Saturday, May 18, 2013

Obama: forcing a generation to grow up? West Point Part 2 (Reposted from Café Magazine, Chicago, 2010)

Somewhere along the line in our narcissistic prosperous ways a generation grew up thinking that the world was a reflection of their own. Any failure of humanity was simply due to the fact that they had yet to be tried.
If socialism failed it was because it hadn't been our turn to try it; we would know how to do it correctly. If there was war in the world it was simply because we had not given peace a chance. If there is poverty in the world it is simply because we haven't been in charge and we haven't given enough.
Only we could imagine a world without countries and no religion too. If only we trusted our egocentric, highly self-esteemed brains more and placed science and "reason" above anything else we could solve all the world's problems. If only we would be in charge some day.  Well, we are now.
Before the presidential elections we said that Obama was going to have to follow through on the policies of his predecessor regardless of his campaign rhetoric. In many regards he even said so himself. But many of his supporters, including the Rev. Wright, thought he was just being a politician, and as soon as he got to the White House he would bring all the troops home and the “two wars” would end. We said he would have to follow through because it is the realistic thing to do.
Obama's acceptance speech in Norway can be seen as West Point part 2.  As we mentioned before (“A Bubble gum Prize…”) Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to him as an attempt to tie “his hands and builds unrealistic expectations” and as “yet another effort to meddle in U.S. politics”. Ironically President Obama’s award of the Peace Prize has demonstrated that peace is not just talking about peace.
But president Obama has surprised many and shown a great deal of independence, at least in his speech. For those wondering about his foreign policy it seems he has declared himself a realist. We can also call it “continuity” abroad and at home. President Obama will basically continue President Bush’s policies abroad while continuing to balance his audiences at home.
There are many things in the speech that conservatives and liberals have found fault with, specially “conservatives”. But let the speeches at Norway and West Point speak for themselves. Let’s also look at some of his predecessor’s speeches.
“We are at war”, President Obama. “The terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States”, President Bush.
“I come here filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace”, President Obama. “I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace”, President Bush.
“Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms”, President Obama. “I'll just tell you that there are people at Gitmo that will kill American people at a drop of a hat and I don't believe that persuasion is going to work. Therapy isn't going to cause terrorists to change their mind”, President Bush.
“Only a just peace based upon the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting”, President Obama. “Our aim is a democratic peace - a peace founded upon the dignity and rights of every man and woman”, President Bush.
“The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.  We have done so out of enlightened self-interest -- because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren”, President Obama. “Hundreds of thousands of American servicemen and women are deployed across the world in the war on terror. By bringing hope to the oppressed and delivering justice to the violent, they are making America more secure”, President Bush.
“I am the commander in chief of a nation in the midst of two wars”, President Obama. “I believe the most solemn duty of the American president is to protect the American people”, President Bush.
“I -- like any head of state -- reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation”, President Obama. “America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people”, President Bush.
“The world continues to support our efforts in Afghanistan… the recognized principle of self-defense. Likewise, the world recognized the need to confront Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait”, President Obama (remember, the second invasion of Iraq was continuation of the war initiated by Saddam “when he invaded Kuwait”).  “I believe that the free Iraq is in this nation's interests. Some have argued that confronting the threat from Iraq could detract from the war against terror. To the contrary, confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror”, President Bush.
“If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow. I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan”, President Obama (West Point). “I believe a free Afghanistan is in this nation's interest”, President Bush.
“We have given Iraqis a chance to shape their future, and we are successfully leaving Iraq to its people”, President Obama (West Point). “For all who love freedom and peace, the world without Saddam Hussein's regime is a better and safer place,” President Bush. Speaking for President Obama, U.N. ambassador Susan Rice said that Afghanistan, in her words, is “one theater of operation” in a larger war. “Iraq is no diversion. It is a place where civilization is taking a decisive stand against chaos and terror, we must not waver”, President Bush.

It took political courage for President Obama to move this far from his campaign postures. But why does President Obama insists in the false dichotomy of the “two wars”?  The answer must be “domestic politics”. It is time to rise to statesmanship and do away with the unjustified partisan jabs. But it would take extraordinary guts to go that one step further and admit that President Bush was basically right, at least publicly. In private he has already done so.
Perhaps before his term runs out we will hear from President Obama a similar humorous and self-deprecating quote like this one: "You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on", President Bush.
In all seriousness we hope it would be more like this one: “I understand everybody in this country doesn't agree with the decisions I've made. And I made some tough decisions. But people know where I stand. The true history of my administration will be written 50 years from now, and you and I will not be around to see it”, President Bush.

