Truth to Power

Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category

Israel Moves One Step Further Away From Democracy

In Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Policy, Israel, Mideast Peace, Politics on October 10, 2010 at 4:36 pm

And the United States says nothing, of course:

Cabinet ministers on Sunday approved by a majority vote a controversial proposal which would require every non-Jew wishing to become a citizen of Israel to pledge loyalty to “the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Twenty-two ministers voted in favor of the proposal, including most of Likud, Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu. Eight ministers were opposed, five of them from the Labor Party and three – Benny Begin, Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan – from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.

[snip]

Netanyahu’s Labor coalition partners believe that his support for the loyalty oath is a sop to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, aimed at winning his Yisrael Beiteinu party’s support for an extension on a settlement construction freeze that expired late last month. The U.S. and EU have urged Israel to extend the construction freeze, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has warned that he will quit the current round of peace talks if the moratorium on new building in the West Bank is allowed to expire.

Don’t Forget That the US and Israel Helped Create Hamas

In Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Israel, Mideast Peace, Neocons, News, Politics on July 6, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Just as you won’t hear much truth about the role the Iraq War played in strengthening Iran, you won’t hear much truth about how exactly Hamas was able to come to power in the first place. To hear the MSM and the US government tell it, they rose to power on the high tide of hatred of Jews. False.

As Col. Pat Lang (Ret.) reminds us, Hamas was supported by Israel and the US as a counterbalance to the PLO:

…Unfortunately, many Israelis now seem to enjoy humiliating Palestinians. The two communities appear to be farther apart than ever before.

COIN is the fad of the decade. The Israelis do not do COIN. They do “wog bashing.” I hope everyone comprehends that. COIN = Counterguerrilla operations + political action + economic development.

I was taught that personally by Bernard Fall. I don’t care whatever kind of wordy crap is in the field manual.

The Israelis do not do the last two. Hamas has won several elections. That would indicate in the COIN environment that Hamas must be included in a deal. Instead of doing that, the Israelis seek to bully the Gazans into abandoning their support of Hamas. Economic development? What a joke! The Israelis seem to relish the thought of Palestinians in rags, starving and literally driven from their homes.

The author of this Haaretz piece says that Israel “inadvertently” created Hamas during the first intifada. No. No. Senior Israeli officers told me at that time that the growth of Hamas had been quite thoroughly sponsored by the Israelis in order to create an effective rival for the PLO. It did not occur to them then that a party based on religious zealotry as well as nationalism would appeal to so many Palestinians.”

Lang also lays bare the assertion that the U.S. gets some sort of strategic benefit from our dysfunctional relationship with Israel. We don’t. This is part of a dialogue taking place over at the National Journal:

Your question is based on a false assumption, an assumption carefully inculcated in the United States since the Second World War. That false assumption is that the United States derives some significant material benefit from its alliance with and friendship for Israel. I know a good deal about US/Israeli relations having been in charge of military intelligence liaison with them for seven long years. We have many bright and knowledgeable people among the contributors to this blog. I appeal to them to correct my ignorance and inform us of the specific advantage that the United States receives as a benefit of its alliance with Israel.

We have the advantage of their genius in advanced technologies? Their COIN experts instruct our people? They are holding the Arabs at bay? Tell me what the benefit is.

In fact, the United States supports Israel because we want to support Israel. Successful information operations here have combined with a deeply felt grief for what the Nazis did to the Jews to produce a sympathy that is quite genuine. Yes, the US alliance with Israel is altogether the product of American altruism.

The Israelis and their closest friends hate that idea. It implies that Israel owes the US a profound debt of gratitude, one so deep that it can never be repaid. That is the last thing that they want. Such a concept would require a cessation of the brutally open process of manipulating the Congress with money and fear of opposition.

Natanyahu’s strategy is simple. He will seek to flim-flam Obama into compliance with his policy desires. To that end he will employ the tactical set of political tools available to him, tools that threaten the Democratic Party, and Obama in the mid-term election and in 2012.[emphasis added]

He’s right of course. And Israel hates it, as he says because, it means that the “special relationship” should be a two way street. Instead of massive amounts of money, defense technology, legal protection at the UN etc. just going one way- from the US to Israel, it assumes that we perhaps should get something in return. Which we don’t. What we get is unacceptable meddling and thinly-veiled attempts to influence the outcome of US elections via AIPAC and other hard-line Israel-First groups.

Here’s more on the birth of Hamas(excerpt):

“Israel and Hamas may currently be locked in deadly combat, but, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials, beginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years. Israel ‘aided Hamas directly – the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization),’ said Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic [and International] Studies. Israel’s support for Hamas ‘was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative,’ said a former senior CIA official.”

Middle East analyst Ray Hanania concurs:

“In addition to hoping to turn the Palestinian masses away from Arafat and the PLO, the Likud leadership believed they could achieve a workable alliance with Islamic, anti-Arafat forces that would also extend Israel’s control over the occupied territories.”

In a conscious effort to undermine the Palestine Liberation Organization and the leadership of Yasser Arafat, in 1978 the government of then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin approved the application of Sheik Ahmad Yassin to start a “humanitarian” organization known as the Islamic Association, or Mujama. The roots of this Islamist group were in the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, and this was the seed that eventually grew into Hamas – but not before it was amply fertilized and nurtured with Israeli funding and political support…

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Most Americans Aren’t Buying Israel’s Propaganda About the Flotilla Raid

In Foreign Policy, Gaza, Human Rights, Israel, Mainstream Media, News, Politics on July 5, 2010 at 10:48 am

In a leaked Frank Luntz memo, the news isn’t good for the U.S. attempts to spread Israeli propaganda:

The Israel Project (TIP), an American Hasbara outfit, commissioned Republican political consultant Frank Luntz to examine the effectiveness of Israel’s public diplomacy in the US on the Flotilla debacle. TIP gave the memo to the Prime Minister’s Office, where someone promptly leaked it to Chico Menashe, Channel Ten TV News diplomatic affairs correspondent.

Luntz’s findings are grim. Here’s a summary:

1. 56% of Americans agree with the claim that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza;
2. 43% of Americans agree with the claim that people in Gaza are starving;
3. [Only] 34% of Americans support the Israeli operation against the Flotilla;
4. [Only] 20% of Americans “felt support” for Israel following announcement of easing of Gaza closure.

It’s time for Israel to wake up and realize there is only so much spinning that they can do. It could be that most Americans “get” that armed commandos attacking a humanitarian vessel in international waters, was, well, heavy handed.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

General Petraeus and Max Boot

In Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Israel, Mainstream Media, Neocons, News, Politics on July 4, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Raise your hand if you are surprised by any of this?:

Last March General David Petraeus, then head of Central Command, sought to undercut his own testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee that was critical of Israel by intriguing with a rightwing writer to put out a different story, in emails obtained by Mondoweiss.

The emails show Petraeus encouraging Max Boot of Commentary to write a story– and offering the neoconservative writer choice details about his views on the Holocaust:

Does it help if folks know that I hosted Elie Wiesel and his wife at our quarters last Sun night?! And that I will be the speaker at the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps in mid-Apr at the Capitol Dome…

Petraeus passed the emails along himself through carelessness last March. He pasted a Boot column from Commentary’s blog into in an “FYI” email he sent to an activist who is highly critical of the U.S.’s special relationship with Israel. Some of the general’s emails to Boot were attached to the bottom of the story. The activist, James Morris, shared the emails with me.

The tale:

Back on March 13, Mark Perry broke the explosive story that Gen. David Petraeus was echoing Joe Biden’s view that the special relationship with Israel is endangering Americans. Perry said that Petraeus had sent aides to the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the White House to tell him that the U.S.’s inability to stand up to Israel was hurting Americans across the Middle East. Perry reported that Petraeus was asking that Israel and Palestine be included under his Central Command (rather than under Europe, as they are now).

On March 16, neocon Max Boot, who is on the Council of Foreign Relations and holds militarist pro-Israel views (he’s an American Jew born in Russia), sought to refute Perry’s post at the Commentary blog:

“I asked a military officer who is familiar with the briefing in question and with Petraeus’s thinking on the issue to clarify matters. He told me that Perry’s item was ‘incorrect.'”

Boot quoted the unnamed officer at some length apologizing for Israel:

he did not suggest that Petraeus was mainly blaming Israel and its settlements for the lack of progress. They are, he said, “one of many issues, among which also is the unwillingness to recognize Israel and the unwillingness to confront the extremists who threaten Israelis.” That’s about what I expected: Petraeus holds a much more realistic and nuanced view than the one attributed to him by terrorist groupie Mark Perry.

I suspect this unnamed officer was Petraeus himself– based on the emails. But we’ll get to them in a minute.


That’s just an excerpt above, definitely go to Mondoweiss to check out the whole story. Some people may look at this and say “what’s the big deal?” Well, the big deal is that it shows the disproportionate amount of influence of the Israel lobby and those associated with it. It also speaks to how the media works with the U.S. to spread Israeli hasbara.

It’s things like this that make it clear that the U.S. relationship, while important, has become dysfunctional and self-defeating. And no, I am no anti-Semite nor am I anti-Israel. I simply understand that by enabling the right-wing Israeli government’s worst tendencies, the U.S. is helping drive Israel off a cliff- a truly self-defeating irony. Democracy is just a word and unless Israel ends the occupation and stops treating all dissent as tantamount to terrorism, the US will increasingly find itself defending the indefensible.

The other thing that this may clarify is Petraeus’ future political ambitions. I wouldn’t be surprised if he runs for President as a Republican in the not too distant future.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

The Mainstream Media Goes After Michael Hastings for Doing Their Job Better Than They Do

In Afghanistan, Foreign Policy, Mainstream Media, News, Politics on June 29, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Now that Michael Hastings has done the U.S. a favor by exposing what a bunch of arrogant, undisciplined jerks McChrystal and his cadre of General-worshippers were, rather than having a moment of introspection, the media is going after Hastings for daring to expose the fact that McChrystal had nothing but contempt for a) the Commander in Chief and b) the civilian diplomats with whom he was supposed to be working in order to make his much-beloved COIN strategy work.

The Beltway media trades access for the unspoken understanding that the subjects of the “news” stories will be handled largely with kid gloves lest there never be another interview. So don’t expect any Watergate revelations anytime soon from the likes of David Gregory, David Brooks or Lara Logan. And speaking of Logan, Matt Taibbi takes her to task for her groveling attitude towards the power elite about which she is supposed to be reporting. Here is an excerpt:

I thought I’d seen everything when I read David Brooks saying out loud in a New York Times column that reporters should sit on damaging comments to save their sources from their own idiocy. But now we get CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan slamming our own Michael Hastings on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” program, agreeing that the Rolling Stone reporter violated an “unspoken agreement” that journalists are not supposed to “embarrass [the troops] by reporting insults and banter.”

Anyone who wants to know why network television news hasn’t mattered since the seventies just needs to check out this appearance by Logan. Here’s CBS’s chief foreign correspondent saying out loud on TV that when the man running a war that’s killing thousands of young men and women every year steps on his own dick in front of a journalist, that journalist is supposed to eat the story so as not to embarrass the flag. And the part that really gets me is Logan bitching about how Hastings was dishonest to use human warmth and charm to build up enough of a rapport with his sources that they felt comfortable running their mouths off in front of him. According to Logan, that’s sneaky — and journalists aren’t supposed to be sneaky:

“What I find is the most telling thing about what Michael Hastings said in your interview is that he talked about his manner as pretending to build an illusion of trust and, you know, he’s laid out there what his game is… That is exactly the kind of damaging type of attitude that makes it difficult for reporters who are genuine about what they do, who don’t — I don’t go around in my personal life pretending to be one thing and then being something else. I mean, I find it egregious that anyone would do that in their professional life.”

When I first heard her say that, I thought to myself, “That has to be a joke. It’s sarcasm, right?” But then I went back and replayed the clip – no sarcasm! She meant it! If I’m hearing Logan correctly, what Hastings is supposed to have done in that situation is interrupt these drunken assholes and say, “Excuse me, fellas, I know we’re all having fun and all, but you’re saying things that may not be in your best interest! As a reporter, it is my duty to inform you that you may end up looking like insubordinate douche bags in front of two million Rolling Stone readers if you don’t shut your mouths this very instant!” I mean, where did Logan go to journalism school – the Burson-Marsteller agency?

But Logan goes even further that that. See, according to Logan, not only are reporters not supposed to disclose their agendas to sources at all times, but in the case of covering the military, one isn’t even supposed to have an agenda that might upset the brass! Why? Because there is an “element of trust” that you’re supposed to have when you hang around the likes of a McChrystal. You cover a war commander, he’s got to be able to trust that you’re not going to embarrass him. Otherwise, how can he possibly feel confident that the right message will get out?

True, the Pentagon does have perhaps the single largest public relations apparatus on earth – spending $4.7 billion on P.R. in 2009 alone and employing 27,000 people, a staff nearly as large as the 30,000-person State Department – but is that really enough to ensure positive coverage in a society with armed with a constitutionally-guaranteed free press?

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

George Mitchell Expresses Frustration With Israel’s Lack of Progress in Proximity Talks

In Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, Iran, Israel, Mideast Peace, News, Politics on June 28, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Now before the usual chorus of “why is the Obama administration only asking anything of Israel!!!” lets remember that for the past year-and-a-half, it’s primarily been Benyamin Netanyahu who has been throwing up successive roadblocks to meaningful negotiations. Lets remember who the parties are, shall we? While the Israel Can Do No Wrong crowd constantly throws around all the problems Israel faces with Hamas, the reality is that Hamas is not at the negotiating table. The Palestinian Authority/Fatah is. And at this point, the PA has shown significant progress in fighting violence and extremism and trying to bolster it’s infrastructure and economy- no small task given Israel essentially makes that near impossible.

From Haaretz:

U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is frustrated by the conduct of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the proximity talks with the Palestinians. Mitchell, who is due in Israel on Thursday for another round of talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah, has expressed to Netanyahu his wish to see more progress by Israel on core issues.

[snip]

The senior U.S. official also said that the administration would like Netanyahu to show more willingness for substantive discussions on core issues, and to see the Palestinians moving toward direct talks with Israel.

There have been four rounds of proximity talks so far, during which Mitchell shuttled between Ramallah and Jerusalem. During talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu, the two informed the U.S. envoy of their positions on the various core issues. However, the Palestinian side has presented far more detailed positions…

Honestly, George Mitchell has the patience of a saint. I don’t know he does it quite frankly.

Most of his frustration probably stems from the fact that the right-wing Likud coalition has zero interest in anything resembling a peace process, let alone a two state solution. It probably also doesn’t help that every week Mitchell is greeted with new revelations of Israel’s intransigence. The most recent revelation:

The Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee is set to approve an unprecedented master plan that calls for the expansion of Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, a move largely based on construction on privately owned Arab property.

The committee’s proposal would codify the municipality’s planning policy for the entire city. In essence, Jerusalem would uniformly apply its zoning and construction procedures to both halves of the city.

[snip]

According to a document prepared by Ir Amim, an NGO that “seeks to render Jerusalem a more viable and equitable city,” the master plan vastly underestimates the construction needs of the Arab population in the city. While the plan calls for 13,500 new residential units in East Jerusalem for Palestinians, updated demographic studies indicate that this amount barely represents half the minimum needs for the Arab population by 2030.

Ir Amim officials also said that while the plan allows for Palestinian construction in the north and south of the capital, it barely provides for an expansion of Arab construction projects in the center of the city, particularly in the area next to the holy basin.

The group added that the plan creates a spate of bureaucratic obstacles for Palestinians who wish to build in the city. Ir Amim warns that the plan is likely to be perceived as an Israeli provocation because most of the Jewish building projects are designated for areas east of the Green Line.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat instructed his subordinates to alter the plan in line with his policy of thickening the Jewish presence around the holy basin and the eastern half of the city.

Despite the National Planning and Building Committee’s decision to designate the City of David – which sits in the heart of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan – as “a national park,” the new master plan allows for the construction of residential units in the area.

