Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Republican Hypocrisy on CIA

The intelligence failures to predict North Korea's nuclear test and Iran's missile test are indictments of the current CIA. Newt Gingrich has been deriding Nance Pelosi for criticizing the CIA; however, the Republicans under Bush/Cheney leadership tried to destroy the CIA. They gutted the career CIA leadership, and they imposed additional layers of intelligence bureaucratic leadership over the CIA. Until Bush, the head of the CIA was the head of the intelligence community. Now the CIA has been reduced to just one of many intelligence agencies, and a separate intelligence chief has been created to oversee the whole community, including the CIA.

Why? Because the CIA wouldn't parrot the line that Cheney and company wanted them to, saying that Iraq was an immediate danger to the US. When the CIA wouldn't provide what it believed to be lies, Cheney and Bush destroyed it. Newt Gingrich and most talking head commentators on TV have conveniently forgotten this. The intelligence failures on Iran and North Korea demonstrate that the US is clearly not safer than it was before Bush and Cheney undermined our security by destroying our most important intelligence agency.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Intelligence Failure on North Korea

The fact that today's North Korean nuclear test came without any warning indicates a serious intelligence failure regarding North Korea's military buildup. We've had long warnings about other North Korean nuclear and missile tests, which turned out to be less than successful. This test, which appears to have been successful, came without warning.

The New York Times says that it is a signal for the succession process, by which Kim Jong Il will replaced. If so, it may mean that constant messing around by conservative Republicans has lost our best chance to constrain the North Korean program. They refused to negotiate with the North, broke off the previous, Clinton agreement, and generally stuck their fingers in North Korea's eye. I'm sure they feel better and will probably say, "See, we told you negotiations were impossible." Of course they were, because the Republicans would not negotiate in good faith. And now, there is nobody in North Korea to negotiate with.

Thanks a lot, John Bolton, for putting the atomic bomb in the hands of maniacs. The Bush administration, and the Republican Congress under Newt Gingrich and Denny Hastert before them, were just monumentally stupid and incompetent.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day

During lunch the HBO movie "Taking Chance" was on, about a Marine officer taking the remains of a dead Marine back to his parents.  I wondered why I didn't feel prouder, either of myself for serving in Vietnam, or of others who served in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere else.  

I think it's because it's not a shared experience like World War II was.  This country clearly prefers those who didn't serve.  No veteran has won the presidency since Bush I.  Bob Dole was defeated, as were Al Gore, John Kerry and John McCain.  Bush II, Cheney and Clinton were all the right age to have been drafted to serve in Vietnam, but they managed not to, like most of those who voted for them. Obama was too young, and so I give him a pass, although he could have volunteered for military service.  He did, however, choose not to go for the big bucks as a Wall Street lawyer or investment banker, although he probably could have done that.  

Iraq veterans get a lot more respect from the general population than Vietnam veterans did, but that's probably because people feel less guilt about not serving, since there is no draft.  But if people were really sincere about the importance of military service, they would serve.  They are content to leave it to a certain class, largely middle to lower class, small town Christians.  I feel that we went to war in Iraq largely because of Israeli and American Jewish urging.  Bush did have issues with his father's Iraq war, but I don't think that his personal issues alone would have let us to invade after 9/11.  Jews are prominent in politics, finance, business, but largely absent in the American military, unlike the Israeli military, where people think they are some of the best soldiers in the world.  They let Christians die for America; Jews die for Israel.  It's strange that defending America comes down to religion or ethnicity.  People should consider themselves Americans, regardless of religion, race, or wealth.  

Because the American military now comes from a narrow cross-section of the population, it is almost like a mercenary army, unlike World War II.  Mercenary armies are typically less successful than armies that are fighting for their homes.  America's is sort of a mix of the two.  While I come from that narrow cross-section that still constitutes the army, I don't feel that it is a national army or that there is true national support for the troops.  Ironically, I think Obama is one of the most sincere supporters and defenders of the troops, unlike a lot of his politician colleagues, particularly flag-waving Republicans, illustrated most recently in their fear over allowing Guantanamo prisoners to be jailed in US prisons.  

So, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, thank you and welcome home, but this country is not really going to do much of anything for you.  

Thank God for Obama

Just to weigh in on the Obama-Cheney debate on Thursday, Obama defends the America I love, and Cheney disgraces it. From what Brooks says in this column, Cheney's views were rejected even by the Bush administration. Obama says the right things as far as I'm concerned. So what about indefinite detention and other stuff the left worries about? Obama inherited a bad situation. If decent people had been thinking about how to handle this situation, we would never have had Gitmo, rendition, torture, and all the other weird stuff that went against centuries of Western law and tradition.

Cheney says this weird stuff protected the US from another attack. That's like saying that it also protected us from an invasion by intergalactic aliens. When do we give them credit for stopping an invasion, rather than just saying that no one tried to invade? When there is no attack one day after 9/11. After one month? After seven years? There is no way to know. Certainly there were no well planned attacks against the US that were prevented. Some incompetents were caught, and some well planned attacks were carried out in other countries. I guess Cheney doesn't care if some Spaniards or some Brits died on his watch.

Obama faces a tough situation. Of course the real villains are the terrorists, and there are still terrorists out there. But the Bush administration handled its reaction to 9/11, Iraq and the "war on terror" badly. That now makes Obama's job tougher than it would have been if better people had been in charge on 9/11. Better in the sense of more competent (maybe they would have read the intelligence saying bin Laden planned to attack the US) and better in the sense of more moral (no torture, adherence to US and international laws and mores).

Obama, I'm with you. Try to do the right thing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Credit Card Law

The new Senate bill regulating the credit card industry no doubt owes much of its success to the financial debacle on Wall Street. People used to think that bankers were people just like the rest of us, albeit with a special job that give them community leadership positions and some wealth. Now, bankers are widely perceived as creeps, men and women who will do anything for money, including destroying the world economy, and impoverishing their neighbors. So, there's not much sympathy for bankers these days, hence the bill.

This Financial Times article compares today's bankers with the kings and queens of yesteryear (Off with his head!), and the Russian oligarchs of more recent times. Not a very pleasant comparison, but one that invites more government regulation. Hopefully this is only the start.

Scarborough & Mika Suck Up to Immelt

On yesterday's "Morning Joe" Eliot Spitzer criticized the New York Fed's decision to have GE CEO Jeff Immelt as a public member of its board. On the show and in his column, Spitzer criticized Immelt for being a public representative because GE had benefited from the US government's largess. In his column, Spitzer says that by participating in program under which the US stands behind GE debt, GE saved billions of dollars that it would otherwise have incurred in issuing that debt. In the public mind, such largess is no doubt perceived as part of the "bailout" whether or not GE actually received cash, or just government guarantees.

Today, Joe and Mika made a totally suck up apology to Immelt for Spitzer's comments that did not actually deal with Spitzer's criticisms. First they talked about how handsome Immelt is. Then they read a GE statement that said GE has received no government bailout, but rather paid money to participate in a program that help liquidity and the commercial paper market. It did not deal with the question of whether by participating in this government [bailout] program it saved billions of dollars.

I was sort of enjoying "Morning Joe," although I was already put off my Mika's frequent unabashedly fawning praise of Joe. Now, they both prostrate themselves before the wonderful, mighty, faultless Jeff Immelt. It's more than I can take. I hope they get big bonuses; they lost at least one viewer. I wonder with Mika's father thinks about what she's doing. I'm sure he's happy she's making money; he may not be proud of her integrity.

Cowardice on Parade

The Congress' refusal to accept Gitmo detainees into US prisons is cowardice at its worse. I'm guessing that most of those voting to keep them in Gitmo never served in the US military. Clearly they have no confidence in their own prisons; they represent states that have incompetent law enforcement agencies; dishonest, stupid judges; worthless state governments that probably gave a start to their careers. They know how bad it is. They know that foreigners scare them to death; the only salvation is to torture them. Most have Newt Gingrich's view of government, that it is worthless; only the private sector can do anything right. Newt knows from experience; he was once the third highest federal government official, and he knows that he was absolutely incompetent to do anything. He hates government because it's made up of cowardly fools like him.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Israel Says Ignore Palestinians, Kill Iranians

