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Saturday, November 28

Gee Rajeev, don't stand on ceremony; tell us what you really think about Manmohan Singh's visit with Barack Obama

The American news media, which is over a barrel when it comes to reporting on the interactions between China, India, and Pakistan, have seized with almost hysterical relief on the gate-crashing of two wannabe Bravo TV stars. Of course it's a very serious matter if there was indeed a security breach at the White House dinner honoring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. However, the media have bathed in every conceivable detail of Washington's version of the Hot Air Balloon Caper and the two social climbers at the center of it.

All this neatly distracts the U.S. public's attention from an event that represents the nadir of American foreign relations, which found White House special envoy Richard Holbrooke groveling before the Pakistanis during a two hour press conference.

Mr Holbrooke, whose handling of his portfolio on Afghanistan quickly showed he'd confused India and Pakistan with Bosnia, said that "no one in Pakistan, and no one in any other country," should read Manmohan’s state visit "as a diminution of the importance we attach to them.”

"Them," just to be clear, means "Pakistanis."

Why did Holbrooke stop there, I wonder? Why didn't he zip next to Beijing and get a photo op kissing Hu Jintao's feet?

(Obama's eased Holbrooke out of picture, a friend told me soothingly. I shot back, "Did Kayani get the memo?" For that matter, has someone informed Holbrooke he's out of the picture?)

But the chattering class here and in India decided to pat the air and interpret Singh's visit to Washington as a feather in Washington's cap and New Delhi's.

The glaring exception is Rajeev Srinivasan's scorched-earth analysis, although he's not a member of the chatterati, for all his published essays. An Indian, a Hindu, a computer professional who commutes between the USA and India, he writes with too much passion and far too much bitterness to crank out opinion for a living:
The number of fifth-columnists in India has reached record proportions. India has ‘friends of America’, ‘friends of China’, ‘friends of Saudi Arabia’, ‘friends of the Vatican’ in high places, but hardly anyone is a ‘friend of India’.

Yes, there is formal independence, but there is no freedom. There is, for instance, no respite from the State religion, some baffling animal called ‘secularism’, which basically means total apartheid against large groups of people.

The State excels in perpetuating the most ridiculous system ever invented: a chimera that combines all the vices of communism and capitalism (and none of the virtues). The idiocies and inefficiencies of the first and the thievery and inequities of the second; but not the iron discipline and will nor the unshackled flair for getting ahead.

The State has interfered in everything it has no business being in: running airlines, hotels, and so forth; and it has been practically invisible in everything it is the one and only provider of: infrastructure, defense, social programs, human rights. Crony capitalism and the license raj run rampant."
If all that sounds to an American reader like an Indian version of a Tea Partier -- maybe what's fueling his bitterness is that Indians won't get off their behinds and do their own version of Tea Partying. But I offered that sample from his writings to convey that while he calls himself a "Hindu nationalist," that's like Glenn Beck describing himself as a Christian nationalist, which would be misleading.

Rajeev Srinivasan is a man who loves his country, that's all, and who refuses to be understanding about his government's methodical dismantling of his country's heritage.

I don't agree with everything he writes. But I like him because he sees many things with great clarity -- although in his rip on "Slumgdog Millionaire" he runs himself in circles trying to fathom why so many British hate India and Hindus.

The answer is simple. If the Indians had thrown them out, the British would have respected that. But the shilly-shallying around for the decades of Gandhi's non-violent movement they found highly insulting. They paid back the perceived insult by machinating to give the region called Pakistan to a bunch of raja families who didn't want their land holdings broken up by democracy reforms in post-Independence India.

And here we are today, with American troops being blown up in Afghanistan by so-called Taliban while Richard Holbrooke thrashes about trying to placate Pakistan, so China doesn't get any more upset than they already are with U.S. overtures to India.

If American readers groan, 'High school' -- yes, well, high school with nukes. It's something Americans didn't think about when we charged off to Afghanistan in 2001 to rout al Al Qaeda. So now we're having to think about the hornet's nest we stirred up when we landed in Pakistan's cold war against India and China's machinations against India. We're also having to confront the consequences of certain actions we took during the Cold War in that part of the world.

That's why Americans should read Rajeev Srinivasan's no holds barred take on Singh's visit with Obama. Rajeev rips open closet doors, yanks out skeletons, and says things that many Indians think but few will say in a public forum. Now more than ever Americans need to understand these things. For readers who're tempted to skip the discussion, at least they should direct their attention to these passages:
Then there was the recent appointment of Robin Raphel to the Richard Holbrooke team dealing with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Raphel is well-known as one of the most virulent and vitriolic critics of India in the entire US Democratic set-up. She was, until August, a registered and paid lobbyist for Pakistan. She is infamous for insisting that the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India is not final, and for asserting that Pakistan is the very epitome of a 'model, modern, and moderate Muslim nation'.

[...]

Victor Davis Hanson of the Hoover Institution wrote in The Wall Street Journal that Obama may well be following in Jimmy Carter's footsteps. Carter, of MEOW fame (moral equivalent of war), who groveled to Middle-Easterners, bringing upon himself the Iran hostage crisis that destroyed his presidency.

Obama is going down this path with his Af-Pak policy, which consists primarily of outsourcing the Afghan problem to Pakistan's Inter Services intelligence, to be followed by the United States declaring victory and leaving. He is ignoring the instructive example of Neville Chamberlain appeasing Hitler
Ms Raphel needs to crawl back under whatever rock she crawled out from, and Mr Holbrooke needs to be removed from his post. There is enough mess in Afghanistan without Americans who understand nothing about that part of the world further complicating matters for the U.S. war effort. And General David Petraeus needs to rip up the Afpak strategy and instruct his advisors to return to the drawing board.

Finally, a word to the British. Kashmir is not your problem to solve. If you touch off a disaster, that disqualifies you from a leadership position or even giving advice on how to wrest something approximating a solution.

Don't take advantage of President Obama's ignorance about that part of the world. Find a way other than meddling in Kashmir at India's expense, and America's, to placate your nation's Muslim community.

We're all trying to get through the coming years, trying to make it work out with the least bloodshed possible for all concerned. I understand. But just for that reason I'd advise you to refrain from actions that rake up too much of the past, for Rajeev in no way pulled all the skeletons out of the closet.

Back off.

Wednesday, November 25

How the U.S. government built a perpetual-motion war machine in Afghanistan and sacrificed American values in the process

In July 2008 Mark Mazzetti, one of the great American journalists to report on U.S. defense issues in the post-9/11 era, wrote for The New York Times about the complexities that American intelligence professionals faced when dealing with Pakistan's ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence)agency.

The CIA in Pakistan has been myopic about how ISI objectives, which conflict with America's in key areas, have impacted the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. This led the CIA station chief in Afghanistan to accuse the CIA station chief in Islamabad of Going Native, touching off a virtual cold war between the CIA stations in both capital cities:
[...] As American and allied casualty rates in Afghanistan have grown in the last two years, [Pakistan's] I.S.I. has become a subject of fierce debate within the C.I.A. Many in the spy agency -- particularly those stationed in Afghanistan -- accuse their agency colleagues at the Islamabad station of actually being too cozy with their I.S.I. counterparts.

There have been bitter fights between the C.I.A. station chiefs in Kabul and Islamabad, particularly about the significance of the militant threat in the tribal areas. At times, the view from Kabul has been not only that the I.S.I. is actively aiding the militants, but that C.I.A. officers in Pakistan refuse to confront the I.S.I. over the issue.

Veterans of the C.I.A. station in Islamabad point to the capture of a number of senior Qaeda leaders in Pakistan in recent years as proof that the Pakistani intelligence service has often shown a serious commitment to roll up terror networks. It was the I.S.I., they say, that did much of the legwork leading to the capture of operatives like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Ramzi bin al-Shibh.[...]
The question on which much turns, and which is outside the scope of Mark's report, is whether the ISI actually needed to do any "legwork" to capture KSM (and several other operatives the ISI turned over to the CIA) or whether it was even technically a "capture." Several pieces of the terrorism puzzle, including aspects of the plot to kidnap and murder Daniel Pearl, suggest that the ISI had no need to track down KSM because he was an 'asset,' one they decided was worth sacrificing to the Americans.

In any event the worth would be literal: the CIA paid the ISI $25 million for KSM; they paid the ISI $10 million for Abu Zubaydah, a top al Qaeda operative.

(For readers unfamiliar with that part of the world I'm not sure it conveys the full picture to explain that in 2001 the currency exchange rate was roughly 63 Pakistani rupees to 1 U.S. dollar and that today, even with the weak dollar, the rate is 84:1.)

In addition, the ISI raked in a fortune from a clandestine bounty fund the CIA set up for them, which Greg Miller reported on for The Los Angeles Times on November 15 of this year:
The CIA has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to Pakistan's intelligence service since the Sept. 11 attacks, accounting for as much as one-third of the foreign spy agency's annual budget, current and former U.S. officials say.

The Inter-Services Intelligence agency also has collected tens of millions of dollars through a classified CIA program that pays for the capture or killing of wanted militants, a clandestine counterpart to the rewards publicly offered by the State Department, officials said.

The payments have triggered intense debate within the U.S. government, officials said, because of long-standing suspicions that the ISI continues to help Taliban extremists who undermine U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and provide sanctuary to Al Qaeda members in Pakistan.

But U.S. officials have continued the funding because the ISI's assistance is considered crucial: Almost every major terrorist plot this decade has originated in Pakistan's tribal belt, where ISI informant networks are a primary source of intelligence.

