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Archive for May, 2011

What Obama Should Have Said                                                               May 22, 2011

President Obama’s speech on the Middle East last week was nothing really new.  He chastised the usual culprits for suppressing human rights in their countries and assured us all that the United States government would remain vigilant in its pursuit of truth, justice, and the American way when it comes to supporting the oppressed in the Middle East.  Oh, he did shock Israel and her proponents by mandating that any peace talks between her and the Palestinians must begin with an acceptance by both sides of the borders as they existed in 1967.  This proposition of course has Israel losing territory before it has even started to negotiate.  One question is will this really result in successful peace talks this time around?

Of course the bigger question for Americans is, where does Obama get the authority to issue any mandates with respect to Middle East peace negotiations?  The simple answer is he has no authority in that area.  He is the president of our country chosen to protect our rights, defend our Constitution, and enforce our laws.  The issue of Middle East peace is between Middle Easterners and that is who should decide the matter if there is to be any long lasting peace in the region.

But I read the president’s speech anyway.  In fact, at some point as I was reading the usual implied dribble about how America would solve all of the world’s problems I dosed off into a glorious daydream.  Here is the speech Obama gave in that splendid fantasy:

“My fellow Americans, I come to you tonight to mark a new beginning for American foreign policy.  Israel, the Palestinians, and the other Middle Eastern nations are going to have to solve their own problems.  America is done ruling the world.  We have enough problems of our own that need our attention and as a nation we have learned for way too long that when we meddle in the affairs of other nations instead of pursuing a foreign policy of friendship, trade and exchange things normally turn our poorly for us.

Take America’s entry into World War I for instance.  It was meant to “Make the world safe for democracy”.  Instead our involvement ultimately produced Adolph Hitler in Germany.  President Wilson, like all presidents, had good intentions, but America’s unnecessary entry into the war was the deciding factor leading to victory for the Triple Entente.  His support for France’s over the top retribution toward Germany manifested in the Treaty of Versailles economically destroyed that country and paved the way for the rise of Hitler and his National Socialist party.  The result was another word war where millions more died.

Then there are the smaller conflicts our government has gotten engaged in from time to time.  On the Korean peninsula in the 1950s, 40,000 Americans and 2 million civilians lost their lives fighting an enemy that is still a thorn in our side to this day.  In Vietnam, 50,000 Americans and 1.5 million civilians perished and many more vets are still experiencing the effects of that war some 35 years later.

Closer to our own time period, let’s not forget that the CIA’s covert overthrow of popularly elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeegh in the 1950s ultimately led to the menacing theocracy in present day Iran.  Our military support of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan produced the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.  Lastly, our decade’s long support for Israel, even when she has been egregiously in the wrong, has produced terrorist networks bent on violently persuading America to change her policy.

There are many more examples of American meddling that have resulted in dire consequences for our country.  In the interest of time I will stop there.

My friends, it took us 10 years, 3 wars, 5000 American, and countless Iraqi, Afghani, and Pakistani lives and at least $2 trillion dollars to finally bring Osama bin Laden to justice.  And what do we have to show for it?  Nothing.  Al Qaeda has appointed an interim head to replace bin Laden, the organization has threatened retribution for his death, and our liberties at home are still being violated in the name of national security.

After deep reflection, I have devised a new direction for U.S. foreign policy.  A foreign policy which will go much further to ensure our safety than any illegal wiretap or airport groping ever could.  Effective immediately, I have ordered the following:

The immediate withdraw of U.S. forces from Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya;

The immediate halt to drone attacks and military incursions into Pakistan;

A cut of hundreds of billions of dollars in military spending;

And the promise to friend and foe alike that the United States seeks peaceful relations with you based on integrity, mutual respect, and trade.

By ending our quest for worldwide hegemony, we will be able to focus all of our attention and resources on the dire state of our economy.  We have a lot of work to do, but by bringing the troops home and cutting our monstrously large military budget we can make great strides to balance the federal budget and get our economy moving again.  Good night.  God bless you and God bless the United States of America.”

Wouldn’t that have been a better speech?

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina

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U.S. Cannot Learn from Past Mistakes

The fact of the matter is that the terrorist attacks of 911 had more to do with the U.S. government’s meddling in the affairs of the Middle East for decades than it did as George W. Bush would have us believe because we are free.  All one needs to do is compare say Luxembourg or Lichtenstein with the U.S.  In many ways the two European nations are freer than the U.S. especially economically, but don’t interfere in and bomb Arab nations.  Thus, even a casual observer could deduce that radical Islamists attacked us not because of our political or economic system but because for decades America has supported either directly or indirectly wholesale violence against Muslim people.

You would think we would learn from our mistakes.  But, one thing our government is good at is making enemies and one thing Americans are good at is believing their government even when it is to their detriment.  Take the latest two military actions undertaken by Washington against Muslim people.  The U.S. military is currently engaged directly in two illegal wars against Muslim people.  In Pakistan, our unmanned drones have been striking terrorist targets since at least 2004.  These attacks are justified by Washington as necessary to root out terrorists and thereby make us safer.  The war against Pakistan is illegal because it is being perpetrated against a sovereign nation that has not threatened U.S. security in any way.

The same can be said of our military actions through NATO in Libya.  Yes, Qaddafi is a nut and has had a terrorist past, but all that seemed to be water under the bridge until NATO led by the U.S. decided to set up a so-called “no-fly zone” over Libya to “protect” rebels and civilians from extermination at the hands of the brutal dictator’s forces.  Again, Libya posed no threat to American security, but in the name of protecting Libyans Obama launched his illegal military action against Libya.

Besides the illegality inherent in both missions, on the surface the actions of U.S. forces in Pakistan and Libya seem reasonable given the dangers posed by terrorism and Qaddafi against his own people.  But, make no mistake about it both missions will prove to make us more vulnerable to terrorist attack than if we had not gotten involved in them in the first place.

Since becoming president, Obama has ordered the CIA to carry out more drone strikes in Pakistan than George W. Bush did in his entire eight years in office, killing more than 500 people since 2009.  Roughly a third of this number was innocent civilians. Recently, Obama authorized Seal Team 6 to violate Pakistani sovereignty to allegedly murder Osama bin Laden.  Consequences of the latter U.S. action in Pakistan have already resulted in the dual suicide bombings that killed 80 Pakistani paramilitary recruits in northwest Pakistan.  Threats of revenge for bin Laden’s alleged killing have been made against all navy seals and their families due to the notoriety they as a group have received for allegedly murdering bin Laden.  Hell, Al Qaeda has even made threats against Obama’s step-grandmother in Kenya.  The point is U.S. induced violence in Pakistan puts all Americans at risk of future blowback from terrorists in that country.

Of course, many Pakistanis are seething with anger over the indiscriminate bombing of their country by American forces.  Many Pakistanis view their own government as complicit in the matter.  Is Pakistan getting ripe for a violent overthrow?  Given its strategic location and nuclear arsenal, our leaders will certainly be compelled to intervene with boots on the ground.  How many Americans will lose their lives in the bloodbath that would result?

And the situation is not much better for us in Libya.  The so-called no-fly zone has proven to be a farce.  NATO is in the conflict to cause regime change.  Many innocent civilians have already been killed in NATO bombings of “military targets”.  Just last week 11 imams were killed in a bombing in the eastern Libyan city of Brega.  These deaths strike at the heart of Muslims.  In fact, speaking at a press conference in Tripoli late last Friday, fellow imams urged Muslims across the world to kill “1,000 people for each dead imam” across the world, namely in “France, Italy, Denmark, Britain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.”  Once again U.S. forces under the guise of NATO are seen as Muslim killers – and worst yet Muslim holy men killers.  What blowback will result from this event?

After President Obama reported that he had killed Osama bin Laden, Americans danced in the streets while chanting U.S.A.! U.S.A.!  They were celebrating as if the “War on Terror” was finally over.  I couldn’t help but think how idiotic and premature the celebrating was. For one thing, didn’t we expect Al Qaeda to retaliate for the death of its martyred leader?  For another, were all those delirious Americans not mindful that we are still engaged in military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, and Libya?  Did they not understand that their celebrations would be used to recruit even more terrorists to the cause of Al Qaeda?

From the CIA overthrow of popularly elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953 to Bill Clinton’s ordered bombing of a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory in the 1990s, the U.S. government’s long and sordid history of hostile acts against Muslims has resulted in loads of resentment against us which has manifested itself in terror networks like Al Qaeda.  With the most recent actions of our government in Pakistan and Libya, more resentment and increased terrorist activity are sure to transpire.  You would think our leaders would learn from past mistakes or maybe it is they don’t want to?

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina

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“Where’s the Beef”?

Those of us that are old enough and fond of TV commercial history remember the famous Wendy’s hamburger chain commercials of the 1980s.  You might remember they featured three fickle old ladies that enter a burger joint and are disappointed at the size of the patty on the bun.   The old biddies’ appearance in that commercial ends with the refrain from one of them, “where’s the beef”?  Overnight, “where’s the beef”? became a popular nationwide response for anything lacking in substance.  It was even used to chastise a presidential candidate for lack of details in his campaign platform.

Let’s fast forward to yesterday and the amazing news that the U.S. military finally brought Osama bin Laden to justice.  Bin Laden has allegedly been on the run from U.S. forces since President Bush sent our military into Afghanistan shortly after 911.  I say allegedly because no one could be sure if bin Laden was dead or alive all this time.  True, he appeared to star in videos from his remote cave hideouts that were disseminated to the world by Al Jazeera.  Our intelligence agencies inspected the videos and assured us of their authenticity.  But still, who could tell.  After all, didn’t Saddam Hussein have several different doubles?

So, President Obama goes on TV last night and announces that yes, when he took office in 2009 he made it a first priority in the War on Terror to capture bin Laden dead or alive.  He stated that for several weeks his administration sifted through intelligence reports of bin Laden’s whereabouts meticulously.  Finally, when there was a certain guarantee of launching a successful capture of bin Laden the president as commander in chief gave the order to execute the plan.  And we were told that the plan came off flawlessly.  A fire fight was involved and when the smoke cleared the dead corpse of the world’s most wanted man was in the custody of the Navy Seals.  Hollywood could not have scripted a better movie.

The only problem is “where’s the beef”?  Where is bin Laden’s body to corroborate the president’s fish story.  An administration official has indicated that in accordance with Islamic practice, which the U.S. military respects very much (forget for a moment about Abu Ghraib), bin Laden’s body was buried at sea.  You see the U.S. military didn’t have time to parade his body in public for the world to see like it did when it executed Saddam Hussein.  Saddam’s corpse was shown to the Iraqi people to quell their fears that there was any chance he would be coming back.  As an American whose government has spent trillions trying to capture bin Laden and who has had constitutional rights taken away and been sexually molested at airports because of the danger he posed, don’t I have a right to see his bullet riddled body to quell my fears that he is never coming back?

Anyway, here is what I think might be the truth.  Bin Laden died years ago at the hands of American bombers in the mountains of Afghanistan.  It made sense for the U.S. government to not publicize his death given it would be used to recruit new members to Al Qaeda and encourage attacks on U.S. interests.  However, today the economy is in the toilet, we are involved in at least three recognized wars, and Barrack Obama’s approval rating is dismal.  Having just launched his reelection campaign the president needed some good news.  Since capturing bin Laden was the first priority of his in fighting the War on Terror, why not go for the gusto.  Make the whole thing up.  Fabricate the story that our forces just killed him last night.  Claim his body had to be disposed of within twenty-four hours out of respect for Islam and we couldn’t bury him on land, like Saddam Hussein was, for fear his followers would go there to honor him as a martyr.  Americans will be dancing in the streets, the dollar will strengthen, the stock market will rise, and Obama will look like a strong leader which will bode well for his reelection chances.  Conspiracy theory you say?  Maybe, but the discerning observer should still ask “where’s the beef”?  Why couldn’t we have seen the body to verify the story?  After all, isn’t a murder case on shaky ground without the body?

At the end of the day whatever was left of Barrack Obama’s credibility is at the bottom of the sea with bin Laden’s corpse.  One of two things happened.  Either the whole thing is a fraud for political ends like George W. Bush pulled claiming Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda so he could invade Iraq.  Or Obama is not smart enough to realize you need evidence to prove fish stories.  Whatever the case, given how much Americans have sacrificed for the War on Terror don’t we deserve better?

Article first published as “Where’s the Beef”? on Blogcritics.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina

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