Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Opera Bouffe Plays at the United Nations

The most recent annual conclave in New York City of world leaders at the United Nations session met all the requirements of an opera bouffe: it had comedy, satire, parody and farce. You could find almost anything in it except substance.

If you are not convinced nationalism trumps globalism after observing the diplomatic circus that recently was portrayed in NYC, suggest a brain transplant. I accept the fact that there are issues that transcend national borders: e.g., pandemics, exchange rates, terrorism, global warming, banking investment, natural cross-border disasters and war.

These calamities and issues are best addressed on an ad hoc basis or specifically tailored organized entities. The UN is structurally designed for failure when it faces problem solving.

I had originally picked four of the performers at the last UN session for my international Looney Tunes candidates: Venezuelan Chavez, Libyan Gaddafi, Israeli Netanyahu and Iranian Ahmadinejad. I had closed my book on the most absurd leaders until President Obama jumped into the ring with his hysteria over the 2nd Iranian nuclear processing site at Qom, Iran.

So let us reopen my book. Apart from the manufactured issue of a 2nd nuclear processing site in Iran, Obama really had an issue over which to be upset. It was that Netanyahu told him to kiss his his ass on the US demand that Israel cease construction of settlements on the West Bank and Jerusalem. Once the Palestinian heard that Obama was unable to move on continued Israeli colonization of Arab lands as promised, Abbas told Obama to screw himself on the talks and refused to participate. There was not a peep from Obama over this contretemps as he held photo opportunities with the Arab and the Jewish leaders at UN HQTRS.

Obama's sturm and drang over the discovery of the 2nd nuclear processing site at Qom, Iran was a red herring to deflect the attention from the wreckage of his Mid-East policy just torpedoed by Netanyahu. The Iranians reported the unfinished site to the UN nuclear watchdog committee that immediately advised the US delegation. There is every indication that the US was aware of the site and accepts the fact that Iran has the right to produce atomic energy for civilian purposes. The site, though extensive and protected underground, has no evidence that it will produce weapons grade material.

US SECDEF Gates called the site illegitimate. When pressed on why, he replied weakly that it was because the Iranians hid it. Now that the Iranians disclosed the location and has invited UN inspectors, is it now legitimate?

Netanyahu called US speaker of the House Pelosi and his favorite senators and congressmen in the pocket of the Israeli lobby and demanded they punish Iran for building the site. Israel has recently suffered serious setbacks in the UN over the Israeli nuclear weapons stock pile and killing civilians in Gaza bombardments, especially for using white phosphors shells. So the Israeli Premier is generating a smoke screen to cover this as well killing the chance for peace. US MSM generally supported Netanyahu, so you know the fix was in.

The obnoxious Netanyahu should be put on a no-fly list to protect himself, his country and the USA. He made Obama and the US congress jump – question is just how high. Is it high enough to draw the US into a foolish war with Iran?

There was an unusual reaction to Obama's attack on Iran over the second site. Kurdish Talibani who is president of Iraq warned Israel that Iraq will not permit an attack on Iran by Israel over its territory. He also encouraged the US to agree to an accord that acknowledges Iran's right to pursue peaceful atomic energy. Apparently Israel's old enemy Iraq is a developing new enemy.

For Obama to salvage his credibility internationally over the collapse of the Middle East policy, he must not reward Israel. Here are some policy options: Exchange Ambassadors with Iran; curtail military spare parts and military equipment delivery; terminate US under writing Israeli mortgages on West Bank construction; and, stop dual American Israeli citizenship. No more Seders at the White House; install large tariffs on Israel imported products; stop all foreign aid; and, insist that all pro Israel lobbyists register as foreign agents.

If none of these measures get their attention, permit Gaddafi to setup his Bedouin tent on the White House lawn and sell grilled lamb kabobs... that should drive Jews crazy. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Obama Steps on Neocon Tails

President Obama did two things that stepped on the Neocon's tail last week: he cancelled the US anti ballistic missile and radar deployments in Poland and Czech Republic and he delayed – took a deep breath to consider whether he should authorize even more troops to be sent to Afghanistan.

Up until last week the rat neocons were warmly cooing as Obama reenforced Afghanistan, carelessly ripped suspect insurgent installations in Pakistan and held to GW Bush's aggressive policies opposite Russia; they adored the US/Israel national security projects in Georgia, the NATO recruitment of the Ukraine and, gloried in a US planned ant-ballistic missile installation on the Russian borders in Eastern Europe.

These anti-ballistic deployments were portrayed as a potential defense system against possible Iranian ballistic missiles. Nobody ever believed this preposterous rational. NATO countries were certainly not concerned over the threat; they are profitably supplied with Iranian oil. The Russian General Staff scoffed at the deployment and considered it a feeble attempt at US first-strike capability. The Russians made it clear to Obama during his last visit that there would be no negotiation on US/Russian nuclear weapons pact due to expire in December unless the US fixed the anti-missile deployment problem.

Immediately after the US announcement that the planned anti-ballistic deployments were dead, NATO Secretary General Rassmusen gave a sigh of relief and suggested that NATO and Russia consider a mutual missile defense system. As the misguided plan folded without NATO remorse, it became more apparent it was just a US neocon policy – shilling for Israel to create tension over Iran. GW Bush was dopey enough to buy into it. The Poles and the Czechs were originally enticed into accepting these deployments by promises that the US would re-equip their Soviet/Warsaw Pact military forces with modern military technology compatible with NATO.

The political leadership of both countries accepted the deal, but the general populace was not as sanguine. This support was to cost the Czech Premier his job. The pro American Poles were more receptive, but opposition existed that understood, despite treaties in WWII, Poland was overwhelmed and betrayed by the West. The missile deployments on Polish soil would constitute a casus belli for Russian invasion. The Russian indicated that they would deploy its high precision, mobile offensive missile, Iskander to Poland's backyard in Kaliningrad to counter the US deployments.

Militarily the Russians could take out the proposed sites immediately in special operations, with short range missiles and/or aircraft. Even the most naive Pole or Czech does not believe NATO or the US would risk nuclear war over a Russian pinpoint, limited attack on their soil.

The question that now remains to be determined is the extent the US is prepared to bank roll the modernization of Polish and Czech forces to meet NATO standards? This is especially stressful for the US since much of US ground forces equipment is worn out and needs replacement.

As US and NATO casualties are mounting, Obama apparently has decided to gulp and take a second look at the Afghan/Pakistan wars that are spinning out of control. His Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mullen is begging for more troops even though he is not certain how to employ them or is he yet out of the Iraqi situation. Mullen was followed a few days later by US Afghan CO General McChrystal’s request for more troops.

It will be interesting to learn how long the Commander in Chief President can resist the military's pleas. Will Obama follow orders from subordinates or will he give them? War-loving Republicans and neocons of course are urging more troops to the Hindu Kush. Obama is soon to have his moment of truth.

Obama has to find other solutions in Afghanistan other than routine mass arrests, detention centers and RVN era fire bases. Training Afghan military to stand up is pie in the sky; it has never worked in any of our colonial wars. In Korea we had to integrate the South Koreans with US forces to build an effective ROK army and that war was not exactly colonial.

My proposal for Afghanistan is simple. Meet with the bearded, one-eyed Taliban Chieftain Mullah Omar and advise him that the US will remove itself from Afghanistan provided he keeps al Qaeda out of the country. Offer reconstruction aid as incentive. If the US determines he violates the agreement, we will take out one-third of his home town, Kandahar with bombs and missiles. If he continues the violations we we take out the other two-thirds and than proceed incrementally to Kabul.

It is stupid to fight the war on his terms. And that is what the Pentagon is doing today. Forget about the squalid, limited central government; locus of power there is in tribal chiefs and Mullah Omar.

Obama's cancellation of the Czech and Polish missile deployments brought a chorus of criticism from the rat neocons to include Bomb Bomb McCain, but this discontent was music to my ears. The poor souls have not been right in more than 8 years. Can we expect more change we can believe in from Obama? Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

America’s Foreign Legion

In post-revolutionary France in 1831, the French Citizen King Louis Philippe needed an Army to fight his developing colonial wars. Emperor Napoleon I had burnt out the Grand Army in endless wars resulting in the terrific slaughter of Frenchmen; there was no taste or fervor in France for further deaths, especially dying in North Africa where the the French Empire was expanding. So the French king created the French Foreign Legion to be led by French officers and senior NCOs, but filled with non-French foreign volunteers.