The Ir David Foundation, a nonprofit group that seeks to increase Jewish settlement in the City of David and whose heads are close associates of the mayor, has in recent years bought houses near the Old City in an effort to “Judaize” the area…

So, Bibi is coming to Washington, D.C. again to meet with President Barack Obama in early July and once again he will demonstrate that the “special relationship” between the U.S. and Israel is a one-way street- the U.S. is to give in to every Israeli demand, scuttle any international attempts at holding Israel accountable for violating international law, give Israel billions of dollars a year because they are so special, fight all Israel’s battles (most recently, our obsessive focus on Iran) give Israel preferential treatment in regards to obtaining lucrative defense contracts, equipment etc. and on and on and on. And what does the administration of President Barack Obama get in return? They get called anti-Israel, Arabist anti-Semites. Oh, and the other requirement is that whenever a public figure says the word “Israel” out loud, they are required to also include the boilerplate statement “we support Israel’s right to defend itself and protect its security interests by whichever means it sees fit…” or something along those lines. Because if they don’t say something along those lines, the AIPAC mobs will start screaming “anti-Israel!” from their perch on the NYT editorial page.

The truly pathetic part of all this? This is how it plays out year after year after year after year….and there is no end in sight.

$1 Billion a Year For Each al Qaeda member in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, Economy, Foreign Policy, Mainstream Media, News, Politics on June 28, 2010 at 8:18 pm

The mainstream media likes to complain about the unruly, unwashed hacks which make up the blogosphere, but I think that is largely a result of envy. Many bloggers are just better at doing a MSM “journalist’s” job than the MSM is. Take Emptywheel for example and just imagine what would happen if Jake Tapper or that useless David Gregory would ask Panetta, Obama, Biden, Gates or Clinton about this:

Think Progress does the math on Panetta’s admission that there are just 100 al Qaeda members in Afghanistan, and discovers we’ve got 1,000 American troops in Afghanistan for each al Qaeda member.

The U.S. has committed nearly 100,000 troops to the mission in Afghanistan. ABC This Week host Jake Tapper asked CIA Director Leon Panetta how big is the al Qaeda threat that the soldiers are combating:

TAPPER: How many Al Qaeda, do you think, are in Afghanistan?

PANETTA: I think the estimate on the number of Al Qaeda is actually relatively small. I think at most, we’re looking at 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity. There’s no question that the main location of Al Qaeda is in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

[snip]

Now let me add to their math. Even Afghan war fans admit that it costs $1 million a year–on top of things like salary–to support a US service member in Afghanistan.

[snip]

So 1,000 US troops per al Qaeda member, at a cost of $1 million each. That’s $1 billion a year we spend for each al Qaeda member to fight our war in Afghanistan.

How do you think the Obama administration would be able to justify to the U.S. taxpayer continuing on with its failed Afghanistan policy if asked about the cost per soldier or per member of al Qaeda? Answer- they wouldn’t be able to. But first it would take some sparky, committed member of the Washington press corp to ask such a question and that would never happen because it would involve the risk of upsetting the cozy relationship the press has with the powerful elites which it is supposed to be holding accountable.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

[MCXF6EPWFRE8]

CIA Chief Panetta: Iran could have 2 nukes in 2 years. Again.

In Foreign Policy, Iran, Israel, Mainstream Media, Neocons, News, Politics on June 27, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Gee, where have I heard this before?

“In an EXCLUSIVE interview on “This Week,” CIA Director Leon Panetta said if the Iranians chose to pursue making a nuclear weapon, they could have a bomb in two years.

In Iran, “there is a continuing debate right now about whether or not they ought to proceed with a bomb. But they clearly are developing their nuclear capability and that raises concerns,” Panetta said. “Just exactly what are their intentions?”

“We think they have enough low-enriched uranium right now for two weapons,” the CIA Chief said. “They do have to enrich it fully to get there. And we would estimate if they made that decision, it probably would take a year to get there. Probably take another year to develop the kind of weapon delivery system in order to make that viable,” he told host Jake Tapper.”[emphasis added]

So, where have we heard this before? Here:

“Iran is the center of terrorism, fundamentalism and subversion and is in my view more dangerous than Nazism, because Hitler did not possess a nuclear bomb, whereas the Iranians are trying to perfect a nuclear option.”

Benjamin Netanyahu 2009? Try again. These words were in fact uttered by another Israeli prime minister (and now Israeli president), Shimon Peres, in 1996. Four years earlier, in 1992, he’d predicted that Iran would have a nuclear bomb by 1999.

You can’t accuse the Israelis of not crying wolf. Ehud Barak, now defense minister, said in 1996 that Iran would be producing nuclear weapons by 2004.

[snip]

The issue today is Iran and, more precisely, what President Barack Obama will make of Netanyahu’s prescription that, the economy aside, Obama’s great mission is “preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons” — an eventuality newly inscribed on Israeli calendars as “months” away.

[snip]

Israel’s nuclear warheads, whose function is presumably deterrence of precisely powers like Iran, go unmentioned, of course.

Netanyahu also makes the grotesque claim that the terrible loss of life in the Iran-Iraq war (started by Iraq) “didn’t sear a terrible wound into the Iranian consciousness.” It did just that, which is why Iran’s younger generation seeks reform but not upheaval; and why the country as a whole prizes stability over military adventure.

Arab states, Netanyahu suggests, “fervently hope” that America will, if necessary, use “military power” to stop Iran going nuclear. My recent conversations, including with senior Saudi officials, suggest that’s wrong and the longstanding Israeli attempt to convince Arab states that Iran, not Israel, is their true enemy will fail again.

What’s going on here? Israel, as it has for nearly two decades, is trying to lock in American support and avoid any disadvantageous change in the Middle Eastern balance of power, now overwhelmingly tilted in Jerusalem’s favor, by portraying Iran as a monstrous pariah state bent on imminent nuclear war…

So, how many times is Iran going to get nukes in two years? We’ve been saying this for over a decade. But hey, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good headline. Wouldn’t it have been nice if Jake Tapper had asked Panetta about how the US and Israel have been saying this repeatedly and yet, here we are in 2010 and we’re still just TWO SHORT YEARS AWAY from Iran getting nukes.

Oh, and no mention of the other nuclear power in the region, right? Because that has nothing to do with anything, right? If the point of Israel’s nuclear arsenal is deterrence, then apparently it’s not working if they are claiming every five minutes that within two short years, Iran will have the capability to use nuclear weapons against them.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Frank Rich Nails It: Obama is Naive, if Not Totally Clueless

In Foreign Policy, Mainstream Media, News, Politics on June 27, 2010 at 12:28 pm

But the question is, will they learn from the events of the last several weeks? It’s not often that I cite with approval a NYT editorial, but this one is right on the money:

What we saw was this: 1) Much of the Beltway establishment was blindsided by Michael Hastings’s scoop, an impressive feat of journalism by a Washington outsider who seemed to know more about what was going on in Washington than most insiders did; 2) Obama’s failure to fire McChrystal months ago for both his arrogance and incompetence was a grievous mistake that illuminates a wider management shortfall at the White House; 3) The present strategy has produced no progress in this nearly nine-year-old war, even as the monthly coalition body count has just reached a new high.

If we and the president don’t absorb these revelations and learn from them, the salutary effects of the drama’s denouement, however triumphant for Obama in the short run, will be for naught.

There were few laughs in the 36 hours of tumult, but Jon Stewart captured them with a montage of cable-news talking heads expressing repeated shock that an interloper from a rock ’n’ roll magazine could gain access to the war command and induce it to speak with self-immolating candor. Politico theorized that Hastings had pulled off his impertinent coup because he was a freelance journalist rather than a beat reporter, and so could risk “burning bridges by publishing many of McChrystal’s remarks.”

[snip]

Symbolically enough, Hastings was reporting his McChrystal story abroad just as Beltway media heavies and their most bold-faced subjects were dressing up for the annual White House correspondents’ dinner. Rolling Stone has never bought a table or thrown an afterparty for that bacchanal, and it has not even had a Washington bureau since the mid-1970s. Yet the magazine has not only chronicled the McChrystal implosion — and relentlessly tracked the administration’s connections to the “vampire squid” of Goldman Sachs — but has also exposed the shoddy management of the Obama Interior Department. As it happens, the issue of Rolling Stone with the Hastings story also contains a second installment of Tim Dickinson’s devastating dissection of the Ken Salazar cohort, this time detailing how its lax regulation could soon lead to an even uglier repeat of the Gulf of Mexico fiasco when BP and Shell commence offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

The Interior Department follies will end promptly only if Obama has learned the lessons of the attenuated McChrystal debacle. Lesson No. 1 should be to revisit some of his initial hiring decisions. The general’s significant role in the Pentagon’s politically motivated cover-up of Pat Tillman’s friendly-fire death in 2004 should have been disqualifying from the start. The official investigation into that scandal — finding that McChrystal peddled “inaccurate and misleading assertions” — was unambiguous and damning.

Once made the top commander in Afghanistan, the general was kept on long past his expiration date. He should have been cashiered after he took his first public shot at Joe Biden during a London speaking appearance last October. That’s when McChrystal said he would not support the vice president’s more limited war strategy, should the president choose it over his own. According to Jonathan Alter in his book “The Promise,” McChrystal’s London remarks also disclosed information from a C.I.A. report that the general “had no authority to declassify.” These weren’t his only offenses. McChrystal had gone on a showboating personal publicity tour that culminated with “60 Minutes” — even as his own histrionic Afghanistan recommendation somehow leaked to Bob Woodward, disrupting Obama’s war deliberations. The president was livid, Alter writes, but McChrystal was spared because of a White House consensus that he was naïve, not “out of control.”

We now know, thanks to Hastings, that the general was out of control and the White House was naïve. The price has been huge. The McChrystal cadre’s utter distaste for its civilian colleagues on the war team was an ipso facto death sentence for the general’s signature counterinsurgency strategy. You can’t engage in nation building without civilian partnership. As Rachel Maddow said last week of McChrystal, “the guy who was promoting and leading the counterinsurgency strategy has shown by his actions that even he doesn’t believe in it.”

This fundamental contradiction helps explain some of the war’s failures under McChrystal’s aborted command, including the inability to hold Marja (pop. 60,000), which he had vowed to secure in pure counterinsurgency fashion by rolling out a civilian “government in a box” after troops cleared it of the Taliban. Such is the general’s contempt for leadership outside his orbit that it extends even to our allies. The Hastings article opens with McChrystal mocking the French at a time when every ally’s every troop is a precious, dwindling commodity in Afghanistan.

[snip]

You have to wonder whether McChrystal’s defenders in Washington even read Hastings’s article past its inflammatory opening anecdotes. If so, they would have discovered that the day before the Marja offensive, the general’s good pal Hamid Karzai kept him waiting for hours so he could finish a nap before signing off on the biggest military operation of the year. Poor McChrystal was reduced to begging another official to wake the sleeping president so he could get on with the show.

The war, supported by a steadily declining minority of Americans, has no chance of regaining public favor unless President Obama can explain why American blood and treasure should be at the mercy of this napping Afghan president. Karzai stole an election, can’t provide a government in or out of a box, and has in recent months threatened to defect to the Taliban and accused American forces of staging rocket attacks on his national peace conference. Until last week, Obama’s only real ally in making his case was public apathy. Next to unemployment and the oil spill, Karzai and Afghanistan were but ticks on our body politic, even as the casualty toll passed 1,000. As a senior McChrystal adviser presciently told Hastings, “If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular.”


The more Obama talks about this war, the more he sounds like George W. Bush, who as we know, didn’t know what the fuck he was doing.

Fareed Zakaria Politely Points Out That John McCain is a Total Ass

In Foreign Policy, Iran, Mainstream Media, Neocons, News, Politics on June 20, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Do you remember way back when, there was a man named Senator John McCain who while quite conservative, would still stick to certain principles and would buck his own party, and in particular, the far right? Well, that guy is gone- he left sometime around 2005 and in 2008 he morphed into an embarrassingly predictable wingnut who repeated every neoconservative and far right talking point that his advisers could spoon feed him followed by a shot of Ensure.

McCain thinks regime change in Iran is a swell idea. Why does he think this? Because his knowledge of the geopolitical landscape of Iran is so finely tuned that he can make such a radical proposition? No. Remember, this is the guy who helped sell the Iraq War and sat back quietly while the administration tilted at windmills in Iraq while negligently allowing the Taliban to regain control of Afghanistan. It’s pretty safe to say John McCain doesn’t know, and doesn’t care, all that much about the politics of Iran. And thank God we have real journalists like Fareed Zakaria (as opposed to say, Wolf Blitzer) who are willing to point that out:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

%d bloggers like this: