Michael Collins: Chris Floyd Skewers Wikileaks

By Michael Collins

“So once again, and for the last time, we ask the question: How does this alter the prevailing conventional wisdom about the war?”  Chris Floyd, Leaky Vessels: Wikileaks “Revelations” Will Comfort Warmongers, Confirm Conventional Wisdom, Empire Burlesque, July 26, 27

Wikileaks head honcho Julian Assange may be annoyed with the 911 Truth movement and all those conspiracy theories.  But he may be appalled when he reads that one of the leading authors and researchers on imperialism and the Iraq war, Chris Floyd, has taken him to task for making much ado about nothing. (more…)

Why do elected leaders hate the citizens? Nihilists at the helm

The graph to the right is from the Center for Budget Policy and Priorities. It shows the relative contribution of various factors to the deficit. It’s not a full exposition, but take it for what it’s worth. If we stopped the wars, restored the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest citizens, and ended TARP, we would make a huge contribution to reducing the current deficit.

So why hasn’t that happened? Congress and the White House would rather kill people overseas, reward Wall Street failures, and coddle the wealthiest citizens than reducethe deficit.

The solutions aren’t that hard. Will they take action? Of course not.

Why do those in charge hate the citizens of this country? It’s a fair assumption to say that they do hate us when they avoid obvious and direct solutions to a major problem. Instead, they’ve put together a stacked entitlement commission to tombstone Social Security. By their actions, their program is clear. “The middle class is being systematically wiped out” by the current leaders.

They ALL know this. Most of them do absolutely nothing.

All but a very few should be fired in 2010, without regard to party. If the next crew does the same, fire them too. (more…)

Gone but not forgotten – the bin Laden revival tour

Dead man walking, with assistance

“I think now, frankly, he is dead for the reason he is a … kidney patient,” Gen. Pervez Musharraf said on Friday in an interview with CNN.

“Musharraf said Pakistan knew bin Laden took two dialysis machines into Afghanistan. “One was specifically for his own personal use,” he said.

“I don’t know if he has been getting all that treatment in Afghanistan now. And the photographs that have been shown of him on television show him extremely weak. … I would give the first priority that he is dead and the second priority that he is alive somewhere in Afghanistan.” CNN Jan 18, 2002

But he can’t be dead, at least he couldn’t have been dead on Jan 18, 2002 because the living bin Laden and his network (created with U.S. assistance) represented the rationale to invade Iraq. It’s bad enough that Bush and Blair invaded the wrong country to catch bin Laden. But, my lord, invading the wrong country to catch a dead guy would be even more unforgivable, if that is within the realm of imagination.

How we got to Zero: General Eikenberry’s Hail Mary

From The Agonist

How We Got to Zero:  General Eikenberry’s Hail Mary

Michael Collins

U.S. Afghan Envoy Urges Caution on Troop Increase

“WASHINGTON — The United States ambassador to Afghanistan, who once served as the top American military commander there, has expressed in writing his reservations about deploying additional troops to the country, three senior American officials said Wednesday.

“The position of the ambassador, Karl W. Eikenberry, puts him in stark opposition to the current American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who has asked for 40,000 more troops. New York Times, Nov. 11

This isn’t just any envoy.  General Karl Eikenberry has served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, the second as head of the Combined Forces Command.  After the second Afghan tour, Eikenberry was Chairman of the NATO Joint Military Committee.  He’s a West Point graduate with advanced degrees from Harvard and Stanford and is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.

General McChrystal has asked for 50,000 troops in early October.  By October 28, the president was said to favor a “McChrystal light” number as low as 15,000. On Nov. 7, just four days before Eikenberry’s statement, McClatchy Newspapers put Obama’s preferred number at 30,000. At this moment, the president is reported have rejected all of the troop increases on the table, according to Associated Press at 12:02 am EDT, today, November 12.

How did we get from McChrystal’s request for 50,000 troops in early October to Eikenberry’s “written reservations about deploying additional troops” just days before President Obama’s planned decision?

