All The Best
THE ELEPHANT BAR IS CLOSED
I want to thank everyone who participated in the Elephant Bar over the past twelve years. We had millions of visitors from all around the World and you were part of it. Over the past dozen years, two or three times a night, I would open my laptop and some of you were always there. I will miss that.
My plans are to continue my work with technology and architecture. You know my interests and thoughts.
At times, things would get a little rough in the EB. To those of you that I may have offended over the years, I apologize. From all of you, I learned and grew.
An elephant never forgets.
Deuce, 21 June 2018
Thursday, January 31, 2013
If former Senator Chuck Hagel, who will be heading to confirmation hearings on Thursday, is confirmed, he will become the first former enlisted soldier to lead the Pentagon. As a young man, he served as a sergeant, a noncommissioned officer with the infantry in Vietnam, earning two Purple Hearts and the coveted Combat Infantryman Badge.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Obama Is Not King
Obama's dangerous agenda is putting the country at risk.
Watching President Obama’s inaugural, I was confused. It looked like a new king was being crowned. Thousands cheered, like subjects worshipping nobility. At a time when America faces unsustainable debt and terrible economic troubles, why such pomp?
Maybe it’s because so many people tell themselves presidents can solve any problem, like fairy-tale kings—or gods.
Before America’s first inauguration, John Adams suggested George Washington be called “His Most Benign Highness.” Fortunately, Congress insisted on the more modest title, “President.”
At his inaugural, President Obama himself said, “The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few.”
But then Obama went on to say that his privileged few should force the rest of us to do a zillion things.
He said, “We must do these things, together.” But what “together” means to big-government folks is that they have a vision—and all of us, together, must go deeper into debt to pay for their vision, even if we disagree.
We can afford this, as the president apparently told John Boehner, because America does not have a spending problem.
But, of course, we do have a spending problem, and a debt problem, and the president knows this.
Just a few years ago, when George W. Bush was president, the Congressional Record shows that Senator Obama said this: “I rise, today, to talk about America’s debt problem. The fact that we are here to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure and our government’s reckless fiscal policies.”
Sen. Obama went on: “Over the past five years, our federal debt has increased from $3.5 trillion to $8.6 trillion—and yes, I said trillion with a ‘T’!”
Again, he was right to worry about the debt and right to call it “a hidden domestic enemy ... robbing our families and our children and seniors of the retirement and health security they’ve counted on. ... It took 42 presidents 224 years to run up only $1 trillion of foreign-held debt. This administration did more than that in just five years.”
It’s hard to believe that Obama chose those words just seven years ago, because now his administration has racked up another $6 trillion in debt.
It’s also a shock that Barack Obama believed this: “America has a debt problem. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America's debt limit.”
Yet this year, he demanded Congress raise the debt limit without conditions.
I want the old Barack Obama back. He made sense. The new guy, he scares the heck out of me. Like a king, he assumes that the realm will be better if he can spend as he pleases.
He also issues executive orders when Congress doesn’t immediately do what he wants. To be fair, he isn’t the first president to do that. Or the worst.
That was Teddy Roosevelt. He issued 1,000 executive orders, including one that demanded phonetic spelling. On all government documents, “kissed” should be K-I-S-T and “enough” E-N-U-F. At least Congress mustered the two-thirds vote needed to override that one.
I might not mind presidents behaving like kings—if they at least made the tough decisions that the government needs to make, like balancing the budget. But no president has tried to use an executive order to eliminate whole programs or cut spending. They almost always act only to increase their own power.
Yet they pretend they make bold choices—even when refusing to make choices. Obama said, “We reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the elderly and investing in the next generation.”
That’s Washington-speak for, “We will spend government money on young and old alike and refuse to think about when this will bankrupt America.”
But it sounds exciting when he says it. He’s not just a king—he’s Santa Claus, too. Except that Santa spends his own money. The president spends yours.
Kings don’t like to be constrained. But all government should be.
Cairo, Jan. 29: Reacting to Egypt’s growing chaos, the head of the army warned today of the “collapse of the state” if political forces in the country did not reconcile, reflecting growing impatience with the crisis from Egypt’s most powerful institution. “The continuation of the conflict between different political forces and their disagreement on running the affairs of the country may lead to the collapse of the state and threatens the future of the coming generations,” said Gen. Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi, who is also the defence minister. He added that “the attempt to affect the stability of the state institutions is a dangerous matter that harms Egyptian national security”.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Monday, January 28, 2013
The Palestinian West Bank has been illegally de facto annexed by Israel. This territory was not awarded to Israel even in the UN General Assembly partition plan of 1947, and indeed Israel’s possession of it is not recognized even by the US, much less the rest of the world. It was conquered by main force in 1967 and has been settled by hundreds of thousands of Israeli colonists, who have encroached on Palestinian orchards and farms, and have diverted Palestinian water. The Palestinians there have been kept stateless and without the rights of citizenship.
ISRAELI SOLDIERS TREATING PEOPLE LIKE DOGS:
Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory in the West Bank
The Palestinian West Bank has been illegally de facto annexed by Israel. This territory was not awarded to Israel even in the UN General Assembly partition plan of 1947, and indeed Israel’s possession of it is not recognized even by the US, much less the rest of the world. It was conquered by main force in 1967 and has been settled by hundreds of thousands of Israeli colonists, who have encroached on Palestinian orchards and farms, and have diverted Palestinian water. The Palestinians there have been kept stateless and without the rights of citizenship. They are sentenced in Israeli military courts. Israel controls their land, water and air space, and simply takes what land of theirs it wants, at will. Palestinians have been divided by Israeli Apartheid highways, checkpoints and the Apartheid Wall, so that often getting to hospital in an emergency is impossible and a one-hour journey now takes 8 hours. Israel controls the contours of their lives, but they have no vote in Israel. Here are some recent news items about the West Bank Palestinians. It is like this all the time, but Western media almost never report from the West Bank.
