Thursday, April 17, 2008

Give the Man a Medal!

The same act President Bush made to the architects and implementers of Operation Iraqi Freedom could hold up that long sought after peace between Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Bush pinned metal on General Tommy Franks, CIA Chief George Tenet, and Iraqi CPA head Paul Bremer for their contributions.

With the Palestinian territories divided, Israel and the U.S. pursue peace with one half of elected leadership, the Fatah led Palestinian Authority governing the West Bank. The Hamas led Gaza government has been shunned by virtually everyone since winning elections in January of 2006. Yet, Israel complained to White House National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley about the Palestinian Authority's plans to award medals to five female Palestinian terrorists serving sentences in Israel. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni pointed out to Hadley "the grave and problematical issues arising from this, and the message it transmits, regarding the Palestinian Authority's obligation to prevent terror within PA-controlled areas."

Mr. Hadley is in the region to lay the ground work for President Bush's upcoming May visit. The Jerusalem Post reported:

Diplomatic officials said there was a widespread expectation that Israel and the Palestinian Authority would sign some kind of document of principles in Bush's presence next month, to give the sense that there was real movement in the diplomatic process that the US president ushered in at the Annapolis conference last November.

If they're negotiating with half the Palestinian leadership and complaining over the awarding of medals, any document signed will likely be less than historic (using Bush's definition of the word). What if peace isn't arranged by the end of Bush's term? There's another award winning female ready to fill his shoes...

Jack Cafferty: Information Terrorist!

China's strongmen leaders were greatly offended by CNN's Jack Cafferty calling them "goons and thugs". The Foreign Ministry spokesman even discounted his apology, saying that the CNN statement lacked sincerity and instead "turned its attack on the Chinese government to try to sow division between the Chinese government and the people."

I'm not sure the current crop of world leaders needs any help driving division. Most seem quite skilled at divide and conquer, driving in fear, and using violence to achieve their aims. Violence is the root of Jack's comments and China's bristling in response. Chinese officials claim American media edited out acts by Tibetans, including rock throwing. Never mind the David and Goliath parallels. The world is left with "he said/she said" when the government won't allow an outside review or investigation.

China's credibility is strained given its response to numerous dangerous products emanating from its soil. When they're serious about making quality goods, they won't execute leaders, blame the customer, or assert there's nothing wrong when people are dying (toothpaste, cough syrup, heparin, children's toys, pet food). Chinese leaders might even study the teachings of Dr. Deming, a longtime teacher of quality with a Japanese Prize named in his honor.

This leads us to another guru with a well know world reputation, the Dalai Lama. For the Chinese government to accuse a man devoted to peace, harmony and compassion of inciting violence is absurd on its face. That doesn't mean elements within Tibet haven't grown weary of China's heavy hand and resorted to violence, especially as that method is modelled on the world stage. From pre-emptive wars to drone fired missile assassinations, worldly leaders work to transform the world in their light/dark image. Now they know how to manipulate the media. Chinese state owned media called Jack's comments "verbal violence", effectively "marketing verbal terrorism".

But as Dr. Martin Luther King told us:

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

China and Jack, it's time to work on the love part...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Uncle Sam Wants Your Biometric Indicators

Two news reports suggest the United States government wants more personal information about its citizens and wishes to share it with a wider audience. First, the feds want to collect DNA information from anyone in its custody, not just convicted felons. Second, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff noted fingerprint information is "hardly personal information" as it's left in public. He said the following at a Canadian Press Conference:

QUESTION: Some are raising that the privacy aspects of this thing, you know, sharing of that kind of data, very personal data, among four countries is quite a scary thing.

SECRETARY CHERTOFF: Well, first of all, a fingerprint is hardly personal data because you leave it on glasses and silverware and articles all over the world, they’re like footprints. They’re not particularly private.

Aren't Mexican, Canadian and American leaders meeting soon in New Orleans to discuss intergovernmental cooperation? Who's the little brother and Big Brother in these relationships?

