Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A New Year – 2009

In some Latino countries the new year is celebrated by tossing water over their Spanish colonial balconies. It symbolizes the throwing out of the stale residue of the old year to make room for the new. Ah, if it were just that simple. Past still remains prologue. In the world left by GW Bush, the prospects of involuntarily extending the past into the future appear realistic and daunting.

The US main stream media celebrates the new year retrospectively by picking the PERSON OF THE YEAR. It seldom gets it right. To sell magazines, it contorts its reasoning to be cute, creative or politically correct; however, this year it did it right: BARRACK OBAMA was the person. For better or for worse, there is no reasonable argument against the selection.

Politicians must take hits when they bungle. But no one appears to make a fuss over the selection for JERK OF THE YEAR, and the US has a long list. You have to eliminate GW Bush from this list immediately as he is in class of his own: JERK OF THE CENTURY.

Some high profile suggestions for JERK OF THE YEAR are Bomb Bomb McCain who compulsively crashed his campaign with chronic bad judgement. His running mate Sarah Palin with her babies, guns and Jesus brought joy to 33% of the Americans who wallow in spiritual fervor; for the remaining 67% of the nation, it cringed at the appalling thought of clueless Sarah being a heart beat away from the US presidency.

Other JERK candidates are Bill and Hillary Clinton and governor of Illinois, Radomir Blagojevich. Unlike Bomb Bomb and Palin, they still have national cards to play, so they still have an opportunity to elevate themselves to JERK OF THE CENTURY.

Probably a less vitriolic way to regard the new year is the old stand by NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS. So let me propose a few.

US ECONOMIC DEBACLE – Promise not to empower those who participated in the catastrophic economic collapse a role in the rebuilding the wealth of America. Move the financial center from NYC to Kokomo, Indiana where there is no old-boy network to carve up stimulus packages or bailout money that enriches Wall Street, but not Main Street. Kokomo is special as Main Street, since it has a railroad track that goes through the center of town.

GW BUSH COLONIAL WARS – Promise to end them. Ignore US military advice. It has lost the Korean and Vietnam wars. It has mismanaged Iraq and war in Afghanistan. It makes every excuse to continue the occupation of Iraq. If it cannot extract US forces and equipment in 16 months from Iraq, Obama should invite Wal-Mart logisticians to execute the retrograde operation. Wal-Mart certainly out performed FEMA during Katrina. Why the Pentagon wants to remain there can only be explained by the pro-Israeli neocon leadership that infests the building. Israel can justify occupation of Arab land, because the US also does the same. There is also the issue of war profits with their lobbyists.

Afghanistan presents two choices: bribe the Taliban to fight al Qaeda or get out. Reenforcement with 30,000 US troops is more madness. The insurgents have now focused on closing NATO's main supply route through Pakistan and the Kyber Pass. As a US ally, Pakistan's military establishment is a basket case as it redeploys 20,000 fighting men from the Afghan frontier to the border with India. Fighting a war sallying out from fortified bases has not worked for the US in Vietnam or Iraq, so why would it in Afghanistan?

PURGE CONGRESS AND THE SENATE – remove any US legislator who was greedy or dumb enough to vote for both the invasion of Iraq and no strings on the 750 billion dollar bailout. Impeach the jerks for compound dereliction of office. My choice, if replaced, would be by lottery – the chance of finding a less venial candidate would be greater than one with campaign contributions, lusting to be elected.

PROMISE TO SOLVE THE ISRAELI/PALESTINE conflict by acting as an honest broker. Stop sending American Jews as envoys to broker peace. These Jews are conflicted by ethnic and religious bonds and cannot be expected to be objective; Arab counterparts deeply mistrust them. At best the Arabs consider them Trojan Horses. Their role as US brokers between Israel and the Arabs is an insulting farce to the American and Arab people.

Preclude Israeli from slaughtering Arab civilians with ammo and equipment from the US. If unable, stop the supply. As it stands now, the US provides the bullets and the Israeli shoot them at Arab civilians – has more to do with Israeli occupation than defense. US green-lighted the flawed Israeli bombardment of Lebanon in 2006; my sense, based on US actions recently at the UN, it has also green-lighted the bloody Israeli attacks on Gaza; there will be Islamic Jihadist blowback on the US as a result. Israeli attacked while GW Bush was still in office as it was uncertain of Obama's reaction. Under no circumstance should the US takes sides in these conflicts just to pander to the Israel lobby.

