Saturday, November 30, 2013
The North Korean State Media claimed today that an elderly American Korean War veteran, detained while visiting the country in a group tour, has apologized for "crimes" during the Korean War and for "hostile acts" against the state during his current trip. North Korean authorities released video showing 85-year-old Merrill Newman, wearing glasses, a blue button-down shirt and tan trousers, reading his alleged apology, which was dated November 9, although this couldn't be independently confirmed. Pyongyang has been accused of previously coercing statements from detainees. There was no way to reach Newman and determine the circumstances of the alleged confession. But it was riddled with stilted English and grammatical errors, such as "I want not punish me." Newman reportedly wrote : "I have been guilty of a long list of indelible crimes against DPRK government and Korean people." Newman purportedly wrote the four-page statement, adding : "Please forgive me." The Democratic People's Republic of Korea has accused Newman of trying to contact men he trained during the Korean War and of bringing into the DPRK an e-book criticizing North Korea. The statement alleges that Newman says if he goes back to the US he will tell the truth about the country - a possible indication that Newman could be released. The apology can be seen as Pyongyang taking steps needed to release Newman, said Yoo Ho-Yeol, a professor of North Korea studies at Korea University in Seoul. North Korea likely issued the confession in the form of an apology to resolve Newman's case quickly without starting legal proceedings, Yoo said. North Korea is extremely sensitive about any criticism and regularly accuses Washington and Seoul of seeking to overthrow its authoritarian system through various means - claims that the US and South Korea dismiss. The State Department has repeatedly warned Americans about traveling to the country, citing the risk of arbitrary detention. North Korea has detained at least six Americans since 2009, including two journalists accused of trespassing and others, some of whom are of Korean ancestry, accused of spreading Christianity. Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary and tour operator, has been detained for more than a year. North Korea sees missionary work as a Western threat to its authoritarian government. Whatever the reasons behind the detention, it could hurt impoverished North Korea's efforts to encourage a growing tourism trade seen as a rare source of much-needed foreign currency. ~~~~~ Dear readers, some things require few words. This disgusting display of state terrorism aimed at a defenseless 85-year-old man, must remind all of us just how barbaric the North Korean regime is. First, all freedom-loving human beings should stop all non-official travel to North Korea immediately. This includes Dennis Rodman, who has been pandering to the Dear Leader's love of basketball to enhance his own personal access to world media. Second, while the US has not provided aid to North Korea since 2009 because of the DPRK refusal to stop its nuclear weapons program, Americans should contact their Congress members to demand that no aid distributed to North Korea by the UN should be paid for with US funds. Third, this dispicable act should remind all the world of the almost unimaginable dangers inherent in countries like North Korea and Iran possessing a nuclear arsenal.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Reuters and AP carried the same in-depth reports today - about top US military officers telling the Senate on Thursday that across-the-board sequestration defense budget cuts have seriously eroded the American military's preparedness. Their message was simple : the next round of reductions in 2014 will further reduce American military preparedness. To achieve the cuts that went into force last March, US military chiefs cut big-unit training for soldiers, curbed flying time for pilots and canceled regularly scheduled ship maintenance. "This is the lowest readiness level I've seen within our army since I've been serving for the last 37 years," General Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, told a Senate hearing : "I believe our challenge is much greater today than it has been since I've been in the Army." Odierno said only two Army brigade combat teams in the US have received the full training they would need to go to war. Even those in Afghanistan have undergone only the training to advise and assist local forces, rather than training for combined forces combat they might face elsewhere, he said. With the Iraq war over and the Afghanistan conflict winding down, the Pentagon has been told to pare its budget by $487 billion over the next decade. Congress and the White House, struggling to control the massive US deficit, also directed the Pentagon to slash an additional $500 billion in spending over a decade unless lawmakers could agree on alternative budget cuts and revenue increases. No deal was reached in the last negotiations and the first across-the-board reductions went into effect in March. Reuters quotes Lawrence Korb, a defense analyst at the Center for American Progress, as saying that the issue is not Pentagon base funding levels - about $500 billion in the fiscal year that started on October 1 - but the inflexible mechanism "that requires them to cut all items in the budget other than military personnel, by an equal amount." The generals appealed to the Senate Armed Services Committee for more flexibility to deal with the reductions, saying they could cope with the cuts if they had additional time. "Sequestration reduces our capability and capacity over time, but it doesn't break us," said General Mark Welsh, Air Force Chief of Staff. "The mechanism is what breaks us." Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations told lawmakers the Navy always has two aircraft carrier strike groups deployed overseas and a third one in the US fully trained and ready to respond to emergencies. The cuts make that increasingly difficult to do, Greenert said. With a carrier strike group in the Gulf, another in the western Pacific, and the carrier intended for emergency responses in the eastern Mediterranean because of concerns about Syria's chemical weapons use, Greenert told the Senate : "Consequently, because of fiscal limitations and the situation we're in, we don't have another strike group trained and ready to respond on short notice in case of a contingency,...We're tapped out." Further across-the-board cuts will force the Navy to halt the planned purchase of a Virginia-class submarine, a littoral combat ship and a forward staging base ship, he said. The Navy also would have to stop plans to buy 11 tactical aircraft. General Welsh said further cuts in 2014 would force the Air Force to curb flying hours to the point where within three or four months, many units "won't be able to maintain full mission readiness." ~~~~~ Jump to Iran. A top Iranian military leader announced Tuesday that Iran has developed “indigenous” ballistic missile technology, which could eventually allow it to fire a nuclear payload over great distances, estimated to be at least anywhere in the Middle East or Europe - and the American West Coast if launched from North Korea. Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the lieutenant commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), made the announcement just days after Iran and the West signed the nuclear deal. Salami claimed that “Iran is among the only three world countries enjoying an indigenous ballistic missile technology,” according to the state-run Fars News Agency. "Many countries may have access to cruise missiles technology, but when it comes to ballistic missiles, I am confident that only the US and the [former] Soviet Union could master this technology, and now we can announce that we own this technology as well,” Salami told Fars, adding that Iran is quickly developing advanced military know-how. “While we did not have any knowledge about drones, we have developed [N.B. : reverse engineered a downed US drone] and acquired drones that travel 2,000 kilometers, conduct their operations, and then land in our desirable regions,” according to Salami. Experts say Iran’s claim to ballistic missiles would be a major development for a country known to use its military machinery as a means of intimidating its regional neighbors. Former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said Iran’s ballistic missile announcement is no surprise : "Iran’s ballistic missile program has always been to provide the delivery vehicles nor nuclear warheads,...The timing of the IRGC announcement is no coincidence.” So, in classic white-hat-black-hat tradition, while Iranian President Rouhani and other officials celebrate the recently announced nuclear accord with the West, Teheran’s military leaders have taken a threatening hard line. Another IRGC leader said on Tuesday that Americans only understand “the language of force....The US has double standards towards social issues of nations and the language that Americans understands is the language of force,” according to General Ramezan Sharif, Head of the IRGC’s Public Relations Department. Sharif noted that US power is growing weaker every year : “The pillars of the US strength have become seriously shaky in the world, especially in the Middle-East.” Other Iranian military officials claim that Teheran no longer needs to import key weapons as they once did. Iranian Deputy Defense Minister Brigadier General Aboutaleb Shafaqat also commented on Tuesday : “Today, we are honored that we have been able to grow needless in the defense equipment sector with the help of our young scientists and thinkers and now we provide all the needs of the Armed Forces with the best quality.” Former Pentagon adviser Michael Rubin said that the US is not paying sufficient attention to Teheran’s military advancements : "Perhaps, [Secretary of State] John Kerry believes that Iran only wants ballistic missiles for peaceful purposes.” Rubin, author of Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes, added : “The fact of the matter is that Kerry and crew left both ballistic missiles and the nuclear warhead trigger experimentation at Parchin [military site] off-the-table” during talks in Geneva,...It’s the diplomatic equivalent of installing a burglar alarm system in your house but leaving the keys in the door.” ~~~~~ Dear readers, President Obama knows that Iran is advancing its ICBM and drone programs - unless the White House has quit giving the President a morning news briefing book. BUT, perhaps no one in the Obama administration knows what's going on in Iran. ITEM : when asked on Tuesday about a Monday report that Iran does not need to freeze its nuclear program until final details of the recently announced nuclear pact are hashed out, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the negotiated six-month nuclear enrichment freeze in the deal will not actually begin until Iran and western powers finalize the deal at a later date : “The next step here is a continuation of technical discussions at a working level so that we can essentially tee up the implementation of the agreement, so that would involve the P-5 plus one - a commission of their experts working with the Iranians and the” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Psaki said she did not know when the actual deal will be finalized and go into effect : “Obviously, once that’s - those technical discussions are worked through, I guess the clock would start.” Psaki said the US must put its faith in Iran to uphold the spirit of the deal in the interim : “In terms of what the Iranians are or aren’t doing, you know, obviously, our hope would be, given we are respecting the spirit of the agreement in pressing for sanctions not to be put in place and beginning the process of figuring out how to deliver on our end of the bargain, that the same would be coming from their end in the spirit of the - of the agreement." ~~~~~ Obama & Co. are playing fast and loose with America's security. Obama used sequestration as an excuse to curb the US military. Now he's signed a nuclear deal with Iran, listed as a terrorist state by the State Department, without including ICBM delivery programs - and relying on Iran's good faith. Will Congress please impeach this reckless President. While there is still a free-and-prepared America to save from Obama.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
