Sunday, October 29, 2006

Bush in the Ring of Fire

President GW Bush's brain trust at the White House has decided to counter Bush's sinking popularity and help his Party by more intensely projecting him on the public. They decided to increase his exposure with speeches at fund raisers, press conferences, and one-on-ones with media TV elites. When a Democratic spokesman was asked what he thought about this, he replied: BRING HIM ON. BUSH HAS THE SAME APPEAL TO THE PUBLIC AS MEL GIBSON AT A B'NAI BETH MEETING.

Despite his extended experience as a politician, you have to admit GW Bush is an inept public speaker. He does passable, albeit quirky, work with prepared speeches; but his off the cuff performances make even a high school speech teacher cringe. He mumbles, bumbles and links his thoughts with long, embarrassing AHHHHHs. His delivery of prepared material almost always smacks of the repetitive cheerleader. But let's give him a break and focus on substance rather than style.

In two of the one-on-one interviews last week, he managed inadvertently to make news. This was a surprise, because he usually just safely repeats off the shelf talking points or puffs himself up as the number one decision maker of America or better yet, its personal body guard against terror; although one time he told us he read three books on George Washington. Maybe he was trying to understand why George Washington confessed to chopping down a cherry tree – telling the truth is certainly something GW Bush would not do.

He told one interviewer that the recent bloodbath in Iraq reminded him of the TET OFFENSIVE in the Vietnam War. He told another that he was assured Red China and Russia would help him curb North Korean and Iranian nuclear ambitions. So what is the significance of these off hand comments?

Up until Bush's Tet Offensive characterization, mention of the Vietnam War in connection with the Iraq War was taboo by the Administration. Vietnam was a stinging US defeat – Casus belli now appears as confused as it is in Iraq. The Republic of Vietnam's soldiers fought with the same lack of exuberance defending their government as the Iraqi security forces do now. So such analogies were not helpful nor did they build public confidence as Bush became stuck in his Iraqi quagmire. Tet was a much more bloody affair than the last couple weeks in Iraq; 6000 American and Vietnam forces were killed and an estimated 50,000 North Vietnam and Vietcong died. It was a military victory for the US, but ironically, it was also a turning point of the war against the US. When asked about his heavy losses at TET after the war, Communist General Giap said that he viewed war as a synthesis of military, political and diplomatic factors. So when you hear the US cannot be defeated militarily in Iraq, consider General Giap's winning strategy.

By the way, it has been reported that Hopeless Henry Kissinger, an ardent promoter of the Iraqi war, now visits GW Bush regularly at the White House. Among Henry's regrettable credentials was that he extended the Vietnamese War two years, pointlessly incurring serious US casualties. Henry's role may explain GW Bush's mindless "stay the course" policy. Whatever you do Mr. President, DO NOT BOMB CAMBODIA OR LAOS, despite what Hopeless Henry advises.

As far as Russia or Red China support for US national security goals, it is simply not realpolitick; China and Russia are sharply competitive and despite nonsense about a global fraternity, these two countries quietly savor every US setback. GW Bush has an almost dream-like, childish illusion that his personal contact with their leadership means they support him in his national security objectives. Russia and China do not have the same sense of urgency over Iranian pursuit of nuc capabilities as the US, that is stuck with a policy of protecting and defending Israel. Russia and China figure that if Israel, Pakistan and India have the bomb, what is the big deal if the Iran follows... China and Russia also have special trade relationships with Iran, whereas the US does not even have diplomatic relations. As far as North Korea, China protects North Korea, and Russia has a strong military sales relationship with China – even conducts combined maneuvers. So these realities are masked by sweet talking GW Bush and the president sadly appears to be befuddled by Russian and Chinese smoke screens.

Ah, Iraq – in the last week or so, there was a serious spike in US casualties and the insurgents destroyed a massive US ammunition dump outside Baghdad. Additionally, a US General admitted that US military operations are not able to establish security. The British Army Chief of Staff spoke out stating that the occupation forces in Iraq fuel the insurgency, and although the English government seemed perturbed that the General spoke out of channels, no one disagreed with the substance of his remarks.

The Iraq war has set Bush's political house on fire; over two thirds of Americans realize they have been misled by the war and now are mad enough to vote his party out of office in congressional and local elections this November. Bush’s response has been to hold meetings with the top generals with the aim of changing tactics – as of now the Iraq forces trained by the US remain unreliable, and this will continue. No Iraqi wants to die for a corrupt puppet of the US government when the majority of Iraqis want Yankee to go home.

Now the fiasco in Iraq is reaching critical mass – it is not tactics, it is the strategy. Bush has apparently dropped his slogan, STAY THE COURSE and has redefined Iraq democracy to be some sort of amorphous strong man at the top. As in Vietnam, Bush may be tempted to support a military dictatorship to keep the country from complete collapse, but even that would fall apart as the locus of power in Iraq still resides in the militias. Before the insurgents close the main supply routes and penetrate the Green Zone, suggest a staged US withdrawal. Senator McCain's and neocons’ call for more troops in Iraq is nuts – it is defeat in detail all over again, ala Vietnam, as insurgents would match the incrementally increased US forces.

Bush now seems to settle on hectoring the Iraqi government to disband the militias as a solution. Problem is that the militias are part of the government. A threat by the US to depart Iraqi may frighten some small group of Iraqis and Kurds, but most Iraqis want departure sooner, not later. Most of those Iraqi purple fingers want the US out right now - vox populi.

Resurrection of Kissinger by Bush has comic-tragic implications: two losers hopelessly embracing each other. Based on TV appearances, Kissinger gives the impression of being in his dotage – his last misdeed was a deluded notion of extending oil and water pipelines from Iraq to Haifa, Israel. With US bayonets in Baghdad and his tribesman Wolfowitz as chief at the World Bank, such miracles may still happen over the dead bodies of Iraqis and Americans. Kissinger wrote an OpEd in the Washington Post titled THE ROAD TO JERUSALEM IS THROUGH BAGHDAD. Wrong again, Henry... Robert E Bartos Colonel USA RET

Sunday, October 22, 2006

With Chiang Kai-shek 1956 Chao Chi, Taiwan

Crisis Management and Its Absence Under GW Bush

National security crises are managed bureaucratically in advanced countries by so called crisis management centers; sometimes ad hoc and usually composed of members of the political/military elites – the US has certainly had its crises under nearly six years of President GW Bush, but there has been very little successful management. As a matter of fact, crises manage GW Bush.

The National Security Staff (NSC) in the US was established for interagency policy formulation and to run a national security crisis when necessary. It has as such, a legal mandate, and is seated in plush historical offices in an old French Third Empire style grey stone building adjacent to the White House. Most recently, headed by men such as Scolcroft, Kissinger, Brzezinski, and Berger who made errors, but got it right most of the time. Unlike GW Bush's picks of Condoleezza and Hadley who get it wrong all of the time. Outrageously, they still were promoted to reward their incompetency: Condoleezza went from NSC head to Secretary of State and Hadley, as assistant NSC to head NSC – no accountability for failure...

Most agree Condoleezza and her assistant Hadley blundered from the outset of the Bush administration. First they appeased the Red Chinese on the Chinese violation of forcing down a US reconnaissance aircraft over international waters. What we lost was state-of-the-art intercept equipment in their eagerness to please the Chinese; once the plane was evacuated on Chinese territory, it should have been bombed and destroyed. Instead, US inaction set the stage for Chinese domination of the Bush administration which is playing out in a massive trade imbalance favoring the Chinese. Chinese failure to assist the UN in curbing its North Korean satellite's nuclear aspirations is another by product of this early ambivalence to Red Chinese depredations. China is in Cuba, South America and on the shoulders of the Panama Canal; and, this Red Dragon has nuclear teeth.

Then came the strategic intelligence warning on 9/11 on which Condoleezza failed to act. As the facts are coming out, she was warned by CIA more than once. Looming in the background is a tell-all-book by former CIA Director Slam Dunk Tenet – Slam Dunk was paid 4 million for a book advance which has been delayed as he allegedly gathers more perspective. Since the Bush administration has made him the fall guy for 9/11 and the Iraq invasion, he is rumored to have regretted accepting the Presidential Freedom Medal. The thought of Slam Dunk telling the truth eventually should make Condoleezza bat her eyes even faster and make her voice even higher pitched.

And then there was the burst of the Iraqi debacle with its gross misrepresentations to the American people. Despite CIA objections and warnings, the NSC staff of Rice and Hadley pushed the fabricated Niger Yellow Cake nuclear link into Bush's State of the Union speech. GW Bush later had to apologize for the disinformation, but congress had approved the war resolution and Bush was at war in Iraq. Condoleezza also bought into snake Chalabi’s spurious sources on Iraq that were clearly discounted by CIA at the time.

Chalibi still remains an enigma. He was very actively promoted by the pro Israeli, mostly Jewish American, neocons as the new leader of Iraq. This backfired on the neocons as it now appears he was an Iranian agent who plotted to destroy Saddam who stood in the way of Iranian expansion. Doubt the Israelis feel safer now that Saddam is gone. Chalabi was asked why he provided false information for the US in the run up to the Iraqi war, he replied he was a hero of error. He was right. He did whatever it took to dump Saddam and to involve the US in the invasion. Meanwhile the US has lost nearly 3000 men and billions of dollars; so far, there is no prospect of the war ending as Bush blindly stays the course.

We have unmanaged crises with terrorism, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, but the crisis de-jour is the proliferation of nuclear weapons capability in North Korea. Condoleezza and the NSC response to the crises is like a little girl telling the teacher that a boy pulled her pigtail; instead of the teacher in this case, it is the UN and the international community. North Korea does not give a rip for world public opinion and has tightened its economic belt enough to withstand economic sanctions; that is, as long as Red China provides energy and food. And China will continue... Since multi-lateral negotiations have not worked to stop nuc weapons development, the US might want to try direct talks with the North Koreans. Bush now appears to have lowered his expectations and now just wants to prevent North Korea from transferring nuclear weapons.

China's strategy is to control the whole Korean peninsula and drive a strategic dagger in the back of Japan to neutralize it. North Korea is an Army with a country. It has been preparing for war for over 50 years. Like Napoleon said you can do anything with bayonets except sit on them. Once North Korea has solved its nuclear delivery issue, it is almost certain it will strike or blackmail South Korea into submission to a one sided unification. US airpower with B52 carpet bombing will not deter the extensively dug in North Koreans any more than the Israeli bombing of Lebanon deterred Hetzbollah. For the US to employ tactical nucs, it must consider radiation blow back and contamination of the whole region, which makes their employment unlikely.

The only realistic strategy left to the US is to threaten to tighten trade with China by drastically raising tariffs on goods imported into the US from China as a quid pro quo for curbing North Korean nuclear aspirations.

I spent 15 months closely embedded with Nationalist Chinese forces on Taiwan during the Chiang Kai-shek period. Here are my politically incorrect observations: Chinese always keep two sets of books, one for themselves and one for inspections or tax collectors. Every Chinese has a sense of cultural superiority over white Europeans – 10,000 years of civilization etc. Chinese think in centuries not years. Chinese have an anthropomorphic calendar that
imputes animal personalities to those of humans. Europeans are referred to commonly as FOREIGN DEVILS or the BIG NOSES. Chinese take great pride in hard work and business acumen. They maintain strong associations with overseas Chinese communities. Chinese readily accept dual citizenship, but believe once a Chinese, always a Chinese. Chinese love ancestors, dragons, – especially five-toed ones – and gongs, bongs and fireworks. All Chinese passionately gamble, almost to a point of recklessness. Chinese seem to keep a soft place in their heart for Chairman Mao. Chinese angrily deplore losing face, but are unemotionally stoic when many men are lost in battle or in industrial and natural disasters. The Chinese view of paradise on earth is an American house, a Chinese cook and a Japanese woman,

I pass this imperfect wisdom on to to the girlie-boys at the State Department and the NSC for their use in coping with Chung Kuo and the inscrutable Middle Kingdom. Fortune cookie anyone? Colonel Robert E Bartos Colonel USA RET

Sunday, October 15, 2006

18thc Tarot Tile – Prediction of Disaster

GWBush Swept Away; The Deluge

Sow bad seeds and eventually you reap the wild wind. Past gross errors by GWBush and his misguided neocon cohorts have slammed into them; they are now being swamped and contradicted by a remorselessly embarrassing reality. It is so bad that recently Bush tacitly welcomed US House Representative Foley's devastating pedophile scandal as a media respite from critical torture being inflicted on him because of his catastrophic national security policies, and his misleading conduct in the Iraq war.

There is a quartet of recently published books by respected authors that has effectively driven a stake through Bush's misleading and perfidious national security policies: COBRA TWO, which documented and demonstrated disastrous planning and execution in the invasion of Iraq; FIASCO, which outlined the egregious and self defeating US policy of post invasion Iraq; HUBRIS, which identified inside manipulation of the Administration to cover up its lies and stupidity that led to war; and STATE OF DENIAL is the latest. It is a coup de grâce delivered to the Bush administration which includes damaging quotes indicting the denial of reality of Team Bush in its determination to mislead the American public. Individually these books may have been blown off by the Bush Administration as written by vexed partisans, but collectively their synergy blasts Bush out of the saddle. For GWB, politically, the books are the Four Horseman of Apocalypse; might call the horsemen: DECEIT – INCOMPETENCE – RECKLESSNESS and SELF DELUSION.

These books are written about the past, but past is prologue – only a fool would expect the "stay the course" crowd to stop the bleeding. By now it should have dawned on Team Bush that it is easier to invade than occupy – that it is easier to take an objective than to hold it. Senators Fisk and Warner may be having an Epiphany after their recent visits to Afghanistan and Iraq respectively.

Fisk came back from Afghanistan with his head spinning. Said that the Taliban is there to stay in Afghanistan and it should be included in the Afghan government – the White House had a stroke when it heard Doctor/Senator Fisk's statement and had Fisk take back his statement. Recollect that much earlier at a White House press conference with Ari Fleischer, when a foreign reporter asked him about a rumor that the Taliban was prepared to exchange bin Laden for an American aid package, Fleischer replied that he did not know anything about it; but, he also stated that he would get back to the reporter. He never did answer the question, even with a denial. Seemed to me to be a better deal than fight an endless war in a Godforsaken piece of the planet that no country ever conquered. Afghanistan is not a country, but rather a collection of tribes who generally hate each other. The 19th century British Rajah arbitrarily drew boundaries in the Indo Central Asian area that were motivated by administrative considerations rather than sensitivity to tribal distribution; for example: 40% of the Pashtun tribe live in Afghanistan and the other 60% across the border in Pakistan. The border does not mean much to them, and they cross it regularly, unrestrained... Most of the Taliban is Pashtun, and many Pashtun serve in the Pakistani army as officers. So, you understand why Pakistani caudillo Musharraf has his problems keeping them and GWB happy at the same time.

After Republican Senator John Warner's ninth trip to Iraq, he now has appeared to change his tune of total support for Bush's Iraq war. Warner historically appears to love war; he even supported Clinton's bombing of Serbia during the Balkan war and in 1991 voted to keep funding for the continuation of the occupation of the Balkans. He is Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee when Republicans are in charge, and minority leader when they are not, but he always votes for war – he is bipartisan that way. He is pompous in his demeanor; his supporters call it gravitas. He, however, did earn my respect when he married Liz Taylor, even though she was a touch past her prime, but he divorced her after few years. His claim to fame in the end will be that he was #7 of Liz's 8 husbands. As far as his political contributions, history will judge him as a bomber. His recent fanfare on protecting the Geneva convention fell apart when GWB figuratively pulled his long hair. He now has misgivings about the Iraq war resolution, as it may not be valid now that American troops are involved in a civil war. But, so far, it is only talk – he has not made anything happen. He has stated that things are going sideways in Iraq. SIDEWAYS? Senator, try DOWNWARD. US had 776 casualties in Iraq in September and the rate is just as bad so far in October. He believes if things do not get better in Iraq within a few months, all options are on the table. Does that mean CUT AND RUN is also on the table?

With the recent testing by North Korea of a nuclear device, you have to wonder why GWBush's diplomacy failed. It also has failed in Iran and war in Iraq also counts as diplomatic failure. His neocon gibberish in his State of Union address, Axes of Evil, contributed to the diplomatic disaster, as it provided seeds for open belligerency. Condoleezza and General Powell both shamefully cleared that idiotic speech. Bush apparently believes if you do not talk to your enemies, they will evaporate. Maybe Bush should heed James Baker’s advice that if you talk diplomatically to anyone, talk to your enemy. It is clear that North Korea is a Red Chinese satellite. Expectations that China would help Bush solve the North Korean problem is hopelessly naive. If Bush wants to squeeze China to thump North Korea, he needs to dramatically raise tariffs on Chinese imported goods into the US. So what if pro-Chinese Wal-Mart squeals. Either that, or learn to live with the bomb. Bomb North Korea? That is even dumber than invading Iraq.

It has taken the American public five years to figure out that Bush is the light that failed. Polls now indicate that the majority of Americans prefer Democrats to fight the war on terror and figure the Democrats would clean up the Iraq occupation. Bush's religious right, despite the Republican cover up of pedophile activities in the House of Representatives, will hypocritically vote Republican regardless of these events, because the Bible tells them so. Independents and moderate Republicans will not be so understanding or fanatic. Bush and his Party have proved conclusively that they do not know what they are doing. MISSON ACCOMPLISHED??? Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET

Monday, October 09, 2006

Poster French Illusionist 1920

National Intelligence Estimates: Myth, Magic and Manipulation

There has been a national flash point stemming from a recently leaked national intelligence estimate (NIE) that was published in April 2006 with parts leaked in September 2006. Thrust of paper was that as a result of the invasion of Iraq, the insurgents are expanding, winning the war on terror, and the US is not. The US has killed Jihadists in the thousands, yet terrorist capabilities have increased against the US. Five years ago there were an estimated 20,000 Jihadists – now they are estimated at 50,000.

Unless you are a moron or a passionate GW Bush acolyte, you do not need the NIE, TRENDS IN GLOBAL TERRORISM: IMPLICATIONS AGAINST THE US to spell out that the US policy in Iraq is a bloody and expensive failure. Recent polling data in Iraq indicates that 71% of of the Iraqi want the Yankee to go home and 61% want the Americans killed on the spot. The roughly 30% not included are Kurds who need the US to survive independently. And that was the Kurdish situation before the US invasion and occupation, so there is no hearts and minds progress, certainly no gratitude for taking Saddam out among the Sunnis and the Shiites. As far as democracy in Iraq flourishing, it is a mirage that keeps moving out of GW Bush's grasp every time he lunges for it.

Republican Senator DeWine, staunch ally of GW Bush, on MEET THE PRESS on Sunday, confronted with this hostile Iraqi poll by the narrator, could not provide a rational argument for a continued US military presence in Iraq against the wishes of the populace. Pressed, he justified continued US presence to develop regional stability in the Middle East – implicitly whether the Iraqis like it or not. IS THAT SO? Glad he dropped the mask; it clarifies the issues. US is admittedly in a colonial war and the Iraqis are fighting a war of national liberation. Historically, the West never wins those.

NIEs usually take about a year to formulate; this one took longer as drafting started in 2004. NIEs are not anything to shed serious bureaucratic blood over, nor are they an up-to-date document on which to base policy. There are much more important intelligence instruments that really make policy makers jump. NIE seems to make Congress happy and titillate journalists when leaked, as they are always classified; that is, until GW Bush or VEEP Cheney arbitrarily and selectively declassify them to use them politically to buttress a choice political issue. Trapped by the fact there were no WMDs, the White House released parts of the perfidious WMD NIE to justify the invasion of Iraq. This move was major league hubris – they used a doped intelligence document to mislead and defend themselves against their catastrophic invasion.

You probably heard that 16 US government agencies participated when the NIE was written – most of these agencies have different expertise, but get the same basic collected intelligence with exceptions involving intelligence of extreme sensitivity. For that reason, the document, in addition to not being timely, is not based on all source material and as such, is on a lower scale of importance than other intelligence products. The most interesting point of NIEs always involves disagreements between the agencies which show up as footnotes or phraseology such as: "Some say, others believe". These show friction, self interest or in many cases the insistence on truth and refusal to accept compromise. The finished product is maddening to read as every judgement appears hedged. With 16 players to reach compromise, what do you expect?

CIA, historically every Administration's plaything, is the grand master in the document's preparation. Political appointee Negroponte, the recently appointed national intelligence czar, has final approval. Like the attorney general, he delivers for the Administration, so he in the end can limit damage for Administration policy by inserting ambiguities; for example: THE INVASION OF IRAQ HAS EXPANDED TERRORISM AGAINST THE US AND DEVELOPED A DEADLY INSURGENCY. A possible Negroponte waffle is: BUT IF THE US RETREATS IT MAY MAKE MATTERS WORSE. Why does he not add: OR BETTER? Because objectivity is not his function; he must protect the president's policy or find other work.

Even when the Director of Central Intelligence signed off on the NIE, before the advent of Negroponte, the final document was controlled and slanted. Let us not forget Slam Dunk Tenet’s WMD NIE that took us to war in Iraq... When SECSTATE Powell prepared for his notorious speech before the UN, he wisely rejected faith based trash intelligence notes prepared by Scooter Libby, but foolishly accepted equally baseless information, from Slam Dunk's NIE. Of the points in Powell’s UN speech, none proved later to have merit. It was a hoax. Powell's own intelligence staff at INR could have told him that, but Powell was a team player; he provided Bush momentary credibility to go to war and as such is now going down with the infected Bush herd.

Apart from other government agencies, each military service staff, Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense Intelligence Agency had a role in the preparation of the WMD NIE, but no military agency saw fit to foot note or challenge Slam Dunk’s disgraceful product. You can bet there were military intelligence officers involved in the process who knew the conclusions were bullshit.

To explain this military ethos, salute of acquiescence, and their eagerness to step into the abyss syndrome, you must understand that in the military services there is always confusion over loyalty, sycophancy and integrity – you see it every day now as many former generals shed their skins in retirement and come out against SECDEF Rumsfeld's management of the wars unlike Army General Shenseki, who was fired for telling the truth. Where were they when they had power and could have made a real impact?

Before an NIE is submitted, all services and other participants in the drafting process must sign off on the final draft. This is the critical time for footnotes or dissent, if they are to be to be included in the document. Once, I presented the final draft to an Army Major General for final approval. It was flawed with a bad judgments. I provided him with the intelligence to prove that the document was flawed. He agreed with me that there were spurious conclusions, but refused to footnote the NIE with the Army's dissent. Asked him why he rejected my prepared footnote, he replied: "I refuse to be the conscience of the Intelligence Community". I replied YES SIR and saluted. This happened over 20 years ago. So what is new? Our compromised generals still have a tough time winning wars. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET

Monday, October 02, 2006

Mice Roared, Lion Squeaked
GW Bush with the Evil Ones at the UN Sock-Hop

Seems our President has negative issues develop every time he personally plops himself into a foreign or international environment. His recent UN week is a case in point. As usual he was turned into a piñata, this time by a Latino and a Persian.

Other than the pro forma requirement to attend the annual Mount Olympus of world leaders at the UN, there was no cogent reason for Bush to participate. His stock among the majority of Third Worlders was at rock bottom, most of whom just had been juiced up a few days previously at an anti-American 3rd World conference in Castro's Havana... On top of this, this same group was still smarting over the American/Israeli war in Lebanon and the US bloody war in Iraq. It could have been worse. Where Bush was only mocked and criticized, the premier of Thailand lost his job during the same time by coup d’ètat. Our president, a product of a different type of democracy, had no fear to have his power seized by opposition. As a matter of fact, his Democratic Party opposition is like Hamlet, undergoing an identity problem: TO BE OR NOT TO BE A POLITICAL PARTY. On Sunday during an interview with Clinton on Fox network, Clinton broke cover and finally strongly and angrily responded to Bush Administration’s criticism of his pursuit of bin Laden during his term. Democrats may still find their spine; ironically, Bill Clinton shall lead them.

Bush had to know his UN appearance was like walking into a shooting gallery, standing in front of the tin duck targets. Most ludicrously, his staff had to walk point in the UN corridors to avoid a chance encounter with the Persian leader... The Persian apparently was unafraid to stand next to Bush at a urinal, but for Bush this was unacceptable and he took extreme measures to avoid such a compromising incident. Tough Texan!! Could you imagine LBJ or John Connally making way for anybody at the UN? Both Texans would have been eager to challenge the pee wee Persian to a pissing contest – not only just figuratively. As for Bush, let us call him a Drug Store Texan.

Bush's UN speech was not memorable. He used the moment to talk to the Iranian people, going over the head of their leadership to encourage them to fight for their freedom and utopian democracy. His false impression, that the the Iranian people love Hershey bars, rock music and jazzy outfits more than their country, is typical neocon baloney that got him into big trouble in Iraq. The Iranians want to go nuclear and my best reading is that this is a national aspiration, not just the notion of crackpot ayatollahs. The Europeans and Chinese understand this, but GWB does not... Bush's speech had to be aimed at a gullible American public, for very few Iranians heard it and others in the world stopped listening to Bush long ago. If Bush wanted attention and progress toward peace, the subject should have been Iraq. He could have talked about time tables for ending US occupation, and promise the US would not permanently garrison Iraq.

The Iranian premier made the best of his visit to promote his viewpoint. He not only gave a well structured speech at the UN, but nimbly hopped around the networks and spoke effectively to different important US interest groups. And he blunted most sophist journalist questions with aplomb. For a guy peddling “there was no holocaust and Israel must be destroyed”, he did surprisingly well in NYC. His only stone wall came at Columbia University, where he was invited and than effectively uninvited. Well, what does that say about academic freedom at Columbia? This is the first I had seen Ahmadinejad in action without a TV production filter or over and counterbalanced by frenetic opposite viewpoints. He is an intelligent, confident adversary for GW Bush, and it was obvious why Bush refuses to go mano a mano with him. The best point he scored against Bush was mentioning that he sent a letter to Bush that was never answered – made it appear that Bush was not interested in a peaceful solution to the problems between the US and Iran. Said he liked Jews and that Iran was not seeking a nuclear weapon. Folks, do not believe him; remember he comes from long line of oriental rug dealers and only fools trust a rug dealer. Whatever the US does in Iran, this man should not be underestimated. He is not Saddam and Iran is not Iraq.

Hugo Chavez came to town energized by a heroic welcome at the Third World Conference recently in Havana. Chavez is a ruthless street fighter that has been mentored by Fidel Castro, and by my reckoning, he has been a good pupil. He is a primitive Marxist who loves dialectical confrontation, both physically and intellectually. If you throw him to the mat, he will come raging back. He fancies himself as the second coming of Simon Bolivar, an unsuccessful uniter of all Latinos. He has gobs of oil money to throw around which, with Fidel's experienced direction, makes him a grave danger to US interests. Fidel makes the bullets and Hugo shoots them. He recently, along with Iranians, put all sales of Venezuelan oil in Euros so that if US currency goes down, oil cost to the US goes up. He provides roughly 14% of the oil to the US and the US pays him an extra premium on every barrel. Bush could have moved against him in 2002 when he was weakened domestically, but Bush had other priorities.

Wearing a Socialist blazing red shirt, Chavez viciously attacked Bush ad hominem from the UN dais in the General Assembly. It was more of a disjointed rant than a speech. Crossing himself, he called Bush a devil, noted the stench of sulfur where Bush had stood, mocked Bush's strut and mental health, and castigated US foreign policy. You probably can call born-again Bush anything but a devil without penetrating his political skin, so this hectoring probably got to him... Chavez was using the vindictive model Bush used against Saddam in his personal attack. While all these verbal fireworks were exploding, Chavez waved a paper-bound work of Noam Chomsky's book, HEGEMONY OR SURVIVAL: AMERICA'S QUEST FOR GLOBAL DOMINATION. He told the American people they should read this book rather than watch superman. Uncertain of the impact of Hugo's speech on his policy goals, but he boosted sales of Chomsky’s book from number 160,772 on Amazon to number 7 overnight. A new printing of 25,000 copies has been ordered.

Afterwards, Chavez went to Harlem, where he held a foot stomping, handkerchief waving, anti-Bush rally. This even bothered Congressman Rangel, stridently anti-Bush, who sought to distance himself publicly from the event in his district. Minority congressional leader Pelosi also condemned Chavez's remarks as over the top. Chavez was playing to the third world; he did not give a rip what the US said or did. He wants the UN General Assembly to vote for Venezuela for a rotating seat on the Security Council over the US sponsored Guatemala. This bare knuckle approach may work in the third world where the US is unpopular – but in the end, it will take bribes with petrol dollars or US dollars to entice the voters in the UN General Assembly. The finale of this black comedy with Chavez played out at Kennedy Airport a few days afterward when the Venezuelan foreign minister with a diplomatic passport was detained by US airport security officials for over an hour. UN and US apologized, but Chavez remains outraged. Suggest Condoleezza not visit Caracas for a while unless she is prepared to be detained at a hot tropical airport in a windowless room without air-conditioning.

The week at the UN was a nightmare for Bush. His Administration's spin is the country rallied around victim Bush as he was punched by the foreign evil doers on his own turf. His spin machine even speciously argued that the criticism stemmed from internal US criticism of Bush and that foreign critics were emboldened for this reason. Problem for Bush is that a self-righteous, badly fought war of choice based on misleading information is bound to generate internal dissent in a democracy. The fact is the week demonstrated Bush's weakness outside the bubble of the White House, staged fund raisers and military audiences. The phenomenon of Chomsky's book sales, a solid indicator of successful message penetration, should scare the hell out the Bush camp – or maybe not – most people who support Bush seldom read anything but the Bible. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA RET