GW Bush chose a colonial war in Iraq and a punitive war in Afghanistan; both failed because the troop lists did not meet the unfolding, unplanned strategic situation. Despite repeated call-up of guard and reserve units on repetitive tours of duty, the required need for troops was well beyond the capabilities of his peace-time all-volunteer ground forces and troops generated by mobilization of non-active military units. President GW Bush and his generals had bitten off much more than they could chew.

Their response to the dangerous situation was to put the Afghan war on hold and augment the US forces with rented mercenaries, AKA as contractors. The focus and priority of US military effort was to be on Iraq. The US ended up with an interim stalemate in Iraq and an unfolding disaster in Afghanistan with destabilization in Pakistan. Thank GW Bush and his rat neocons for the blunders.

Doubt anyone in the US government really knows how many US paid contractors there are in the Afghan and Iraq theater of operations. We only know for certain what the contracts cost to employ them. Each US agency directly involved in the war zones employ their own private contractors on a separate mission basis. There is apparently no coordination among the US agencies either on a national or theater level. About the only recent exception is in Iraq where the status of forces agreement requires that the contractors there be subject to Iraq law.

The conventional wisdom is that there are about an equal number of contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq as there are US forces. That would mean that there is about 198,000 contractors. This is probably a low estimate, since contractors seem to reproduce faster than rabbits.

Initially the contractors were used to perform logistic tasks and were later expanded from combat service to combat support. They are now even involved in tactical intelligence collection and analysis. As part of GW Bush’s coalition of the willing, these contracts were extended to foreign firms, mainly English. Many of the workers under contract by the contractual companies are low cost, from the Third World. Most certainly this is a potential security threat.

You would think with the impending drawdown in Iraq, one would see an ending of the expanding American foreign legions of contractors – not so fast Mr. & Mrs. America. As the United States withdraws its combat forces from Iraq, the US government is hiring more private guards to protect U.S. installations at a cost that could near $1 billion, according to the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

This is unbelievable. The US forces cannot even retreat without a tactical crutch of contractors. Or is it another effort to milk the US taxpayers? What happened to General Saveus Petraeus’ reliable Iraqi troops to do the mission? Especially since these installations will allegedly belong to them if we ever withdraw.

Quoting from the report, "the inspector general's office found that at 19 sites where private guards replaced soldiers, many more guards were needed to do the same job.” It said the task order for Camp Bucca, primarily a detention facility, called for “417 personnel to free up approximately 350 soldiers for combat operations.” At Forward Operating Base Hammer, the task order called for “124 private guards to allow 102 soldiers to take on combat activities."

In some cases, as at Camp Taji, a major supply installation, the report says that “more than 900 private personnel replaced 400 soldiers,” but that the private guards took on additional tasks to address deficiencies in existing site security. Such as?

There is not even a semblance of an American Foreign Legion here or in the future; the guards are mostly from the Third World, with their allegiance based on payday, a dry bunk, chow and free haircuts – at least in Louis Philippe's legion, soldiers swore to die for France and the Legion. If a legionnaire broke this oath, it was off to Devils Island from where few returned. The traditional speech given by a French officer to recruits was, MY DUTY IS TO SEND YOU TO A PLACE TO DIE. YOUR DUTY IS TO DIE. No ambiguity here!

You will have to convince me that US forces really have grip on the redeployment situation. It seems to me more, GEE MOM, I DO NOT WANT TO GO HOME.

The hiring of these extra contractors in Iraq on the eve of US departure really makes little sense unless there is another explanation. Here is one, albeit speculative. On January 12, 2009 the Pentagon created the 6th regional command; the US African Command. It is headed by a black US 4-star general, William "Kip" Ward . Though there are US personnel in Somalia, there are no troops obviously under his command; his role is to synchronize military/political activities in Africa. All these new recruits enlisted as contractors for US installation guards in Iraq must be of military age (18-25) and must speak English, from African nations. Are they to become a nucleus for a US military Africorps?