Not Free to Lead Parades

The countdown is on for the capture of Osama bin Laden. White House Security Adviser prefaced the hard push toward that end in a July 2007 press briefing:

Q Fran, I think a lot of Americans watching this will have two very simple questions: Where is Osama bin Laden? And why, nearly six years after the President said we would get him, dead or alive, do we not have him? How has he possibly eluded our grasp?

MS. TOWNSEND: Well, there is no question that we have put extraordinary resources against finding him. If I could answer directly, with a pinpoint on a map where he was, he wouldn't be there. So the question is, does he -- it presumes, frankly, that he sits in a single place with an address, a street address and a phone number, so it should be easy for us to go and get him. I wish, Sheryl, that it were that easy. It's not.

You can assume, just based on sort of operational security behavior, that he's moving around, he doesn't make it easy, he doesn't have a lot of contact, and he is in a very remote area that is not easily accessed certainly by Americans, and frankly, by the Pakistanis, themselves.

And so the President has made perfectly clear, we will be relentless. He will be captured or killed. And it is a huge priority for us, for our intelligence and military. And we will continue until we're successful.

Q Can you talk about the extraordinary resources? What kind of resources?

MS. TOWNSEND: Military, intelligence and law enforcement resources.

Q -- operations you can share with us?


Fran, do you know if Osama bin Laden is still on a dialysis machine, is he still ill? What? I mean, could you tell us about that? I mean, because -- it might be laughable, but people are finding it hard, six years this man is sick, moving around from cave to cave, and can't be found -- with a dialysis machine?

MS. TOWNSEND: Have you ever been to the tribal areas? I suspect not.

Q No, I haven't, but I've seen some great pictures from Ken Herman as to the rough terrain over that way. (Laughter.)

MS. TOWNSEND: It's not exactly easy. If it were easy he'd be dead.

Q But it's not easy for him to travel around with medics and machinery if he's sick. I mean, is he -- do you know from your intelligence if he's still sick? What do you know about that?

MS. TOWNSEND: I'm not going to talk about that. Thank you.

In the Fox News documentary "Fighting to the Finish", Fran talked about the intelligence reports President Bush receives on Osama. She called his capture or killing a top priority as Bush winds out his term. Bret Baier wrote:

Former Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend told me that the president has made abundantly clear that he wants Usama Bin Laden killed or captured before he leaves office … and describes, in detail, the president’s daily brief in the Oval Office.

“Once a week he's — he's getting an update on the hunt for Bin Laden and the Al Qaeda leadership,” Townsend, who left her position at the beginning of January, told me. “The president has made perfectly clear that he wants Bin Laden brought to justice before he leaves office.

George W. sandbagged on this top priority in his interview with Bret:

Bush says in the interview he's confident bin Laden ultimately will be found. "He'll be gotten by a president," Bush says.

And to critics who say he hasn't done enough to find bin Laden, Bush is blunt: "They don't know what they're talking about," he says.

The Washington Post recently cited increased Predator missile attacks in the lawless region of Pakistan as a way to "the trees" and get al Qaeda leaders on the move. A Los Angeles Times opinion piece suggested forces were aligning for the capture of Osama. Of course the creative blogosphere has its own insights.

President Bush said of his nemesis, "He's hiding. He's isolated. He's not out there leading any parades." Terrorists on ice, anyone?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Freedom of Speech

Steve Howard was arrested in Beaver Creek in 2006 after running into Dick Cheney and his security detail at a local mall. Mr. Howard claims he was arrested and his constitutional rights violated when he happened upon Cheney and his security detail at a mall. Steve took the opportunity to tell him: "Your policies in Iraq are disgusting."

Surely, that can't be the case as Dick Cheney said worse on the Senate floor. So what really happened, especially as the secret service agents have varying stories? We won't hear Dick Cheney's version of events as the judge refused to subpoena the V.P. in the wrongful arrest case. This Vice President not testifying, now that's a familiar refrain!

Olympic Middle East Cage Match

Inflammatory words flew between Israel and Iran this past week. Israel's National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said, "Iran will be wiped off the face of the earth if it dares to fire any missile at us."