The only thing we know for sure is that Eikenberry’s statement was no accident.  Clearly, there is dissent in the Pentagon and White House as evidenced by this publicly reported assessment by a serving ambassador and distinguished officer.  Of interest, on troop levels, the Eikenberry statement agrees with the much criticized assessment of Vice President Joe Biden on made after a trip to Afghanistan (more…)



The Money Party at Work

We keep doing the same things over and over again and expect different results.

Michael Collins
See also

Who are the officers guiding our ship of state, steering us through the troubled waters of a failed economy and two tragic and costly wars?

Do we have bold leaders ready to move us away from the failed policies that generated a free market kleptocracy for insiders and their masters, the ultra wealthy?

Are they brilliant tacticians who can think far enough outside of the box to get us out of calamitous foreign adventures that generate nothing but death, destruction, and ill will on the part of those we seek to “help”?

At the start of President Obama’s administration, it was clear that this would be a cabinet that spanned those few degrees of that mythical political spectrum called “the middle.”  The political middle, like the Hobbits’ “middle earth,” is a contrivance, although much less artful.  It’s where you’re supposed to be if you’re the president.  You stand for those who count; those with the vested interests in the economy.  You are that special gatekeeper at the intersection between avarice and the nation’s wealth.

Will anything truly change?

We can tell by the key players in domestic and foreign policy.

Chief economic adviser Larry Summers and Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner are the stewards of economic policy and programs.  They have a long public track record.  Summers was a key player in repealing the Glass Steagall Act in 1999.  In place since the Great Depression, that law prevented banks from wild, risky speculation.  Since it was repealed in 1999, banks have run free doing the very things that the act prevented.

Summers was also a key player in the passage of the Commodity Services Modernization Act of 2000.  That act brought back derivatives which had been illegal since 1906.  These highly speculative market products were the very thing Glass-Steagall would have prevented.

Geithner served as one of the nation’s top bank regulators as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the most powerful Fed by far.  He had his own stress test for banks in 2007 and thought everything was fine.  Most of those banks are so stressed two years later that they require welfare from the federal government just to stay afloat.

Summers is guiding government policy in the most spectacular welfare program of all – Wall Street welfare.  Banks have now received twice as much in welfare payments as they received under Bush and its just beginning.

As Treasury secretary, Geithner is making this happen. He’s also working to see that the Federal Reserve offered trillions more in credit guarantees for the failed banks and bankers.  Geithner also ratified what most experts called an illegal tax break for the nation’s largest banks written into code by a Bush Treasury staffer.  It’s a $140 billion giveaway that no one will even talk about.  By failing to repeal or even discuss it, it’s become Geithner’s giveaway.

Citizens aren’t doing so well.  The foreclosure relief bill failed despite Senator Richard Durbin’s (D-IL) exceptional effort.  That would have kept 1.7 million families in their homes.  No help on that one from Summers and Geithner.  The credit card bill of rights failed to cap interest rates on credit cards.  The 29% rates common at any bank’s whim, could have been capped at 15%, President Obama’s suggestion.

But there were no breaks for us.  Our so-called credit card bill of rights lacks the one right that would have helped — a ban on usurious fees from the failed banks.  We don’t get any special tax code changes from Treasury staffers but the banks get $140 billion that simply stays in place because no one in power seems to care.  This makes it clear to us who really counts.

Our foreign policy is changing in some ways.  We’re supposedly reducing our commitment to the war in Iraq but increasing it in Afghanistan.  Perennial diplomatic envoy Richard Holbrooke made his views clear when he signed on with Madeleine Albright and other notables to advocate a more aggressive military policy in the Middle East.

The media anointed peace maker is now the president’s special envoy to South Asia.  He showed his stuff during an April visit to Pakistan.  The diplomacy was so adept that the trip was described by a U.S. scholar as “the worst-ever visit” by an American team to South Asia in history.  It was a complete disaster.”

That diplomacy was complicated by the policies of General David Petraeus, Commander of the United States Central Command.  He’s responsible for the Predator drone (unmanned killer aircraft) attacks on Pakistan’s western region.  The drones do a good job of killing both Taliban rebels and innocent Pakistanis.  Pakistani’s are taking special exception to their fellow citizens being killed by outsiders, the Taliban or robot killer drones.

They’ll be seeing more of that in the near future, perhaps.  The new policy in neighboring Afghanistan will involve a lot of killing if past records indicate future performance.  General Petraeus appointed General Stanley McCrystal to lead the war in Afghanistan.  Former head of the top secret Joint Special Operations Command, McCrystal has a reputation for rough tactics that get the job done.  Seymour Hersh called the group “an executive assassination ring” that reported directly to Bush and Cheney in the past.

Summers and Geithner have been wrong for over a decade.  They supported from the massive deregulation of banks and the enabling of the complicated Ponzi scheme referred to as derivatives.  They’ve continued the flow of trillions from the U.S. Treasury to failed Wall Street financial instructions.  And there’s no record that they’ve done anything directly for the vast majority of citizens.

Holbrooke is a constant warrior in diplomat’s clothing.  He even implied a threat of another 9/11 with the absurd claim that 5,000 Taliban thugs were going to take over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons to scare the public into supporting a blank check in South Asia.

General Petraeus has filled in the details of that check despite the lack of public response to Holbrooke’s scare tactics.  It’s going to involve just the type of highly aggressive campaign in Afghanistan that has made us enemies throughout the Middle East.

Is this what we voted for?  We’ve got two Wall Street veterans presiding over the continued looting of the Treasury in behalf of failed banks and financiers.  While CEO’s keep their jobs at insolvent banks, citizens get nothing.  After seven years in war based on shameless lies and over a million dead, we’re about to move the action to Afghanistan.  We keep doing the same things over and over again and expect different results.

All aboard the Ship of Fools.


Annotated references

Images:  Geithner, Summers, Petraeus, Holbrooke

Permission to reproduce in whole or in part with attribution of authorship, a link to this article, and acknowledgment of image credits.

The Big “Con”: Taliban take Pakistan and its “Another 9/11”

The Big “Con”

Taliban About to Defeat Pakistan,

Take Control of Nukes, and It’s Another 9/11

Michael Collins
Also published here

(Wash. DC, May 9, 2009)  A strange feeling of déjà vu arises while listening to the administration sell further U.S. military intervention in Pakistan (our Predator drones are already there).

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen claimed in late March that Pakistan’s intelligence service has “close links with al Qaeda and the Taliban network.”  In fact, Mullen warned, the Pakistani intelligence service, ISI, is “offering logistical support to them (the Taliban).”

In early April, veteran foreign policy icon and special advisor to the president on Afghanistan and South Asia, Richard Holbrook, let us know what this meant.  There is a fundamental difference between the Pakistan conflict and the Viet Nam war, he argued.  Pakistan has nuclear weapons.  Holbrook went on to say this:

“And the people who are in this area who we are fighting either pose a direct threat, having committed 9/11, having done Mumbai, having killed (Benazir) Bhutto, and they have publicly said they are going to do more of the same. That is: al Qaeda of course and their allies the Taliban.”  Richard Holbrooke, May 5, 2009 (Repeating April 19, 2009 statement)

On May 9, General David Petraeus supported his superiors as he announced that Pakistan was now “the world headquarters for the al Qaeda senior leadership.”

There is even talk in the U.S. media that Pakistan is at risk of becoming a failed state controlled by Muslim extremists.  Using Holbrooke’s logic, the U.S. would then be faced with a nation of 170 million Hell bent on more 911’s, Mumbai massacres, and nuclear blackmail.

This threat accounts for the use of unmanned drone aircraft to bomb Taliban fighters.  The Pakistan’s government opposes the unauthorized drone attacks as destabilizing and counterproductive.  This is a recent example of U.S. policy that results in majorities of Pakistani’s opposing al Qaeda’s terrorist goals but, at the same time, favoring the goal of “driving U.S. forces out of their country.”

Pakistan has a different take on events.

Fundamentalists in the rural, mountainous regions have sought Muslim law (Sharia) for decades.  The largely urban population of Pakistan and its central government oppose this.  Armed conflict has ebbed and flowed over time.  This issue and conflict is a distant second to Pakistan’s overriding focus on its hostile relationship with India.  Three major wars with India and an ongoing tension between the nations since Pakistan was formed on August 14, 1947 account for this.

Pakistani fundamentalists in the volatile northwestern provinces gained strength during the 1980’s due to their utility in fighting the Soviet occupiers of Afghanistan.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained this to Congress on April 25, 2009, “Let’s remember here… the people we are fighting today we funded them twenty years ago… and we did it because we were locked in a struggle with the Soviet Union.”

Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, worked with the United States to fund religious extremists from Pakistan and elsewhere that were willing to fight the Soviet Union’s forces occupying Afghanistan.  Billions of dollars were committed to this effort by the United States.

Respected journalist Ahmed Rashid noted that, “CIA chief William Casey committed CIA support to a long-standing ISI initiative to recruit radical Muslims from around the world to come to Pakistan and fight with the Afghan Mujahideen.”  A prime recruiting area was the sparsely populated, conservative Muslim population in Pakistan’s border provinces.

That cooperative effort became old news after September 1, 2001.  U.S. policy toward Afghanistan went from funding the Taliban rulers to destroy poppy crops to evicting them supposedly as a first step in the search for bin Laden.

The turmoil in Afghanistan spread to the border regions of Pakistan.  By 2008, new Taliban leadership emerged in Pakistan and the extremists were on the move.  Pakistan’s western provinces are lightly guarded by the Pakistani Frontier Corp.  The Taliban’s initial successes allowed them to show their unique style of governance:

“Militants unleashed a reign of terror, killing and beheading politicians, singers, soldiers and opponents. They banned female education and destroyed nearly 200 girls’ schools” Reuters May 7, 2009.

The preoccupation of Pakistan’s government with the Indian border resulted in the attempts to negotiate a peace which might simply calm the situation in the west.  This was deemed unacceptable by the United States.

At the same time, United States ignored warnings from different factions that the ongoing drone attacks, in defiance of Pakistan’s objections, were creating major problems for both the U.S. and Pakistan’s new government which was seen as powerless to do anything but complain to U.S. officials.

Diplomatic incursion

Special advisor Holbrooke and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Mullen took a diplomatic road trip to Pakistan to make the case for more aggressive action by Pakistan’s regular military in early April

What are the chances Pakistan could fall to the Taliban?  If you listen to presidential advisor Richard Holbrooke, we are looking at another 9/11 unless Pakistan gets its act together.   Mullen was equally strident in his concerns and criticisms of the Pakistanis.

Both officials had made public statements prior to the trip stating the danger to the United States by failure to act decisively against the Taliban.  One of the charges was that Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, was in league with the Taliban and that the government was doing little or nothing to change things.

This created uproar in Pakistan’s capitol.  The head of the ISI refused to meet with Mullen and Holbrooke and the normally mild mannered foreign minister sat the two down for a “frank exchange.”   Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi summarized his meetings with this advice: “‘We can only work together if we respect each other and trust each other. There is no other way and nothing else will work,’ he said rather bluntly” Dawn, Apr 9, 2009.

In an interview on National Public Radio on April 21, even Shuja Nawaz from the establishment oriented Atlantic Council was driven to exasperation when describing the Holbrooke – Mullen mission.  “This is probably the worst-ever visit by an American team to South Asia in history.  It was a complete disaster.  And if this is how you want to win friends, I just wonder how you want to create enemies” NPR, Apr 21, 2009.

But lets return to the 9/11 card played by Richard Holbrooke. That’s a very serious charge.  It hinges on the likelihood of Pakistan falling to the Taliban

Here’s how they match up?

Pakistan is a nation of 170 million people.  It had an impressive run of economic growth until the recent economic crisis.  It is the most urbanized nation in South Asia and has a large educated class.  The Pakistani Army is a well armed force of 650,000 with a substantial reserve force.  The Army has fought three major wars with India, has a modern command structure, and is held in a positive regard by citizens.  It is the largest single contributor to UN peace keeping efforts.

The Pakistani Taliban consists of an estimated 35,000 to 50,000 members.   Their funding may be from the opium trade with other sources hard to pin down.  They promote a violent brand of Islam rejected by the vast majority of Pakistani citizens and they are not held in any regard other than fear due to their violent version of Islamic law.

If Pakistan fell to the Taliban, it would be the most remarkable victory in the history of warfare based on the measure of forces and experience.

Is this likely to be the case?

The Economist dismissed the chances of a Taliban victory over Pakistan.

“If, unthinkably, the disparate warlords who make up the Pakistan Taliban were to mass together for a frontal attack, Pakistan’s army, which is 620,000-strong and well-drilled for conventional warfare, could crush them. Indeed, many pundits reckon that an Islamist takeover in Pakistan would be possible only with the army’s support.”  The Economist, Apr 30, 2009

Scholar and commentator Juan Cole said the notion of a Taliban victory simply “makes no sense.”  He pointed out that the two largest vote getters in the last election for president were not Muslim fundamentalists and that the vast majority of the nation’s Muslims are not fundamentalists (Informed Comment, Apr 26, 2009).

The most recent major political controversy in Pakistan has been the broad public support and protest for a return of the Supreme Court justices fired by then President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf.  These justices found that the president was not qualified by to run in the 2008 presidential elections.  This type of issue hardly indicates a population ripe for radical Islam.

But what about the threat to the United States?

Advisor Holbrooke and Admiral Mullen claim an imminent danger from a Taliban victory.  The senior Taliban leader in Pakistan is doing all he can to promote that storyline.  Baitullah Mehsud told the Los Angles Times that, “Our mission is to continue jihad in Afghanistan and Pakistan and to avenge drone attacks, even inside America,” Apr 1, 2009.  This was nothing less than the 9/11 threats that Holbrooke and Mullen see in the mountains of Pakistan.

Five weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times did a comprehensive report on this question citing sources from various government agencies.  A “military officer” said Mehsud’s statements showed “how dangerous he and his group are.”  A CIA source discounted Mehsud’s importance and a “counterterrorism official” was quoted as saying, “I think it’s a lot of boasting on his part.” Los Angeles Times, Apr 1, 2009

The Times described a FBI document on Mehsud that said, “The bulletin discounted his U.S. threats describing them as ‘aspirational.'”  The FBI was willing to go on the record through spokesman Richard Kolko who remarked, “We are not aware of any imminent or specific threats to the U.S.”

The Taliban faction attacking civilians in the Swat administrative district near Pakistan’s capitol, Islamabad, is lead by Maulana Fazlullah.  He leads a force estimated at 5,000 fighters (of a Taliban in Pakistan estimated at 50,000).

He came to prominence by being the most strident voice opposing U.S. Predator drone bombings of the region.  His solution was strict Islamic law and excessive violence for the people of Swat who are characterized as more interested in commerce and making a living than radical politics.  The districts shopkeepers dislike the Taliban for ruining their business and the government and United States for bombing them.

This is the great threat to the United States that Holbrooke, Mullen and Petraeus warn us about:  a group of 5,000 extremely violent religious thugs who frighten the populace with acts of random violence, attacks on girls schools (200 in all), and bans on vaccines.  They are motivated by the same philosophy that had the Taliban in Afghanistan’s capitol ban   soccer then use the stadiums for public executions.

The Fazlullah lead Taliban can only control the Swat district, a region just larger than Rhode Island, in the absence of real opposition.  The government presence, the Frontier Corp, is a paramilitary police force that won’t stand up to the Taliban.  When the regular army threatened to show up, the Taliban pretended to retreat only to be caught and punished with significant losses.  When they did show up, the slaughter began and the Taliban, by reports, have taken serious losses.

Yet we are being told that they could actually defeat the Pakistan Army, take over nuclear facilities, and attack the United States.

What’s this all about?

In the presidential campaign, President Obama caused a stir when he said, “There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again.  If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will” Times Online, Aug 2, 2008.   The issue wasn’t discussed much until Obama came into office when he made official the already underway Predator drone attacks on targets in Pakistan on January 23, 2009.

This was the origin of the new 9/11 threat as storyline shoved in the face of Pakistani officials by Holbrooke and Mullen on their visit to Islamabad in early April, 2009.

On one level, the histrionic claims by the administration, denied by named and unnamed officials within their own government, are aimed at creating public fear that will justify whatever military action might be planned or viewed as necessary at any moment.  Who opposes preventing another 9/11?  No one.  Therefore, just about anything we do to prevent that is justified.  Does this sound familiar?

On another level, the conflict on both sides is about cutting a deal.  Pakistan’s government seems largely indifferent to the senseless violence against citizens of a backwards, under populated western region.  Why else would they fail to act on the atrocities already committed?

But Pakistan’s real concern has to be the threat of another war with its very hostile neighbor India or even a proxy war in the disputed area of Kashmir.  India has 900,000 troops, and 11 million paramilitary forces, an array of modern weapons systems for its army, navy and air force plus nuclear weapons.

The Bush administration managed to allow the escape of bin Laden from Afghanistan and turn the positive of routing the Taliban into the negative of a prolonged conflict and the role of occupier.  The current administration is stuck with this mess.  Whether the intention is to leave entirely or maintain a residual force for U.S. “interests,” any success in Afghanistan requires an end to the Pakistan refuge allowed the government’s preoccupation with the very real threat of a conflict with India.

This chapter of the drama may be coming to a close.  The Prime Minister of Pakistan went on national television on May 7 to announce the deployment of a major contingent of Pakistan’s armed forces to the western provinces victimized by the Taliban.

At about that time, the Asia Times reported a deal between Pakistan and the administration.  The United States would guarantee a peaceful interlude with India on its eastern border while Pakistan voluntarily weakened it’s position there to send troops against the Taliban in the West  The Asia Times went on to report:

“According to reports, the US has told Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, currently in Washington that if this plan goes ahead, US Predator drone strikes inside Pakistan against militants will immediately be stopped. The scores of attacks over the past year or so have created bitter resentment in Pakistan as they have killed numerous civilians as well as militants.”  Asia Times, May 8, 2009

We’ll know the deal was done if the Predator attacks stop.

Perpetual 9/11

We’re experiencing an example of the enduring power 9/11 as a justification for just about anything.  Military adventures that kill foreigners have the potential to create what Chalmers Johnson so eloquently described as “blowback” in his trilogy on the perils of aggressive foreign policy.  We’re expected to believe that our violent actions in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including robot killer aircraft, will somehow produce a different result this time.  We will be “safer.”

There are now over a million dead Iraqi civilians due to the civil strife cause by the Bush invasion.  There may be a much lower body count for Pakistan’s civilians due to the current administrations lethal military action in Pakistan.  But the legacy will be one of fear, disrespect, and hatred of the United States due to deaths and injuries that were entirely unnecessary.

Ironically, Pakistan Daily, an online, user generated news service, published this — 70 Reasons To Question Official 9/11 Story.  It is a listing of nearly every alternative theory to the official U.S. government version of that tragic event.

The handling of this affair has made even more enemies for the citizens of the United States, those who may ultimately pay the price.  It has resulted in ridicule regarding the very justification for U.S. intervention in Pakistan, the still unexplained and uninvestigated story of 9/11.

But there is still a sliver of hope.  Fourteen members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent this letter this letter to the president urging withdrawal and restraint rather than more troops and action in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Ron Paul (R-TX), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Walter Jones Jr. (R-NC), John Conyers (D-OH) plus 10 other representatives urged a major shift in policy:

“We are also concerned that any perceived military success in Afghanistan might create pressure to increase military activity in Pakistan. This could very well lead to dangerous destabilization in the region and would increase hostility toward the United States.”

The citizens of the United States have every right to expect that their government will provide protection against domestic terror attacks, as well as, infectious diseases, floods, hurricanes, and other large scale disasters.   We also have a right to the truth.  When the so-called experts tell us that 5,000 religious fanatics (or 50,000 at full strength) are an imminent threat to the country, it’s time to say:  Surely you’re not serious?  How could you have weakened us so that this is the case?


Permission to reproduce in whole or in part with attribution of authorship to Michael Collins and a link to this page

Obama & the Military – Tinfoil Blogging

Michael Collins

There is some understandable gnashing and wailing going on about the “team” that Obama has put together.  It certainly doesn’t look like the “change” we’d hoped for, “we” being those free thinkers who are looking at results first instead of justifying “belief” by rationalizing uncomfortable and highly inconsistent facts.

We see Geithner and Summers in key positions regarding the economy, Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, and the Bush family insider, Senator Judd Greg (R-NH) as the new secretary of commerce.  Our health policy almost came under the heavy influence of mega lobbyist and tax evader former Senator Tom Daschle.

I maintain that there’s no point in being disappointed in Obama.  That implies that there might be a point in “believing” in or having “faith” in Obama or any other major politician from Eisenhower on.

If you don’t “believe” then you’re not disappointed.  Bypassing disappointment moves you directly to analysis.  Each issue should be judged on its own merits and then put into interpretive categories after the initial analysis.  Inductive reasoning is far superior to deductive in today’s political arena.  Aristotle trumps Plato, decisively.

So what do we think of this?  What’s really happening here.

The TimesOnline London just ran this article on Obama putting the “break on” the “Afghan surge.”


February 8, 2009  Link

Obama puts the break on Afghan surge

Sarah Baxter and Michael Smith

“PRESIDENT Barack Obama has demanded that American defense chiefs review their strategy in Afghanistan before going ahead with a troop surge.

“There is concern among senior Democrats that the military is preparing to send up to 30,000 extra troops without a coherent plan or exit strategy.”

(Any emphasis in the TimesOnline article is the author’s)

Why would he do that now?  The believe/disbelieve thinkers say that Obama’s been co-opted and enlisted as an establishment tool.  But this type of move isn’t consistent with the “captive Obama” viewpoint.

Obama may have two motives here.  First of all, we simply can’t afford another war and the president knows it.  We’re broke.  We pretend as though we actually have options but we don’t.  There are over 700 military installations overseas with nearly 10% of those major installations.  We can’t even afford those, let alone another major war.

But why did Obama get right up in the face of the military.  He “demanded” a “strategy” is pretty tough language.  That means that the military lacks a strategy.  He won’t send “troops without a coherent plan …”  Again, emphasizing that the military wants a commitment but has no plan to get out, just like they didn’t in Iraq.

It looks like the “surge” is dead for now.  It will be hard to back off of this devastating set of statements.  But other projects are going forward even though there’s no money for them.  Why threaten to kill this project?

A faction of the military openly defied Obama

Two incidents explain the move.  On January 20, 2009, President Obama announced the end of torture and the closing of Gitmo.  Shortly after that, in full defiance of the clear intent of his Commander in Chief, U.S. The chief judge of the Guantanamo military court, Col. James Pohl, U.S. Army indicated that “he would go forward with next month’s hearing for an alleged USS Cole bomber in a capital terror case.”  McClatchy Washington Bureau, Jan. 29, 2009.  That was the first outright defiance of the President Obama.

The second was even more outrageous.  General Petraeus, who wants to be president, issued a statement that resulted in this headline on Feb. 2, 2009:   “Generals Seek To Reverse Obama’s Iraq Withdrawal Decision.”  Petraeus tipped his hand well before the election in Senate testimony.  He argued that the commander of Iraqi forces could actually defy the president on troop withdrawals.

During his July, 2008 trip to Iraq, Obama made it clear to Petraeus that he wasn’t bound to Petraeus’ advice.  At a Senate hearing on Sept. 11, 2007 (ABC News), Obama not only objected to the manipulation of having a hearing on 9/11, he was clear on Iraq:  “This continues to be a disastrous foreign policy mistake,” he said.  “There are bad options and worse options.” ABC News.  He then addressed Petraeus directly:  “However, the Illinois Senator accused Petraeus of dodging questions about the overarching Iraq war strategy. ‘You’ve punted a little bit.  We don’t have limitless resources … the question is one of strategy not tactics.'” ABC News

On Election Day 2008, Petraeus pushed back again indicating, as Fox News headlined, that he’d “stand firm” on staying in Iraq “regardless of who wins the Presidency.”  Petraeus knew who would win the presidency.

Can Gen. Petraeus and Gen. Odierno count?

Image:  pursuethepassion cc

What nerve!  He should have been fired on the spot but Bush was charge and was probably in on the bad taste insolence of a General being both rude to the president-elect and insulting the citizens who had just elected him.  So the recent statement, in full defiance of the popularly elected president, was planned and executed according to plan.

After these two mutiny laden statements, I wondered what Obama would do to strike back.  He will likely never be more popular yet here are two members of the military defying him.

“The Pentagon was set to announce the deployment of 17,000 extra soldiers and marines last week but Robert Gates, the defense secretary, postponed the decision after questions from Obama,”  TimesOnline, Feb. 8, 2009

Hand off to Robert Gates, holdover secretary of defense.  Here’s another chance to jettison the belief/disbelief paradigm by looking at discrete events.  Gates history in U.S. intelligence has some very low points.  No argument.

There are two exceptions.  When Bush rattled the cage in February, 2007 about Iranian senior officials selling weapons to the “insurgents,” it was a clear justification for war.  Yet Gates, traveling in Europe gave a transparently tepid endorsement of the Bush thesis.  This combined with the total sabotage of Bush’s argument by General Peter Pace made bush look silly.  The little covered testimony to the Senate Committee on Foreign affairs by Brzezinski rounded out the Gates-Pace right-left combination.  Bush was left without support for his next war.

Gates also showed how he handled the disobedient and incompetent in handling the 2007 loose nukes situation. Contrary to all doctrine an without authorization, nuclear weapons were loaded aboard a plane headed for Houston.  There was no authorization for this action and none of the required procedures were followed.

The military was embarrassed and the rumors started about a secret plan by Cheney etc.  Whatever the explanation, Gates was not impressed.  He brought in a top DC insider, James Schlesinger, to investigate.  When the review was done, Gates fired the Air Force Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Air Force in a very public and humiliating way.

Gates didn’t stop at the top.  On June 9, 2008, The Air Force Times reported that:  “Gates, who began his career working nuclear security issues as an Air Force intelligence officer in the 1960s, also said a ‘substantial’ number of Air Force general officers and colonels more immediately responsible for recent lapses could still be reprimanded or fired in the wake of the report.”  That’s called “cleaning house.”

Gates knows how to handle these things.  Obama knew that about Gates and he also knew he’d be up against some nasty customers who needed to justify Iraq for their own purposes.  Gates was the logical choice given what Obama correctly anticipated.

While Gates accompanied Petraeus and his Iraq commander, Gen. Odierno on Feb. 2, 2009 when the two generals met with Obama and tried to pressure him to abandon Iraq troop withdrawals, by Feb. 9, he was clearly following orders from Obama on giving even one third of the troops requested by the Army for Afghanistan.  The whole enterprise is in question.

The clarity of Obama’s intent is reflected in the Times article.  They didn’t invent this language.

“Obama promised extra 7,000-10,000 troops during the election campaign but the military has inflated its demands. Leading Democrats fear Afghanistan could become Obama’s ‘Vietnam quagmire’.” TimesOnline, Feb. 8, 2009

Referring to Afghanistan as a “Vietnam” anything is tough talk.  Adding “quagmire” is the icing.

How does it end?

The British are signaling that they think that the Afghanistan “surge” is both a bad idea and a dead letter.

“General Sir Richard Dannatt, the army chief who will step down this summer, has insisted that troops need a rest and believes he can send only one battle group, senior defense sources said.”  TimesOnline, Feb. 8, 2009

After reviewing the evidence, it seems to me that Obama is maneuvering brilliantly in this situation.  It is also clear that Gates was the right choice for Defense given the clear disrespect for Constitution shown by these two military officials.

Does that mean that I endorse Tim Geithner or Larry Summers as stewards of the economy?  Not at all.  They’re dreadful choices and Senator Gregg is worse than dreadful.  It doesn’t mean that I have “hope” or that I now “believe” in Obama.

It simply means that in this very important encounter between rogue military elements and the President of the United States, at this point, I’m convinced that Obama is headed in the right direction.


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