Wednesday, October 31, 2012
News out of Syria today includes photos alleged by the militant leadership to be drones firing on targets in Aleppo. The UN has issued the following assessment: "there is credible evidence that Iran is supplying military support" to the al-Assad regime. The "military support" appears in released photos - drones made in Iran. There are photos taken this week in Aleppo showing an undamaged downed drone with a manual bearing the Iranian Ayatolleh's image on the cover. Meanwhile, diplomats continue to "bicker" - the word used by CNN - about what to do in Syria. This is not the first evidence of Iranian drone activity in the Middle East. Last week, an Iranian parliament member announced that Iran has photos of sensitive Israeii military installations taken by unmanned drones launched from Lebanon by Hezbollah. The drones were downed by Israel earlier this month. The Iranian lawmaker's claims are the latest boast from Teheran about purported advances its unmanned aircraft program. The Iranian Mehr news agency reported: "The pictures of forbidden sites taken and transmitted by this drone are now in our possession." The Iranian parliament's defense committee said Hezbollah is "definitely" equipped with more sophisticated drones, but gave no further details. Hezbollah "won't announce it as long as it doesn't see the need to do so....that's why we say we will respond to Israel inside (its) territory, should it take any action against us," said a former commander of the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has said the Ayub drone was manufactured in Iran and assembled in Lebanon. Last month it claimed to have started producing a long-range missile-carrying drone with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles). This means that most of the Middle East, including Israel, would be reachable by this drone that nearly doubles the range of previous drones produced by Iran, which has often used reverse engineering to copy downed military hardware. It is not clear whether the new drone contains reverse-engineered elements of an unmanned CIA aircraft that went down in eastern Iran last year. Iran said it has recovered data from the RQ-170 Sentinel and has claimed to be building its own replica. While none of these claims can be independently verified, dear readers, it is clear that Iran has undertaken a drone program that, along with its nuclear enrichment program, is meant to enhance its strategic position in the region. Israel is more and more the target of Iran's aggression and needs to be supported. The problem, however, is that President Obama has given the impression that he does not support Israel, thus giving Iran the sense that it can menace Israel with impunity. This only serves to further destabilize a region already balanced on the edge of chaos.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
The world watched in disbelief as Lower Mahatten in New York City and most of Atlantic coastal America from Connecticut to North Carolina was submerged in hurricane sea surges and historically high waves caused by Superstorm Sandy. We cannot do much...but as Mitt Romney said today while collecting packages for the victims, "I have learned in life that we do what we can." And I want to say thank you to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Yesterday, Mayor, you were the voice of America in crisis around the world. Your calm, practical, serious, determined and kind words spoke large of the spirit of New Yorkers and Americans. Thank you. I also want to offer a traditional prayer for protection from hurricanes - slightly amended - that we may all repeat for those still in trouble, frightened, cold and hungry. And where and as we can, let us help. Casey pops. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Prayer for protection from a hurricane....... O God, Master of this passing world, hear the humble voices of your children. The Sea of Galilee obeyed Your order and returned to its former quietude. You are still the Master of land and sea. We live in the shadow of a danger over which we have no control: the ocean, like a provoked and angry giant, has awakened from its seeming lethargy,overstepped its conventional boundaries, invaded our land, and spread chaos and disaster. During this hurricane disaster, we turn to You, O loving Father. Spare us from future tragedies, be with us as we recover from this disaster, and heal us through Your loving compassion with the passing of time. Amen.
Monday, October 29, 2012
President Obama has cancelled two campaign days to monitor Hurricane Sandy. Republican Mitt Romney's staff is sketching out contingency plans for the disaster bearing down in the form of the weather system approaching the East Coast. Romney planned to go forward with campaign rallies in the Midwest out of the storm's path on Monday. He started his Monday campaign stops with calls for prayers and Red Cross support for those caught up in the storm's path. He told affected supporters to bring in their yard signs so they don't damage property and encouraged donations to the Red Cross. In midair Monday morning, the White House announced that Tuesday's trip to Green Bay, Wiscondin, was off. The President planned to convene a video conference in the Situation Room with administration officials monitoring the storm's path and running the response. He also made a statement to news organizations at midday Monday from the White House Press Room. By dawn Monday, the White House had decided to call off the campaign stops scheduled by the President, already in Florida because he left Sunday evening to avoid the hurricane, and to head back to Washington. Air Force One landed in a driving rain that forced Obama to return to the White House by motorcade instead of helicopter. He hoped to get back to Washington "...to oversee the hurricane effort and to be updated on it." We have already seen the media jump on the Obama bandwagon, saying that the crisis gives the President a chance to enhance his re-election chances, and to be seen as "Commander-in-Chief" in charge of the national catastrophe. Excuse me, media, but I do not believe that there are Taliban or al-Qaida operatives flying in on the winds of Hurricane Sandy. There is no occasion for Obama to be seen as the Commander-in-Chief. What he is doing is making the best political hay out of the storm-blown chaf of a national crisis that should call forth the national unity that is the antithesis of political gaming. Further, the photo ops provided by the President visiting FEMA, the federal agency charged with helping local agencies in time of natural or man-made crises, as well as the photos emanating from the White House Situation Room, are almost ludicrous. It is the governors of the states affected, in cooperation with mayors and other local units and their state national guard, who lead the effort against Hurricane Sandy. It is they who ask for help from FEMA, as they see fit. It is state and local police and rescue groups that are on the ground trying to prevent deaths and property damage. So, Mr. Obama, turn on your TV and get your updates. -- but do not pretend to be in charge of anything related to Hurricane Sandy. If you are lucky, you will not be held unjustly accountable for all of Sandy's unexpected assaults - even if you took delight in unjustly blaming Mr. Bush for Katrina. If you keep your head down and let those responsible do their jobs, you just might escape with your re-election hopes no more damaged than they already are. Do not presume to ask us for anything more.
Saturday, October 27, 2012
This has been a week in which the Democrats and their presidential candidate, Barack Obama, have turned more and more to personal slurs and rarely funny efforts at comic lines to counterattack against a Romney train that has left the station and threatens to toss both Obama and many of his Democrat Party Congress members out on November 6. The week started with the sad spectacle of a sitting American President resorting to putting profanity into the mouths of children to describe his opponent. This is a new low in US political history and shows, more than anything else, both the desperation and the hidden but true character of the man elected in 2008. Yesterday, Obama said that he would "wash John Boehner's car" or "walk Mitch McConnell's dog" if it would help complete an elusive deal to cut future deficits by trillions of dollars. Just one more piece of evidence that Mr. Obama does not, and has never, understood the nature of the office of President - so it should not be surprising that he did not, and does not, realize that what was required to solve the deficit and budget problems was not either walking dogs or washing cars - it was simply a matter of assuming his role as President. It was he who should have called Congress to order. It was he who should have worked the leadership on both sides of the political aisle into a coalition capable of addressing the fiscal crisis with reason and maturity. It was Barak Obama, not John Boehner or Mitch NcConnell, who failed to do his job. Both Boehner and McConnell marshalled their GOP troops and presented plans to both the President and the Democrat-controlled Senate. Where was the President's plan -- there was none. Where was Harry Reid's Democrat Senate plan -- there was none. AND, dear readers, that is the history of the Obama presidency. They had no plans, no organization, no party discipline, no understanding of the job they were constitutionally charged to do. They failed on every occasion. And so now, still without ideas, they are trying to blame Mitt Romney and the GOP for their own failures by resorting to name-calling and profanity. The decent thing to do is to put them out of their offices...and America out of its misery...on November 6.