"[Iraq] One of the great achievements of this administration?” Really? (Reposted from Café Magazine, May 2012)

Dictionaries now have a face to go with the word duplicity. It is the face of Vice President Biden.
It is well known that candidate Biden’s solution for Iraq was the partion of that country in three parts. It is also well established that he vehemently opposed the sending of additional troops to Iraq, in what was called “the surge”.

It is also well known that the current adiministration blames every problem we are facing as problems inherited from the previous administration. There is one exception,  “I am very optimistic about, about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration”, said VP Biden on Larry King (2/10/10)!!
Both VP Biden and President Obama opposed the surge, and not only that but constantly threatened to halt "the war" and any effort in Congress toward its success. According to both, the war was one “of choice” and a distraction. According to leading Democrats Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Biden the war in Iraq was “Bush’s War”.
But let us let words speak for themselves.
“I’m going to actively oppose the president’s proposal (the surge)…I think he is wrong”, Sen. Obama, July 21, 2008.

About Saddam:
"We have no choice but to eliminate the threat. This is a guy who is an extreme danger to the world", Sen. Biden, April 4, 2002.

"He is a long-term threat and a short-term threat to our national security", Sen. Biden, April 13, 2002.

"He must be dislodged from his weapons or dislodged from his power", Sen. Biden, September 26, 2002.

"When the inspectors left, after Saddam kicked them out, there was a cataloging at the United Nations saying he had X tons of… X amounts of...and they listed various materials he had. He had these stockpiles. Well it turned out that he didn't but everyone in the world thought he had them, weapons inspectors SAID [Biden's emphasis] he had them. He catalogued them, they catalogued them. This was no Cheney pipe dream. This was in fact catalogued. They looked at them and catalogued. What he did with them...?", Biden with Tim Russert, 2008.  Well, that is a question that rational people would have.

Given all this, it is most likely that whether with Gore or Kerry the US was going to attack Iraq unilaterally—even though, and people forget, the US was still part of a UN coalition that had approved the removal of Saddam by force from Kuwait.

Perhaps some generals were right. In 1991 the UN should have allowed the coalition to go all the way to Baghdad and arrest Saddam for war crimes (initiating a war of aggression and conquest). The rest, were we ended up at, would have been avoided.

The fact is that the policy of regime change in Iraq was a Clinton policy that had been in place prior to Bush and had the support of all the top leadership of the Democrats. The policy of unilateral action was also a policy of the Clinton administration, and it was put in practice in Bosnia.

The policy of regime change in Iraq was the policy of the Clinton administration to its last days. It was supported and parroted by Sen. Biden. After the Bush administration came to power and after 9/11 all that changed. Biden, for one thing, turned against the surge.

On December 26th, 2006, we saw this Associated Press story: "Biden Vows to Fight Any Iraq Troop Boost."  This was prior to the surge.  Anne Flaherty, AP writer, "Sen. Joseph Biden, the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he will fight President Bush if the administration decides to send more US troops to Iraq.” 

Sen. Biden, who then had his eyes on the Democratic presidential nomination, also warned “I just think it's the absolute wrong strategy.”

Later referring to Gen. Petraeus, and the effect of the surge on military and political success in Iraq, Biden said On Meet the Press, September 9th, 2007: 

“Petraeus is dead wrong. He's dead, flat wrong.  The fact of the matter is that there is -- that this -- uh -- this idea of the security gains we made have had no impact on the underlying sectarian dynamic. None. None whatsoever. Can anybody envision a central government made up of Sunni, Shi'a, and Kurds that's going to gain the trust and respect of 27 million Iraqis?  There have been some tactical gains, but they have no ultimate bearing at this point on the prospect of there being a political settlement in Iraq that would allow American troops to come home without leaving chaos behind.” Biden proposed dividing Iraq into three separate countries.

Before, and during the primaries, Sen. Obama went from immediate withdrawal, to appease the “anti-war” left, in less than 16 months to "I will evaluate the situation and listen to what commanders on the field have to say".

On September 15, 2008, while campaigning in public for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama was at the same time trying in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence. During a BBC television interview of November 5, 2008 Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari confirmed the reports, “Obama has "reassured us that he would not take any drastic or dramatic decisions."

Obama opposed the U.S. intervention in Iraq from the beginning. His promise to pull U.S. troops out of the country was a cornerstone of his campaign.

“I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional in Iraq is gonna solved the sectarian violence in there in Iraq. In fact, I think it will do the reverse. I think it takes pressure off the Iraqis to arrive at the sort of political acommodation…so I’m going to actively oppose the president’s proposal (the surge)…I think he is wrong”, Sen. Obama, July 21, 2008.

