Thursday, December 7, 2006 at 11:50 AMYesterday, members of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) delivered their 79 (change-the-course)recommendations – like a Christmas gift – to President Bush at a White House breakfast meeting, and to the American people at a Capitol Hill news conference.
(Incidentally, unless the number “79” has some numerological power that will make their recommendations more enforceable, I wonder why the ISG did not condense them by 4 to 75, or increase them by 1 to 80 to make them more palatable.)
At any rate, although wrapped in a hypothetical quagmire, the recommendations purportedly offer a “last chance” to rescue U.S. troops from the killing fields of Iraq and salvage what’s left of America’s international pride and gravitas.
Only in Washington, however, could stale ideas be repackaged and presented as new with such ceremonial authority. But frankly, re-gifting last year’s fruitcake has more integrity than the gift the ISG presented yesterday.
In fact, notwithstanding his gracious acceptance of the bound volume of these recommendations, Bush has already indicated (before and after accepting them) that all of the ones with any merit have already been incorporated into his “policy adjustment” now well-underway.
But, for the record, here are some of the Iraq truism the ISG proffered that are worth reinforcing:
– Our ship of state has hit rough waters, It is time to chart a new course.
– We agree with President Bush’s stated goal of an Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain itself
– The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating…. We’ve traded one nightmare for another.
– Iraq’s neighbors and key states in and outside the region should form a support group to reinforce security and national reconciliation within Iraq, neither of which Iraq can achieve on its own.
– [T]he Syrians look the other way as arms and foreign fighters flow across their border into Iraq, and former Baathist leaders find a safe haven within Syria.
– By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq.
– Iraq is a major test of, and strain on, U.S. military, diplomatic, and financial capacities. Perceived failure there could diminish America’s credibility and influence in a region that is the center of the Islamic world and vital to the world’s energy supply.
– If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences could be severe. A slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of Iraq’s government and a humanitarian catastrophe. The global standing of the United States could be diminished. Americans could become more polarized.
Significantly, the ISG did not recommend the only strategy that could accomplish the stated goal it shares with President Bush; viz: a dramatic increase in the number of troops consistent with the Powell Doctrine (and the Pottery Barn “you break it, you own it” principle). However, this is not because the ISG considered the doctrine and found it wanting. Rather, it’s because, despite recognizing it as the course the U.S. should have taken, the ISG lamented the fact that the U.S. military simply does not have enough manpower to execute the Powell Doctrine. (See Related Articles).
Yet it is undeniable that unless U.S. forces can impose conditions on the ground that are tantamount to martial law (think Japan after WWII), none of these recommendations will have any impact on the civil war now raging in Iraq, and all of the doomsday scenarios the ISG rightly expresses grave concerns about will materialize.
After all, it’s as clear to me as yesterday’s news that, no matter how much training and embedding they’re offered, the Iraqis will not stand up to govern, defend and sustain itself. Therefore, having now broken Iraq, the U.S. must either assume total responsibility for fixing it, or cut and run and let the chips fall where they may! All else is political folly….
Meanwhile, as the ISG was presenting its blueprint for a way out yesterday, 10 more US soldiers were blown to smithereens in the killing fields of Iraq….
NOTE: Many political analysts lauded as a bold new strategy the ISG’s recommendation that the U.S. should hold direct talks with Iran and Syria over the fate of Iraq. However, Bush has made it patently clear that he believes Iran and Syria have been fomenting and funding the Iraqi conflict and have the blood of American soldiers on their hands.
Never mind that the only reason these countries (especially Iran) would want to have talks with the U.S. would be to negotiate the terms of U.S. surrender and withdrawal from Iraq.
Therefore, Bush is no more inclined to sit down and negotiate with them than he is to do so with North Korea. Nonetheless, he has conceded that the Iraqis are free to hold such talks on their own behalf if they deem them worthwhile. And, in fact, Iraqi leaders are already bartering with Iran and Syria; which, alas, makes American soldiers seem more like Filipino-guest workers than masters of Iraq’s fate….
Wednesday, December 6, 2006 at 11:15 AM
The British are much more intelligent and civilized than the Americans.