Iranian Deputy Chief of Staff, Mohammad Reza Ashtiani warned, "We are not worried by the recent Israeli maneuvers, but "If Israel wants to take any action against the Islamic republic, we will eliminate Israel from the scene of the universe."

The Israeli leader refused to back down, "I do not regret the threats I directed at Iran and its leaders. I am sick of receiving threats to Israel's existence on a daily basis."

When will the cage match begin? Of course, the U.S. is squarely in Israel's corner.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Presidential Oversight on Iranian Intelligence

U.S. President George W. Bush recently appointed retired General Peter Pace and ex-White House Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend to his Intelligence Oversight Board. This came after inserting Paul Wolfowitz into a key State Department role with weapons of mass destruction intelligence responsibilities. Mr. Wolfowitz's role as an architect of the Iraq War is well known. Could he be plotting similarly against Iran?

If the White House is hell bent on attacking Iran's nuclear sites, with or without Israel, who will provide oversight for any intelligence? Why, the President's Intelligence Oversight Board with Pete and Fran would come into play. What have they said in the past?

U.S. News and World Report reported on the relationship between the Taliban and Iran. The article stated:

Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez, the commander in charge of U.S. military forces in the eastern region of Afghanistan, told reporters this morning that "there has not been any militarily significant aid" coming into the country from Iran.

A year ago, Gen. Peter Pace, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, charged that Iranian-made weapons were being supplied to the Taliban. It was the first time that such a charge had been made. "We have intercepted weapons in Afghanistan headed for the Taliban that were made in Iran," Pace said last April, adding that it was unclear "which Iranian entity" was doing the shipping of the arms.

Rodriguez appeared to downplay these charges at a video-conference briefing this morning for Pentagon reporters.

Fran's name came up just the other day in a discussion of al Qaeda Management Councils, one of which could be meeting in Iran. The reporter, who originally made the allegations, found himself under heat from a National Intelligence Officers comments discounting his assertions. That's when he invoked Mrs. Townsend's name, always a strong defense.

"You know, Fran Townsend has talked about these management councils in the past, and so have numerous people."

OK, two of the people charged with providing oversight of intelligence have a personal stake in the game. To save their own credibility, the pair could justify the use of force against Iran. That doesn't sound like oversight. It's more like rubber stamping.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Fran Townsend on Al Qaeda Management Councils

One of the President's new appointments to his Intelligence Oversight Board got name dropped by a New York Sun reporter. Eli Lake cited Fran Townsend, ex-White House Homeland Security Adviser, in reference to al Qaeda Management Councils meeting in Iran.

Last year Mr. Lake wrote "Iran Is Found to be a Lair of al Qaeda: Intelligence Estimate Cites Two Councils." His piece stated:

The judgment that Iran has hosted Al Qaeda's senior leadership council is likely to draw some criticism from those outside the government who doubt Iran plays a significant role in bolstering Sunni jihadist terrorism. Iran's Shiite Muslims are considered infidels by the Salafi sect of Sunnis that comprise Al Qaeda.

While there is little disagreement that a branch of Al Qaeda's leadership operates in Iran, the intelligence community diverges on the extent to which the hosting of the senior leaders represents a policy of the regime in Tehran or the rogue actions of Iran's Quds Force, the terrorist support units that report directly to Iran's supreme leader.

In the estimate's chapter on Al Qaeda's replenished senior leadership, three American intelligence sources said, there is a discussion of the eastern Iran-based Shura Majlis, a kind of consensus-building organization of top Al Qaeda figures that meets regularly to make policy and plan attacks.

Despite Mr. Lake's assertion, the story was "tersely refuted by National Intelligence Officer for Transnational Threats Edward Gistaro. Asked at a National Press Club briefing whether the judgment Lake described was in the final draft report, Gistaro replied, ‘No, it is not. I don’t think it was ever in the draft. … I read [the Sun article] this morning, and I thought, I don’t know where this comes from.’”

That's when Eli went for the Fran card. In his defense of a refuted story, Lake pulled out the big gun, a new appointment to the PIOB.

"You know, Fran Townsend has talked about these management councils in the past, and so have numerous people."