The White House National Security Council has "this debate every year," said a former high-ranking U.S. intelligence official involved in the discussions. Like others, the official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. Despite deep misgivings about the ISI, the official said, "there was no other game in town."[...]
Why would the NSC and the CIA assume there was no other game? Mark Mazzetti's July 2008 report spells out the thinking, which has been voiced countless times by U.S. defense experts since 9/11:
Unlike spying in the capitals of Europe, where agency operatives can blend in to develop a network of informants, only a tiny fraction of C.I.A. officers can walk the streets of Peshawar unnoticed. And an even smaller fraction could move freely through the tribal areas to scoop up useful information about militant networks there.
So the thinking was that because few American spies looked or sounded like the people they wanted to spy on, they needed to pay an agency with a history of double dealing with the USA to do their espionage for them; this on the reasoning that the agency's spies could pass for the natives. This, despite the fact that even the agency's spies have a hard time passing for natives in their own country's tribal regions! To return to Greg Miller's report:
Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, who served as ISI director before becoming army chief of staff, has told U.S. officials that dozens of ISI operatives have been killed in operations conducted at the behest of the United States.

A onetime aide to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described a pointed exchange in which Kayani said his spies were no safer than CIA agents when trying to infiltrate notoriously hostile Pashtun tribes.

"Madame Secretary, they call us all white men," Kayani said, according to the former aide.
Nonetheless the CIA clung to the idea that relying heavily on the ISI was in line with good espionage practice from America's World War Two-Cold War eras. Mark Mazzetti writes:
[C]ircumstances have for years forced successful, if ephemeral, partnerships among spies. The Office of Strategic Services, the C.I.A.’s predecessor, worked with the K.G.B.’s predecessors to hunt Nazis during World War II, even as the United States and the Soviet Union were quickly becoming adversaries.
Yet the farther the United States government moved from the Western world during the post-WW2 era, the less their defense and diplomatic professionals saw the tripwires -- the unforeseen consequences of initiatives that seemed a good idea at the outset.

The Cold War era is littered with so many ill-conceived and counterproductive U.S. initiatives it's hard to pick out representative examples. Indeed, one way to describe U.S. efforts to be clever in regions they knew nothing about is to say they were a caricature of the Tourist from Hell.

The CIA's heavy reliance on the ISI to put al Qaeda out of business in South Asia suggests that my government didn't even squeeze bitter wisdom from mistakes during the Cold War. Or if the wisdom was there, it retired with the graying of the Cold War generation of spies, foreign service officers, and military commanders.

Taken together the reports by Greg Miller and Mark Mazzetti point up the tripwires in the clever idea of outsourcing al Qaeda-hunting to the ISI. A former CIA official who worked with the ISI told Miller, "They gave us 600 to 700 people captured or dead. Getting these guys off the street was a good thing, and it was a big savings to [U.S.] taxpayers."

Another CIA official who worked in Islamabad chipped in, "There were a lot of people I had never heard of, and they were good for $1 million or more" in payments from the CIA's slush fund.

But you can see the downside here: if you're blindly paying a spy agency that's desperate for huge amounts of cash to also play bounty hunter -- bring 'em in dead or alive -- then you have no way of knowing whether all the dead prizes were your enemy or the spy agency's.

So it's small wonder that as the ISI continued playing assassin for the USA in Pakistan you could trace a rising curve of violence against U.S. forces in Afghanistan emanating from Pakistan's tribes -- a curve that extended to the Pakistan side of the Durand Line.

As the violence from terrorism rose in Pakistan the country's security services cracked down harder, touching off a series of reprisals and counter-reprisals that spawned new terrorist factions -- all calling themselves "Taliban." There are now so many "Taliban" it's hard to keep them straight. As the Indian counterterrorism expert, B. Raman, explained:
[T]he Pakistani Pashtun Talibans are products of the commando raid into the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad in July 2007, in which a large number of Pashtun tribal children, many of them girls, were killed. It was after this that tribal sirdars [leaders], including Fazlullah, Baitullah and Hakeemullah, called for a jihad against the Pakistan army and the ISI in retaliation for the raid. While the TNSM has been in existence since the early 1990s, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was born after the Lal Masjid raid.[...]
That's not the half of it; the other half is that the tribal leaders extended their rage to the United States. As of Raman's writing (June 2009) they were continuing to launch attacks against the ISI and Pakistan military targets not only because of Lal Masjid but because they associated the Pak government's crackdowns with the government's alliance with the United States. Then the tribes' aim in life was split between revenge on the Pak military and killing as many Americans as they could in Afghanistan.

Another tripwire was summarized in Mark Mazaetti's 2008 report: "Without the millions of covert American dollars sent annually to Pakistan, the I.S.I. would have trouble competing with the spy service of its archrival, India."

The competition includes mounting evidence that the ISI was involved in the 11/26/08 massacre in Mumbai, India, considered by terrorism experts to be one of the worst terrorist attacks since 9/11:
The Mumbai attacks were hatched by the self-described "Army of the Pure," or Lashkar-e-Taiba, increasingly regarded as a jihadist threat similar to the Taliban.

For years, Lashkar-e-Taiba had acted as a proxy militia as Pakistani intelligence sought to carve out a buffer zone from disputed territories in Kashmir. The network has shown a recent inclination toward launching al-Qaeda-style attacks across India.
The competition includes evidence that the ISI was behind the suicide bombings outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul.

The competition includes fury on the part of Pakistan's government that Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai and the U.S. forces in Afghanistan are friendly with India's government.

So what the CIA in Pakistan has created by their close cooperation with the ISI, and which their bosses in Langley and Washington have blessed, is a kind of hybrid of a perpetual motion machine and a Rube Goldberg contraption.

The difference is that Goldberg's machines were deliberately engineered to do simple tasks in the most complicated fashion. But whether by accident or design it works out to the same difference: at the end of every complex set of transactions between the CIA and the ISI, yet more enemy combatants materialize, to be rounded up or dispatched, leading to yet more enemy combatants to attack ISAF troops and nation-building efforts in Afghanistan, to be rounded up or dispatched, leading to -- well, last night CNN reported that "Taliban" now control 80 percent of Afghanistan, even though only 7 percent of Afghanis support the Taliban.

And it's this infernal process the CIA considers to be a big savings for U.S. taxpayers.

I should add that Greg Miller's report on the CIA's clandestine bounty program is not a 'scoop.' He mentioned that "former CIA Director George J. Tenet acknowledged the bounties in a little-noticed section in his 2007 memoir. "Little noticed" is an understatement. If you can recall that any U.S. media outlet mentioned the clandestine program prior to Miller's report, and the fact that the CIA was also paying for an assassination program over which they had no oversight, please tell me if you can recall the name of the newspaper, radio program, or TV show that rendered the public service.

For that matter, can you recall whether any mainstream news outlet picked up on Greg Miller's report? And yet it's not as if it's been buried under a basket. Robert Haddick, one of most influential voices on the 'milblog' portion of the blogosphere, mentioned the report on Small Wars Journal blog and in his November 20 column at Foreign Policy blog -- both widely read by defense and foreign policy wonks and news media researchers.

Why are so many unnamed officials now willing to talk with a reporter from The Los Angeles Times about the bounty program and the assassinations? According to Miller the reward payments have slowed as the number of suspected Al Qaeda operatives captured or killed by the ISI has declined. That, in addition to the fact it's getting progressively harder for Washington to maintain deniability about the Pakistan government's intimate connection with international terrorism and nuclear proliferation might have loosened tongues.

Yet I suppose it'll always be a matter of argument as to how much the short-sightedness of the CIA and the Bush and Obama administrations contributed to turning the 2001 U.S -U.K. victory over the Taliban into the mess in Afghanistan today. What is beyond argument is that the close association between the U.S. government and Pakistan's meant that Washington turned a studiously blind eye to a society that is inimical to American values, and the U.S. news media followed suit. So I think it's past time more Americans understood just what their tax dollars have been supporting in Pakistan. That will be the subject of my next post.

For more on the Pakistan-U.S. relationship during the Afghanistan War see November 21 Pundita post, Why General Stanley McChrystal is going straight to hell.

Starting Monday John Batchelor Show goes to seven nights a week

Well, John Batchelor is finally back where he started in 2001 -- back on New York City's 77 WABC-AM weeknights from 9 PM to 1 AM. The weeknight show will join the weekend one in syndication. Check your local WABC-affiliated radio station for details.

It's almost Thanksgiving so I'll refrain from making sarcastic, bitter, venomous, and all-around nasty comments about the radio biz. I will be polite and only observe about all the MESS at WABC and ABC Radio Network in 2006 that removed John's daily show that all's well that ends well.

Welcome back, John!

As to how he's going to keep up the pace seven nights a week, I guess he'll cross that bridge when he comes to it.

The question is whether he'll find time to crank out daily schedules for posting at his website. The weekend schedules he puts out have spoiled me.

From All Access, the music/radio industry internet rag:
CITADEL Talk WABC-A/NEW YORK is expanding weekend host JOHN BATCHELOR to weeknights 9p-1a ET starting MONDAY (11/30). The move into the slot presently occupied by CITADEL MEDIA's CURTIS SLIWA follows the recent launch of BATCHELOR's weekend show into syndication by WABC.

General Manager STEVE BORNEMAN said, "BATCHELOR's SATURDAY and SUNDAY ratings have been so explosive, it's a logical move to expand the program to weeknights."