[Gwyneth Paltrow in Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticias]
Evidently, faking that British accent for her Oscar-winning performance in Shakespeare in Love (after introducing it in Emma) has caused Gwyneth Paltrow to suffer a lingering identity crisis. Because, even though being an American (Hollywood) actress supports her adopted British lifestyle (and permanent residency), she has clearly acquired a visceral contempt for America, which she expresses with quaint British affectations.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that she has finally been caught in a public conflict with herself. It stems from an interview with a Portuguese newspaper in which she dissed America with such royal snobbery that would make Her Majesty, The Queen, blush, and her Madgesty Madonna green with envy.
Of course, Gwyneth denies ever saying anything so demonstrably absurd, and claims to be “deeply upset”, one assumes, because the patriotic and affectionate sentiments she expressed about her fellow Americans were lost in translation.
Perhaps…except that a little research by E! Online news reporter Sarah Hall makes it patently clear that Gwyneth either has a habit of looking down her nose at Americans (and America), or harbors acute anti-American snobbery in her heart.
Moreover, it is equally clear that her PR effort to cover her embarrassing self-loathing is motivated more by her fear of ending up like the Dixie Chicks – whose country-music careers tanked after they were caught on tape dissing President Bush (“I’m ashamed he’s from my state” etc.) to curry favor with a British audience – than by a sincere desire to correct a misquote for the record.
After all, if the latter were her motivation she would have a lot of correcting to do. Because the proof is in this (Yorkshire?) pudding of well-documented quotes compiled by Hall, which expose Gwyneth as an ungrateful snob and a pathological liar:
To Britain’s Star magazine in February 2006: “I love living in the UK! Brits are far more intelligent and civilized than Americans.”
To London’s Guardian in January 2006: “I love the English way, which is not as capitalistic as it is in America. People don’t talk about work and money; they talk about interesting things at dinner parties. I like living here because I don’t tap into the bad side of American psychology, which is ‘I’m not achieving enough, I’m not making enough, I’m not at the top of the pile.’ It’s just kind of like, I am.”
To Harper’s Bazaar in September 2006: “People think it’s strange that I want to live here. But London is where my husband lives and works…It’s not as hectic as New York and not as vapid as Los Angeles.” In the same Harper’s interview, on preferring her British friends to her American friends: “They’re intelligent and they’re not looking over my shoulder at dinner to see if there’s anyone better walking in.”
To Toronto’s Globe & Mail in September 2005: “I’ve always been drawn to Europe. America is such a young country, with an adolescent swagger about it. But I feel that I have a more European sensibility, a greater respect for the multicultural nature of the globe. And it’s a strange time to be an American now.”
To London’s Evening Standard in December 2005: “I find the English amazing how they got over 7/7. There were no multiple memorials with people sobbing as they would have been in America. There, they are constantly scaring people but at the same time, people think nothing of going to see a therapist.”
You need counseling Gwyneth, quick! (And that’s with a psychologist to find yourself, not a speech therapist to perfect your British accent.)
NOTE: To be fair to Gwyneth, I’ve heard many Americans express deferential affinity for British intelligence and sophistication based solely on the posh way members of England’s dwindling upper class speak. But I’m sure no truly intelligent and sophisticated Briton (or American) shares Gwyneth’s superficial sentiments.
Tuesday, December 5, 2006 at 11:37 AMOver a year ago, when Democrats (and one agnostic Republican) on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee blocked his nomination of John Bolton as UN Ambassador, President Bush used his executive authority to appoint him temporarily.
Bolton’s critics claimed that they obstructed a vote on his confirmation by the full Senate because they feared he was “too combative for international diplomacy”. However, by all objective accounts, his stint at the UN has been a surprising success. Indeed, so much so that when US reporters tried (even off the record) to get his fellow diplomats to validate those fears, they could not find anyone at the UN who shared the Democrats’ ironic view of Bolton as the stereotypical ugly American.
They chose to obstruct his confirmation, even though he enjoys majority support in the Senate, and even though their tactics will disrupt our diplomatic work at a sensitive and important time….This stubborn obstructionism ill serves our country, and discourages men and women of talent from serving their nation.
[President Bush begrudgingly accepting Bolton’s resignation yesterday]
But it is truly extraordinary that UN diplomats held Bolton in such high esteem. After all, Bush dispatched him to the organization to execute a “take-no-prisoners” reform agenda, which included streamlining the UN bureaucracy, demanding greater transparency and accountability for its expenditure of funds, and eliminating the farcical Human Rights Commission (where despotic nations like Libya, Sudan and Cuba had a forum to condemn the relatively good human rights record of other nations).
I am very disappointed to see my friend and colleague John Bolton go.…He was an exceptionally skillful diplomat at the UN at a time when we face very difficult issues like…reform.
[Japanese Ambassador to the U.N. Kenzo Oshima pictured here with Bolton]
Nonetheless, one can only imagine the frank discussions he was compelled to have with these foreign dignitaries for whom, in too many cases, the UN is more of a country club (funded mostly by the U.S.) than a forum for discussing and resolving issues of serious international consequence.
In fact, the only people at the UN who seem to have found Bolton too combative for international diplomacy were those who were up to their gills aiding, abetting and / or profiting from corruption (whether tied to the Oil for Food Programme, the serial sexual abuse of refugees being guarded by UN peacekeepers, or one of the other numerous scandals that have plagued this organization). And Bolton clearly provided them no aid and comfort by calling repeatedly for all UN staffers implicated in these scandals to forfeit their club membership when Kofi Annan retires, in disgrace, in a few weeks (31 December).
Despite his good deeds, however, Bolton appreciated that there was simply no chance of his temporary appointment being extended when it terminates, by law, in early-January. After all, this would require confirmation by his Democratic critics who seem pathologically unimpressed by his performance on the job and have even more power to obstruct it now that they control the Congress. Therefore, Bolton knew he had to bolt, and tendered his resignation accordingly.
As remarkable as this may seem, however, I sympathize with Bush’s dismay over the partisan way Democrats treated Bolton’s nomination. Moreover, I agree with his assessment of the consequences it portends for U.S. diplomacy and reform at the UN. Because it is self-evident that if the U.S. does not leverage its financial and political power to reform the UN bureaucracy and enforce its resolutions, then the UN shall remain little more than a tower of Babel despoiling the skyline of New York.
Therefore, I hope Bush nominates someone who can be easily confirmed (i.e., not a rabid Republican), but one who shares Bolton’s commitment to executing his reform agenda.
NOTE: Rumors are rife in Washington that the man Bush will nominate to replace Bolton is former Democratic Senator George Mitchell (best known in the US as the quaint politician who was supposed to rid Baseball of steroid abusers like Barry Bonds; and on the international scene as one of the U.S. Special Envoys to Northern Ireland who helped broker the Belfast Peace Agreement between warring Catholics and Protestants).
But if Mitchell turns out to be Bush’s new nominee, this, more than anything, would signify his utter capitulation to Democrats as the only relevant political power in town. Because the Democrats could not have chosen a nominee more sympathetic to their views. In fact, where Bolton was regarded warily as the enforcer – executing Bush’s unilateral reforms, Mitchell will undoubtedly be greeted heartily as a compromiser – more interested in reforming Bush’s reform ideas than in reforming the UN itself.
But, if this is what it takes to restore America’s international goodwill…God help us (the world that is)!
Bush Appoints Bolton to the UN over Congressional Objections!
The United Nations’ Oil-for-Food Saga: The Final Chapter…
The United Nations: Corrupt from Head to Toe?
The UN (continues to) dither and debate as Africans die by the thousands…everyday!
The indictment of Barry Bonds would be an error for Baseball…
Monday, December 4, 2006 at 11:23 AMThomas “Tip” O’Neill, former Speaker of the US House of Representatives and one of the shrewdest and most respected politicians in American history, is credited with coining the aphorism:
All politics is local.Alas, this is a factor those of us who harbored delusions of an upset in yesterday’s Venezuelan presidential elections clearly forgot. Because, where incumbent President Hugo Chávez’s behavior on the international stage made us see him as nothing but a boorish Castro wannabe (see Related Articles), his behavior at home induced poor peasant farmers – who comprise the overwhelming majority of Venezuela’s electorate – to see him as a latter-day Robin Hood.
Moreover, precisely because “all politics is local”, the abysmal failure of his regional Merry Men – in places like Bolivia – to emulate the way Chávez caters to his poor masses and the way he runs through diplomatic protocols like a bull in a China shop have had no adverse impact on his popularity at home.
Meanwhile, as competent a challenger as Manuel Rosales may have been, he is more suited to be Venezuela’s ambassador to the developed world than its president. And with Chávez ruling his country like a truly benign despot – afflicting the comfortable (by, inter alia, confiscating their land to redistribute amongst peasants as cooperative farms) and comforting the afflicted (by, inter alia, using Venezuela’s oil wealth to provide comprehensive welfare programs) – Rosales (pictured here conceding defeat last night) did not have a chance.
Therefore, here’s to Hugo Chávez: the duly re-elected president (for life?) of Venezuela, undisputed heir to Fidel Castro and perennial pain in the ass to President George W. Bush and his successors….NOTE: Henceforth, I shall refrain from calling Chávez a “Castro wannabe”. After all, his regional and international influence has already surpassed that which Castro exercised at the zenith of his reign. And, having won two democratic elections at home, Chávez has earned the right to be distinguished – as a benign demagogue, from Castro – who was never anything but a ruthless dictator for whom democratic elections were the plague.
Hugo Chávez Replaces Fidel Castro as America’s Foreign Enemy #1 in the Americas…
Bolivia’s woes expose Chavez’s socialist counter-revolution as little more than a one-man three-ring circus
Sunday, December 3, 2006 at 12:18 PM
Saturday, December 2, 2006 at 12:11 PM
Friday, December 1, 2006 at 11:28 AMLast summer, I wrote an article condemning the South African government for its provincial policy towards the treatment of HIV/AIDS, which kills more people in South Africa than in any other country in the world.
I condemned the government because, instead of adopting the established pharmacological protocols that have proved most effective, it sent Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang to the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada last summer to try to convince delegates that her concoction of garlic, lemon juice, and beetroot was better.
Nonetheless, a new law comes into force today in South Africa which I’m obliged to acknowledge as an act of considerable redemption for this government. Because the good news is that, after its Constitutional Court became the first in the world to codify civil rights for homosexuals last year, South Africa’s Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka signed the Civil Union Act this week which gives same-sex couples the right to marry.
Celebrated lesbian couple Bathini Dambuza, left, and Lindiwe Radebe, right, show off their engagement rings as they pose for a photograph on Constitution Hill in Johannesburg Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2006.
Of course, what is so extraordinary about this act is that it contravenes the same cultural taboos that compel the government to promote bush medicine instead of anti-retroviral drugs to treat HIV/AIDS. Moreover, it defies the homophobia that is as inherent throughout (paternalistic) sub-Saharan Africa as the incidence of this deadly virus is pandemic; which explains the following quote by the Christian Action Network in reaction to this law:
To force the morality of the radical homosexual minority on the people of South Africa through law is, in effect, to lead the masses astray.However, notwithstanding these contradictions, I am happy to recognize this historic step South Africa has taken to advance the cause of international civil rights for homosexuals.
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika
NOTE: Today is World Aids Day. Please take a moment to reflect on those who suffer the ravages of this disease. Click here for more information and to see how you can help.
ENDNOTE: Six months ago, I predicted that the Privy Council in London would rule against the Trinidadian chief justice and authorize his arrest for trying to fix the corruption trial of his friend, the former Trinidadian prime minister. Well, the PC handed down its ruling yesterday, and I expect the CJ to be arrested soon.
Click here to read my article on this Caribbean scandal published today at CNN.
UPDATE (11:20am): After reading this article, a friend – who happens to be a medical doctor – emailed the following prescriptive observation:
Given the millions of orphaned (AIDS) babies in Africa and that women – who comprise the overwhelming majority of Africans living with HIV – are invariably infected by unfaithful and irresponsible men, promoting lesbianism might just be the best way to combat the spread of this deadly virus….