Tag Archives: Mid East

Steve parked in Rose’s space … InCity Book Review

But first:

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The Long Game: How Obama Defied Washington and Redefined America’s Role in the World

By Derek Chollet, (2016, Perseus Books, 262 Pages)

Reviewed by Steven R. Maher

Journalism has often been called the first draft of history. With that in mind, former Obama administration official Derek Chollet has evaluated President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. Chollett covers an enormous number of issues, personalities, and events in a short 262 pages, a concisely written book and that will be a valuable resource for future historians.

Unexpected foreign events often arise during a Presidency. Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, drawing the U.S. into World War II, and changing the Presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Soviet Union installed nuclear missiles in Cuba, leading to the missile crisis and John F. Kennedy’s finest hour. 9/11 pushed George W. Bush into being a different President than the one he campaigned as. While Bush’s unexpected event was in his first year in office, two of Obama’s problems came late in his second term: the catastrophic insurgency of ISIS, and the ominous resurgence of Putin’s Russia.

Disasters inherited

Barack Obama inherited an America facing the abyss. As Wikipedia put it: “The bursting of the US housing bubble, which peaked at the end of 2006, caused the values of securities tied to US real estate pricing to plummet, damaging financial institutions globally. The financial crisis was triggered by a complex interplay of policies that encouraged home ownership, providing easier access to loans for subprime borrowers, overvaluation of bundled subprime mortgages based on the theory that housing prices would continue to escalate, questionable trading practices on behalf of both buyers and sellers, compensation structures that prioritize short-term deal flow over long-term value creation, and a lack of adequate capital holdings from banks and insurance companies to back the financial commitments they were making.”

America hovered on the edge of another Great Depression:

• By January 2009 the economy was shedding 800,000 jobs a month.

• American families were losing 100,000 homes a week as home values plummeted and entire neighborhoods, particularly in the inner cities, were devastated.

• The banking system seemed ready to implode, with major financial institutions like the Lehman brothers going bankrupt. Hard core conservatives urged the U.S. government to stay out.

• The automotive industry ran out of money. Cash burn was so bad that General Motors told the White House it had on hand only two weeks of money left to operate. The potential loss of jobs from this one problem alone could be counted in the millions.

Mitt Romney wrote a tome in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”, saying the U.S. should not save the auto industry. That the “supply chain” – the subcontractors and factories manufacturing components for the auto industry, located mainly in the “Rust Belt” states that voted in 2016 for Donald Trump – would die and could not be revived, did not worry Romney.

The Long Game

It should be borne in mind that these were just the domestic issues Obama faced. It says nothing about the foreign affairs calamities facing the U.S., including ongoing wars tying up 175,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It is hard to think of a president who entered office facing more challenges of historic magnitude,” commented Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Obama set out to play the “Long Game.”

“The defining element of Obama’s grand strategy is that it reflects the totality of American interests – foreign and domestic – to project global leadership in an era of seemingly infinite demands and finite resources,” writes Chollet. “This is playing the ‘Long Game.’”

Chollet describes Obama as a political version of Warren Buffett, who became a billionaire by buying up companies with a strong market base but which were financially weak. When the economy got better, the values of these investments skyrocketed. Buffett made his billions by looking not at these companies’ value at the time he bought them, but what he expected these entities to be worth over time.

“Games are won by players who focus on the playing field – not by those whose eyes are glued to the scoreboard,” observed Buffett.

Obama believed the U.S. overextended itself by pouring so much manpower, equipment, and money into Iraq, instead of hunting down Al-Qaeda and its leaders. Obama thought the U.S. should shift America’s focus from the Middle East to the Pacific Basin; rebalance America’s projection of power, putting as much emphasis on diplomacy and economic sanctions/assistance as Bush did on the use of military force; and reset America’s alliances with NATO and Russia.

To go into every topic Obama’s administration dealt with would fill up this entire newspaper. We’re going to look at some of Obama’s foreign policy successes, his failures, and draw some conclusions.

Disarming Iran

Historians are likely to regard the Iran nuclear treaty as a hallmark of Obama’s administration. When Bush left office, Iran was moving full speed ahead on its
nuclear program. Obama convinced the Russians, Chinese, British, and French to impose sanctions that devastated the Iranian economy. Since the July 2015 signing of the treaty, Iran has removed weapons grade uranium, reduced the number of centrifuges by two thirds, and removed the heavy water reactor at Arak and filled it with concrete. For the moment, Iran has been disarmed. That is no small achievement, and may be one a bellicose Trump could build upon.

Disarming Syria

In August 2013 Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad used chemical weapons against opposition held territory, killing 1,400 civilians, including women and children. Obama had warned Assad in 2012 that doing this would be crossing a red line. The only nation willing to back the U.S. in using military force was France (derided as the seller of “freedom fries” during the Bush era). Britain’s parliament voted against participation, and the American people overwhelmingly opposed involvement in a third Middle East conflict. Congress refused to authorize military action by Obama. The Republican Congressional war dogs made macho denunciations of Assad, but wouldn’t vote to authorize U.S. military action against the Syrian tyrant.

Chollet cited other problems related to using military force to destroy Assad’s chemical weapons. There were 50 sites containing 1,300 pounds of chemical weapons, dispersed around Syria. Neutralizing these would require heavy air and naval attacks along with 75,000 ground troops. There was a danger Assad’s military would collapse under such an assault, and hundreds of tons of chemical weapons fall into the hands of ISIS/Al-Qaeda. After U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry remarked that the matter could be resolved by Assad giving up his weapons, the crisis was resolved diplomatically.

Chollet writes: “Without a bomb being dropped, Syria admitted to having a massive chemical weapons program it had never before acknowledged, agreed to give it up, and submitted to a multinational coalition that removed the weapons and destroyed them in a way that had never been tried before.”

Obama lost face because he drew the red line and didn’t take military action against Syria. But he achieved the maximalist objective of disarming Syria. Reagan faced a similar situation when 250 Marines were massacred in Lebanon by terrorists in 1982. Instead of doubling down, Reagan prevented America from getting dragged into a quagmire by “redeploying” the surviving Marines to ships offshore. Both Presidents did what was best for their country, even if it meant a personal loss of face.

Bin Laden and the drones

Obama’s Presidency reached its pinnacle in May 2011 when Seal Team Six descended upon Osama bin Laden’s lair in Abbottabad, Pakistan and killed the Al-Qaeda leader. Few Americans knew that Obama had played a key role in planning the mission. The plan originally call for the Seals to go in without helicopter backups. Obama insisted that backup helicopters be situated in reserve not far from Abbottabad. These proved crucial when one of the Seal helicopters crashed while landing.

Obama used the same strategic approach to get America out of Iraq and Afghanistan that Richard Nixon used to get the U.S. out of Vietnam: advance the air power while withdrawing the troops. Nixon used B-52s and laser guided ordinance to bomb North Vietnam into signing a peace treaty. Obama sent American drones on hundreds of missions to kill Al-Qaeda and associated terrorist leaders. Some criticized this because of the civilians killed in the drone strikes. However, by and large, it did disrupt Al-Qaeda’s ability to launch mass casualty attacks on the U.S. homeland.

The Russian Reset, Part I

With all the noise being generated over Trump and Vladimir Putin, Obama’s “reset” with Russia has been widely viewed as a failure. However, when the policy was first implemented in 2009, it did lead to some successes. This was due to the fact that Putin was not the Russian President; Dimitri Medvedev was, and he wanted to work with the United States. With Medvedev’s help, the U.S. organized the sanctions against Iran; agreed to destroy one third of Russia’s nuclear arsenal; supported setting up supply lines to Afghanistan that avoided a volatile Pakistan; and voted with the U.S. during the U.N. debate authorizing the use of military force against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Now, let’s look at some of shortcomings of Obama’s Presidency.

Syria

According to the mainstream media, upwards of 500,000 Syrians have been killed in the civil war and millions have fled to Europe. Obama appears to have done what he could diplomatically to stop the carnage. But faced with the obduracy of Syrian President Assad, the lack of allies who supported intervening in Syria, the U.S. had no good choices. If it supported Assad, the U.S. would be siding with a blood thirsty dictator. If Obama opposed Assad, ISIS and Al Qaeda might take control of the country. His critics charged that he could have supported moderate Syrians earlier, but there was a problem with vetting these groups.

What Obama should have done is establish no fly zones in Syria where Syrians fleeing the conflict could be protected. This would also have stopped large masses of Syrians from fleeing to Europe.

Iraq

When America troops left in 2011, Iraq by and large was peaceful. The emergence of ISIS could not have been foreseen by any American President. It was with a few thousand guerillas that ISIS attacked and conquered huge swaths of Syria and Iraq. In Mosul, with its million residents, stated Wikipedia, “the Iraqi army had 30,000 soldiers stationed in the city, facing a 1,500-member attacking force.” With such favorable odds, the ISIS force should have been smashed. Instead, the 30,000 Iraqi soldiers abandoned their U.S. equipment and fled.

Few were clairvoyant enough to anticipate the total ineffectiveness of Iraq’s armed forces, equipped with billions of dollars in U.S. military equipment. From a few thousand fighters, ISIS grew to an armed force of 30,000 men as wannabe Jihadists from Europe and the Middle East swelled their ranks. They were armed with the American weapons left behind by the fleeing Iraqi army.

Libya

In 2011 there was yet another U.S. intervention on “humanitarian” grounds in Libya that turned into a mission to overthrow Gaddafi. After Gaddafi was killed, Libya descended into anarchy as warring factions fought each other. The U.S. was prodded into action on Libya by its European allies; Obama should have insisted on a post-war NATO occupation force from these allies to assist Libyans in setting up a stable government.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates opposed intervening in Libya, saying: “Can I just finish the two wars we’re already in before you go looking for new ones?”

The Russian Reset, Part II

In 2012 Vladimir Putin took back his old job of Russian President. Putin’s animus against Hillary Clinton stems from this episode; Putin apparently believes that Clinton ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to clandestinely block his return to the Russian Presidency. In any event, Obama’s measures to persuade Putin to stay out of Syria and the Ukraine were unsuccessful, and this must be regarded as another Obama shortcoming.

Closing thoughts

History will give a much fuller judgment on Obama when the facts become available. Since Obama’s foreign policy was set up with the intention of yielding long term benefits, a historical perspective will be necessary to evaluate Obama. The failures he had, particularly in the Middle East, rose from his fervent desire to keep the U.S. out of another war.

Obama may well be remembered by historians for two things that didn’t happen on his watch. First, he kept the economy from imploding. The car industry was saved, the banking system made solvent, and a slow but painful process of economic revival took place. Second, he didn’t get sucked into another quagmire like Iraq. The 175,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have been reduced to 15,000. Yes, it wasn’t a perfect Presidency. But considering the near collapse of the economy in 2008, Obama did well in keeping America from falling into the abyss of a second Great Depression, and from being drawn into another grinding war. History is likely to view Barack Obama very kindly.

Steve here … InCity Times Book Review📚📚🎈📚

Ike’s Gamble: America’s Rise to Dominance in the Middle East

By Michael Doran, (2016, Simon & Schuster, 292 Pages)

Reviewed by Steven R. Maher

This writer has reviewed several biographies of Dwight Eisenhower. Historians rate Eisenhower as one of America’s greater Presidents. Eisenhower balanced the budget (“better dead than in the red”), ended the Korean War, did not overreact to the Soviet Sputnik launch into outer space, and refused repeated requests from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to launch pre-emptive strikes against Red China.

It is against this backdrop of presidential success that one should read “Ike’s Gamble: America’s Rise to Dominance in the Middle East” with a considerable grain of salt. Author Michael Doran is a neocon. He was a Director of the National Security Council during the Presidency of George W. Bush. He was an assistant to Elliott Abrams. Abrams was pardoned by the first President Bush for withholding information from Congress in the Iran-Contra scandal.

In a February 2003 article in the highly prestigious Foreign Relations Magazine, Doran endorsed the invasion of Iraq which took place one month later, stating: “If an American road to a calmer situation in Palestine does in fact exist, it runs through Baghdad.” “Calm” is not an adjective used often to describe Palestine after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

It does mention in Ike’s Gamble’s biographical section, on the back flap, that Doran “has served as a Middle Eastern adviser in the White House and as a deputy secretary of defense.” It does not mention that this was during the Bush 43rd Presidency. The book is totally silent on Doran’s connection to Bush.

The reviewer starting researching Doran’s background after finishing the book becomes deeply suspicious of what he had read. Doran’s approach reminds one of Dick Cheney’s cherry picking of evidence on Iraq’s nuclear weapons to justify the Iraq invasion. Doran had slim proof to back up some of his assertions, used highly questionable sources, and stated a version of events extremely different from the generally accepted story. The impression one gets is that Doran knew his association with George W. Bush would discredit this book in the minds of many readers.

Neocon hero

The book opens with Winston Churchill meeting Eisenhower after Ike was elected President in November 1952. This is significant: in the neocon world Churchill is an icon. George W. Bush kept a bust of Churchill in the oval office throughout much of his Presidency.

The British Empire was nearing bankruptcy because of World War II. It didn’t have the money to maintain its far-flung empire. Doran gives the impression the world would be a better place if Eisenhower had agreed to fund Britain’s empire. That would have made sense to the dyed in the wool imperialists, bankers and businessmen in London but was opposed by British subjects in Africa or Asia who wanted their independence.

Doran conveys this through “the James Bond” analogy of American bankrolling the British through international institutions while Britain maintains its empire. He cites the first novel in the James Bond franchise, Casino Royale, where Bond loses all his money at a game of baccarat with a Soviet agent. The day is saved by American agent Felix Leiter, who gives Bond a wad of cash and a note reading: “Marshall Aid. Thirty-two million francs. With the Compliments of the USA.” Doran notes, “Resuscitated with American funds, Bond continues to play, and of course,” trounced the Soviet agent. Leiter is the role Doran wishes the U.S. had played throughout the 1956 crisis. He morosely noted: “Eisenhower was no Felix Leiter.”

1956 Suez Crisis

In 1956 Nasser negotiated the British to withdraw their 80,000-man garrison from along the Suez Canal. Nasser’s military was not strong enough to drive them out. After the British withdrew, Nasser nationalized the canal. Enraged, the British and French persuaded the Israelis to enact a farce: Israel would attack the Egyptians in the Sinai and then the British and French, playing the role of unknowing innocents, would seize the canal on the pretext they were separating the warring countries.

In October 1956, the Israelis attacked and quickly overran much of the Sinai.
Eisenhower believed that if the United States were to support Britain and France in their gunboat diplomacy, the U.S. would become identified with western colonialism in developing countries. He also thought that if the U.S sided with Egypt in his crisis, the U.S. would be accepted as an honest broker to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Ike forced the British, French and Israeli forces to withdraw from the territories occupied during a brief war with Egypt. Doran portrays Eisenhower as a naïve President with a simplistic viewpoint of the Middle East. Doran asserts Eisenhower’s poor judgments collapsed American’s position in the Middle East in favor of Nasser. This wasn’t exactly the case. The Israelis seized the Sinai in the 1967 war and Nasser died three years later without achieving his dream of being President of a unified Arab super-state. Anwar Sadat later negotiated the return of the Sinai after the Yom Kippur war.

Sources

There is a controversy over whether Eisenhower came to regret his actions in the 1956 Suez crisis. He had few sources to substantiate this assertion. Incredibly, one of these sources was Richard M. Nixon. Doran preferred to believe Nixon over Stephen Ambrose, an award-winning Presidential biographer.

Ambrose hadn’t resigned the Presidency after being accused of high crimes and misdemeanors, but Doran found him less credible than Tricky Dick. That should tell the reader all they need to know about this book.

InCity Times Book Review

The Iran Wars

By Jay Solomon, (2016, Random House, 336 Pages)

Reviewed by Steven R. Maher

Two of the biggest issues that will bedevil the incoming Trump administration will be the rogue state of Iran and the nuclear deal signed by the Obama Administration in July 2015. This timely book by Jay Solomon entitled “The Iran Wars: Spy Games, Bank Battles, and Secret Deals That Reshaped the Middle East” is a well written and easy to read account of how we got to this point.

“The Iran Wars” reviews the history of how the United States first sent nuclear technology to Iran during the reign of the Shah, then a U.S. ally. The technology was inherited by the Mullahs after they overthrew the Shah in 1979.

Assassination and Stuxnet

Neither the United States nor Israel wanted to see Iran build nuclear weapons. They resorted to two state tools which have become unfortunately commonplace in today’s world: Assassination and Espionage.

Richard Nixon once said the Israeli Mossad is the best intelligence agency in the world. The shadow war with Iran gave them the opportunity to prove it. With orders to stop the Iranian nuclear program by any means, Mossad infiltrated its agents into the Iranian capital, Tehran, and assassinated several Iranian scientists working on the project.

Enraged, Iran tried to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States in retaliation. In the convoluted world of Middle Eastern politics, the Iranians did this on the theory that the United States was an ally of Israel, and Saudi Arabia was an ally of the U.S.

There was no direct link between Saudi Arabia and the assassinations in Tehran. This incident is worth noting, if for no other reason, as demonstrating the paranoid mindset of those ruling Iran today.

Next the U.S. and Israel launched a cyber-attack on Iran using a malware program named “Stuxnet.” This program was written in a fashion so it would only infect centrifuges in Iran’s atomic plants. It succeeded in delaying Iran’s processing of sufficient uranium to construct an atomic bomb by causing the centrifuges to spin at high speeds and break. This is believed to be the first cyber-attack in history by one nation state against another.

The Rial War

Connoisseurs of spy novels or movies will find the chapter entitled “The Rial War” fascinating. The “Rial” is the Iranian currency. The US launched a financial war against the Iranians. It was the most successful effort against the Iranian regime since 1979.

The international oil market is conducted entirely in American dollars. Treasury Under-Secretary Stuart Levey figured out financial institutions doing business with Iran could be damaged if they were denied access to the U.S. currency. As Solomon put it: “Treasury knew that major businesses simply couldn’t function without access to U.S. dollars, the world’s default currency. Treasury could force foreign firms to choose between doing business with the United States or conducting it with rogue states and criminal enterprises. To most, the decision was a no-brainer.”

Solomon thereafter takes readers through a labyrinth of disreputable banks in the Caymans and Luxembourg, straw fronts, paper corporations, and the other denizens of the financial netherworld. The Iranians used accounts within accounts, false charitable shells, and other subterfuges to hide their illicitly obtained dollars.

Treasury started out by choking off the banks and corporations suppling Iran material and technology to further their nuclear program.

Next, they cracked down on the banks which assisted Iran’s sale of oil on the black market.

Finally, they froze billions of Iranian dollars in U.S. banks on American territory. The value of the Rial went down 30% in one day.

Some 70% of the Iranians’ budget came from oil revenues. When the oil market cratered, Iran’s economy began to collapse, tens of thousands of Iranians were laid off, and Iran came to the nuclear talks in 2013 as an economic basket case.

Nuclear Treaty

In July 2015 Iran, the U.S. and the other P-5 powers signed the nuclear deal with Iran. Solomon believes the treaty has given the U.S. a 10-year breathing space to further disarm Iran. President-elect Donald Trump has said he intends to strictly enforce the agreement in lieu of canceling it. Americans must wait and see what Trump does before finding out how this story will conclude.

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InCity Times Book Review

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… Bin Laden was easy prey for U.S. Navy Seals, according to Hersh. pic:R.T.

The Killing of Osama Bin Laden

By Seymour M. Hersh

(2016, Verso Books, 132 pages)

Reviewed by Steven R. Maher

Seymour Hersh is one of the best investigative reporters in the United States. In 1970 he won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the My Lai massacre by American troops in Vietnam. Since then, Hersh has gone on to report on numerous issues of public concern.

In this latest book, Hersh takes a look at two issues: the 2011 operation that killed Osama Bin Laden and the 2013 Syrian chemical attack on Ghouta that killed 1,400 innocent civilians. In the Bin Laden killing, Hersh quotes mostly anonymous and unattributed sources that Bin Laden was actually captured by the Pakistanis in 2006 and that the operation to kill Ben Laden was an elaborately staged hoax to re-elect President Obama.

In the Syrian chemical case, Hersh quotes sources who imply the United States, through Turkey, supplied Syrian rebels with the equipment and/or raw materials to manufacture sarin gas to conduct the attack on Ghouta, giving the U.S. casus belli to bring down the Assad regime.

London Review of Books

This book originally appeared as a series of essays in the London Review of Books. It patches together totally different subjects. In the introduction, Hersh insists the book’s subjects have a common theme – that President Obama promised transparency and delivered misrepresentation and lies. Hersh wrote: “Yet he [Obama] is a President who told series of lies about the killing of Osama Bin Laden in May 2011 … .”

Hersh asserted the following about the death of Bin Laden:

• “Bin Laden had been a prisoner of the ISI [Pakistani intelligence] at the Abbottabad compound since 2006,” after Bin Laden was betrayed to ISI by a bribed local tribesman.

• That Pakistani intelligence knew of the May 11, 2011, raid to kill Bin Laden “in advance and made sure that the two helicopters delivering the Seals to Abbottabad could cross Pakistani airspace without triggering any alarms;”

• “At the Abbottabad compound ISI guards were posted around the clock to keep watch over Bin Laden and his wives and children. They were under orders to leave as soon as they heard the rotors of the U.S. helicopters.”

• “The town was dark: the electricity supply had been cut off on the orders of ISI before the raid began.”

Thus, stripped of guards and protection, Bin Laden was easy prey for what Hersh terms “murder” by Navy Seals. According to Hersh, the original plan had been for the Seals to kill Bin Laden and a week later for the U.S. and Pakistan to announce Bin Laden was killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan. This was spoiled by Obama rushing to claim credit for Bin Laden’s death, injuring U.S. relations with Pakistan, claims Hersh.

Bizarre scenario

If this bizarre scenario laid out by Hersh were really true, it is highly unlikely it would have remained a secret this long.

In these days of the Internet and our hyper-partisan political atmosphere, it is highly unlikely that such a dubious scheme could have been carried out without the evidence leaking. Hersh is a good writer, and at only 132 pages, this book is an easy read.

Republicans and conservatives have long criticized Hersh for his reliance on anonymous sources in support of sometimes unbelievable accusations.

Liberals may find themselves in agreement after reading this highly unlikely accounting of a liberal icon’s greatest achievement.

Gordy parked in A.I.

What Peace in the Middle East Will Look Like

By Gordon Davis

Recently, the President of the United States, Barrack Obama, ordered an additional 200 troops to Iraq. The soldiers are reportedly advisors to aid in the retaking of Mosul from ISIS. Since attack helicopter forces were also ordered into Iraq, it is likely that Americans will have combat missions.

President Obama met yesterday with King Salman’s, dividing up Syria and Iraq. When the bosses talk peace, we should get ready for war. This fighting in the Middle East will not end until the European imposed boundaries, economic conditions, and religious extremism issues are resolved.

Iraq has only been a country since 1921 when the Ottoman Empire was divided up by the Europeans in the Balfour Treaty. Kurdistan, Sunni Iraq and Shia Iraq, but not Kuwait, were merged into a single state.  With the American invasion in Iraq Wars I and II, the Iraqi state unravelled.

The only solution now is partition of Iraq. There will be no peace until this is done. Mosul will be recaptured by the Shia government in Baghdad. There will be thousands of deaths. Sometime afterwards Mosul will be the capital of Sunni Iraq.

It would make more sense to have the anti ISIS parts of the former Baath Parties and the tribal leaders defeat ISIS and form their own state.

In 1948 the United Nations allowed the partition of Palestine into Israel and Palestine. There will be no peace there until Palestine and Israel are reformed together as a secular state based on the principle of one person one vote.

As long as the Palestinians are occupied and stateless there will be no peace.

Saudi Arabia will have to come out of feudalism for there to be peace. Its absolute monarchy and its extreme religious elements Al Qaeda and ISIS  will have to be replaced by secular democracy, including women. Should this not happen, then there will be no peace in the Middle East.

ISIS is supported by Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is seeking the support of Egypt in the fight to stifle the power of Iran and its allies, Shia Iraq, non Shia Syria, and Hezbollah.

I wish the soldiers on all sides well. Most are just working class young men made to believe since childhood that soldiering is glorious or heroic. Unfortunately, there are real material conditions that will defeat any unworkable or false efforts their respective governments order them to perform.

You cannot kill an idea with a bullet. The use of the military has its limits.

There are likely thousands of American forces in the Middle East. None are working for the partition of Iraq, the unity of Israel and Palestine, nor the disestablishment of the House of Saud. Although brave, these efforts are futile.

The foreign policy of the United States is causing widespread disruptions in regards to refugees, suicide bombings, civilian deaths, and other misery that come with war.

Our Presidential candidates seem to have  policies that will bring more of the same or worse.

At one time I had hoped that President Obama would see through the madness that is war for economic and political power. I had hoped as he promised to withdraw from the violence that will not bring the justice and peace we all want. Instead, he has increase the military presence in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

I am reminded of the military buildup that preceded the deadlier parts of the Vietnam War. It was a war that could not end in peace until the imperialists such as France, Japan, America and China were driven out and Vietnam could reunited.

Have we learned nothing from history?

Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital celebrates Women’s History Month

Activities aimed to help Female Veterans learn more about the services available to them at Bedford VAMC

Bedford – Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital (Bedford VAMC) is hosting a Women’s Tea to celebrate Women’s History Month on March 28,  2 p.m.,  at Bedford VAMC’s Canteen Service Dining Room, located in building 78.

The event will feature a presentation by Air Force Captain Joyce Massello, Retired Reserves, a decorated Vietnam Veteran who served as a flight nurse.   Following Captain Massello’s presentation, there will be an opportunity to socialize and enjoy the displays highlighting women in history, including Edith Nourse Rogers.

The recent growth of female Veterans accessing VA health care has outpaced that of the male Veteran population. VA is stepping up to meet the needs of a growing women Veteran population by enhancing primary care to meet their needs. This is a major undertaking for VA.

“It’s all about personalizing care for our women Veterans so that everything we do supports a patient–centered approach benefiting the Veteran,” said Christine Croteau, acting director at Bedford VAMC. “We are pleased to showcase the services offered at Bedford and to partner with our patient population to provide the care that best meets their specific health care needs.”

The Women’s Tea serves as an important way to highlight female Veterans’ contributions to history, and more specifically, Edith Nourse Rogers, for whom the hospital is named. Bedford VAMC was the first VA hospital named after a woman. Edith Nourse Rogers was the first Congresswomen from New England and was dedicated to Veterans’ issues.  She introduced the unprecedented bill to establish the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in 1941. When the law passed in 1942, it opened up military service to thousands of women in countless occupations other than nursing.  Edith Nourse Rogers dedicated her life to Veterans’ issues for more than 40 years.  The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps was just one of her many accomplishments, which also included the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (commonly known as the G.I. Bill) which provided educational and financial benefits for soldiers returning home from World War II.

Those who say “I Support the Troops” should just stop, out of respect for the troops

Illegal Military Foreclosures

By Michael Moore, filmmaker

I don’t support the troops, America, and neither do you. I am writing this as I have just learned of the suicides of two more of our active duty reservists who live here in the Traverse City, Michigan area. That brings the total number of soldier suicides (that I know of) in the past year, in this rural area, to four.

I am tired of the ruse we are playing on these brave citizens in our armed forces. And guess what — a lot of these soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines see right through the bull**** of those words, “I support the troops!,” spoken by Americans with such false sincerity — false because our actions don’t match our words. These young men and women sign up to risk their very lives to protect us — and this is what they get in return:

1. They get sent off to wars that have NOTHING to do with defending America or saving our lives. They are used as pawns so that the military-industrial complex can make billions of dollars and the rich here can expand their empire. By “supporting the troops,” that means I’m supposed to shut up, don’t ask questions, do nothing to stop the madness, and sit by and watch thousands of them die? Well, I’ve done an awful lot to try and end this. But the only way you can honestly say you support the troops is to work night and day to get them out of these hell holes they’ve been sent to. And what have I done this week to bring the troops home? Nothing. So if I say “I support the troops,” don’t believe me — I clearly don’t support the troops because I’ve got more important things to do today, like return an iPhone that doesn’t work and take my car in for a tune up.

2. While the troops we claim to “support” are serving their country, bankers who say they too “support the troops” foreclose on the actual homes of these soldiers and evict their families while they are overseas! Have I gone and stood in front of the sheriff’s deputy as he is throwing a military family out of their home? No. And there’s your proof that I don’t “support the troops,” because if I did, I would organize mass sit-ins to block the doors of these homes. Instead, I’m having Chilean sea bass tonight.

3. How many of you who say you “support the troops” have visited a VA hospital to bring aid and comfort to the sick and wounded? I haven’t. How many of you have any clue what it’s like to deal with the VA? I don’t. Therefore, you would be safe to say that I don’t “support the troops,” and neither do you.

4. Who amongst you big enthusiastic “supporters of the troops” can tell me the approximate number of service women who have been raped while in the military? Answer: 19,000 (mostly) female troops are raped or sexually assaulted every year by fellow American troops. What have you or I done to bring these criminals to justice? What’s that you say — out of sight, out of mind? These women have suffered, and I’ve done nothing. So don’t ever let me get away with telling you I “support the troops” because, sadly, I don’t. And neither do you.

5. Help a homeless vet today? How ’bout yesterday? Last week? Last year? Ever? But I thought you “support the troops!”? The number of homeless veterans is staggering — on any given night, at least 60,000 veterans are sleeping on the streets of the country that proudly “supports the troops.” This is disgraceful and shameful, isn’t it? And it exposes all those “troop supporters” who always vote against social programs that would help these veterans. Tonight there are at least 12,700 Iraq/Afghanistan veterans homeless and sleeping on the street. I’ve never lent a helping hand to one of the many vets I’ve seen sleeping on the street. I can’t bear to look, and I walk past them very quickly. That’s called not “supporting the troops,” which, I guess, I don’t — and neither do you.

6. And you know, the beautiful thing about all this “support” you and I have been giving the troops — they feel this love and support so much, a record number of them are killing themselves every single week. In fact, there are now more soldiers killing themselves than soldiers being killed in combat (323suicides in 2012 through November vs. about 210 combat deaths). Yes, you are more likely to die by your own hand in the United States military than by al Qaeda or the Taliban. And an estimated eighteen veterans kill themselves each day, or one in five of all U.S. suicides — though no one really knows because we don’t bother to keep track. Now, that’s what I call support! These troops are really feeling the love, people! Lemme hear you say it again: “I support the troops!” Louder! “I SUPPORT THE TROOPS!!” There, that’s better. I’m sure they heard us. Don’t forget to fly our flag, wear your flag lapel pin, and never, ever let a service member pass you by without saying, “Thank you for your service!” I’m sure that’s all they need to keep from putting a bullet in their heads. Do your best to keep your “support” up for the troops because, God knows, I certainly can’t any longer.

I don’t “support the troops” or any of those other hollow and hypocritical platitudes uttered by Republicans and frightened Democrats. Here’s what I do support: I support them coming home. I support them being treated well. I support peace, and I beg any young person reading this who’s thinking of joining the armed forces to please reconsider. Our war department has done little to show you they won’t recklessly put your young life in harm’s way for a cause that has nothing to do with what you signed up for. They will not help you once they’ve used you and spit you back into society. If you’re a woman, they will not protect you from rapists in their ranks. And because you have a conscience and you know right from wrong, you do not want yourself being used to kill civilians in other countries who never did anything to hurt us. We are currently involved in at least a half-dozen military actions around the world. Don’t become the next statistic so that General Electric can post another record profit — while paying no taxes — taxes that otherwise would be paying for the artificial leg that they’ve kept you waiting for months to receive.

I support you, and will try to do more to be there for you. And the best way you can support me — and the ideals our country says it believes in — is to get out of the military as soon as you can and never look back.

And please, next time some “supporter of the troops” says to you with that concerned look on their face, “I thank you for your service,” you have my permission to punch their lights out (figuratively speaking, of course).

(There is something I’ve done to support the troops — other than help lead the effort to stop these senseless wars. At the movie theater I run in Michigan, I became the first person in town to institute an affirmative action plan for hiring returning Iraq/Afghanistan vets. I am working to get more businesses in town to join with me in this effort to find jobs for these returning soldiers. I also let all service members in to the movies for free, every day.)

 

InCity Times book review

SYRIA: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF ASSAD By David W. Lesch

Reviewed by Steven R. Maher

“[British Prime Minister David] Cameron indicated within hours of Obama’s victory that he was eager to sit down with the American president to address the civil war in Syria. ‘One of the first things I want to talk to Barack about is how we must do more to try to solve this crisis.’” – Newsweek, November 19, 2012.

David W. Lesch has written a timely book about a little understood civil war in his 2012 “Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad”. It is an excellent book, well written, well documented, and an easy read.

There is a paucity of books about Syria. About a month ago, as the civil war raged, this writer went to the Worcester Library to find a book on the country that would broaden one’s understanding of the Syrian situation. The most recent book was a 2006 publication by an Israeli think tank. It provided an interesting perspective.

Dictator Bashar al-Assad was then at the height of his power. Syria was actively supporting insurgents who were killing Americans in Iraq and sparking a gruesome war between Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon. The more Assad misbehaved, the greater were his rewards: popularity at home, pleas for “understanding” by the soft-headed useful idiots, and petrodollars from the Persian Gulf sheikdoms.
Fighting for his life

Today Bashar al-Assad is fighting for his life. What happened in the last six years to put the Syrian tyrant in such a situation? It can be summed up in two words: the Internet.

Lesch said he met Assad before he came dictator of Syria, and, like many others, had high hopes that when Assad succeeded his father Hafiz Assad in 2000, he would bring democracy to Syria. He describes how Assad, an ophthalmologist by training, was corrupted by the near absolute power he held.

When the “Arab spring” materialized after the overthrow of the Tunisian and Egyptian regimes. Assad drew the wrong lessons from history. He believed that the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions took place because their governments did not respond with force when peaceful protests occurred.

When peaceful protests began in Syria, Assad sent in his military with orders to bloodily suppress the demonstrators. But instead of quickly making the problem disappear, the response spread civil disorder around the country.

“Dissidents used popular media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter to organize opposition activity,” writes Lesch. “A number of social media websites, such as ‘Syrian Revolution 2011’ and ‘Syrian Revolution News Round-ups’ were created to coordinate protests throughout the country and to act as clearing-houses for information and updates on the uprising. In a way, the social media have allowed ordinary citizens to counter the decades of censorship in Syria, inspiring an attitude of defiance among tech-savvy youths that will most likely be impossible to rein in again. The social media have allowed people to escape the culture of fear…a rebel’s computer and tech knowledge may be as or more important than his or her weapons.”

In 2007 Syria banned Facebook and imported from Iranian cyber tools to hunt down dissidents. The Obama administration has begun to train Syrian dissidents in computer encryption, circumvention of government firewalls, and secure use of mobile phones.
Fall inevitable

Lesch believes that the problem of Islamo-fascists taking control of the Syrian revolt is much overblown. There are Al-Qaeda elements among the rebels. Many of them are the same thugs Assad helped to infiltrate Iraq to kill Americans. Maybe it’s karma, but Assad’s use of extremists is coming back at him like a boomerang. The suicide bombers Assad sent into Iraq to kill Americans are now “martyring” themselves in Damascus, blowing themselves up and taking Assad’s supporters along with them.

The fall of Bashar Assad is inevitable. This is something all Americans should welcome. It will weaken Iran, cut off Hizbullah from its suppliers in Tehran, and free the Syrian people from a totalitarian tyranny. In today’s global village, the Internet makes it impossible for the Gaddafis and Assads to maintain their praetorian regimes.

Author Greg Mortenson cancels May 3 speaking engagement in Worcester

By Rosalie Tirella

In this issue of InCity Times, we ran a promotion, re: Greg Mortenson’s May 3 speaking enagement at Mechanics Hall. After we went to press – and could not make any changes to the paper – we got this note from the UCC (see below). We did not see the Sixty Minutes piece on Mortenson.

In our humble opinion, if the author has accomplished only half of what he claims to have achieved, he is still a great man. I saw a TV news report a few years ago – I think it was a 60 Minutes piece – on Mortenson and all the great schools he was allegedly building in Afghanistan, etc. I was impressed! I still am. Maybe he hasn’t built as many schools as he claimed, but the guy HAS built lots of schools in the Mid East, poor girls there are being educated in his schools and he has shone a bright light on this important issue – educating girls in developing countries is the key to their human rights – for all the world to see.

As far as I can see, the world still needs people who will sit down and have three cups of teas – that is, build friendships gradually and respectfully – with people in Afghanistan and Pakistan, etc – not go in, as we and NATO have done, half-cocked blowing everybody’s brains out. The Mid East needs folks who will support girls and education for girls. They need more activists like Mortenson – not fewer.

As far as the way the guy has handled money – not so good. But he did tell NPR he was saving millions of dollars to provide a huge nest egg for his charity so that when he dies the important work of educating poor girls in the Mid East – the only way their society will begin to see them as full human beings and not chatel  – will continue.

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Press release received by ICT:

The United Church of Christ – Massachusetts Conference (MACUCC), sponsor of an upcoming appearance by author Greg Mortenson in Worcester on May 3, announced today that Mortenson has withdrawn from his planned engagement due to health concerns.

Mortenson, who was the subject of a highly critical segment aired on April 17th’s “Sixty Minutes” program, announced recently that he is suffering from a hole in his heart which is reportedly due to be surgically repaired in Bozeman, MT, this week. Given the surgery and recuperation time, Mortenson’s agent said it was impossible for him to fulfill his engagement at Worcester’s Mechanics Hall on May 3.

Susan Dickerman, Associate Conference Minister for Leadership Development for the MACUCC, said, “The Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ is deeply concerned about the allegations made by CBS during its “Sixty Minutes” broadcast. Our decision to sponsor Greg Mortenson’s appearance in Worcester focused on providing an opportunity for laity and clergy to be inspired and challenged by Mortenson’s work in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to share with him their questions and concerns. We regret Mr. Mortenson’s illness and inability to fulfill his contract, and will offer full refunds of ticket purchases to all ticket holders.” Those holding tickets should contact the Mechanics Hall Box Office for a refund at 508-752-0888, no later than May 5th.

The Massachusetts Conference of the UCC includes 386 churches with over 73,000 members, and is one of 39 regional bodies of the UCC, which has 5,300 churches and 1.1 million members. The United Church of Christ traces its roots to the Pilgrims and Puritans who founded this country, and founded the nation’s first public schools and universities. The UCC remains a strong advocate for equality in public schools today.

A failed bombing and: What are we doing in Afghanistan? Plus: My health-care crisis!

By Jack Hoffman

In just days since the abortive attempt by the 23-year-old Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to detonate an explosive device onboard Northwest Flight 253, information surfaced that indicated a quintessential, breakdown of our intelligence and security network. Evidence has shown it to be extraordinary and shocking but not surprising in both its character and scale – especially after the 9/11 debacle.

Should we be shocked?

So what has happened with the preliminary findings from the time of the bombing attempt and now? How Umar put this all together. The dildo detonator and explosive powder stitched in his underwear. A powder that should have been detected by the Amsterdam security police, what with the new body scanners supplied by the United States. And the frightening news Umar trained with another twenty jihadist ready to go. Continue reading A failed bombing and: What are we doing in Afghanistan? Plus: My health-care crisis!