What ever happened to the Wehrmacht?

Posted October 27, 2006 on 11:22 am | In the category Uncategorized | by Mackenzie Brothers

So let’s get this straight. North Korea outwits all the military powers in the world and sets off an atomic bomb. Just like Tom Lehrer predicted. But even Tom couldn’t have written a satire in which Germany protests that one of its naval ships was fired upon by the Israeli air force in the same week that Polish custom guards would shoot at a German tourist boat as it entered Polish waters. It turns out that the German military command seems to have been mistaken when it took over coast guarding in Lebanon on the assumption that they would give the orders. Looks like the Lebanese navy, such as it is, will, and that the Israelis have information on every helicopter that takes off from a German naval ship.
Finally, at a Nato meeting in Finland, the Canadian defence minister accuses all the NATO allies except Canada, the UK and the USA of shirking their military responsibilities in Afghanistan as they hide behind thick garrison walls in safe parts of the country, while Canadian soldiers get killed while fighting around Kandahar, something he thought all NATO troops were understood to be doing. Now that would include such tough guys as Germany, France, Spain, Italy, all safely hidden,while Canada, the US and the UK actually engage the enemy. The leading Geman paper brings this story on its front page and wonders if the word “feig” (cowardly) is appropriate.

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the decline of the wild west

Posted October 25, 2006 on 12:11 pm | In the category U.S. Foreign Policy | by Mackenzie Brothers

How the mighty have fallen – and how fast. Not long aqo a visit by the US Secretary of State would have been a reason for any Asian country to pull out all the stops and to listen carefully. Now Ms Rice makes a quick tour of Asian capitals to rally support for some sort of initiative against loose cannon North Korea and finds only polite indifference. The fact is that the US has given away its poistion of power in Asia with hopelessly (un)planned attack on Iraq, its failure (with some allies who would not have dreamed of getting invoved in Iraq) to solve the endless problem of Afghanistan, where no invading power has ever come out looking well, and its hopelessly one-sided support of Israel. Every Asian diplomat listened politely and played the protocol game, but no one really cared a great deal what she said. Japanese diplomats immediately thereafter suggested it was time to discuss nucear weapons for Japan, China presses on with its own (somewhat confusing) policy on North Korea, Russia clearly acts in its own interests, and, worst of all North Korea makes it perfectly clear that even a dwarf can ignore the demands of the blustering former superpower. Can this be changed? Hard to say but whoever takes over from the present amateurs will have plenty of recuperative work to do in Asia.

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America’s Investigative Cartoonist

Posted October 25, 2006 on 10:24 am | In the category Iraq, Press | by Jeff

Garry Trudeau is an American original. He draws a comic strip that has, over the past 26 years, taken on the major political issues, pissed off political figures on both sides of the aisle and entertained end instructed millions of readers.
For both faithful and new readers, his recent episodic series on BD’s recovery from serious wounds in Iraq has been a lesson in compassion, adding to our understanding of what it is to be recovering from serious war wounds, and all of this done with wry humor.

The Washington Post Magazine of October 22 carried a lengthy profile of Trudeau, Doonesbury’s War,  that is a moving description of Trudeau’s and BD’s journey.  Well worth a read.

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Kaplan: Genocide in Iraq?

Posted October 24, 2006 on 12:01 pm | In the category Genocide, Iraq, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

Robert Kaplan describes his worries about the consequences of withdrawing from Iraq in the current Atlantic Monthly Unbound. Kaplan supported the invasion of Iraq but now realizes that it was “a bet not a policy” and that we have for all intents and purposes lost that bet. His concern now is that the U.S.  withdrawal could also be a bet rather than a policy and that it needs to be managed a whole lot better than the post-war period was “managed” (sic).

While President Bush claims to never have been a “stay the course”  kinda guy, Kaplan worries that politics will demand a precipitous withdrawal that will put Iraqi Sunnis at risk of a genocide that will create enormous problems for the U.S. in the region. Kaplan writes: “We simply cannot contemplate withdrawal under these conditions without putting Iraq’s neighbors on the spot, forcing them to share public responsibility for the outcome, that is if they choose to stand aside and not help us.”

Hmmm. So, we ignore all advice that told us not to invade, lie about intelligence information to justify the invasion, totally screw it up leading to a Civil War and a possible genocide and need those people who told us not to do it to bail us out.  How hopeful should we be?

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The British Press, Darfur and the Bush Prism

Posted October 24, 2006 on 11:38 am | In the category DARFUR, Genocide, Press, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

Much of the British press gave up on the United States when the Bush administration invaded Iraq, with Tony Blair’s support and blessing. Given the deception used to justify the invasion and the incomprehensible incompetence of the Iraq adventure this made some certain sense. The problem for journalism is that when reporters see everything through the prism of Bush’s obvious inadequacies, they can become blinded to other realities.

A case in point is Peter Beaumont, Foreign Affairs Editor of the Guardian who actually wrote in the fall of 2004 a piece claiming that problems in Darfur were being hyped by the Bush administration and that there was no real evidence of a coming genocide.

Beaumont used the classic journalistic ploy of assigning what was surely his own opinion to unnamed “international aid workers”. Bush, USAID head Andrew Natsios, and Secretary of State Powell were all blamed in Beaumont’s article for exaggerating the seriousness of the situation to suit their political agenda for Sudan.

Journalists make mistakes and of course it is not possible to always see into the future – but in the fall of 2004 there was ample evidence of the coming catastrophe and Beaumont was guilty of ignoring those realities and hyping his own theory that Darfur was a product of George Bush’s imagination.

