Archive for February 2007

6 Years of Absentee Leadership

February 28, 2007

Today’s big news is that the Bush Administration has now agreed to meet with both Iran and Syria as part of an effort to find diplomatic ways to stabilize the situation in Iraq.  Some are saying that the Administration is ready to try anything to end the Iraq debacle and bring the troops home.  But why the change of heart now?

A few days ago the headlines read that the Iraqi government had agreed on a oil revenue sharing formula, but buried in the fine print was they had also agreed on how to handle external investment aimed at developing Iraqi oil production.  This latter provision suggests that Exxon and Chevron should be getting out their check books.  But here is catch 22.  No major oil company is going to invest if they do not feel the country will be stable.  It will be tempting to keep a large number of American soldiers in Iraq “just in case”.

I believe the Administration’s goal is long term presence in Iraq and full participation in the oil production.  The current efforts in congress to repeal the Iraq war powers act or to bring home the troops threaten the Administration’s goal.  Only time will tell how fruitful the negotiations with Iran and Syria will be.  It will most likely take time and there will be some hard conditions for us to swallow.

There is ample evidence that we should never have gone to war in Iraq and the approach we took to win the peace was sophomoric.  For an administration that lives by the motto, “ends justify the means”, you are left wondering what were they thinking?

In the business world, if anyone ran a large company the way Bush has run the US over the past 6 years, the Board would be looking to unload the CEO.  These past 6 years have been absent any effective leadership on all fronts, not just in Iraq.  We are slipping in Afghanistan, our position on global warming is incredably misguided, abstanence for AIDS prevention is worthless, no child left behind without fundung is a hollow promise, and robbing social security in the name of private accounts is scandalous especially when it is overall healthcare and its cost that screams to be solved. 

All this simply underscores how weak a President and an Administration we have had for 6 years.  Bush and friends lacked any sense of what the Presidency needs to do and as individuals, they were mean spirited, shallow thinking hacks.

As Dick Cheney Travels

February 27, 2007

As in the card game of bridge, it is sometimes a wise to pause and ask to have a review of the bidding.  The Vice President-President, Dickless Cheney was in Pakistan and
Afghanistan the past two days.  He was talking tough to Pakistani President General Musharaf (in public) but who knows what was being said in private.  The focus of US concern is the tribal area along the
Afghanistan boarder where Taliban and Al Qaeda loyal militias are training and preparing for a spring offensive.  It is a bit ironic to be complaining since that country side is mountainous and extremely difficult to access.  So, if Musharaf said, “Dick, why don’t you and your guys go in there and take care of things yourself”, there would be little chance of success.  So in a strange way, keeping coalition troops out of Pakistan is actually doing the
US a favor.  Read “Charlie Wilson’s War” if you have any questions and refresh your memories about what the mighty Russian Army experienced.
Unlike Iraq, winning (or at least not losing) in
Afghanistan has some valuable consequences.  We already know what the Taliban would be like.  And it is going to take decades for
Afghanistan to mature into modernity.  Finding a winning strategy I think will look more like “status quo”, no lose position and will demand tactics and resources consistent with this objective.  I can just hear George the Bush standing up there saying, “my fellow Americans, in
Afghanistan we are playing to not lose”.  If god is on our side (or at least George’s) how is it possible that we would not win?
In all likelihood, Dickless will head onto
Iraq where as he has often said, there is a lot of good things happening.  There will probably be a spontaneous parade where the Iraqi citizens pour out there love and appreciation of the good life the Cheney-meister has brought them.  Regardless, this is a war we do not have to win (not to mention that there is zero chance that any outcome will look like the neocons had predicted)…  democracy in action with equality of sexes and a full acceptance of modernity.  Not likely.
All the while, the really big issues facing us are going unattended.  There is no program for reducing dependence on oil or the reduction of CO2 emissions.  There is no program for tackling the ethical and financially responsible aspects of health care. 
America is picking up speed in becoming a land of haves and have nots.  And, there is no program to regenerate the engine of science and manufacturing and begin to repair and rebuild our national capability to create real wealth.  Where is national leadership when you need it?

The Iran Danger?

February 26, 2007

Secretary of State Condelisa Rice spoke in perfect Foggy Bottom speak yesterday when saying that she was ready to negotiate with Iran once they ceased enriching uranium.  This is a great position since the positive outcome of any negotiations would be for the Iranians to agree to ceasing enrichment.  Other than having the biggest stick to club the other person, there is little chance for this type of international discussion.  She knows that, so why would she say something like that?

The first answer I would jump to is that Uncle Dick the Cheney told her to say that so he could continue the threatening gestures towards Iran, and just maybe, to use it as pretext for military action should things in Iraq go really bad.  The second answer I would come up with is that she was tired and could not remember what her State Department had just concluded in negotiations with North Korea.  In those discussions, “stop what you are doing and then we will talk” went no place and more sensible minds in China intervened.  Ironically Iran represents the same opportunity and both China and Russia could play a large and positive role.

Let’s recognize what should be obvious, that Iran plus nuclear weapons is in no ones best interest.  Both Russia and China see trade as a big opportunity and certainly do not want another Islamic bomb sitting on their doorsteps.  All that stands in the way of their help is the current US position (and ambitions).  The black/white neocons see oil or no oil and there is little they will not do in order to secure its supply (and the chance to extract a small fee for their efforts).

The new Democratic majority should consider issuing a position statement that any military action against Iran without first obtaining consent of the House and the Senate, would lead to articles of impeachment for the Secretary of State and the Vice President.  (As an unmentioned sentiment, the impeachment of the President is as justified, but until the Vice President is removed, strangely we are better off with Bush as President.)

As I think about all of this I do not see an Iran danger, I see a Cheney, Rice, and Bush danger.

NeoCon Logic ?

February 25, 2007

Last week we heard from Republican conservatives that US Representative John Murtha was championing a “slow bleed” strategy with his proposals to cease sending troops to Iraq without the correct equipment and training.  I view Murtha’s proposals as emminently reasonable criteria except that it puts in focus “the seat of the pants” running of the Iraq campaign.  The amazing thing to me is that “slow bleed” is contrasted with “no bleed” for an immediate pull out and “fast bleed” for the surge tactic.  What are these people thinking?

In today’s news there are suggestions that the Republican line will morph to any suggestions or actions that in any way impede the surge such as funding requirements or troop pull outs or repudiation of the Iraq War resolution will be labeled as “anti-support” of our troops.  I ask you again, what are they thinking?

President Bush rushes the US into war based upon an immenent threat that later turns out to be baseless.  The military goes in without all its equiptment (as Colonel Rummy said, “you go to war with the Army you got”).  Soon after the Hussein regime fell, we began to find out that there is no plan to win the peace nor had any one leader been picked.  We have now lost more soldiers in Iraq than there were deaths due to 9/11 and for a cause totally unrelated to 9/11.  Fast forward to today and we have an Administration that has no plan to end the war and they ask us to “support the troops” and give them another blank check?

There is no doubt that what the Administration is not saying is their goal remains a long term presence in Iraq and a hefty share of the oil revenues.  If US troops are removed, then these objectives become problematic.  I would think that Administration officials also suspect that if there is a pull out instigated by the American people through their elected representatives, it will not be long before more and more questions will be raised about why did we go to war and was that a legal (under international law) decision.  Since there was no imminent threat and the UN did not vote to authorize, I think the answer will be clear.   To avoid these two ugly outcomes, the neocon position is to keep fighting with other citizens’ sons and daughters.  The neocons are true American heros.

Lose Now and Lose Later

February 24, 2007

The black/white, yes/no, right/wrong, good/evil, rich/poor, and friend/enemy world that Bush, Cheney, Rove, and friends bring us every day is enormously unfit for today’s world. This over simplistic view certainly aids the party in power to rule and utilize fear and patriotism without offering sound supporting reasons.  But even more important is that it shields the government from seeing the world and our country as a complex system of intertwining causes and effects.  Setting up the idea that Al Qaeda and its friends are the number one threat to America is as dangerously short sighted with regard to longer term implications as it is handy for the Bush crowd to manipulate and distract the electorate.

The longer term implications most suscinctly is the world competitiveness of the US and whether our country is becoming more competitive or less competitive while we waste away time, lives, and resources on the Iraq war and all the other wrong header Bush goverment positions.  I submit we are doing all we can to become a second rate country in the decades ahead.  But it does not have to be that way.

The scandalous interference by political hacks with world recognized NASA experts on global warming is a good example.  Or the championing of “no child left behind” where the government support is around measurable standards of achievment (teaching to the test) and little or no funding to enable our nations schools to deal with the social fabric that limits the future of many students to learn is another.   This current situation will not lead to a generation of students who can compete globally.  Who do you know who can speak Mandarin?  Who do you know that understands the Hindu and Sikh religions (what do their beliefs teach, what do they value)?  Who do you know who wants to become an engineer and make things, things that lead to jobs, jobs that can pay well?

We are clearly the world’s most militarily powerful country today and probably will be for some time.  We are a country of 300 million and China and India together are at least 3 billion.  These countries are developing rapidly and will seek exponentially more and more of the same resources we are used to using.  Oil, gas, and, metals of all types, as well as natural resources such as fish, meats, grains, and wood will rise in price do to supply and demand.  At some point there will be friction over who gets what and for how much.  What will we do then, invade again?

This is the BIG type of issue our government should be addressing because it is real and bigger than anything any state, company, or individual can deal with.  Government analysis and leadership in enabling competitiveness is key.  Building competitiveness can only be accomplished by the private sector. 

I would offer that the following three “man to the moon” type initiative are ready and waiting to be championed and will serve as the core for a resurgence of competitiveness within the US.  They are:

1. By 2015, a reduction by 50% of oil consuption from today’s levels combined with a similar reduction in CO2 emissions.  While we will probably find no silver bullet, these goals will not be reached without a significant increase in solar sources (wind, sun, geothermal).  The benfits include a healthier environment as well as less dependence on foreign sources of oil.

2. By 2010, a national health care system that provides quality care with dignity for all living in the US.  This entails the creation and funding of a single payer system and a set of principles on how we will allocate scarce medical resources (such as beds, equipment, top doctors, drugs).  Our country is currently rotting from within and one major cause is the immoral and unethical distribution of health care.  With a fair system, we can begin to discuss other social issues that divide us.  With less division, our country will be able to focus better and become more competitive.       

3. By 2008, there needs to be a coordinated national effort to foster scientific education and its application to engineering and manufacturing.  Wealth is created by mining, growing, or making.  We need to rejuvernate our manufacturing base in an environmentally friendly way as well as to provide good jobs with dignity.  We seem to be living in the last days of American manufacturing greatness.  Jobs are flowing overseas driven their mainly on lower cost of wages.  A country without good jobs can not endure.

Ending the Iraq War is not losing (as Cheney would like you to think).  It is actually the beginning of winning.  It will give us the chance to put our national energies against these three great initiatives as well as go through a period of reflection and understanding of what type of thinking got us into this mess in the first place.  Let’s begin to win.

American Wisdom

February 23, 2007

US Representative John Murtha is proposing legislation that would place requirements on the Administration should they decide to deploy more troops.  These requirements seem wholly reasonable to me, like troops being deployed must have time to train and train with the equipment they will use in Iraq.  But apparently to a large number of Americans, this sounds like micro-managing and they don’t like it.  These same Americans simply want the troops to come home now, no messing around.

I do not know whether an immediate withdrawal or a phased withdrawal is best, and I do not know the time that should be allowed.  But what I do feel strongly about is that we should not be pulling out because we are losing, or because there are costs that seem too high.  Money and soldiers lives are part of every war and you should not suddenly wake up one day and say you do not like the war for that reason.

We should be setting about developing a withdrawal plan because we made a mistake and never should have gone in the first place.  This is a hard pill for most Americans to swallow.  They were fooled by the wrong headed Bush Administration propaganda and fixed in their minds that the Iraq war as a modern day WWII.  Wrong, I am sorry to say. 

Even more tragic will be the reaction and feelings of families, moms, dads, brothers and sisters who lost someone close to them in Iraq.  Pulling out could come across as their loss was in vein.  Wrong again in that for the most part the American military has distinguished itself honorably and with professionalism.  (I know about Abu Grab and the other incidents of murder and rape… the murders and rapes were isolated and not representative of the rest of the military.  Abu Grab was purely a reflection of the tone at the top – read White House – and those who were caught up in it should be freed soon and people like Cheney and Rumsfeld should take their places).

In our rush for what ever our reasons to get the troops out of harms way, we can not lose sight that this war was illegal, immoral, and should never have been fought.  We must keep going back to what rhetoric was used to hype and scare the American people into thinking this was patriotic.  We must examine and reexamine the justifications and who knew what and when.  It is only through such a review and recognition, will we have a chance of avoiding this situation again.

You might think that the lessons are clear and no would be so foolish.  Wrong.  Bush, Rove, and the gang have shown how you can high jack the country, loot the treasury through use of no bid contracts and lots of contractors.  They have shown how to get a second 4 year term when they deserved jail instead.  They came very close to having convinced the counry that we are in 1984 times and there was evil in the world and we must, as a country, stay on war footing.  Had it not been for Bush’s gross incompetence, we might be looking at a neoconservative (and maybe religious fundamentalist) dynasty.

This was a close call.  American wisdom has grasped part of the issue and wants to stop the war.  I am convinced if the public sees and hears more information about how we got there, they will conclude wisely again.

American Wisdom

February 23, 2007

US Representative John Murtha is proposing legislation that would place requirements on the Administration should they decide to deploy more troops.  These requirements seem wholly reasonable to me, like troops being deployed must have time to train and train with the equipment they will use in Iraq.  But apparently to a large number of Americans, this sounds like micro-managing and they don’t like it.  These same Americans simply want the troops to come home now, no messing around.

I do not know whether an immediate withdrawal or a phased withdrawal is best, and I do not know the time that should be allowed.  But what I do feel strongly about is that we should not be pulling out because we are losing, or because there are costs that seem too high.  Money and soldiers lives are part of every war and you should not suddenly wake up one day and say you do not like the war for that reason.

We should be setting about developing a withdrawal plan because we made a mistake and never should have gone in the first place.  This is a hard pill for most Americans to swallow.  They were fooled by the wrong headed Bush Administration propaganda and fixed in their minds that the Iraq war as a modern day WWII.  Wrong, I am sorry to say. 

Even more tragic will be the reaction and feelings of families, moms, dads, brothers and sisters who lost someone close to them in Iraq.  Pulling out could come across as their loss was in vein.  Wrong again in that for the most part the American military has distinguished itself honorably and with professionalism.  (I know about Abu Grab and the other incidents of murder and rape… the murders and rapes were isolated and not representative of the rest of the military.  Abu Grab was purely a reflection of the tone at the top – read White House – and those who were caught up in it should be freed soon and people like Cheney and Rumsfeld should take their places).

In our rush for what ever our reasons to get the troops out of harms way, we can not lose sight that this war was illegal, immoral, and should never have been fought.  We must keep going back to what rhetoric was used to hype and scare the American people into thinking this was patriotic.  We must examine and reexamine the justifications and who knew what and when.  It is only through such a review and recognition, will we have a chance of avoiding this situation again.

You might think that the lessons are clear and no would be so foolish.  Wrong.  Bush, Rove, and the gang have shown how you can high jack the country, loot the treasury through use of no bid contracts and lots of contractors.  They have shown how to get a second 4 year term when they deserved jail instead.  They came very close to having convinced the counry that we are in 1984 times and there was evil in the world and we must, as a country, stay on war footing.  Had it not been for Bush’s gross incompetence, we might be looking at a neoconservative (and maybe religious fundamentalist) dynasty.

This was a close call.  American wisdom has grasped part of the issue and wants to stop the war.  I am convinced if the public sees and hears more information about how we got there, they will conclude wisely again.

Iran, the Real Bad Guys in Iraq

February 22, 2007

If you have read the book “Charlie Wilson’s War” you know it was about Afghanistan and not
Iran.  And if you have read the book, you know it is standard procedure for the CIA or any other country’s spy agency to have “deniability”.  That is, if you are shipping arms into to foreign country and the arms are discovered, you want to be able to say “you know nothing”.

Incidentally, Charlie Wilson was a US representative from
Texas who is credited with steering large amounts of essential funding through Congress to the CIA who in tern supplied Osama and many others with arms to fight the Russians.  The tipping point turned out to be the supply of Stinger, ground to air, shoulder fired missiles.  The Stingers effectively took the Russian helicopters out of action, and with the loss of air cover, the Russians were exposed to a slow defeat in that rugged terrain.

Shifting to
Iraq, there has been a question for several years where the insurgents got their munitions.  Who was supplying and who was funding?  At first it was munitions looted from unprotected Iraqi bases but following that, especially when “shaped charges” were introduced, someone new was either supplying or teaching insurgents how to make and supply.  Who might that be?

Frankly, I do not know but I suspect it is the usual suspects.  Arms and how to use are available for a price whether you are in Africa, Pakistan, Palestine, or
Iraq.  The next logical question is who is paying?  The US government announced yesterday the alleged involvement of
Iran.  There is certainly a means and a desire but surely that can not be all the involvement in
Iraq.  Paul Krugman, columnist for the NYT said in today’s paper that one should suspect Saudi money flowing to the Sunnis in an effort to offset part of
Iran’s influence.

Who knows?  The points here is that (1) a surge of 20,000 will never come to grips with this outside influence.  We need only expect soon the request for more troops.  (2) Why would the Bush crowd only implicate the Iranians when we know they are more sophisticated than that and it is unlikely they would be supplying Sunnis and Kurds too?  (3) This is one more example of how simple minded the Bush people are or how low they assume our intelligence to be if we would swallow the one sided line about the Iranians.

Slight of Mouth

February 22, 2007

Vice President Cheney, Americas symbol of free speech and democracy, has again lashed out at those who would criticize him or his policies that the Administration is following.  There should be no mistake that Cheney’s comments are meant to do more than counter the criticism.  They are meant to drive attention away from the fundamental errors of his leadership.