During his Washington visit, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu tried to turn the discussion from Israel and its oppression of the Palestinians to the need to invade Iran. He successfully deflected a lot of the discussion, refusing to acknowledge the possibility of a Palestinian state, for example, but hopefully he did not beat Obama into embarrassing, fawning submission the way he did Bush and Cheney. In theory his argument is that America is too stupid or too poorly informed to understand the threat that Iran poses. (This begs the question, "Poses to whom?" Israel or America.) But once Netanyahu gets Obama to accept his premise, then his point is, "Send the American military to destroy Iran, or at least important parts of it." Jews love to send Gentiles to die for them. They successfully did it in Iraq, where the predominately Jewish neo-cons sent thousands of Americans to die in Iraq for a threat that was mainly of concern to Israel. In retrospect, however, Israeli intelligence was apparently just as bad as American intelligence on Iraq, and Israel ended up calling in a lot of favors with the Bush/Cheney administration for a war that probably did little to increase the security of Israel. For sure, it did little to increase the security of the US. The self-evident bankruptcy of this policy has caused Cheney to go on a public relations blitz, but while it might change some current opinions, Bush and Cheney will go down in history as some of the worst leaders in the history of the world. They still trail Hitler and Caligula and a few others, but they are in bad company. But Netanyahu, AIPAC, and the rest of the blood-thirsty, Jewish neo-Nazis loved them. (Is this anti-Semitic? I don't think all Jews are blood-thirsty neo-Nazis. There are many wise, decent Jews, John Stewart and Tom Friedman always come to mind, but the Jewish right wing is dangerous, rejoicing the deaths of Gentiles, whether they are Muslim Palestinians or Christian Americans. Comparing Jews to Nazis is supposed to be the ultimate anti-Semitic act, but if they don't want to be compared to Nazis, Jews shouldn't act like them. Richard Perle, William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, Paul Wolfowitz, AIPAC, you have a lot of Chrsitian blood on your hands, along with fellow-traveler Dick Cheney.)

Another thing is that Obama tried to get Netanyahu to talk about peace, and while he mentioned it, it seems pretty clear from the general discussion that what Israel really wants is territory, i.e. settlements, not peace.

Why is Israel so important? It's a tiny country in terms of geography and population. But Jews are rich, successful, loud and in-your-face. When I was growing up, one of the main concerns about Jews was why they didn't fight back during the Holocaust. There was the Warsaw ghetto uprising, but it was brief and unsuccessful, much less of a threat to the Germans than the main Warsaw uprising, which was also put down by the Germans, but only after a much harder fought battle. Somehow, the Jews have now finessed this question, and nobody asks it anymore. Moreover, they seem to have tried to make up for not fighting during the Holocaust, by fighting the Arabs around Israel. But by moral standards, they're fighting at the wrong time and in the wrong place, and against the wrong people. They are mainly known for killing children, although they kill a lot of adults for every child.

Fortunately, Obama seems much more reasonable than I. The compassion and understanding that he showed at Notre Dame about abortion, no doubt applies to Israel as well. And he has a pretty zealous Jew, Rahm Emanuel, as his right-hand man. I think I was petty oblivious to the whole Jewish thing until two incidents brought it home. First, my dealings over a number of years with Richard Perle and his empire at Defense, where it seemed like we were on opposite sides of any issue that came up. Second, my experience at the American Embassy in Warsaw for the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, where the ceremonies were all-Holocaust, all the time. Since my dad fought in Europe in WW II, I felt slighted that the American government did not do more to recognize what the American troops did, and basically turned the operation over to the Jewish Holocaust leadership. In particular, I was disappointed that the one rabbi in Warsaw (and I think in all of Poland), whom I worked with and who was a very nice, religious guy, was replaced shortly afterwards with a much more radical, publicity-seeking rabbi, more concerned about vilifying Polish Christians than ministering to Polish Jews.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Maybe Israeli Spies Aren't Harmless

This Sic Semper Tyrannis blog has an example of a new intelligence case, Klingberg, which Israel perpetrated against the US to gain military intelligence. It also mentions the Pollard case, but it doesn't mention the USS Liberty, which is a clear example of Israel being willing to damage the US in order to further Israeli interests.

More on Rahm Emanuel and Israel

The blog "Just World News" has more info on Rahm Emanuel's position on Israel. It says Emanuel has warned AIPAC that failure to make progress on the Palestinian issue will hurt Israel's chances for progress on restraining Iran's nuclear program, although it doesn't explain exactly why. It does say that most American Jews are Democrats who support Obama and thus would be loathe to buck him on this issue. In that case, who does AIPAC speak for? Presumably a lot of Jews with a lot of money, but maybe not George Soros or Rahm Emanuel. So, what are Bibi Netanyahu and Israel's other right wing leaders going to do? Like Nixon's opening to China, they could probably get away with a genuine opening to the Palestinians.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

AIPAC Still a Problem

This posting from Sic Semper Tyrannis raises my hopes that this administration may not roll over and play dead in negotiating with Israel, like the last one did. Maybe they will consider Israel to be a separate country from the US and deny a visa to an Israeli who spied on America using the AIPAC employees against whom criminal charges were recently dropped, and who apparently "ran" Pentagon employee Franklin. If they deny the visa, they will get tremendous pressure from Jewish Americans like Senator Joe Lieberman and Congresswoman Jane Harmon, who consistently put Israel's interests ahead of America's. If push comes to shove, it will be interesting to see whose side Lieberman, Harmon and company come down on.

What about Rahm Emanuel as a Jewish-American; as Obama's chief of staff won't he look out Israel's interests? His family is very pro-Israel. It sounds like he actually served time in the Israeli Army, although not in uniform so as not to mess up his American citizenship. I don't know. Perhaps he is Israeli enough not to be subject to the wildly right-wing attitudes that characterize AIPAC and other American Jewish organizations, except perhaps J-Street. There is much healthier debate and much more difference of opinion in Israel than among American Jews. Or, perhaps because of the potential conflict of interest, Emanuel and Obama have an agreement that Emanuel will keep hands off Middle East policy. Obama has shown himself to be concerned about maintaining a high middle ground on most issues, and it's conceivable that he's done this or something like it with Emanuel.

Why Change US Commander in Afghanistan

Firing Gen. McKiernan and replacing him with Gen. McChrystal in Afghanistan has been described as the first such command change during wartime since Gen. MacArthur was fired during the Korean War. I don't know if that's media hype, or whether the Pentagon is pushing that interpretation to emphasize a change in policy. If it's meant to be something big, as the press is saying, then as this blog asks, what does it mean?

To me the main difference is between sort of an old-fashioned, big Army fight, and a new style, guerrilla, counter-insurgency fight. I'm not a military expert, but I think the former strategy wins wars, while the latter one wins battles. That raises the question, what is our end-game in Afghanistan? If it's something less than a tradition victory, which we probably haven't won since World War II, then this change makes sense. The Russians tried for an old-style victory in Afghanistan, and it didn't work out too well.

Israel Objects to Truth about Its Nuclear Capacity

Israel is in a tizzy because the US has stated publicly that Israel has nuclear weapons and has called on Israel to join the NPT. This FT report is just factual, while this JTA report is more alarmist. The Israelis appear worried that the US will try to make Israel adhere to the same treaty requirements that it is trying to make Iran adhere to, in order to reign in Iran's nuclear program. Israel does not believe it should be subject to the same regime as most other nations in the world. There are only a few holdout who refuse to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty, including North Korea, Pakistan, and India, as well as Israel.

Maybe the US was preparing for this by releasing information earlier about Israel's nuclear capability.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

AIPAC Should Register as a Foreign Agent

This blog makes a good argument that AIPAC should register as a foreign agent. I suppose that American Jews believe that Israel's interests and America's interests are identical, and therefore AIPAC is not working for a "foreign" state. But not everyone accepts the hypothesis that Israel is a 51st state. If AIPAC did what it does for Russia or Iran, for example, rather than Israel, there would be a huge outcry about what it does. Maybe the Iranians will start their own AIPAC, but their "I" will stand for Iran. I presume the US government would give it even-handed, "fair and balanced" treatment vis-a-vis the Israeli AIPAC, let it do the same things.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Why Did US Drop AIPAC Case?

The US will not prosecute the two AIPAC employees who were accused of spying on behalf of Israel. This was the case that sucked in Rep. Jane Harmon recently for promising some "Israeli agent" that she would try to protect them from prosecution.

It was always a strange case and a surprise that the US would actually treat Israel as a foreign country that spied on the US, despite the experience of the Israel attack on the NSA spy ship Liberty in 1967. So, it's not really a surprise that the US is dropping the case, but the question is why?

Is it because AIPAC and the Jews control the US? Probably not, but Jane Harmon, Joe Lieberman, Raum Emanuel, Larry Summers, and various other powerful Jewish interests no doubt played a role. Maybe dropping the case is better than pursuing it and losing, but if the case had been pursued, some really bad things might have come out about AIPAC and Israel even though they would have won the case. This way it all stays covered up.