Saturday, September 29, 2012
> Greater China
> Sep 27, 2012
> China's security boss surveys Hindu Kush
> By M K Bhadrakumar
> For such a high-level exchange after such a pronounced gap of nearly half a century, Beijing actually said very little indeed about the unannounced four-hour visit to Kabul on Saturday by Zhou Yongkang, the ninth ranking member of the Politburo and China's security boss - although it pointedly took note that the "last [such] visit was made by late Chinese leader Liu Shaoqi in 1966 when he was the President of China".
> Zhou's senior status make Beijing's reticence seem all the more curious, particularly as the Hindu Kush and the adjoining Pamirs and the Central Asian steppes are nowadays teeming with the "foreign devils on the Silk Road".
> An air of suspense hangs around Zhou's visit, especially since his itinerary originally didn't include the stop-over in Kabul. He was to have proceeded to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, following a two-day visit to Singapore, but diverted to Kabul for a four-hour halt. The detour, of course, makes the visit at once historical and topical.
> The context of the visit needs to be carefully surveyed. From a long-term perspective, a joint declaration between China and Afghanistan on "the establishment of a strategic and cooperative partnership" issued in Beijing after a visit by Afghan President Hamid Karzai in June marked a new step in the development of the bilateral relations.
> The declaration identified security as one of the "five pillars that will underpin" the Sino-Afghan partnership and affirmed that the two countries would "intensify exchanges and cooperation" in security, including "enhancing intelligence exchanges".
> No 'Apocalypse Now' …
> With the "transition" in Afghanistan set to shift up a gear through 2013 - as the last residues of the United States' "surge" are pulled back from the war theater and as the 2014 deadline approaches for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to withdraw - Beijing seems destined to play a larger role.
> In terms of China's national priorities over the development of its eastern regions, especially Xinjiang, and the consolidation of its rapidly expanding economic investments in Afghanistan and Central Asia, Beijing has no choice but to project itself as a stakeholder in the stabilization of Afghanistan.
> In a brief commentary on Zhou's visit to Kabul, Global Times newspaper noted:
>> Within China, there is also heated debate over the role that China should play … But it is generally agreed that the deterioration of the Afghan domestic situation will benefit nobody; for China, the stability of its northwestern bordering regions will be directly influenced and overseas Chinese in the region will face greater security problems.
>> Historically, Afghanistan has been a nightmare for many big powers.
>> As a neighbor of Afghanistan, China has a keen interest in the security of this region. How to help Afghanistan walk out of the shadow of long-term wartime chaos poses a big challenge to China's diplomacy.
> Zhou underlined in a written statement as he arrived in Kabul, "It is in line with the fundamental interests of the two peoples for China and Afghanistan to strengthen a strategic and cooperative partnership, which is also conducive to regional peace, stability and development."
> Clearly, the accent was on the bilateral cooperation with the assurance held out to any third parties concerned that Sino-Afghan cooperation would be a factor of stability for the region.
> How does China view the Afghan situation?
> The last major statement on Afghanistan by China was made hardly a week before Zhou's visit to Kabul on Sunday, during the United Nations Security Council discussion in New York on Afghanistan. The striking aspect of the speech by Ambassador Li Baodong was its underlying tone of hope and positive expectations.
> Li said, "The peace and reconstruction process in Afghanistan was achieving positive results, the transfer of security responsibilities to national forces was moving along smoothly, the Afghan economy was improving, and trade and cooperation with other countries was being scaled up."
> However, Li indirectly criticized NATO's strategy in flagging that the transfer of security responsibilities must proceed slowly and saying the international community must continue to help to improve the security situation.
> Indeed, he put on record China's serious concerns over recent incidents of violence, especially the high number of civilian casualties, and he called on NATO forces to conduct its operations according to international law so as to ensure the safety and protection of civilians.
> The most interesting part of Li's speech was in articulating China's belief that Afghanistan's stabilization needs to be sought through greater integration with the region "in line with the principle of mutual benefit and cooperation" and by "making full use of existing mechanisms" such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
> Evidently, Beijing doesn't subscribe to the inevitability of "Apocalypse Now" in the Hindu Kush in the post-2014 period. Suffice to say, Zhou's visit to Kabul needs to be weighed first and foremost as a strong affirmation of support for Karzai's government.
> From Beijing's viewpoint, Karzai has been a reliable friend who walked the extra mile to boost Sino-Afghan relations.
> … nor any zero-sum game
> From Karzai's perspective, support from Beijing may already have become irreplaceable, more so at the present juncture when his equations with Washington have again become problematic and uncertain.
> NATO has summarily suspended the training for the Afghan police force and the Afghan defense ministry has apparently scaled back NATO's involvement in joint operations with the Afghan forces below battalion level.
> There have been several instances in the recent weeks indicative of the poor chemistry between Kabul and Washington.
> The most glaring instance was the concern voiced by Karzai about the security pacts signed with the US earlier this year.
> Negotiations over the long-term US military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 are due to commence in three weeks time. At such a juncture, Zhou's visit, coming as it did on the eve of Karzai's trip to the US, most certainly helps the Afghan leader gain more negotiating space vis-a-vis Washington.
