Tarheeltalker

“Nature Abhors a Vaccum”

Or,”who’s in charge here? Alas, this well could describe the situation in the earthquake ravaged Haiti. ( By the way, we know now what caused the earthquake. Hugo Chavez has announced that it was caused by a  new U S weapon. His statement would by ludicrous beyond belief if not for the fact that there are people who will believe it. And others who blame it on George Bush.) Now back  to our original subject.

My son and I were talking briefly about things in Haiti and one or both of us commented on Haiti’s state before the earthquake. They already  had a barely functioning government and crushing poverty and now this devastation caused by a  massive earthquake. Virtually anywhere else in the world would have better positioned to deal with the aftermath than Haiti.

So, what is happening there? The country’ s leadership is either dead or invisible. The United Nations has suffered grave losses in personnel and facilities so who takes charge, provided security, operates the airport etc.? It seems, almost by default, that the U S military has taken charge ( see title quote by Francois Rabelas) of the country in  a sense. And that brings a vast amount of criticism, from numerous sources.

People such as our friend Chavez, good ol Daniel Ortega from Nicaragua, the group Doctors Without Borders, Bolivian leader Evo Morales, various French groups and other humanitarian groups. Our troops are in a no-win position. Someone has to do what they are doing. And no , they are not there to occupy the country. Without some semblance of order the over one billion dollars  that has been pledged so far  will be squandered, stolen or  worse.Our own Time magazine is calling it a” compassionate invasion.” Thanks for nothing fellows.

82nd Airborne troops are already there, probably some Marines and Navy  as well as directed by Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen. So, just one question, maybe two for all these clowns who are protesting. Who do want to handle all this stuff ? Political commentator Janet Daley, writing in the  U K Telegraph called it a case  of ” America is always wrong, part 85.” Reckon the French are just jealous.  She made this telling point. If our interventions are kept to a minimum, they are “callous” and  ” selfish.” If  we accept full responsibility we are engaged in “imperialist occupation.”

For the troops that are there, I wish you God speed. We know you will do your country proud.

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January 21, 2010 Posted by | International politics, Life and Death, Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

CAIR’S “FOXY” Behavior

Lot of stuff going on at Fox News these days and not just the hiring of Sarah Palin as a  commentator, although that should be interesting.The real thing  that  interests me is the emergence of  CAIR spokesmen on the network. For the uninitiated, it is the Council for American Islamic Relations. Betcha there is no counterpart to it  in your favorite Middle Eastern country.

Anyway, one of the CAIR spokesmen was on Bill O’Reilly the other day, his second appearance in  a month. Ibrahim Hooper was discussing  profiling of Muslims following the recent Christmas Day bombing attempt. Prior to his appearance, CAIR’s top guy Nihad  Awad,  among others,  had appeared on FOX to refute any the notion that the Fort Hood shooter had any Islamic ties. Oh, almost forgot. After  Hooper’s latest appearance O’Reilly called him a ” stand-up guy.”  Somehow, he failed to make mention of the organization’s terror connections. Our government has it as an un-indicted terrorist  co-conspirator  as well as investigating it through the FBI.

(CAIR could be called many things but I suppose  a connection to FOX would have not been one of them. The Administration itself  barely considers them a news organization, much less a fair and balanced one. But that may charge.)

So, is there any reason, logical or otherwise, as to why these guys should get deferential treatment from the FOX guys? Could be. As Rush is wont to say, one should always follow the money. For our purposes, the money comes from a Saudi Arabian source and goes to both  CAIR and to FOX. The financial guy is a Saudi prince named al-Walid bin Talal, who at present owns a 5.5% voting share in the FOX parent company News Corp, run by media mogul Rupert Murdoch. That fact is no secret, as it is readily admitted by News Corp. But, our friend bin-Talal also helps bankroll CAIR as do other Saudis, a fact that is blatantly denied by their leadership, but has been confirmed  through State Department and other sources.

So CAIR, who is not a legitimate source for Islamic interests continues to portray itself as  such’ when in reality it is much closer to those who advocate violent behavior. Seems that with FOX, they are getting their own bully pulpit to influence American public opinion in  a manner not consistent with the usual perception  of  FOX as one who tilts to the right. Maybe Palin can look into this. Or better yet, what about it Mr Beck? Is there a story here?

January 12, 2010 Posted by | International politics, Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Who’s Fighting Whose Wars?

Seems that a former senior CIA agent, Michael Scheuer, thinks we have some misplaced allegiances in the Middle East. Mr Scheuer was on  a C-Span call-in show  last Monday which degenerated into  an anti-Semitic gab fest.

Scheuer, with a number of callers agreed, thinks Israel is of no strategic importance to the United States. He also said that  American soldiers are dying in Iraq for the sake of Israel. He had this telling quote, ” Their association with us is a negative for the United States. Now that’s a fact. What you want about that fact is entirely different.” One more tidbit from Mr Scheuer. We should somehow “persuade”  Islamic terrorists who threaten us to” focus their anger” on Israel (as if they already do not)  and oppressive Middle Eastern regimes.

Wonder who he thinks is our most staunch ally in the Middle East, as well as the only thing country even close to having a freely elected government. Uh, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia. None seem to ring a bell. As for the part about our troops dying for Israel, may we return briefly to Desert  Storm in 1991. If memory serves, we fought that war to liberate Kuwait and by extension keep Hussein away from Saudi Arabia. Israel suffered the indignity of repeated scud missile attacks without provocation. I also seem to remember our asking them to hold off on retaliation ( defend  themselves) which they did. Not sure of Mr Scheuer’s thoughts on that matter.

Add the above to this next Obama administration maneuver. Middle East envoy George Mitchell is heading over to do some tough talking to the Israelis( must have been reading from the playbook of the Palestinian from Plains) about restarting peace negotiations. He threatened a freeze in U S aid to Israel if  satisfactory progress is not made. No wonder that polls indicate  a large majority of Israelis are nervous about the state of relations with us.

Wonder if the letters Mitchell is bringing with him bring instructions about the division of Jerusalem as well as the two-state solution. Methinks Israel is right to be ill at ease. For greater discussion of  the issues and insight as to why we should have a strong relationship with Israel, visit   Joel Rosenberg’s blog .It  gives one  a good perspective on Israel in particular as well as the Middle East as a whole.

Shalom!

January 9, 2010 Posted by | International politics, Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Much Ado About Yemen

The little country of Yemen is very newsworthy these days; more so than in a while. The map shows the country’s position and an interesting one it is. One can see it shares a border with Saudi Arabia and how it juxtaposes with Iran, Iraq Egypt,etc. And of course there is that little thing about the Christmas Day bomb attempt by a young Nigerian who was allegedly trained and funded by al-Qaeda from Yemen, whew! 

But the Yemeni news continues. Seems that the terror guys have posed threats credible  enough to get both the United States and Britain to close their embassies in Yemen. This on one hand, while on the other we offer financial aid and training for Yemeni police and military. Full power of the United States at work and will spare no effort. So said the President, in words to that effect, and no more diplomatic presence. If we’re scoring ladies  and gentlemen, we will give this round to Osama and friends ( Yemen is an ancestral homeland for the bin ladens) are we not? 

I heard a retired general on Fox this morning, can’t remember his name, who called Yemen a “petri dish” for terrorism. Now, biology was never  a strong  subject for me but I believe that has something to do with an environment where things are grown. If that is the case, this impoverished country with a near non-existent economy will loom increasingly large on our radar. 

Yemen,et al

January 3, 2010 Posted by | International politics | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meanwhile, Back in Moscow

While, we wonder about airline security and potential terrorist attacks and whether the system worked or not, there are some interesting noises coming from Moscow. And, making those noises is none other than Vladimir Putin, the real head of Russia. You knew that last part already, right? Check out some of these comments  in an article from the UK Times. By the way, he was at Vladivostok while speaking. Big Russian naval base, might have heard of it. His comments come just weeks after those made on Russian television in which he praised Stalin for building  a superpower and winning a war.

He said today that Russia must forge ahead in developing new weapons to prevent  the United States from doing”whatever they want.” He is traveling around the Far East of Russia in a rather high-profile trip for this time of year. During this trip he keeps  stepping into those areas supposedly the purview oof Mr Medvedev, his hand picked  seat warmer, I mean successor. Wonder if Putin can wait till 2012 to reassume the visible reins of power?

Never forget the bear.

December 30, 2009 Posted by | International politics | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The System Worked ?

So said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in commenting on a failed terrorist attempt to take down Northwest Airlines flight 253 from Amsterdam  to Detroit. No,wait a minute. Yesterday, she said that it failed miserably. So, which is it? Did it fail or not ? If one measures that by the new security measures and  the additional U S marshals assigned to aircraft, I’m going with failure.There are lots of  ways to look at this event that could have , but thankfully, did not have tragic consequences. The alleged bomber, who

is in custody, is Nigeria, although funded from Yemen  and claims that there are more like himself on the way. Comforting thought, is  it not? Yemen  itself does seem to be developing into fertile ground for Al-Qaeda. Although it is located at the bottom of the Arabian Peninsula, it isn’t  that far from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan,etc.We sorta know about them and terrorists,do we not?

The President issued  a statement today from Hawaii, 3 days after the near bombing, if you are counting. What he said sounded good. We’re gonna get ’em, not just words but”every element of our national power.” No matter where they are, he added.

Imagine, if you will, thoses words coming from Bush, war mongerer, etc. And, if he had waited 3 days before speaking on the issue. Wonder if there will  be any criticism of the President  in that regard?

We have been providing support, both overt and covert to Yemeni  forces and that support is slated to increase even more next year. Senator Lieberman, who has been there recently thinks that Yemen could be the next battleground, not that it hasn’t  been before. In October, 2000, the USS Cole was victimized by a suicide bombing.And, there is even a 9/11 connection.

So, let us hope that the President backs up his rhetoric in an appropriate fashion.

December 28, 2009 Posted by | International politics, military, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

They Are Not Going Away Quietly

No matter how  much we might desire it to be so, Iran and its nuclear ambitions are not going anywhere. The United Nations speaks of sanctions, The IAEA wants to inspect, Israel gets worried, Gibbs expresses White House concern. All of these things have occurred over the past few days. But they have also  taken place previously. Seems  to be  the same song, with a higher verse number, maybe#25. I read a comment by David Wilbank  that seems to be the best summation of the entire Iranian nuclear stand-off. Wilbank, the British Foreign Secretary, said that “instead of engaging with us Iran choose to provoke and dissemble.” At least, someone recognizes what is happening.

Meanwhile, the outgoing head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei say the their investigation of Iran’s nuclear facilities is at  a dead-end.  Interesting that as his term ends, he becomes  somewhat more blunt than had previously been the case.

What sparked this latest. Today, Iran announced that it plans to build 10 industrial strength uranium enrichment facilities. This latest was apparently ordered by Hugo Chavez’ buddy, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Now pay lose attention to the following two statements. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs  says that time is running out for Iran to address the concerns of the international community, that apparently includes their Russian friends. The newly announced uranium enrichment facilities are going to built inside mountains to enable them to withstand attack(read that from Israel as Netanyahu has hinted at) from  abroad.

So, the stalemate lurches along. So far, there has been an unwillingness to impose any type of sanctions.Just have to believe that at some point, the proverbial bullet must be bitten and a negotiated agreement will have to give  way to some type of imposed one. How  that would work would certainly be a sticky wicket indeed. But given Iran’s recent track record, methinks there will come a time that it must be done.

November 29, 2009 Posted by | International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Secretary Clinton Overdid It

Want to know what she overdid ? Sure you do. She overdid her praise for Israel, of course and now she is having a bit of  a mea culpa. Madame Secretary was in  Marrakech, Morocco to speak to Arab concerns about the “positive reinforcement” she had provided Israel just 2 days earlier. (And you thought Marrakech was just part of a Crosby, Stills and Nash song).

The uproar relates its seems, primarily, to the  construction of Israeli settlements and their unwillingness to bring that construction to  a halt.  This seems to be a major stumbling block regarding Palestinian- Israeli  negotiations. Obama had earlier talked tough on the matter indicating that the construction would have to stop-period. She in fact repeated this assertion that the administration does not accept the legitimacy of the settlements. Unfortunately, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu seems disinclined to completely stop the construction. So, we have  a conundrum, No wonder, Mrs Clinton was reluctant to make the Middle East trip, anticipating all might not go well. Better watch that thinking or John Kerry might have her job.

Anyway, her new old statements seemed to satisfy a number of the Arab leaders in attendance including individuals from Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.

To more fully reinforce her statements today, she will add a previously unscheduled trip to Egypt. There she will meet with President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday. As of today, there has been no report of what Israel thinks of this” Back to the Future “endeavor . Doubtless, we will hear more.

November 2, 2009 Posted by | International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Didn’t We Fix That Iran Thing?

iranian_nuclear_1030

Iranian Atomic energy Agency Rep, Ali Asghar (courtesy Reuters)

Or, why is this man smiling? The man is Ali Asghar, Iran’s International Atomic Energy agency Ambassador. He just  had a meting in Vienna on the Iranian nuclear issue. Short review, the administration was brokering a deal that would get much of Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium out of Iran. Presumably, that would make it much less dangerous and the Iranians would  not find it so easy to build  a bomb. Russia and France were on board. All looked rosy, except that it wasn’t.

Iran, in the person of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wanted to tweak the agreement a bit, compromise from both sides, if you will. He had previously said that the West had gone from insisting that Iran have no nuclear capabilities to discussing what kind of nuclear capabilities it would have. So Iran had moved up a notch or two or more from the Bush-era.

Quite  interesting to note that there was  almost universal opposition to the Vienna agreement in Iran. Both the hardliners and reformers were united in their negative response .( Bet Congressional Democrats would love to see that on a certain domestic issue.)   Nobody can tell us what to do with our enriched uranium. So, now we have foot-dragging, delaying etc.

Who does this tactic both worry and strengthen? How about Israel who don’t Iran should have any nuclear anything. They can say, we told you this was a bad deal all along. Will it make them more likely to take military action on their own? That is hard to answer even as  one of the largest joint US Israel military exercises , Operation Juniper Cobra goes forward.

Perhaps this telling comment from an Israeli military adviser is worth remembering. This, of course, unnamed source called Iran’s maneuvering, “bazaar bargaining at its best.” Wonder who will have the winning hand?

October 31, 2009 Posted by | International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

NAMESTAN

The World's Toughest NeighborhoodThe above acronym is often used by Joel Rosenberg in his political/religious thrillers which have been quite successful and eerily prophetic. The  letters described a division of the CIA known as North Africa, the Middle East and the stan countries; Pakistan, Afghanistan etc. Fictional or not, the phrase almost epitomizes tough neighborhood in a geopolitical sense.

Look at a map of the area some time and then look at major news headlines from any source of your choosing. While not always the top story, the are seems to carry a weight far beyond its size. This weekend was a real case in point. There  were some major suicide bombings in what was considered a relatively secure part of Iraq. Baghdad was the site of two bombings whose death toll approaches 200 with many more injured. And it may have damaged Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki even more.

Travel a relatively short distance to the west to Jerusalem and what do you discover? Israeli police with stun grenades. Palestinian protesters throwing rocks and who knows what else outside the holiest site in all of Israel, the Temple Mount in the center of Jerusalem. What sparked the clash? Probably no one  knows. David Cohen, Israel’s national police chief laid blame on Muslim extremists. Muslim leaders claimed there were plots  to damage the sites. Israel has controlled the site since 1967 but in a situation that only makes sense in the Middle East allows a Muslim clerical body, the Waqf, to handle day-to-day administration. Tourists and Israelis can only visit at certain times.

And  we have Iran, who virtually lives on the front page. Nukes or not, selling enriched uranium to Russia or not ? Will there be talks? What part will Russia play? That is another Big factor when one looks at Russia’s position geographically versus the Middle East.

One more  factor is of course Afghanistan. It was the site for deadly helicopter crashes  just a few days ago, killing a number of American troops. Will Obama send troops, how many and when? Whose advice is better, Sen Kerry or Gen. McChrystal? Remember that during the campaign,the Afghan war was the one we should be fighting.

It seems that the are is a dominant feature of every president’s foreign policy, from probably Truman through Obama and rightfully so. One thing that is quite easy for us to overlook, given our Western tendency to take a short term view, is that the problems  that are there far predate our involvement; by a long time. No, make that a very long time.

My woeful lack of knowledge and historical perspective point up once again my need for te historical study of  a region whose importance can hardly be overstated. Try these phrases from your long ago study of history: Mesopotamia, Tigris-Euphrates, pyramids; there are many more and there is much history from which to learn.

October 26, 2009 Posted by | History, International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment