Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Bush Responsible for North Korea's Withdrawal from NPT

An op-ed in today's Washington Post says that the authors were offered a deal by North Korean President Kim in November 2002, which President Bush rejected. Shortly thereafter, North Korea withdrew from the NPT. Much of the Administration's criticism of the NPT has been based on the fact that North Korea withdrew from the treaty with apparent impunity. But it turns out that Bush was at least partly responsible for North Korea's withdrawal. It was as much a failure of diplomacy as of the legal design of the treaty.

No doubt part of the problem was the John Bolton was largely responsible for this issue within the Administration. It has already turned out since he left that he was responsible for the failure of negotiations over the Nunn-Lugar agreement with Russia, and that work under the agreement is starting to move ahead since he left State. It also appears that his efforts to block ElBaradei from getting another term as head of the IAEA has failed, and that Condi Rice wisely agreed to giving him another term once Bolton was gone. It would appear that Bolton was a major failure in his last job. But Bush has rewarded failure before, e.g., CIA Director Tenet's medal, and Paul Wolfowitz promotion to head of the World Bank.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Danforth on True Christianity

I heartily recommend John Danforth's op-ed in the NYT on genuine Christianity. As he says, moderate Christians are a work in progress, always trying to be better. He says, "But for us, the only absolute standard of behavior is the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves." If only more politicians would adhere to this standard.

Interestingly, the Times description of him says that he is an Episcopal minister and former Senator. It does not mention that most recently he was US Ambassador to the United Nations, soon to be replaced by John Bolton, a man best known as an SOB who in the past has not loved his neighbor as himself.

When he was leaving the post of UN Ambassador, Danforth refused to criticize the Bush Administration, but he did say the following:
My view is that it’s best that the U.S. have one foreign policy, not a bunch of independent operators. I do not believe that the Permanent Representative to the United Nations is an independent foreign policy maker or should be some sort of figure running around Washington saying exotic things, or running around New York saying exotic things. I really don’t believe that. I believe we should speak with one voice. And therefore I think that this particular method of operation is right. It’s the way I should function. It’s the way the State Department should function. It’s the way the government should function as a totality. Am I used to this kind of operating? No, I mean when I was in the U.S. Senate, I voted my conscience, my point of view and my position on issues, what I thought. And then when I’d go back to my home state and try my best to explain my position to my constituents. You can’t do that in this position, nobody can. I mean everybody who represents the government here does so as an ambassador. You’re representing a point of view that’s the point of view of the entire government, not just the point of view of an individual member of the United States Senate. So it’s a different kind of role, I think that the role here, I’m repeating myself, I think that the role here is not one for somebody who is an independent operator and shouldn’t be that way. And so that’s just the way it is.
Spoken like a true public servant, unlike John Bolton, who frequently made a point of letting the world know that he disagreed with his boss, Secretary of State Colin Powell. But if you read between the lines, it looks like he did not feel that he was voting his conscience at the UN under George Bush's orders. Danforth had too much moral character to represent this Administration.

Guantanamo I

All the talk about how bad Guantanamo is, is good. Maybe we'll do something about it. We created it in Guantanamo because we (the government) thought it would be outside the jurisdiction of US courts. We wanted it outside their jurisdiction because we wanted to do things to the prisoners that would be illegal if done inside the continental US. It turned out that the Supreme Court said that trying to escape their jurisdiction in Guantanamo was itself illegal. Why would the government want to do illegal things? These are bad people. I am inclined to think that the Bush Administration is largely white trash, including George W, but not Laura, who seems to have some class and dignity. They have disdain for law of all types. At first I thought it was just international law, e.g., the Geneva Convention and the Vienna Convention. But now I think it includes US law, too, up to and including the Constitution.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Vietnam I

I've just been reading the article on John McCain in the May 30 issue of the New Yorker. I haven't finished it, but so far it has not answered the main question I have about McCain: How does he feel about the US torturing prisoners of war at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Baghram, and other places, including those turned over to other countries for torture under under some process called rendition.

The article brings out McCain's strong support for the war in Iraq and the troops fighting it, but does he also support our torturing our prisoners of war after he was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam? If he does, it seems perverted -- that he wants revenge for what he suffered in Vietnam. That view seems to go against everything else that he has done vis-a-vis Vietnam, working to restore diplomatic relations, find remains of MIAs, etc. So, does he believe torture is just an inescapable part of human nature, accepted in both Vietnam and Iraq? I'd like to know. If he had to live up the Military Code of Conduct as a prisoner in Vietnam, why shouldn't both Vietnam and the US live up to their obligations under the Geneva Convention?

Which leads me to why I'm writing this. I believe that any American acceptance of torture is bad. I think that torture is inevitable, that at least a few of the people we send to fight our enemies will come to hate our enemies and be inclined to torture them if given the opportunity, which is why it is so important that our leadership condemn torture and punish it severely when it occurs. Anything less means that we really condone it. So far, Bush, Rumsfeld and McCain condone it. However, there is a surprising, increasing outcry from Democrats and Republicans to close Guantanamo. Cheney has not gotten the message, which says something awful about his moral character. These are the men who should be setting the standards for our soldiers. It's understandable that some soldiers might have the urge to torture, especially if one of their friends was just killed or wounded, but the political leaders -- Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, McCain --- should set the moral tone.

Friday, June 03, 2005

What Does EU Rejection Mean?

For some, David Brooks and Tom Friedman, the EU's rejection of the new constitution shows that Europe is stuck in the mud and not willing to join today's globally competitive world. They might be right, but there is also the possibility that Europe sees the handwriting on the wall that today's developed countries, including the US, face a world that mean the end of life as we know it, regardless of how hard we work.

Can Americans compete with Chinese and Indian workers? Of course, but they will have to work 20 hours a day (or 35 hours a day according to Friedman), and they will have to live many people in one room, instead of a few people in a whole house. Maybe the Europeans recognize this and are rebelling. While in America, the government is controlled by those who will gain from the changes, those who own the capital that benefits from cheap labor overseas. For a few in America (and in Europe) this will be the greatest change ever. They will live even more like Asian satraps than they do now.

Maybe European voters are smarter than American voters when it comes to their financial well being. Americans have not been quick to destroy Social Security, despite Bush's plea that they do so. Maybe they don't understand that the globalization of the world labor markets threatens their entire livelihood, not just their retirement.