First, what did he say?  All the way from Tokyo, Dick, through an interview accused Speaker Polosi and Representative Murtha of aiding Al Quaeda.   Cheney claimed that Polosi and Murtha’s statements asking for an end to the surge and setting a withdrawal plan emboldened the enemy.  Cheney’s comments flow from the neoconservative story book that to leave Iraq now would lead to unimaginable chaos as well as to establish a safe haven for Al Quaeda. 

Aren’t you struck by the thought… “and why are you just realizing that now.  Why did you not consider that before you invaded Iraq in the first place?”

But I submit, Cheney’s real purpose in making these statements is different.  He wants us to focus on the situation today and not how we got there.  Let’s argue over how many troops, what objectives, and ultimately, when to withdraw.  And by doing so, Cheney keeps the discussion away from the spotlight that in most likelihood, will show this is an illegal war.  The US went into Iraq on the thin justification that Iraq posed an imminent threat and we did not need either a UN supporting resolution nor did we need the support of Germany, France, and Russia (unlike Afghanistan where we had wide consensus).  There was no yellow cake, no WMD, no link to Al Quaeda, and no link to 9/11.  In short, there was no imminent threat.  That sounds to me like an illegal act.

In 2002 and 2003, there was plenty of information that counseled for a slower and more careful approach, but Cheney and the “neocons” either intimidated or co-opted most of the news media (TV, radio, and press).  The congress was already compromised with each member’s preoccupation with raising campaign money.   So when most of our elected leaders saw the public sentiment following the words flowing with Cheney’s and his mouthpiece, President Bush, they quickly went fully docile.  The period of 2002 and 2003 represent a sorry time in our countries government and public leadership.  There is plenty of shame to go around.

Let us not be fooled with today’s rhetoric and keep coming back to how did we get into this mess in the first place.  This is important if we are to minimize the chances we will do it again.

No impeachment? How will we learn?

February 21, 2007

The Democratic Party leader and Speaker of the House of Representatives has said  “Impeachment” is off the table.  While this is a sound move as an attempt to build a more cohesive governing process, it begs the question as to how our nation can learn from the flawed policies and methods that Bush et al used to get the US involved in a land war in
Iraq.

A lesson from the “Scooter” Libby trial goes something like this.  The Vice Presidents intense interest in the Op-Ed piece by Ambassador Joseph Wilson refuting the existence of the sale of yellow cake to
Iraq is said by the VP to be not involve him but rather the failing of the CIA.  And further the outing of
Wilson’s wife did not happen, at least by intent, we are asked to believe.  And, this incredible act was not intended to send a message to others who might try to share similar information that could expose the constructed nature of the government’s justification for invading
Iraq. 

The yellow cake story also brought public attention to the potential illegal nature of this war.  Lacking UN authorization, what is the justification for
US action?  At the time the administration simply claimed the UN was essential incompetent and unable (or unwilling) to do the hard work to find the WMD connections.  Now with the fullness of time, we can see that each and every possible justification including “imminent” threat were not true.  What then is the justification?

We have heard Prime Minister Blair and President Bush both parrot the same phase… “Sadamm was an evil person and the world is better off with him removed from power”…  This is on the surface a dangerous statement upon which to base precedence since we have a spotted history of taking action against “evil” people, and frankly we lack the resource to go after all the evil and bad people remaining in power in other countries.  At the end of the day, being an evil person is not grounds for going to war without some broad world consensus.

There needs to be more thorough investigation of the Vice President’s actions leading up to the start of the
Iraq war.  The role of Paul Wolfowicz and Doug Feith, and the coordinated efforts of Chaney and Rumsfeld to counter and neutralize Colin Powel are linked in a firmly believed view of
America’s destiny.  The problem we have is that to achieve this destiny they contorted the wheels of government’s proper processing.  In business we would say, they cooked the books.

In my opinion these actions rise to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors” and should be the subject of impeachment hearings.  Unless we face up to this, our nation will face a future where our moral credibility is missing and our view of our capabilities to make things happen in the world will be sadly mistaken.  And lastly, I think a full set of hearings will ultimately lead to the Presidents door step.  It is not that he thought any of this up… he is frankly too lazy and lacks the mental rigor to have orchestrated this mess.  But I believe he was after a point a full and willing participant in the execution and subsequent cover-ups.

This not about vengeance versus Bush, this is about clearing the air of some wrong headed thinking and setting our country’s future course on sounder grounding.  What do you think we are going to do when China or
India decide to pursue some policy they feel is critical to their national needs?