If President Obama fails to withdraw from Iraq, he commits political suicide; his left wing progressives will attack him and withdraw its support. Additionally, if my speculation on an Africorps is near the mark, the paranoid right wing media will tear him apart as a black president with foreign black troop units that might eventually threaten Dixie. It would at least make the region pray harder and forget about TEA BAGS Colonel Robert E Bartos US Army ret.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

US – Feeding the Dogs of War

Act III of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: Cry Havoc!, and let slip the dogs of war has now been taken to the bosom of the US Military/Industrial/Congressional complex. The recent events to let slip the restraints on more war are occurring as the Obama Administration looks on, apparently, helplessly.

The Iraq War appears frozen in time as about 130,000 US forces with an equal number of federally paid military contractors churn and burn over 12 billion a month there. (Still cannot account for a missing 9 billion.) If General Saveus Patraeus’ surge worked so well, we should be rapidly redeploying; ending the occupation. If it did not work, we should do the same, since there are no more tactical rabbits left in our hat. The war, like Vietnam, was a strategic disaster. President Obama was elected mainly to end it and get out; to date, he has failed.

The clarion call for more war in Afghanistan was sounded recently on MSNBC by General Barry McCaffrey USA Ret and Mr. Michael O'Hanlon who should have retired from Brookings for his previously foolish analysis on Iraq. A blase Barry McCaffrey and Michael O'Hanlon called for $10-$12 billion a month for the next 25 years for Afghanistan; and, 25,000 to 45,000 more troops to be sent in the short term.

McCaffrey and O'Hanlon are Flotsam and Jetsam cheerleaders of the Iraq War; McCaffrey, decorated for bravery in RVN, was a controversial general in the First Gulf War and later as Drug Czar; he should have quit when he was ahead. Instead he continued to be controversial and turned himself pitifully into an opportunistic Pentagon propaganda machine. O'Hanlon, a former peace corps member who never served in the military, is one of those typical neocon intellectuals who appear mostly to advocate war, but never to fight one.

Both are a piece of work. After the Iraq war blew up in their faces, they both are now flacking in concert for more extensive war in Afghanistan. They dutifully are following Republican SECDEF Gates' lead on the expansion of the war.

As the more war lobby was gathering its momentum, two unnerving events in Afghanistan occurred that sounded a creepy gong of future disaster. They happened at almost the same time. One had to do with the disgusting cavorting conduct with homosexual overtones of State Department Security guards in Kabul; the other had to do with a US air strike in the Northern Afghan near Kanduz where 70-90 Afghans were killed.

It is no secret that the US State department is perceived as a gay-friendly agency; some of the males working there appear to have sexual identification problems and there has been an openly gay ambassador; so, when this nest of male deviant security guards from the State Department in Kabul surfaced on film playing group grab ass, it was not surprising to me. However, except for limp-wristed and careless supervision, there is no link demonstrated between contractors' conduct and those Department officers serving in Kabul. The perception, on the other hand, is another story.

The current US ambassador in Kabul is retired US General Eikenberry, so another US Army general is found asleep at the switch. Let us see whom he blames.

The fallout is that the sick situation brings into focus the recent control and corruption of contractors in our wars. Also, as those sordid pictures make the rounds, it will complicate Obama's effort to alter DON'T ASK DON"T TELL. From my standpoint, this may be a redeeming factor from the tawdry incident. It may also slow down Obama's appointment of more gay ambassadors.

Our German NATO allies called in an air strike around 2:00 a.m. on two highjacked oil tankers stuck in a river or stream bed in Northern Afghanistan in the Kanduz area. The trucks were teeming with activity as the Afghans sought to syphon the gas. The US fired two satellite missiles that took out the tankers as well as 70-90 Afghans in explosive balls of fire. Both civilians and insurgents were killed. Insurgent casualties were based on fragments from Kalashnikovs found on the site. Seems a strained conclusion in that even Afghan goat herders carry the Russian weapon if they can get their hands on it.

The missiles were fired because the Germans believed the tankers might, I repeat, might be used in a suicide attack on NATO or Afghan installations. The fact that gas was being syphoned off the tankers makes this farfetched. According to new rules of engagement, air strikes were to be used in combat operations where NATO and insurgents were directly engaged – this was not the case here. New rules are apparently: SHOOT FIRST. ASK QUESTIONS LATER.

General McChrystal personally investigated the site and concluded that both civilian and insurgents were killed. But by this time one has to question McChrystal's ability to investigate anything, especially after he covered up the Pat Tillman friendly fire incident. The tanker incident certainly undermined the recent NATO strategy to protect Afghan civilians.

There is no question the Neocon rats are back in business, beating the drums for permanent war in Afghanistan. Former Senator Hegal and conservative columnist George Will with a few others in congress, oppose it; but the forces that prefer war to peace in the US seem to have an upper hand, especially as Obama foolishly twiddles his thumbs. Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Senator Teddy Kennedy – RIP

When virtuoso Yo-Yo Ma plays his cello to accompany opera star Placido Domingo to sing Panis Angelicus at a funeral, you have to pay attention. Normally dead politicians’ funerals should be avoided by all except for grieving family and close friends – these ceremonies are usually a final gasp of spin; the last hurrah. In the case of Senator Teddy Kennedy the proceedings were all this, but his passing ceremony deserves an extra look.

When Pope John Paul died and went to heaven, he was assigned a simple bunk in a very plain barracks. One morning he rose to the sound from his window of a marching band and shouting, stunning females surrounding an open pink cadillac carrying a recently deceased male politician drinking champaign. The Pope rushed to St. Peter and asked him how it was he, as major figure in the church, received such poor treatment and the politician received such glorious attention. St. Peter replied: We get Popes here all the time, but never politicians.

Uncertain whether Teddy ends up in heaven or hell, but for certain, if I recollect my Roman Catholic catechism, his soul will spend time roasting in purgatory – at least for his more public sins, but I pass on this final judgement to still fruitlessly believing score keepers that will compare and balance his good deeds with his sins.

The myth makers are projecting Teddy as part of a tragic historical family continuum; his three brothers died violently with their boots on. Teddy certainly had to learn from their brutal deaths. He died naturally at 77 and apparently, unlike brothers John and Bobby, as a sensitive family man and compassionate human.

Despite the constant Irish blarney projecting his brother JFK and Bobby as assassinated martyred saints, Teddy had no thirst to end his days that way; after the 1980s Democratic primary against Carter, he gave up as pretender to the throne and settled down for 30 years, to the earnest life of a US senator.

Whereas I regarded JFK as a failed president for his bungling of the Cuban and Berlin crises and never figured out Bobby's contribution to the good of nation, Teddy was just a by product of nepotism. He certainly used family connections, power and money for political promotion, but with time, he transformed himself from just another Kennedy tragic public relations farce, to a person of substance.

Never believed that the Kennedys were the personification of conscience-stricken rich guys giving back to the poor. It was more that they cultivated the poor to beat the WASP politicians at the voting game. The battle was joined early in the 30s when anti-prohibition ethnic Catholics battled and beat the Anglo-Saxon protestants over the sale of booze, and finally repealed prohibition.

Teddy was a determined liberal but was prepared to compromise. He was cynically used by GW Bush in failed attempts to fix immigration, education and pricing pharmaceutical products. He was, however, right on voting against the Iraq war, but in the end, he was part of the failure of the US government to govern wisely, encouraging its exploitation by special interests.

His funeral proceedings were fit for a King attended by US political nobility. It was the first time I had focused on the Boston priesthood since the diocesan sex abuse scandals. The Our Lady of Perpetual Help church was a magnificent setting. The clergy performed their rituals with the dignity expected. But given Teddy's rambunctious life, I expected him to devise a more spectacular exit ceremony.

He was very proud of his Celtic Irish heritage; by all reports he loved the sea and his sailing vessels. So why not a Viking funeral? All that was required was his body on a bark, sent to open sea and set aflame. I would make only one ritual change: I would not include his two wonderful Portuguese Water Dogs on his burning funeral ship to Valhalla. (I must be getting soft.)

I almost never agreed with Teddy's politics and considered his Irish Mafia connections way over the top. But I liked him as a personality and will miss his guts, vibrancy and panache in a sadly torpid US Senate.

My sentiment for Senator Kennedy's demise is best expressed by lines from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Crossing The Bar


Colonel Robert E Bartos USA Ret.