Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Baker plan for Iraq: Strategic vision or tactical political dodge?

Former Secretary of State James Baker is a tough and shrewd political fix-it man whose skills at bureaucratic warfare and media spinning are among the best in the country.

He has a well-earned reputation for grinding down his opponents and dispatching his enemies. He is a gentleman who wields a sharp political dagger. He's pulled many a protruberance from the wringer.

He knows how to fight and he knows how to win.

But counting hanging chads on Florida ballots isn't the same as winning in Iraq. And this is where Baker appears to be falling down. He didn't run the George W. Bush campaign and do what he did in Florida in order to "settle" something. He did it to win.

In domestic politics, James Baker lives and breathes for victory. But as his record as secretary of state shows, he doesn't seem to know the word when fighting battles beyond America's borders. And that has had terrible consequences for the world, which is why his Iraq recommendations are unlikely to be fruitful.

Let's look at the record.

1. Nicaragua - aren't we all sick of it by now? - was a domestic political headache for Baker, both when he was in the Reagan White House and when he was Bush 41's secretary of state. He understandably wanted to wash his hands of Nicaragua when he took over the State Department, and rid President George H. W. Bush of the stink.

So what did he do? He disposed of the problem as if he was taking out the kitchen garbage. He forced the pro-US Nicaraguan Resistance army to disarm unilaterally, but didn't try to make the Sandinista communists do the same. He pledged that the US would support the pro-American fighters as they transitioned into a democratic political process.

What he really did was toss them to the wolves. He did nothing as the Sandinistas picked off more than 120 former contra commanders, assassinating them one by one. He broke America's promise to that small country. Nicaragua remains a basket case, and Hugo Chavez just funded the return of Daniel Ortega to office.

2. Soviet Union. When President Reagan's loyal aides were developing and executing the strategy to undermine the Soviet empire - a policy that became known as the Reagan Doctrine - Baker was fighting his own battles in the White House. Through press leaks and bureaucratic maneuvering, he tried repeatedly to prevent Reagan loyalists from fulfilling the president's agenda, and often succeeded in neutralizing them by damaging their reputations or getting them fired. This is a story that remains to be told in detail.

When he became Secretary of State in 1989, the Soviet Union was collapsing. By the summer of 1991, when it was all over for the Kremlin, Baker tried to keep things together. He didn't encourage the democratic and national independence movements. He didn't even encourage Russian President Boris Yeltsin who was trying to get Russia to secede from the USSR.

He gave the appearance of siding with the leaders of the Soviet Communist Party who were desperately trying to avert a collapse. He was particularly concerned that Ukraine would secede. Witness his involvement in the elder Bush's notorious "Chicken Kiev" speech.

3. Afghanistan. This is arguably the worst of all. As with Nicaragua, Baker wanted to cut off America's Afghan allies as soon as the Soviets pulled out. He got his way when he became secretary of state in January, 1989.

The last Soviet forces pulled out of Afghanistan that February. Ahmad Shah Massoud, leader of the non-Islamist and arguably pro-American Afghan resistance army, warned us repeatedly not to abandon Afghanistan after the Soviet pullout.

To do so, Massoud warned, would leave Afghanistan to the clutches of Pakistan's ISI intelligence service, which was dominated by Islamist extremists who sought to turn Afghanistan into a Wahhabi theocracy. The ISI had diverted significant covert American aid to the fanatical Islamist Afghan guerrilla factions, often at the expense of Massoud's forces. Massoud needed the US to stay involved - and in a big way.

But Baker cut and ran. He closed his eyes as his friends in Saudi Arabia and Qatar bankrolled the Wahhabi warlords and guerrillas, undermining the new government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani, whom Massoud served as defense minister, and setting the stage for the Taliban and, ultimately, nobodies like Osama bin Laden.

Even when the Saudi monarchy's very existence was at stake after Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, Baker failed to leverage American military support on Saudi behavior abroad. (Let's forget for the moment that his own ambassador to Baghdad, April Glaspie, told Saddam to his face something that led him to believe that the US would not defend Kuwait were he to invade.)

After Saddam rightly or wrongly took the cue, Secretary Baker brilliantly organized an after-the-fact international coalition to join the US in repulsing Iraq from Kuwait, but that was all. The administration encouraged Iraq's beleagured Shi'ites to rise up against Saddam, but Baker never had any intention to help them. And, of course, he never had the "vision thing" that would allow a plan to knock off Saddam when the dictator was down.

But he did support the stationing of American troops in Saudi Arabia to defend the House of Saud - the very policy that Osama bin Laden would use to justify his twisted jihad.

This is not 20/20 hindsight. Although almost nobody had ever heard of bin Laden at the time - and one cannot fairly accuse Baker of not having predicted the rise of bin Laden as an individual - others clearly and openly predicted the rise of Islamist extremism, knew about Saudi funding of Wahhabi extremism including among Afghan guerrilla factions, and warned against inflaming devout Muslims by keeping troops in Saudi Arabia, among other things.

James Baker is a gifted politician. But he is a tactician, not a strategist. On international affairs he has shown tactical brilliance but a horrid lack of strategic vision. His timeframe seems to be up to the next domestic presidential election. But his record shows he is content to leave crises to fester for future generations. And that's where he falls down as a statesman.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Senator Biden has interesting plan for Iraq

Incoming Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) has voiced an idea that some of us have been supporting all along: Partition Iraq into three countries.

The American trend toward promoting centralization of other countries isn't always what's best - especially when we (used to) preach federalism at home. Why not let Iraq partition itself into its three natural nations, either as a confederation or as three separate countries?

There are lots of reasons to be against it, as the administration has maintained. But there are good reasons for it, as well. Especially when the Iraqis won't step up to the plate and take the national sovereignty we have been trying to extend them.

Many advocates of a unitary Iraq say that allowing Kurdistan to become independent would cause problems for Turkey, a staunch NATO ally. True enough. But Turkey lost its chance to influence the Iraq outcome by denying us its territory as a northern front in 2003, so we should not be so concerned about Ankara's self-interests when our own are at stake.

Judge Collins hands terrorists another win

The legal activist group that has been litigating on behalf of terrorists has won another major court victory, thanks once again to US District Judge Audrey Collins.

In a 45-page judgment, Collins reversed her tentative July decision and handed the terrorists another win, ruling that the President does not have the right to identify "specially designated global terrorists" and seize their assets.

"This law [to seize terrorist assets] gave the president unfettered authority to create blacklists," CCR lawyer David Cole tells the Associated Press. "It was reminiscent of the McCarthy era."

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which specializes in legal support for terrorists and spies, sponsored the litigation. CCR leader Michael Ratner won the US Supreme Court case to extend constitutional rights to the terrorist detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Most recently, Ratner was in Berlin with disgraced former Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was responsible for the Abu Ghraib scandal. Karpinski stood with Ratner on foreign soil to announce that she would be witness in a German legal case alleging that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is a war criminal. (See post below.)

Judge Collins is a favorite go-to girl for the circuit-shopping terrorist supporters. In 2004 and 2005, she struck down sections of the USA Patriot Act.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Gangster regime

Someone is murdering all the Russian journalists, members of parliament, and former state security officers who have been exposing the corrupt regime of KGB Colonel Vladimir Putin.

When he was Russian state security chief (after being in charge of hard currency operations in St. Petersburg), Putin personally took charge of the investigation of the gangland-style murder of crusading parliament member Galina Starovoitova. The authors of the crime were never found.

Then came the murders of journalists from Novaya Gazeta, one of the only opposition newspapers that Putin could not silence: investigative reporter Igor Domnikov, killed after being attacked on a Russian subway in 2000; editor Yuri Shchekochikhin, a specialist in corruption and the security services who was poisoned in 2003; and Anna Politkovskaya, first poisoned and finally shot to death in 2006.

Domnikov's targets were corrupt governors; his killers were found. The assassins of his two colleagues remain at large.

And now the radiation poisoning of one of the few Russian state security officers to defect to the west because of official corruption.

Putin calls the radiation poisoning of former state security officer Alexander Litvinenko a "pity" and warns that the killing not be used as a "political provocation" against him.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Human Rights Watch tries to save Saddam from justice

Human Rights Watch is trying to save Saddam Hussein from the hangman.

It thinks the prosecution of the Iraqi former dictator was "unfair" and that excecuting Saddam would be "indefensible."

"The proceedings in the Dujail trial were fundamentally unfair," says Nehal Bhuta, author of a new, 97-page Human Rights Watch report that rips into the prosecution.

"The tribunal squandered an important opportunity to deliver credible justice to the people of Iraq. And its imposition of the death penalty after an unfair trial is indefensible," Bhuta says.

Human Rights Watch is giving its report lots of publicity. While covering itself by saying it has always argued for Saddam to be put on trial, the group is contriving reasons not to execute him. Among the excuses:

1. "The trial failed to meet basic fair trial standards in its first trial."

2. Iraqis are incapable of trying former regime officials on its own: "Unless the Iraqi government allows experienced international judges and lawyers to participate directly, it's unlikely the court can fairly conduct other trials."

3. If Saddam is executed for the relatively few crimes of which he stands convicted, he won't be able to stand trial "for genocide against the Kurds."

4. Executing Saddam Hussein "while other [years-long] trials are ongoing will also deprive many thousands of victims of their day in court."

And oh, yes, there's a fifth excuse: "Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty as inherently inhumane punishment. . . ."

On its website, Human Rights Watch says the Iraqi "court should overturn verdict [and] death penalty."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ex-Gen. Karpinski of Abu Ghraib collaborates with terrorist lawyer

The disgraced former US Army general in charge of Abu Ghraib prison during the prisoner abuse scandal is now collaborating with radical attorneys who specialize in defending terrorists.

Former brigadier general Janis Karpinski is working with terrorist attorney Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights to try Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a foreign court.

Karpinski and Ratner appeared in Berlin today to announce a suit alleging that Rumsfeld is guilty fo committing war crimes in Iraq.

Ratner is the lead defense attorney for captured terrorists being detained by the US military in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The self-styled "civil rights" activist has spent nearly 40 years in defense of political extremists, assassins, bombers, spies and others in the name of "constitutional rights."

Over the past four decades, Ratner's organization has provided legal defense for US Marine turncoat Clayton Lonetree, who spied for the Soviet KGB; for convicted spies for the intelligence services of Vietnam and Cuba; and for a range of terrorists, including the Weather Underground, Black Liberation Army, FALN and Macheteros of Puerto Rico; the Baader-Meinhof Gang/Red Army Faktion of Germany; and in recent years, Islamist terrorists and their support groups.

Karpinski was demoted to colonel for dereliction of duty, misleading federal investigators, failure to obey a lawful order and shoplifting. She claims that she's a scapegoat.

So now the disgraced former general is now on foreign soil collaborating with the world's most notorious terrorist defense lawyer, allowing herself to be used in a propaganda campaign to discredit the United States and undermine the war on terror.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

How the terrorists see American power

The leader of the terrorist group that killed more than 240 US Marines and blew up our embassy in Beirut says he sees the United States as lacking in will and staying power to maintain a presence in the Middle East.

He says that he remembers vividly from his childhood the TV images of American helicopters fleeing from Saigon, and that he expects the US to repeat itself in the coming years.

Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah told Al Jazeera on October 31: "When I talk about an [American] failure, I'm not saying that the Americans' plan for the region has collapsed, and that they are packing up their things and leaving, like what happened in the final days in Vietnam.

"But I would like to tell you clearly. . . I am one of those people who see a very clear picture. In our childhood . . . When we were young boys . . . I cannot forget the sight of the American forces leaving Vietnam in helicopters, which carried their officers and soldiers.

"Some Vietnamese, who had fought alongside the Americans, tried to climb into these helicopters, but the [Americans] threw them to the ground, abandoned them, and left.

"This is the sight I anticipate in our region, but I am not saying it will happen in months. It will take years. The Americans will gather their belongings and leave this region - the entire region. They have no future whatsoever in our region. They will leave the Middle East, and the Arab and Islamic worlds, like they left Vietnam.

"I advise all those who place their trust in the Americans to learn the lesson of Vietnam, and to learn the lesson of the South Lebanese Army with the Israelis, and to know that when the Americans lose this war – and lose it they will, Allah willing - they will abandon them to their fate, just like they did to all those who placed their trust in them throughout history."

Thanks to MEMRI for providing the translation of the Al Jazeera broadcast.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

He took credit then. He must take blame now.

He justifiably took credit for helping engineer the historic Republican takeover of the House of Representatives more than a decade ago.

But he milked that takeover for business-as-usual cash, bringing in his crooked crony Jack Abramoff and turning the US House into a whorehouse of scandal and greed.

He turned his Wednesday conservative activist group meetings into front operations for Abramoff's sleazy clients. He duped idealistic people and corrupted others to shill for the likes of Enron, Indian gambling empires, and Chinese sweatshop interests.

Most ominously, he teamed up with the Muslim Brotherhood's Abdurahman Alamoudi, who would one day plead guilty to federal terrorism charges, and Sami Al-Arian, a convicted leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. He took money from Alamoudi and Wahhabi interests to undermine the War on Terror. He planted his Islamist friends in sensitive US government posts.

His name is Grover Norquist. In the coming days and weeks, when the pundits point to the GOP scandals surrounding Abramoff, keep in mind that Norquist was Abramoff's enabler, fixer and agent of influence. Norquist indeed helped the Republicans take over the House a half-generation ago. But he helped destroy their achievements in 2006.

Message from Ms Speaker

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Divided conservatives hand victory to Ortega

Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega never had majority support among fellow Nicaraguans, but due to the country's quirky electoral law, he might become president anyway.

Conservatives Eduardo Montelalegre and Jose Rizo - unable to separate the good of their country from their own egos - split the anti-Ortega majority, apparently enabling the murderous Marxist former junta leader to redeem himself democratically.

Thanks, in large part, to funding from the Chavez regime in Venezuela, massive fraud built into the Nicaraguan political and judicial systems, and the cheerleading of former President Jimmy Carter.

All the returns aren't in, but press reports indicate that Ortega might have won about 40 percent of the vote, with about 32 percent to Montealegre and 24 percent to Rizo. The figures vary widely as the returns are counted and spun.

Nicaragua's spoils-based political system has doomed the country to the permanent status of banana republic.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Typical neocons

Leave it up to the neocons to stab you in the back when the chips are down.

True to form. I've been there lots of times.

That's about all I'm going to say about it. For now.