keep their peepers out for any new political action groups.

Does that make any sense to you?

Well it should make sense, as this is little more than a publicity stunt, a hollow nod to the left that the Whitehouse is trying to resolve the Iran stand off without force. That Bush in all his altruistic glory is trying to help the Iranian people help themselves. Of course it’s all nonsense, and that it’s quite clear that the whole plan to remould the Middle East is going down the toilet, fast.

Democracy in Iraq is turning out to be nothing more than a façade, as Sunni’s are regularly ‘disappearing,’ only to be found tortured and mutilated on the edges on Baghdad. The Shiites are no longer cooperating with the British forces, and the insurgency seems to be ignoring positive noises from American politicians that the situation is getting better.

Elsewhere in the Middle East: democratic drives in Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been shown to be a joke with heavy restrictions on those allowed to stand, and in Egypt, gangs of thugs loyal to Hosni Mubarak pressuring voters.

Bush’s claims to be fighting for the hearts and minds of the Islamic World have ceased, as his abject failure of any progress becomes more and more apparent.

Can anyone actually say they feel safer for five years of Bush?

No Dick, It’s me Harry, Dick! Nooooooo

15 Feb

Some other commentators have argued that accidents happen, and we the commentariat, should not indulge in political point scoring following the shooting, in the face, of a 78-year-old fellow ‘hunter’ by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Well I say poppycock!

Dick Cheney

Cheney’s accidental assassination attempt is fair game in my book, after all this is an administration that has made personal issues – otherwise unrelated to the political world – a key weapon against it foes; and I for one, have absolutely no intention of rising above the dregs. Consider me a dreg, a dirty filthy dreg.

What I can’t quite get my head around is how someone ‘accidentally’ shoots a Republican fundraiser in the face? I have spent most of today mulling over enjoying an afternoon with the ultra-rich chickenhawks, while holding a loaded weapon, and not shooting them all dead, doing the world an immense favour in the process. I would never get myself into a position, where ‘accidentally’, I unload a weapon in one of their faces. Each and every one would be summarily executed, as he or she (I’m no chauvinist), alight their cars. It’s not sport I know, but neither is shooting quails – the paraplegics of the ornithological world.

We all know that Dick has heart problems, so this evident lack of lucidity (after all he accidentally shot a 78-year-old in the face) is a major concern to those who follow world events. We also know Cheney would welcome an attack on Iran, after all he encouraged Tel Aviv to do just that live on TV; can someone so lacking in composure and conveying such hawkish tendencies be trusted in such a responsible position? Would it not be fair to assume that Cheney is now too ill, both mentally and physically, to deputise for the Dubya? Now I’m no physician, but my expert – and completely non-partisan – diagnosis is that he should be infirmed for both his, and our, collective safety.

I mean how can we also be sure that Dick’s lack of judgement is not exclusive to his hunting? I’m sure he was certain he saw a quail, equally he was certain there were WMD’s in Iraq, and Dick’s now convinced the Iranians are developing a nuclear weapon. Of course they are Dick, now let’s just everyone calm down, come-on hand me the firearm…

Now I’m sure you’re as troubled as I am, imagining such an important member of Dubya’s team being fed his food by a care-assistant, but I’m also sure this would be in all our best interests. As the dynamic political thoroughbred and intellectual heavyweight Dan Quayle proved, the job of Vice President is no cakewalk and you have to be on top of your game. Cheney, as the 78-year-old who he shot in the face will testify, is certainly not on the top of his.

[No quails died in the making of this daydream]

The ‘State’ of the Union

1 Feb

It’s hard to read Yesterdays State of the Union Address and remain objective. We all – me more than most – have preconceived opinions of President Bush and his half-decade-old administration. As an American citizen said on the news last night, and I paraphrase, “those who voted for Bush listened to address said it was great, those who didn’t vote for Bush said it wasn’t.? One cannot imagine an America being more divided over the tenure of one man.

If last years address was about unifying a fractured post-election nation, this year’s address was in relation to facing up to the challenges threatening the nation. With Bush’s popularity at Nixonian levels, he concentrated on his one strength – his perceived competence of the country’s National Security.

Again invoking the spectre of 9/11 the President reinforced his commitment to the War on Terror and the American presence in Iraq: –

On September the 11th, 2001, we found that problems originating in a failed and oppressive state 7,000 miles away could bring murder and destruction to our country. Dictatorships shelter terrorists, and feed resentment and radicalism, and seek weapons of mass destruction.

Which regime he is referring to is unclear. The 9/11 Commission debunked links between Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein, yet as far as I know Afghanistan barely had any serious artillery, never mind WMD ambitions; one can therefore assume the lines are being blurred and he refers to Iraq and/or Iran. Such details it appears mean little in Washington.

Bush is right to point to the democratisation of the world since 1945. However it was his father, and Presidents Reagan and Clinton, who saw the rapid democratisation of the world. Beyond the iconic purple-fingers of sloppy-fledgling democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have seen a world becoming increasingly unstable. South America is sliding backward as it embraces Bolivarian Socialism. Russia is returing to its totalitarian past as Putin cements his authority on the Central Asian region. And in the Far East resentment between Japan and China simmers dangerously – not to mention Taiwan, and the increasing isolation of the now-nuclearised North Korea.

There is one titanic issue that Bush failed to address in his speech. Africa like no other region poses the international community with its greatest threat. If Iraq is stabilised and the potential collapse in Afghanistan is averted, there is little doubt where Islamic Fundamentalism will next take root. The countries of Sudan and Somalia, to name only two of many, are already a hotbed of resentment and hate. The cheapness of African life mirrors that of the hundreds of thousands of Muslims who have perished before and after 9/11. Bush as ever is oblivious to such consequence stating “We’ve entered a great ideological conflict we did nothing to invite.?

Bush again uses false dichotomy to offer us only two choices, one is retreat and isolation, the other is to myopically follow the Commander in Chief: –

In a time of testing, we cannot find security by abandoning our commitments and retreating within our borders. If we were to leave these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores. There is no peace in retreat. And there is no honor in retreat. By allowing radical Islam to work its will — by leaving an assaulted world to fend for itself — we would signal to all that we no longer believe in our own ideals, or even in our own courage. But our enemies and our friends can be certain: The United States will not retreat from the world, and we will never surrender to evil.

Many thousands of Americans do not question the ‘war on terror’ and its worth, but do question the way the war is waged. Rumsfeld’s obduracy in not providing commanders with the resources to put down the insurgency in early 2004 has been a lesson in stubborn ignorance. Not listening to advice from experienced generals such as Eric K. Shinseki, Rumsfeld has ensured his forces are unable to secure hard fought areas; insurgents ever flooding back into the vacuous spaces as the US forces move on. Surely it’s not too late to increase the troop levels to get the job done, and get them all home?

Rather like last year’s address, where an Iraqi citizen was emotively wheeled out to show her saccharine gratitude, Bush welcomed the family of Staff Sergeant Dan Clay and read a stirring letter from the fallen hero: –

Our men and women in uniform are making sacrifices — and showing a sense of duty stronger than all fear. They know what it’s like to fight house to house in a maze of streets, to wear heavy gear in the desert heat, to see a comrade killed by a roadside bomb. And those who know the costs also know the stakes. Marine Staff Sergeant Dan Clay was killed last month fighting in Fallujah. He left behind a letter to his family, but his words could just as well be addressed to every American. Here is what Dan wrote: “I know what honor is. … It has been an honor to protect and serve all of you. I faced death with the secure knowledge that you would not have to…. Never falter! Don’t hesitate to honor and support those of us who have the honor of protecting that which is worth protecting.”

Staff Sergeant Dan Clay’s wife, Lisa, and his mom and dad, Sara Jo and Bud, are with us this evening. Welcome. (Applause.)

Our nation is grateful to the fallen, who live in the memory of our country. We’re grateful to all who volunteer to wear our nation’s uniform — and as we honor our brave troops, let us never forget the sacrifices of America’s military families.

Bush is forever lecturing the American people of their need to make sacrifices and praising the sacrifices of the fallen, but what sacrifices are the American people making? Beyond Support our Troups bumper stickers one wonders what the non-military family is doing to aid the fight, they certainly aren’t paying for the war, leaving a legacy of debt for future generations to address. Rather than ask for Americans to be accountable he instead asks congress to make his tax-cuts permanent: –

In the last five years, the tax relief you passed has left $880 billion in the hands of American workers, investors, small businesses, and families — and they have used it to help produce more than four years of uninterrupted economic growth. (Applause.) Yet the tax relief is set to expire in the next few years. If we do nothing, American families will face a massive tax increase they do not expect and will not welcome.

Because America needs more than a temporary expansion, we need more than temporary tax relief. I urge the Congress to act responsibly, and make the tax cuts permanent.

As Ashley Seager outlined in yesterdays Guardian; consumer spending and house building represent 90% of the growth in the American Economy. With American household savings nonexistent and the current account deficit at a record 6% of GDP it seems America is determined to spend its way out of trouble. Such short-termism is bound to fail as the emerging Asian economies – who bankroll so much of America’s consumption – own banking systems develop; meaning less investment in ‘secure’ Anglo-Saxon banks, leading to rocketing interest rates with mortgage owners left high and dry.

I don’t want to criticise Bush – I want to praise him. I want to see a strong, responsible America lead the world into the new century. America is infinitely preferable to the totalitarian regime of China, whose GDP is set to outstrip America by 2031; and this is why I implore Bush and Congress act responsibly.

America faces challenges. It cannot continue to consume at its present rate, for one the world cannot sustain current American consumption and projected Chinese and Indian demands. America must embrace competition and recalibrate its economy and its society in the face of this incessant competition. And it must do this willingly and intelligently. And this is why Bush has failed as President up to this point; he makes grandiose promises yet offers scant delivery, as Julian Borger explains in his evaluation: –

If nothing else, it was a masterful stroke of public relations by the political virtuosi in the White House. Expectations of the speech had been lowered for weeks and press attention had been diverted to a host of red herrings. Then the president took the press by surprise with extraordinary plans and seemingly hard figures promising optimistic solutions to two of the greatest anxieties currently facing America: high fuel prices and the spectre of being overshadowed economically by China and India. To address the former, he promised an inventive technological fix. To the latter, he pledged 70,000 more science teachers and 30,000 professional mathematicians and scientists to be drafted into classrooms, to help schoolchildren prepare for the economic struggle to come.

Who could disagree? Alternative fuels and more teachers are solutions most Americans would embrace. There are some grounds for sceptical pause however. President Bush has been here before. He has pledged more support for alternative fuel technologies in previous State of the Union addresses, but US dependence on foreign oil has continued to rise throughout his tenure.

He persuaded Democrats to join hands with him on the No Child Left Behind education act in early 2002, which promised an extraordinary federal focus on improving schools, but then his administration failed to come up with enough money to run the programme.

Addressing the nation from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, President Bush captured the headlines by promising the city would “rise again”, only “higher and better” than before. Months on, reconstruction work is hamstrung for lack of funds.

He has also used the State of the Union speech to offer the bold vision of American astronauts returning to the moon and using it as a launching pad to Mars. Once again, the vision was there, but the necessary money has not been forthcoming.

America always needs a strong President, as America to an extent unlike any other nation on Earth, always faces mammoth challenges and responsibilities. And because of this colossal duty we all must pray that Bush for once delivers.