The Devil Made Us Do It

The Devil, like the Lord, works in mysterious ways.

    ARLINGTON, Wash. (AP) – A woman accused of taking more than $73,000 from the Arlington church where she was an administrative assistant blames the devil.
    Papers filed with a theft charge Wednesday in Snohomish County Superior Court say Collen R. Okeson told detectives she guessed “Satan had a big part in the theft.”

When it comes to stealing money from the peoples’ till, the United States government has its own Satan. Currently for the US it’s al-Qaeda and the guy in the cave, Osama bin Laden.
President Obama is waving the trusty 9/11 flag just as President Bush did. He mentioned al-Qaeda fifteen times in his recent Afghanistan speech, including:

    “So let me be clear: al-Qaeda and its allies – the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks – are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Multiple intelligence estimates have warned that al-Qaeda is actively planning attacks on the U.S. homeland from its safe-haven in Pakistan. And if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban – or allows al-Qaeda to go unchallenged – that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.”

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Play It Again, Barry

I thought it might be interesting to look at two speeches, comparing President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan Friday to President Nixon’s Vietnamization speech on November 3, 1969. Comparative excerpts follow.
First, announce the New Strategy–
We have adopted a plan which we have worked out in cooperation with the South Vietnamese for the complete withdrawal of all U.S. combat ground forces, and their replacement by South Vietnamese forces on an orderly scheduled timetable. This withdrawal will be made from strength and not from weakness. As South Vietnamese forces become stronger, the rate of American withdrawal can become greater.
Today, I’m announcing a comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. And this marks the conclusion of a careful policy review, led by Bruce, that I ordered as soon as I took office. My administration has heard from our military commanders, as well as our diplomats. We’ve consulted with the Afghan and Pakistani governments, with our partners and our NATO allies, and with other donors and international organizations.
Then the scary part–
Fifteen years ago North Vietnam, with the logistical support of Communist China and the Soviet Union, launched a campaign to impose a Communist government on South Vietnam by instigating and supporting a revolution. But the question facing us today is: Now that we are in the war, what is the best way to end it?
The situation is increasingly perilous. It’s been more than seven years since the Taliban was removed from power, yet war rages on, and insurgents control parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Attacks against our troops, our NATO allies, and the Afghan government have risen steadily. And most painfully, 2008 was the deadliest year of the war for American forces.

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One Silly Man

The Fiji Sunday Times carried the following article:

    Save, FPSA tells members
    People must save their money for rainy days given that the Fiji dollar is likely to be devalued, says Fiji Public Service Association general secretary Rajeshwar Singh.
    Addressing his members in Lautoka yesterday, Mr Singh said Fiji was in dire economic straits.
    Mr Singh said the foreign reserve was dwindling.
    “If the foreign reserve comes down to one month’s buying power, then everyone knows that devaluation will be the only answer to sustain our existence,” he said.
    Mr Singh said that unless there was offshore borrowing to resolve the tight liquidity situation, there would be problems.
    “This country will be a failed state,” he said.
    Mr Singh said that would affect everyone in this country.
    “So you must save your money, you only buy your needs, and not fancy things,” he said. “Be careful in spending money, save it for the rainy days. This is the time to have needs and not the wants.”

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Those Pesky Border Regions

President Obama: “At the heart of a new Afghanistan policy is going to be a smarter Pakistan policy. As long as you’ve got safe havens in these border regions that the Pakistani government can’t control or reach, in effective ways, we’re going to continue to see vulnerability on the Afghan side of the border.”
Obama was talking about Afghanistan and Pakistan, halfway around the world, but soon he might be using similar language for the USA and Mexico. While there haven’t been insurgent attacks in the USA yet, there has been an increase in crime, particularly kidnapping.

    Arizona has become the new drug gateway into the United States. Roughly half of all marijuana seized along the U.S.-Mexico border was taken on the state’s 370-mile border with Mexico.
    One result is an epidemic of kidnapping that many residents are barely aware of. Indeed, most every other crime here is down. But police received 366 kidnapping-for-ransom reports last year, and 359 in 2007. Police estimate twice that number go unreported.