> Karzai feels particularly agitated over the excessive interest that the US takes in influencing Afghan domestic politics, which is entering a delicate phase even as jockeying has begun in right earnest over the Afghan presidential elections due in end-2014.
> Karzai told Zhou, "China is a good and honest friend of Afghanistan … We are looking forward to a broader and strong cooperation with China."
> Zhou reciprocated that the Chinese government fully respects the right of the Afghan people to choose their own path of development and will actively participate in Afghanistan's reconstruction.
> Zhou signed three agreements on increased security and economic cooperation, including a Memorandum of Understanding on an "action plan" for the implementation of the joint declaration of June 8, an agreement with the Afghan finance ministry on a US$150 million aid package, and a deal with the Afghan Interior Ministry to "train, fund and equip Afghan police".
> The Global Times said the security agreement aims to "protect the security of China's own projects" in Afghanistan. The state-owned China Metallurgical Group operates the $3 billion Aynak copper mine in the eastern Logar province in Afghanistan, which has been targeted by insurgent groups.
> The three agreements as such didn't warrant a high-level visit, whose main purport seems to have been political. Zhou's visit has most probably sealed an institutional framework of intelligence liaison connecting Beijing and Kabul in real time. Needless to say, this matters a great deal for China. It is following India's example to tap into the excellent "database" of the Afghan intelligence, which has every reason, historically speaking, to be well clued in on a 24x7 basis on the militant groups operating out of Pakistan.
> Without doubt, Karzai has signaled on his part Kabul's political priorities also in the post-2014 period. China's close relationship with Pakistan makes it a valuable ally for Kabul in its despairing efforts to moderate Islamabad's policies.
> The US used to perform such a role before, but today Washington is barely coping with its own woes involving Pakistan.
> However, as a Russian commentary put it, "Hamid Karzai will have to take some pains in order to put up a good show for his Chinese partners. After all, the Americans are not going to surrender their positions to the Chinese."
> This appears a motivated opinion. On the other hand, the big question is whether what is unfolding could be regarded as a zero-sum game at all - notwithstanding the entire panorama of the US' "rebalancing" in the Asia-Pacific and Beijing's wariness over it.
> Arguably, when it comes to the stabilization of Afghanistan, China and the US are still on the same side - and persuading Pakistan to cooperate in the search of a durable settlement will also remain a common objective for the two big powers.
> The speeches made by Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin and by Chinese UN Ambassador Li Baodong at the UN Security Council last Monday present a study in contrast.
> Russia is incessantly taunting the US over the futility of the latter's Afghan strategy, poking fun at it, rubbishing it while constantly asking probing questions for which there are of course no easy answers.
> In contrast, Li offered constructive criticism, with a clear cut and purposive political objective in view.
> Russia is worked up about the issue of the US bases in Afghanistan, whereas China, which could also be sharing Moscow's concerns, is going about the minefield very differently and with great diplomatic aplomb.
> Yet, at the end of the day, it is Russia - and not China - that is cooperating with NATO in Afghanistan at a practical level by offering efficient, dependable and open-ended transit facilities for NATO to ferry its supplies.
> Actually, China is openly insisting that it isn't involved in a zero sum game with the US and that, on the contrary, the interests of China and the US and its allies mesh as regards the stabilization of Afghanistan, and there is no fundamental contradiction as such.
> Coincidence or not, just last week, the influential Chinese think tanker Pan Guang, vice chairman of Shanghai Center for International Studies at Shanghai Academy, made an unprecedented presentation before the American strategic community on the topic, "Understanding China's Role in Central Asia and Afghanistan." This happened just four days before Zhou's unannounced trip to Kabul.
> Pan is easily recognizable for strategic analysts as an authoritative voice on Track II. But what makes things quite spicy is that he also happens to be a key adviser to Zhou's ministry in Beijing on Central Asia and Afghanistan (although his area of specialization used to be Israel).
> Pan spoke for over an hour on China's role in Central Asia and Afghanistan.
> He focused on China's interest in fighting terrorism and extremism in the region as well as China's interests in containing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, promoting energy and economic development, and supporting Afghanistan in its post-war reconstruction.
> The running theme of his presentation was that like the United States, China is interested in tackling issues such as transnational crime, illegal immigration, environmental degradation, water resource shortage, and emerging public health issues.
> Pan acknowledged that Beijing has different views of political reform in Central Asia, the alignment of energy pipelines in the region, and the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan. At the same time, he concluded that both China and the US are playing an increasingly crucial role in Central Asia, where they have common and divergent interests, cooperation and competition.
> A profound message
> Broadly echoing Pan's thought process, the Global Times summed up Zhou's visit: "China has a good opportunity to boost its global image and fulfill its international obligations. While many Western strategists stick to their mentality of dominating world politics, China is making pragmatic moves to safeguard the interests of not only itself but also the whole region."
> A redeeming feature of Zhou's sudden Kabul trip that may get overlooked in the overall excitement over it but could be of pivotal importance for regional security is that it took place at a period when Afghan-Pakistan tensions have sharply escalated.