Since 2000, roughly 6700 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis. About 1100 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians in the same period. Although Israelis have been steadily encroaching on Palestinian territory, Western media almost never categorize Palestinian responses as resistance, using the Israeli propaganda term ‘terrorism’ instead. Israeli aggression is almost always portrayed as ‘retaliation,’ even when Israelis initiated the violence. Israelis are depicted as the ones in danger, even though Palestinians are in 7 times more danger.
Israeli soldiers shot Saleh al-Amareen, 16, in the head on Friday Jan. 17 during an altercation at a refugee camp in Bethlehem (Palestinian territory). He died last Wednesday of his wounds. Why is there a refugee camp in Bethlehem? Because Israelis ethnically cleansed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes in Palestine in 1948. Why are there Israeli troops in the Palestinian West Bank? Because Israel took it by main force in 1967, refuses to relinquish it, and is assiduously stealing the Palestinians’ land and settling Israelis on it (illegal under the Geneva Accords of 1949). Why is Saleh al-Amaraeen dead? Apparently Israel can’t be bothered to use non-lethal methods or rubber bullets for crowd control.
Wednesday January 23; Israeli soldiers fired at the entrance to the al-Arroub Agricultural College near al-Khalil (Hebron) on Wednesday, killing a young woman studying there– Lobna Hannash, 21, of Bethlehem.
Israeli authorities made the implausible charge that the troops, in an unmarked car, had had molotov cocktails thrown at them from the direction of the college gate. Even if it were true, there is no reason to think Lobna was involved. Will any old dead Palestinian do?
Israeli troops shot and killed Samir Awad, an unarmed 17-year-old Palestinian protester at Budrus who attempted to protest the Apartheid Wall that has damaged the economy of his village. He was accused by Israel of “breaching” the wall, but Palestinian sources say he was just protesting it. The wall often bifurcates Palestinian villages and puts agricultural land on the Israeli side, stealing it from them.
Israeli troops last Wednesday abruptly arrested Palestinian human rights worker Hassan Karajeh, from Saffa village in Ramallah. He is a youth coordinator for Stop the Wall.
Israeli authorities announced an intention to steal Palestinian land near Beit Iksa. Palestinians flocked there to try to stop it, and 100 set up a tent village on the Palestinian-owned property. On Friday morning, Israeli troops razed the tent village.
The protest city erected by Palestinian rights activists on a private Palestinian plot of land in the E-1 area of the Palestinian West Bank to forestall its settlement by Israel was razed by Israeli authorities last week.
Israel treats its Palestinian prisoners very differently than it does Israeli criminals with regard to family visits and interaction. It also does things like add 15 years to a 15-year sentence for making defiant statements to the court.
Palestinian protesters demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons briefly raised Palestinian flags over the old Palestinian village of al-Khader, which is now the Israeli settlement of Eliezar. The Palestinians were chased away by the Israeli military.
Israeli border police are being investigated for a 2009 incident, videoed by one of the police, in which they humiliated and brow-beat a mentally disabled Palestinian man who could not remember his i.d. number.
When Palestinians went out to protest the Israeli annexation of their lands in the South Hebron Hills, the Israeli army abruptly declared the area a closed military zone and arrested them, including a woman with a baby in her arms. It is not clear if the baby was charged.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
Save the children, kill the women. Nearly three-quarters of Americans say that, given the opportunity, they would vote to allow women to serve in combat roles. So says a Gallup survey conducted on Thursday, following Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's announcement that the Pentagon is lifting the ban on women serving in direct combat.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LEON PANETTA, January 18, 2012, DOD News Briefing from the Pentagon:
When I was sworn into the office of secretary of defense, I said that I had no higher responsibility than to protect those who are protecting America. Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line every day to try to keep America safe. We have a moral duty to keep them safe from those who would attack their dignity and their honor.
That's why I've been so concerned by the problem of sexual assault in the military.
Sexual assault has no place in this department. It is an affront to the basic American values we defend, and it is a stain on the good honor of the great majority of our troops and their -- and our families.
As leaders of this department, we're committed to doing everything we can to ensure the safety, dignity and well-being of our people. These men and these women who are willing to fight and to die, if necessary, to protect and serve our country -- they're entitled to much better protection. Their families and their dependents also sacrifice and serve and so, for that reason, we have to spare no effort in order to protect them against this heinous crime.
The number of sexual assaults in the military is unacceptable. Last year 3,191 reports of sexual assault came in. But I have to tell you that because we assume that this is a very underreported crime, the estimate is that the actually is closer 19,000.
One sexual assault is one too many. Since taking this office, I've made it a top priority to do everything we can to reduce and prevent sexual assault, to make victims of sexual assault feel secure enough to report this crime without fear of retribution or harm to their career, and to hold the perpetrators appropriately accountable.
In all these efforts, I've worked closely with the military and civilian leadership of the department. I've discussed this subject with the service secretaries, with the chairman and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and all of the service chiefs. The latest meeting was as recently as last week. They completely share my sense of urgency and commitment to addressing this problem, as do members of Congress with whom I consult regularly on this issue.
To ensure that this issue received proper visibility and attention within the department, a two-star officer, Air Force Major General Mary Kay Hertog, was appointed to serve as director of the department's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office last August. General Hertog has done a great job coordinating a DOD-wide effort to address this serious and complex problem.