And the al-Qaeda and Iran bugaboos have been raised by alert US lawmakers.

    Members of Congress are raising the alarm that war-like conditions on the Mexican border could lead to Mexican drug cartels helping terrorists attack the U.S.
    “When you have…gangs and they have loose ties with al Qaeda and then you have Iran not too far away from building a nuclear capability, nuclear terrorism may not be far off,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R- Ariz.), a member of the House Armed Services committee.
    The Mexican drug cartels’ violence accounted for more than 6,000 deaths last year, and in recent months it has begun spilling over into the districts of lawmakers from the southwest region, even as far north as Phoenix, Ariz. — which has become, Franks noted, the “kidnap capital of the U.S.”
    Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), whose district borders Mexico, said that while the situation is bad, it could easily get worse.
    “The goal of the cartels is to make money,” said Cuellar, who sits on the House Homeland Security committee. “If they can smuggle in drugs and human cargo, then certainly they can smuggle other things in, other devices to cause us harm.”

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The Year of the Ox

The Chinese new year of the Ox began on January 26th, and it portends to be a year of change for China-Taiwan relations.

    The Ox is thought to be the sign of prosperity through fortitude and hard work. The Ox is a power sign, like the Rat, Snake, Dragon, Tiger, and Monkey. They’re quite dependable and possess an innate ability to achieve great things. As one might guess, such people are dependable, calm, and modest. Like their animal namesake, the Ox is unswervingly patient, tireless in their work, and capable of enduring any amount of hardship without complaint.
    Ox people, according to tradition, need peace and quiet to work through their ideas, and when they have set their mind on something it is hard for them to be convinced otherwise. An Ox person has a very logical mind and is extremely systematic in whatever they do, though they have a tremendous imagination and an unparalleled appreciation for beauty. These people speak little but are extremely intelligent. When necessary, they are articulate and eloquent.

China’s premier and Taiwan’s president seem ready to make substantial changes in their longstnding bellicose relationship.

    March 5 (Bloomberg) — China will push for a comprehensive economic accord with Taiwan and wants to broaden discussions to involve military issues, Premier Wen Jiabao said.
    “We will accelerate normalization of cross-straits economic relations and promote the signing of a comprehensive agreement on economic cooperation,” Wen said in his annual report to the National People’s Congress in Beijing today. “We are also ready to hold talks on cross-straits political and military issues and create conditions for ending the state of hostility.”
    Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou has stepped up economic exchanges with China since taking office in May, and direct daily flights, shipping and postal links started in December. China signed a comprehensive economic agreement with Hong Kong in June 2003, waiving tariffs for its imports and preferential market access for the city’s banks, brokerages and insurers.

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Divide and Conquer

Success in foreign affairs, where domination is the goal, is often accomplished withn a divide-and-conquer strategy.
Conn Hallinan, 2004:

    It was “divide and conquer” that made it possible for an insignificant island in the north of Europe to rule the world. Division and chaos, tribal, religious and ethnic hatred, were the secret to empire. Guns and artillery were always in the background in case things went awry, but in fact, it rarely came to that.
    The parallels between Israel and Ireland are almost eerie, unless one remembers that the latter was the laboratory for British colonialism. As in Ulster, Israeli settlers in the Occupied Territories have special privileges that divide them from Palestinians (and other Israelis as well). As in Ireland, Israeli settlers rely on the military to protect them from the “natives.” And as in Northern Ireland, there are political organizations, like the National Religious Party and the Moledet Party, which whip up sectarian hatred, and keep the population divided. The latter two parties both advocate the forcible transfer of all Arabs — Palestinians and Israelis alike — to Jordan and Egypt.

And in Iraq, there was the Samarra mosque bombing in 2006.