When the 106 Calvinist Pilgrims landed in America, later named Plymouth, Massachusetts, in November1620, they conducted a prayer service, then began building shelters. Starvation and sickness during that first New England winter killed almost half of thrn, but with prayer, hard work, and the assistance of their Indian friends, the Pilgrims reaped a rich harvest in the summer of 1621. Most information about the Pilgrim Thanksgiving of 1621 comes from original handwritten accounts of the young colony’s leaders, Governor William Bradford wrote : “They begane now to gather in ye small harvest they had, and to fitte up their houses and dwellings against winter, being well recovered in health & strenght, and had all things in good plenty; for some were thus imployed in affairs abroad, others were excersised in fishing, aboute codd, & bass, & other fish, of which yey tooke good store, of which every family had their portion. All ye somer ther was no wante. And now begane to come in store of foule, as winter aproached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degree). And besids water foule, ther was great store of wild Turkies, of which they took many, besids venison, &c. Besids they had aboute a peck a meale a weeke to a person, or now since harvest, Indean corne to yt proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largly of their plenty hear to their freinds in England, which were not fained, but true reports.” W.B. (William Bradford). And Edward Winslow wrote : "...at which tine,...many of the Indians coming amongst vs, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoyt, with some nintie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed fiue Deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed upon our Governour, and upon the Captaine, and others. And although it be not alwayes so plentifull, as it was at this time with vs, yet by the goodneses of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.” E.W. (Edward Winslow) Plymouth, in New England, this 11th of December, 1621. ~~~~~ By the mid-1600s, the custom of Thanksgivings was established throughout New England and spread southward during the American Revolution, as the newly established Congress officially recognized the need to celebrate a day for giving thanks to God for His benefits. The first Thanksgiving Proclamation was issued by the Continental Congress on November 1, 1777. Written by Samuel Adams, it was one 360-word sentence, which read in part : “Forasmuch as it is the indispensable duty of all men to adore the superintending providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with gratitude their obligation to him for benefits received…together with penitent confession of their sins, whereby they had forfeited every favor; and their humble and earnest supplications that it may please God through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance…it is therefore recommended…to set apart Thursday the eighteenth day of December next, for solemn thanksgiving and praise, that with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feeling of their hearts and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine Benefactor… acknowledging with gratitude their obligations to Him for benefits received….To prosper the means of religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth ‘in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost’.” ~~~~~ It was 180 years after the 1621 Thanksgiving that the Founding Fathers officially recognized the day by proclamation of the Constitutional government. After adopting the Bill of Rights, a motion in Congress to proclaim a national day of thanksgiving was approved : Congressional Record, September 25, 1789. “Mr. [Elias] Boudinot (who was the President of Congress during the American Revolution) said he could not think of letting the congressional session pass over without offering an opportunity to all the citizens of the United States of joining with one voice in returning to Almighty God their sincere thanks for the many blessings He had poured down upon them. He offered the following resolution : Resolved, That a joint committee of both Houses be directed to wait upon the President of the United States to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with gratefu hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God….The resolution was carried in the affirmative.” This resolution was delivered to President George Washington, who issued the following proclamation : "A NATIONAL THANKSGIVING. Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me 'to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness' : Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the Beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us. And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplication to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our national government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best. Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, AD 1789. George Washington. ~~~~~ After 1815, there were no national thanksgiving proclamations until the Civi War, when Abraham Lincoln declared November 26, 1863, the last Thursday in November, a Day of Thanksgiving. In early July of 1863, there were 50,000 American casualties at the Battle of Gettysburg, and President Lincoln went to the battlefield in November to deliver the Gettysburg Address. Deeply moved by the sacrifice of the soldiers, President Lincoln issued a national thanksgiving proclamation which set in motion the national celebration of the modern Thanksgiving Day. For 75 years, the resolution was repeated by every President. And in 1939, Congress and President Roosevelt made Thanksgiving permanent. ~~~~~ Dear readers, when we study this history, we not only learn about the American custom of Thanksgiving, we also must realize just how fundamentally Christian the United States was until this foundation began to be chipped away in the last 50 years by small special interest groups aided by the courts. It is impossible to trace the history of Thanksgiving and continue to believe that the Founders meant to write a Constitution that suppressed Christianity. The Founders and their Constitution were profoundly Christian, as was America until the mid-20th century. While state and church were constitutionally separated, Christianity was meant to be the guiding ethos of America. That has not changed and the country would be healthier if Christian ethics were once again admitted into the fabric of America.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
It is interesting that at the same time that the US-Iran deal was being formalized in Geneva last weekend, China announced a larger perimeter to its maritime air defense zone. The announcement flies in the face of American-Chinese efforts to forge deeper ties needed to make East Asia more stable. Beijing's declaration has escalated its territorial dispute with US ally Japan over islands in the East China Sea controlled by Japan but claimed by China. At the center of the island dispute is the possibility of large natural resource deposits around the islands. The US responded to the Chinese announcement that included these islands in the zone by flying two unarmed B-52 bombers through the zone on a training mission Tuesday without informing Beijing, in what US officials said was a long-planned training mission. A Chinese Defense Ministry statement said China detected and monitored the bombers, adding that all aircraft flying through the zone would be monitored, but China made no mention of a threat to take "defensive emergency measures" against noncompliant aircraft that was included in the original announcement Saturday. The expanded Chinese air defense zone was rejected by Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. "China has the capability to exercise effective control over the relevant airspace," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a regularly scheduled briefing, noting the US incursion had been handled according to procedures laid out in the Saturday statement, but offering no specifics. Meantime, relations between America's core allies in the region, Japan and South Korea, have deteriorated. South Korea is bitter over Japan's attitude toward its colonial past and wants more contrition from Tokyo for Japan's use of Korean sex slaves in World War II. Bonnie Glaser, a China specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, expected US Vice President Joe Biden to raise these issues with civilian and military leaders in China on his Asian tour next week. She said that while countries have a right to declare such a zone - the US, South Korea and Japan all have them - there will be concern about how China would enforce it. "The question is how many times China will scramble their jets and against whom," Glaser said. ~~~~~ The Chinese action complicates the strategic picture for the Obama administration as it looks to advance its so-called "pivot to Asia," with the goal of strengthening not only its own alliances, but getting its partners in the region to collaborate more. Evans Revere, a former senior US diplomat and East Asia specialist, made the following comment to AP about the Chinese action : "That's the result of territorial disputes, historical issues, long-standing rivalries and the inability of countries to put history behind them and move forward in improving relations." To add to US problems in the region, there is the threat posed by an unpredictable North Korea. The deal the US concluded with Iran to temporarily freeze its nuclear program, after thirty years of animosity, is a stark reminder of the impasse in negotiations with Pyongyang. Unlike Iran, North Korea already has a nuclear bomb, and there's worrying evidence it is pressing ahead with weapons development. And Biden is going to visit Japan, South Korea and China as part of his tour because US Secretary of State John Kerry's primary focus is on the Mideast for the foreseeable future as he works on the difficult goals of an end to Syria's civil war, peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran after the current pact expires in six months. ~~~~~ In addition, US domestic problems have contributed to the sense in the region that Asia is a secondary concern to the administration. Obama felt compelled to cancel an Asian trip in October because of a partial US government shutdown and the threat of a debt default. His travel schedule now includes a trip to Asia in April. Obama made Asia a priority in 2009 and he has been particularly active in engaging China. Lacking the ability, or inclination, to forge personal relationshios with foreign leaders, Obama did seek to create a relationship with new Chinese leader Xi Jinping when he met him in June at a California resort, as part of what is regarded as the Obama strategy to promote cooperation between the world's two largest economies and prevent conflict in the Asia-Pacific Rim. But China's declaration of its East China Sea air defense zone will be viewed as a set back. ~~~~~ Dear readers, even if we give President Obama the benefit of putting his Middle East non-support-for-allies strategy in the best possible light, we are compelled to acknowledge that when any part of the world is abandoned by America, the entire world responds. If the United States is not the leader of the entire world, it risks creating a world in which there is no leadership - a world in which aggressive countries will seek to fill the vacuum with their own desire for regional or world dominance. The latest Chinese action is a very small step in that direction. And China is well-known for pushing aggressively until someone says 'Stop.' This time, the US seems to be stepping up to its responsibility. But when the day comes that North Korea pushes with an Iranian nuclear-armed ICBM, it will be too late for pushing back. The only way to prevent that day from arriving is to stop Iran's nuclear program. Stop it totally. Stop it before it can arm North Korea or any other rogue state friend of Iran.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
"We have suffered a total and unmitigated defeat ... you will find that in a period of time which may be measured by years, but may be measured by months, Czechoslovakia will be engulfed in the Nazi régime. We are in the presence of a disaster of the first magnitude ... we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road ... we have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of Europe has been deranged, and that the terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies: "Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting". And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martia vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time." ~~~~~ This was the speech of Winston Churchill, still a member of the opposition, in the House of Commons after the Chamberlain agreement with Hitler, the Munich Agreement that ceded effective control of Czechoslovakia to Germany in 1938 and was seen by Hitler as the assurance he sought that the European powers would not interfere with his land grab accross central Europe. It led directly to the September 1, 1939, Nazi invasion of Poland and the beginning of World War Ii. ~~~~~ John Bolton, former American UN Ambassador, wrote in the Weekly Standard last Sunday that "the Obama administration feared an Israeli airstrike on Iran more than it feared Iran building a nuclear weapon, and that's why it pushed for a deal to reduce sanctions against Iran....Buying time for its own sake makes sense in some negotiating contexts, but the sub silentio objective here was to jerry-rig yet another argument to wield against Israel and its fateful decision whether or not to strike Iran,...Obama, fearing that strike more than an Iranian nuclear weapon, clearly needed greater international pressure on Jerusalem." Bolton wrote that he believes Israel knows it was the target of the Geneva negotiations that produced the deal early Sunday morning. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the deal a "historic mistake." Israel has repeatedly warned that Iran's nuclear goal is to obliterate the Jewish state and he has vowed to take action to prevent that from happening, as it has done by eliminating earlier nuclear programs in Iraq and Iran. Netanyahu has repeatedly said Israel has the right to act in its own defense : "The Iranian regime is committed to Israel’s destruction, and Israel has the right to defend itself, by itself," Netanyahu recently told his cabinet. "Israel won’t let Iran develop military nuclear capability." And, along with most observers, Bolton is certain that Iran will continue to move forward with its nuclear program in the shadows while the agreement signed Sunday is in effect. If Israel waits, according to Bolton, it will be more difficult to take effective action. "An Israeli strike during the six-month deal would doubtless spark outrage, but it would spark the same condemnation - if not more - later." He urged the Netanyahu government to not fall prey to "the psychological warfare successfully waged so far by the ayatollahs....An Israeli military strike is the only way to avoid Teheran’s otherwise inevitable march to nuclear weapons, and the proliferation that will surely follow," Bolton wrote. ~~~~~ Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra is in almost total agreement with John Bolton, but stops short of calling for an Israeli air strike against Iran. Hoekstra told Newsmax late Saturday to "count me as a huge skeptic" of the deal in which Iran would receive $4.2 billion (n.b.: the real figure looks more like $12-20 billion) and limited sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program."This president hasn't developed the trust in his foreign policy judgment over the past five years," Hoekstra said in an exclusive Newsmax interview. "He's got a Middle East policy that is in tatters. All we have to show for this agreement is that two of our staunchest allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, are very skeptical of it. They're wondering where the United States is heading when they've got an agreement with Iran. They may or may not abide by the limitations on their nuclear program, but they're getting immediate relief of sanctions," Hoekstra said of Iran. "They'll continue to fight us in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan." The Iranian undertakings are not enough for Hoekstra, who served eight terms in the House of Representatives and chaired the Intelligence Committee from 2004 to 2007. "They’re getting a break beginning right now - and they've got a plan to start moving money around, getting essential materials into their country that are going to alleviate some of the problems they've had with sanctions. That's going to prop up the regime. Then, the question becomes : 'When do we get access to their nuclear programs? When do we get access to make sure we're stopping their program, or that they have stopped them?'" Hoekstra added : "This administration has a habit of immediately claiming victory instead of saying, 'Let's see where we are in 12 months.' They claimed victory in Egypt. It was disastrous. They claimed victory in Libya. It's been disastrous. They claimed victory in Iraq, and Iraq has not been good. They claimed success with Obamacare when they passed it. It's been disastrous. It's too early to claim success. Let's see where we are in 12 months," Hoekstra said."This strength of the hand of Iran weakens our position in the region." ~~~~~ Dear readers, these are not the lightweight voices of TV analysts. They are the voices of men experienced in dipomacy and intelligence matters at the highest levels. They would have stood with Churchill in 1938. They have had to deal with Iranian treachery in real time, not as President Obama, a junior Senator who was elected President because of innocuous words and a charming demeanor. The world has been accumulating evidence of the folly of America's choice for five years - through Libya and Benghazi and Egypt and Syria and Iraq and Afghanistan -- all sadly mismanaged by Obama. But the prior errors in judgment were in places and over issues that, while heart-wrenching, were not in and of themselves critical. BUT they did teach Iran, always a country to be the first to find chinks in the world's armor. Obama has taught Iran, as Chamberlain taught Hitler, that he is weak and fears conflict and war. Perhaps the pro-shiite pattern in Obama's prior decisions also taught Iran that he would finally deal with their shiite regime and favor them. Iran has been proven right in the short term. It is now time for the world to come together to prevent another Obama catastrophe, this time one that could lead to a nuclear World War III. For there is something worse than fear. That something is loss of liberty and defeat by a religious fanaticism that leads to enslavement. As Churchill so magnificently put it : "The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end there it is...Never, never, never give up."
Monday, November 25, 2013
The dust has settled on the initial wide-ranging reactions to the weekend preliminary agreement between western powers and Iran. If you want to tally the reactions, it's a very quick calculation. FAVORABLE - Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran President Rouhani, Iran Foreign Minister Zarif, Russian President Putin, President Obama. OPPOSED - The rest of the world. That includes the US Congress, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, the US military and diplomatic services, most European nations whose diplomats were more or less tricked into entering a 'negotiation' that was already over. ~~~~~ Because, as we learned yesterday from AP, Obama and Iran have been in discussions since Obama's first term. The meetings began while Amhadinejad was still Iranian president - after his vicious crackdown on Iranian democratic demonstrators and while he was sending arms and soldiers to aid al-Assad's and Hezbollah's attack on Syrian freedom fighters. The secret meetings, which included Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, Vice President Joe Biden's top foreign policy advisor, Jake Sullivan, National Security Council aide Puneet Talwar and four other officials, later joined by chief US nuclear negotiator Wendy Sherman. They met in Oman with an unnamed Iranian delegation that apparently changed after Rouhani's election early in 2013. According to AP's sources, the Americans understood that the Iranians had some authority to negotiate from Ayatollah Khamenei. Obama's team and the Iranians discussed nuclear issues, Iranian involvement in Syria, Teheran's threats to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz and the status of Robert Levinson, a missing former FBI agent who the US believes was abducted in Iran, as well as two other Americans detained in the country. They did not discuss Iran's threats to annihilate Israel, apparently. Hoping to keep the channel open, Kerry made an official visit to Oman in May, ostensibly to push a military deal with the sultanate, but actually focused on maintaining the key mediation role of the Sultan of Oman. Rouhani's election on a moderate platform of easing the crippling sanctions and a willingness to engage with the West gave Obama new hope, the AP sources said. Two secret meetings occurred immediately after Rouhani took office in August, with the specific goal of advancing the stalled nuclear talks with world powers. Another pair of meetings took place in October. It is these meetings that led to the key terms of the current accord agreed between Obama and Iran, which was made before Obama told congressional leaders or Israel or France or the UK. It was after Obama phoned Rouhani in September that the American President phoned Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to explain the deal. It was then that Netanyahu went public with his "wolf in sheep's clothing" UN speech and his opposition to any Iran deal that eased sanctions before a total dismantling of Iran's nuclear facilities. And it was after being informed of the secret deal that France balked, refusing to agree immediately to the US - Iran private accord. Saudi Arabia, Iran's regional rival and America's ally, was also told late and reacted negatively, according to the AP sources. Perhaps Saudi's sudden refusal to take its seat at the UN Security Council may have been prompted by the US secret deal with Iran. ~~~~~ But, undoubtedly knowing that they could do little to oppose or influence the Obama - Iran deal, Saudi Arabia cautiously welcomed the deal on Monday. "This agreement could be a first step towards a comprehensive solution for Iran's nuclear programme, if there are good intentions," a statement said. However, a London-based Saudi official earlier told the BBC his country had been lied to. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the Geneva accord, but said it was only a "first step." "We are right to test to the full Iran's readiness to act in good faith," he told the House of Commons. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told French radio today that 'nothing is settled.' Mr Fabius said, "Iran is committed to giving up the prospect of nuclear weapons. It's perfectly clear." However, Fabius insisted the temporary deal could be reversed if its terms were not adhered to. Asked when sanctions could start to be lifted, he said it could begin "in December." EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton's spokesman Michael Mann said the timing would be co-ordinated with Iran. "It could be in December, it could be in January, depending on how long the legislative process takes," he told reporters. This is because the entire EU must agree before any European sanctions are lifted. ~~~~~ Dear readers, we will have time to look in more detail at the Iran deal. But, what is now important to understand is that it is Obama's deal. He may see it as a foreign policy triumph. He arrived at its conclusion in his characteristically isolated, lone-wolf way of operating. Perhaps the Iranians saw this weakness in Obama's personality and used it to wheedle a deal extremely favorable to Iran and very dangerous for Israel, the Saudi-led sunni American allies and the rest of the world. Note that only the West's enemies agree with Obama. So, Barack Obama must from now on defend Iran all alone -- its aid to al-Assad's murderous regime, its arms shipments to Hezbollah, its support of Gulf State shiite rebellions aimed at overthrowing the Saudi sunni hegemony, its support for the Afghanistan Taliban, its support of al-Qaida, its wildly hate-filled attacks on Israel. And if, as the world believes, Obama has simply given Iran time in which to finish its nuclear weapons and intercontinental missile program, then Obama will also be responsible for any Iranian sale to North Korea of nuclear bombs that land in California or Hezbollah nuclear bombs that land in Turkey or Paris or Tel Aviv. As Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett made the case in graphic terms. “If five years from now a nuclear suitcase explodes in Madrid and New York it will be because of the agreement signed this morning." ~~~~~ But perhaps Barack Obama made his goals clear years ago when he said : "I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear." ___Barack Obama, Cairo University, June 4, 2009.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
The Iran nuclear negotiations continue. Here are the important details in a 'large' nutshell. ~~~~~ Talks resumed in Geneva Wednesday aimed at finding a deal that will begin the rollback of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Wednesday began with senior envoys reviewing a draft, to make it acceptable to both Teheran and the six world powers negotiating with it. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said as this week's talks began that they expected the West to have a unified position, noting that differences among the six powers had set back the talks. The AP reported that Araghchi said : "What we are trying now is to rebuild confidence that we lost in the previous round of negotiations." He spoke of a "misunderstanding or...mismanagement in the previous round," and of the "difficult job" of trying to bridge differences. Later, some headway seemed to have been made, with Araghchi telling Iran's IRNA news agency that "we regained some of our lost trust." He also told IRNA that talks have included possible ways to reduce sanctions on Iranian oil sales and banking. The US and its partners have indicated that they would offer some sanction concessions, such as unfreezing Iranian bank accounts from previous oil sales. This would be during a six-month period in which the parties would pursue a comprehensive agreement to ensure that Teheran's nuclear enrichment program is solely for civilian purposes. The western partners point out that Iran would receive only limited sanction relief under such a first-step deal, with no easing of the harshest measures that make it nearly impossible for Iran to sell oil, its main revenue maker. An anonymous member of the US Congress and legislative aides have suggested to AP that the relief would amount to $6 - 10 billion, based on what they called Obama administration estimates. Sanction rollbacks must be limited to satisfy influential members of Congress, who argue that sanctions have brought Iran to the negotiating table and cannot be relaxed until Teheran offers significant concessions. And on the Iranian side, hardliner politicians and their millions of supporters do not trust Rouhani, elected in September, fearing that his team will give away Iran's right to enrich uranium but not get enough in terms of sanctions relief over the six-months of any first-stage agreement. France's concern that the negotiators were rushing into a flawed deal with Iran helped delay an agreement during a session two weeks ago. French President Francois Hollande re-iterated France's position last week before the Israeli Knesset, saying that France will "maintain the sanctions as long as we are not certain that Iran has definitively and irreversibly renounced its military program to obtain nuclear weapons....France will not let Iran arm itself with nuclear weapons." This week in Geneva, an Iranian delegation member said his country recognizes that core oil and banking sanctions could not be lifted immediately but suggested Iran expects some relief in those sectors over the six-month period of the preliminary agreement. He also said Iran was ready to discuss a limit on its uranium enrichment, which can create both reactor fuel and the core of nuclear warheads. But he said that Iran wants at least an indirect mention in the first-stage agreement of Teheran's right to uranium enrichment, which the United States and its allies have refused to do. Iranian leaders have refused to consider giving up Iran's ability to make nuclear fuel, which is the central sticking point of the talks because the same process used to make reactor stock can be used to make weapons-grade material. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, voiced support for the talks Wednesday but insisted there are limits to what Teheran will deal away at the negotiating table. He blasted Israel as "the rabid dog of the region" - comments rejected by French President Francois Hollande as "unacceptable." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Moscow to meet with Russian President Putin when the Ayatollah made his anti-semitic remark, renewed his demand for a full stop to all Iranian nuclear programs that could be turned from peaceful uses to making weapons. Netanyahu urged the world to see the "real Iran." That, he said was not the YouTube message posted by Zarif saying Iran wants peace, but Khamenei calling Jews "rabid dogs." he told a gathering of Russian Jews. Talks have continued since Wednesday and by Saturday, despite the secrecy surrounding them, leaks suggest they have reached agreement about ways Iran could retain some level of enrichment, but at a level far below what's need for weapons. Other roadblocks not resolved include the level of sanctions relief and the future of a plutonium reactor under construction at Arak that the western partners want closed, because plutonium can also be used to make weapons. Late Saturday, no deal had been announced and it seems that negotiations will continue Sunday. However, US Secretary of State Kerry's spokeswoman said he still plans to travel to London on Sunday for meetings on other Middle East issues. Kerry is to meet with Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan in London to discuss the security situation and ongoing political reforms in that country. Kerry and his counterparts from Russia, Britain, France, China and Germany joined the Geneva talks this weekend after Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and top European Union diplomat Catherine Ashton reported progress on enrichment and other issues. The foreign ministers themselves sought to discourage the idea that because they came to Geneva the talks have been successful. British Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke of "very difficult negotiations," over issues that blocked agreement earlier. Hague told reporters. "We're here because they're difficult, and they remain difficult." The key difficulties? -- Iran's insistence that it has no interest in nuclear weapons but needs enrichment to generate electricity and for scientific and medical purposes is viewed with skepticism by the West because of Teheran's earlier efforts to hide enrichment. Israel, not a party to the talks, opposes allowing any Iranian enrichment capability. Iran says it can freeze enrichment at its highest-known achieved level - 20%. But critics worry that Iran could ramp up to weapons grade enrichment quickly if the 20% threshold is allowed to remain. ~~~~~ Dear readers, it may seem like a diplomatic dance that ordinary people could quickly end with an agreement. But, it is important to remember that a nuclear-capable or nuclear-armed Iran would change the world balance of power forever. Not only would a nuclear Iran be ready to provide nuclear arms to Syria's al-Assad, Hezbollah and Hamas, it would also be able to attack and destroy much of Israel, one of its often-voiced goals. Thus, the Middle East would be forced into a nuclear arms race, with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, the Gulf States and all sunnis feeling obliged to be prepared for an Iranian nuclear attack. Farther afield, Iran could provide nuclear arms to the Taliban, al-Qaida, and North Korea, with whom it is already consulting on nuclear technology. The entire world would be plunged back into the Cold War nuclear arms race. So, it is better to rely on sanctions to get a good deal for the world rather than to give in to sophisticated Iranian negotiating techniques. As Israel has said, it will never allow Iran to have nuclear arms, whether it has to act with allies or alone. Far better to hang tough, support Israel, and France, and bring Iran to its senses, if possible. If not, the military option is still available.
Friday, November 22, 2013
November 22, 1963. Anyone who was alive and old enough to understand, will never forget the unearthly chill that filled body and soul when the shot rang out, when Jackie climbed onto the trunk of the convertible to retrieve part of her husband's skull, when Walter Cronkite announced the incomprehensible news. I still weep when I allow myself to think about it. It. The day that the world began to try to come to terms with the snuffing out of America's youth. But notwithstanding the Camelot image, JFK was a cold war hawk, a social moderate and an old-style practical politician who knew how to win, one way or another. The proof : "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." But he had two brothers who cast a liberal net over his agenda to appeal to the youth of America and the world. He was likeable...charismatic...inspirational. At 46 and 1000 days into an ordinary presidency by most measures, John Firzgerald Kennedy was cut down. His accomplishments - the Cuban missile crisis, the Peace Corps, his echoing "Ich bin ein Berliner." There doesn't seem to be anything there that pointed to the kind of hatred that leads to assassination. But, there few Americans today who do not harbor the suspicion that JFK was the victim of a conspiracy. No one has proven it or even shown acceptable nuances of proof. And so we remember and mourn the loss of JFK and of the youthful energy of the innocent world he represented - and took with him to his grave. President Kennedy was in Dallas on that fateful day to give a speech. Although he never had the opportunity to give the speech, one of its messages would still resonate deeply in the hearts and consciences of Americans, even though the context has changed almost beyond recognition. In these times that require often superhuman determination to preserve liberty, we all can take courage from JFK's haunting words : "We are the watchmen on the walls of freedom...may we be worthy..."
Thursday, November 21, 2013
The US Senate Democrat majority today voted to end the 60-vote requirement for bringing to the floor for a vote the confirmation of presidential appointees to judicial and administrative positions. Supreme Court nominee confirmations were excluded from the new rule. President Obama agreed with the Senate vote spearheaded by Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid. Ironically, it was another Senate Democrat majority that enacted the 60-vote rule almost 40 years ago. The key vote was 52-48, with all but three Democrats - Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Joe Manchin of West Virginia - voting for the change and all 45 Republicans opposed. The move would limit the ability of the minority party to deploy the filibuster, a delaying and blocking tactic. In an institution that prides itself on giving power to the minority party and moving slowly on its business, the filibuster is the minority's main source of leverage. The rule change led by Senator Reid allows confirmation of nominees along party lines, by closing debate and allowing a Senate vote to proceed with just 51 votes. The Senate minority party, currently Republicans, until now had the power to require 60 votes, by invoking filibusters, in order for a confirmation vote to proceed. The change would apply to most executive branch and judicial nominations, except nominations to the Supreme Court, and would not apply to legislation. President Obama said he supported the Senate action, which he described as an appropriate response to an "unprecedented" level of obstruction by Senate Republicans to his nominees. He added that the GOP actions had contributed to Congress's low approval ratings, and that neither party was blameless in the matter of obstruction. The vote marks a major adjustment to the rules of the Senate, a proud, tradition- bound institution that hasn't made a change of this magnitude in more than a generation. The Wall Street Journal gave a taste of the importance of the unusual procedural debate, writing that almost all of the Senators were present and seated at their desks in the Senate chamber as the day's proceedings began, a rarity...the Senate's most senior Democrat, Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) served as presiding officer, a role typically filled by junior members. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans had approved 99% of Obama's judicial nominees and that the change would diminish the Senate's constitutional "advice and consent'' role in assessing nominations. Senator McConnell ripped into Reid for triggering it. McConnell accused Democrats of picking a “fake fight over judges” to try and “distract the public” from the problems of Obamacare. “It only reinforces the narrative of a party willing to do or say just about anything to get its way,” said McConnell. “Once again, Democrats are threatening to break the rules of the Senate...in order to change the rules of the Senate,...And over what? Over a court that doesn’t have enough work to do.” After the vote, McConnell declined to comment on the prospect of Republican retaliation. “I don’t think this is the time to be talking about reprisals. I think it’s a time to be sad about what’s been done to the United States Senate,” he said. Democrats say the filibuster has been abused for obstruction rather than as a last-resort vehicle for principled opposition. Republicans have "turned 'advice and consent' into divide and obstruct,'' according to Senator Reid. Since late October, Reid said Republican senators have blocked Obama's pick to lead the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and three nominees to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Shortly after changing the rules, Senate Democrats used the new, 51-vote threshold to advance to a final vote. After the Thanksgiving recess, the nomination of Patricia Millett to be a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will be voted on, having cleared the procedural hurdle with support from 55 senators. Republicans previously had blocked her nomination under the 60-vote requirement. On Wednesday, Reid rejected a deal proposed by Senator John McCain to confirm one judge to the D.C. Circuit Court, according to an aide. The last substantial change to confirmation rules came in 1975, when Senators established the 60-vote threshold for ending filibusters. Previously, a 2/3 vote was required. The debate also marked a startling departure from a similar Senate debate in 2005, when Republicans held the majority and threatened to impose their own rules change. At the time, Democrats had blocked a set of judicial nominees chosen by President George W. Bush. Senator Chuck Schumer, who voted for today's change, said in 2005 that the rule change would end "the checks and balances which have been at the core of this Republic.'' Senator McConnell, who opposed today's change, said in 2005 that changing the rules wasn't unusual : "Despite the incredulous protestations of our Senate colleagues, the Senate has repeatedly adjusted its rules as circumstances dictate." BUT, the Republicans did not use their majority in 2005 to change the filibuster rule. After Thursday's vote, Senator Reid acknowledged that Democrats have taken a different position in the past. But he said political circumstances have changed and that Republicans have been using obstruction of nominees to undercut the legitimacy of the Obama presidency and policies they oppose. "Things have changed dramatically since 2005," Senator Reid said. "They have done everything they can to deny the fact that Obama was elected - then re-elected." ~~~~~ Today's Senate rule change may seem minor if you are not American. But for Americans, the Senate is considered the debating chamber that keeps the United States on an even keel, with no sudden jolts of policy. As an indication of the importance of the explosive action taken today by Senate Democrats under Harry Reid, the procedural motion Reid used is known as the "nuclear option" because critics warn it would obliterate bipartisan relations in the Senate. The specific procedural vote to change the Senate's rules was to sustain the ruling of the chair that nominees need 60 votes to advance to final passage. Democrats voted against sustaining the ruling of the chair and in favor of changing the Senate's rules. The final vote was 48-52. In his floor comments, Reid said the filibuster had rendered the Senate’s basic duty of confirming presidential nominees “completely unworkable....The need for change is so, so very obvious,” he said.“These nominees deserve at least an up-or-down vote, but Republican filibusters deny them a fair vote, any vote, and deny the president his team.” The two parties have effectively changed sides on the 'nuclear option' since Democrats gained control of the upper chamber in the 2006 election. Republicans accuse Democrats of hypocrisy for embracing a controversial tactic they criticized in 2005, when Republicans threatened to go nuclear to move then-President George W. Bush’s stalled nominees. “To change the rules in the Senate can't be done by a simple majority. It can only be done if there is extended debate by 67 votes,” Reid said in May of 2005. “They are talking about doing something illegal. They are talking about breaking the rules to change the rules, and that is not appropriate. That is not fair, and it is not right,” Reid said in 2005. ~~~~~ In any case, neither side, when it supports any status quo, can point to the US Constitution for support. Article I, Section 5.2 is clear : "Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member." Filibuster rules fall under "Rules of Proceedings" and can be changed by the Senate. It is up to the Senate Rules Committee to decide what can and cannot be done, and legal recourse is not possible inless the Majority Leader had acted in a manner that could make him subject to impeachment. Not likely here. The other relevant part of the US Constitution is Article II, Section 2.2 : "He [the President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law:..." ~~~~~ So, dear readers, we can now expect to have even more of the Washington dysfunction that has marked the Obama presidency. The solution required in the present poisonous atmosphere that prevails today in Washington is to elect a House and Senate with a majority of the same party in 2014...preferrably Republican in order to restrain the dangerous actions of the Obama White House.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
"If once you forfeit the confidence of your fellow-citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem." __Abraham Lincoln. ~~~~~ One year ago President Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election, but a new poll has found that a rematch today of the 2012 election would favor Romney. According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll of 1,006 adults conducted November 14-17, 49% would vote for Romney compared to 45% voting for Obama, a reverse of Romney's 4-point popular vote loss in 2012. This poll reflects just how much support the President has lost as a result of the Obamacare debacle that has undermined public confidence in both the President personally and the viability of the new healthcare law. The survey indicates that Obama's biggest loss of support comes from women, the young, the less-educated, the poor, and among liberals. In 2012, the President beat Romney among women voters by 11%, but if the election were held today, he would lead by only 1%. Young voter support for Obama has dropped from 18% to 2% since last year, while those with less than a college degree who gave him a lead of 4% have slipped to a deficit of 9%. Most surprising is that liberal support for the President has dropped to 59% from 75%, with 20% now saying they would vote for Romney if the election were held today. The Washington Post, trying to salvage something for the President, pointed out that the survey findings cannot tell the entire story because of other factors that affect the outcome of an election, such as margin of error in polling and the fact that the Electoral College - not the popular vote - elects the president. But, the last time the Electoral College overturned the pooular vote was in 1876, so we can discount this Post argunent. Thus, according to the survey analysis, an 8% swing in the popular vote toward Romney would have given him an additional 125 electoral votes, allowing him to win the race by 331 to 207, or virtually the same margin as Obama's 332 - 206 win. ~~~~~ Dear readers, President Obama is finally paying with the American public for his combination of non-existent management skills, refusal to accept expert help, and the almost complete centralization of the federal executive function in a White House that lacks the experience and political skills needed to work properly. While this amateur President and his insider friends managed to slip through the net in his first term by blaming each of their missteps on President Bush, Obamacare finally caught them up in their gross incompetence. We can only hope that American voters will remember this in 2014 and vote for Republican congress members and senators who will be able to reduce to a minimum the continuing damage being done to America by Barack Obama - from Fast and Furious to Benghazi, the Middle East and the IRS and NSA scandals. ~~~~~ As Honest Abe also said : "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Today, Americans gathered at Gettysburg Battlefield in the small wooded town in southcentral Pennsylvania to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, a 272-word masterpiece of the English language. But, more than that, President Lincoln touched the hearts and souls of every American, then and forever after. He called them to honor their Constitution, to honor their war dead, to honor the task assigned to them by God - of supporting, defending and holding sacred the freedom and liberty given to them, and to all people, by God through the Founders, and to protect forever the democratic principles enshrined in American political institutions. The Lincoln Gettysburg Address defies attempts to dissect and explain it. It defies time. It defies efforts to make it irrelevant. As long as men and women seek freedom and are willing to defend it and fight to create and keep it, Lincoln's words will tower over them as the blessing sent from God by means of the tall, lanky and fiercely American man who saved them from their baser selves. Here it is. Take heart from it in these troubling and divisive times. America will survive for as long as her children can remember, understand and defend his words. ~~~~~ "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."___Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863.
Monday, November 18, 2013
The Jerusalem Post reported today that in the view of the Israeli government, it’s vocal objections to the proposed interim nuclear deal being considered by Iran and western powers is having a positive effect on the parameters of any future agreement. Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who is currently in the United States to lobby pro-Israel supporters on the need for a more robust approach toward the Iranian regime, told Army Radio on Monday that “Israeli opposition to the nuclear agreement with Iran is beginning to bear fruit....We want a good deal.” Bennett said. “The state of Israel’s goal is to get to an agreement that dismantles Iran’s nuclear machine, and not a deal that simply pushes the pause button for a few months.” French President Francois Hollande, who is in Israel for a three-day visit, spoke before the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, and was very much on Israel's side, affirming that France would not surrender to nuclear proliferation and would stand firm by its demands before consenting to an interim agreement. As French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who singlehandedly halted the US-Iran march toward a nuclear deal earlier this month in Geneva looked on, Hollande told the Knesset that France is not convinced that Teheran has "definitively renounced" its alleged nuclear weapons program, declaring : "I confirm here that we will maintain the sanctions as long as we are not certain that Iran has definitively and irreversibly renounced its military program to obtain nuclear weapons....France will not let Iran arm itself with nuclear weapons," the French President promised to general Knesset applause. Since arriving in Israel on Sunday, Hollande has constantly reassured Israel of France's determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Israel and the West have long accused Iran of engaging in a program to give it nuclear weapon capability, allegations denied by Teheran, which insists its uranium enrichment program is for peaceful purposes. "Everything must be done to resolve this crisis," Hollande told the Knesset, saying the P5+1 group of world powers had made "credible and solid proposals" in negotiations with Iran in Geneva. Hollande was firm : "Now it is up to Iran to respond, not just with words nor with vague promises - no. By concrete and verifiable steps." Israel itself has vociferously criticized the proposed interim agreement, warning that it offers Iran the 'deal of the century.' "I'm concerned, gravely concerned, that this deal will go through and in one stroke of the pen it will reduce the sanctions on Iran - sanctions that took years to put in place - and in return for this, Iran gives practically nothing," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a joint news conference with Hollande on Sunday. Netanyahu had earlier made the same warning on a CNN Sunday news program telecast in the US. At a Jerusalem press conference, President Hollande spelled out precisely what conditions France would demand in any Iran nuclear deal : (1) all Iran’s nuclear installations be placed under international controls, (2) the suspension of all uranium enrichment to 20 percent, (3) the reduction of existing stockpiles of enriched uranium, and (4) a complete halt to the construction of the heavy water reactor at Arak. “These are four points fundamental for an agreement to be reached,” Hollande said. ~~~~~ As if to drive home Israeli determination to prevent Iran's acquiring a nuclear weapon, former national security adviser Yaakov Amidror said Sunday that Israel has the ability to strike Iran, and is willing to do so alone. Amidror, in a Financial Times interview clearly timed to send a message to the world, said Israel could halt Iran’s nuclear capability “for a very long time,” and that the air force has conducted “very long-range flights... all around the world” in preparation. “We are not the United States of America, of course,” Amidror said, “but we have enough to stop the Iranians for a very long time. We are not bluffing. We are very serious - preparing ourselves for the possibility that Israel will have to defend itself by itself.” Asked how Israel would respond if Hezbollah retaliated by firing missiles and rockets at Israel, Amidror said the government would be ready to “use ground forces to go into the urban centers and to deal with the people who are launching the rockets, and to destroy the rockets and launchers." Experts have said that the proposed agreement, if reneged on, would allow Iran to restart its progam and build a nuclear weapon in less than 6 months. However, if Israel took out Iranian facilities, it would require 3 years to rebuild them and make a nuclear weapon. ~~~~~ Meanwhile, in a move obviously meant as a sabre-rattle before this week's Geneva negotiations and to undercut the French stand in Jerusalem, Iran unveiled a new aircraft Monday that it says is the biggest drone it has yet developed, capable of staying aloft for up to 30 hours, according to Iran Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan, who said the reconnaissance and combat drone Fotros has a range of 1,250 miles. That would cover much of the Middle East including Israel. "This drone is able to carry out reconnaissance missions and carry air-to-surface rockets for combat operations," the official IRNA news agency quoted Dehghan as saying. Iran claims that it managed to reverse-engineer the American RQ-170 Sentinel, which it seized in December 2011 after it entered Iranian airspace from its eastern border with Afghanistan, and that it is capable of launching its own production line for the unmanned aircraft. The existence of the new drone cannot be independently confirmed, however, and experts say a picture of the alleged Fotros published by Iran's IRNA news agency on Monday looked similar to another Iranian drone unveiled last year. It wasn't immediately clear whether the Fotros was an entirely new model, or an upgraded version of the earlier Shahed-129, reported to have a similar range to the Fotros, but which can only stay aloft 24 hours. Dehghan called the new drone a key strategic addition to Iran's military capabilities, developed despite tough sanctions against Iran over its suspect nuclear program : "Sanctions by enemies can't create an obstacle in the path of progress for our defense industries," IRNA quoted him as saying, in what was undoubtedly an effort to appease the Iranian hardliners opposed to any nuclear agreement. Iran's move to unveil the Fotros on Monday came just days before the reconvening of ongoing negotiations between the Iran and the international community aimed at ending a long-term standoff over the allegations of weapons development by means of a diplomatic breakthrough. ~~~~~ Dear readers, French President Hollande's remarks, made two days before the start of the next round of talks in Geneva aimed at rolling back Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, will add to the already-considerable difficulties faced by US President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry, who insist that France is united with the US in its effort to get an Iran nuclear deal. What is becoming clear is that France, and possibly the UK and Germany, are no longer willing to trust US President Obama to decide for them about Iranian good faith in the nuclear negotiation. They are independently seeking assurances that will protect Europe, along with Israel and other Middle East states, from possible Iranian treachery. As Benjamin Netanyahu said to America yesterday, when the Arab world and Israel agree on any issue, the world - and Barack Obama - should listen, because these countries live with and understand Iran and their insights are valuable. If Mr. Obama refuses to accept sage advice, one other thing seems clear. The US Congress has had enough of Obama's amateurism and will not let Iran slip through the net to become a member of the nuclear club.
Saturday, November 16, 2013
The tragic events in the Philippines have riveted the world for the past week and I hope we are all doing whatever we can to help the 2 million Philippinos displaced by the worst typhoon ever to make landfall. But, this fully warranted media focus has masked two important stories coming out of Syria and Libya. ~~~~~ Some of us have been watching with dismay as Bashar al-Assad gradually regains control over rebel-held territory in Syria. Al-Assad forces have captured rebel strongholds in both the north and in areas around Damascus, where al-Assad has made the most of his Lebanese Hezbollah ally, capturing five towns since October 11. The latest to fall to al-Assad was Hejeira, which army troops swept through Wednesday. And in the north, al-Assad forces outside the country's largest city, Aleppo, have reinforced the regime's position. The more the government advances, the easier it is to dismiss the weak and divided opposition's demands in the critically important city of Aleppo, where rebels have fought the regime since mid-2012. Al-Assad forces have retaken a military base near the Aleppo airport, a large war prize. Momentum around Aleppo is now favoring al-Assad. His army's advances around rebel strongholds have slowed the rebel effort to retain the north. In addition, rebel infighting, with al-Qaida-linked jihadists taking over more moderate rebel brigades, has left hundreds dead on both sides of the rebel units. And both moderate rebel groups and jihadists have undertaken a brutal side conflict with Syria's Kurdish minority, which has a large presence in the northeast and Aleppo province. While rebel infighting has sidetracked their resources and undermined their effort to oust al-Assad, rebels also have been frustrated by US President Obama's decision to seek a diplomatic path to disarming Damascus of its chemical weapons. Many had harbored hopes that even limited American military intervention would arrive and help tip the scales in the rebels' favor. Supplies of weapons and gear from neighboring Turkey has also slowed to a trickle, rebels say, as Ankara has grown increasingly concerned about the increasingly prominent role of Islamic extremists in the rebel effort. ~~~~~ And in Libya, renewed fighting has broken out between rival Libyan militias around the capital, Tripoli, after at least 43 people died and 500 were wounded in Friday clashes. The latest violence is in Tajoura, the suburb where local militiamen are confronting fighters arriving from Misrata. Friday's clashes occurred when civilian protesters were fired on as they marched on the Misrata militia headquarters to demand that it leave Tripoli. Today, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan confirmed that fresh fighting had occurred in Tajoura. He urged all sides to "exercise maximum restraint,...No forces from outside Tripoli should attempt to enter the city....The coming hours and days will be decisive for the history of Libya and the success of the revolution." BBC's Rana Jawad reported from Tripoli that Tajoura is seen as the gateway to the capital and said the latest fighting was sparked when an armed convoy from Misrata entered it in an apparent attempt to make its way to the center of Tripoli. Jawad said armed groups halted the convoy, which retreated 15km (9 miles) away, but that live rounds were still being exchanged. Government-linked militias have set up checkpoints across the capital in tightened security for the funerals of many of those killed on Friday as thousands filled Tripoli streets where the coffins were being carried overhead. The Washington Post reported that the clashes serve to underscore Libya’s deteriorating security two years after Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi’s death, as bands of former rebels have morphed into well-armed militias which increasingly vie for power in Libya. The central government is weak and divided. Some ministers and lawmakers are suspected of having links to the militias, which control enormous stockpiles of heavy weapons and have recruited thousands of young men. Efforts to absorb the militias into a national army and police force have not succeeded. Instead, the militias threaten to use force in order to intimidate politicians, government officials and each other, even pushing through legislation. Recently, the militias shut down oil infrastructure to pressure the state into meeting their demands. More than 30 people died in the eastern city of Benghazi in June when one powerful government-sponsored militia, the Libya Shield 1, clashed with armed protesters and another state-sponsored group, the Libyan special forces. Benghazi was also the scene of the attack on the US diplomatic mission on September 11, 2012, that left four people dead, including US Ambassador Chris Stephens, and sparked the first popular mass protests against the militias. ~~~~~ Dear readers, Syria and Libya are really two sides of the same coin. In Syria, the lack of US and western support for the original rebel cause has led to its infiltration by al-Qaida linked jihadists that threaten to overwhelm the moderate rebels and give al-Assad the upper hand in any eventual Geneva negotiation, if he even sees a reason to negotiate about the future of what is beginning to feel like the latest lost cause of Syrians wanting to be free of the vicious al-Assad family dictatorship. The other side of the coin is Libya, where the US and the UN thought that in eliminating Qaddafi and allowing elections to proceed their job was done. They abandoned Libya to its fate. Only the martyred Chris Stevens was left to try to provide the longterm support that was an afterthought for everyone but him. In both Syria and Libya - we could add Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon - democracy cannot begin to grow without a US-UN commitment to ongoing support. Killing Qaddafi and destroying chemical stockpiles is simply not enough. If the Middle East is to gain a stability based on people instead of dictators, the US and the West must stay engaged.
Friday, November 15, 2013
NBC News reported today that President Obama's unexpected decision Thursday to permit insurers to extend until the end of 2014 the healthcare insurance of Americans who have existing policies has done one thing - kick the cancellation decision back to state insurance commissioners and to the insurance companies themselves. “It was a blame-shifting exercise,” says Dr. Scott Gottleib, a health policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute. But, asks NBC, can you get your policy back if it was cancelled? Their answer : "That’s complicated. It’s not so easy for an insurance company to reinstate policies it was planning to discontinue, because the firm must plan premiums and budget for expenses far in advance. Florida Blue said it would reinstate cancelled plans, and Florida’s insurance commissioner, Kevin McCarty, said he’s working with any companies that wanted to go that route." A lot is up to state insurance commissioners - something that gives cover to both the White House and to the insurance companies. Obama hastily arranged a meeting for Friday at the White House with insurance company CEOs, as the industry and state insurance commissioners tried to figure out how to adjust to the abrupt shift the President announced Thursday. Under the shift, Obama said insurers should be permitted to continue to sell to existing customers individual coverage plans that would be deemed substandard under the health care law. Without the change, many existing plans would have been banned beginning in January because they do not meet the minimum coverage requirements of Obamacare. The president admitted in his press conference to announce the change that he was responsible for the Obamacare catastrophe and that America was looking to him to fix it. He said the shift was an attempt to respond to the public and political furor triggered by millions of cancellation notices. But, CBS News reported Friday that insurance officials and industry analysts are warning that letting people keep their current coverage as the new Obamacare marketplaces open could weaken them because healthier and younger Americans would choose the less expensive current non-Obamacare coverage and that would leave only the sickest consumers buying policies and coverage on Obamacare marketplaces. That could, in turn, lead to higher future premiums in the insurance market for almost everyone. Obama has in reality proposed the creation of two parallel markets operating under different rules, causing a "death spiral" that will kill Obamacare unless the federal government greatly increases subsidies to the sole remaining groups who would continue to buy health insurance under Obamacare - those who are eligible for Medicaid and those who cannot buy non-Obamacare insurance because of pre-existing conditions. America's Health Insurance Plans' (AHIP) President and CEO Karen Ignagni warned in a statement that premiums have already been set for next year based on the assumption that those on the individual market would join Obamacare. "If now fewer younger and healthier people choose to purchase coverage in the exchange, premiums will increase and there will be fewer choices for consumers," she said. "Additional steps must be taken to stabilize the marketplace and mitigate the adverse impact on consumers." ~~~~~ AND while the insurance industry and its state-level regulatory commissions are trying to deal with Barack Obama's latest folly, CBS News reported that the Washington politicos are hot at each other. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, insisted on Thursday that Democrats "are going to run on the advantage that Obamacare will be going into the 2014 election." Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee mocked the Democratic Party for "doubling down" on its support for the controversial health law. In the midst of increasing turmoil, and ignoring a White House veto threat, the Republican-controlled House voted Friday to let insurance companies sell individual health coverage to all comers, both current and new, and forever, even if it falls short of the required standards in "Obamacare." The GOP vote was significant because 39 Democrats broke rank to vote with the Republican majority that did not need their votes for passage. The Democrat bolt underscored the political importance of the controversial Obamacare issue rhat is likely to be front and center in next year's elections for control of Congress. The House measure that now goes to the Democrat-majority Senate was passed to help Americans reeling from cancellation notices. Those cancellations have been arriving from companies despite President Barack Obama's oft-made promise that anyone who liked his plan could keep it. Thursday, the White House accused the Republicans of trying to sabotage the law and said their measure would not make coverage available for people with pre-existing conditions. Republicans answered that the pre-existing condition problem is dwarfed by the flood of cancellations issued due to Obamacare. ~~~~~ Dear readers, instead of helping, the stupifyingly uninformed and ill-considered proposal of President Obama has just compounded the problems inherent in Obamacare. WHEN will Barack Obama get out of the healthcare arena and let professionals deal with the monumental mess he has created? It is clear that he is "Clueless in the White House."
Thursday, November 14, 2013
There's movement today in relation to the Affordable Care Act - a laughable title for the catastrophic attempt of President Obama, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to push a bitter socialized medicine pill down the throats of unwilling Americans who didn't want to swallow it. Speaker John Boehner came out of the White House today to tell America that the Obama administration has not told the truth about Obamacare, that they cannot be trusted and that the only viable solution is to repeal the ACA (a.k.a. Obamacare). Then, President Obama called a press conference to announce that insurers should, or can, re-issue the mllions of health insurance policies cancelled under Obamacare's unrealistic and naive minimum coverage requirements. That Obama felt compelled to intervene in the critically important confirmation hearings of his nominee to succeed Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve chairman is an indication of the Obamacare quagmire Obama and his administration find themselves in with Americans, and also now with Democrat Congress members who fear for their re-election prospects. Insurers are already calling the President's 'tweek' a joke meant to shift blame for Obamacare from the White House to the insurance industry. ~~~~~ The latest Fox News poll results reported by Newsmax show just how angry Americans really are with Obamacare and President Obama and the Democrat Party for foisting Obamacare on them. 56% of those polled, all of whom are registered voters, think President Obama "knowingly lied" when he repeatedly assured Americans they could keep their own health plans under the Affordable Care Act - that "if you like your health care plan, you can keep it. Period." 50% think the President knew he was lying, while 40% think Obama had no idea the law would cause people to lose their insurance. The breakdown of these results : 79% of Republicans, 51% of independents, and 22% of Democrats think Obama knowingly lied to get his signature law passed. 59% think the Obama administration knew ahead of time that people would have their insurance plans cancelled, and 55% think the White House has "tried to deceive" people about it. 38% say the administration has been honest. President Obama's personal favorability has plummeted. A record 61% disapprove of the President's performance on healthcare, up 10% since October 1st. Concerning the President's Obamacare mea culpa, 58% feel Obama's apology was "mostly for political reasons," while 38% think he was "sincere." Overall, 46% want to throw out the healthcare law and "start over." 42% say "keep trying to fix it," and 10% say, "Leave it alone." 39% of voters blame the Obama administration for the website glitches, while 20% blame the designers of the bug-plagued website. 11% of voters blame congressional Republicans, and 10% blame insurance companies. 50% think Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius should "stay and try to fix things," while 24% would rather have her fired and 19% think she should resign. ~~~~~ These poll results have had a serious impact on Democrat Congress members, who are in a "near panic" over the botched launch of the Affordable Care Act and may soon be asking Republicans to help them repair the nation's mangled healthcare system, according to Texas GOP Senator John Cornyn. "The Democrats own this. They made a mistake at the very beginning because there was no bipartisan support for Obamacare. Every Republican voted against it. Every Democrat voted for it. So they own it," Cornyn told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV. "At some point, Democrats are going to come to Republicans and say, you know what, we were big cheerleaders for this legislation and it isn't working; what can we do to protect our American people, our constituents from the hardship that is resulting from this failure? We're going to have to listen and try to figure something out." But, Senator Cornyn makes an excellent point when he says that Republicans must "hammer out" their own distinct, workable plan to replace Obamacare. "People need to hear from us that we're not just against Obamacare with all of its flaws, we are for people getting affordable, quality healthcare and we can do it a whole lot better than this government takeover," he said. Cornyn tokd Newsmax he was stunned to hear former President Bill Clinton this week say that President Barack Obama should keep his promise to let those who like their current insurance policies keep them, even if it means changing the law. "I nearly fell out of my chair but I bet I wasn't the only one. I bet there were a number of people at the White House who thought, okay, President Clinton just threw us under the bus," he said. But even if Obama were to take Clinton's advice to heart, keeping his promise may no longer be possible to those who have seen their policies cancelled. "I am sure that you can't force insurance companies to re-issue policies they've now cancelled because the [law] of the land tells them they have to," Cornyn said. ~~~~~ Dear readers, it is now time for Obama and Democrats in the Senate to stop papering over the fundamental flaws in Obamacare. It is time to repeal the (Un)affordable Care Act - go back to a bipartisan approach - and deal with the real American healthcare problem, which is the 30-40 million Americans who need basic, quality healthcare insurance. And we should all be careful not to fall for Obama's folksy news conference tidbits about how he sympathizes and what he wants for Americans. If he really cared about Americans, Obamacare would not exist because Obama would have led the charge to solve the real problem - uninsured Americans. Once again, Obama is playing fast-and-loose with the truth about his goals and allegiances. Obama wants socialized medicine in America. And even if you don't like it, Obama wants you to keep it. Period.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
There is little need to prove that President Obama is incompetent to provide leadership for items on his own political agenda - Obamacare, the US economy, alternative wind and solar energy, corn-based fuels, the Middle East. And we are becoming increasingly aware that Obama is incompetent to manage matters that requires presidential leadership - Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, North Korea. In fact, it is now evident that Barack Obama cannot even manage a White House cover-up - Fast and Furious, NSA, IRS, Benghazi. We have learned this week that there is a secret diplomatic cable sent two weeks before the September 11, 2012, murder of US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other American diplomats. The cable warned that the Benghazi consular compound could not withstand a “coordinated attack.” It is just more evidence underscoring the Obama administration’s inability to respond to intelligence. The White House knew the situation in Benghaz was dangerously unstable. Earlier in 2012, a series of attacks had taken place against western interests, including the American consulate itself. Repeated requests were made for increased security and were denied on the basis that the threat wasn’t sufficient to justify it. The new cable reveals there were “approximately ten Islamist militias and al-Qaida training camps inside the city of Benghazi.” If this newly revealed cable wasn't sufficient proof that increased security was needed, especially around the September 11, 2001, anniversary of 9/11, what would Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have found sufficient for taking Benghazi security more seriously. Once the crisis broke, the administration simply set out - almost certainly under Obama's orders - to cover up their failure. ~~~~~ BUT, cover-ups require control of those who were involved. AND Obama could not control at least one major element - the senior United States military officers who were trying to protect those trapped in the Benghazi consulate. Perhaps never before in American history has a President created a second scandal to cover the first one. The second scandal concerning Benghazi was to fire a number of US military general officers to hide Obama’s dereliction of duty in refusing heightened security to the Benghazi consulate and then refusing to try to save the Americans trapped by the ensuing predictable terrorist attack. The Benghazi-related firings were : (1). US Army General Carter Ham who led the US African Command when the consulate was attacked. General Ham was highly critical of State Department refusal to send in reinforcements. Obama has insisted there were no reinforcements available that night. But Ham contends timely reinforcements could have been sent and he said he never was given a stand-down order, while others say he was given the order but refused it. He was later relieved of his command and retired. But, new information in the Washington Times reveals there were Delta Force personnel in Tripoli at the time of the attack and two members volunteered to be dispatched to Benghazi to assist in protecting the Benghazi compound contrary to stand-down orders from the State Department. (2). Another flag officer involved in the Benghazi matter, which is still under congressional investigation – was Rear Admiral Charles Gaouette, commander of the Carrier Strike Group. He contends aircraft could have been sent to Libya in time to help the Americans under fire. He later was removed from his post for alleged profanity and making “racially insensitive comments.” (3). Army Major General Ralph Baker was the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, Africa. Baker contended that attack helicopters could have reached the consulate in time on the night of the attack. ~~~~~ The general officers fired because they disagreed with the Obama-Clinton decision to abandon American diplomats in Benghazi under al-Qaida attack are just the tip of the iceberg in what is becoming known as "The Obama Military Purge." More than 197 general and senior officer level military have been fired under Obama - one every 8.8 days - unheard of until now in American history. Military purges are not unknown historically. Stalin systematically imprisoned and/or executed thousands of his own military officers in the 1930s. The majority of these executions and imprisonments were the result of Stalin’s discomfort with the growing modernization and strength of the Red Army. Stalin saw Army leaders as potential political threats. The loss of nearly the entire command structure of the Red Army had great negative effects on the ability of the Soviet Union to win a war, first with the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 and then during the first month of Russian involvement in World War II. Tiberius' political inability, poor judgment and jealousy led Rome into a dark age of political purges, murder and terror when Tiberius, who had waited a long time to be emperor and only became heir after the death of his two sons, realizing he was not the preferred successor, nevertheless with Augustus' death in 14 AD, claimed power and then purged the military to prevent its alliance with the Roman Senate to overthrow him. Most military purges have been political in nature - to protect a weak or unpopular leader. Unfortunately, bloodless purges can end up being bloody at one point or another. Worse, once one side or the other becomes dominant, the purge is extended from the national to the local, and from there, down to every day citizens. Thus purges throughout history have often led to shifts in power to an actual or de facto authoritarian dictatorship. The classic example would be found in the Russian Communist Revolution, which actually evolved as successive political leaders reshaped ‘the revolution’ to suit their own needs. But you find the same things generally true in the French Revolution and in Mao’s Red China. ~~~~~ Dear readers, here is a Barack Obama quote from early in his first term : "We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded." It would not take great imagination to see a darker goal to the Obama Military Purge.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
President Barack Obama's may have permitted his desire for a nuclear agreement with Iran to get ahead of the reality of domestic American and allied politics. And it also may have provided a rapprochement in the enduring but always delicate French - American relationship. In the aftermath of the Geneva meetings that ended Sunday without an agreement, conservative American congressional leaders, fond of France-bashing in recent years, praised Paris for blocking an agreement between western powers and Iran over Teheran's nuclear program."Vive la France!" Republican Senator John McCain, the Senate's expert on national security issues, wrote on his Twitter account. "France had the courage to prevent a bad nuclear agreement with Iran," he said, referring to the Sunday announcement of the failure to reach an agreement with the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany. During the three days of non-stop negotiations in Geneva, France repeatedly voiced concerns over the emerging deal and its lack of guarantees, causing Iran to call France a negotiations spoil sport. GOP Senator Lindsey Graham didn't see it that way : "Thank God for France and thank God for push back," he said on "State of the Union," the CNN Sunday political events show, suggesting he favored more sanctions against Iran. "My fear is that we're going to wind up creating a North Korea-type situation in the Mideast, where we negotiate with Iran and one day you wake up...and you're going to have a nuclear Iran," Graham said. ~~~~~ So now, it would appear that President Obama's desire to get an Iran nuclear deal will depend on his ability to keep a lid on both conservatives in Congress and worried allies abroad. They are all worried that Obama may want a nuclear agreement with Iran so badly that he is willing to accept a deal that eases economic pressure on Iran too soon and gives it time to complete the development of a nuclear weapon. Republican Senator Bob Corker reflected the congressional tension over Obama's negotiating stance with Iran when he told NBC News, "But we're also concerned about an administration that seems really ready to jump into the arms of folks and potentially deal away some of the leverage we have." The truth may be close to Senator Corker's summary because Barack Obama is in the second year of his second term with nothing positive to show for his presidency. His health care law, never favored by a majority of Americans, is unravelling rapidly. He is mired in what conservatives and some moderates in Congress call lies and cover-ups over the Benghazi attack, the IRS political harassment program, the NSA worldwide electronic spying systems, and a failed Middle East policy, especially in Syria. An Iranian nuclear deal may be his last chance for a positive footnote in US presidential history. But Congress and US allies do not agree. According to those present, the talks in Geneva ended without agreement partly because American allies refuse to formally recognize Iran's right to enrich uranium, although Iran insists it does not have a nuclear bomb program and is enriching uranium for energy and medical uses. And France said it has concerns that proposed limits on Iran's ability to make nuclear fuel don't go far enough. France also balked over a planned heavy water reactor that would produce greater amounts of by-product plutonium that can be used to make nuclear weapons. US Secretary of State John Kerry later tried to minimize the French concerns, but the public comments of French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius raised questions about cracks in the coalition. In exchange for nuclear concessions from Iran, the US and world powers are offering Teheran limited and reversible relief from sanctions that have strained its economy. But this is largely an Obama strategy and he faces opposition from both the US Congress and allies for his willingness to ease sanctions on Iran, even temporarily. Some, in fact, want to impose new economic sanctions on Iran. At Obama's request, a sanctions bill in the Senate Banking Committee is on hold, but it's unclear how long the Senators are willing to wait. Vice President Biden, Secretary Kerry and White House chief of staff Denis McDonough have talked with lawmakers and the White House is sending Kerry to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to ask the Senate Banking Committee to hold up the legislation once again. ~~~~~ American ally Israel sees Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon as a threat to its existence. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu characterized the outline of the agreement that emerged last week as "the deal of the century" for Iran. His comment prompted Obama to call to reassure Netanyahu that the US still agrees about the need to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And Obama must also assuage the fears of other US Middle East allies, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have expressed their concerns about interim agreements that would allow Iran to keep enriching uranium. Kerry visited Saudi Arabia last week and stopped in Abu Dhabi on Monday after the Geneva talks recessed. Negotiations will resume in Geneva on November 20. ~~~~~ Dear readers, the Iranian nuclear deal seems very much to be turning into another Obamacare. President Obama would not and still will not listen to reasonable requests to alter course on Obamacare because he is determined to win on the basis of his first conception, flawed as it was by ignorance of the health care industry and economics and by inept leadership by his White House and departmental leadership. Concerning Obamacare, he appears to be willing to destroy the American health care system rather than admit he was wrong. And now, with the Iranian nuclear negotiation, Obama may be headed down a similar path. He does not accept the advice of those in the Middle East who understand Iran. He refuses to admit that France is in disagreement with his idea. He continues to assure Israel that he will protect its vital interests even while ploughing ahead with an idea that will put those interests in jeopardy. Only France has the power to save Obama from himself this time. I hope it works. As John McCain said, Vive la France!