Program Director LAURIE CANTILLO added, "BATCHELOR offers a road map for understanding our fast-changing world at a time when listeners are hungrier for information than ever before." [...]

Saturday, November 21

Pakistan-U.S. relations: Why General Stanley McChrystal is going straight to hell

On or about August 30, 2009, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates received a detailed assessment of the military situation in Afghanistan that included a request for additional U.S. troops. The report was from General Stanley A. McChrystal, Commander, Nato's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan. But as noted on the first page the assessment was a joint effort representing input from ISAF staff and the component commands.

On the matter of Pakistan the report noted:
Afghanistan's insurgency is clearly supported from Pakistan. Senior leaders of the major Afghan insurgent groups are based in Pakistan, are linked with al Qaeda and other violent extremist groups, and are reportedly aided by some elements of Pakistan's lSI.
A year earlier McChrystal's predecessor, General David D. McKiernan, delivered a franker assessment of the same situation. He stated flatly that he was certain there was a "level of ISI complicity" in the militant areas of Pakistan and within organizations like the Taliban.

McKiernan's observation came on the heels of a secret visit by a top CIA official to Islamabad; the visit was to directly confront Pakistan's most senior officials with new data about ties between the ISI and militants operating in Pakistan tribal areas.

It seems the CIA met with the same stonewalling Britain's government encountered in 2006 when they brought virtually the same charges to Pakistan because their next move echoed the one taken by Britain's Ministry of Defense: the CIA leaked news of the trip to a major press outlet -- in their case, The New York Times.

These naive attempts to embarrass a government comprised of terror-masters, dope dealers and professional beggars skilled at wheedling billions in aid out of the West came to nothing, beyond the ISI's decision to outsource more of their oversight of terrorist attacks on NATO troops to front agencies such as the SSG.

And General McKiernan hardly needed to study a classified CIA report to know the score. Over a period of years many intelligence analysts and journalists from India, Pakistan, Europe and the USA, not to leave out Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai and his intelligence advisors, have spent years publishing books, churning out reports, and generally doing everything they could think of to impress on Washington that Pakistan is the biggest problem.

However, look at it from Washington's viewpoint. You know how it is when you can't find the keys you lost inside the house: you go outside to search because the light is better out there.

So Washington continues to search high and low for solutions in Afghanistan that don't address the biggest problem there.

Fine. Understood. The United States has been covering Pakistan's ass for 60 years, on one excuse or another. It is a matter of public record that starting in the 1950s the U.S. government was aiding and abetting Pakistan's machinations against India; that since the Carter administration the U.S. government knew of A. Q. Khan's activities to sell nuclear weapons technology to any buyer and took no action to roll up his WMD network until 2003; and that the U.S. government helped the ISI sweep Daniel Pearl's murder under the rug.

But you need to draw the line when it comes to cooperating with a government that's ordering the shooting and maiming of your own troops, or you need to face a charge of treason.

The situation of Pakistan-directed attacks on ISAF troops has not been resolved. I believe that to call for more troops under such circumstances is criminally negligent.

General McKiernan might have broken rank or trod on the State Department's turf by publicly speaking about the ISI in blunt terms. Whether this might have added to Gates's displeasure with his performance, I don't know. The reasons given for the very unusual decision to fire a commander of his rank and under such circumstances have never stacked in my eyes.

I will not explore the decision here, beyond asking whether the Department of Defense thought to do a study analyzing the increased attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan in light of any increased ISAF intelligence-sharing with Pakistan's military.

Another question I'd like answered: were any known instances of ISI spying on ISAF movements analyzed in light of the increased attacks during the same period?

From all the accounts I've read, it seems the U.S. government's public response to Pakistan's duplicity tends to echo Pakistan's claim that "rogue" elements of the ISI and military are responsible for any attacks on NATO troops. Such claims would fly in the face of history.

Writing for the January 2, 2008 edition of the Virginia Quarterly Review, Alan Brody gave the clearest summary I've ever come across of the Pakistan-backed rise to power of the Taliban.

Brody, a graduate of Harvard and the University of Iowa, worked for UNICEF for 22 years before his retirement in 2006. In 1993 he was assigned as the planning officer and deputy head of office for UNICEF in Afghanistan to deliver humanitarian aid. The periodic outbreaks of war between factions occupying Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, prevented him from living in the city. He worked from an office across the border, in Peshawar, in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province -- itself a very dangerous a place, a place of "intrigues," as Brody observed. But he commuted to Afghanistan and his position gave him a bird's eye view of the battles for Kabul during that era, which the Pakistan-backed Taliban forces finally won.

Writing elsewhere Brody has observed that the mujahideen groups in Afghanistan during the early 1990s were "bickering and fighting among themselves, with support to these different factions coming from their patrons in Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia."

There were indeed different mujahideen factions, but it was Pakistan's Taliban that finally overran Kabul then took over much of the country until the combined U.S.-U.K. operations in 2001 routed them.

And for those who don't remember it or never knew, the U.S. sponsored evacuation dubbed "Operation Evil Airlift" made it clear that Pakistan -- a vaunted U.S. ally -- was at war with U.S. and U.K. during the 2001 invasion. I've provided the entire Wikipedia article on the operation at the end of this post. If you're new to the story and have relatives serving in Afghanistan, better belt down a stiff drink before you read it.(1)

One may lay the blame for Operation Evil with Vice-President Dick Cheney, and his act could be construed as treasonous if one doesn't know it was par for the Cold War course. But the Cold War is long gone, and Cheney has been gone for office for close to a year. Yet still the U.S. government continues to downplay that Pakistan did not create the Taliban to fight the Soviets; they did it because they saw the U.S.-led effort against the Soviets in Afghanistan as their means to take over the country without running into stiff international punishment.

And the U.S. government continues to mix apples with oranges: there are surely "rogue" elements in Pakistan's military and intelligence agency -- "rogue" meaning Pakistanis who want a Taliban-style government in Pakistan. But the entire Pakistan defense establishment and the civilian government are united in support of their decades-old cold war against India. As part of that war they want to regain the control of Afghanistan they lost because of Operation Enduring Freedom.

I think Islamabad's determination to control their neighbor has only increased with the recent discoveries of vast oil and gas reserves and key industrial/ military-use metal lodes in Afghanistan. With development, Afghanistan's fabulous store of natural resources can make the country one of the richest and even a major world power.

As long as the United States was chiefly preoccupied with Iraq, Pakistan's military was content to allow things to bump along in Afghanistan. But once the United States signaled a serious intention to build up Afghanistan's military and civilian government; once the U.S. began a close cooperation with India's external intelligence service, which provided the U.S. defense establishment with considerable evidence about Pakistan's actions against Kabul and the ISAF; and once it was evident to Islamabad that the CIA was not going to neutralize Hamid Karzai, who had allied his government with India's, the targeting of U.S. forces had to be stepped up.

The ISAF assessment tip-toes around the situation:
Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan, including significant development efforts and financial investment. In addition, the current Afghan government is perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian. While Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people, increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan or India.
I'd like to know what part of Indian aid is not benefiting the Afghans. And there's no "likely" about it; any doubts that regional tensions are already exacerbated, study the two suicide bombings outside the Indian embassy in Kabul.

No amount of bribing, either from the USA or any other government or agency, is going to change the situation. Pakistan's government will take the bribes -- either in cash, loans, or military equipment -- then continue on as they've done. Why not? They have history to guide their confidence that they can play the WMD blackmail card whenever the NATO countries bring pressure on them. That's what they've been doing since 2001; without a significant change in U.S. policy they'll continue in exactly the same pattern.

Those who assume Pakistan is turning over a new leaf because of several Taliban attacks on the ISI or military facilities need to read B. Raman's crash course on Taliban factions, which he dashed off in May 2009 for Forbes magazine. He wrote in answer to a reader who asked why Taliban attacked the ISI (if the ISI indeed controlled them).

The answer has to do with internal disputes -- with tribes and sub-tribes who're mad at Pakistan's government -- and who're also mad at the USA for helping to prop up the government. (Take special note of Raman's mention of the Lal Masjid massacre.) The tribes in the pay of the ISI who attack ISAF troops are a different story.

Does all this mean there is no actual insurgency in Afghanistan, just a proxy war being fought by Pakistan, and spillovers of tribal rage toward Islamabad? The answer is to first thin the forest of Pakistan's actions in Afghanistan, then see how many trees are left standing.

Things have turned very ominous in recent months because Afghanistan's north, including the region's biggest city, Mazar-e-Sharif, is coming under increasing attack from Taliban, who are bribing unemployed locals to work for them. There is a mystery attached to the situation:
[...] Karzai ... stunned the country in October when he announced that there would be [inquiries] into reports that helicopters had been transporting Taliban fighters to the north, adding that he had known about the action for some time.

It is widely believed that such air transit could only have operated with the knowledge of local and foreign powers who control air traffic. So conspiracy theories blossomed.

People wondered if southern politicians were stirring up the rebellion to undermine their northern rivals, or if international forces were fanning the flames of violence to provide an excuse for staying the country and exploiting its mineral wealth.

The regional head of the Afghan Human Rights Commission, Qazi Same, believes that “invisible hands” may be trying to destabilise the area. But he dismisses as completely illogical the idea that either local or international armed forces are involved,

“They suffer casualties every day. That they try to spread insecurity, logically that’s not believable,” he says. [...]
I agree with Same, but his observations suggest the "invisible hand" belongs to Pakistan. They backed the Taliban's struggle to conquer Mazar-e-Sharif prior to Operation Enduring Freedom. If Taliban had won the city they would have controlled the region, and that would have consolidated Pakistan's hold on the entire country.