Appears at this writing, that the Israelis will not stop Hamas rocket attacks by bombing. If they decide to go in on the ground, they will suffer as they did with their recent incursions into Lebanon.

Resolutions made at New Years are seldom kept. Realistically, none of those proposed by me will end up differently. Christianity will triumph over secularism in government; collectivism over free enterprise. Too bad on both scores. But there is hope that a just and wise man will find his way to American leadership. Happy New Year. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Jingle Bells – Christmas USA 2008

Christmas is a time for gift giving. The biggest gift to America this holiday season is that the aggressively foolish GW Bush rule is finally finishing its catastrophic eight-year term in office.

Apart from this pending good news of his imminent departure, his other gifts constitute socks filled with coal: two wars he started and could not win; US economic structure in collapse; international reputation for torturing captives; inability to organize for natural disasters; failure to protect national borders from illegal trespassing; continued massive dependence on foreign oil; a foreign policy dominated by Israeli interests; and an expansion of international terror.

Each day GWB remains in office, it is apparent that his continued presence seems to inflame the crises. His victory lap to Iraq recently backfired in an absurd spectacle of him targeted by tossed, flying shoes. Even his insouciant China doll press spokesman Perino got a black eye in the melee. She was attacked by a microphone. Hors de combat? Based on Bush's low standards, he probably will award her the Presidential Freedom Medal. Bush's chronic maladroitness is astounding.

Former eagle scout, Treasury Secretary Paulson, has apparently already squandered over 250 billion dollars out of the bailout fund without much impact. Mystery is how it was spent. Congressional oversight personnel cannot break his spending code. Banks that received the bailout money are paying dividends and buying new acquisitions. With the automobile bailout now earmarked, Paulson has come to Congress for permission to spend the last 250 billion before Obama is in charge. GWB would say, YOUR DOING A HELLUVA JOB PAULI.

One of the under reported stories is the 50 billion dollar ponzi swindle by Wall Street man-about-NYC Bernie Madoff. Bernie was the former chairman of the Nasdaq stock exchange. He has been running a hedge fund for several years. He is a super Jew whose exploited clients were the creme de la creme of the American Jewish community, e.g. Spitzer family, Yeshiva University, Mort Zukerman, Steven Spielberg, and Eli Wiesel. Additionally he stole from synagogues, Jewish charities and hospitals.

He seemingly produced 10% to 12% on investments. To participate in his fund, you had to be invited – it was exclusive only for chosen people. It turned out to be a huge scam. Bernie would use newly invested dollars to pay off interest to the old investors. Once the stock market started to tank and investors demanded their money, the jig was up. Bernie was arrested. He is now confined to his 8 million dollar digs in NYC pending trial. His investors lost billions. Where did the money go? Ask Bernie – coddled life style for sure. Yachts, fancy houses all over the world.

Investors who lose money because they took risks without due diligence are not to be pitied. In this case, given the high visibility, celebrity status of the power-player investors, each assumed foolishly that the other knew what they were doing. The bond of ethnic solidarity played no small role in Madoff's deception. Bernie betrayed his own tribe for pieces of silver.

The Security Exchange Commission headed by Bush-appointed Christopher Cox who is charged with the responsibility to monitor fraud failed to close down Bernie's scam despite several tips and warnings over the years. There is a major Wall Street scandal of why the SEC failed to move on Bernie years ago. Did bribes or the old-boy network play a role in protecting him? Two books are already underway on the fracas. GW Bush would say, YOU DID A HELLUVA JOB COXY.

Obama is steadfastly rolling out his major political appointments with a quiet dignity. Contrast this with GW Bush's current inept scatter-gun efforts to revise the sordid history of his rule.

There is no question that some of Obama's appointments have upset progressive elements of his party, especially those involving national security and the economy. But the issue that has wound up his gay supporters is his selection of a virulent, anti-gay evangelical pastor from Orange county California named Rick Warren to conduct the invocation during his presidential inauguration. Obama's record is clear on support of gay rights, but Warren is tied to the success of proposition 8 in California which outraged the gay community.

Obama may have underestimated the energy, determination and frenzy of the gay community on this issue. As a result, he may have the San Francisco contingent of painted drag queens and cavorting sugar plum fairies protest by marching down Pennsylvania Avenue at his inauguration parade. Bible preachers and gay activists are a combustible cocktail. Merry Christmas! Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Spider & his Web – Daley & Obama

Another squalid politician, Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois has splattered on the windshield of the national media. Another public servant who expects the public to serve him. Rotten politicians regularly abound throughout the US, so why is this one worth more than just a dismissive mental kick in the ass?

Because, like President-elect Obama, he was spawned by the same political Chicago Daley machine. Mayor Richard M. Daley is at the center of the political web – Obama and Blagojevich are contemporary flies in his web.

Despite the fact that Saint Obama and sinner Blagojevich operate in the same Daley web, there are no lateral or vertical connections between them; they are not friends and they roam in different circles. The two, however, happen to share Mayor Daley as a political godfather.

Federal prosecutor Fitzgerald charged the governor with criminal conspiracy for trying to sell Senator Obama's recently vacated senate seat to the highest bidder in Chicago. As the governor of Illinois, he has the power to appoint Obama's replacement; his problems stemmed from legal wiretaps indicating that he would entertain bribes for making the right appointment.

Prosecutor Fitzgerald made it clear that Obama was not involved in the affair. About the only person bruised in Camp Obama was his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel who had contacts with the governor over choices for the senatorial replacement. Emanuel reportedly responded petulantly to the pressure; he would not go to his transition office, because he had to face reporters. This seemed girlie boy to me. He ain't seen nothing yet as Obama proceeds to power. He is a former ballet dancer, White House staffer to Clinton, and a congressman – nothing here to recommend real leadership experience; there is a good chance he is in over his head as Obama's chief of staff.

My concern is not the perceived link of Obama/Blagojevich. More to the point, what does Mayor Daley get for his role? Remember pay and play was perfected in Chicago-land

Mayor Daley's father Richard J. Daley created the Chicago political machine. He was elected to power in 1955 and held power until 1976. His exercise of political power earned him the title The American Pharaoh. Always a Democrat, he became a power nationally when he delivered Illinois’ electoral votes to JF Kennedy under suspicious circumstances.

Mayor Richard M. Daley has carried on the Daley dynasty; he has been in office since 1989. He enjoys a 70% approval rating and is considered one of the best mayors in the country. He is up to his eyeballs in national politics as a kingmaker. His brother William was Secretary of Commerce under Clinton and served in Vice President Gore's failed campaign for President; it is rumored that he has ambitions to run for governor of Illinois. Mayor Daley has been important in Obama's political fortunes – even Obama's wife worked for him at one time. The mayor also promoted Blagojevich’s career, but now calls him cuckoo. (You cannot win them all.)

Blagojevich is a real piece of work. He sports a peek-a-boo hair-do to hide his rodent eyes. His approval rating in Illinois is worse than GW Bush's - reported as low as 7%. His wife Patricia is a cross between Lucrezia Borgia and Leona Helmsley. She is also implicated in the pay to play schemes. As a US Democratic congressman, he voted for the Iraq war. What a guy. Based on blog traffic in Belgrade, even his distant Serbian kinsmen think he is a jerk.

He will be dispossessed of his office one way or the other, but he is a potential time bomb as he knows where the bodies are buried in Cook County. His legal bills are reported to be over a million and he just began to fight his latest jeopardy. My sense is he will squeal with a vengeance as he goes down, so Mayor Daley's headaches over this guy are just starting.

The important enigma here in this Chicago political dance-land is what influence Mayor Daley has in an Obama administration. If the public works projects coming from the predicted stimulus package start to flow abundantly toward Chicago, we will know more. JOBS, JOBS, JOBS...

As an Irish Roman Catholic, Mayor Daley should advise Obama to be satisfied as the first black president – that the honor of the first black saint is already taken by ST MARTIN DE PORRES who was canonized in 1962.

Mayor Daley strongly prefers not to have a saint in White House. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

To Smell a Rat – Status of Forces Agreement Iraq

To smell a rat is to consider the Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) just signed by the Iraqi central government and the US. The agreement at this stage is a piece of paper that provides a legal fig leaf to cover the occupation of Iraq by the US to replace the US/United Nations mandate that expires 1 January 2009. The document's ultimate validity depends on a nation-wide referendum by the Iraqi people scheduled for July 2009.

The fact is that the agreement extended the legitimacy of the US occupation six months, until the middle of next year – politically it keeps US troops in Iraq while GW Bush remains in office until 20 January 2009. It permits GW Bush to play Pontius Pilate and wash his hands of the pending final defeat.

The day the US announced the signing of this interim agreement, two US troops were killed along with 14 Iraqis at a checkpoint in Mosul – a specious document sealed in US and Iraqi blood. Thus far, the agreement has not been presented for public examination. It was briefed as a classified draft document to Congress in October 2006. This is enough to make the hair stand on the back of your neck. What is there to hide, especially since this is an openly signed agreement with a foreign country?

Based on what is being leaked on the document, there appears to be much over with which to be concerned. Let us start with a statement by retired Major General Paul Eaton who publicly indicated that the document permits the US to accelerate or retard the agreement. The date for US-inscribed troop withdrawal is out by 2012 – if that date is retarded, it means withdrawal extends beyond 2012.

That General Eaton made the statement is significant, because he is one of those dissident retired generals who opposed the Iraq war after he retired. Furthermore, he is closely associated to the Obama camp. He never was a member of the retired star officer clique that publicly promoted the Iraq War as Pentagon propagandists or lobbyists for defense contractors.

During the presidential campaign Obama promised a 16-month troop withdrawal from Iraq. Now if you listen to his position on the subject, he makes declarations on all COMBAT troops to be removed during that period – there is a big difference. Army planners quickly admit that troops can be remissioned; that they are turned from combat troops to training and support troops by redefinition... There are estimates that range from 30,000 to 70,000 troops to be re-categorized.

These planners also expect these troops to remain beyond the 2012 target date. So this probably explains General Eaton's retarded troop withdrawal comment. Call this ambiguous spin, or what you wish, but to a majority of Iraqis, it is occupation. In this case, expect blood and dollars to continue to flow, SOFA or no SOFA.

Ratification of the agreement by the the Iraqis was problematic. Out of 499 members in the Iraqi parliament, 275 voted for passage; 91 members did not vote. Sunnis voted for it because they wanted services to be continued by US troops. The powerful Shiite cleric Ayatollah Sistani is not in favor of the SOFA, because the approval is not overwhelming. Shiites from the el Sadr militia have demonstrated against the agreement recently, by burning GW Bush's effigy in a public square. Most experts agree that if the July referendum was not included in the SOFA, its ratification would have failed.

There are other important issues in the SOFA which are embedded points of conflict. If the ratification does not pass in July 2009, all US troops must depart in a year. In November 2008, the US assigned the responsibility to pay 100,000 armed Sunni militia to the Iraqi central government. Payments were reduced from 350 dollars a month to 300 dollars. Payments are intentionally slowed up as the Shiite-dominated central government attempts to reduce the size of the Sunni force. Insurgent activity in Sunni areas is now increasing as the pay lines get longer. Expect this payment arrangement to become atrophied, to be followed by an insurgent explosion in Sunni lands.

This war is not over by a long shot. Hopeless Henry Kissinger, his clone side-kick, former SecState Larry Eagleburger, along with Right Wing blowhard Rush Limbaugh, who all are delighted with Obama's national security team, have publicly praised it. All these people are against withdrawal. So keep your expectations low that Obama will end the war. The war will end for the US only when the occupation ends. The SOFA does not portend this end.

All this SOFA drama is cast in a land of extensive corruption. Iraq follows Somali and Zimbabwe as the most corrupt nation in the world. Just think of the US policy as a bailout for war profiteers to the tune of 10 billion dollars per month. Makes you grind your teeth doesn't it ?

So far it appears that Obama has changed, rather than the US policy in Iraq. Too bad for America, as this continuity in Iraq will undermine most of his attempts to set a new course in US foreign policy. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Terror Burning Bright – Mumbai Carnage

India, whether pre-colonial, colonial or post-colonial, has always been a savagely cruel place. The recent massacre of about 180 people by Islamic terrorists in Mumbai is just another sad chapter of woe in its bloody history. It was not long ago when public executions were carried out by being crushed under an elephant's foot. Its modern hero, Mahatma Ghandi, was assassinated as well as several other leaders in its post-colonial history, so the dreadful history proceeds now seemingly remorselessly and unrelentingly.

John Ruskin, an English Victorian famous sage writer on art, architecture and any subject that pleased him, contended that Indian Hindu Religion not only influenced its art and architecture, but the character of its people. He considered it one cruelest and most devilish in the world. As part of the cycle of life, Hindus worship gods Shiva and Kali as vicars of death and destruction. At the same time they protect cows from slaughter.

If you examine antique Indian bladed weapons, you find a large proportion of them seemed to be designed for torture as well as killing. The best ones are made with blades of the finest jawbar steel with inlaid gold, with handles encrusted with rubies, opals, turquoise and more valuable gem stones.

The recent killings in Mumbai were conducted by Islamic murderers, so you cannot blame the Hindus for it. The attack, however, was in the context in the long ongoing bloody conflict between the Muslims and Hindus in India and Kashmir.

During the partition of India in 1947 between mainly Muslim and Hindus, 3.5 million people remain unaccounted – they just disappeared. The most conservative estimate is that at least a half million perished in homicidal actions.

Six Americans have been killed in the Mumbai events.

Obama has announced his national security team with Hillary Clinton on point at State; she will soon have her hands full in Southeast Asia. The US position, despite the dead Americans, is to sooth the situation – both Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. Obama has indicated he will attack terrorists in Pakistan, so why not let the Indians do the same? Like the Israel/Arab situation, there is enough historical blame to go around. In both cases, hatreds run deep and in both instances, the US should not favor either side. If it does, it pointlessly attracts enemies from the side not supported .

In the case of Mumbai, the killers had Jews, Americans and Englishmen on their priority hit list. Americans and Jews were killed, but no English.

Let us hope Obama's freshly minted national security team understands this simple neutrality concept, and in the future develops and executes policies in US national interest; it should avoid supporting one side or the other for narrow domestic special interests. Hillary Clinton with her pro-Israeli baggage will be tested soonest. My sense is that the former senator from New York will carry her baggage aboard.

You remember Sandy Berger, Bill Clinton's National Security advisor? He was caught stuffing his underwear with documents that he stole from the National Archives building. He was reported to have planted some in his petunia bed at home. He was only slapped on the wrists. Some say he took the documents to destroy evidence that his boss Bill was complacent on 9/11. Saw him on CNN a couple days ago discoursing on of all things – TERROR. He lost weight, looks good and is ready to work for Obama. Redemption without atonement? I will leave this to the Biblical and Talmudic scholars to explain – I cannot. CNN appeared misguided in its Berger presentation.

Since we are up to our ears in India this week, thought I would mention that the Republicans are pushing East Indian/American Bobby Jindal, Republican governor of swampy Louisiana, as their great brown hope for US president. Jindal is sharp, confident and cleaning up the corrupt state as a new broom is expected. He is bright, articulate and fearless. If he avoids the temptation of importing king cobras for killing swamp rats at the governor's mansion, painted caprisoned pachyderms for parades and pairs of Bengal tigers to keep his Cajuns from boredom, he could give Obama a helluva run in 2012. This is especially if Obama gives us Redux Clinton.

India has always fascinated me, but is one of the few places in the world I never wanted to visit. My vision of the place was formed as a boy by films such as Gunga Din, Rika Tika Tavia and the Jungle Boy. Read just about everything Rudyard Kipling ever wrote. I have a large collection of East Indian 19thC ornate furniture and antique bladed weapons from India – maybe it was the burning of the bodies on the many funeral pyres along the sacred Ganges river and bathing in the filthy river filled with human ashes and remains at Benares that gave me the creeps – this along with the high density populations. As Kipling wrote in the ON THE ROAD TO MANDALAY: SHIP ME EAST OF SUEZ WHERE THE BEST IS LIKE THE WORST AND WHERE THERE AIN'T NO TEN COMMANDMENTS AND A MAN CAN RAISE A THIRST... this is one trip I take now only from my Anglo-Indian rosewood armchair. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret.