Friday, July 29, 2005

US Not Totally Honorable with North Korea

With North Korea back in the news, and with me thinking about Rome in the late 1990's, it reminds me that one of my jobs at the American Embassy in Rome was to take the tin cup out to the Italian Foreign Ministry and beg for money to help the US meet its commitments under the agreement with North Korea that it then still honored. Italy then held the presidency of the EU, and thus we begged Italy as a country and as a representative of the entire EU.

The problem was that the agreement called on the Western parties, the US, Japan, and South Korea, to provide heating oil to North Korea while work was proceeding on the non-proliferating, Western design nuclear reactors that we had promised North Korea to replace their indigenous reactors that were producing the bad bomb-making plutonium. However, the US Congress, under its non-treaty-honoring Republican leadership would not appropriate enough money to meet the US obligations under the treaty. So, we browbeat our allies to make up the difference, presumably because they were more concerned about the future of the world than the Republican Congress was.

I didn't like that any more than I liked punishing children for the sins of their parents, despite the precedent for such punishment in the Old Testament. (See previous post).

So, as I approached the end of my career, it was as if the Republicans became less concerned about the protecting the US, and more greedy (giving money that should have gone to protecting the US to their wealthy campaign contributors instead).

These current negotiations with the North Koreans bring back bad memories. Although Christopher Hill is a career Foreign Service officer (who spent time in Poland as I did), I don't trust the US negotiating position. The North Koreans are crazy, but so is John Bolton, who was in charge of this process until recently. And Condi Rice named him to be Ambassador to the UN, not a good sign for Condi's competence.

Clinton's Winds of War

I happened on a copy of War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk, which I bought after returning from my tour as an American diplomat in Rome.

While I was in Rome around 1996 or '97, I went to a party celebrating the launch of an Italian satellite, as I recall somewhat vaguely, and struck up a conversation with a man who worked for an Italian telecommunications company, maybe the state telecom company. He said that America must really hate him and his little daughter, because it had refused his daughter a visa to visit the US because of the company he worked for.

It turned out the problem was the Helms-Burton law, named after its sponsors in the Senate and House, two bigots and proud of it. I was appalled that the US was punishing children to affect the conduct of their parents. But I had already decided to leave the Foreign Service because I did not feel that the US was living up the standards that it should. Helms-Burton was passed by Republicans, but President Bill Clinton was enforcing it. This was just one more sleazy thing I was glad to be leaving behind.

After I returned to the US, I happened to be watching the mini-series "Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance" on TV, partly because it involved diplomats in Rome. Lo and behold, one the sleazy things that one of the "nice" the Nazi diplomats there was doing was threatening the child of the Jewish heroine, Natalie, to get her to force her uncle to make propaganda broadcasts against the Allies. How little things change! I didn't personally take any actions against children, but I had worked at an embassy that did. Jesse Helms liked those Nazi tactics! What an awful man!

I'm not sure that the TV mini-series exactly followed the novel. I can't find exactly what I think I remember seeing on TV, but here are some pretty close passages (from the Pocket paperback edition):

Our friend and rescuer, Dr. Werner Beck [the Nazi diplomat], is moving heaven and earth to get us released, or at the very least, to designate three other Americans from the list for the retaliation, if it comes to that. (p. 250)

I have concealed this news from Natalie. Her dread of the Germans and what they may do to her baby borders on the psychotic. (p. 251)

Aaron was describing Werner Beck's intervention to quash the summons from the secret police, at the time when alien Jews had been interned. (p. 294)

"My guess would be," said the doctor, "that this Dr. Beck is preventing you from leaving Italy."

"How preposterous!" exclaimed Jastrow.

But Castelnuovo's words stirred a horrible dark sickness in Natalie. "Why? What would there be in it for him?" (p. 295)

With a curl of his lips, and a total confusion of f's and th's, Beck retorted, "But there's also the question of Mrs. Henry [Natalie] and her baby 'rotting here.' And there's the more serious question of how long you can stay on in Siena."

Natalie interjected, "What's the question about our staying in Siena?"

"Why the OVRA pressure never lets up on me, Mrs. Henry. You realize that you belong in a concentration camp with the rest of the alien Jews....." (p. 339)

Dumbly Natalie nodded. She went to the library to draft the [misleading] letter [to Beck], feeling -- half with terror, half with relief -- that the lead had in an eyeblink passed from her to her uncle, and that she and her baby were now in the dark rapids. (p. 342)

Monday, July 25, 2005

Iraq War Is a Mess

Most of the op-eds in the NY Times today deal with the mess we are in in Iraq. For me the best is David Kennedy's "The Best Army We Can Buy", although it goes hand-in-hand with Duncan's "Uniform Sacrifice." The theme is that Iraq is not a war that the US is fighting as a nation, but one which we have hired mercenaries to fight. Although many are American mercenaries, many more are more typical mercenaries, Hispanic immigrants who are not citizens.

I have a very low opinion of Bush, Cheney, and Republicans in general as military leaders. Bush joined the National Guard to stay out of Vietnam, and even worse, after the Air Force had trained him as a jet fighter pilot at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not a million or more, Bush said, "Hey, I'm going to Harvard Business School. I'm done with the National Guard. The US can take its hundreds of thousands of dollars that it spent on me and shove it!" That is in general Bush's attitude toward the government's money (spend it on yourself or your friends, it's free), and his attitude toward defending America. He and Cheney are cowards. After 9/11, Bush flew to Louisiana and Nebraska rather than return to Washington to lead the country, and Cheney went into some cave under or near the White House. These are not men that I would want to follow into battle.

In general the people who favored Iraq, Republicans and Jews, won't fight for it. How many children of wealthy Republicans are in the military in Iraq? And how many Jews? The neo-cons who lobbied so strongly for the Iraq war were predominantly Jews. One was my old nemesis, Richard Perle.

That there is something wrong with Jewish attitudes is illustrated by the dispute between Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and London Mayor Livingstone. As this article in Haaretz shows, Jews are the verbal attack dogs of the world, currently led by a hate-filled Sharon. As Livingstone implied, Israeli Jews are at least partly to blame for inflaming the hatred of Muslims which has resulted in the current rash of terrorism around the world. Of course, there is a lot of bad blood between Britain and Israel, because before World War II, Palestine was a British protectorate, and Jews living there introduced terrorism into the Middle East in order to kill British officials, most notably when they blew up the King David Hotel. In addition, the American invasion of Iraq, instigated under pressure from the Jewish neo-cons, has something to do with the Muslim terrorism problem, too.

On the Bush is a coward issue, I just want to say that I went to Vietnam. I think it is sad how few others did. But, in the Senate, for example, you can see how much better men the veterans are -- McCain, Hegel, Roberts, etc. -- than the draft dodgers. I don't really count John Kerry as a veteran, since he turned on his Vietnam veteran colleagues when he returned to the US.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Will Nuclear Accord with India Make the US Safer?

The Bush administration has begun implementing its policy of containment of China by legitimizing India's status as a nuclear weapons nation, despite its failure to adhere to the existing nuclear non-proliferation regime, primarily incorporated in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The administration has not formally announced a policy of containment of China, but almost simultaneously with the announcement of the new nuclear policy toward India, the Pentagon released a report on China, playing up its potential military threat. According to the Washington Post:

The report comes as the Pentagon focuses on China's steady military modernization as a driving force in long-range U.S. defense strategy and overseas basing, American military officials and analysts say. It generated intense debate within the Bush administration, with the State Department pushing for a benign depiction of China's intentions, while the Pentagon sought to emphasize a potentially insidious threat, defense officials said.
Thus, it appears that the US is adopting a policy of containment toward China much like that proposed by George Kennan after World War II toward the Soviet Union. India is one of the primary countries that can "contain" China. Interesting, India's nuclear-armed neighbor and oftentime enemy, Pakistan, is a protoge of China. Pakistan is also George Bush's close ally in the "war" against terrorism. The administration will have to weigh the importance of a potential real war with China, against an existing threat (but not a war between nations) of terrorism.

Meanwhile, the acceptance of India's nuclear status threatens to undermine the existing nuclear non-proliferation regime by encouraging beligerant smaller countries, such as Iran and North Korea, to follow India's example of flaulting the regime, and by encouraging more responsible countries that see themselves on a par with India for world status to develop their own nuclear weapons capability, countries such as Brazil and Japan. The situation may be manageable but only with a finesse that the Bush administration has not shown in any of its foreign policy actions to date. If anything, it means that for securing the US from nuclear threats, diplomacy is out, and military force is in, which we have used so well in Iraq. US troops can look forward to winters in Korea and Iran.

Where is Israel's Apology?

The "war" between us and the terrorists is inextricably tied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Therefore, Israel is to some extent responsible for 9/11, and now for London's 7/7 and for Madrid's 4/11 or whatever it was. Israelis probably treat Palestinians better than Anglos in the US treated the Indians as the Anglos marched across the continent to fulfill their "manifest destiny," but times have changed. What was acceptable 100 or 200 years ago is no longer acceptable.

Of course, the Arabs started the wars against Israel, but that probably had something to do with the way Israel was created. In addition, Israel started the use of terrorism in the Middle East while Palestine still belonged to the British. To his credit, Secretary of State General George Marshall opposed the way Israel was being created, which he said was being done by President Truman for domestic US political purposes in response to American Jewish pressure. It may well have been the reason that Truman upset Dewey in the election. However, we have been paying the price ever since. Only recently have we begun paying in significant quantities of blood.

Israel should at least own up to its partial responsibility for the deaths in the US and Europe. Those who committed the atrocities are of course responsible, but they were egged on by the heartless way Israel treated the Palestinians who lived in Palestine. Israel should apologize to the West for the bloody consequences of its callous denial of Palestinian human rights.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

London and Iraq

In all the press coverage about the London subway bombings, there has been little comparison made to Iraq. About 50 people were killed in the London bombings. That is about 1 week of casualties in Iraq, maybe even just in Baghdad, which is smaller than London. And the the killings in Iraq go on week after week.

Bush's argument is that as long as terrorists are killing Iraqis in Iraq, they are not killing Americans or Europeans at home. He has certainly accomplished his mission of bringing horrible misery to ordinary Iraqis. But, is his logic valid? Is he winning the war on terrorism? Certainly there has been no terrorist assault to rival 9/11, but would there have been one anyway, even without a war on terrorism. Was 9/11 a one-time thing? We are not talking about armies, or nations at war, we appear to be talking about a few individuals who are fighting for a cause, but not in a united way -- about 20 for 9/11, maybe less than half a dozen in London. Can you fight a war against a few terrorists any more than you can fight a war against an insane sniper who starts shooting people from the top of building?

As John Tierney says in today's New York Times:
... I think that we'd be better off reconsidering our definition of victory in the war on terror. Calling it a war makes it sound like a national fight against a mighty enemy threatening our society.

But right now the terrorists look more like a small group of loosely organized killers who are less like an army than like lightning bolts - scary but rarely fatal. Except that the risk of being struck by lightning is much higher than the risk of being killed by a terrorist.