"The real Harman story is about Israel intelligence operations directed against the United States which have brought about the systematic corruption of the America’s political system by a foreign power aided and abetted by friends strategically placed throughout the government and the media. Just imagine if Harman had obtained either senior intelligence position that she sought. She would have had access to every sort of top secret intelligence possessed by the US government and would have been in a good position to influence policy. From the Israeli perspective, she would have been their spy, a highly placed agent of influence who could also provide every bit of sensitive intelligence in the CIA cupboard. The apparent fact that she agreed to help an agent of a foreign government and was to be rewarded with advancement makes her something like Kim Philby, the British spy of the 1960s who progressed through his own system while secretly working for another country, Russia. Philby was a whole lot smarter, but the essential betrayal was the same. Those who argue that Israel is no Cold War Russia miss the point, as the national interests of the U.S. and Israel are far from identical, particularly after a series of right-wing governments in Tel Aviv has culminated in the current monstrosity of Netanyahu-Lieberman. " Giraldi
Iraq: Let's not "kid" ourselves, the Maliki government appears to be reverting to Shia sectarian "protectionism" as its basic policy. Success in creating security and governmental "reach" in Iraq has been based on inclusion of Sunni Arab groups (tribes, parties, etc) in the country's polity. The US did that and dragged the Maliki along behind it in the drection of that policy. Did money play a part in that? Of course it did. Does anyone "here" live without money? Well, neither can the Sunni Arabs in Iraq. Now the Shia dominated government there is showing signs of seeking to "put down" the Sunni Arabs. The predictable response has been for those Sunni Arabs to begin once again to support the Sunni extremist enemies of the Shia. This phenomenon has little to do with the impending US troop withdrawal except that this future seems to have made the Maliki government feel free to "get on with" its true agenda. This problem is something that can be dealt with if the US exerts itself and stops "kidding itself" about the nature of the Maliki government and the limits of national unity in Iraq.
Afghanistan: The announced Obama policy set the goals as essentially negative actions intended to confound and disrupt America's enemies. Covert action, limited SOF commando strikes, political support for our friends, some measure of basic infrastructure aid (roads, etc), these would be the kind of tools in such an effort. In spite of the announcement of these reasonable goals and implied actions, there continues to be a constant drum beat of talk, leaks, panel discussions in which people both within and without the administration insist that the real policy is a full blown COIN campaign in which the United States will commit itself to an effort to create a socety in Afghanistan so attractive that rural Pushtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, Turkmen, etc. will support a unifying national government against Islamic zealots who do not believe in the legitmiacy of national governments at all. Such an effort would be hugely expensive and would last for decades. Well, which is it, Obama Administration, which is it? These two visions of the future are not comptible. pl
"Who serves in the active-duty ranks of the U.S. all-volunteer military? Conventional wisdom holds that military service disproportionately attracts minorities and men and women from disadvantaged backgrounds. Many believe that troops enlist because they have few options, not because they want to serve their country. Others believe that the war in Iraq has forced the military to lower its recruiting standards.
Previous Heritage Foundation studies that examined the backgrounds of enlisted personnel refute this interpretation. This report expands on those studies by using an improved methodology to study the demographic characteristics of newly commissioned officers and personnel who enlisted in 2006 and 2007." Heritage
I was at a conference at NYU yesterday. This was at the "Center on Lawand Security" in the law school. This paper was presented by one of the authors. I thought it was so interesting as a corrective that I would recommend it to you. I have included a site for Vietnam era statistics as a comparison. pl
The egregious Chris Matthews is a real "tough guy" in interviewing "guests" until they begin to compare American actions to those of various unclean regimes in recent history. His childlike belief in the uniqueness of the United States and its status as the "city on the hill" causes him to break out in a skin rash at the thought that we might have done some really base things in "moments" of unguarded and banal ordinariness.