John McCain wishes the story were true with all his recent al Qaeda in Iran gaffes. It remains to be seen if this wool gets pulled over the American public's eyes, especially given the march to war over Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile intentions. Time may also provide Fran's real perspective on this. Her expertise is risk management. Ask her how she helped Carlyle affiliate LifeCare after Hurricane Katrina? That might be an interesting story, but it won't see the light of day at the Sun.

March to War Continues

A nuclear armed Iran with long range ballistic missile capability looms on the rhetorical horizon. Estimates of its ability to manufacture and deliver on these threats vary from three to five years. The Jerusalem Post said new satellite imagery exposed a site where Iran is developing long-range ballistic missiles with a range of 6,000 km.

Civilian defense experts found the previously unknown site. Those same experts noted "using a space program as a fa├žade for a weapons program was the path chosen by Korea until it declared it had passed the nuclear weapon threshold."

Israeli President Shimon Peres posited in the last few months that there was "no logic" in working diligently towards producing long-range ballistic missiles unless Iran planned to couple such missiles with nuclear warheads.

"Iran will be the first nuclear state in history against which deterrence won't work, even if the deterrent is nuclear," Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday.

A source in the Prime Minister's Office responded by calling on the world to take whatever steps were necessary to prevent the nuclearization of Iran (in light of news of new centrifuges capable of enriching uranium much faster). "Unfortunately the reckless language of the Iranian leadership is matched by their reckless behavior," the source said. "The international community must act today. Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons."

Left, left, left, right, left... The march to war continues.

Freedom to Pay More in All These Surges

While working on my taxes, this patriot came across a gas receipt from January 2007. I purchased 13.1 gallons of regular unleaded gasoline for $1.769 a gallon. The bill totalled $23.30. Compare that to current prices of $3.25 and it makes one wax nostalgic. So why the big surge in gas prices, especially as economic growth virtually stopped the end of 2007 and may turn into decline in 2008? Shouldn't those market forces mean a draw down in gas prices?

Well, it turns out what goes up, doesn't come down very fast, if at all. The 85% surge in gas prices is a clear indicator. I'll wait to see the corresponding surge in oil company profits and the mind boggling growth of oil profit fueled sovereign wealth funds.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

U.S. & Israel Pass on Durban II

The current administration sent their RSVP to the United Nation's World Conference on Racism to be held in April 2009 in South Africa. One might think the world could learn from the only nation to have achieved nuclear disarmament and completed a widespread reconciliation process between races over past abuses. But such is not the case, as nuclear armed Israel and the U.S. declined their invite.

Apparently they have bad feelings about Durban I, held September 8, 2001. Three days before 9-11, the world fractured over racist policies. Since then, the Bush administration has done its best to be colorblind on race. This strategy didn't produce gains for the African American community. Why am I not surprised?

Recently several Israeli rabbis issued orders not to employ or rent housing to Arabs. Prior State Department reports cited Israel didn't afford Arabs the same opportunities in those very two areas. Israeli leaders, like Avigdor Lieberman, talk about cleansing Israel by moving all Arabs to Palestinian land. Another recently dangled a shiny new Arab city within the Jewish state, while many struggle for their daily bread.

It's odd that leaders cannot speak truth and learn difficult lessons from a past offender. That a Bush led America and our ally pulled a pre-emptive decline on the conference is no surprise. The question remains what our next President will do. McCain, Clinton, and Obama have all lined up behind Israel, so the turn down will likely stick. Maybe that new League of Democracies can learn from South Africa. But first, Bush has more buttons to push...

March to War

The Jerusalem Post reported on cascading centrifuges in Iran. They're capable of enriching uranium, and if done enough, can provide fuel for a nuclear weapon. The source cited is "diplomats". Are those Iranian, Israeli, or American?

It looks like the U.S. or its ally, Israel, could be sending bombs into Iran in the near future. The Bush team is quite skilled at making the case for war. Recall Saddam was xix months away from having a nuclear weapon. That stuck with absolutely no supporting evidence. Think what Bush, Cheney and Olmert can do with a recalcitrant Persian. They haven't done so well with Churchill's recalcitrant Arabs.

FW Still Just Watching

Freedom's Watch continues to live up to its name. It stayed on the sidelines watching people throughout the world protest to gain more freedom. So far FW is zero for five. They missed Burma, Pakistan, Kenya, Tibet and now Zimbabwe. Does that mean the conservative advocacy group likes heavy handed leaders who smack down democratic movements?

Freedom's Watch stands ready to spend $250 million on issue ads to influence the November elections. The group recently hired attack ad specialist, Carl Forti, fresh from controlling operating expenses at the National Republican Congressional Committee. Yes, that's the same NRCC that went without a real financial audit for over 5 years and lost up to $1 million of donated funds. Treasurer Chris Ward ended up with the money, but one might expect someone controlling expenses to meet with an auditor. Did Mr. Forti not notice?

But Carl moved from one nonprofit, the NRCC, to another, FW. He's sure to continue his dirty work in his new non-taxpaying organization. While members of Congress want to tax your community hospital, advocacy groups can soil our airwaves. What diseases to democracy will Freedom's Watch spread? We already know their diagnosis capabilities are limited, at least internationally.

Forcibly Silencing Free Press

While the world press appealed to Zimbabwe's neighbors to influence the Mugabe government to accept the will of the people, armed paramilitary police surrounded a hotel housing foreign journalists in Zimbabwe's capital. It seems leading a government can become addictive. Losing the juice of money, power, and control sent more than one leader into VT's (violent tactics) at the prospect of being voted out. For such reporting, the messengers may once again be shot, let's pray not literally.

Protesting Buddhist Monks Lack Purchasing Power

Despite crackdowns against pro-democracy Buddhist monks in Burma and Tibet, the Burmese and Chinese governments continue doing business as usual, even expanding commerce. India just announced it would develop a Burmese port via a $120 million project. India closed the deal despite international pressure to isolate the military junta. Does a lack of purchasing power relegate monks to "democratic idealists" without free market punch? The evidence to date is not the least bit inspiring.

Freedom to Ignore or Repeat History

The Washington Post carried a story on the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Despite good Iraqi fiction writing, the Ambassador says she clearly warned Saddam not to invade his neighbor. The Post went on to explore her current thinking about the region:

Asked what she thought of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, April Glaspie noted that the British Empire nearly 100 years ago had failed to control the country.

"You know, past is past; either we learn from it or we don't," Glaspie said. "The British, with extraordinary technology of their time, tried very hard, spoke more Arabic than the current coalition forces, were working within their old former mandate, they had all the maps, they knew every place in Iraq from north to south, and they could not do it. I think that the reasons that they could not do it are there for anybody to read."

Ah, Ms. Glaspie did the British have a $4.6 billion translation contract with a DynCorp joint venture to support Operation Iraqi Freedom? Note the deal was sealed near the 5th anniversary of the invasion. How's that for planning?

Does it also mean the current Bush team can't read the signs, especially if they were there for anybody to read? George W., put on those reading glasses...

Iraq to Get Nuclear Weapons?

A report to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee implied nuclear weapons could proliferate in the Middle East in the next decade. Saudi Arabia would develop them in response to Iran and Turkey would do so to balance power with a nuclear Iraq.

Whoa! Isn't that the reason we invaded Iraq to begin with, to prevent the development of nuclear weapons? How and why would America's best democratic Arab ally pursue nuclear power, much less weaponization?

Here's an odd twist. While those Turkish and Iraqi democracies develop nuclear weapons to balance power, Egypt has no interest in such weapons. If power balance were the reason for proliferation, Egypt and Lebanon would be the first in line to counter their nuclear neighbor, Israel. Of course our 51st state got a free pass in the report, despite Israeli P.M. Olmert's slip up last year.

The report concluded "demands for nuclear energy and for matching Iran's nuclear progress virtually guarantees that three or four Middle Eastern countries will generate nuclear power by 2025.

The spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East could reduce regional security and endanger US interests, the report said.

I'll add one more. Therefor America must stay active in the region. The U.S. military must pave the way for U.S. corporations. It's the wild, wild Middle East and there's money to be made!