But in his speech of February 27, 2009 in Camp Lejeune he said:

Thanks in great measure to your service and sacrifice and your family's sacrifices, the situation in Iraq has improved. Violence has been reduced substantially from the horrific sectarian killing of 2006 and 2007.

Al-Qaida in Iraq has been dealt a serious blow by our troops and Iraq's security forces and through our partnership with Sunni Arabs. The capacity of Iraq's security forces has improved, and Iraq's leaders have taken steps towards political accommodation.
The relative peace and strong participation in January's provincial elections sent a powerful message to the world about how far Iraqis have come in pursuing their aspirations through a peaceful political process.
But there should be no disagreement on what the men and women of our military have achieved.”
During the presidential campaign, according to Obama, Iraq was a distraction and had no strategic or national defense relevance. The popular “anti-war” demagoguery was that we sent our troops for oil, not for any strategic, national defense, much less altruistic humanitarian goals.

But in the same speech at Camp Lejeune:

“The future of Iraq is inseparable from the future of the broader Middle East, so we must work with our friends and partners to establish a new framework that advances Iraq's security and the region's.
And so I want to be very clear: We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein's regime, and you got the job done.

We kept - we kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government, and you got the job done.

And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life. That is your achievement; that is the prospect that you have made possible.

The starting point for our policies must always be the safety and security of the American people. I know that you, the men and women of the finest fighting force in the history of the world, can meet any challenge and defeat any foe.

Iraq is a sovereign country with legitimate institutions.”

To this day the partisan left, from Democracy Now to the Huffington Post, etc., insist we are occupying Iraq, and for oil.  “Bush lied people died.”

But important questions remain for history.

One question is, (as then Sen. Biden stated) what happened to the stockpile of Saddam's WMDs which the world catalogued and Democrats thought he had?

Two, after 9/11, and knowing that Saddam was indeed harboring terrorists in Iraq, and the fact that prior to Bush the White House and the New York Times had documented the connection between Osama bin Laden/al-Qaeda and Saddam, and knowing he had and was capable of using weapons of mass destruction, what was any American president supposed to do?

Three, why did the Democrats made a u-turn on everything they believed about Saddam and left on the table for a post-Clinton coming administration? And why they are now doing another u-turn and claiming the invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam’s as "one the greatest achievements of this administration"?

Fourth, if, according to all these acknowledgements Bush didn’t lie, who is lying now?

During a press conference then Sen. Biden claimed that during a meeting with then President Bush he told him “Mr. President, this is your war."  

Now, VP Biden wants to claim that war on President Obama’s behalf.  Why?  Duplicity, simple duplicity.

A SPEECH AT WEST POINT (from Cafe Magazine 2009)

Reactions to President Obama’s speech at West Point have been mixed to say the least. In some cases surprising—coming from some camps—in many other cases predictable. Reactions have run the gamut from predictions of failure on one side to depressing disappointment on the other, to the coming together of strange bed fellows

Our reaction is one of critical caution.

As we have covered in our radio program (“Foreign Policy and You”), American involvement in Afghanistan is a complex situation, made complicated by the nature of our domestic politics. The president—any president—is caught in the middle.

In a previous posting (WIN OR GET OUT! THAT’S THE STRATEGY!) we discussed how domestic partisan politics impact and sometimes overruns our best interest in foreign affairs.

On the nature and style of the speech it can be said that it was at times too political, and although the topic was by nature somber the tone was unnecessarily too dour also. Unfortunately, the president who promised to do away with old style politics could not help himself to try to appease the vocal base. For that purpose, the jabs at his predecessor were not missing. That was disappointing for the kind of statesmanship which was required for the occasion.

But why did it take 100 days to say the same things he said in March? To many observers, the president was simply just trying to appear deliberative, thoughtful and playing to his campaign image and promises that he would take his time, in consultation with others, before sending Americans to war.

But the inevitable decision had already been made apparently even before he came to the White House, at least in March. The president ran on a campaign that he had a better plan than Bush, and a better plan than McCain. He gave us the impression that he would hit the ground running on Afghanistan.

Now it appears that to put some distance between him and anything that would give the impression of recognition of President Bush’s correctness, or of continuity and agreement with his policies, President Obama simply stretched taking a decision that needed to be implemented immediately upon assuming his role as Commander-in-Chief. More than 100 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan under his command waiting for his decision.