He is not alone in this reaction. Recently one Jeffrey Smith, General Counsel of the CIA in the Clinton era defended career CIA "officers" on the Newshour on the basis that they were following orders and defending the national interest and therefore should be held blameless for anything they did under orders (waterboarding, walling, nakeding, hosing down with fire hoses, etc.) There have been various repetitions of this basic message in the media recently.
I don't have a quarrel with the Obamanian decision to avoid prosecuting people from the Bush Administration for war crimes connected with Iraq. I understand the evident decision. Politically, such prosecutions would sharply divide the country and probably hurt the Democratic Party in the mid-term elections in 2010 or the genral in 2012. More importantly, a precedent of prosecution of members of a previous administration is likely to lead to retaliation on an unending basis. I understand the decision but I don't like it.
"I was ordered to..." has been a a discredited and unacceptable basis for a defense in war crimes trial since the trials of the Nazis at Nuremberg. "Things were tough..." is an equally discredited defense.
What are we saying? Is it our position that international law applies to eveyone but us and that it does not apply to us because we are "special?"
Before commenting on the significance of the Harmon affair, I want to just spell out some relevant dates, to situate the actions of AIPAC, Harmon, etc. I think it is pretty clear that the NSA intercept occurred in late 2005. Here is a brief timeline.
May 26, 2005, Larry Franklin is indicted for passing classified material to Israeli agents.
August 4, 2005, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, both AIPAC employees, are indicted as part of the Franklin spy operation.
December 16, 2005, James Risen's story on the Bush Administration's warrantless-wiretaps appears in the New York Times.
January 20, 2006, Larry Franklin is sentenced to 12 years in prison, as part of a plea agreement, under which he promises to fully cooperate with Federal prosecutors on any investigation in which he may have material evidence.
According to Jeff Stein's CQ initial story of April 19, 2009, AG Gonzales intervened to quash the probe of Harmon, in return for her sounding off in defense of the Administration, when the Risen article came out. Clearly, Risen and his New York Times fact-checkers were calling into the Administration prior to publication, so the White House and AG Office knew it was coming.
So my guess is that the 2005 or 2006 conflicting reports on when the NSA wiretap of Rep. Harmon occurred is somewhat settled. It was most likely some time in late 2005, prior to the publication of the Risen story.
Now, for the meat of the matter. Israel was desperate to get its hands on Pentagon reports on U.S. posture towards Iran and Iran's nuclear weapons program, asymmetric operations in Iraq, etc. They wanted hard copy of a specific document, and the AIPAC boys went to Franklin to get it. Those facts are pretty clearly spelled out in the Franklin and Rosen/Weissman indictments. So this is not such a gray area case of simply getting verbal intelligence over lunch. This was cold, hard espionage.
"The official with access to the transcripts said someone seeking help for the employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, (AIPAC) a prominent pro-Israel lobbying group, was recorded asking Ms. Harman, a longtime supporter of its efforts, to intervene with the Justice Department. She responded, the official recounted, by saying she would have more influence with a White House official she did not identify.
In return, the caller promised her that a wealthy California donor — the media mogul Haim Saban — would threaten to withhold campaign contributions to Representative Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who was expected to become House speaker after the 2006 election, if she did not select Ms. Harman for the intelligence post." NY Times
Well, god bless the NY Times. I guess they remember the era of Judy Miller and Michael Gordon after all.
"someone?" This NY Times story makes it clear that the NY Times believes that Haim Saban was not the caller with whom Representative Harman discussed a scheme to threaten the House Minority Leader with a withholding of campaign donations if Pelosi did not appoint Harman to the chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). The Times states that Saban was merely the chosen instrument that the caller (someone) would launch at Pelosi to insure the desired appointment to this extremely sensitive US national security position.
Saban, himself is interesting as a person thought by (someone) to be available for such an errand. An Israeli/American, he is prominent in Hollywood film production circles and has lots of money. If I am not mistaken he is the benefactor of the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution. The Saban Center employs, if memory serves me, both Martin Indyk and Kenneth Pollack as scholars.
The question remains - Who was "someone?" It sounds to me as thought there is a good chance that "someone" was an official at the Israeli embassy in Washington. Could he have been one of the officials at the embassy who left the United States when faced with FBI investigative pressure over the case of the AIPAC men and Larry Franklin? One of those Israelis is now back in government as Natanyahu's national security adviser. Alternatively, was "someone" connected with AIPAC?
If "someone" was a foreign diplomat, then the notion of a conversation like the one discussed is significant. pl
"Rep. Jane Harman , the California Democrat with a longtime involvement in intelligence issues, was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department to reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington.
Harman was recorded saying she would “waddle into” the AIPAC case “if you think it’ll make a difference,” according to two former senior national security officials familiar with the NSA transcript.
In exchange for Harman’s help, the sources said, the suspected Israeli agentpledged to help lobby Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., then-House minority leader, to appoint Harman chair of the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections." Jeff Stein
Life is just not fair. Rod Blagojevich was impeached for corruption, is under massive indictment for the same and was pilloried for seeking to bargain with people (various) over President Obama's vacated senate seat.
Jane Harman (according to CQ and Jeff Stein) bargained with a suspected foreign espionage and covert action agent (Israeli) on an open telephone line in a discussion as to whether or not she would attempt to have espionage charges reduced in the case of two men who are still awaiting trial for illegally handing over US secrets to the Israeili embassy. In return the suspected Israeli operative(not an American) offered to go to Nancy Pelosi to influence her to appoint Harman chair of the House Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), a position in which she would have been able to do a lot for Israel (or anyone else).
Firstly, consider the fact that this spook was comfortable enough with Harmon to make her an offer like that... Harman and her husband, Sidney, are major figures in the world of political think-tankery, charity, etc. BENS, WINEP, AIPAC, JINSA, etc. They get around. She has had to "settle" for a lesser committee chairmanship. As I said, life is not fair.
Then there is the fact that this spook said that he, a foreigner, would go to the minority leader of the House of Representatives (Pelosi) with some prospect of success to ask for Harmon to be made chairman of the HPSCI. Chutzpah indeed! There must have been a good case that he knew Pelosi well enough for Harman to think that plausible. I guess if enough people go to enough dinner parties, eventually everyone knows everyone?
Who was this person, the mysterious voice on the phone? Did he flee the country at some point? Is he now likely to visit Washington soon as a member of a new government? Will there be a dinner party? pl
"After covering the U.S. military for nearly two decades, I've concluded that graduates of the service academies don't stand out compared to other officers. Yet producing them is more than twice as expensive as taking in graduates of civilian schools ($300,000 per West Point product vs. $130,000 for ROTC student). On top of the economic advantage, I've been told by some commanders that they prefer officers who come out of ROTC programs, because they tend to be better educated and less cynical about the military.
This is no knock on the academies' graduates. They are crackerjack smart and dedicated to national service. They remind me of the best of the Ivy League, but too often they're getting community-college educations. Although West Point's history and social science departments provided much intellectual firepower in rethinking the U.S. approach to Iraq, most of West Point's faculty lacks doctorates. Why not send young people to more rigorous institutions on full scholarships, and then, upon graduation, give them a military education at a short-term military school? Not only do ROTC graduates make fine officers -- three of the last six chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reached the military that way -- they also would be educated alongside future doctors, judges, teachers, executives, mayors and members of Congress. That would be good for both the military and the society it protects. " Ricks
Wow! Tom Ricks is about to find out that hell hath no fury like West Point alumni scorned. His willingness to write this column is a measure of how secure he feels behind his wall of successful books. Every once in a while someone decides to take up this idea. It is usually an expensive idea for the proponent.
" The head of the Organization of American States said Friday that he will ask its members to readmit Cuba 47 years after they ousted the communist nation. And in another step toward improving relations, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Cuban President Raul Castro's latest comments a "very welcome gesture."
After a series of overtures by U.S. President Barack Obama, Castro said Thursday that he is ready to talk with the U.S. and put "everything" on the table, even questions of human rights and political prisoners.
That prompted a warm response from Clinton: "We welcome his comments, the overture they represent and we are taking a very serious look at how we intend to respond."" Yahoonews
Let's get it over with in Cuba. Lift the embargo, bring on the cigars and rum. Party time like something from the movie, "Our Man in Havana." Ah, Maureen! Veneration of "Papa." I'll drink to that!
IMO the Castroite state will go down quickly when swamped by Cuban Americans, (some of the best capitalistas in the world), American money for investment and tourists everywhere. How great that would be! Sign me up for some Partaga Diplomats.
Would I go visit? Probably not, I have lost all taste for travel, especially foreign travel.
Cuban spies? We already have them running around. They are surveilled. Cuban travel to the US will make it easier to recruit their people.
"[Al-Hayat]: If you want to describe George Bush, then how would you describe him?
[Chalabi]: A man with very little skill and knowledge.
[Al-Hayat]: He did Iran a great service by toppling Saddam?
[Chalabi]: Iran benefited from toppling Saddam. Bush didn't mean to do it a favor but it was clear that Iran would benefit from Saddam's fall. I am convinced that Saddam would not have fallen except for an implicit agreement between America and Iran.
[Al-Hayat]: This happened?
[Chalabi]: Yes, of course it did.
[Al-Hayat]: Through whom?
[Chalabi]: We worked on this and so did the Supreme Council and Jalal Talbani."
What Chalabi is saying is that he and Iran successfully duped Bush with the help of the neocons. Chalabi has been a neocon "groupie" since college days.
It has been evident for a long time now that Iran's manipulation of the Bush Adminstration, the neocons, and the Likudniks was the greatest covert action operation since the Cheka created and ran "The Trust" in Lenin's Soviet Union.
It is not often that an agent of influence of the intellect and vision of Ahmad Chalbi decides to "tell all" to a major news outlet. One can only believe that this is a calculated move on the chessboard of Chalabi's life. Is this a claim on his part for Iran's gratitude in this hour of its growing power? How much clearer could his contempt be for GWB? How ironic that this war so transformed the situation that Iran is now thought to be the major evil... Talabani? He has always been inclined toward the Iranians. His Kurdish faction lives close to the border with Iran. They patronised him for decades in the periods when he was not patronised by Saddam.
Most of us are children when dealing with the East.
"We wuz robbed," is the truth.
All those families who lost children in this war should remember this statement by Chalabi. A "Peace and Justice" commission is wanted over who was responsible for torture of prisoners?
How about a real enquiry into who allowed America to be hoodwinked into the Iraq War? The 9/11 Commission was a farce. This time we should have an enquiry not run by one of the duped... pl
"The woman who was left for dead after a brutal beating in Lansdowne last month has finally been able to talk to authorities, but Loudoun investigators are still seeking a motive in the case.
Cynthia Bennett, who was attacked along with her husband William during the early morning hours of Sunday, March 22, has memories of the incident and investigators have been speaking with her in short time periods as she recovers from multiple surgeries.
Meeting with reporters Tuesday, Sheriff Stephen O. Simpson said he is confident that Bennett will eventually be able to give the sheriff's office more details about the attack and potentially even lead them to a suspect or suspects.
"We've got to hone down exactly what it is she remembers happened and what is reality," Simpson said. "She is frustrated with trying to get it communicated to us."
The fact that Bennett remembers the incident is the first break the sheriff's office has gotten in the more than two weeks since William Bennett's body was found on a gravel path along Riverside Parkway near the Goose Creek. Cynthia Bennett was found on the other side of Riverside Parkway in a wooded area. Since the incident she has been listed in critical condition.
Deputies have been stationed outside Bennett's hospital room for protection Simpson said, and will remain there. Where she is being treated has not been released for her own protection." Leesburg Today
Colonel William Bennett (USA-Ret.) is not someone I knew, but the story of his death just outside Leesburg, Virginia in March is of interest.
He and his wife were having a morning walk for exercise on a well known path when they apparently were set upon by several assailants reportedly armed with clubs. Bennett was beaten to death and his wife left nearby in such a condition that the attackers must have anticipated her death. As is recounted in this story, the sherriff of Loudon County is inclined to think this is the handiwork of gang members, perhaps in some bizarre initiation ritual. There a lot of Central American immigrants in Virginia now and there have been incidents of violent criminality, usually among rival gang members. Incidents against "gringos" have been few. To be fair, most latino immigrants in Northern Virginia are hard working family people who contribute to the community. To assume that immigrants are the killers seems a bit "hasty" in the absence of evidence.
Bennett is reported to have been a "technical intelligence" type who worked for the CIA after retirement from the army. He is said to have continued to "consult" for CIA afer he stopped working for them full time. That would be a normal pattern of employment.
He is reported to have worked on the analytic problem of the reverse engineering of "Patriot" missile technology by foreign companies. The goal would have been for the country or company doing the reverse engineering to include that technology in missile systems or anti-missile defense system intended for export and sale on the international market. He is reported to have had a good deal of success in this work.
Let's hear what you know and think about this crime. pl
"...history shows that a military response can be successful, such as actions taken by the United States and other nations against pirates along the northern African coast in the two Barbary wars.
"That, for 200 years, has been a deterrent factor. No US merchant ship has been successfully hijacked by pirates," he says. He adds, however, "This time around, if the pirates get away with having hijacked, even unsuccessfully, a US flag cargo ship, it sends a very strong signal of perhaps a lack of will, especially in the case of Somalia where we know where the pirates are. We even know where the leaders literally live because they've built huge mansions that were put up in the last 18 months because of the piracy ransoms and revenues they gained," he says.
He saysfour UN Security Council resolutions and agreements with the interim Somali government allow the use of force. "If we don't root out these nests of piracy or at least send a very strong signal, we will end up telegraphing is a very strong signal of weakness," he says." VOA
The situation with the Somali pirates/fishermen/tribesmen does not require sophisticated analysis. In fact, there is a danger of over intellectualization of the matter. Piracy is an "off season" business for tribal fishermen in coastal Somalia. A half dozen men in a fiberglass "whale boat" armed with rifles and rocket propelled grenades are a small "investment if the prize is a multi-million dollar ransom paid by a shipping company focused solely on its "bottom line." Tribal leaders are becoming rich and there has been remarkably little risk for any of the Somalis involved. This has been almost as good a business as credit default swaps were on Wall Street.
Piracy is crime. The profit in it must be eliminated. Until the profit disappears and the risk level is raised the Somalis will continue to "round up" the fat prizes passing by their shore.
People who think that the United States should "organize" Somalia so as to "drain the swamp" have very short memories.
The French did the right thing. We must do the same. There will be casualties. That price must be paid to restore order and law at sea. pl
"The US commander was confident that the overall timetable for the US pullout would be met. But he added that US combat troops might have to stay beyond June 30 in Mosul and Baqubah, where al-Qaeda retains an active presence. “The two areas I am concerned with are Mosul and then Baqubah and [other] parts of Diyala province,” he said. “We will conduct assessments and provide our assessments when the time is right.”
He added that over the next 12 months “we won’t see a large reduction in any forces in Mosul or Diyala. In fact we might see reinforcements in those areas if we continue to have issues”. Another flashpoint is the ethnically divided city of Kirkuk, on the border of Iraqi Kurdistan, where Arabs and Kurds are at loggerheads. Provincial elections were delayed there because of a disagreement over ownership of the city, a row that also covers towns and villages scattered along the border.
The general agreed that there was a risk of conflict in those areas. “We can’t allow politics, we can’t allow pride, we can’t allow ego to cause violence to occur when you can solve a problem with dialogue.” " Times Online
General Raymond Odierno is not Commander in Chief of the US armed forces. He serves at the will of the president and can be relieved of duty in Iraq and placed on the retired list in his permanent rank of major general any time that Barack Obama chooses to do so. Since full general is a temporary rank that comes with a particular job such a relief would risk retirement in a lower grade. This is true of all four star generals and admirals. They should all remember that, including those who are clever enough to have Ray Odierno run interference for them.
General Odierno's opinion was solicited before the president made a policy decision in regard to Iraq. That decision having been made, it is now General Odierno's duty to carry out the policy or ask to be relieved and retired. He could then run for president, an office in which he would have the authority and power under law and the Constitution to set policy for generals to carry out.
Odierno's wife is quoted in this piece as saying that he did not want to be a professional soldier. He wanted to be a professional football player, and was thwarted in that ambition by an injury. A pity.
He commanded the 4th Infantry Division in Iraq early in the war. The "Ivy" Division under his command was notorious for the heavy handed clumsiness of its operations and was generally thought to have contributed significantly to the growth of the Sunni insurgency. Now he is a "fan" of the COIN methodology. Well, why not? It's the "in" thing these days.
He will probably be Chief of Staff of the Army soon. pl
I was busy the last few days, but the chatter on the news got me to wondering about the "background" thinking with regard to what we are preparing to do in Afghanistan.
In Iraq we blundered around for several years more or less assuming that the Sunni Arab fighters who opposed us in arms were a monolith. The smart people and cognoscenti on the ground knew better than that, but the "system" as a whole did not.
In 2006, the US government finally "got the idea" that there were many groups and that a lot of them had been senselessly alienated by the policies of the Bush Administration. That was sorted out in what the neocons like to "shorthand" as the "surge" and things have been on the mend in Iraq ever since. May the Sunni/Shia divide erupt once again in the context of US withdrawal? Certainly, especially if the US is so foolish as to think that its recent Sunni friends will accept abandonment.
Now we are facing up to the issues of tribal and Islamic resistance in Afghanistan and Pakistan to governments and ultimately to the anti-terrorist goals of the United States. Are we as invincibly ignorant with regard to the panoply of forces and groups in these places as we were in Iraq? Are we? Let us think more fully, more in the way of the people who live in these places.
The assumption that the Afghanistan-Pakistan problem set is one monolihic object is stupid and wrong. Let us do better than that this time.
President Obama has proclaimed the goals of his policy in Afghanistan in terms of confounding our enemies. Secretary Gates wants to give succor to the warriors in funny clothes who can differentiate between true enemies and the merely unhappy.
Counter-terrorism has become an industry. That industry and ambitious generals want to do what rewards them. COIN is now accepted wisdom. Let us be cautious and let us look for real wisdom in particularity. pl
"Dean's memoir, to be published in May for the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Memoir Series by New Academia Publishing under its Vellum imprint, has been read and approved for publication by the State Department with only very minor changes, none affecting Dean's major points. Its underlying theme is that American diplomacy should be pursued in American interests, not those of another country, however friendly. A Jew whose family fled the Holocaust, Dean resented what he saw as an assumption, including by some in Congress, that he would promote Israel's interests in his ambassadorial work.
Dean, a fluent French speaker who began his long diplomatic career opening American missions in newly independent West African nations in the early 1960s, served later in Vietnam (where he described himself as a "loyal dissenter") and was ambassador in Cambodia (where he carried out the American flag as the Khmer Rouge advanced), Denmark, Lebanon, Thailand (where Chas Freeman was his deputy) and India. He takes credit for averting bloodshed in Laos in the 1970s by negotiating a coalition government shared by communist and noncommunist parties.
He was sometimes a disputatious diplomat not afraid to contradict superiors, and he often took--and still holds--contrarian views. He always believed, for example, that the United States should have attempted to negotiate with the Khmer Rouge rather than let the country be overrun by their brutal horror.
As ambassador in India in the 1980s he supported then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's policy of seeking some kind of neutral coalition in Afghanistan that would keep the American- and Pakistani-armed mujahedeen from establishing a fundamentalist Islamic state." The Nation
I watched Ambassador Dean "fence" with the Joint Chiefs in the "tank" (the JCS conference room) when he was doing Washington meetings before going to India as ambassador.
He wanted them to give him a brigadier general as head of the military mission in Delhi. He wanted a true South Asia specialist for the job (we have those). They were willing to give him a general, but not willing to give him a South Asia specialist for the job. The reason? It would have been necessary to promote a specialist colonel to brigadier general and the army chief of staff was unwilling to do that. The general said that he would give Dean a specialist colonel to be the brigadier general's deputy (the implication being that the colonel would do the work and the non-specialist brigadier general would be an acceptable establishment representative). Dean argued hard against this, sayng as tactfully as he could manage that a boss who does not understand the work is always a problem. It was smoother than that. In the end he got tired of begging for common sense and fell silent. The army chief of staff was quite pleased with himself. We all know who he was, Cotton Mather with four stars.
John Gunther Dean was one of the best career diplomats we have had. pl
"American etiquette expert Gloria Starr, who has met the King's wife and hosted two of their daughters in her finishing schools, told smh.com.au there was nothing wrong with Mr Obama's display of deference.
"I think it was a sign of respect and in no way diminishes the ranking of the President or indicates the greater strength of the one being bowed to," Ms Starr said.
"I bowed, wore the attire, ate the figs as a sign of respect when I was in Saudi.
"I applaud the President for showing this courtesy."" Brisbane Times
American presidents do not bow to foreign leaders, ESPECIALLY kings. If Ms Starr chose to bow to King Abdullah, that is her business. She is not president of the United States. If I choose to bow to the pope, that is my business. I would expect the president of the United States NOT to bow to the pope.
When the president bows to a foreign ruler he bows for all Americans. The United States is the world's foremost republic. It is utterly inappropriate for our head of state to make a gesture of submission to any kind of foreign ruler.
The Saudi king is an absolute monarch. Saudi Arabia has no constitution but the Shariah. Saudis are not citizens. They are subjects. The king's subjects bow to him in his presence in much the same way that President Obama did. Arabs are particularly sensitive to social symbolism. When the Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abd al-Aziz was photographed sitting on the arm of a chair looking down on George W. Bush, the whisper went around the Arab World that Bush, in allowing this to happen, was acknowledging his true relationship to the Saudis.
If this maladroit gesture was advised by Gloria Starr, she should be replaced as a symbolic rejection of the poor advice she gave the president. pl
"And I am convinced that, given Lebanese talent and brains, populist rhetoric that cultivates hatred and builds on resentment will not blind people forever to the fact that they are being used: used in an Iranian-Syrian conspiracy to undermine Lebanon's democracy and change forever the character of your constitutional institutions. This conspiracy is destined to fail. At some point, those who played such an important role in demanding that Syria leave Lebanon, but who later parted ways with March 14, will see that their current alliance is not a natural fit with their patriotic aspirations for their country. I believe that, eventually, they will recognize that, by switching sides, they have inadvertently helped mask Lebanon's real problem, which is that an Iranian-funded state-within-a-state has total control over questions of war and peace and refuses all attempts at public accountability and transparency. Hizballah demands the right to veto all decisions by the institutions in which you are democratically represented, yet Hizballah refuses to give up its right of unilateral action. Is it really possible that some politicians who once proudly proclaimed authorship of UNSCR 1559 -- a resolution calling, inter alia, for the disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias -- can now believe that the Lebanese cabinet and even the Maronite Patriarchate pose greater threats to Lebanon's identity than Hizballah's heavily armed, foreign-funded state-within-a-state status? " Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman
Ambassador Feltman is now acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. The occasion for the after dinner remarks cited above on the US Embassy Beirut website, was a "going away" dinner attended by representatives of the coalition of Lebanese political parties that Feltman (as the spokesman of the Bush Administration) had favored throughout his time as ambassador. His remarks are highly partisan and in and of themselves, an intervention in Lebanese politics. Read them in their entirety and judge for yourself in this as in all things. Samir Geagea, the host of the dinner, and one of the leaders of the March 14th movement was once convicted and later pardoned of serious crimes, and is a leader of the Lebanese Forces (LF), a far right political party and militia with a history of ethnic violence. His partners in the leadership are Jumblatt, the hereditary Druze chieftain and Saad Hariri, the Saudi raised billionaire whose continuing ties to "the kingdom" seem as strong as anyone in Riyadh might wish. The rest of the audience was what one might expect.