> In fact, only last week, Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rassoul warned the UN Security Council that continued Pakistani shelling of Afghanistan's border provinces jeopardized bilateral relations, "with potential negative consequences for necessary bilateral cooperation for peace, security and economic development in our two countries and the wider region".
> Curiously, government-owned China Daily prominently featured a Xinhua report on Sunday - even as Zhou was heading for Kabul - on the Afghan parliament's endorsement of Kabul's latest plan to lodge a formal complaint to the UN Security Council over any Pakistani border shelling.
> The lengthy Xinhua report said, "Pakistan has been occasionally shelling the border areas in the eastern Kunar and Nuristan provinces, forcing locals to flee their houses for shelters, a claim rejected by Pakistan."
> The curious part was that China Daily highlighted the relevant excerpts of Rassoul's condemnatory references to Pakistan in his speech at the UN Security Council last week.
> Now, a tantalizing question arises:
> How would Beijing react to a complaint by Kabul to the UN Security Council regarding Pakistan's violation of Afghanistan's territorial integrity?
> The point is, the Sino-Afghan joint declaration on June 8 commits Beijing and Kabul to "firmly support each other on issues concerning national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity", and, to "enhance coordination and cooperation under the United Nations ... stay in contact and coordinate positions."
> It would seem that Zhou's visit to Kabul in these troubled times also holds a profound message for the "all-weather friendship" between China and Pakistan.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Sunday, September 16, 2012
U.S. Navy, Allies Hold Largest-Ever War Games In Persian Gulf
September 16, 2012
US to flex naval might in Persian Gulf war games
The US Navy is leading its largest-ever war games in the Persian Gulf, with warships from 25 countries being deployed in the region. Tehran, in return, is preparing for its biggest air defense war game in the history of Islamic Republic next month.
The countries that deployed the largest number of warships for the 12-day training mission are the US, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The exact number of aircraft carriers, battleships and submarines taking part is unclear. Three American aircraft carriers out of the four currently in commission are reportedly gathering in the Persian Gulf for the training.
USS Enterprise, USS John C. Stennis and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower have reportedly arrived.
The USS George Washington is believed to be on patrol in the Pacific Ocean but its exact whereabouts are a mystery. It was sighted near the island of Guam one week ago, and the air carrier's Facebook page claims that it is still in the Pacific. But since the ship can travel at over 30 knots, it could be on its way to the Persian Gulf.
The aircraft carriers are supported by at least a dozen warships: Ballistic missile cruisers, destroyers, frigates and assault ships carrying thousand of US Marines and spec ops ships.
Britain dispatched six vessels to the Persian Gulf war games: the HMS Diamond, a brand-new £1 billion worth destroyer, four minesweepers and a logistics vessel.
The joint fleet is expected to simulate destroying Iranian fighter jets, battleships and coastal military defenses like missile batteries.
Attacking Iran cuts both ways for US
Tensions between Iran and Israel over Tehran's controversial nuclear program have been on the uptick. Iran has blamed the US for Israel's possible attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, and promised to retaliate against American interests in the event of such an attack.
On Sunday, Iranian General Mohammad Ali Jafari confirmed that in a conflict with Israel, Iran considers the entrance of the Persian Gulf – the Strait of Hormuz – a legitimate target.
"The US has many vulnerable targets around Iran, and its bases are within the range of the Guards' missiles. We have other capabilities as well, particularly when it comes to the support of Muslims for the Islamic republic," the general said during a press conference in Tehran.
Jafari revealed that Tehran is aware of Israel's unsuccessful attempts to push the US towards military action against Iran, but claimed it was unlikely that an Israeli strike against Tehran's nuclear facilities "would be carried out without US permission."
If Israel attacked Iran, "nothing of Israel will be left, considering its size," he said.
In response, the US, which maintains a heavy military presence in the region, and its allies are increasing military patrols to protect the Strait of Hormuz, which accounts for 40 percent of the world oil shipped by sea.
In Armenia, a country in the Caucasus bordering Iran, a large war game by the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization has been launched.
'Muslims' Movie Producer Was Federal Informant --'I decide to cooperate with the government.' 14 Sep 2012 Before he was involved in the making of a noxious video that provided an excuse for anti-American riots in the Middle East, and before he was convicted of federal bank fraud, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was arrested on charges relating to the making of phencyclidine (PCP). In recent days, we've learned that Nakoula used 14 different aliases in a complex check kiting scheme. We've learned that Nakoula was sentenced to 21 months in federal custody for the affair. According to The Smoking Gun, Nakoula was released from the United States Penitentiary in Lompoc, California in September, 2010... The punishment was relatively gentle, even though it wasn't Nakoula's first encounter with the law. That's because Nakoula had decided to become a federal informant.
Anti-Islam Film Producer Wrote Script in Prison: Authorities 13 Sep 2012 The controversial "Innocence of Muslims" was written, produced and directed by a convicted drug manufacturer and scam artist, who has told authorities he actually wrote the script in federal prison and began production two months after his June 2011 release from custody. Authorities say Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, of Cerritos, California, admitted his role in the film, after seeking help from law enforcement in dealing with death threats he has received since the release of the film.
Armada of British naval power massing in the Gulf as Israel prepares an Iran strike 15 Sep 2012 An armada of US and British naval power is massing in the Persian Gulf in the belief that Israel is considering a pre-emptive strike against Iran's 'covert nuclear weapons programme.' Battleships, aircraft carriers, minesweepers and submarines from 25 nations are converging on the strategically important Strait of Hormuz in an unprecedented show of force as Israel and Iran move towards the brink of war... In preparation for any pre-emptive or retaliatory action by Iran, warships from more than 25 countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will today begin an annual 12-day exercise.
They don't 'hate us for our freedoms.' They hate us because we're sociopaths. Nato airstrike 'kills eight women and girls' in Afghanistan --Seven victims in hospital as villagers take bodies to provincial governor's office after women gathering firewood are hit 16 Sep 2012 Eight women and girls gathering firewood were killed by a Nato airstrike in Afghanistan early on Sunday, according to Afghan officials. The coalition says it believes only insurgents were hit. But villagers from Alingar district in the remote Laghman province, east of Kabul, brought the bodies to the governor's office in the provincial capital, said Sarhadi Zewak, a spokesman for the provincial government. "They were shouting 'death to America' They were condemning the attack," Zewak said. Seven females were taken to area hospitals, some as young as 10, said provincial health director Latif Qayumi.
24 Afghans killed in US-led airstrikes 16 Sep 2012 At least 24 people, including eight women, have been killed in two US-led airstrikes on the eastern provinces of Kunar and Laghman in Afghanistan. Local witnesses said on Sunday that at least eight women died and several others were wounded in an overnight attack in Laghman.
Afghanistan: Six killed by insiders, insurgents blow up $180m in jets --Green-on-blue attacks in Afghanistan have killed at least 51 international troops this year. 16 Sep 2012 At least six coalition soldiers were killed in Afghanistan this weekend in two separate incidents where members of the Afghan security forces turned their weapons against international forces. In Afghanistan's southern Zabul province, four coalition soldiers were reportedly killed by a group of Afghan police who turned their weapons on international troops. The other incident occurred on Saturday and left two British soldiers dead. News of the latest so-called "green-on-blue" killings adds to what has become a serious and lethal trend confronting international forces here.
Afghan police forces kill 4 US-led soldiers 16 Sep 2012 At least four US-led soldiers have been killed by Afghan police forces in southern Afghanistan, as attacks on foreign troopers rage on in the war-ravaged country. NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said the latest insider attacks on the foreign soldiers were carried out on Sunday. On Saturday, an Afghan soldier killed two US-led soldiers in the southern province of Helmand.
Karzai slams US for failing to transfer of Bagram inmates to Afghanistan 16 Sep 2012 Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has criticized the US for failing to transfer the control of hundreds of inmates at the Bagram Detention Center to Afghan authorities. Karzai slammed Washington for not transferring some 600 inmates over to Afghan control, about a week after the prison was handed over to Afghanistan. "Delay in the handing over of prisoners after September 9th is a serious violation of the agreement signed between Afghanistan and the United States," the Afghan president said in a statement on Sunday.
Sudan rejects addition of Marines at US Embassy 15 Sep 2012 Sudan has rejected a U.S. request to send a platoon of Marines to bolster security at the U.S. embassy outside Khartoum, the state news agency SUNA said on Saturday. Earlier Saturday, a U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to disclose details on the troop movement, said Sudan's objection held up the deployment of 50 Marines. A U.S. official said the Marines had already set off for Khartoum but had been called back pending further discussions with Sudan.
U.S. orders embassy staff to leave Tunis, Khartoum 15 Sep 2012 The United States ordered non-essential staff to leave its embassies in Tunisia and Sudan on Saturday after both diplomatic posts were attacked and Khartoum rejected a U.S. request to send a platoon of Marines to bolster security at its mission there. "Given the security situation in Tunis and Khartoum, the U.S. State Department has ordered the departure of all family members and non-emergency personnel from both posts, and issued parallel travel warnings to American citizens," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement. The U.S. embassies in Tunis and Khartoum were attacked on Friday by protesters infuriated by a widely disseminated anti-Islamic film, made in the United States, that insults the Prophet Mohammad.
Anti-U.S. fury widens in Muslim world as protests rage in many countries 15 Sep 2012 From Tunis to Cairo to Jakarta, Indonesia, the Muslim world erupted in protests aimed at the United States on Friday as anger over a video that mocks the prophet Muhammad [and US imperialism that kills, maims and displaces millions while claiming contracts on their oil] boiled over into assaults on embassies or demonstrations in nearly two dozen countries.
FBI arrest suspect over 'bomb plot' --The device he planted was provided to him by undercover federal agents [as usual]. 16 Sep 2012 An 18-year-old man has been arrested in Chicago on suspicion of plotting a bomb attack. Adel Daoud, said to be a US citizen of Arab descent, was caught in an FBI sting operation. Agents allege he was attempting to detonate what he thought was a car bomb outside a city centre bar. He has been charged with trying to use a weapon of mass destruction and trying to blow up a building, though the device that he planted was a bogus provided to him by undercover federal agents posing as extremists.