    The world-famed Golden Mosque, a Shiite religious shrine located in Samarra, Iraq, was bombed Feb. 22. The mosque’s golden dome was blown off in the explosion, which touched off a round of Sunni-Shiite discord across the country.

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Magnanimous in Defeat

It’s a beautiful place to sit, on a bench overlooking Tarakena Bay on the southeast corner of New Zealand’s North Island. One can watch the ferry boats traversing Cook Strait which separates the North and South Islands, and in the foreground are rocky crags with nesting gulls.
Just to divert a moment from the main subject, we observe a nesting gull (White, yellow beak with a red spot, gray wings) shift position as a juvenile gull (all brown) settles in on the nest. The juvenile stretches its neck up and down a couple of times, then bows down low, obviously to disgorge some food to unseen chicks in the nest. I didn’t know that juveniles did that! But we check the bird book. Adult gulls are similar in appearance but the juveniles are brown.
What a grand thing we’ve seen. A bird of one generation giving up food for members of its own generation. The mind wanders. In the US the government is running up a huge debt with ever-increasing gigantic deficits to finance corporate welfare and needless wars, when those funds could be used to house and feed the needy. What we could learn from gulls!
Anyhow, I told you that to tell you this. If you were fortunate enough to be sitting on that bench, and you looked up and over your left shoulder, you would see perched on a bluff a large concrete structure called “Ataturk Memorial.”

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Climate of Change?

In a recent NYTimes article entitled “Climate of Change” Paul Krugman wrote:

    Elections have consequences. President Obama’s new budget represents a huge break, not just with the policies of the past eight years, but with policy trends over the past 30 years. If he can get anything like the plan he announced on Thursday through Congress, he will set America on a fundamentally new course.

Baloney. from a recent news report:

    Obama Budget to Boost Military Spending $20.4B
    President Barack Obama wants to increase spending on the U.S. military by $20.4 billion in 2010. . .
    The president unveiled a federal budget for 2010 that would increase defense spending to $533.7 billion. This year the military is receiving $513.3. The difference is a 4 percent increase, the White House said Feb. 26.
    The $533.7 billion does not include money for fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or about $20 billion that is to be spent on nuclear weapons and other military items outside the Defense Department.
    Obama wants $130 billion for the wars – down from $144 billion being spent this year.
    The three elements combined – the “base” budget, war funding and nuclear weapons – would push 2010 spending to about $683.7 billion. Spending for 2009 is about $681 billion.

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Black is Black, I Want My Barry Back

NOTE: Helena and I have been thinking quite independently along similar lines, which is not an isolated occurrence.
Approximately half of the CIA budget is reportedly devoted not to intelligence but to operations, such as targeted assassinations. New technology allows the US to use un-manned aircraft to kill people whever and wherever the President directs.
On February 13, 2009 Senator Diane Feinstein reported that the CIA has been flying Predator aircraft armed with Hellfire missiles from a Pakistan base.

    Reporting from Washington — A senior U.S. lawmaker said Thursday that unmanned CIA Predator aircraft operating in Pakistan are flown from an air base in that country, a revelation likely to embarrass the Pakistani government and complicate its counter-terrorism collaboration with the United States.

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Learning Peace Lingo

In furthering my study of peace agencies I delved further into the US Institute for Peace. The USIP held a conference in January, “Passing the Baton — Foreign Policy Challenges and Opportunities Facing the New Administration.” I figured that would be a good place to start.
The event convened nearly 1900 participants and a “high-level, bipartisan group of current and former U.S. foreign policy officials and practitioners.” The web site which recorded the results of the conference featured several photos of one paticipant in particular, General David Petraeus in his uniform with its many rows of colorful ribbons. A peace institute conference on “Foreign Policy Challenges and Opportunities” featuring a warmaker! That was a clue to some of what followed.
The conference included panel discussions of several topics. I was particularly interested in Morning Panel 3: “Stabilizing War-Torn States: Goals and Guidance for a New Administration.” This panel included an army general (not Petraeus, another one), a “senior program officer” from USIP and a university assistant professor.

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