There are no easy answers, but that makes it all the more essential for us to devote our energy and our attention to trying to confront this crime.
Over the holidays, we announced two new policies that provide greater support for the victims of sexual assault. The first policy gives victims who report a sexual assault an option to quickly transfer from their unit or installation to protect them from possible harassment and remove them from proximity to the alleged perpetrator.
Second, we will also require the retention of written reports of sexual assault to law enforcement to be retained for a period of 50 years. The reason for that is to have these records available so that it will make it easier for veterans to file a claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs at a later date.
These two policies are the first of a broader package of proposals that we will be presenting in the coming months, many of which will require legislative action by the Congress.
Today, I want to announce some additional steps that we are taking. First, I've directed the establishment of a DOD sexual assault advocate certification program, which will require our sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates to obtain a credential aligned with national standards. This will help ensure that the victims of sexual assault receive the best care from properly trained and credentialed professionals who can provide crucial assistance from the moment an assault is committed.
Second, I have directed the department to expand our support to assault victims to include military spouses and adult military dependents, who will now be able -- this was not the case before -- they will now be able to file confidential reports and receive the services of a victim advocate and a sexual assault response coordinator.
In addition, we're going to ensure that DOD civilians stationed abroad and DOD U.S. citizen contractors in combat areas receive emergency care and the help of a response coordinator and a victim advocate.
Third, because sexual assault cases are some of the toughest cases to investigate and to prosecute, I've increased funding for investigators and for judge advocates to receive specialized training.
We're also putting in place one integrated data system. The data systems, frankly, were spread among the various services. We're going to put them together into one data system in order to track sexual assault reports and monitor case management so that we'll have a comprehensive database for information available later this year.
And finally, in addition to our focus on taking care of victims and holding perpetrators appropriately accountable, we've been focusing on what more can we do to try to prevent sexual assault? Our leaders in uniform, officers and enlisted, are on the front lines of this effort; they have to be. We must all be leaders here.
For this reason, I'm directing an assessment, due in 120 days, on how we train our commanding officers and senior enlisted leaders on sexual assault prevention and response and what we can do to strengthen that training. It's important that everyone in uniform be alert to this problem and have the leadership training to help prevent these crimes from occurring.
These are important steps. But I want to be clear that this is an ongoing effort that will remain a top priority. There's much more work to be done to prevent this crime. And we will be announcing additional initiatives over the coming weeks and months.
Let me close by speaking directly to the victims of sexual assault in this department. I deeply regret that such crimes occur in the U.S. military. And I will do all I can to prevent these sexual assaults from occurring in the Department of Defense. I'm committed to providing you the support and resources you need and to taking whatever steps are necessary to keep what happened to you from happening to others.
The United States military has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual assault. And we will hold the perpetrators appropriately accountable. I expect everybody in this department to live up to the high standards that we have set and to treat each other with dignity and with respect.
In a military force, where the promise is to help each other in battle and to leave nobody behind, that promise must begin by honoring the dignity of every person on or off the battlefield.
Saturday, January 26, 2013
The Imperial Court of the USA: The Pirates on the Potomac or how your rulers and masters hand out and receive tribute.
President Obama begins his second term with American political discord and discontent at deafening levels.
But as Friday's “Boomtown: A Hannity Special” airing at 9 p.m. ET will reveal, in Washington today, the color that matters most isn’t red or blue but green—as in your hard earned tax dollars.
Washington has become a boomtown, a place where lobbyists parachute in to bag billions of your tax dollars for the rich corporate interests who fund them. Congressmen make out like bandits, too. They pepper bills with earmarks that shuttle millions to companies and institutions where their friends and family benefit.
The result: Washington, a town that produces absolutely nothing, is now the wealthiest city in America.
Here’s just some of what you'll you'll find out when you watch “Boomtown”:
Long ago, the local Native Americans named the river that runs through the city "Potomac," which means where goods are offloaded, or where tribute is paid. Today, that tribute comes in the form of trillions of dollars of taxpayer money that flood into Washington every year.
While one out of every six Americans worry about where their next meal is coming from, Washington, D.C. has the highest rate of fine wine consumption in the United States.
While one out of four Americans has a mortgage that is under water, seven of the ten wealthiest counties in the United States are counties around this region.
Washington, D.C. now has the highest per capita income in the entire United States. They just passed Silicon Valley.
Washington, D.C. is the new boomtown. America has had boomtowns in the past. San Francisco became one during the gold rush. In Abilene, Texas it happened with cattle. And, of course, it happened in Detroit, during the heyday of the American automobile
You're learn that in Washington, D.C., a place that used to be a town of sleepy bureaucrats, is now a city filled with Maserati dealerships, fine wines, luxurious homes and luxurious shops. It's a Washington, D.C. that a lot of people never see when they tour the Capitol or go to the museums. But it's the Washington, D.C. that reflects the reality of our country today.
The great American writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald, once wrote that the rich are different from you and me. America's previous boomtowns became wealthy because they produced something.
San Francisco during the gold rush, Abilene, Texas with cattle, and of course Detroit during the heyday of the American automobile.
All of those boomtowns became very wealthy in their time because they created something new. This boomtown’s wealth comes from extracting it from the rest of the country.
The boomtown reality is something that no one in Washington wants to talk about. When they do, they tend to blame the other side. But the reality is, today, Washington D.C.’s business is not politics. It’s money.
Nothing inspires bipartisan agreement quite like the desire of politicians and well-connected Washington cronies to get rich. By passing bills that vacuum your wallet clean, D.C. cronies can bankroll their lavish lives of luxury and power.