If my analysis of the allover situation is correct, it would indicate the U.S. needs a different plan than the stepped-up counterinsurgency operation the ISAF report recommends, or at least a greatly altered plan.

It would also indicate that General McChrystal needs to yell at the top of his lungs, in public if necessary, about a holdover Cold War-era relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan that's getting many U.S. troops killed and injured for no good reason. And wasting billions of U.S. dollars.

There are a few other things the U.S. command could do in the short term to deal more wisely with Pakistan. That would include ditching the uninformed and self-defeating "Afpak" strategy. But I think I've given you enough reading material for one day, so I'll leave further discussion for a subsequent post.

1) Operation Evil Airlift, Wikipedia (See the article for the footnotes.)
The Airlift of Evil refers to the evacuation of thousands of Pakistani military personnel, Afghan sympathizers, and some members of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda from the city of Kunduz during the week before its capture by the forces of the Northern Alliance during the early days of the War in Afghanistan (2001-present).

The idea that the American military had aided the escape of potentially dangerous individuals was politically contentious, and sparked a debate in the western media. The first reference to the term appeared in a column on msnbc.com. It is generally thought that the airlift was an attempt to avoid destabilizing the government of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who, although an ally in the War on Terror, had historically supported the Taliban.

In 2008, more details have emerged in Descent into Chaos by Ahmed Rashid:

"One senior (U.S.) intelligence analyst told me, "The request was made by Musharraf to Bush, but Cheney took charge -- a token of who was handling Musharraf at the time. The approval was not shared with anyone at State, including Colin Powell, until well after the event. Musharraf said Pakistan needed to save its dignity and its valued people.

Two planes were involved, which made several sorties a night over several nights. They took off from air bases in Chitral and Gilgit in Pakistan's northern areas, and landed in Kunduz, where the evacuees were waiting on the tarmac.

Certainly hundreds and perhaps as many as one thousand people escaped. Hundreds of ISI officers, Taliban commanders, and foot soldiers belonging to the IMU and al Qaeda personnel boarded the planes.

What was sold as a minor extraction turned into a major air bridge. The frustrated U.S. SOF who watched it from the surrounding high ground dubbed it "Operation Evil Airlift."

Another senior U.S. diplomat told me afterward, "Musharraf fooled us because after we gave approval, the ISI may have run a much bigger operation and got out more people. We just don't know. At the time nobody wanted to hurt Musharraf, and his prestige with the army was at stake. The real question is why Musharraf did not get his men out before. Clearly the ISI was running its own war against the Americans and did not want to leave Afghanistan until the last moment."

Monday, November 16

Swine flu! Plague! Ukraine presidential politics!

A colleague sent me this November 15 news item from Britain's Daily Express headlined MILLION HIT BY "PLAGUE WORSE THAN SWINE FLU"; she commented, "Always watch the other hand." So naturally I opened the link and read with interest:
A deadly plague could sweep across Europe, doctors fear, after an outbreak of a virus in Ukraine plunged the country and its neighbours into a state of panic.

A cocktail of three flu viruses are reported to have mutated into a single pneumonic plague, which it is believed may be far more dangerous than swine flu. The death toll has reached 189 and more than 1 million people have been infected, most of them in the nine regions of Western Ukraine.

President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko has called in the World Health Organisation and a team of nine specialists are carrying out tests in Kiev and Lviv to identify the virus. Samples have been sent to London for analysis.

President Yushchenko said: “People are dying. The epidemic is killing doctors. This is absolutely inconceivable in the 21st Century."

In a TV interview, the President added: “Unlike similar epidemics in other countries, three causes of serious viral infections came together simultaneously in Ukraine – two seasonal flus and the Californian flu.

“Virologists conclude that this combination of infections may produce an even more aggressive new virus as a result of mutation.”

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been touring hospitals where victims are being treated and presidential elections in January could be cancelled.[...]
At that point I could not continue reading due to paroxysms of laughter.

In the effort to get a grip I busied myself with finding recent reports on Ukraine's politics and rooting around in the Pundita archives for an old Anti-war.com article about the dynamic, co-dependent, and oft-warring duo of Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko.


These I planned to send to the colleague with the following note before I decided to turn it into a post:

Thank you very much for sending the article. However, be careful, be very careful, whenever Viktor Yushchenko is involved. Watch not only the other hand but also behind the back.

Yushy is a Ukrainian oligarch; I think he once threatened to sue anyone who called him a crook over that trifling matter several years ago of $600 million that went missing from the IMF while he headed up Ukraine's central bank. But I digress; he was installed as Ukraine's president in the phony US-backed 'orange' revolution in 2004. His approval rating in Ukraine is around 5% right now and he's fighting for his political life.

Swine flu has been turned into cannon fodder in the latest war between Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, his prime minister and another Ukrainian oligarch with a very colorful career, with Yulia accusing Yushy of trying to use the swine flu outbreak in Ukraine to stall the planned January election, and Yushy accusing Tymoshenko of criminal negligence in the handling of the outbreak.

It gets better, or worse, or simply more complicated, depending on how you want to look at it:

Yushy is in Ukraine's anti-Russia camp, and Yulia has moved into the 'let's be pragmatic camp' with regards Russia. So there's much more at stake here than a national political election because Ukraine is Russia's Line in the Sand when it comes to NATO's meddling in former Soviet countries.

Here comes the knee-slapper: Yushy and Yulia have been doing so much fighting, and between them they've made such a mess of Ukraine's economy, that Viktor Yanukovych might walk off with the presidential election.

Yanukovych was Russia's pick for Ukraine's president against Yushy in 2004 but his people were accused of ballot stuffing to put him in office -- it was really a matter of which camp could stuff the most without being caught -- and so the election was annulled and Yushy was 'elected.'

But this time Moscow is keeping clear of Ukraine's presidential politics, which is making Yanukovych look even better and pumping up his poll numbers. So the question at this moment is whether Yulia has joined with Yushy in calling for a postponement of the election due to circumstances beyond everyone's control such as a new plague.

If you don't see what's so terribly funny about all this, I'm not sure you want to hear the whole story but there are any number of fables that advise to leave well enough alone. And that is the situation I warned about in a 2005 post titled, But Kuchma was our tyrant. I pointed out that Ukraine's president Leonid Kuchma was a perfectly serviceable U.S. puppet for many years who managed to get along with both the European Union and Russia and who pulled Ukraine out of its moribund post-Soviet economy.

But then came the not-so-covert war against Vladimir Putin (Russia's president at the time) staged by the U.S. Department of State and the rest of the Get Russia crowd, which mushroomed after Putin had the bad grace to sack Russia's Oligarchs.

So Kuchma, who got along well with Putin, found himself accused of ordering every political murder that happened in Ukraine and Yushy accused him of selling missiles to Iran. This cleared the deck for Yushy and Yulia to show they could be better U.S. puppets, which included freezing out Putin.

And here we are today, with Washington slowly waking up to the fact that it was idiocy to make an enemy of Russia by meddling in Ukraine. And here is today's Ukrainian presidential politics:
KIEV, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Ukraine's president and prime minister hurled angry accusations at each other on Wednesday over ways of fighting an influenza epidemic, now a major factor in campaigning for a January election in which they are rivals.

A total of 189 people have died in the outbreak, the health ministry said, and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has cancelled political rallies and ordered schools shut to try to curb it.

The toll included 17 deaths from the H1N1 flu, First Deputy Health Minister Vasily Lazorishinets told journalists.

The health scare has caused panic across Ukraine and has become, like other hot issues such as contacts with the International Monetary Fund, a political football between President Viktor Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, both contenders in the Jan. 17 poll for president.

Weighing in against Yushchenko, Tymoshenko told ministers that the President, by failing to approve a law to release $125 million to fight the outbreak, was endangering human life.

"Without the signing of this law, the government can not fight this epidemic today," she said.

"The action of the President ... is an action today against Ukraine. The President will be responsible for every person who is ill today or dies."

Yushchenko, who in late October gave the go-ahead to rises in pensions and the minimum wage in defiance of the IMF and pleas by Tymoshenko, hit back immediately.

Signing a proposed law to release anti-flu funds would lead to new money being printed and a devaluation of the national currency, the hryvnia, he said.

"I will not be the author of such a policy. I don't need to be blackmailed. I have the right of President. I am taking a decision (to veto the bill) and it's taken," Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.

Implying further criticism of Yushchenko, Tymoshenko said Ukraine's economy will undergo an "extremely difficult" period without $3.8 billion from the IMF, which her aides fear would rebound on Kiev's ability to pay for Russian gas.

The Fund refrained from releasing the funds -- part of a $16.4 billion programme to counter the economic crisis -- after Yushchenko signed the minimum wage law into force.
And here's more on that lovely duo, and Ukraine's woes, from Andrew Osborn reporting from Moscow November 15 for the (U.K.) Telegraph:
Apparently keen to curry favour with voters, Viktor Yushchenko, the president, turned a blind eye to the appalling state of Ukraine's public finances and recently approved a 20 per cent hike in wages and pensions last month. But, by ignoring the advice of the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, and Yulia Tymoshenko, his own prime minister, Mr Yushchenko has jeopardised the disbursement of badly-needed IMF funds.

Mr Yushchenko justified the move by saying he was unwilling to solve the country's budget problems "at the expense of pensioners, poor people and the disabled."

But the IMF has now suspended payment of a $3.8 billion loan, arguing that Ukraine needs austerity measures rather than profligacy. Ukraine needed the IMF money to plug gaping holes in its budget.

Five years ago, large-scale protests set up what was supposed to be a pro-Western dream team of Mr Yushchenko and Mrs Tymoshenko. But the duo's friendship has since turned to loathing even though the pair continue jointly to govern the ex-Soviet republic.

The two are now bitter rivals who will face off against each another in a January presidential election. Analysts warn their battle for power appears to be poisoning the country's economic prospects and could interfere again with the supply and transit of gas to the West in the coming winter.

The country's biggest strategic companies are saddled with crippling debts, including the state gas company which has struggled to meet Russian gas payments, only just managing a $500m payment this month.

Mrs Tymoshenko's supporters have accused Mr Yushchenko of raw populism and irresponsibility, intensifying a political standoff that opinion polls show Mr Yushchenko is losing. Polls show he has just 5 per cent support compared to Mrs Tymoshenko's 20 per cent.

Meanwhile the global economic crisis has caused the country's budget deficit to balloon, its inefficient Soviet-era factories to stagger, and international rating agencies have rushed to downgrade their view of economic prospects. The national currency, the hryvnia, has plunged by 60 per cent in a year, foreign direct investment has slowed to a trickle, and bad bank loans have multiplied.

Ironically, all this has left the Kremlin's candidate for the Ukrainian presidency in 2004 – Viktor Yanukovych – with a strong lead in the polls, making him the candidate to beat.[...]
As for that old Anti-war.com report, if memory serves my only complaint about it when I linked to it, in 2005, was that it had nary a word to say about the U.S. Department of State's role in the mess. But you can't find a better introduction to Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko.

Once you get in the swing of the story, you might pardon my cynicism about the serious matter of plague.

As to those missile sales, reference the pirating of the MV Faina last year, which turned up the ship's very strange cargo. Translation: business as usual in Ukraine.

UPDATE:
Just received this item, which I present with no editorial comment whatsoever:

November 04, 2009
"Authorities Deny Aircraft Are Spraying Aerosol Chemtrails and Forced Medications Over Ukrainian Cities (Martial Law Expected as Mystery Flu Spreads)"

UPDATE 2:
This just in; from the same source as the Nov. 4 report:

November 15, 2009
"Ukraine; Virus Is Mixture Of H1N1 And Parainfluenza, Causes Cardiopulmonary Failure; Indicates BioWeapon"

This time I will comment: The World Health Organization needs to get on the horn and read the riot act to Ukraine's battling politicians before the whole country ends up in the loony bin.

"Hell to Pay" - the shattering vindication of Truman's decision to use the atomic bomb

On Friday Rush Limbaugh and some other denizens of the American Right expressed outrage that during his visit to Japan President Barack Obama ducked the question, when a Japanese reporter asked whether he thought the decision to use nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was correct.

Newsbusters, a conservative website, lectured, "Defending the decision of the United States to drop nuclear weapons ... is not a comfortable thing to do when you're in Japan. But if you're President of the United States, you must do it. Diplomatically, yes. With sympathy for the civilian victims, yes. But you must do it."

Rush snapped that every American president who'd visited Japan had been asked the same question and managed to defend the U.S. decision.

Well, no other American president has arrived in post-war Japan at a time when the Japanese are giving evidence that they're rethinking their special relationship with the USA, and on the heels of Japanese actions that could be read as hostile to U.S. interests or not very helpful, depending on how you read the tea leaves.(1)

Somehow I doubt Rush Limbaugh has mentioned any of those developments to his audience. But while Obama didn't exactly arrive in Japan to shouts of "Yankee go home" -- the latest demonstration against the U.S. presence in Okinawa was held the day before his arrival -- he arrived in the face of a new reality. Whether this represents a sea change in U.S.-Japan relations or simply an incoming political party throwing red meat at Japan's right wing remains to be seen.

Obama's bow to Emperor Akihito was a bit much but against the new reality, Friday the 13th of November, at a joint press conference with Japan's new prime minister, in front of Japan's press corps, was not the time or place for America's president to remind his hosts that their military commanders under Emperor Shōwa (Hirohito) had themselves to blame for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But on the chance -- just the chance, mind you -- that our President of Pretty Words (as the Chinese have pegged him) is laboring under the impression that the decision to use nuclear weapons against the Japanese was a crime against humanity:

Last night John Batchelor interviewed D. M. Giangreco, whose latest book Hell to Pay: Operation DOWNFALL and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947, was published last month. (See the WABC podcast, 11-12 PM segment).

The discussion was a revelation for me, as surely it was for anyone who's never delved deeply into the reasoning, on both sides of the Pacific War, that led to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even John Batchelor, who's very knowledgeable about World War Two, observed after reading Hell to Pay, "I will never again be dubious about the decision to use the atomic bombs."

Giangreco, a military historian, has spent more than 15 years sifting through every conceivable aspect of the decision-making processes that led to the cataclysmic use of the atomic bomb against Japan. As I learned from this bibliography of his works Hell to Pay is not Giangreco's first book on the subject, but I'm going to assume it's his fullest reply to the question every American of conscience has asked: Was it really necessary to unleash hell?

The first part of the answer, I learned from the discussion, is that hell had already been unleashed. Contrary to the theory advanced by what Victor Fic calls in his review of Giangreco's book "Truman's left-wing revisionist critics," the Japanese command had no intention of surrendering after Okinawa. Fic writes:
In mid-1944, U.S. war planners projected half a million GI deaths to subdue Japan's 3.5 million military defenders during Operation Downfall, slated for 1945 and 1946. Then the harrowing battle of Okinawa in spring 1945 chastened them. By July 1945, American analysts realized that Tokyo had mobilized 5 million soldiers and stationed them exactly on Downfall's designated landing beaches. These factors foreshadowed 1 million GI deaths.

Mr. Giangreco observes that the cornered revisionists insist that Truman never saw these ghoulish numbers. The author counters that documents he discovered at the Truman library in the late 1990s prove Truman did.
In his own review of the book for his blog, Batchelor observes:
The Navy prepared half a million Purple Hearts. The US built hospitals to prepare to receive 700 thousand wounded back in the States during the projected two year campaign,'45-'47.
That's not the half of it. Vic writes:
Why didn't Washington soften its unconditional surrender terms to preserve Japan's emperor, the revisionists ask? Mr. Giangreco explains that Americans had learned that the partial defeat of Germany in 1919 had precipitated a worse war in 1939. [...]

Mr Giangreco then examines neglected documents about Downfall and Ketsu-Go, Japan's defense plan. No, Tokyo was not surrendering. He cites naval strategist Takejiro Onishi as claiming 20 million Japanese would die in a gyokusei campaign, meaning "crushing of the beautiful jewel" -- or mass, heroic death -- against any invasion. The bloodied Americans would then negotiate to preserve much of the empire.

Yes, Tokyo was still very strong, Mr. Giangreco argues. Its regimented civilians held 28,000 knee mortars, and its wrongly creative kamikaze strategy could have launched 18,000 missions in 1945.

Mr. Giangreco concedes that many planes were made of wood. However, he claims to offer the best analysis of them: Given their wooden airframe, U.S. radar failed to track them, and the proximity fuses of Japanese bombs were known to malfunction. As for aviation fuel, Tokyo had copious underground stocks. Mr. Giangreco points out that in July 1945, a single wooden kamikaze biplane sank the destroyer Callaghan.[...]
That's still not the half of it, I learned from the transcript of a lecture Giangreco gave in 1998, during which he skewers several wrong assumptions about Japan's ability to continue the war:

  • A U.S. barricade of Japan could have starved the Japanese into conceding. Nonsense: The Japanese didn't need to depend on food imports because more than half their population lived on productive farms: "Back then the system of price supports that has encouraged Japanese farmers today to convert practically every square foot of their land to rice cultivation did not exist. Large vegetable gardens were a standard feature of a family's land and wheat was also widely grown."


  • The U.S. could have pulverized the defensive positions on Kyushu and Honshu islands (the planned landing sites of the Downfall operation). Duh: Combat operations in the Philippines and Okinawa had taught the Japanese about the vulnerability of their cave and bunker defenses and they arranged their defensive positions against Downfall accordingly; this having to do with the fact that the Japanese command had shrewdly deduced exactly where and when the Americans would land during their next wave of attacks. Were there alternate choices for the location of the initial U.S. invasions during Downfall? Not any good ones.


  • The Japanese guns were no use against the Sherman tank. Double Duh: "In fact, the Japanese, through hard experience, were becoming quite adept at tank killing. During two actions in particular on Okinawa, they managed to knock out 22 and 30 Shermans respectively. In one of these fights, Fujio Takeda managed to stop four tanks with six 400-yard shots from his supposedly worthless 47mm. As for the 37mm, it was not intended to actually destroy tanks during the invasions but to immobilize them at very short ranges so that they would become easier prey for the infantry tank-killing teams that had proven so effective on Okinawa."


  • There's more, much more, to be learned from Giangreco's lecture. Clearly, the distance of time addled several brains when they looked back across the decades and theorized that Operation Downfall, if carried out, would have been a walk in the park for U.S. forces -- thus averting the need to use nuclear weapons. Although the subject is not funny one can squeeze a bit of trench humor from Giangreco's patient correction of the misunderstandings supporting the theory.

    Yet all that is still not the half of it. Giangreco explained to Batchelor that the answer the U.S. received from the Japanese command about the nuking of Hiroshima was silence.

    Why? a rational person asks. Why, after the Armageddon-like devastation wreaked on the city and its inhabitants, didn't the Japanese concede that the atomic bomb was the game-changer?

    The question is made more difficult when one realizes that the Japanese command was not comprised of a bunch of nuts. Giangreco's lecture makes clear that these were sane and smart war planners; for all the crazy rhetoric of Japanese propaganda they knew the truth as much as the U.S. command: The Pacific theater of war wasn't the European one. They'd forced the Americans into taking unacceptably high losses for the victories on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and now the United States was fast running out of young men to send into the kind of battles the U.S. had seen only twice in Europe against the Nazis.

    Thus, the Japanese planners were reasonably assured they could fight the United States to a standoff in the Pacific. Then along came the bombing of Hiroshima. It was completely off the grid, although the U.S. had warned that they'd developed a superweapon and were willing to use it.

    Surely there are explanations from the Japanese side about why they didn't concede after Hiroshima, although Giangreco didn't explore these during his 20 minute discussion with Batchelor. Yet the silence in the wake of the Hiroshima bombing suggests the Japanese command thought the U.S. side was bluffing: that they'd shot their full load of the infernal new weapon. If that's how the Japanese were thinking, three days later they learned they were wrong.

    Perhaps, when a third A-bomb didn't fall, Japan's war planners again put themselves in the place of their U.S. counterparts and gauged what the Americans would do if they had more than two nuclear weapons: they would save the rest for Kyushu and Honshu to use as a clearing operation for the U.S. assault. In that event it really would be game over, and the Japanese would have nothing to show for it except the very inglorious spectacle of being roasted alive.

    If that's indeed how they thought, they guessed right that time. The U.S. had at least seven more A-bombs, which were intended to clear the way for Operation Downfall.

    In any event, after Nagasaki the Japanese knew it was open to question as to how many A-bombs the U.S. had in its arsenal. Five days later the Japanese surrendered unconditionally.

    If American readers blanch at the thought that the U.S. command would have sent American ground forces into the radioactive zones of Kyushu and Honshu in the wake of nuclear attack -- the book is not titled Hell to Pay for nothing. Yes, that's exactly what they were going to do.

    And still, that's not the half of it. There were eight to ten million Japanese civilians living on Kyushu and Honshu when Japanese forces suddenly overran the islands in preparation for Operation Downfall. While many of those civilians would surely have resisted the American invasion in any way they could, there weren't enough caves and bunkers to hold the civilians. And such refuges from the initial radiation blasts would have been reserved for the Japanese commanders and most critical ground forces.

    So even if the Japanese could have had known the exact time the U.S. would start dropping nuclear bombs on them, which is doubtful, the vast majority of Japanese civilians would have died along with the vast majority of Japanese soldiers massed on the islands.

    John Batchelor sums the hellish equation:
    The choice for Truman and his advisers was either to murder 200 thousand -- Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- or to take the risk to lose 500 thousand American [lives] and up to 8 million Japanese.
    That was just the estimated casualties for the initial assaults in Operation Downfall. And again, it needn't have been as many as 200,000 casualties if the Japanese had shown a willingness to negotiate surrender after the Hiroshima bombing.

    Yet there you have it: behind every door marked "Exit from Hell" the American war planners saw apocalypse, except for the door marked "Long shot if you're willing to pay the price."

    The price would have been 200,000 Japanese civilians in addition to the ones slated to die on Kyushu and Honshu if the Japanese hadn't surrendered when they did.

    President Harry Truman took up the devil's challenge; in doing so he saved millions of lives, ended the war, and left enough of Japan intact so that post-war Japanese could redeem themselves with honor.

    That's the full answer to the question of whether there was any way the USA could have avoided unleashing nuclear war.

    For the conscientious objectors who aver that even a U.S. defeat would have been preferable to nuclear war -- that's looking at history from the world of today, in which the greatest concern is nuclear proliferation.

    The objectors need to ask the Chinese what kind of occupiers the Japanese made. Or they can ponder D. M. Giangreco's explanation of why civilians leaped from cliffs during the 1994 battle on the island of Saipan. The Wikipedia version has it that
    Many hundreds of Japanese civilians committed suicide in the last days of the battle, some jumping from "Suicide Cliff" and "Banzai Cliff". Efforts by U.S. troops to persuade them to surrender instead were mostly futile. Widespread propaganda in Japan portraying Americans and British as "devils" who would treat POWs barbarically, deterred surrender.
    That might have been the case at the end. But according to Giangreco, Japanese troops forced thousands of Japanese civilians to leap off cliffs into the waters so that the floating corpses blocked the progress of U.S. Navy vessels.

    Any way you cut it, I think it can be fairly argued that the Japanese commanders did things to their own people, and to those civilians and soldiers in their capture, that the German military under Hitler wouldn't have done to captured Allied troops.

    If the use of nuclear weapons was a crime against humanity, the only escape from damnation would have been for the United States to surrender to an army that held to the code of san ko: "Kill all, burn all, loot all."

    The Japanese Tea master Sen no Rikyū, who lived in the 16th century, is one of my favorite historical figures. Yet given his Zen training I've always been haunted by the peculiar violence of his decision to uproot thousands of morning glories just to make a point about Tea to the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

    If the Japanese wish to go more their own way, I see this as a natural development and I wish them well. Yet I would ask them to look into their hearts as they contemplate a new way forward and ponder whether they've forsworn san ko forevermore.

    1) To wit:
    The Okinawa issue has become what assemblyman Shinzato called a ‘touchstone' of future relations between Japan and the US, but it is not the only one. [Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's] decision not to renew Japan's refuelling mission for US vessels in the Indian Ocean and to modify Japan's Afghanistan mission are other examples of his desire for a changed Japanese diplomacy.

    The [outgoing] LDP wanted Japan to exert more independence by having its Self Defence Forces play a more active role around the world instead of relying upon “aid diplomacy” — financial or otherwise. But there was an assumption under the LDP that the US remained Japan's key ally, while China and North Korea as well as Russia remained potential enemies.

    The Hatoyama administration seems to be making a bolder assumption, which is that if Japan stretches out the hand of friendship to China and other East Asian neighbours, these can become key allies too and that Japan will therefore not require to shelter under the US nuclear umbrella, with all the consequences that has for wider dependence upon the US.[...]
    None of that speaks to the issue of a missile defense shield, which Japan was developing jointly with the USA:
    "Missile defense is almost totally useless," said Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, a Lower House lawmaker who served as the party's deputy defense spokesman prior to its Aug. 30 election victory. "Only one or two out of 100 are ever effective. Even in shooting down a normal bomber, the odds are maybe 20 percent or 30 percent." ... "We'll probably cut" the defense budget, said Yamaguchi, who holds a Ph.D. in international politics from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "There's so much else we have to do, such as child care allowance, education, health care and pensions."
    Such frank and public displeasure with a joint U.S. defense project is another sign that the special relationship could be fraying.

    Thursday, November 12

    Will Lou Dobbs now run for office of U.S. President? Will we finally see the rise of a viable third party to challenge the GOP and Democrats?

    Last night I was badly shaken by breaking news at RBO that Lou Dobbs had announced his resignation from CNN. I leaped to the conclusion that CNN, under pressure from immigration groups, Mexico's government and ours, had asked him to resign because of the controversy over his reports on illegal immigration.

    But after reading the transcript of his announcement (see below), it looks to my eyes that Lou's preparing to throw his hat in the political ring. There were rumors in early 2008 that he was considering running for President but after a flurry of speculation in the press they fizzled.

    Is it possible that the anonymous physical threats he received in recent months, which culminated on October 5 with a bullet fired at his house, decided his family that as long as his reporting was risking their lives, in for a penny, in for a pound?

    I'd rather live with that hope for a few days than face what might be the truth: that Lou's resignation from CNN is simply the latest indication the United States is following in the footsteps of Canada, which designates any politically incorrect opinion as "hate speech." (For all their efforts during the past two years Canada's free speechers have not been able to overturn the infamous Section 13 law.)

    Maybe Americans who're sick of being jerked around by the Democratic and Republican parties, and who agree with the political platform Lou outlined last night, will write Lou to encourage him to run for the White House as a new third party candidate and not settle for a congressional seat.

    If there was ever a time the United States needed a powerful third party, this is it. For Tea Partiers who've been lulled into thinking the Republicans have turned over a new leaf, I'm going by the history. The GOP does essentially the same thing OPEC does every time Americans show they're serious about getting free of foreign oil: OPEC lowers the price of oil to the point where it doesn't pay to do oil exploration in the USA.

    There is only one way to keep two powerful political machines honest, which is to wield the club of a powerful third party. But the only way such a party could get that powerful is to force the Republicans and Democrats to sit outside the White House for four years.

    Here is the transcript of Lou's announcement. If he does enter politics, he couldn't have chosen a better time than Veteran's Day to signal his intention:
    Transcript: Lou Dobbs says he's leaving CNN
    November 11, 2009
    (CNN) -- CNN's Lou Dobbs announced Wednesday night on his show that he is leaving the network. Here is a transcript of those remarks.

    Dobbs: Tonight, I want to turn to a personal note if I may and address a matter that has raised some curiosity.

    This will be my last broadcast here on CNN, where I have worked for most of the past 30 years and where I have many friends and colleagues whom I admire deeply and respect greatly.

    I'm the last of the original anchors here on CNN, and I'm proud to have had the privilege of helping to build the world's first news network. I am grateful for the many opportunities that CNN has given me over these many years, I've tried to reciprocate with the full measure of my ability and my energy.

