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OBAMA’S ECONOMIC PLAN MEETS GOP PUSHBACK – PRESIDENT SHOWS BIPARTISANSHIP HAS CLEAR LIMITS; ‘I WON. I TRUMP YOU,’ HE TELLS GOP (USA)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on January 24, 2009

Jan. 23, 2009

by Jake Tapper, Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl

PUBLISHED BY ‘ABC NEWS’ (USA)

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PUBLISHED BY ‘ABC NEWS’ (USA)

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Posted in AL QAEDA, BANKING SYSTEM - USA, BANKRUPTCIES - USA, BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA -(DEC. 2008/JAN. 2009), ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, ECONOMY - USA, FINANCIAL CRISIS - USA - 2008/2009, FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, FOREIGN WORK FORCE - LEGAL, HEALTH CARE - USA, HOUSING CRISIS - USA, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION - USA, INDUSTRIES - USA, NATIONAL WORK FORCES, PUBLIC SECTOR AND STATE OWNED ENTERPRISES, RECESSION, REGULATIONS AND BUSINESS TRANSPARENCY, RESTRUCTURING OF THE PUBLIC SECTOR, THE FLOW OF INVESTMENTS, THE OCCUPATION WAR IN IRAQ, THE PRESIDENCY - USA, THE WORK MARKET, THE WORKERS, USA, WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

OBAMA FIRMA LA ORDEN DE CLAUSURA DE GUANTÁNAMO (USA)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on January 22, 2009

22.01.09 – 21:50

Diario Vasco – AGENCIAS – WASHINGTON

PUBLISHED BY ‘DIARIO VASCO’ (Basque Country)

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PUBLISHED BY ‘DIARIO VASCO’ (Basque Country)

Posted in AL QAEDA, BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA -(DEC. 2008/JAN. 2009), ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, ECONOMY - USA, FINANCIAL CRISIS - USA - 2008/2009, FINANCIAL CRISIS 2008/2009, FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, HOUSING CRISIS - USA, HUMAN RIGHTS, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, PUBLIC SECTOR AND STATE OWNED ENTERPRISES, RECESSION, RESTRUCTURING OF THE PUBLIC SECTOR, THE FLOW OF INVESTMENTS, THE OCCUPATION WAR IN IRAQ, THE PRESIDENCY - USA, USA, WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

WALL ST. SINKS ON OBAMA INAUGURATION DAY

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on January 21, 2009

Wednesday, 21 Jan, 2009 – 05:53 AM PST

Agence France-Presse

PUBLISHED BY ‘DAWN’ (Pakistan)

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PUBLISHED BY ‘DAWN’ (Pakistan)

Posted in AL QAEDA, BANKING SYSTEM - USA, BANKRUPTCIES - USA, BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA -(DEC. 2008/JAN. 2009), ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, ECONOMY - USA, FINANCIAL CRISIS - USA - 2008/2009, FINANCIAL CRISIS 2008/2009, FINANCIAL MARKETS, FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRIES, HEALTH CARE - USA, HOUSING CRISIS - USA, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION - USA, INDUSTRIES - USA, NATIONAL DEBT - USA, RECESSION, STOCK MARKETS, THE FLOW OF INVESTMENTS, THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN STRUGGLE, THE OCCUPATION WAR IN IRAQ, THE PRESIDENCY - USA, TRADE DEFICIT - USA, USA, WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

MILIBAND REGRETS ‘WAR ON TERROR’ – THE IDEA OF A “WAR ON TERROR” IS A “MISTAKE”, PUTTING TOO MUCH EMPHASIS ON MILITARY FORCE, FOREIGN SECRETARY DAVID MILIBAND HAS SAID (UK)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on January 15, 2009

04:52 GMT, Thursday, 15 January 2009

BBC NEWS

PUBLISHED BY ‘BBC NEWS’ (UK)

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PUBLISHED BY ‘BBC NEWS’ (UK)

Posted in AL QAEDA, BANKING SYSTEM - USA, BANKRUPTCIES - USA, COMMERCE, COMMODITIES MARKET, CRIMINAL FOREIGN POLICIES, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, ECONOMY - USA, FINANCIAL CRISIS - USA - 2008/2009, FINANCIAL CRISIS 2008/2009, FINANCIAL MARKETS, FOREIGN POLICIES, FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, HUMAN RIGHTS, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION - USA, INDUSTRIES, INDUSTRIES - USA, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, MILITARY CONTRACTS, RECESSION, THE ARMS INDUSTRY, THE FLOW OF INVESTMENTS, THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN STRUGGLE, THE LAST DAYS OF GEORGE WALKER BUSH - 2008/Jan. 2009, THE OCCUPATION WAR IN IRAQ, UNITED KINGDOM, USA, WAR CRIMES, WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS, WEAPONS | Leave a Comment »

AL-QAEDA SNIFFS OPPORTUNITY IN GAZA

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on January 6, 2009

Jan 7, 2009

by Syed Saleem Shahzad

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE ASIA TIMES’ (Thailand)

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PUBLISHED BY ‘THE ASIA TIMES’ (Thailand)

Posted in AL QAEDA, BANKING SYSTEM - USA, BANKING SYSTEMS, BANKRUPTCIES - USA, COMMERCE, COMMODITIES MARKET, CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, ECONOMY - USA, FINANCIAL CRISIS - USA - 2008/2009, FINANCIAL CRISIS 2008/2009, FINANCIAL MARKETS, FOREIGN POLICIES, FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, HATE MONGERING AND BIGOTRY, HOUSING CRISIS - USA, HUMAN RIGHTS, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION - USA, INDUSTRIES, INDUSTRIES - USA, INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, ISRAEL, MILITARY CONTRACTS, PALESTINE, RECESSION, THE ARMS INDUSTRY, THE FLOW OF INVESTMENTS, THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN STRUGGLE, THE LAST DAYS OF GEORGE WALKER BUSH - 2008/Jan. 2009, THE UNITED NATIONS, USA, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS, WEAPONS | Leave a Comment »

HARSH DOSE OF REALITY TO HIT AMERICA AFTER INAUGURATION

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on January 2, 2009

January 3, 2009

Ian Munro in New York

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE SIDNEY MORNING HERALD’

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PUBLISHED BY ‘THE SIDNEY MORNING HERALD’

Posted in AGRICULTURE, AL QAEDA, BANKING SYSTEM - USA, BANKING SYSTEMS, BANKRUPTCIES - USA, BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA -(DEC. 2008/JAN. 2009), CENTRAL BANKS, COMMERCE, DEFENCE TREATIES, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, ECONOMY - USA, EDUCATION, ELECTIONS 2008 - USA, ENVIRONMENT, FINANCIAL CRISIS - USA - 2008/2009, FINANCIAL CRISIS 2008/2009, FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, HEALTH CARE - USA, HISTORY, HOUSING CRISIS - USA, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION - USA, INDUSTRIES, INDUSTRIES - USA, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, MACROECONOMY, NATIONAL DEBT - USA, NATO, PUBLIC SECTOR AND STATE OWNED ENTERPRISES, RECESSION, REGULATIONS AND BUSINESS TRANSPARENCY, RESTRUCTURING OF THE PUBLIC SECTOR, STATE TARIFFS, STOCK MARKETS, THE FLOW OF INVESTMENTS, THE OCCUPATION WAR IN IRAQ, THE PRESIDENCY - USA, THE UNITED NATIONS, THE WORK MARKET, THE WORKERS, TRADE DEFICIT - USA, UNEMPLOYMENT, USA, WAR IN AFGHANISTAN | 1 Comment »

CAPITALISM FAILED? OR DID WE FAIL CAPITALISM? (wagging a middle finger at us)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 27, 2008

Dec. 25, 2008 – 6:21PM

by Loren Steffy – Houston Chronicle

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE’ (USA)

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PUBLISHED BY ‘THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE’ (USA)

Posted in AL QAEDA, BANKING SYSTEM - USA, BANKING SYSTEMS, BANKRUPTCIES - USA, CENTRAL BANKS, COMMERCE, COMMODITIES MARKET, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, ECONOMY - USA, EMPLOYMENT, ENERGY, FINANCIAL CRISIS - USA - 2008/2009, FINANCIAL CRISIS 2008/2009, FINANCIAL MARKETS, HEALTH CARE - USA, HOUSING CRISIS - USA, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION, INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION - USA, INDUSTRIES, INDUSTRIES - USA, NATIONAL DEBT - USA, RECESSION, REGULATIONS AND BUSINESS TRANSPARENCY, RESTRUCTURING OF PRIVATE COMPANIES, STOCK MARKETS, THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN STRUGGLE, THE LAST DAYS OF GEORGE WALKER BUSH - 2008/Jan. 2009, THE OCCUPATION WAR IN IRAQ, THE WORK MARKET, THE WORKERS, TRADE DEFICIT - USA, UNEMPLOYMENT, USA, WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

THE RETURN OF REALPOLITIK IN ARABIA – Bush’s ‘diplomacy of freedom’ gives way to Obama’s caution and reticence. The Middle East may test our fatigue

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 16, 2008

DECEMBER 15, 2008, 11:42 P.M. ET

by Amy R. Remo

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE WALL STREET JOURNAL’ (USA)

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE WALL STREET JOURNAL’ (USA)

Posted in AL QAEDA, BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA -(DEC. 2008/JAN. 2009), DEFENCE TREATIES, ECONOMIC CONJUNCTURE, ECONOMY, ECONOMY - USA, FINANCIAL CRISIS - USA - 2008/2009, FINANCIAL CRISIS 2008/2009, FOREIGN POLICIES, FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, RECESSION, THE ARABIAN PENINSULA, THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN STRUGGLE, THE LAST DAYS OF GEORGE WALKER BUSH - 2008/Jan. 2009, THE OCCUPATION WAR IN IRAQ, THE PRESIDENCY - USA, THE UNITED NATIONS, USA, WAR IN AFGHANISTAN, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

INTERFAITH DIALOGUE, HYPOCRISY AND PRIVATE LIVES (Lebanon)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 8, 2008

Monday, December 08, 2008

Talal Nizameddin wrote this article for THE DAILY STAR (Lebanon)

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE DAILY STAR’ (Lebanon)

First person by Talal Nizameddin

I am suffering from a total state of agnosia. Is this the same Michel Aoun who angrily vowed that he would break the head of the Syrian regime? Is this the same Syrian regime that pacified the Lebanese Army soldiers fighting under Aoun’s command and waged a ruthless campaign for 15 years to marginalize the idealistic Free Patriotic Movement supporters? At least I am almost sure that I haven’t been afflicted by amnesia. I remember when the Lebanese felt the thrill of defiance when they beeped their car horns driving through the Nahr al-Kalb tunnel leading to Jounieh from Beirut.

Letting bygones be bygones and forgiveness is a treasured feature of human nature and being an optimist, I say whatever breaks the ice and allows people to move on from a painful past should be welcomed with open hearts. But the process of forgiveness is a long and arduous one. In Judaism, Christianity and Islam it must begin with honesty, leading to confession and then as a final step absolution becomes meaningful. On a human level, in a one-to-one conflict, a discussion must take place that expresses the pain of each side so that there is an understanding of the hopes and fears of the other side before saying sorry reaches a level beyond words and touches the human within us.

It is said that since the end of the Cold War we have been living in the age of the clash of civilizations and the dialogue of faiths. In the Western and pro-Israeli media, Islam is the culprit, with the image of bloodthirsty mad Muslims rampaging through Mumbai killing randomly all those around them the latest episode of terror that does nothing to the great religion they claim to be fighting for. Among Arabs and Muslims it is the Jews who have manipulated the Holocaust tragedy to inflict suffering on Palestinians and Arabs. The Christian West is also blamed for a low-burning decadence that over time has led to the collapse of the world financial markets due to greed and the neglect of the poverty and misery of the so-called Third World.

What is strikingly noticeable about Aoun’s visit is the tour of the historic churches of Syria. The message clearly states that Christianity is safe from the harm of Muslim fanatics in secular Syria. But the manipulation of the clash of civilizations idea has been even better fine-tuned because there is now a distinction between Sunni Islam and Shiite Islam that has been dispersed in our media outlets like a wave of cluster bombs. Thus we have inter and intra-civilization clashes if we are to believe our political experts and TV commentators. Aoun and his supporters have played further on Lebanese Christian emotions, maliciously highlighting the difference between the Shiites, true Lebanese patriots who are fighting Israeli occupation and the Sunnis, bad people who are paid by the Saudis to turn Lebanon into a Wahhabi extension. Even by local standards Lebanese politics has descended to a truly low level.

In fact, the Saudi monarch courageously endorsed a United Nations gathering to promote dialogue among the world’s great religions despite criticisms from no other than Aoun and his comrades in March 8. Despite the good intentions, the Saudis may however be wasting their time. By entering into such discussions the world risks mirroring the same Lebanese facade that religious belief somehow lies at the source of conflict. It evades the powerful economic explanations and the fact that there is a huge gap in wealth between states and between individuals in the world we live in. It also, and just as importantly, diverts attention from the lack of representation, the lack of personal freedoms and the lack of human rights most people in the world endure on a daily basis. Blatant injustice, economic and political, creates extremism and not religions.

The West should not feel too self-satisfied about its state when there are calls for more social justice and greater freedoms. In Britain, as an example of an advanced European country, the state has been shown to fail time and time again in protecting children with one in four children according to a recent study suffering from sexual abuse. Crime is rampant and ethics are barely visible in the business and political realms. As in the United States, a philosophy of “grabbing hands grab what they can” has reigned for decades. Support for oppressive regimes, particularly here in the Middle East, is justified in the name of good diplomacy but the arming of parties fuelling regional conflicts is also considered good business sense.

If most sensible people agree that finding a solution to the Palestinian problem, which has nothing to do with religion, will make the Middle East and the world a better place, why on earth has it been so difficult for the world’s only superpower to convince Israel to accept a neighboring viable Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza? If the United States is truly a democracy, then I must concur with the people I despise the most, the religious fanatics, that blaming the elected leader of the United States is futile because the American people must shoulder their moral responsibility to force their government into a strategic change in their approach. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a political problem with a human dimension. It is simply about national self-determination and not religious fanaticism or civilizational clashes. Palestinians and Jews belong to the same religious family chart, whether they like to admit or not although undoubtedly their historic experiences have diverged.

Nowhere has the mythology of sectarian and religious warfare been more prevalent than in Lebanon. I am still surprised how many Western observers take for granted the cliches about Muslim-Christian divisions characterizing Lebanese society. In reality, Lebanon is more of a clan-based system, with chiefs of clans or communities often but not necessary being defined by their religious beliefs. It just so happens that the sect is an important form of self-identification that is manipulated for conflicts, whether it is over land or political power. That is why within Lebanese sects there are often more than one chief. Take the Maronites as an example of multiple chiefs or zaims, Suleiman Franjieh, Samir Geagea, Michel Aoun, Amin Gemayel and Dori Chamoun all godfathering their own loyal communities. Even the ideological Hizbullah recognizes the need to respect the independence of the unruly clans of Baalbek in return for acknowledgement.

In Lebanon inter-communal relations and divisions are far more complex than simple religious divides. The downside of this system is that the individual is forced into belonging into a clan, because the collective of clans are far more powerful than the formal state. Only the community can protect the individual. In Lebanon, individuals do not have private lives, as is the case in the West, because they are the property of the family, the village, the community. The pattern is the same among all of Lebanese sects. But then again, free from the regional political conflicts, the interference from outside and the flaws in the internal political system, why should we accept that the community is a lesser entity than the state in its value?

Some Western political theorists have even called for a return to communalism as a result of the social failures of the modern state. The Lebanese model offers the opportunity of creating a political system that safeguards communities and also protects the rights of individuals living within them because the hypocritical and simply false pretense of a unified centralized state has been unworkable and shows no signs of succeeding. The Lebanese want their personal liberty, social justice and their community at one and the same time. It is no easy task but where there is a will there is a way and Lebanon could present the world with an example to be emulated around the world. Lebanon’s greatness and loyalty from its citizens could be reinforced by the historic achievement of harmonious and fraternal communal cohabitation. The first step is liberation from the old slogans and working for the common good without playing on communal fears to achieve personal ambitions. When a zaim such as Aoun tours with an open heart the various neighborhoods of Beirut rather than the churches of Syria we would have began reaching the final step toward that sacred goal.

CLICK HERE FOR THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE

PUBLISHED BY ‘THE DAILY STAR’ (Lebanon)

Posted in AL QAEDA, CHRISTIANISM, EUROPE, FOREIGN POLICIES, FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND CONSCIENCE, HISTORY, HUMAN RIGHTS, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, ISLAM, JUDAISM, LEBANON, PALESTINE, RELIGIONS, SAUDI ARABIA, SYRIA, THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN STRUGGLE, THE LAST DAYS OF GEORGE WALKER BUSH - 2008/Jan. 2009, THE LEBANESE CIVIL STRUGGLE, THE MEDIA (US AND FOREIGN), THE UNITED NATIONS, UNITED KINGDOM, USA, WARS AND ARMED CONFLICTS | Leave a Comment »

RUMSFELD NEMESIS SHINSEKI TO BE NAMED VA SECRETARY

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 7, 2008

Posted on Sat, Dec. 6, 2008

by Hope Yen – The Associated Press

PUBLISHED BY ‘PHILLY.COM’ (USA)

WASHINGTON – President-elect Barack Obama has chosen retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary, turning to a former Army chief of staff once vilified by the Bush administration for questioning its Iraq war strategy.

Obama will announce the selection of Shinseki, the first Army four-star general of Japanese-American ancestry, at a news conference Sunday in Chicago. He will be the first Asian-American to hold the post of Veterans Affairs secretary, adding to the growing diversity of Obama’s Cabinet.

“I think that General Shinseki is exactly the right person who is going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home,” Obama said in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” to be broadcast Sunday.

NBC released a transcript of the interview after The Associated Press reported that Shinseki was Obama’s pick.

Shinseki’s tenure as Army chief of staff from 1999 to 2003 was marked by constant tensions with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, which boiled over in 2003 when Shinseki testified to Congress that it might take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to control Iraq after the invasion.

Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, belittled the estimate as “wildly off the mark” and the army general was forced out within months. But Shinseki’s words proved prophetic after President George W. Bush in early 2007 announced a “surge” of additional troops to Iraq after miscalculating the numbers needed to stem sectarian violence.

Obama said he selected Shinseki for the VA post because he “was right” in predicting that the U.S. will need more troops in Iraq than Rumsfeld believed at the time.

“When I reflect on the sacrifices that have been made by our veterans and, I think about how so many veterans around the country are struggling even more than those who have not served , higher unemployment rates, higher homeless rates, higher substance abuse rates, medical care that is inadequate , it breaks my heart,” Obama told NBC.

Shinseki, 66, will take the helm of the government’s second largest agency, which has been roundly criticized during the Bush administration for underestimating the amount of funding needed to treat thousands of injured veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Thousands of veterans currently endure six-month waits for receiving disability benefits, despite promises by current VA Secretary James Peake and his predecessor, Jim Nicholson, to reduce delays. The department also is scrambling to upgrade government technology systems before new legislation providing for millions of dollars in new GI benefits takes effect next August.

Obama’s choice of Shinseki, who grew up in Hawaii, is the latest indication that the president-elect is making good on his pledge to have a diverse Cabinet.

In Obama’s eight Cabinet announcements so far, white men are the minority with two nominations , Timothy Geithner at Treasury and Robert Gates at Defense. Three are women , Janet Napolitano at Homeland Security, Susan Rice as United Nations ambassador and Hillary Rodham Clinton at State. Eric Holder at the Justice Department is African American, while Bill Richardson at Commerce is Latino.

Shinseki is a recipient of two Purple Hearts for life-threatening injuries in Vietnam.

Upon leaving his post in June 2003, Shinseki in his farewell speech sternly warned against arrogance in leadership.

“You must love those you lead before you can be an effective leader,” he said. “You can certainly command without that sense of commitment, but you cannot lead without it. And without leadership, command is a hollow experience, a vacuum often filled with mistrust and arrogance.”

Shinseki also left with the warning: “Beware a 12-division strategy for a 10-division army.”

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PUBLISHED BY ‘PHILLY.COM’ (USA)

Posted in AL QAEDA, BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA -(DEC. 2008/JAN. 2009), DEFENCE TREATIES, FOREIGN POLICIES - USA, INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, MILITARY CONTRACTS, NATO, THE ARMS INDUSTRY, THE LAST DAYS OF GEORGE WALKER BUSH - 2008/Jan. 2009, THE OCCUPATION WAR IN IRAQ, USA, WAR IN AFGHANISTAN | Leave a Comment »

WEAPONS COME SECOND (USA)

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 27, 2008

Middle East – Nov 27, 2008

by Frida Berrigan

Even saddled with a two-front, budget-busting war and a collapsing economy, Barack Obama may THE PENTAGON FROM WITHINbe able to accomplish a lot as president. With a friendly Congress and a relieved world, he could make short work of some of the most egregious overreaches of the George W Bush White House – from Guantanamo to those presidential signing statements. For all the rolling up of sleeves and “everything is going to change” exuberance, however, taking on the Pentagon, with its mega-budget and its mega-power, may be the hardest task he faces.

The mega-Pentagon

Under Bush, military spending increased by about 60%, and that’s not including spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Eight years ago, as Bush prepared to enter the Oval Office, military spending totaled just over US$300 billion. When Obama sets foot in that same office, military spending will total roughly $541 billion, including the Pentagon’s basic budget and nuclear warhead work in the Department of Energy.

And remember, that’s before the “war on terror” enters the picture. The Pentagon now estimates that military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost at least $170 billion in 2009, pushing total military spending for Obama’s first year to about $711 billion (a number that is mind-bogglingly large and at the same time a relatively conservative estimate that does not, for example, include intelligence funding, veterans’ care, or other security costs).

With such numbers, it’s no surprise that the United States is, by a multiple of nearly six, the biggest military spender in the world. (China’s military budget, the closest competitor, comes in at a “mere” $120 billion.) Still, it can be startling to confront the simple fact that the US alone accounts for nearly half of all global military spending – to be as exact as possible in such a murky area, 48% according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. That’s more than what the next 45 nations together spend on their militaries on an annual basis.

Again, keep in mind that war spending for 2009 comes on top of the estimated $864 billion that lawmakers have, since 2001, appropriated for the Iraq war and occupation, ongoing military operations in Afghanistan, and other activities associated with the “war on terror”. In fact, according to an October 2008 report by the Congressional Research Service, total war spending, quite apart from the regular military budget, is already at $922 billion and quickly closing in on the trillion dollar mark.

Common sense cuts?

Years late, and with budgets everywhere bleeding red, some in Congress and elsewhere are finally raising questions about whether this level of spending makes any sense. Unfortunately, the questions are not coming from the inner circle of the president-elect.

Democratic Representative Barney Frank drew the ire and consternation of hardline Republicans and military hawks when, in October, he suggested that Congress should consider cutting defense spending by a quarter. That would mean shaving $177 billion, leaving $534 billion for the US defense and war budget and maintaining a significant distance – $413 billion to be exact – between United States and our next “peer competitor”. Frank told a Massachusetts newspaper editorial board that, in the context of a struggling economy, the Pentagon will have to start choosing among its many weapons programs. “We don’t need all these fancy new weapons,” he told the staff of the New Bedford Standard Times. Obama did not back him up on that.

Even chairman of the House Appropriations Sub-committee on Defense, Democrat John Murtha, a Congressman who never saw a weapons program he didn’t want to buy, warned of tough choices on the horizon. While he did not put a number on it, in a recent interview he did say: “The next president is going to be forced to decrease defense spending in order to respond to neglected domestic priorities. Because of this, the Defense Department is going to have to make tough budget decisions involving trade-offs between personnel, procurement and future weapons spending.”

And now, Obama is hearing a similar message from the Defense Business Board, established in 2001 by secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld to give advice to the Pentagon. A few weeks ago, in briefing papers prepared for president-elect Obama’s transition team, the board, hardly an outfit unfriendly to the Pentagon, argued that some of the Defense Department’s big weapons projects needed to be scrapped as the US entered a “period of fiscal constraint in a tough economy”. While not listing the programs they considered knife-worthy, the board did assert that “business as usual is no longer an option”.

Desperate defense

Meanwhile, defense executives and industry analysts are predicting the worst. Boeing chief executive officer Jim McNerney wrote in a “note” to employees, “No one really yet knows when or to what extent defense spending could be affected, but it’s unrealistic to think there won’t be some measure of impact.” Michael Farage, Sikorsky’s director of air force programs, was even more colorful: “With the economy in the proverbial pooper, defense budgets can only go down.”

Kevin G Kroger, president of a company making oil filters for army trucks, offered a typical reaction: “There’s a lot of uncertainty out there. We’re not sure where the budgets are going and what’s going to get funded. It leaves us nervous.”

It’s no surprise that, despite eight years of glut financing via the “war on terror”, weapons manufacturers, like the automotive Big Three, are now looking for their own bailout. For them, however, it should probably be thought of as a bail-up, an assurance of yet more good times. Even though in recent years their companies have enjoyed strong stock prices, have seen major increases in Pentagon contracts, and are still looking at boom-time foreign weapons sales, expect them to push hard for a bottom-line guarantee via their holy grail – a military budget pegged to the gross domestic product (GDP).

“We advocate 4% of the GDP as a floor for defense spending. No question that has to be front and center for any new president’s agenda,” says Marion Blakey, president of the Aerospace Industries Association, a trade group representing companies like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

Listening to defense industry figures talk, you could get the impression that the Pentagon’s larder was empty and that the pinching of pennies and tightening of belts was well underway. While the cuts suggested by the Defense Business Board report got a lot of attention, the Pentagon is already quietly laying the groundwork to lock the future Obama administration into a possibly slightly scaled-down version of the over-the-top military spending of the Bush years.

Business as usual?

At the beginning of October, the Pentagon’s latest five-year projection of budget needs was revealed in the Congressional Quarterly. These preliminary figures – the full request should be released sometime next month – indicate that the Pentagon’s starting point in its bargaining with the new administration and Congress comes down to one word: more.

The estimates project $450 billion more in spending over those five years than previously suggested figures. Take fiscal year 2010: the Pentagon is evidently calling for a military budget of $584 billion, an increase of $57 billion over what they informed Bush and Congress they would need just a few months ago.

Unfortunately, when it comes to military spending and defense, the record is reasonably clear – Obama is not about to go toe-to-toe with the military-industrial-complex.

On the campaign trail, his stump speech included this applause-ready line suggesting that the costs of the war in Iraq are taking away from important domestic priorities: “If we’re spending $10 billion a month [in Iraq] over the next four or five years, that’s $10 billion a month we’re not using to rebuild the US, or drawing down our national debt, or making sure that families have health care.”

But the “surge” that Obama wants to shift from Iraq to Afghanistan is unlikely to be a bargain. In addition, he has repeatedly argued for a spike in defense spending to “reset” a military force worn out by war. He has also called for the expansion of the size of the army and the marines. On that point, he is in complete agreement with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. [1]

They even use the same numbers, suggesting that the army should be augmented by 65,000 new recruits and the marines by 27,000. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that these manpower increases alone would add about $10 billion a year – that same campaign trail $10 billion – to the Pentagon budget over a five-year period.

The word from Wall Street? In a report entitled “Early Thoughts on Obama and Defense”, a Morgan Stanley researcher wrote on November 5, “As we understand it, Obama has been advised and agrees that there is no peace dividend … In addition, we believe, based on discussions with industry sources that Obama has agreed not to cut the defense budget at least until the first 18 months of his term as the national security situation becomes better understood.”

In other words: Don’t worry about it. Obama is not about to hand the secretary of defense a box of brownie mix and order him to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.

Smarter, not more, military spending

Sooner rather than later, the new administration will need to think seriously about how to spend smarter – and significantly less – on the military. Our nose-diving economy simply will no longer support ever-climbing defense budgets.

The good news is that the Obama administration won’t have to figure it all out alone. The contributors to Foreign Policy In Focus’s new Unified Security Budget have done a lot of the heavy lifting to demonstrate that some of the choices that need to be made really aren’t so tough. The report makes the case for reductions in military spending on outdated or unproven weapons systems totaling $61 billion. The argument is simple and straightforward: these expensive systems don’t keep us safe. Some were designed for a geopolitical moment that is long gone – like the F-22 meant to counter a Soviet plane that was never built. Others, like the ballistic missile defense program, are clearly meant only to perpetuate insecurity and provoke proliferation.

To cut the military budget more deeply, however, means more than canceling useless, high-tech weapons systems. It means taking on something fundamental and far-reaching: America’s place in the world. It means coming to grips with how we garrison the planet, with how we use our military to project influence and power anywhere in the world, with our attitudes towards international treaties and agreements, with our vast passels of real estate in foreign lands, and, of course, with our economic and political relationships with clients and competitors.

As a candidate, Obama stirred our imagination through his calls for a “new era of international cooperation”. The United States cannot, however, cooperate with other nations from atop our shining Green Zone on the hill; we cannot cooperate as the world’s sole superpower, policeman, cowboy, hyperpower, or whatever the imperial nom du jour turns out to be. Bottom line: we cannot genuinely and effectively cooperate while spending more on what we like to call “security” than the next 45 nations combined.

A new era in Pentagon spending would have to begin with a recognition that enduring security is not attained by threat or fiat, nor is it bought with staggering billions of dollars. It is built with other nations. Weapons come second.

Note

1. According to media reports on Wednesday, Gates on Tuesday night accepted Obama’s offer to remain as defense secretary.

Frida Berrigan is a senior program associate at the New America Foundation’s Arms and Security Initiative (ASI). She is a columnist for Foreign Policy in Focus and a contributing editor at In These Times. In early December, ASI will release “Weapons at War 2008: Beyond the Bush Legacy”, co-authored by Berrigan and William D Hartung, an examination of US weapons sales and military aid to developing nations, conflict zones and nations where human rights are not safeguarded. Email berrigan@newamerica.net if you would like a copy of the executive summary.

(Copyright 2008 Frida Berrigan.)

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FIRST UNOFFICIAL OBAMA POSITIONS ON NEW WAR STRATEGIES

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 18, 2008

Published: November 14, 2008

by Walid Phares

As the transition in the United States between the administrations of Usama bin LadinGeorge W. Bush and Barack Obama is moving forward feverishly while world crises escalate, observers of conflicts are focusing on the messages emanating from the next foreign policy team in Washington.

The smooth passing of the torch from one leadership to another in the middle of unfinished wars and gigantic counterterrorism efforts is critical, especially if a strategic change of direction is on its way.

Analysts wonder about the nature of change to come: is it about managing battlefields or reducing them?

The first post election statements made by Obama sources – incorporated into a Washington Post article by Karen DeYoung published on Nov. 11, “Obama to Explore New Approach in Afghanistan War” – are very revealing.

Although these “conversations” with aides are still unofficial positions at the formal level, one must read them as the first salvo in setting the tone and guidelines for early 2009.

Thus, and in order to engage in a national discussion on what seems to be the near future, we must analyze these propositions one by one and contrast them with the intensity of the evolving threat.

Therefore, the following are early comments on the emerging new policies.

The Washington Post article began by stating that the Obama administration is planning on “exploring a more regional strategy to the war in Afghanistan including possible talks with Iran.” Citing Obama national security advisers, the Post added that the new strategy “looks favorably on the nascent dialogue between the Afghan government and ‘reconcilable’ elements of the Taliban.”

These two so-called strategic components of the forthcoming administration’s plan to end the conflict in central Asia deserve a high level of attention and thorough examination. In a post Sept. 11, 2001 environment – meaning seven years into a confrontation with jihadist forces – not only experts but a large segment of the American public has developed a higher awareness of the threat of the enemy and of its long-term objectives. Arguments in foreign policy analysis are not as alien as they were to citizens prior to the 2001 attacks. Many Americans know who the Taliban are and what their goals are, and they know as well of the dangerous fantasies of the mullah regime in Tehran.

A new strategy in the region covering Pakistan and Iran is indeed needed to achieve advances in defeating the jihadis and in empowering the democracy forces in Afghanistan.

If the Bush administration was too slow in reaching that conclusion, then one would expect the Obama foreign policy team to bridge the gap and quickly arrive at a successful next stage.

But the “regional” proposition unveiled by the Washington Post defies logic, instead of consolidating it.

For I wonder on what grounds the Iranian regime would shift from a virulent anti-U.S. attitude to a favorable team player in stabilizing Afghanistan? Even the gurus of classical realism would wonder.

If a deal is possible with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, it cannot be on establishing a democratic government in Kabul. It simply doesn’t add up knowing the essence of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its oppressive nature.

Therefore, and before the new administration even begins to sell the idea, it is important for all to realize that any Afghan deal cut with Iran must assume that the next regime in Kabul will satisfy the agenda in Tehran: meaning non-democratic. This is the first hurdle.

Amazingly, the second proposition simultaneously would invite the Taliban (postulating that a milder wing indeed exists) to share power in the country as a way to end the conflict. More problems emerge here: first, if the “good” Taliban are brought to the deal (assuming this is even feasible), what happens with the “bad” Taliban? Will the latter just “go away” or will there be a fight between the “good and the bad” factions? And how can the new strategy end the new Afghan war and will we come to the rescue of the nice jihadists against the ugly ones? Obviously, it doesn’t add up either.

Second, assuming there would be a partial re-Talibanization of Afghanistan, how could this co-exist with the Iranians? The same Washington Post article quoted the same advisers, underscoring that “The Iranians don’t want Sunni extremists in charge of Afghanistan any more than we do.”

How can the architects reconcile bringing in the Iranians for help and, at the same time, inviting the “Sunni extremists” to be sitting in Kabul? This construct doesn’t fly on mere logic.

As I wondered in an interview with Fox News the same day, are the new foreign policy planners talking about changing the strategy or changing the enemy?

The most logical ally against most of the Taliban should be the democratically-elected government in Pakistan, which is already waging a campaign against al-Qaida and its Taliban allies. Why would Washington replace this potential ally (regardless of all mishaps) with two foes: the non-democratic regime of Iran and a faction of the totalitarian Taliban?

In this dizzying maze a la 1990s, one begins to wonder if we are flipping the enemy into an ally, and vice versa, merely so that the slogan of “change” is then materialized. My feeling is that post electoral political pressures are so intense that it may produce a recipe for greater confusion and even disaster.

The problem is not the idea of “talking” to any of the players, including the current foes; engaging in contacts is always an option and has always been practiced. The problem is the perception by the new U.S. officials (and even current ones) that we can simply and naively “create” the conditions that we wish, regardless of the intentions of the other side. When reading these suggestions, one concludes that they were conceived on paper as unilateral designs lacking any strategic understanding of the enemy.

Take two examples as a starter: first, if you want to engage the so-called “acceptable” Taliban into a national unity government in Kabul (which is not an impossible idea theoretically), did you incorporate what their minimal demands are? And can your analysis of the jihadis’ long-term strategy produce a projection over four to six years of a return of these jihadis to power? I don’t think so.

Second, if you wish to enlist Iran as a partner in Afghanistan, will you be able to continue with the sanctions over its nuclear program? Obviously not. Thus the bottom line is that the price for befriending Tehran in Kabul is to allow it to reach its nuclear military ambitions. If it is otherwise, the upcoming foreign policy team has a lot of explaining to do.

Another interesting statement made by an adviser, according to the Washington Post, was that “the incoming administration intends to remind Americans how the fight “against Islamist extremists” began – on Sept. 11, 2001, before the Afghanistan and Iraq wars – and to underscore that al-Qaida remains the nation’s highest priority. “This is our enemy,” one adviser said of Bin Laden, “and he should be our principal target.”

Although as a reader I am not sure if DeYoung was discussing the new strategies in the war with the same “source,” the latter, stronger sentence is of great value for future inquiries. For if indeed the incoming administration intends to remind U.S. citizens that the fight is “against Islamist extremists,” then this would be a good bridge to the Bush administration’s bold rhetoric, which ended in 2006.

If the Obama administration “change” in strategy is to redefine the confrontation in the precise manner the adviser did, then we will be lucky. If that is the case, then we would hope and expect the new administration to repel the irresponsible “lexicon” disseminated by bureaucrats within the Bush administration and instead issue a strong document identifying the threat as stated in the Washington Post article, explaining once and for all the ideology of bin Laden so that indeed we can understand “our principal target.”

These early remarks are aimed at helping the Obama administration from its inception to clearly strategize and target so that the next four, and maybe eight years, will be a leap forward in protecting this country and in defending democracy worldwide.

This is only a glimpse of conversations to come about America’s national security and the hope to see a real qualitative change for the best.

(*) – Dr. Walid Phares is the director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the author of “The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad”.

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SEN. CLINTON’S VIEWS ON U.S. FOREIGN POLICY ISSUES

Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on November 17, 2008

Saturday November 15, 2008

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Sen. Hillary Clinton has emerged as a candidate for U.S. secretary of state – SENATOR HILLARY CLINTONthe top diplomat in the administration of President-elect Barack Obama, who defeated her for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Here are some views on foreign policy issues expressed by Clinton, wife of former President Bill Clinton.

IRAQ

“Ending the war in Iraq is the first step toward restoring the United States’ global leadership,” Clinton wrote a year ago in an article in Foreign Affairs magazine. U.S. troops had to be brought home safely and stability restored to the region, she said.

But on the campaign trail, Clinton was more reluctant than Obama to commit to a firm timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. She refused to apologize for her 2002 Senate vote authorizing the war, but did say she would like to have that vote back to do over.

AFGHANISTAN, PAKISTAN AND AL QAEDA

During the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the United States should focus more on improving security in Afghanistan. She has called for greater U.S. troop deployments there. She also has suggested a U.S. envoy who could shuttle between the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan to help them in their efforts against a resurgent Taliban and al Qaeda presence in their countries.

IRAN

A big question for Obama’s secretary of state will be how to approach Iran. The Bush administration, which accuses Iran of seeking to build a nuclear bomb and helping militant groups in Iraq, has generally HILLARY RODHAM CLINTONshunned contacts with Tehran.

During the Democratic presidential primary campaign, Clinton charged that Obama’s willingness to meet leaders of Iran, Syria and North Korea was evidence of his naivete about foreign policy. She has threatened to “obliterate” Iran if it uses nuclear weapons against Israel.

But Clinton also has argued for engaging Iran, Syria and other countries of the region in talks about the future of Iraq. And one of her top foreign policy advisors, Richard Holbrooke, a former assistant secretary of state, suggested recently that U.S. contacts with Iran should start through private and confidential channels to determine if there is a basis for continuing.

MIDDLE EAST

Clinton stresses the need for Arab-Israeli peace, but is considered a favorite of the pro-Israel lobby in the United States. She says the fundamentals are a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank in return for a declaration that the conflict is over, recognition of Israel’s right to exist, guarantees of Israeli security, diplomatic recognition of Israel and normalization of its relations with Arab states.

“U.S. diplomacy is critical in helping to resolve this conflict,” she said in her article in Foreign Affairs in November-December 2007. She said the United States should help get Arab support for a Palestinian leadership that is willing to engage in a dialogue with the Israelis.

RUSSIA AND ARMS CONTROL

“I think she would probably be tough-minded toward Russia,” said Kim Holmes, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the Heritage Foundation. “She has a reputation of being tough-minded generally, she is known and respected for that.”

Clinton has however criticized the Bush administration’s “obsessive” focus on “expensive and unproven missile defense technology” — one of the major points of contention recently in the U.S. relationship with Russia.

She favors further reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, and also favors U.S. Senate approval of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

CHINA AND NORTH KOREA

Clinton has said the U.S. relationship with China will be the most important bilateral relationship in the world this century. Noting China’s support was important in reaching a multilateral deal to disable North Korea’s nuclear facilities, she says “we should build on this framework to establish a northeast Asian security regime.”

TRADE

Like Obama, Clinton has said the United States should either renegotiate or “opt out” of the North American Free Trade Agreement that was reached with Canada and Mexico during her husband’s administration. She also has called for a “timeout” from new trade agreements and a top-to-bottom review of trade policy.

Copyright © 2008 Reuters

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