Friday, October 26, 2012
A suicide bomber killed 41 people outside a mosque as prayers for the holiday of Eid in the town of Maymana, capital of northern Faryab province, located 500 kilometers (300 miles) northwest of the capital, Kabul. The Taliban and allied militant groups have been active in the province far from their traditional strongholds in southern and eastern Afghanistan. Government officials, military and police had gathered in the mosque to celebrate the holiday. The blast went off in a large crowd that included police and soldiers waiting for the dignitaries to leave the mosque. Nobody inside the mosque was reported hurt. The carnage was scattered on the street where bodies of soldiers and policemen lay next to their vehicles. Injured civilians were lying along the mosque's outer wall. Friday's bombing took place while Afghan President Hamid Karzai was taping his Eid al-Adha televised message to the nation, in which he urged Taliban insurgents "to stop killing other Afghans" and "stop the destruction of our mosques, hospitals and schools. There was also a message from Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, urging his fighters to "pay full attention to the prevention of civilian casualties" because he said the enemy was trying to blame them on the insurgents. Taliban attacks account for a large majority of civilian casualties in the war, according to the UN. Particularly noticeable is the high number of deaths of Afghan police and soldiers this year, according army spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zaher Azimi. Although the Taliban have claimed responsibility for a sharp increase in attacks by Afghan servicemen on their foreign colleagues, the overall number of coalition deaths has been noticeably lower than last year. Sectarian attacks are also appearing. Last December in Kabul, 56 Shiite Muslim worshippers were killed and 160 wounded. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Pakistan-based Sunni Muslim group, claimed responsibility. responsibility. Also, more than 35 people were wounded in an attack on a mosque in Nangarhar province that targeted a district chief as he and a group of people were heading from the mosque to a cemetery. The district chief survived but his son was killed. NATO plans to withdraw its 100,000 troops from the country by the end of 2014, leaving security in the hands of the 352,000-strong Afghan army and police. There are serious questions about the ability of the newly trained security forces to stop the insurgency, which even the US-led coalition has not been able to stamp out. On Friday, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the deaths of two American service members in southern Uruzgan province this week. A member of the Afghan security forces shot the two men and then escaped to join the insurgents. Maj. Lori Hodge, spokeswoman for US forces in Afghanistan, said Thursday that authorities were trying to determine whether the latest attacker was imbedded in the Afghan security forces or an insurgent who donned a government uniform. Earlier, British service members and an Afghan policeman were gunned down in Helmand province. Before Thursday's assault, 53 foreigners attached to the US-led coalition had been killed in attacks by Afghan soldiers or police this year. Dear readers, it is perhaps the correct policy to make Afghans responsible for their own security, but these recent Taliban attacks seem to be the beginning of a ferocious war to try to take over Afghanistan once again. They have, as all reasonable observers already suspected, been lying in wait for the coalition to withdraw. The Taliban now see their window of opportunity opening and the level of violence can only continue to rise. While it was a mistake to broadcast the exact date of the withdrawal, the harm has been done. It is now time for the UN and the coalition to face up to their responsibilities toward the Afghan people, who will pay dearly for the badly mismanaged exit.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Dear readers, I've put off writing about the scandal surrounding Lance Armstrong because - frankly - I don't know I feel.about it. When the UCI accepted sanctions imposed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and did not appeal them to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, it was clear that Armstrong would be stripped of his 7 Tour de France titles and be disgraced and cast out of the cycling world. Even his 2000 Olympic bronze medal came into question. But reality forced itself onto the scene when the head of the UCI announced: "For us, very clearly, the titles [Armstrong's 7 Tour titles,1999-2005] should remain blank. Effectively, we wish for these years to remain without winners [because doping was so rampant]." This is the cycling dilemma...drugs are everywhere and no one has found the key to eliminating them. Now, I knew nothing about cycling until I met my husband, a great fan. He patiently taught me the details I needed to become a fan, too. And part of his experience related to the history of the use of drugs. He said that before EPO there were steroids and before that amphetamines and before that alcohol. It was an open secret. The problem is, especially for the grueling Tour de France, cyclists are expected to perform superhuman feats for 3500-4000 kilometers in 21 days with 3 days rest. How? Depends on the epoch you're talking about. I don't condone drug use in sports, but perhaps it is as inevitable as wet suits for swimmers and Big Bertha golf clubs. And in Europe, where cycling is a major sport, families actually take vacation time, load the family into a camper and follow the Tour for a week. The TV (at least 3-4 hours a day with special review programs every evening) coverage and following is enormous...because it isn't only watching the men climb mountains on bikes, it is the aerial panoramas of the beautiful countryside and mountain tops and quaint villages nestled in out of the way places that the Tour visits - with a different route selected and announced soon after the last Tour ends...to give people a chance to arrange their vacations and find hotel rooms. So the Tour de France is a major event by any measure...the European equivalent of the Super Bowl...but one played every day for three weeks. So, I suppose my position would be -- clean up the sport, do it efficiently but quietly, do not let heros become ogres after the fact because it serves no real purpose, and try to find a way to help professional cyclists survive physically the demands if the Tour without destroying their health and bodies and without expecting them to be masculine Mother Teresas.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Fox News has publishrd a series of internal State Department emails showing that on-site US officials reported within hours of last month's deadly Benghazi consulate attack that the al Qaida affiliate, Ansar al-Sharia, had already claimed responsibility. The emails provide the most detailed information yet about what officials knew in the initial hours after the attack. Tbe emails also clearly raise questions about why Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the UN, claimed five days later that it was a "spontaneous" reaction to an anti-Islam film. A member of the group suspected of participating in the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi has been arrested and is being held in Tunisia, but Fox News reported earlier that American officials have been denied access to the suspect. The emails obtained by Fox News were sent by the State Department to a group of national security groups, including the White House Situation Room, the Pentagon, the FBI and the Director of National Intelligence. Fox News reports that an estimated 300 to 400 national security figures received the emails in real time as the raid was ongoing. The timestamps on the emails are all US Eastern Time and often include the subheading SBU, shorthand for"Sensitive But Unclassified." The first email indicates that U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and other personnel were "in the compound safe haven." Officials later discovered that Stevens and three other Americans had died in the attack. According to the Fox News timeline: (1) The first email was sent at 4:05 p.m. ET with the subject line: "U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi Under Attack (SBU).""The Regional Security Officer reports the diplomatic mission is under attack,....Embassy Tripoli reports approximately 20 armed people fired shots... explosions have been heard as well... Ambassador Stevens, who is currently in Benghazi, and four COM personnel are in the compound safe haven. The 17th of February militia is providing security support. The operations Center will provide updates as available." (2) The second email came at 4:54 p.m. ET, with a subject line: "Update 1: U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi (SBU)""Embassy Tripoli reports the firing at the U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi has stopped and the compound has been cleared. A response team is on site attempting to locate COM personnel." (3) The third email came at 6:07 p.m. ET and was sent to a different email list but still included the White House Situation Room address and a subject line of "Update 2: Ansar al-Sharia Claims Responsibility for Benghazi Attack (SBU).""Embassy Tripoli reports the group claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter and has called for an attack on Embassy Tripoli." These emails on the day of the attack challenge not only the initial statements made by the White House and the State Department, including UN Ambassador Rice, but also recent claims that they were basing the early statements on the intelligence they had at the time. For example, State Department official Patrick Kennedy recently testified to Congress that anyone in Rice's position would have made the same statements about the attack being spontaneous. The newly uncovered emails contradict these Obama administration positions, clearly showing the involvement of a militant group whose agenda is to establish an Islamic state in eastern Libya. Despite this, White House Press Secretary Carney recently said: "Based on information that we -- our initial information ... we saw no evidence to back up claims by others that this was a preplanned or premeditated attack;...we saw evidence that it was sparked by the reaction to this video." Carney went on to say "that is what we know" based on"concrete evidence, not supposition." Dear readers, we now have clear evidence of either a deliberate attempt to mislead the American people for political presidential election purposes...or...the muddling incompetence of a White House and State Department who had no idea how to deal with the Benghazi consulate attack - probably having had, prior to the attack, no idea how to provide adequate security in an especially dangerous diplomatic station - but who are in either case responsible for the asassination of Ambassador Chris Stevens and his 3 colleagues. It is time to strip the veil from this unusually despicable action and assess blame and punishment.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Last night's third and final US presidential debate was one too many. At least for me. The topic was foreign affairs but the two candidates turned the questions around to the domestic US economy as often as possible. And since we had already listened to three hours of economic debate, it was boring to hear it all again - repartee laden with statistics but more often an effort of President Obama to turn Governor Rommey's economic experience and savvy into a simplistic summary of reducing taxes for high income Americans. Boring. Perhaps we should have known that Romney would be conservative, displaying a calm reason that would assure Americans that he can handle the foreign affairs dossier without becoming a frightening warmonger. But, given Romney's character - steady, unflappable, reasonable, kindness itself - we knew all along that his goal in becoming President had nothing to do with getting his trigger finger on the red button. President Obama, on the other hand, painted a wildly inaccurate picture of a President who has majestically ruled the world for the past four years. One only needed to ask why there is no universal Pax Americana to show for it. But Mitt Romney never asked that one crucial, Obama-demolishing question. Just as he never asked why Obama still thinks that words, no matter how eloquent, can ever replace action in aid of the Syrian people. Just as he agreed with a failed Obama Afghanistan-Pakistan policy that has left American troops on the ground hostage to Taliban infiltrators. Just as he never mentioned the slain American Ambassador, Chris Stevens, whose tragically predictable assassination is the very embodiment of the failed Obama policy in Arab Spring nations. Just as he never pointed out that America has abandoned its European leadership role, leaving a valiant France alone to articulate and defend the West's values against an al-Qaida resurgent because of Barak Obama's failure to follow through on the Bush era pro-active attack. What were you thinking, Governor Romney? We know that your economic policy will be robust, that it will bring America back from the edge of the abyss that Obama has led us to. But, we also need a robust foreign policy, one clearly founded on an America economically strong, but one based on leadership, not the silent absentee non-leadership of the world that Barak Obama's foreign policy has become. In the days that remain, Governor Romney, please reassure America and the world that you understand this critical concept and will follow through on it.
Monday, October 22, 2012
Lebanon and Mali. Two countries with very different economc and political histories and levels of recognition by the world. So, why should Lebanon and Mali share the same blog. For several important reasons -- both are Muslim countries with substantial minorities (sunnis, shiites, Christians), both have a history of weak to non-existent governments, both are the crossroad for regional powers (Lebanon in the Syria-Iran effort to rule the Middle East and Mali in the always volatile West African Maghreb), both are rife with terrorist group activity, and perhaps most important, both are historically French in language, politics and cultural background. We can see this today in Mali as France, alone among western powers, is assuming an increasingly important role in Mali's northeast Sahel region. Unnamed sources in Paris say that France held secret talks with US officials in Paris on Monday, in a French effort to organize international military action to help Mali's weak government win back the northern part of the country from al-Qaida-linked rebels. France and the UN have stated that any invasion of Mali's north must be led by African troops. But France has six hostages in Mali and French citizens are reported to have joined al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and therefore France must take an increasing role in Mali. Many in the West fear that northeast Mali and the Sahel srmi-desert could become the new Afghanistan, a no-man's-land where Islamists can train, impose charia law and plot terror attacks. The same unnamed Paris source said that France will withdraw two surveillance drones from Afghanistan by year's end and put them in northeast Mali. The long and continuing French leadership in the Maghreb and the large number of Maghrebi residing in France, make it impossible for the French government to ignore what is happening in Mali and the French have an additional incentive - to keep the AQIM and its terrorist activities from taking root in France itself, a result that is a legitimate concern in France and Europe. Look at a map of North Africa,dear readers, and you will see how easy it would be to place AQIM operatives on French soil in much the same way that illegal Maghreb immigrants flow into Italy by boat in the thousands every summer. ~~~~~ At the same time that France is beginning what could be a slippery slide into long term military engagement in Mali, it must be intently watching events in Lebanon, a country whose capital, Beirut, is often called the Paris of the Middle East. Because simmering just below the surface in Lebanon are the same forces that devastated the country during its 1975-1995 civil war, with sectarian anger still dividing Muslims and Christians, sunni and shiites, and secular and fundamentalist political groups. Outside forces are still in place, militias are still armed and the country is still on the verge of tearing itself apart. The Friday car bomb assassination of Lebanon's intelligence chief is threatening to destroy the fragile political balance in Lebanon, a country plagued by strife and dominated politically and militarily by Syria. Armed gangs roamed Beirut streets on Monday as the Lebanese military dismantled roadblocks and set up check points with armored personnel carriers and machine guns. But, this time, as in Mali, the uneasy local political balance is being disrupted by a power game being played by Syria and Iran and their al-Qaida allies to win the immense prize of domination in the Middle East. The pro-Syria shiite Hezbollah may be in the process of becoming Iran's most important ally in the Uranian push to destabilize and conquer the Middle East. But Syria is a crucial supply route. Without it, Hezbollah will struggle to get money and weapons. So, Lebanon is more important as an extension of Iran's logistics base and as a home for Hezbollah than as a player that could make a difference in the Syrian civil war. If the Lebanon agitation becomes a battleground for jihadist terrorists, France would be hard pressed not to intervene. This would stretch France militarily along a terrorist fault line stretching from the westetn Mediterranean shores facing France to the doors of Iran.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Lebanon, the country on Syria's border that more than any other is enmeshrd in Syria power politics, felt the full force of Bashar al-Assad's murderous determination to remain in power or leave the Middle East in flames. A powerful car bomb exploded yesterday in the Christian section of Beirut, killing eight people including the country's intelligence chief, Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan. Lebanon's prime minister and the country's top Sunni cleric condemned the assassination, called the attack a "criminal explosion that targets Lebanon and its people..." and asked for self-restraint, saying "the criminal will get his punishment sooner or later." But many Lebanese were overwhelmed with anger, marching, setting up roadblocks and burning tires all over the country. The AP reported that dozens of people who marched in protest in the border town of Moqueibleh came under fire from the Syrian side of the border, forcing them to disperse. The prime minister said Saturday that the bomb attack is linked to al-Hassan's recent investigation, in which he exposed an alleged plot by Syria to unleash a campaign of bombings and assassinations to create chaos in Lebanon. Lebanon's fractious politics are closely entwined with Syria's. The countries share a web of political and sectarian ties and rivalries, and Lebanon is now trapped in the fallout from the civil war between Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces and rebels seeking to overthrow the regime. This latest violence, attempting to pit pro-Assad shiites against pro-rebel sunnis, could easily plunge Lebanon back into a dark cycle of bombings and murders that made the country notorious during the 1975-90 civil war. Many of Lebanon's sunni Muslims have backed Syria's mainly sunni rebels, while shiite Muslims have tended to back Assad. Al-Hassan was a sunni who was widely seen to oppose Syria and shiite Hezbollah, the country's most powerful ally in Lebanon, which with its coalition is the majority group in the Lebanon Cabinet. Lebanon has endured civil instability and sectatian fighting in the years since 1975 and only recently achieved a certain stability by granting Hezbolleh an important place in the government in exchange for civil peace. It would be a cruel twist of fate for the Lebanese people if, after bowing to Hezbolleh demands for power-sharing, al-Assad manages to destabilize Lebanon again. It would not only raise the specter of a new Lebanon civil war that could pull in Israel and other neighboring countries, but also deprive al-Assad of his most important ally in the country -- further proof that al-Assad and his regime will even destroy their own allies in their psychotic effort to remain in power.
Friday, October 19, 2012
General David Petraeus, former chief of US military operations in the Middle East and now head of the CIA, may be about to feel the heat of his first full blown Washington political affair. Petraeus testified ten days after the Benghazi terrorist attack that included the assassination of US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three of his aides to a closed door session of the congressional committee investigating the attack. Today we learned that the CIA Bebghazi station chief reported in a cable 24 hours after the attack that the attack was preplanned and carried out by militants. The cable reached Washington the next day. But for days, the Obama administration blamed the attack on a mob demonstration over an American-made video ridiculing Islam's Prophet Mohammad. It is not clear how widely the information from the CIA station chief was circulated. U.S. intelligence officials have said the information was just one of many widely conflicting accounts, which became clearer by the following week. But former CIA station chief Fred Rustmann Jr. says the White House would have been aware of it. "When things go down like that, there is no analysis in between," said Rustmann, who has separately accused the Obama administration of sharing too many details about the raid that killed bin Laden. "You report this raw information as you receive it in Sitrep (situation report) format, from the CIA station to concerned worldwide (CIA) stations and bases and to the White House, Pentagon and State Department." On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said a period of uncertainty typically follows attacks, "I think it is absolutely fair to say that everyone had the same intelligence. Everyone who spoke tried to give the information that they had." The issue has given Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney an opportunity to question Obama on foreign policy and national security, two areas that have received little attention in an election dominated by the U.S. economy. But GOP VP candidate Paul Ryan was teeing up the issue for next Monday's presidential debate on foreign policy, while Democrat President Obama says the attack is under investigation, and "the picture eventually gets filled in." Obama said that "the government is a big operation and at any given time something screws up,...and you make sure that you find out what's broken and you fix it." Democrats have spent the past week explaining the administration's handling of the attack. US Senator Diane Feinstein, a Democrat, put the blame on the director of national intelligence James Clapper. He "put out some speaking points on the initial intelligence assessment," Feinstein said in an interview with news channel CBS 5 in California. "I think that was possibly a mistake." The congressional committee is now trying to collect enough documentation from the US intelligence community and the Obama administration to determine what the intelligence community knew and when. It will then lay out an intelligence time line for the Benghazi attack and compare it to the information the Obama administration was giving to Congress and the American public at coinciding points on the time line. Enter General Petraeus, who at first told the congressional comittee that the attack was spontaneous although there were those in the intelligence community who disagreed. Later, he said that the attack possibly included terrorists but that there was insufficient evidence to show that terrorists preplanned it, or if they did, who was involved because names associated with the attack and intercepted in communication with al-Qaida in the Magreb around the time of the attack cannot be identified in video tapes of the attack itself. Later, earlier this week, the White House changed its story and said the attack was planned and carried out by terrorists. Genetal Petraeus will need to explain whether there was political cooperation between the CIA and the White House. This seems rather unlikely to apply directly to Petraeus, given his cool relationship with Obama. But others in the intelligence community could be involved and it will be General Petraeus' job to sort it out.
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Dear Readers, there won't be a regular blog tonight but I have good news. My computer system has been repaired and I need a few hours to get it back in working order and clear the backlog of e-mails and system updates before I post my next blog tomorrow. We can look forward to a return to papagraphs, no more misspelled words and a better read for you. I want to thank all of you for being so loyal these past few weeks and staying with me through this messy period. And, although I don't have advertisements on my blog, I want to say a word about my smartphone. It's a Samsung that runs on Google. I've had it two years and it has always performed admirably. But recently, when I needed it every day for my blog, it never missed a beat. Thank you, Samsung, and thank you, Google. And thank you, dear readers. We'll be talking tomorrow. Have a super day and evening. Casey Pops
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Two down...one to go. Presidential debates, that is. And after last night, I'm really not looking forward to the third debate. Why? They're not debates. The debates, and last night's second one in particular, have become theatre....bad theatre. There are no serious exchanges of facts or opinions or programs. There are only crouching pauses by President Obama while Governor Romney talks, with the President waiting to pounce on the smallest factual mis-speak or to attack by suggesting that Mitt Romney is deliberately lying or providing misleading position summaries. Numbers and statistics become meaningless because they are systematically dismissed by the President as lies. And, while he is dismissing Romney's presentations, the President is not able to provide numbers or statistics to show that his term as President has been positive. He did not even argue with the following -- 23 million unemployed and under-employed Americans, 3.5 million more women unemployed today than when Obama was elected, middle class incomes shrunk by $4000/year during the last four years while health care costs have increased by $2500/year, 47 million Americans on food stamps, 1 in 6 Americans poor using government definitions of poverty, $6 trillion added to the national debt during Obama's term (1/3 of the entire national debt has been created by Obama), a $1 trillion budget deficit each year of Obama's term. President Obama's answer to that damning condemnation of his stewardship was: "we've been through some hard times the last four years." Now, dear readers, you know that I support Governor Romney. Last night did not change my position, rather it re-enforced it. Barak Obama may be glib, he may have a pleasant public demeanor, he may want to do good things for America. But the sad truth is that he has failed. Failed on every front. He has no explanation for his dismal failure during his first term and no program for doing better in a second term. Although I have heard no one talk about it today, Mr. Obama subconsciously admitted that he thinks he is finished when, in answer to a Romney question about the future, the President said: "People will say that when I was President..."
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Tonight's the night, dear readers...to borrow the title of Rod Stewart's song. The second debate. The experts and politicians have already said more than there really is to say about it. We have been subjected to state polls, national polls, compilations of national polls. What they all say - polls and experts and politicians alike - is that the presidential race is too close to call. Well...I just do not think so. I think the private campaign staff polls of both candidates are telling a tale of a Romney victory. And if I translate that into a guess about tonight's debate, I see two trends. First, Obama will depend less in facts and more on personal attack to try to shake Romney's confidence and calm. Second, Romney will stick with the facts and make Obama look like a pint-size version of Biden -- vicious, impolite, unworthy. Pint size because Biden has made a 40-year political career out of smearing the opposition, while Obama has been at it, on an elevated intellectual level, but smear tactics all the same, for only 10 years. And, let's be honest, Barak Obama is staring down the barrel of his first political defeat, a defeat that he has brought upon himself, not so much by what he did or didn't do as President but by his immense pride, a pride that led him to seek the presidency unprepared for the office. America knows that now. So does Mitt Romney, who will use it to his advantage tonight. And, more importantly, Barak Obama knows it, and no amount of prepping at Williamsburg can quickly restore the confidence of a man who is in the grip of his first encounter with the reality of life.
Monday, October 15, 2012
I'm watching a French film made in 1967 with episodes by three great French film makers, including Alain Rennais, and one Swiss, Jean-Luc Godard. Of course, America is in the film because after their defeat at Diem Bien Phu, the French passed the baton in Vietnam to the United States. The US was in Vietnam in the 1950s and, like France, their pride and power were engaged. And, whatever may separate France and America politically and culturally, one experience binds them tightly, although without words. Vietnam. Both countries, one after the other, came face to face with the intransigent determination of Marxist communism, Asian guerrilla warfare and nationalism. It was the French experience in Vietnam that made it thinkable for President de Gaulle to withdraw from Algeria. It is, even today, the collective memory that makes America hesitant to jump in anywhere...even in a situation as obvious as Syria. President Obama is probably not fully aware of the Vietnam roots in his Middle East policy. Only President Bush seemed to overcome the "Vietnam effect" and it cost him the visceral hatred of many Americans and most French, themselves unaware of what his aggressive policy in Iraq and the Middle East conjured up from their buried national psychic nightmare in Vietnam. And today, the people of Syria are paying the price for a war that occurred before most of them were born. But, the Middle East and Vietnam are very different. There were no insurmountable national interests at stake in Vietnam. There are in the Middle East - terrorist roots that threaten the entire world, the Suez Canal, nuclear capability in the hands of terrorists and the Iran that supports them, petroleim. And Europe and America have been engaged on their own soil...in New York City, Madrid, London, Paris...by terrorist attacks. But, a fundamental question was never answered in Vietnam -- how can non-local Great Powers assist those in non-western countries and regions to throw off non-majoritarian groups bound by a particular non-humaine philosophy without becoming occupying powers themselves. No one had ever answered this question. Not Alexander the Great. Not the Roman armies. Not the British Raj. But it is the basic question facing the West as it tries to save people in the Middle East from tyranny, protect Israel and stabilize an important human crossroads.
Saturday, October 13, 2012
The Nobel Peace Prize is is one of the five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel. The other Nobel prizes are awarded in Chemistry, Physics, Physiology or Medicine, and Literature. Since 1901, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded annually to those who have..."done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.". The 2012 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the European Union. The choice has caused a blizzard of criticism. And we can remember other controversial Peace Prize choices - Barak Obama and Yasser Arafat, to name two. For me, one of the problems with the EU as Peace laureate is the anonymity of the winner. Who will remember a face, name or specific world situation to associate with it? Nobody is my guess. Here are a few more of my thoughts: 1. The most often offered reason for giving a Peace Prize to the EU is that it has succeeded in ending European wars, a chronic state in Europe since the Roman armies left 1600 years ago. Perhaps wars were inevitable because of the many ethnic groups forced to be neighbors in a very small space - 350 million people, about the same number as in the US, in a territory much less than half as large. But while they were at war, Europeans did manage to save classical Greek and Roman values and institutions and develop them into what we now call western culture. So, we might well consider making the EU a special world cultural heritage area. But, I digress. War has ceased in Europe since WWII, but how much the Treaty of Rome that set up the first pan-Europe conmercial compact had to do with it is a real puzzle. What put Europe on its feet after WWII was the massive infusion of cash from America via the Marshall Plan. At the same time, the US got its arms around European defenses and military through the creation of NATO. And at the same time, the world came together, for better or worse, in the new United Nations, and Europeans, decimated by two world wars fought largely on their soil in the prior 50 years, were believers in peace through international checks and balances...they are still believers, perhaps more than any other area in the world. So, for me, the Peace Prize could better have been awarded to the UN or to George Marshall's family...or even to NATO, perhaps the worthiest of all if only the Nobel Committee had a little guts. 2. The French-German pact to prevent Germany from again attacking its neighbors is at the heart of the Treaty of Rome. The noble experiment has thus far worked. But if we look at the tension between Greece and Germany today - indeed if we consider Germany's isolated and generally unpopular position as the economic powerhouse of the EU - we may well ask how long the EU will hold together in its present format and whether Germany will finally realize that its current position is untenable for the mid and longer term. The EU is still an experiment. Power-wielding structures are almost non-existent. So, it will be another 50 years before we have the final vote on the EU. 3. While the Peace Prize is an honor and even an incentive for the EU to continue to try to create a truly stable and integrated Europe, my view is that 2012 was too soon. But since the 2012 Peace Prize is history, the least the EU bureaucrats - certainly the most developed of all EU institutions - could have the decency to do is give the million Euro prize money to Greece, which is after all the cradle of Europe. And I urge the Nobel Committee, if it really wants to reward European peacekeepers who work unceasingly for fraternity among nations, to consider the real peacemaker in Europe -- Switzerland.
Friday, October 12, 2012
There are two topics urgently demanding attention today -- the vice presidential debate and Syria, which are somewhat related. Vice President Joe Biden was a loudmouthed impolite nuisance last night, interferring as both Paul Ryan and the moderator tried to speak. He denied the publicized truth about America's diplomatic security situation and the assassination of American Ambassador Chris Stevens in the Benghazi terrorist attack. His sarcastic dismissive demeanor regarding Medicare would have merited expulsion from a team sport like football or soccer. And that President Obama later offered that Biden did a great job only makes it clear that the American President wants to win at any cost, including rudeness, inability to conform to agreed rules and lying about important issues.....Which brings me to Syria. During last night's debate, Joe Biden told America to calm down about Iran and defended the Obama policies in the Middle East, including Obama's hands off approach to the Syrian civil war. Well, today we learn that a third al-Assad regime air defense site was overrun by rebel forces. The news is that this time it was acknowledged that the raid was a joint effort of Syrian rebel forces and a little-known extremist group with links to al-Qaida. This means that sophisticated air defense technology and equipment may have fallen into al-Qaida hands. There is so far no confirmation of this. But it is interesting that the Syrian rebels gave two explanations for the attack and for the use of an extremist group -- 1. The rebels have asked for air defense support and equipment from the West, but America and the UN have refused, so the rebels are trying to develop their own capability by raiding al-Assad sites; and 2. Since the West refuses to provide ground support, the Syrian rebels must seek support from any source available and willing to help. That, as concisely put as one could ask for, is the result of the Obama Middle East policy....Syrian freedom fighters are being infiltrated by extremist groups; sensitive technology is now likely to fall into the hands of groups related to al-Qaida and we can expect chemical weapons to risk the same fate. And, just to remind ourselves, Iran is behind these groups and is now positioning itself to become the de-facto power in Syria, chemical weapons included. Talk about a failed policy...President Obama could you just run over one more time the logic behind your policy mess that has allowed this to happen.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power." Abraham Lincoln said that. And it is as true today as in 1860. I thought of the famous Lincoln saying last night when I was following the day's US presidential campaign news. In 2008, America handed almost unbridled power to Barak Obama. He handled it while he had a Democrat Congress and could force through his unpopular Obamacare health care overhaul. But things changed dramatically in 2010 when the Republicans won a majority in the House of Representatives, thus denying President Obama his unconstrained capacity to govern as he pleased. The failure of Obama was his inability to understand that the power game he had been playing was over. Instead of compromising to accomplish his program in a less than 100% way, Obama dug in his heels and refused to do business with the GOP-controlled House. The result was that nothing got done - no budget, no debt reduction, no tax policy revision, no job creation, nothing. That stalemate went on until the 2012 presidential campaign heated up. Then, when faced with a GOP that confronted him with his record consisting of nothing but the still unpopular Obamacare, President Obama made a conscious decision to blame his miserable record on President Bush and the 2010 GOP House. Let's just take a few of Obama's recent failures -- failure to lead in the Middle East, failure to take the moral high ground concerning the al-Assad regime genocide in Syria, failure to create a job policy to lift America out of its economic hole, failure to protect American diplomats in dangerous posts, failure to secure Afghanistan against a resurgent Taliban. And now, as Mitt Romney and the GOP point out these failures, the President has made another conscious choice. Instead of answering the charges, he is calling Mitt Romney a liar and spending his time on jokes about Big Bird. Oh yes. He also said "I had a bad night" when asked about his abysmal performance against Romney in the first presidential debate. "To test a man's character give him power" - and with power Obama enacted one, count them, one piece of major legislation...Obamacare, that his American electors opposed. "Most men can stand adversity" - as power slipped from his grasp, Obama refused to compromise with the Congress his American electors chose for him and blamed others for his own failures. And when things got really tough after the last debate, Obama resorted to character assassination against a man who is known for his upright character. Conclusion? Dear readers, I would say that Barak Obama has failed in both adversity and power positions. That is the reason, finally, why he is losing in the polls and at debates, and will continue to lose...on November 6th. Americans put high value on being a good winner AND a good loser. Obama has failed both tests.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Stacey Dash, a young American actress who happens to be Black, recently announced on her Twitter site that she is going to vote for Mitt Romney. She has been castigated and viciously attacked on Twitter for her opinion. She chose to appear on CNN's Piers Morgan to explain her choice. She said she had examined the two candidates and chose Romney because she prefers Romney's program and past record of success and because she is worried about four more years of President Obama. Her best explanation by far for everyone's right to vote for whomever they choose passed over Piers' head because he isn't American, but it should serve as a lesson to all of us. Stacey Dash said she chose Mitt Romney "not by the color of his skin but by the content of his character." Martin Luther King, I Have a Dream Speech on the Mall, Washington, April 28, 1963.
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a five-hour visit to Athens today, for the first time since the Greek debt crisis exploded onto the European scene three years ago. She received a hostile welcome from an estimated 50,000 largely peaceful protesters who oppose the severe austerity measures imposed on Greece as the price of providing the bailout that is saving her economy and position in the Eurozone. The Chancellor praised the current Greek government for covering "much of the ground" required for recovery. member of the eurozone....As partners, we are working hard to achieve that." As the largest bailout fund contributor, Germany is seen by many Greeks as the cause and enforcer of the austerity measures. Debt monitors from the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, known as the "troika", will soon deliver a report that will determine if Greece receives its next bailout payment, without which it will be bankrupt. Greece has implemented deep budget cuts and tax hikes, increased retirement ages and aided with private sector layoffs, and to date, Greece has received €240 billion ($310 billion) in bailout loans and has renegotiated a €110 billion bond repayment deal. Athens must enact further austerity measures worth €13.5 billion over the next two years to receive its next bailout payment - without which the government will run out of cash next month. But, dear readers, while today's protests were mostly peaceful, many Greeks are very skeptical about Merkel's and Germany's motives. They see even more severe hardship ahead and blame Germany and Merkel for insisting on such measures. The protests symbolize the deep rift enveloping Europe and the need for a complete overhaul of its fiscal compact and decision-making process. It will take more than the Chancellor repeating her desire to keep Greece in the Eurozone and urging political allies to refrain from public criticism of the Athens government. Some Greek and European politicians are now saying that Greece's departure from the common currency would not produce the economic shock that many fear. The real fear and barrier to European reform toward greater fiscal control and responsibility is the 1500-year-old fear of loss of culturally based nationhood. No European country is willing to surrender its political, economic and fiscal autonomy to a European council...no matter how it is stuctured. And with reason. The European Union is still an experiment and we are witnessing the first real test of its will to survive.
Monday, October 8, 2012
Newsmax reported today that US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, has severely criticized the State Department for arranging for one of its senior officials to meet with a Lebanese politician closely allied with the terrorist organization Hezbollah. Undersecretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman met in Washington on Monday with Lebanon's energy minister Gebran Bassil, who belongs to Lebanon’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), which is part of the alliance that controls Lebanon’s cabinet and includes Hezbollah, designated by the United States as a “foreign terrorist organization” (FTO). The group was created with Iran’s support after the 1979 Iranian revolution, and has been called by the State Department “the most technically-capable terrorist group in the world.” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Sherman and Bassil discussed the Syria situation and maritime energy disputes. Sherman also “raised our ongoing concern about Hezbollah’s actions, including its support for the Syrian regime, its role as a terrorist organization and a proxy for Iran, and its criminal activities in the international drug trade and money laundering,” Nuland added. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, chairman of the House Foreign Realtions Committee, described the Lebanese minister as “an open supporter of the Assad regime” in Syria “and the violent extremist group Hezbollah. The Representative said in a statement: “The fact that one the State Department’s highest ranking officials met with Bassil – one of Hezbollah’s most stalwart allies – is beyond indefensible. A supporter of Assad and Hezbollah should not be permitted to meet with U.S. officials. The administration chooses to meet with the likes of Bassil while giving the cold shoulder to our closest ally, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” referring to President Obama’s decision not to meet with Netanyahu on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in September after the Israeli leader had reportedly requested a meeting. Two Lebanese opposition parties also were unhappy about Bassil’s trip, CNS News reported. Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s mainly Sunni Future Movement and an allied Christian party, the Lebanese Forces, called the visit “provocative,” Lebanon’s Daily Star reported. “We warn of the serious implications since the Free Patriotic Movement is an ally of Hezbollah and the Syrian-Iranian axis,” the two parties said in a joint statement. The FTO designation makes it unlawful for any US citizen to knowingly provide a group with “material support or resources.” FTO members or representatives are also not allowed entry to the United States. Sherman’s meeting with Bassil came as Lebanese security officials reported the death of a Hezbollah commander and several fighters inside Syria. A Hezbollah newspaper reported that the commander, Ali Hussein Nassif, had been killed “while performing his jihadi duties.” Today, dear readers, several other related events occurred. First, CNN made a report on the newly elected governments in Arab Spring countries. The message was that these governments are weak and often unable to control events in their countries, but that they are at least somewhat supportive of America and have unanimously condemned the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi and the assassination of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans by jihadists, opening the door to the possibility that these new governments will be anti-jihadist. Also today, Mitt Romney gave his first major foreign policy speech at the Virginia Military Institute. Romney called for a stronger US foreign policy, support for friends in the Middle East and for their fair treatment of women and non-Muslins. Romney also stressed that America must support Israel and help actively in forging an Israel-Palestine peace. We have to wonder, dear readers, what our emerging Middle East friends must think when they support Anerica only to see America meet with Hezbollah. At the very least, they must be disappointed. The Romney approach, however, would both aid these newly emerging 'democracies' and insist on a tougher stance with our real enemies.
Saturday, October 6, 2012
French police today arrested 11 young jihadist terrorists in raids across the country. In one arrest in the northern city of Strasbourg, three police were injured by gunfire and responded, killing a 23-year-old described as a delinquant who had served 2 years in prison for drug trafficking. He then turned to radical Islam. The other young Frenchmen, all under 30, also sought out radical Islam. Their first attack was a grenade thrown into a Jewish grocery in a Paris suburb on 19 September, the day that Muslin protests started against a film that showed the Prophet in what Muslims called blasphemous images. The French police traced the group because of DNA found on the grenade. France has the largest Muslim population in Europe and is actively engaged in hunting down and eliminating jihadist cells on French territory. You can imagine, dear readers, how delicate a balancing act this is, especially when you consider that France also has a large Jewish population and that this latest cell had compiled a list of Jewish organizations in Paris with the presumed intent of attacking them as well. You may recall that earlier this year a jihadist gunned down Jewish school children and a rabbi in the south of France. What must be most troubling for France is that the man who killed the Jewish children, as well as those arrested today, are all native-born French citizens with no history of traveling to the Middle East for terrorist training. These are homegrown French terrorists. One can point out Great Britain as having the same "homegrown" jihadist problem. We can only guess that the United States has similar active jihadist cells.
Friday, October 5, 2012
I watched a TV program this afternoon about the American strategy for the Middle East - principally Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan - during the post-9/11 Bush presidency. There were the usual players in the program, American and Arab and Muslim. But the commentary, the participant/witnesses to the events, and indeed the documentary itself, were French. As you might imagine, if you recall the French leadership of the opposition at the UN Security Council meeting deciding whether to support the US Resolution to attack the Saddam Hussein Iraqi regime, the documentary was not favorable to the American strategy after 9/11. Nothing new there. But, the documentary included a clip of Donald Rumsfeld, while he was still Secretary of Defense, explaining why America took the offensive in the Middle East in going after al-Qaida and other terrorist groups. Rumsfeld said that the United States had been attacked once on its own soil and the goal was that it would never happen again. He then explained that for this to be assured, the only possible strategy was to go after the terrorists on their home ground and to destabilize them so badly that they would have little time or opportunity to plan a second attack in the US. Then came the magic word..."pre-emptive"...to describe this approach. Was it Rumsfeld's idea...or Vice President Cheney's...or the American military general staff's? I don't know. But what I do know is that it worked. Yes, the US spent vast sums of money, sacrificed many of its young men and women, and made many Muslim, European and Arab enemies. But, it worked. And for the past four years - since Barak Obama was elected President - we have seen that sense of pre-emption erode into "leading from behind" to describe the Obama approach to keeping America safe from terrorist attack. Rumsfeld - I've always thought of him as a genius with words and a brilliant tactician. But, military strategy? I always thought of Cheney in that role. Perhaps Rumsfeld was a strategist, too? Or THE military strategist? Could it be that Dick Cheney, behind the scenes, devoted himself to political strategy? That was, after all, his strong point. We may never know. But it will be interesting to see how much of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld era approach Mitt Romney takes to the presidential debate on foreign policy.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
What was most surprising about last night's debate between Mitt Romney and Barak Obama was not that Mitt Romney won. Anyone who knows anything at all about Romney knows that he is a consummate professional who takes pride in everything he does - not a selfish pride but pride based on his profound sense of service...to his family, his church, his businesses, Massachusetts when he was govetnor, the Olympics turnaround, wanting to be President so that he can serve. What was immensely surprising was Barak Obama's lack of respect - lack of respect for the office of the presidency, for his opponent in the debate, for the American people, finally lack of respect for himself. Obama's failure to take the debate seriously, his lack of preparation, his disdain for Romney, his refusal to listen to what Romney was actually saying and insisting that he knew better than Romney what Romney meant, his testiness at being exposed to anything so non-elite as a public debate. Even the most partisan of Democrat counsel, James Carville, had to say that Obama wasn't there, that he refused to engage. Last night Barak Obama proved his unsuitability for the job he holds. He proved that he does not understand leadership or courtesy or the importance of listening. Mitt Romney, a profoundly honorable man, did not attack. He did not point out Obama's refusal to engage. He did not even try to pull facts out of Obama - something that would not have been possible in any case because Obama came to Colorado unprepared with facts. Mitt Romney simply made his case and watched, like the rest of us, bemused at the discouraging, frightening spectacle of a President of the United States coming unglued.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
The situation on the Turkish-Syrian border today is dangerously incendiary. Syrian mortar shells fell on a Turkish border town, killing five people, including a mother and three children. Turkey retaliated, shelling Syrian targets. A second Turkish town received mortar fire from Syria, injuring eight. Syria has fired into Turkey before, but this is the first time Turkish citizens have been killed. Syria has apologized and says it is investigating the event, but Turkey and NATO say the Syrian attack was atrocious. General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Commander, said a few minutes ago on CNN that the Syrian shelling is a "deniable event," that is, it is an attack not easily pinpointed for the purpose of blame. General Clark said that if it was done by Syria to warn Turkey to back off its humanitarian efforts or to warn the West not to continue to interfere, it would make no difference if Syria apologized for public consumption because the real message was received. The General also said that becaise Iran is active in Syria and Lebanon and because Syria is "the soft underbelly of Iran,' any confrontation, although minor in itself, could spark a larger conflict. He warned that Russia should pay attention and think seriously about its own role as Syria's supporter. Dear readers, it is much too early to draw any conclusions about this breaking story, but it is not too early to remind the world that the al-Assad regime in Syria is a rogue state following a course that includes torture and murder of its own citizens in an effort to remain in power...it is daily increasing the instability of the Middle East, indoubtedly as the pawn of Iran, which continues to believe it would benefit from greater instability by increasing its presence all over the region. Much of this could have and should have been prevented by firm action by the United States, Europe and the UN. That we are still watching passively as deaths in the Syrian civil war pass 30,000 is shameful. That Turkey should be shelled is, in terms of al-Assad, the red line. Are you able to understand this, Secretary Clinton and President Obama?
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
The Obama administration has not learned Rule One for surviving in Washington: "Do not lie to Congress." But President Obams has sent his people to Congress several times to make representations before Congress that turned out to be lies. The gun sales and tracking into Mexico comes to mind because the US Attorney General is now facing a criminal judicial proceeding because of lying and using delaying tactics to avoid telling Congress the whole truth about the affair. A second major confrontation between President Obama and Congress is now taking shape. It involves security at the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and what Obama and the State Department knew and in what timeframes about the assassination of US Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi on 11 September. The Associated Press reported today that "American diplomats in Libya made repeated requests for increased security for the consulate in Benghazi and were turned down by officials in Washington." This is not really news but where it comes from is interesting. The leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee - Chairman Darrell Issa and Rep. Jason Chaffetz - said their information came from "individuals with direct knowledge of events in Libya" and the Committee has sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asking whether the level of security at the US mission met the security threat, and how the department responded to requests for more security. The letter says there were more than 50 security incidents at the Benghazi compound. Two of them involved explosive devices: a 6 June blast that blew a hole in the security perimeter described to the committee as "big enough for forty men to go through"; and a 6 April incident where two Libyans fired by a security contactor later threw a small explosive device over the consulate fence. The State Department has refused to answer questions about Benghazi security, but Clinton recently said, "...we do our very best to limit...risk by ensuring that our security protocols reflect the environments in which diplomats work and the threats that they are presented with." The basic question at issue between Congress and Obama is why the administration insisted for some time that Stevens was killed during a spontaneous demonstration when it was clear from the beginning that Stevens' assassination was a deliberate terrorist attack. Clinton discussed security on 18 September, saying that security at Benghazi included "...a unit of host government security forces, as well as a local guard force of the kind that we rely on in many places around the world." She said there was "...robust security presence inside the compound...And the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has said we had no actionable intelligence that an attack on our post in Benghazi was planned or imminent." However, Congressman Issa's letter included the following details: (1) unarmed Libyan guards at the consulate, employed by British contractor Blue Mountain Group, were warned by family members to quit their jobs because there were rumors of an impending attack 2 miles from the consulate between an unidentified armed group and forces loyal to the transitional government; (2) two Libyans fired from a contractor providing security at the consulate later threw a small explosive device over the consulate fence but there were no casualties; and (3) a June Facebook entry mentioned Stevens' early morning runs around Tripoli with members of his security detail. The page contained a threat against Stevens and a stock photo of him. Stevens stopped the runs for about a week, but then resumed. Everything is now in place for a Congress -White House confrontation. It seems clear that President Obama believes he can schmooze his way through the Benghazi affair. He and Secretary Clinton seem convinced that they can ease forward their story about the assassination of Ambassador Stevens often enough to prevent any actual "lying to Congress" to occur. They tried the same tactic in the Mexican gun sales affair and lost. I'm surprised that they are so unwise that they are willing to try it again in such a high-profile situation as the assassination of an American Ambassador.
Monday, October 1, 2012
It's presidential debate week in the US. President Barak Obama and Governor Mitt Romney will face off on Wednesday evening in Denver. The media and polls have been favoring Obama to win the election and believe that the best hope of Romney turning the polls around will be by doing well in the debates - a series of three that will end in late October. The first debate will focus on domestic issues -- the budget deficits and national debt, health care, tax policy, and energy independence should be on the menu. It is difficult to imagine Mr. Obama saying anything that will be unanswered by Mr.Romney. The Obama administration has never even passed a budget (not even in his first two years when his Democrat Party controlled both houses of Congress). Obama's suggestion on lowering the budget is to tax the top 1% of American taxpayers at a higher rate. This would increase tax income by about $40-80 billion per year at a time when budget deficits are at $1 trillion per year. Obama has said nothing about paying down the national debt except to blame Republicans...his favorite ploy when he has no answer for a failure of his team. Obama has never articulated a position or a proposal for revising the mare's nest that is US tax policy. So Romney should, if he decides to set out his ideas about revising US tax policy, have a clear win in this area. As for health care - the President's Obamacare was rejected by 60% of Americans when it was forced through Congress and it is now opposed by more than 50% (what % depends in which poll you believe). Obama has dragged his feet so often on energy - from no offshore drilling to no Canada-US pipelne - that anything Romney offers should be better. SO, dear readers, Mitt Romney should win the first debate. What he will need to do is speak clearly about his own ideas, remind Mr. Obama of his multiple failures as President, and hold his factual solid ground when Obama begins selling smokey hope and glory.