The absent supporters of the "Syrian-Iranian conspiracy" are the Shia parties (Hizbullah and Amal), The Christian followers of General Michel Aoun, and a variety of other small Sunni Muslim and Christian groups who are the political opposition to Feltman's friends.
Following the last parliamentary election in Lebanon, the results indicated a large increase in support for this latter grouping. Ambassador Feltman and the Bush Administration were loath to accept this result because it indicated a greater support for parties more favorable to Syria and Iran than they wanted to believe should exist. Given the Bush Administration's desire for "regime change" in Damascus and Tehran, this is understandable. What is not easily acceptable are the lengths that Feltman went to in pushing the March 14 parties (Geagea, Saad Hariri, Jumblatt, etc.) in the direction of refusing to increase cabinet representation for those whose results in the elections had been better than anticipated. (Sound a bit like the aftermath of the Hamas win in Palestine?) Feltman is reported to have twisted arms (figuratively), promised support, and threatened US hostility. If he likes, people might be produced whose arms were twisted, etc. As a result, the Lebanese were unable for many months to form a functioning government. In the end, the factions essentially shrugged off foreign interference and did what the Lebanese are good at. They made a deal. Did Feltman's departure facilitate that? I leave that judgment to you, gentle reader.
The Obama Administration is now seeking to learn if a general improvement in US relations with Syria and Iran is possible. Jeffrey Feltman is in charge of all the US embassies in the Middle Eastern region. The daily actions of our diplomats "on post" are under his command. What sort of signals is he telling them to make towards the representatives of those countries in all those posts? What sort of "filter" are reports from these posts passing through before they reach Secretary Clinton's desk?
And now the UN tribunal that will hear the case of the assasination of Rafik Hariri, (Saad's papa) is setting up to do business. I am told that governments are claiming the right to provide "evidence" to that tribunal without making that evidence publicly available and/or available on "discovery" by the defense of those accused of Hariri's murder. The justification? "National security." "Raisons d'etat."
Does Secretary Feltman, the man who spoke at this dinner of the "Syrian-Iranian Conspiracy and those who aided it" have responsibility for the US position in this matter? pl
Why? Why do Americans care about the House of Windsor or Saxe-Coburg or Hanover or whatever?
The "antic caperings of a degenerated stock..." The British love'em or hate'em or whatever. A mystery, but their mystery. The year Diana died people were actually talking about getting rid of the monarchy. Fat chance. The Brits would have no idea how to function without this institution.
CNN drooled pathetically over the Obama visit to the palace, fretting over anticipated failings of protocol. Don't touch her, don't touch her, my god don't touch her.
I confess to having met her. 1971, Izmir, Turkey on board HMY Britannia in port. A pleasant experience. She wanted to talk about the war I had just come from. The champagne was good. She was nice enough to receive the officers of the NATO headquarters in the city.
The fascination that the British Crown holds for many Americans is sadly indicative of the difficulty that representative republican government holds for many people.
Perhaps we should reconsider the whole revolution thing. pl
As a follow-on to the discussion of a possible Israel-Iran war, I invite someone among our correspondents to do a study of the available aircraft attack routes, and ballistic and cruise missile range fans for both Israel and Iran.
I do not have the time to do this but I think that a map with this data and any text appropriate would be an aid to further discussion.