Consider, the following:
- D.C. is the 4th fastest city in the country at minting new millionaires
- Average income among the top 5% of Washington households is $473,000. That’s the highest among the 50 largest U.S. cities.
- Average income among the top 20% of D.C. households is higher than in every city except San Francisco.
- Between 2007-2008, the amount of money spent on lobbyists jumped by almost $500 million—the biggest jump in the last 15 years by far- because of bailout money.
- Only Atlanta and Boston have greater income divides than the D.C. area.
Cronyism—the use of political power to enrich supporters, friends, and family—partly explains how Washington became awash in such wealth. Indeed, that’s why cronyism is so pernicious: it incentivizes the growth of government by bloating bills with perks and goodies that enrich the well-connected at taxpayer expense.
Until Americans put an end to such cronyism, Washington D.C. will continue to grow in wealth and influence. And like all boomtowns, with so much gold lying around for the looting, we can expect the worst elements to race to snatch up the riches.
Watch "Boomtown” Friday, January 25 at 9:00 p.m. ET on Fox News Channel.
Peter Schweizer is the president of the Government Accountability Institute. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, and is the author of more than a dozen books. His most recent book is the New York Times bestseller "Throw Them All Out: How Politicians and Their Friends Get Rich Off Insider Stock Tips, Land Deals, and Cronyism That Would Send the Rest of Us to Prison"
Last week’s attack in Algeria shows that the consequences of international interventions are impossible to wholly and accurately predict. If Western governments wish to execute interventions that depose foreign leaders who, despite their cruelty and evil, play a significant regional role, then Western governments should be prepared for the unintended negative consequences.
Libya, Mali, and the Reality of Unintended Consequences
At least 39 foreign hostages were killed by terrorists in Algeria, and the reason why shouldn't be a mystery.
Victor Lynn Lovelady, Gordon Lee Rowan, and Frederick Buttaccio were the three Americans murdered in Algeria last week; three of at least 39 foreign hostages killed by Islamic militants who captured a gas field near the Algeria-Libya border before being flushed out by an Algerian military assault. The rest of those killed were workers from the U.K., France, Japan, Norway, the Philippines, France, Colombia, Malaysia and Romania, as well as terrorists from Egypt, Mauritania, Nigeria, Tunisia, Mali, Algeria, France, and Canada. The attack was in response to the French-led intervention in Mali.
That there would be reprisals for the intervention in Mali should not come as a surprise. One of France’s chief counterterrorism judges said recently that France is now the number one target of jihadists in North Africa. France has tightened security since the intervention began, and the Danish foreign minister accepted that assisting the French-led intervention could increase the chance of an attack in Denmark.
While the European governments prepare for responses to the intervention in Mali, it's worth revisiting how we got here. The NATO intervention in Libya helped contribute to the conditions in Mali that led to a French-led intervention. After Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown, weapons came into Mali from Libya thanks to Tuareg fighters who had been fighting for the Libyan dictator. These Tuareg fighters began fighting for the independence of northern Mali, known as Azawad, and allied themselves with Islamist groups in the process.
Although the Tuareg group, called the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, initially sided with Islamic groups like Al Qaeda-linked Ansar Dine, they eventually came into conflict with one another and the Islamist factions gained dominance in the region. The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad is now allied with the French in their attempts to defeat the Islamists.
The situation in Mali became of increasing concern to the international community, especially after the Islamic militants began moving south. Although the U.N. Security Council had authorized an African-led mission to secure Mali it was unlikely that the force would be ready to deploy before September. In light of the Islamic militants advancing south, France intervened, a move that was later unanimously supported by the U.N. Security Council.
While it looks like the French and Malian forces are succeeding in pushing the Islamist fighters out of the territory they have captured, it is not at all clear that the intervention will have a net benefit for the stability and security of North Africa. The French-led mission is operating under a completely different understanding of geography, which is an advantage to the Islamist militants. French and Malian forces cannot enter other countries. However, Islamists fighters have no such problems entering Algeria, Niger, and Mauritania.
That the intervention in Libya caused a situation in Mali that has in turn led to a terrorist attack in Algeria does not exculpate the perpetrators of the attack on the Algerian gas field nor does it excuse the actions of Islamic extremists in Mali. Nor should the geopolitical impact of the overthrow of Gaddafi lead to any doubt of the good intentions of NATO officials.
However, what last week’s attack in Algeria shows is that the consequences of international interventions are impossible to wholly and accurately predict. If Western governments wish to execute interventions that depose foreign leaders who, despite their cruelty and evil, play a significant regional role, then Western governments should be prepared for the unintended negative consequences. It appears that the French have prepared for possible reprisals, having increased security in many areas. Yet the international diversity of the intervention in Mali means that France is not the only country with an increased risk of terrorism thanks to the intervention. The 2004 bombings in Madrid and the 2005 bombings in London are reminders that oftentimes it is not the strongest partner in a coalition that faces bloody reprisals.
French officials originally said that the French operation in Mali would last only weeks, however President Hollande recently said that France would be committed to the region until the Islamists are defeated and a legitimate government is ready to take over in Mali. Our intervention in Afghanistan provides a painful lesson that while modern militaries are good at killing their enemies, they do not necessarily provide what is necessary for legitimate and stable governments.
The situation in Mali also provides timely lessons about the unfolding situation in Syria, which is in many ways more potentially explosive than the situation in Mali given its proximity to Israel and also the fact that the conflict includes Al Qaeda-linked groups, Hezbollah, and Iran.
After the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, Western governments need to strongly reconsider their methods of fighting terrorism and addressing regional instability. Foreign occupation is a costly and deadly strategy, and it is far from obvious that it ensures or increases the safety of those living in the countries whose governments carry out invasions and occupations.