    Over the past six months, it's become increasingly clear that strong winds of change have begun buffeting this country and affecting all of us. And some leaders in media, politics and business have been urging me to go beyond the role here at CNN and to engage in constructive problem-solving, as well as to contribute positively to a better understanding of the great issues of our day. And to continue to do so in the most honest and direct language possible.

    I've talked extensively with Jonathan Klein; Jon's the president of CNN, and as a result of those talks, Jon and I have agreed to a release from my contract that will enable me to pursue new opportunities.

    At this point, I'm considering a number of options and directions and I assure you I will let you know when I set my course.

    I truly believe that the major issues of our time include the growth of our middle class, the creation of more jobs, health care, immigration policy, the environment, climate change, and our military involvement, of course, in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    But each of those issues is in my opinion informed by our capacity to demonstrate strong resilience of our now weakened capitalist economy and demonstrate the political will to overcome the lack of true representation in Washington, D.C. I believe these to be profoundly critically important issues and I will continue to strive to deal honestly and straightforwardly with those issues in the future.

    Unfortunately, these issues are now defined in the public arena by partisanship and ideology rather than by rigorous empirical thought and forthright analysis and discussion. I'll be working diligently to change that as best I can. And, as for the important work of restoring inspiration to our great free society and our market economy, I will strive as well to be a leader in that national conversation.

    It's been my great honor to work with each and every person at this wonderful network. I will be eternally grateful to CNN, to Ted Turner, and to all of my colleagues and friends and, of course, to you at home. I thank you and may God bless you.

    The news continues for the rest of this hour. I'll be back right after the break. [...]

    Saturday, November 7

    Strategic default: "The most disturbing aspect of this is that it's becoming acceptable to do."

    Strategic defaulting or 'voluntary foreclosure' is where homeowners who can afford the mortgage walk away from it because they figure it doesn't pay to keep up the payments on a house that's fallen considerably in value. I've heard before about the phenomenon, which has mushroomed during the recession. But the reporter who wrote the following article for USA TODAY marshals facts about the trend that, to my mind, point to a larger issue.

    One of the biggest problems found in third world countries is that the people have so little trust in the government and the economic structures that they fear making long-term investments. That hampers economic development so there's a vicious cycle in effect: the more the people cling to very short-term investing, the harder it is for capitalist measures to take effect, leading to the continuation of a moribund economy, thus further entrenching bad socialist-style government policies, thus leading to more mistrust of the government.

    The ease with which many millions of Americans are taking up strategic defaulting, which wrecks their credit rating, suggests a breakdown of respect, and lack of trust, for economic structures in this country, including the credit and banking systems.

    Is this trend simply a byproduct of hard times, something that will pass when the economy improves? Or does it indicate that the cumulative effect of financial scandals over the past decade has altered the American social fabric?

    I don't know. I do know that short-term thinking in financial areas shouldn't belong in a first world nation and that if it continues in this one, it will lead to the same vicious cycle found in countries with chronic poverty.

    The USA report, which I republish below, contains a number of hyperlinks and an interactive map of U.S. foreclosures state-by-state; see the USA TODAY website to access these.
    More walk away from homes, mortgages

    By Stephanie Armour, USA TODAY, November 2, 2009

    When Sharon Sakson was laid off recently from her job as a television writer and producer, she burned through her savings to pay the $2,400 monthly mortgage on her home. But she soon decided it didn't make sense: Her home was worth thousands less than the mortgage she carried on it.

    The home had been appraised at $390,000 when she refinanced in 2006, but she estimates it's not worth the $320,000 it initially cost in 2004. So Sakson did what a growing number of homeowners are doing today: She stopped paying and decided to let the bank take her home.

    "I'm walking away from my house," says Sakson, 57, who stopped making payments about six months ago on her home in Pennington, N.J. "The bank can have it."

    What Sakson did is called a strategic default, or a voluntary foreclosure, and it's fast becoming a major challenge to the government's $75 billion effort to keep distressed borrowers in their homes. Walking away from a mortgage is serious business — it can knock 100 points off your credit score and make you ineligible for a new mortgage for seven years. Yet, about 588,000 borrowers walked away from homes last year, double the number in 2007, according to a recent study by credit-scoring firm Experian and management consultants Oliver Wyman.

    While home prices are rising, the increases pale compared with overall drops in home prices since 2005 that threaten to push millions more homeowners into Sakson's predicament, owing more than their homes are worth and seeing little chance of rebuilding equity soon.

    More will walk away, which will hamper the housing recovery, reinforce lenders' tight credit policies and drag on the economy's recovery, economists say.

    "It's increasingly a more important factor driving the foreclosure crisis," says Mark Zandi, of Moody's Economy.com. "As we move forward, the job market will stabilize, and the big thing will be strategic defaults. People are going to determine it doesn't make financial sense to hold on to their homes. That's going to be a significant problem. Strategic defaults mean foreclosures could be high for a long time."

    It's not just economists who are concerned about strategic defaults.

    The mortgage unit of Citigroup says one in five borrowers who defaults does so willingly, even though they're able to pay the mortgage. "It's a very large number, and it's a very, very significant risk to the housing recovery," says Sanjiv Das, CEO of CitiMortgage, adding that new government programs to curb strategic defaults may be needed.

    Waiting for prices to stabilize

    How bad the strategic defaults issue gets may depend on how much more home prices fall and whether the government does more to help homeowners with mortgages larger than their homes' value. Both Zandi and Das suggest further actions to reduce mortgage principal for underwater borrowers.

    "A better way to do it may be an incentive to stay current for a period, and after two years of being current, they get a principal reduction," says Das.

    Under the government's Making Homes Affordable Program, borrowers are ineligible for refinancings if their unpaid mortgages are more than 125% of the home's market value. Loan modifications under the program do not have any loan-to-value limits.

    Nationally, median prices have fallen about 25% from their peak in late 2005, although prices recently have risen compared with prior months this year. The median price in the second quarter — $170,000 — was at roughly the level it was in autumn 2003.

    But price declines have been worse in some markets. A closely watched barometer of home prices, the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Index, shows they have fallen more than 25% in 12 markets and more than 50% in two — Phoenix and Las Vegas — from peaks hit in 2006 or 2007.

    Fifteen out of the 20 metro areas saw a rise in prices from July to August, but those increases are not anywhere close to the losses that have already occurred.

    The number of borrowers who walk away is expected to increase, along with the rise in homeowners who owe more than their homes are worth. An unprecedented 16 million homeowners currently are underwater, according to Moody's Economy.com. That's about a third of all homeowners with a first mortgage.

    Moody's Economy.com estimates the number of underwater borrowers will peak at 17.4 million in the third quarter of 2010.

    An even higher estimate comes from Deutsche Bank, which predicted in an August study that the number of homeowners underwater will grow from 14 million (or 27% of all homeowners with mortgages) in 2009 to 25 million homeowners, or 48% of all those with a mortgage, by the time home prices stabilize.

    Not coincidentally, strategic defaults have been highest where prices have plunged most, such as California and Florida.

    From 2005 to 2008, the number of strategic defaulters went up by 68 times in California, according to the Experian-Oliver Wyman study published in September. During that same time period, the median price for existing, single-family homes in California fell from $522,670 in 2005 to $346,410, according to the California Association of Realtors.

    In other geographic regions, the increase in strategic defaulters ranged between 3 times and 18 times more.

    The Experian-Wyman study found borrowers with higher credit scores when they applied for their loan were 50% more likely than other types of borrowers to walk away from a mortgage only because they were underwater, even though they could afford to pay. The study was based on an analysis of about 12 million borrowers.

    No household would default if the equity shortfall is less than 10% of the value of the house, according to another study this year, done by the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and the European University Institute. But 17% of households would default, even if they could afford to pay their mortgage, when the equity shortfall reaches 50% of the value of their house. That means the market value of a mortgage property is that much below the amount of loan taken against it.

    There also appears to be a contagion effect. Borrowers who know someone who defaulted are 82% more likely to declare their intention to do so.

    Growing acceptance

    "The most disturbing aspect of this is that it's becoming acceptable to do," says Joel Naroff, an economist with Naroff Economic Advisors. "What does that mean down the road for housing and the economy if people are happy to walk away and destroy their credit? They're saying, 'Why pay a high amount if they can get something, even a rental, for less?' "

    Because of the time and expense involved in completing a foreclosure, borrowers who decide to walk away often wind up staying in their homes for months after they stop paying their mortgage.

    In most states, lenders can go after homeowners for past-due payments, but many fail to take such action when borrowers abandon their properties, because the legal costs are so high.

    Short sales, in which lenders agree to the sale of a home for less than the balance of the mortgage, is an alternative to a strategic default. Many lenders are now encouraging them, but Zandi says that alternative may seem too time-consuming for borrowers who want to quickly get out from under their homes.

    Janet Speer, 51, isn't happy to be walking away from her 200-year-old home in Royersford, Pa., but she doesn't feel ashamed. Speer says she was paying about $1,400 a month for her home, which was appraised at about $155,000.

    After getting laid off last year, Speer said, she tried to modify her mortgage to more affordable terms but was denied because her unemployment benefits and alimony didn't count as income. Speer stopped paying on her mortgage in September 2008.

    She is still living in the home and waiting to be foreclosed upon. Speer is saving her unemployment benefits for an apartment once the bank takes over her home.

    "I got letters and calls from the bank at first, but they stopped," said Speer, who now earns commission income from a job in the health care industry. "I have a three-story house. It's way too big. I just want a little two-bedroom apartment. I don't want this place anymore. I would never have chosen to do this, but it's going to work out."

    Thursday, November 5

    The "Basta Dobbs!" campaign and the targeting of Lou Dobbs and CNN by a bunch of hypocrites


    I think I told readers the story years ago -- how, as a small child accompanying my mother on her frequent visits to Mexico, I began to ask questions about the contrast I noted there between the most awful poverty and the great wealth in the country. Once, after seeing a church with a large amount of gold statuary, I asked why the church didn't give the gold to the poor. When I didn't receive a clear answer I announced that I would never again visit Mexico, and I never did.

    In the decades since, after I learned that the United States government, with the full backing of the American people, supported the Mexican regime and ruling class that condemned millions of Mexicans to poverty and apartheid, I became philosophical. I had crossed paths with so much evil by then that even dogs and small children, who'd loved to be around me in my youth, instinctively backed away. At least Mexico's government didn't practice population control by routinely rounding up tens of thousands of teenage males, shipping them to a plantation, and slaughtering them. Americans wanted Mexico's oil and Mexico's cheap labor; if that meant looking the other way while their government propped up Mexico's oligarchs, crueler things happen in this world.

    But I underestimated the stupidity of Mexico's ruling class and the Americans who supported the government-sponsored industrialization of remittance payments. Thus, March 2005 found me shouting a warning in a post titled Why Vicente Fox is going straight to hell:
    Western governments are studiously blind to the connection between diaspora remittances, narco states, terrorism, and the plight of the world's poorest. The US State Department (and the Bush administration) crowed about an initiative under the US-Mexico partnership, which makes it cheaper for poor Mexican immigrants working in this country to send remittances back home. Why don't they just line up Mexico's poor and shoot them? Oh but that's right, Pundita forgot! If you shoot them, you can't bleed them dry.
    In time with the streamlining of remittance transactions, Mexico's government had started an official program to encourage Mexicans working in the United States to send remittance payments. This allowed Mexico's oligarchs to continue staving off paying taxes. But the bulk of the remittances was being used by Mexican recipients just to put food on their table.

    I had warned readers in late 2004 that America was on shaky ground economically and that hard times were inevitable and not far off. In a series of posts in 2005 that followed my frantic warning about remittances, I asked what would happen to Mexicans who depended on remittances for basic necessities if there was a severe economic downturn in the United States.

    The answer exploded in headlines in 2009, as Mexico became engulfed in the worst gang violence in memory and the country became a major hub for human trafficking. What didn't make headlines was the rise of private militias in the country, the growing presence of Hezbollah operatives there, and the hint that drug gangs were borrowing tactics from the Naxals.

    But as the gang wars spilled over into the US border regions Americans asked, 'Where did all this violence come from?'

    Well, humans don't take to starvation if they can find a way to avoid it -- a lesson not learned by the American government in Iraq. In the wake of a severe recession in the USA, which laid off hundreds of thousands of Mexican immigrant workers or severely curtailed their work hours, remittances dried up. The upshot was that Mexico descended into something like Iraq's post-invasion phase, which saw thousands of unemployed Iraqi men keeping their families from starvation by setting IEDs, at $50 at pop, for al Qaeda and the Baathist insurgents.

    In the same manner, as America's recession settled in, many starving Mexicans who could no longer depend on remittances gave up their law-abiding ways; they joined drug gangs and started new gangs, which launched turf wars that were so horrific the Mexican military had to be called up.

    What was the response from the USA? The government tossed a few billion dollars into the bottomless pit of Mexico's corrupt government and offered to loan a few billion more so Mexico's military could purchase a couple Blackhawk helicopters. And self-styled human rights activists, and politicians backed by agribusiness, redoubled their efforts to advocate for illegal Mexican immigrants and immigration reform that would provide amnesty for all illegal immigrants in the United States.

    This fall, the activists turned their sights on CNN and CNN's advertisers, in the effort to have Lou Dobbs removed from the cable channel. They accused CNN of hypocrisy for reaching out to the 'Latino' community while at the same time airing Dobbs's program, which they accused of promoting hatred against Latinos and Latino immigrants.

    Roberto Lovato, a founding member of a Latino activist organization called Presente helped put together an online campaign called Basta Dobbs! ("Enough Dobbs!") that drew scores of activist organizations calling for Dobbs's removal from CNN. In a September 24 column for The Huffington Post, Lovato wrote:
    [J]ust as Dobbs is free to gin up anti-immigrant sentiment, we are free to educate our community about his impact, call out his pattern of fear mongering and faulty reporting.

    And that is exactly what Latinos and our allies are doing. The BastaDobbs.com campaign is bringing together groups and individuals organized in the 25 U.S. cities with the largest Latino populations to show Dobbs for what he is: the Most Dangerous Man for Latinos in America. We are exercising our free speech rights to demand that CNN live up to its claim to be "most trusted name in news."[...]
    The Basta Dobbs! website features a list of organizations that have rallied to the cause. Thinking back I can't remember any names on the list that received publicity for protests against the American government's decades of complicity in the rape of Mexico's poor. Nor do I recall any of those names, or Mr Lovato's name, associated with protests against Mexico's government.

    Indeed, thinking back over decades, I can't recall any march on Washington, any U.S. labor union rallies, any pickets in this country, about the actions of Mexico's government toward their nation's poor and the country's indigenous population, which is not Latino.

    If anyone can find even one article published by any of the organizations listed at the Basta Dobbs site that takes Mexico's government to task for their treatment of Mexico's poor, or which points out that the government has been getting away with murder by encouraging Mexico's poorest to immigrate to the USA, please send it to me.

    And if anyone can find an article written by an American or 'Latin-American' activist that excoriates American agribusiness, and all American employers of Mexican immigrants, for their hypocrisy and complicity in propping up Mexico's oligarchs, please send it.

    I could continue in this vein but let's cut the crap. Hell will freeze over before you see any American politician or Latino activist group in the USA decrying the need for Mexicans to find work in the USA.

    If the activists want to accuse CNN of hypocrisy, why don't they ask the company's executives if they'd produce a series on corruption in Mexico's government and apartheid in southern Mexico -- where the indigenous population can't even walk on the same sidewalk as the descendents of the 'Latino' Conquistadors? Oh but that's right I forgot; executives at CNN International, and their sponsors, would have a heart attack if an American TV news organization embarrassed Mexico's rulers.

    In this world the big fish eat the little fish, so I understand that Americans who demand cheap labor don't care that they profit from the misfortunes of Mexico's poor. I even understand that they want to slap a fig leaf on their greed by lobbying for better treatment of Mexican immigrants.

    What I don't understand is why 'Latin American' activists have never followed in the footsteps of the refugees from Soviet oppression, who once landing on these shores gave the U.S. government no peace until the Soviet Union fell.

    For any twelve-year olds who've wandered into the discussion, South Africa wasn't providing the USA with oil and neither was it providing Americans with a limitless supply of dirt cheap labor. That's why it was politically correct for America's human rights activists to protest apartheid thousands of miles away but to say not a word about what was happening next door.

    As for Lou Dobbs -- I don't watch his show enough to know whether he needs better fact-checkers but from what I've seen, his show is the only regular source on news from Mexico for American audiences; it's not much news, and it's all unpleasant news from what I saw, but it's more than all the other US networks combined produce about Mexico.

    Why is that? Why do American news broadcasters have such a hard time finding Mexico on a map? Could it be that talking too much about Mexico will bring forward the question of why so many Mexicans flee here, despite Mexico's oil wealth? And why so many Americans continue to avoid learning the detailed answer?

    And could that be the problem, do you think, for Lou Dobbs? Again, I haven't seen the show much -- only a handful of times this year. So perhaps a reader who tunes in daily could let me know whether he presented any reports earlier this year that would have given Mexico's oligarchs or the Mexican government a hissy fit. Or if he presented so much coverage on violence in Mexico that this would have bothered the U.S. Department of State and Homeland Security.

    If the latter is the case, I'd suggest to State and Homeland that they start facing reality about Mexico, then communicate the truth to the Obama administration and Congress.

    It's going to take more than a fleet of Blackhawk helicopters to put down a Naxalite-style rebellion if it gets underway in Mexico; if you won't take it from me, take it from the Indian government or Shlok Vaidya.

    I think Shloky, who keeps a close eye on the Naxals, would surmise that their tactics are cycling into Mexico's drug gangs through the gangs' contact with drug-dealing Muslim terrorist/insurgency organizations working in Mexico.

    In any case: for now, the Mexican gangs are about profit. Tomorrow might not be the same story.

    At one point President Bush told Vicente Fox, while Fox was Mexico's President, that he needed to raise taxes on Mexico's rich. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who claimed the last presidential election was stolen from him, said it wasn't necessary to raise taxes, just get the rich to pay them.

    López Obrador doesn't want Mexicans immigrating to the USA to find work; he considers that a national humiliation and an indictment of Mexico's ruling class. Part of his political platform was to get Mexico's rich to pay up on their taxes and from that create jobs so Mexico's poorest didn't have to find work in the USA. For that kind of talk the US government branded him a dangerous, unhinged communist demagogue.

    And no matter how hard I try, I cannot recall any Latin-American activists, or any American activists at all, rising up to argue with that view of López Obrador.
    ****************
    This entry is cross-posted at RBO; the painting Brenda chose to accompany it says it all, so I am adding it here. The painting is by Francisco Bollaín y Goitia García (1882-1960): In Goitia’s later life, he worked as a professor at The Academy of San Carlos and studied indigenous groups of Mexico.

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