Last month, the Guardian reported the estimated death toll in Darfur – some two years later – to be between 200 and 300 thousand. When does a “hype” become genocide?

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Genocide for Oil

Posted October 23, 2006 on 10:01 pm | In the category DARFUR, Genocide, U.S. Foreign Policy, Uncategorized | by Kiwi

A serious diplomat, Jan Pronk, seeing the genocide around him— and knowing history will rightly convict him of facilitating genocide—has done the minimum and spoken out about the Sudanese government’s disintegration, and the desperation that will lead to a renewed wave of janjaweed “cleansing attacks” on the minority populace.

The UN, and most particularly Kofi Annan knows this is genocide because we have experienced an earlier one nearby.

But the UN cannot even give the pogrom its proper name–genocide–because of Chinese support for their Sudanese oil suppliers. The Sudanese are now trying to distract the world community with assertions that the UN is being misled by a Jewish conspiracy.

Claims against Jews and their “American toadies” are now the cover for this new genocide. (See this Sudan Tribune piece)

The UN is failing to stop the second African genocide in a generation and now the perpetrators and their enablers are blaming those who would stop them as puppets of a Zionist plot. Americans might dismiss such an outrageous claim, but it is one that is allowed to take root in much of the rest of the world.

We can lament that American credibility is so diminished and its moral authority so wasted that this is allowed to happen. But that does not exempt Americans from doing at least as much as Jan Pronk has done to bring pressure on the world to intervene. This is an issue on which President Bush has spoken forthrightly. See his statement on the White House website.

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The Press and Darfur

Posted October 23, 2006 on 9:51 pm | In the category DARFUR, Genocide, Press | by Jeff

The west is very slowly gaining awareness of what can certainly be characterized as genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. It will be another terrible reminder of the ability of the international community to watch while hundreds of thousands – even millions – are butchered as innocent victims of fights for political power. There is enough blame to go around on this one –many, if not most, of the member states of the UN – and therefore the UN itself – can share in it, as they did in Rwanda.

Warnings of what was to come in Rwanda began to surface in 1993 and included requests for assistance and permission to take preventive action from Major General Roméo Dallaire, U.N. force commander in Rwanda. Kofi Annan, then head of UN Peacekeeping Forces, refused those requests. Six months later 800,000 Rwandans were dead. But the list of responsible leaders is long enough to include virtually every Western leader, including President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright. The western response to the genocide in Bosnia was similarly late – although it eventually arrived, at least partly because it was occurring in Europe and easier to place in terms of the national interest of the Atlantic alliance.

The genocide in Darfur is approaching the dimension and dementia of Rwanda and we will in a few years be wringing our hands again and saying “never again” — again. But the warnings are there now and the opportunities to do something are there now and China’s oil is there now and the U.S. ability to act is hobbled now and as you read this people in Darfur are being slaughtered now.

Genocide in Darfur is also a reminder of how difficult it has become for mainstream Western press to pay substantial, ongoing attention to crimes of this dimension when they occur in remote countries with non-Western populations. A quick search of keywords and titles in LexisNexis for “Darfur” AND “genocide” for the past month gives 52 hits – 20 of them from non-U.S. sources. A similar search for “Foley” and “page” gives 568 hits. Recognizing this is a soft statistic, a disgraced Congressman’s dirty emails got roughly ten times the media attention received by a genocide responsible for hundreds of thousands of dead Sudanese – with more on the way. The press could do more if they chose to put resources into the story but when Congressman Foley is playing with pages, well…


“National Character Counts Week”: Russian Version

Posted October 20, 2006 on 11:40 am | In the category Middle East, Press | by Jeff

In head to head competition with President Bush’s bizarre comments in support of Congressman Sherwood (see “Bush and the Philanderer”, below) Russia’s President Putin, referred to press reports that Israel’s President Katsav may face criminal charges for rape and sexual harassment of several women.

According to both Russian and Western press reports Putin finished a meeting with Israeli Prime minister Olmert, the press was ushered out, and Putin thought the microphones had been turned off.  He told Olmert: “Say hi to your president. He turned out to be quite a powerful guy. Raped 10 women. We’re all surprised. We all envy him.”

According to a report on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s website Putin’s “spokesman said that ‘these remarks are not to be commented on’ because they were ‘personal remarks for his counterpart and not for journalists’ ears.’

The RFE/RL report concludes with a reminder that “After Putin called earlier in 2006 for increasing the birthrate, critical journalist Vladimir Rakhmankov dubbed the president ‘Russia’s phallic symbol.’ Rakhmankov is now on trial for ‘insulting a representative of the state.’”

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Arlington East

Posted October 20, 2006 on 11:22 am | In the category Iraq | by Allison

On October 14, Cape Codders for Peace and Justice paid homage to lives lost in Iraq by erecting 2700 crosses (indicating Muslim and Jewish with corresponding symbols) on the National Park’s Coast Guard Beach. They called it, “Arlington East.”

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Bush and the Philanderer

Posted October 20, 2006 on 10:34 am | In the category Politics | by John

The Washington Post ran a fun piece this morning written by Dana Milbank, entitled “During National Character Counts Week, Bush Stumps for Philanderer.” Congressman Sherwood has settled a $5 million lawsuit brought against him by his mistress of five years for allegedly beating her. And surprise, surprise, the case has come up during Sherwood’s campaign to stay in the House. Sherwood would be well-advised to follow the efforts of Senator George Allen (who is running for his life in Virginia) to convince the voters that this election is about issues and not about character – since neither of them have any.

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