Friday, January 25, 2013
John Kerry, dry-mouthed, showing his lack of depth of integrity, squirming, nervously playing with his pen, getting his long skinny lying ass handed to him by Rand Paul.
Jan 24, 2013 6:50pm ABC NEWS
A Day After Attacking Clinton, Rand Paul Grills Kerry
Yesterday Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that if he were president, he would have fired her over her handling of the Benghazi crisis.
Today, in a confirmation hearing in which nearly every senator, Democrat and Republican, heaped glowing praise upon their colleague John Kerry (D., Mass.), who’s been nominated for secretary of state, Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) posed contentious questions to Kerry about the U.S.’s role on the world stage. It quickly became apparent that the two senators not only had different political opinions, but different world views. Rand seems to see the world in absolutes; Kerry maintains intervention in world affairs be judged on a case-by-case basis.
Paul, who was publicly critical of President Obama’s authorizing U.S. action in Libya to help depose Mohamar Gadhafi, wanted to know Kerry’s take on a president’s authorizing military action without congressional approval. Kerry responded that, although he is a strong supporter of the War Powers Act, which requires the president to seek congressional authority to declare war, he also supports the right of a president to act in an emergency.
“I supported Ronald Reagan when he sent troops into Grenada. I supported George H.W. Bush when he sent troops into Panama. I supported President Clinton when, against the will of the Congress, he did what was needed to be done in Kosovo and Bosnia, so forth. And in this particular instance, I think the president behaved in that tradition,” said Kerry.
Paul suggested Kerry is cherry-picking the Constitution. He pointedly asked Kerry to defend his anti-war stance in the 1970s against Richard Nixon’s decision to bomb Cambodia, on the one hand, and President Obama’s actions in Libya on the other. Kerry responded that the circumstances of the conflicts were different: Vietnam had been waging for years without Congressional approval, unlike the situation in Libya.
Paul was unmoved.
“Length of time, but similar circumstances: a bombing campaign unauthorized by Congress,” he said. “See, the Constitution really doesn’t give this kind of latitude to sometimes go to war and sometimes not go to war.”
Kerry said he respected that position in theory, but in practice always requiring Congressional approval for every military action was not practical.
“You can be absolutist and apply it to every circumstance. The problem is, it just doesn’t work in some instances,” said Kerry. “When 10,000 people are about to be wiped out by a brutal dictator and you need to make a quick judgment about engagement, you certainly can’t rely on a Congress that has proven itself unwilling to move after weeks and months.”
The two men went on to spar over aid to Egypt, given Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi’s comments from 2010 that have recently been made public calling Israelis “blood suckers” and “descendants of apes and pigs.”
“Do you think it’s wise to send them F-16s and Abrams tanks?” asked Paul.
Kerry called the comments “reprehensible” but again pointed to the fact that Egypt remains a critical lynchpin for a peaceful Middle East. The senator also pointed to the ways Morsi’s administration has been helpful — supporting the peace agreement with Israel and working with the U.S. on security in the Sinai peninsula.
“This is always the complication in dealings in the international sector — not everything lends itself to a simple clarity, black/white, this/that every time,” said Kerry.
Paul also pressed Kerry on whether he would support cutting Pakistan’s aid if the country does not free Shakil Afridid, the Pakistani doctor serving 33 years in prison who was convicted of running a vaccine program in Abbottabad to help the U.S. obtain DNA from Osama bin Laden’s relatives. Paul said Dr. Afridi’s detention could act as a deterrent for future informants and that Pakistan, as an ally, should be cooperating.
Kerry again said that the relationship with Pakistan is complex, and pointed out the other ways the country has helped the U.S. in its war against terror.
“I intend to raise the issue of Dr. Afridi with them. I can promise you that,” said Kerry. “But I am not going to recommend, nor do I think it is wise, for American policy to just cut our assistance. We need to build our relationship with the Pakistanis, not diminish it. ”
Thursday, January 24, 2013
Hillary Clinton has called for increased US military and political intervention in north Africa, and warned of a long, difficult but necessary struggle against a “spreading jihadist threat” in the region. Perhaps to match the ongoing success in Afghanistan
Taliban kill 1,100 members of Afghan security forces in six months
Casualties have doubled and desertion rates spiked over past year as Nato steps back, figures reveal
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 23 January 2013 14.42 EST
The Taliban have killed 1,100 members of the Afghan security forces in the past six months as Nato troops have stepped back and left the local army and police to fight the insurgency, it has emerged.
Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, admitted there had been a doubling of casualties among Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) over the past year, as well as spikes in desertion rates from the army.
The previously classified figures were given to the Ministry of Defence by commanders at Nato's International Security and Assistance Force (Isaf) to help Hammond and Lieutenant General Richard Barrons prepare for questions from MPs.
Asked about Afghan casualties, Hammond said the evidence pointed to a sharp increase.
"We have to enter caveats about the quality of data and baseline data, but as the Afghans have taken over the leading role in security, clearly their casualties have gone up very significantly. Possibly they have doubled over the last year or so."
Barrons said the ANSF had suffered badly from attacks by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the past six months. Without the same medical and logistical support of western forces, the Afghans had been hit hard, he said.
"In the last six months, there has been an increase in IED attacks on the ANSF, and they are taking substantial casualties, roughly 1,100 fatalities. It is a significant issue, but the [Afghans'] ability to deal with it is getting better."
Later, the MoD confirmed the 1,100 referred to deaths across Afghanistan among forces that now have the prime responsibilty to take on the Taliban.
The general admitted the attrition rate for the 350,000-strong ANSF – the number of personnel deserting and not returning to their posts – was also higher than it should be.
The target was to keep the levels to 1.6% of the force deserting every month. But the monthly average was 2.6% – and last October it peaked at 3.1%.
The general said the key to stopping desertions was "good leadership, decent pay, decent food and the end of corruption".
Hammond told the defence select committee an Afghan food supplier had recently been jailed for supplying substandard rice to the Afghan National Army.
He denied the insurgency was making ground, and said two recent Taliban attacks in the capital Kabul had highlighted how desperate the insurgents had become.
One was against the intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), and the second was against the Afghan traffic police.
"All the evidence I see is that the Taliban is struggling to maintain the momentum of the insurgency and there is absolutely no evidence to suggest they have the reserves to press a button and significantly increase the tempo of the insurgency," said Hammond.
"The two incidents that occurred in Kabul were both attempts at spectacular attacks in an area that is pretty safe. The first on the NDS was a failure. The second was on a very soft target, unarmed Afghan traffic police.
"This doesn't look to me like an insurgency with a lot of reserve firepower."
Hammond predicted that when international troops end their combat role next year, Afghan forces would be able to "effectively hold the important parts of the country", such as cities, towns and key infrastructure.
"I would expect the situation to be messier than it is today, but I sense that there is a growing recognition on both sides of this fight that neither side can win outright. The government cannot defeat the Taliban and secure every inch of Afghan space.
"The Taliban sense, and we have some evidence of acknowledgement of this, that they cannot defeat the government in military terms. So I think both sides will want to make progress ultimately to some kind of political accommodation."
Hammond added: "Our own experience suggests that might not be a smooth process. It might go in fits and starts. But I would expect slow and messy progress.”
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Monday, January 21, 2013
The torture of the inaugural fist bumping day, celebration of collecticism, redistribution and war is almost over: “We will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to ‘manage crisis’ abroad, for no one has the greater stake than its most powerful nation…..We will support ‘democracy’ — from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East, because ‘our interests‘ and our conscience compel us to act ...”
From The Guardian:
Barack Obama used his second-term inaugural address to issue a powerful call to action, as he embraced an unashamedly liberal agenda and urged Americans to reclaim from conservatives the spirit of the founding fathers.
Speaking in front of Congress after renewing his presidential oath of office before a crowd of about half a million, the 44th US president pledged that he would battle against poverty and prejudice, deliver equality for gay people, tackle climate change and give young undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.
Conscious that so many second terms end in failure and disappointment, he held out the prospect of bucking history. "America's possibilities are limitless … My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it so long as we seize it together," Obama said.
His speech was steeped in the language of the US constitution and in rhetorical references to Martin Luther King, underlining the symbolism of the inauguration taking place on the national holiday that celebrates the civil rights leader.
As a result it was more inspirational than the largely disappointing address in 2009. Then, faced with unrealistic hopes for his presidency and with the country caught up in he worst economic crisis since the 1930s, he had to dampen expectations.
This time round, he took the opposite approach, making a case for collectivism, the need for the federal government to help individuals out of poverty, offering opportunities for all rather than just a shrinking privileged few.
Attempting to debunk the rightwing interpretation of the constitution that has held sway in the US, Obama, in what became a near constant refrain throughout his speech, said the founding fathers did not intend the country to become enslaved by the constitution and that patriotism was not the preserve of the right.
"That is our generation's task – to make these words, these rights, these values – of life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness.," Obama said.
It was down to the current generation to make the principles a reality, he declared. "For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing."
One of the most striking passages was in support of gay rights. Obama, early in his first term, was heavily criticised by gay organisations for failing to do enough. He partly redeemed himself through support for gays in the military and for equal marriage rights, but he went further on Tuesday, placing the battle for gay rights, summed up by the Stonewall protests in New York, alongside other key civil right fights.
"We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall," Obama said.
"Just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on earth."
"Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law," he said.
And he explicitly embraced gay marriage rights. ""If we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well," he said.
Obama made similar pleas for equal pay for women, for legislation to provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and against other vestiges of prejudice.
Thanks to NATO, Libya has become – a Western sponsored sanctuary for Al-Qaeda. AQIM’s headway in northern Mali and now French involvement will see the conflict inevitably spill over into Algeria.
Exactly as predicted, the ongoing French “intervention” in the North African nation of Mali has spilled into Algeria – the next most likely objective of Western geopolitical interests in the region since the successful destabilization of Libya in 2011.
In last week’s “France Displays Unhinged Hypocrisy as Bombs Fall on Mali” report, it was stated specifically that:
“As far back as August of 2011, Bruce Riedel out of the corporate-financier funded think-tank, the Brookings Institution, wrote “Algeria will be next to fall,” where he gleefully predicted success in Libya would embolden radical elements in Algeria, in particular AQIM. Between extremist violence and the prospect of French airstrikes, Riedel hoped to see the fall of the Algerian government. Ironically Riedel noted:
Algeria has expressed particular concern that the unrest in Libya could lead to the development of a major safe haven and sanctuary for al-Qaeda and other extremist jihadis.
And thanks to NATO, that is exactly what Libya has become – a Western sponsored sanctuary for Al-Qaeda. AQIM’s headway in northern Mali and now French involvement will see the conflict inevitably spill over into Algeria. It should be noted that Riedel is a co-author of “Which Path to Persia?” which openly conspires to arm yet another US State Department-listed terrorist organization (list as #28), the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) to wreak havoc across Iran and help collapse the government there – illustrating a pattern of using clearly terroristic organizations, even those listed as so by the US State Department, to carry out US foreign policy.”
Now, it is reported that “Al Qaeda-linked” terrorists have seized American hostages in Algeria in what is being described by the Western press as “spill over” from France’s Mali operations.
The Washington Post, in their article, “Al-Qaida-linked militants seize BP complex in Algeria, take hostages in revenge for Mali,” claims:
“As Algerian army helicopters clattered overhead deep in the Sahara desert, Islamist militants hunkered down for the night in a natural gas complex they had assaulted Wednesday morning, killing two people and taking dozens of foreigners hostage in what could be the first spillover from France’s intervention in Mali.”
The Wall Street Journal, in its article, “Militants Grab U.S. Hostages in Algeria,” reports that:
“Militants with possible links to al Qaeda seized about 40 foreign hostages, including several Americans, at a natural-gas field in Algeria, posing a new level of threat to nations trying to blunt the growing influence of Islamist extremists in Africa.As security officials in the U.S. and Europe assessed options to reach the captives from distant bases, Algerian security forces failed in an attempt late Wednesday to storm the facility.”
The WSJ also added:
“Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. would take “necessary and proper steps” in the hostage situation, and didn’t rule out military action. He said the Algeria attack could represent a spillover from Mali.”
And it is military action, both covert and incrementally more overt, that will see the West’s extremist proxies and the West’s faux efforts to stem them, increasingly creep over the Mali-Algerian border, as the old imperial maps of Europe are redrawn right before our eyes.
Meanwhile, these very same terrorist forces continue to receive funding, arms, covert military support, and diplomatic recognition in Syria, by NATO, and specifically the US and France who are both claiming to fight the “Free Syrian Army’s” ideological and very literal allies in North Africa.
In reality, Al Qaeda is allowing the US and France to intervene and interfere in Algeria, after attempts in 2011 to trigger political subversion was soundly defeated by the Algerian government. Al Qaeda is essentially both a casus belli and mercenary force, deployed by the West against targeted nations. It is clear that French operations seek to trigger armed conflict in Algeria as well as a possible Western military intervention there as well, with the Mali conflict serving only as a pretense.
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Iranian TV reporting says terror in Mali caused by Saudi, Qatar Salafist terror groups and France going in could destabilize Africa and this is by design.
The bloody making of a global jihadi movement
MICHAEL JANSEN IRISH TIMES
ANALYSIS : The Soviet war in Afghanistan was criticial in building the contemporary ‘Jihadi International’
The seizure of scores of hostages in the Algerian desert and the emergence of an expansionist “Islamic state” in neighbouring Mali are the latest developments in the global war being waged by militant Muslims, jihadis, against the secular West and its allies, culture and influence in the Ummah, the worldwide Muslim community.
Algeria and France, the former colonial power in the region, responded differently to these challenges. Determined to bring a quick end to the hostage crisis, the Algerian military slew both jihadis and captives.
France, by contrast, intervened in Mali eight months after jihadi rebels had proclaimed independence in the north and only when they threatened the capital Bamako in the south. This response is likely to spur jihadis everywhere to mount fresh operations in a global campaign.
In Islam, jihad is a just war carried out in self-defence, warfare against persecutors and conquerors, and “war in God’s cause”. The Koran provides the basis for legislation governing warfare in Surah (chapter) II, verse 190: “Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not commit aggression, God loves not the aggressors.”
If aggressors and persecutors desist, verse 193 says hostilities should cease. Jihad-motivated Muslims fought Christian Crusaders in Palestine during the 11th-13th centuries and colonial masters during the 19th and early 20th century freedom struggles.
Commanders of the later campaigns are inspirational figures for contemporary jihadis. Three in particular can be mentioned: Abdel Qader who fought the French in Algeria in the 1830s; the Mahdi who staged the 1881-99 revolt against Anglo-Egyptian rule in the Sudan; and slew British Gen Charles Gordon, and Omar Mukhtar who led the 1911-43 Libyan resistance campaign against the Italians.
Sadiq al-Mahdi, great grandson of the Mahdi, remains a major figure on the Sudanese scene while Awad Mukhtar, the grandson of Omar Mukhtar – who was celebrated in a film starring Anthony Quinn – threw in his lot with the 2011 revolt against Muammar Gadafy.
Syrian cleric Izzedin al-Qassam (1882-1935) – for whom Hamas’s military wing was named – was another icon of resistance against the French in Syria and the British in Palestine. He, like most contemporary jihadis, believed that Islam inspires Muslims to resist oppression and foreign occupation and that there should be no borders dividing the Ummah.
The critical period for the contemporary jihadi movement was the Saudi-western backed campaign (1979-89) to oust the Soviet army from Afghanistan. Before the iconic figure of this war became Osama bin Laden and the launchpad of jihad became al-Qaeda, many veterans volunteered to defend Muslims in the Balkans or returned to their home countries and formed jihadi organisations.
One of the returnees was Mokhtar Belmokhtar, head of the faction that seized the hostages in Algeria. His post-Afghan war career is typical of self-styled jihadi emirs, or princes.
He joined the country’s Armed Islamic Group during its 1990s revolt against the secular government and in 1998 co-founded the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, which recruited Algerians and Moroccans and launched attacks on security forces in the Sahel region. This group morphed into al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb; in 2011 it expelled Belmokhtar, who set up his own faction, Those Who Sign in Blood, based in Mali.
This kind of evolution is common among jihadi organisations, particularly those that eventually set up as al-Qaeda franchises. For them the brand is important: al-Qaeda is considered by militants the most successful of the jihadi organisations because it struck a world-shaking blow against the West when its combatants attacked the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington on September 11th, 2001.
Since then jihadi groups have proliferated and evolved into a “Jihadi International,” a loosely connected global jihadi move ment similar to the “Communist International,” the Comintern which, after the communists took power in Russia, created dozens of communist parties the world over with the aim of taking over the world.
While the Jihadi International does not have a sponsor comparable to the Soviet Union, ultra-orthodox Salafi Saudi Arabia has become the movement’s ideological mentor and financier, and Saudi-trained clerics preaching in Saudi-built mosques serve as recruiting agents from Morocco in the West to Indonesia and the Philippines in the east.
Saudi Salafism was launched in the 18th century by preacher Mohamed ibn Abd al-Wahhab, whose puritanical teachings have been adopted and promulgated by the Saudi monarchy. The Salafi ideology did not, however, gain wider acceptance until the latter half of the 19th century, at a time the western challenge to Muslims was overpowering.
Salafis believe the Muslim world fell to foreign occupation because of a loss of faith and the corruption of the Ummah and that to win independence modern-day Muslims must revert to seventh-century exemplars, the revered Companions of the Prophet Muhammad, and try to follow their religious, cultural and social precepts and practices.
While Salafis are not necessarily jihadis, many jihadis are Salafis or claim to be Salafis, although respected Salafi scholars argue that jihadi urban guerrilla warfare and terrorism against civilians is forbidden. Their rulings are ignored both by jihadi commanders and footsoldiers.
Egyptian scholar Sayyid Qutb (1906-66) was a 20th century thinker who also shaped fundamentalist thinking, inculcating a revulsion against secularism and the US, which he considered impious and materialistic. He joined the Muslim Brotherhood, became head of its “enlightenment” effort, and edited its weekly publication. He is regarded highly by al-Qaeda, its franchises and offshoots.
Today there are dozens of jihadi groups, including the Pakistani military intelligence-supported Laskhar-e-Taiba fighting in Indian-administered Kashmir; al-Shebab in Somalia and Kenya; the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan; Chechen, Ingush and Dagistani separatists in the North Caucasus; the Islamic State of Iraq; al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; Islamic Jihad in Gaza; Boko Haram in Nigeria; and Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria.
Michael Jansen reports for The Irish Times on the Middle East
“Forgiveness” and “redemption” are concepts that originally emerged in Western culture within a religious context — specifically, the context(s) of Judaism and Christianity. Within this framework, they are preeminently meaningful. Once they have been dislodged from this setting, though, they open themselves up to the worst sort of abuse.
Friday, 18 January 2013 11:37
Shamelessness, Not Forgiveness: Americans and "Fallen" Celebrities
On the front page of the January 18-20 weekend edition of USA Today, one of the headlines reads: “Can You Forgive?” The article uses Lance Armstrong’s recent“confession” of “doping” to Oprah Winfrey as the point from which to segue into a discussion of the broader topic of Americans’ readiness to extend mercy to those celebrities who have veered from the straight and narrow path.
Rick Hampson writes: “From Bill Clinton (again toast of the Democratic Party) to Charlie Sheen (again a sitcom star) to Michael Vick (again an NFL quarterback), the bar for public redemption seems to have gotten lower and lower.”
This one article provides much food for thought.
Unfortunately, it is all junk food.
USA Today expresses our culture’s conventional wisdom on this matter of forgiving those public figures who have fallen from grace. And this is exactly what we should expect would pass for wisdom within a culture that elevates celebrity status above that of every other station.
“Forgiveness” and “redemption” are concepts that originally emerged in Western culture within a religious context — specifically, the context(s) of Judaism and Christianity. Within this framework, they are preeminently meaningful. Once they have been dislodged from this setting, though, they open themselves up to the worst sort of abuse. Hampson’s USA Today piece is a classic case in point.
I cannot forgive Armstrong. Neither can you. Nor can either of us forgive Clinton, Vick, Sheen, Don Imus, Richard Nixon, or any other celebrity who throws himself at the mercy of the court of public opinion.
It isn’t that either of us is necessarily merciless. Rather, we can no more forgive any of these famous penitents for their offenses for the same reason that neither of us would ever think to offer forgiveness to the other’s spouse for undermining his or her marriage.
In other words, neither you nor I can forgive the rich and famous for their transgressions because they didn’t transgress against us.
Real forgiveness is among the most painful things in the world for both the persons who ask and offer it. The person who seeks it is pained by the acute realization that he has wronged another. Yet he is also pained by the fear that his request will be rejected and he will be humiliated. The person who is asked to forgive is pained by the transgression. But he too is afraid, for in forgiving, he will render himself vulnerable to being harmed once more. Maybe he will even be thought weak, a sucker.
In the Christian tradition, forgiveness or mercy is a virtue, an excellence of character. Like any other virtue — whether moral, intellectual, or physical — it comes about only as the result of the blood, sweat, and tears of those who make the point of practicing it.
To suggest that we can collectively “forgive” a person who hasn’t lent us any personal offense and about whom we couldn't care less isn’t just to cheapen the concept of forgiveness; it is to cheapen it to the point of extinguishing it.
In remarking that “the bar for public redemption seems to have gotten lower and lower,” it isn’t upon Americans’ ever-growing capacity for forgiveness that USA Today comments. It is, rather, their ever-growing capacity to tolerate shameful conduct to which it speaks.
A country that is indifferent to the most shameful, most dishonorable, sorts of conduct is itself shameless. In conflating this most odious of vices with forgiveness, the noblest, the most divine of virtues, we convict ourselves of more than just an intellectual error.
We hurl ourselves into the depths of moral confusion.
The problem is that as long as we insist upon treating our vice as virtue, the less likely it is that we will recognize our shamelessness for what it is.
And the less likely it is that we will be able to practice forgiveness in our personal relationships — where it belongs.