Lies, Leaks and the Press

Posted July 26, 2010 on 10:54 pm | In the category Afghanistan, Pakistan, Press | by Jeff

The press has moved on from its lamentable performance in the Shirley Sherrod – Andrew Breitbart fiasco in which much of the TV, radio and print press helped get an innocent black woman fired by jumping to believe and promote a heavily-edited video from a thoroughly discredited scumbag posing as a real journalist.  After a certain amount of “omigod we should have checked our facts” breast beating, general opinion moved to blaming the NAACP and the Obama administration for believing what they had helped promote. Go figure.

But now, with the leak of some 90,000 documents describing the United States’ lack of success in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s double-crossing behavior in Afghanistan, the press has something to sink its teeth into. But are they chewing on the vagaries of our Afghanistan policy and its apparent failure? Well, their first issue is whether the information should be leaked. Used to be that we counted on the press to tell us what was going on and whether it was working in our favor; now the issue is whether essential state secrets might have slipped through the government’s net of secrecy. But much of what was leaked simply reinforces already existing knowledge with no clear evidence of anyone publishing anything that damages national security. What are damaged are the reputations of those who have planned and implemented and voted for a losing war effort.

The press itself was guilty in the past of passing on secrets leaked by self-serving members of the government – e.g. Valerie Plame’s identity as a high level spy, or the totally discredited “intelligence” claiming Iraq was purchasing large quantities of uranium from Africa. These were pure and simple political leaks used to foment political and public opinion to start a war that we now know was unnecessary, unaffordable, wasteful and – in the end – damaging to America’s interests. But the current leaks are not supportive of another war and the issue has become whether the press should report on legitimate, authenticated documents describing the ugly realities of what looks increasingly like a lost cause war. As in, why should the American people be trusted to deal intelligently with the truth when we (the press) can help the nation by hiding the truth and promoting a fantasy?

Early in John Kennedy’s presidency, the New York Times learned of the upcoming Bay of Pigs invasion being organized by the CIA. Times editor Scotty Reston refused to publish it, believing to do so would be against the national interest. We know how that all worked out and that Kennedy and the nation would have been better served with publication of the story perhaps leading to an avoided disaster. The great Times reporter Tom Wicker believed at the time that the Times should have published the story and were he alive today he would be proud of the Times’ reporting on the latest “leak”.

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Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Senator McCain

Posted February 27, 2008 on 5:02 pm | In the category Afghanistan, Election 2008, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

Recent and ongoing events in Pakistan and Afghanistan highlight in new ways the disastrous effects of the United States’ misguided Iraq invasion and the delusionary nature of Senator McCain’s commitment to continuing a bankrupt policy in Iraq.

The War in Afghanistan is not going well. The Taliban is back in force, the poppy fields are again feeding America’s cocaine habit, America’s allies are beginning to question their willingness to continue in Afghanistan, violence against civilians is on the increase and the U.S. cannot bring enough force to bear because its military is bogged down in Iraq.

If there is a failure in Afghanistan – which appears possible, if not likely – the blame can go directly to the Bush decision to commit to an unnecessary war in Iraq. By not committing the needed forces to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan in favor of invading Iraq, Bush allowed the Taliban to withdraw into Pakistan and form a new commitment to take Afghanistan back. This in turn led to a stronger terrorist structure in Pakistan which has destabilized much of that country and which runs the risk of leading to the loss of major portions of Pakistan to the Taliban and its Al Queda allies. This is doubly worrisome given Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Afghanistan was a major training ground for Al Quada and the opportunity to eliminate that from happening again now seems lost.

Which brings us to Senator McCain’s delusions. His campaign is based largely on his belief that the so-called surge has worked and that victory is in sight. While those are extremely questionable opinions, it is clear that even were they true any such victory would come at terrible cost – in human life, American treasure, diminished American influence in the world, increased Iranian influence in the region, a destabilized Pakistan and in all probability a failed state of Afghanistan.

The U.S. president has enormous powers in foreign affairs – reviewing the disastrous impact of President Bush’s foreign policy reminds us of that. And it reminds us that choosing the next president can send the United States further into decline if it sends into office a man (or woman) unable to understand the difference between genuine American national interest, and jingoistic political slogans. Senator McCain clearly is determined to wage a campaign aimed at continuing the failed Bush policies in Iraq and the voters will need to decide whether it wants what would amount to a third Bush term.

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Bush’s Foreign Policy: The Perfect Storm

Posted November 8, 2007 on 11:41 am | In the category Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Middle East, Pakistan, Turkey, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

President Bush continues to wallow in the consequences of his own arrogant miscalculations. The situation America finds itself in can be traced to his and Cheney’s so-called tough guy approach to the world, as evidenced in the insane war in Iraq. Among what “Shock and Awe” and “Mission Accomplished” missed were the ripple effect consequences that followed and that continue to arrive.

Turkey asked that the U.S. avoid invading Iraq for reasons of its own security and their recognition of the likely bloodbath to follow, but agreed to work with the U.S. in providing staging areas for U.S. troops. At the same time it warned of the potential difficulties with the Kurds, a warning of which the U.S. apparently took no note. So having considerable responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis AND the increased power and influence of Iran in the region (incl. Iraq) the U.S. now has the problem of a possible micro war between two of its allies – the Iraqi Kurds and the Turks. Bush is saying that he will help Turkey flush out the PKK (Kurdish rebels) but that is clearly an empty promise given our incompetence and unwillingness to put the thumbs to the Iraqi Kurds, who will at least passively support the PKK. It is a dog’s breakfast.

Pakistan has been presented as the bulwark of our “war on terrorism” which is beginning to sound a bit like the help that our friends in Saudi Arabia have given us leading up to and following 9/11. Pakistan is a nuclear power led by a dictator who views himself as the country’s savior while the majority of his citizens seek the democracy that Bush has presented as his foreign policy’s grandest wish. We continue to provide massive defense aid to Pakistan while it allows al Quada to operate more or less unfettered within its borders, the Taliban to operate out of its borders into Afghanistan and its peoples’ dream for democracy to wither and die. It is impossible to know what would happen in Pakistan without Musharraf but the best long-term hope is for a true democracy to develop while finding a way to ensure that Pakistan’s nuclear arms remain out of the hands of extremists. So, does the U.S. continue to support Musharaf or pull the plug and risk democracy? There are echoes of what the U.S. did in Iran by shoring up the Shah, providing massive military aid, turning our eyes from the Shah’s human rights abuses and getting pretty much what we deserved – a belligerent Iran with whom we continue to squander diplomatic possibilities to a point where it might be too late. Another dog’s breakfast cooked up by this administration.

Afghanistan is the place that might have been a success for the administration but that too is being pissed away largely because of our Iraq folly. Pakistan passively provides cover for the Taliban which continues to operate at considerable strength in the South and increased strength elsewhere in Afghanistan while most of the U.S.’s troops are spinning their wheels helping to build a stronger Iraq which will probably eventually ally politically with Iran. Were it not for the Canadians, the British and the Dutch, Afghanistan might very well be lost already (no thanks to the Germans, French, Spaniards and Italians who hide their troops in the relative safety of the North). Defense Secretary Gates commented on this as recently as 25 October speaking to a group of unimpressed European generals:

”A handful of allies are paying the price and bearing the burdens,” he said in remarks that were notably critical of European governments. He spoke hours after leaving a two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers in the Netherlands, where he pressed for more troops for Afghanistan. There were no promises. ”If an alliance of the world’s greatest democracies cannot summon the will to get the job done in a mission that we agree is morally just and vital to our security,” he told the European generals, ”then our citizens may begin to question both the worth of the mission and the utility of the 60-year-old trans-Atlantic security project itself,” meaning NATO, which was created in 1949. His remarks drew little reaction from the generals, who applauded politely when he finished.” – AP

Clearly the U.S. will need to step up its commitment to Afghanistan but cannot do so as long as it is mired in an endless war in Iraq – that is, as long as G. Bush is president and no one with Rudy Giuliani’s views is elected in his place.

That leaves every president’s greatest challenge – the Middle East. Bush has all but ignored the Middle East for seven years – barring the talk of a “roadmap to peace” (remember that one?), his refusal to accept that the democratic election in Palestine was valid because the people elected the wrong guys, and of course his support for Israel’s disastrous bombing of Lebanon. Secretary Rice is now spending more time in the Middle East than in Washington and according to David Brooks in the NY Times – not exactly an objective observer – she is putting together an anti-Iran alliance, which would include Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Palestinians and the U.S. He goes on to say that:

“It’s slightly unfortunate that the peace process itself is hollow. …But that void can be filled in later. The main point is to organize the anti-Iranians around some vehicle and then reshape the strategic correlation of forces in the region.”

This alliance will then face off against the alliance that will include Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah, and – in all probability – Iraq. This is a hope and a wish but certainly not a foreign policy based on reality.

1/20/09 – that is the key date – the time when sophisticated, intelligent people can begin to dig us out of Bush’s Perfect Storm created from a rare combination of American incompetence, arrogance, ignorance, and naiveté.

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