And we still do not have a comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and the region, at least not publicly. Nor do we have, nor should we expect a public admission from the president that “the surge” in Iraq, which he was against during the campaign, was a success. Such is the case that he has decided to try it in Afghanistan.

But as we have said before, the president appears as not having a clear grasp of the concept of "strategy"; nor of the difference between “tactical” and “strategic”.  While he calls his plan “strategy” it is in fact a political device to please to crowds in his domestic audience. The plan is in fact half escalation, half continuity, half muddling of notions to give the impression of a thoughtful plan for withdrawal.

But two major contradictions are still puzzling. If Afghanistan is so crucial to American security, a “war of necessity” why a deadline based not on victory but based mainly on a chronological time-line?  How are we going to motivate people in Afghanistan to come over to the good side if we are also telling them that after a certain time they risk to be left on their own? 

The same astounding ignorance on military matters and geopolitics we saw during the Bush administration coming from the so-called "anti-war" movement is manifest again, this time in full ridicule. The selective pacifists, who at the drop of a hat would demand an invasion of Darfur or Haiti, are the same ones who kept quiet all through the presidential campaign when their candidate stated very clearly that Afghanistan was "a war of necessity". They are also the same ones who have been in monastic silence while civilians in Afghanistan have been killed by U.S. attacks, and in fact think that the use of drones alone is the way to go.

President Obama seemed to be in pain, timidly trying to explain to the American people especially to an infantile left, the reasons for his “strategy”. Calls for “an exit strategy”—an irrational code phrase for irresponsible quitting, disguised in military garb—continues from the same camp. His speech has pleased nobody in his base, while receiving some cautious accolades from unexpected and strange bedfellows.

As David Sanger, of The Washington Post, reminds us President Obama “strongly opposed President Bush’s surge in Iraq during his presidential campaign” and even now “has never publicly acknowledged that it was largely successful.”  But in a meeting with his aides more than a month ago he told them “It turned out to be a good thing.” 

Regardless of the political motivations of the president at least he has honored the requests from his commanders on the field and, although perhaps too little too late, it is a campaign promised fulfilled. Let’s hope that between the speech and the time the counteroffensive begins the situation in Afghanistan doesn’t deteriorate to the point that more troops would be required in the end.

As we have said before President Obama started his campaign with a wrong premise of dividing a larger war declared against us into two wars, the bad one "of choice" in Iraq, and the good one "of necessity" in Afghanistan. That went well during the campaign but now reality hits the road.

Cautious hope is requested. President Obama made a choice by distancing himself from Bush, by failing to acknowledge his success. By failing to educate the American people on the real geopolitical and comprehensive strategy needed for American security he also missed an opportunity to become a statesman, a national leader. He chose to split the domestic political differences down the middle. Now Afghanistan it’s all his own.

On Iraq

People ask me about Iraq and the tenth anniversary of the intervention.

Unfortunately, ten years after the intervention in Iraq and people still harping the same tired, puerile talking points it's beyond the limits of my patience and time. At the moment I'm too busy with other projects.

So, instead I decided to post some op/eds of mine which appeared in Cafe Magazine from 2009 to 2012 (see separately) on Iraq and Afghanistan (see, "A Speech at West Point", "Obama: forcing a generation to grow up? West Point Part 2", "[Iraq] One of the great achievements of this administration?” Really?"; or links below).

They deal with statements made by President Obama and Vice President Biden attempting to either claim credit for Iraq, or praising the results of the intervention for their own personal political gain in full duplicity of their previous political positions.

The narrative that WMDs was "THE" only reason why President Bush forced the issue on Iraq is a canard. So the main point in all this, if any, is that we need to be informed and move away from the mere partisan talking points in matters such as this. One thing is political campaigning for office and another thing is what happens in office.

In all this debate one major thing is always omitted when approaching the topic fr
om an assigning blame view. And that is the fact that the “war in Iraq” didn’t start in 2003. It was the reassuming of the responsibilities the UN had for the 1991 intervention and the 18-19 standing resolutions left on the table (especially Res. 678, 687, 1441). Corruption in the Oil-for-Food Programme involving members of the Security Counci prevented the UN to assume its responsibilities.

The situation faced by Bush and Obama, fighting an illegal enemy is like no other in American history, and American laws nor international laws were meant to include an international, borderless, nationless armed enemy. One thing is political campaigns and another the reality of the office.

The CIA director on whom Bush depended on and kept as a gesture of bi-partisanship, was a Clinton appointee.

There was no war in Iraq in 2003 initiated by Bush (and remember Bush had bi-partisan approval, the top Democrat leadership included). Bush re-assumed the activation of the cease fire/armistice agreed to in 1991 and violated by Saddam for 12 years, 8 of those under Clinton. It was Clinton in 1998 who made "regime change" American policy for Iraq ("The Iraq Liberation Act").

If the continuation in 2003 of the UN approved intervention of Iraq of 1991 was illegal, why then did the UN gave and extended a mandate to the coalition of willing nations? Because the operational concept of
"coalition of willing nations" is a principle upheld by the UN Charter, based on the fact that by becoming a UN member no nation is required to resign to its sovereign right to self-defense. "Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the UN." (UN Charter, Ch. VII, Art. 51)

President Clinton invoked this principle for his interventions in former Yugoslavia and Haiti.

Again, "
If the continuation in 2003 of the UN approved intervention of Iraq of 1991 was illegal, why then did the UN gave and extended a mandate to the coalition of willing nations?"

The Security Council, reiterating its support to the people and Government of Iraq in their efforts “to build a secure, stable, federal, united and democratic nation, based on the rule of law and respect for human rights”, today extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission in that country for another year.

Recognizing that the security of United Nations personnel was essential for UNAMI to carry out its work, the Council called on the Government of Iraq and other Member States to continue providing security and logistical support to the United Nations presence in the country.

The full text of resolution 1883 (2009) reads as follows:

“The Security Council,

“Reaffirming the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Iraq,

“Welcoming improvements in the security situation in Iraq achieved through concerted political and security efforts...

“1. Decides to extend the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) for a period of 12 months from the date of this resolution;

“3. Recognizes that security of United Nations personnel is essential for UNAMI to carry out its work for the benefit of the people of Iraq and calls upon the Government of Iraq and other Member States to continue to provide security and logistical support to the United Nations presence in Iraq;

“4. Welcomes the contributions of Member States in providing UNAMI with the financial, logistical, and security resources and support that it needs to fulfil its mission and calls upon Member States to continue to provide UNAMI with these resources and support;"

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1546 was adopted unanimously by the United Nations Security Council at its 4987th meeting, on 8 June 2004.[1][2][3]

From April 2003 to the end of June 2004 Iraq had been governed by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). The CPA's administrator had an appointed body of Iraqis, the Iraqi Governing Council, that served the CPA in an advisory capacity.

On 30 June 2004, the CPA was scheduled to dissolve and hand power over an Iraqi Interim Government, staffed by appointees chosen by foreigners.

Resolution 1546 endorsed the dissolution of the CPA and the handover to the appointees of the Iraqi Interim Government as a step in Iraq’s transition to a democratically elected government.

The resolution said that the UN was "looking forward" to the end of the occupation and the assumption of full responsibility and authority by a fully sovereign and independent Iraq.

It was superseded by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1637.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1637 was a resolution of the United Nations Security Council extending the mandate of the MNF-I authorized in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1546 until 31 December 2006.[1] It was submitted by Denmark, Japan, Romania, the United Kingdom and the United States.

It was superseded/amended/modified by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1723.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1723, submitted by Denmark, Japan, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and the United States, was adopted unanimously by the United Nations Security Council on November 18, 2006, extending the mandate of multi-national forces in Iraq until December 2007, with a force review in June 2007.

The resolution was requested by the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in a letter that was attached to the resolution as an annex, along with a letter from the United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice confirming the force's willingness to continue. The resolution allows for the mandate to be terminated earlier if requested by the Iraqi government.

This resolution follows on from the earlier resolutions providing for the multinational force, resolutions 1546 (which established the multi-national force in 2004) and 1637 (which extended the mandate in 2005).[1]

The full text of resolution 1883 (2009) reads as follows:

“The Security Council,

“Recalling all its previous relevant resolutions on Iraq, in particular 1500 (2003) of 14 August 2003, 1546 (2004) of 8 June 2004, 1557 (2004) of 12 August 2004, 1619 (2005) of 11 August 2005, 1700 (2006) of 10 August 2006, 1770 (2007) of 10 August 2007, and 1830 (2008) of 7 August 2008,

“Reaffirming the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Iraq,

“Commending the important efforts made by the Government of Iraq to strengthen democracy and the rule of law, to improve security and public order and to combat terrorism ...

“Underscoring the sovereignty of the Government of Iraq...

“1.   Decides to extend the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) for a period of 12 months from the date of this resolution;

“4.   Welcomes the contributions of Member States in providing UNAMI with the financial, logistical, and security resources and support that it needs to fulfill its mission and calls upon Member States to continue to provide UNAMI with these resources and support; …”