FBI Clears Halliburton Crew in Loss of Radioactive Tool --Austin National Guard team joins FBI, locals in hunt for radioactive drilling rod 14 Sep 2012 Halliburton Co. crew members who lost a radioactive rod used in drilling wells in West Texas weren't guilty of criminal conduct, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said as a hunt for the tool entered a fourth day. FBI officials working with the Texas Department of Transportation questioned three employees who were unable to locate the device this week after it went missing on a 130-mile (209-kilometer) route from Pecos to Odessa, according to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission incident report today. A National Guard unit based in Austin sent a three-person team with detection gear yesterday to assist local officials, said Amy Cook, a spokeswoman for the Guard.
Poll: Obama up by 11 in Pennsylvania 16 Sep 2012 More evidence that President Obama has a big lead in the key state of Pennsylvania. A new Philadelphia Inquirer Pennsylvania Poll puts Obama ahead of Republican Mitt Romney by 50%-39%, putting the incumbent in position for a sixth straight Democratic win in the Keystone State. The Inquirer reports that "the Romney camp clearly has signaled doubts about Pennsylvania by slashing TV ads and candidate appearances. Obama, too, has cut back, and the state lags behind Ohio, Florida, and other swing states as targets for the most intensive campaigning."
Mayor Rahm Emanuel to striking Chicago teachers: See you in court 16 Sep 2012 The Chicago teachers strike may not end the way they want it to: Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans Sunday evening to sue the union and force what he called an illegal strike to end immediately. After little over two hours of reportedly contentious deliberation on Sunday afternoon, 800 teachers union delegates voted against ending the strike after negotiators from the district and the union had reached a tentative deal. Emanuel's office said it had told the city's legal counsel to work with the school district's attorneys to file an injunction in court to return students to their classrooms "immediately."
Chicago teachers union to continue strike 16 Sep 2012 The Chicago teachers union will continue its week-old strike in the nation's third-largest city, keeping thousands of students out of class. The union was considering a proposed contract giving teachers annual raises over three years and offering some laid-off teachers a first shot at jobs at other schools. Officials from the union and school district met until late Saturday to work out the exact language of a contract after announcing Friday that they had reached the "framework" of an agreement that could return 350,000 students to the classroom.
Without final contract, Chicago Teachers Union pushes for end to strike 15 Sep 2012 The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is pushing for a rapid end to the strike of 36,000 teachers along lines dictated by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Even though a contract has not yet been finalized, the CTU has indicated it is hoping to send teachers back to work on Monday. The union is seeking to end the strike even though the teachers have won widespread support from workers in Chicago and throughout the country. A rally planned for Saturday is expected to attract tens of thousands of people, with buses arriving from other states...In other words, the CTU has agreed to massive concessions but does not want to reveal them without carefully packaging them together with supposed "victories."
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Exclusive: America 'was warned of embassy attack but did nothing'
By Kim Sengupta
September 15, 2012 "The Independent" -- The killings of the US ambassador to Libya and three of his staff were likely to have been the result of a serious and continuing security breach, The Independent can reveal.
The writer has a PhD from Stockholm University. He is a Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University. He is also Honorary Senior Fellow of the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. His latest publication is: The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed: Unravelling the 1947 Tragedy through Secret British Reports and First-Person Accounts (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2012; New Delhi: Rupa Books, 2011). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Daily Times, Sunday, September 16, 2012
VIEW : The legacy of Ronald Reagan — Ishtiaq Ahmed
We learn that Reagan had no qualms of conscience in violating the US constitution to sell weapons to Iran. The deal was done via Israel
On September 11, 2012, Swedish television showed a two-hour long documentary on the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan (1981-89). A number of people who knew him closely and had worked with him, including some who had written his biographies, were interviewed. To my very great surprise, I realised that he was an icon who was rated as one of the greatest US presidents.
Born in a working class family, Reagan got a university education. He started his career as a lifeguard at a swimming pool, something his son Ron believes created in him a sense of responsibility to protect others. Later, he worked as a radio announcer, and then, in Hollywood, he became a B-rate actor. Politically, he started as a democrat. His family had benefited from the Great Deal policies of President Franklin Roosevelt and thus survived the ravages of the Great Depression. Reagan became active in the Actors' Union and even took part in some strikes.
However, during the critical McCarthy era (1949-1959) when a crackdown on left-leaning intellectuals was ordered by the FBI, Reagan quickly changed sides and helped the authorities in their enquiries about Communists in the film industry. Later, Reagan worked for General Electric as a salesman, appearing frequently on television to sell electrical gadgetry. At General Electric, he began to cultivate strong pro-business biases. He backed the arch-hawk Republican Barry Goldwater during the 1964 presidential election. Thereafter, he ran for the governorship of the State of California and won. That stint was marked by his repression of student protests and liberation movement in the background of the Vietnam War.
Such conduct endeared Reagan to big business, Christian fundamentalism and general conservative forces in American society. Not surprisingly, he won their backing as the Republican Party's presidential candidate in 1980 against the beleaguered president, Jimmy Carter, who had proved ineffective in getting American hostages released from captivity in Iran. We now know that the then CIA chief, George Bush Senior had negotiated with the Iranians not to release the hostages until the election was over and Carter had been defeated.
Ronald Reagan was vehemently anti-Communist. That led him to increase massively defence spending, which included the Star Wars project. He described the Soviet Union as an evil empire. The binary opposition between freedom (USA) and un-freedom (USSR) defined his approach towards the Soviet Union. He found his Soviet counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev committed to reforming the Soviet system as well as willing to end the arms race. However, historical forces converged instead to set in motion processes that resulted in the disintegration of the Soviet bloc countries. Reagan's admirers attributed the collapse of the Soviet Union to him and hence his reputation as the American president who stood out resolutely against Communism and brought about its collapse.
While most of the interviewees are unequivocal admirers of Reagan and we learn how big business and the media can concoct myths about some individuals to project them as super-heroes, the documentary does have space for critical voices too. We learn that Reagan had no qualms of conscience in violating the US constitution to sell weapons to Iran. The deal was done via Israel, which of course poses questions about the Iranian regime's image as a defender of Islam, but that is another matter. The money procured from the illicit sale of arms to Iran was then used for funding the Nicaraguan Contra movement and other anti-socialist insurrections in Latin America. Reagan lied about no such deal being done, but later when the evidence was provided, he shrugged it off, saying that one should learn from one's mistakes and move on. I recently read a scientific paper that suggests the percentage of psychopaths is much higher among politicians than in many other professions and that does ring a bell.
From the American point of view, the greatest harm Reagan did to the US was to favour the super-rich by drastically cutting taxes. Working class and middle class families were the worst hit by his so-called 'Reaganomics'. Government revenues declined sharply and thus spending on welfare decreased dramatically and unemployment increased while spending on defence skyrocketed. His son Ron Reagan admitted in the film that he found his father's biases in favour of the rich indefensible since his own family had benefited from the New Deal 'welfarism' of Roosevelt. For the first time in history, the US encountered a budget deficit. Over the years that was to become a chronic reality, something from which the US never recovered and which is now a disease endemic to all Western economies.
The documentary omits any mention of what in my opinion has been the greatest harm done by Reagan to the world. By arming Islamist forces during the so-called Afghan jihad (1979-1989), he created a monster far more vicious than the so-called Evil Soviet Empire. No doubt, the Americans succeeded in bringing down their perceived enemy number one without firing a single bullet and without a single American life being lost. However, it has been replaced by a faceless but ubiquitous enemy that adheres to no reason, is contemptuous of international norms and law, and thus not amenable to rational calculations that nation-states are compelled to consider when they deal with each other.
Global jihad does not have access to nuclear weapons yet but it is steeped in a culture of violence and terrorism that has generated so much fanaticism and extremism that for a long time would threaten world peace and could even jeopardise it any time with rash behaviour. If ever such an evil force does get hold of nuclear or chemical weapons, the consequences can be irreparably devastating.
By viciously attacking the welfare state, Ronald Reagan and his close collaborator Margaret Thatcher rendered egotism, greed and opportunism as positive values and downgraded human sympathy and compassion. That such a world is always susceptible to extremism and fundamentalism is not surprising.
The writer has a PhD from Stockholm University. He is a Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University. He is also Honorary Senior Fellow of the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. His latest publication is The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed: Unravelling the 1947 Tragedy through Secret British Reports and First-Person Accounts (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2012; New Delhi: Rupa Books, 2011). He can be reached at email@example.com
Saturday, September 15, 2012
Jeff's review of:
|Blundering to Glory: Napoleon's Military Campaigns|
|By Owen Connelly|
| History 317 -- French Revolution and Naploeon I|
Jan. 22, 1996
Owen Connelly, in Blundering to Glory, does an excellent job tracing Napoleon's miltary campaigns from Toulon to Waterloo. Connelly follows the life of Bonaparte from his family experiences at Corsica through his rule of France and subsequent fall from power after his last defeat, all the while keeping the reader entranced at this child of the French Revolution. The focus is on Napoleon's battlefield genius, and his ability to emerge victorious from any desperate situation, essentially "blundering to glory."
The author is a professor of history at the University of South Carolina and former president of the Society for French Historical Studies. His books include The Epoch of Napoleon, Napoleon's Satellite Kingdoms and the textbook French Revolution and Napoleonic Era. Connelly's military background includes service as an infantry officer in the Korean War and duty as an instructor at the Ranger School, Florida Camp. In providing such a detailed account of Napoleon's military campaigns, the reader is assured that Connelly is well-researched and knows the period of French history.
Blundering to Glory is organized chronologically, covering Napoleon's rapid rise to prominence in the early 1970s with as much exuberance and detail as the disastrous Russian campaign in 1812. My one wish is that Connelly had covered the legacy of Napoleon's wartime tactics for future wars in Europe. There is no doubt that Bonaparte had a tremendous impact on how wars were fought in the 19th century, not only in Europe but in the United States' Civil War as well.
Connelly is very critical of Napoleon, quick to call any mistake a "blunder" or "a waste." He feels that Napoleon was not so much a great general, but rather a good scrambler who never quit. After analyzing the Italian Campaign of 1796-97, Connelly summed up Napoleon's military aptitude of "blundering to glory":
If we look at his military errors, it is evident that Napoleon was not a seer who could divine the movements of the enemy from the start and plan his campaign flawlessly. He won because he never stopped going after the enemy.Napoleon never stopped working, even all through the night, continually looking over maps and talking to his officers. If he failed, he would merely work on a new plan or continually attack the enemy until he wore him down.
I like the way Connelly is not afraid to malign such a hero as Napoleon Bonaparte, and he has no qualms about criticizing any decision made that could be defined as a "blunder." Connelly pounces on Napoleon's campaign in Egypt, saying "the entire affair was a blunder, a waste, and accomplished nothing, militarily or in terms of the power balance." There was no glory to be sought except for Napoleon's own propagandist methods to gain stature politically.
Connelly consistently emphasizes the point that Napoleon was going nowhere without his exceptional officer corps. Concerning the Battle of Castiglione in the Italian Campaign, Connelly says that Bonaparte was taking risks with highly complicated maneuvers, and only his two top-notch generals led him to victory -- "What is certain is that without Massena and Augereau, he probably would have been destroyed."
At the Battle of Auerstadt, Connelly points out that "major credit for destroying the Prussian army must go to Davout," who defeated a greater number of forces. Napoleon had been in action at Jena, ten miles to the south, with a superior advantage over a smaller army of the Prussians, namely because he had "made one gross misjudgment" on the movement of the enemy forces.
Connelly attacks the Emperor for his inability to give Davout recognition for winning such an important battle, because "when it came to sharing reputations, Napoleon was not generous." The Little Corporal praised himself for winning at Jena and proclaimed that was where victory over the Prussians was assured. Connelly rebutts, "if that is not an outright falsifications, it is an interesting piece of self-deception."
In the Russian Campaign of 1812, the Battle of Borodino played a large part in the loss of morale of the troops prior to entering Moscow. The battle was a victory of sorts in that the Russians retreated and the French moved forward to take the capital. Connelly suggests that the battle could have been decisive had Napoleon dispatched the Guard. When Murat and Ney argued that if the Guard had been committed, the battle could have been won with one final assault. However, "Napoleon then displayed a hesitation never know before" and the troops were not sent into the conflict.
Connelly contends that though it is not certain whether the Guard would have won the battle, "it is certain that Napoleon's hesitation gave the Russians a chance to reorganize" on another set hills in order to fight all afternoon.
Connelly also shows how Napoleon benefitted in his victory from the ignorance of his enemy generals. During the winter retreat from the devastating Russian campaign, "probably Napoleon's reputation alone saved the 'Grande Armee' from total destruction." The Russian generals were apprehensive to attack him, afraid of his strategic ability and they were not sure of his troop size.
Connelly attributes the victory at Arcola in November, 1796 more to "incompetence of Alvinczy," the Austrian general, and less to the drive of Napoleon. If Alvinczy had any courage to attack the "'scrambler in the swamps'," or if he had trapped Napoleon's troops in the swamps, the outcome would have differed greatly
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, in part for its military history but also for its insight into Napoleon Bonaparte. I was never aware of the ineptitude he displayed during so many battles and am surprised at the luck he had to stay in power for so long. If not for the fear he instilled in so many people from his charisma and the ability of his subordinates in the army, he would have been out of power rather quickly as leader of France.
I have lost some respect for his battlefield genius because I prefer leaders who need not rely on stubborness to get them through the battle, but instead use ability to see a plan from the start to have it carried through to victory. I came in thinking that Napoleon was a better strategic general than he really was. There is an admiration for his hard work and his proficiency of regrouping and the loyalty he commanded from his people, who were more than ready to have him lead their country for many years longer.
In the end, Connelly keeps the reader fascinated on the magnetic leader and reveals many facets about one of the greatest and most studied figures in history.
"A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself." - Joseph Pulitzer
"Organized religion is like organized crime, it preys on people's weaknesses, generates huge profits for its operators and is almost impossible to eradicate" Mike Hermann
COMMENT : Expecting strawberries from acacia trees — Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur
The previous WGEID's annual report stated that enforced disappearances in Pakistan had reached unprecedented levels, voicing concern over abductions of civilians in Balochistan
The 10-day visit of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID), comprising Olivier de Frouville, Osman El Hajjé and others, to observe the state of human rights, especially in relation to the 'enforced disappearances' primarily blighting Balochistan and to a lesser extent Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh, has evoked indignation and outrage in the National Assembly for its supposed violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and the threat it poses to Pakistan's integrity. Never have I seen a more fragile and insecure country and its representatives who feel threatened by a WGEID delegation comprising internationally respected human rights experts. No Rambos, these.
During its visit, this delegation is to meet federal and provincial government representatives, civil society and family members of the missing persons to collect information about enforced disappearances, with special emphasis on Balochistan, and report back to the UN Human Rights Council, which will review the measures taken by the government for recovering the victims of enforced disappearances. The previous WGEID's annual report stated that enforced disappearances in Pakistan had reached unprecedented levels, voicing concern over abductions of civilians in Balochistan and elsewhere. It is supposed to meet the military leadership and intelligence agencies, but reports say this may not happen.
In the National Assembly, a junior minister, Mohammad Raza Hayat Hiraj, criticising the mission said, "It would be the first step leading towards the disintegration of the country." He also termed it, "a failure on the part of the Foreign Office." The Chief Justice has refused a meeting on flimsy grounds of the matter being sub judice while the Inspector General of FC Balochistan declined on a different plea. Sheer paranoia and xenophobia afflicts the establishment and its representatives but then nothing else can be expected of those fearing scrutiny of their human rights violations and atrocities.
This delegation is here at its organisation's request. I A Rehman in his article, "The UN and the missing" in a national English daily (July 19, 2012) said WGEID had requested Islamabad to invite its mission on September 29, 2010 but was turned down twice. This also belies Hina Rabbani Khar's claim of inviting them. They have come to observe further what the UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay saw and heard during her visit here. After her four-day visit, while addressing a press conference on June 6, she said, "I am concerned by allegations of very grave violations in the context of counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations...These include extrajudicial killings, unacknowledged detention and enforced disappearances," and had stressed, "I see indiscriminate killings, injuries of civilians in any circumstances as human rights violations." She had emphasised that disappearances in Balochistan had become "a focus for national debate, international attention and local despair" and urged the government and the judiciary to investigate and resolve the cases. She regretted not visiting Balochistan and Sindh.
Amina Masood Janjua, the chairperson of the Defence of Human Rights Council, met the delegation and presented a list of 700 persons; they advised her to register the cases with a global body. The chief of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), Nasrullah Bungulzai, says approximately 14, 000 people of Balochistan have been disappeared but ironically, the Missing Persons Commission Chairperson Justice (Retd ) Javed Iqbal has the cheek to tell the delegation that only 29 persons are missing. Although people fear the agencies' reprisals, yet 204 families appeared in person before the Supreme Court seeking recovery of relatives. He not only overlooked those but also the nearly 600 persons who were abducted, tortured, killed and dumped to intimidate those struggling for Baloch rights. The chief of VBMP says they have been allotted two-hour slots to meet the delegations.
The WGEID's intended visit to Balochistan is uncertain because it depends on the UN Department of Safety and Security's (UNDSS) internal security report and security clearance from Interior Minister Rehman Malik. The visit will probably be cancelled on security concerns.
All this simply shows that the leopard will never change its spots. As hard as the Pakistani establishment may try to present itself as an embodiment of tolerance and democracy, it essentially remains the very antithesis of these. Their visceral intolerance of diversity is as bigoted as it is racist to the extent that some Generals threatened changing the Bengali people's identity by 'cleansing' their genes. Khaled Ahmed in his op-ed, 'Genetic engineering in East Pakistan' in a national English daily (July 7, 2012) quotes Major-General (Retd) Khadim Hussain Raja from his recently published book A Stranger in My Own Country: East Pakistan, 1969-1971 (OUP, 2012). He says, "[Enter] Commander East Pakistan General Niazi, wearing a pistol holster on his web belt. Niazi became abusive and started raving. Breaking into Urdu, he said, Main iss h........ qaum ki nasal badal doon ga. Yeh mujhe kiya samajhtey hain. He threatened that he would let his soldiers loose on their womenfolk. There was pindrop silence at these remarks. The next morning, we were given the sad news. A Bengali officer, Major Mushtaq went into a bathroom at the command headquarters and shot himself in the head" (Page: 98).
My exiled friend Sanaullah Baloch, while lamenting the apathy at atrocities against the Baloch tweeted, "Parliamentarians are silent when citizen disappear and their mutilated bodies dumped. They cry when the UN's credible body takes notice of the crime." In reply, I had tweeted, "Expecting parliamentarians here to see or speak about atrocities is like expecting strawberries from acacia (babool) trees." Undoubtedly, expecting justice from Pakistan for the Baloch is as naïve and foolish as expecting strawberries from acacia. It should also be understood that the WGEID's visit will not change Baloch adversity by an iota but will only help highlight their plight. The mentality and the attitude that the Baloch are up against is starkly obvious; Pakistan envisages a solution of its choice. But if among the Baloch there still are people who believe that elections and constitutional politics will secure them their rights, then for them Albert Einstein's quote, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results", is fully applicable.
The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Media manipulation: How to create mis-perceptions about the security establishment?
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New post on The Passive Voices
by fmeducationFirst of the 10 strategies for media manipulation, presented by Noam Chomsky, is the strategy of distraction. The primary element of social control is the strategy of distraction which is to divert public attention from important issues and changes determined by the political and economic elites, by the technique of flood or flooding continuous distractions and insignificant information. Distraction strategy is also essential to prevent the public interest in the essential knowledge in the area of the science, economics, psychology, neurobiology and cybernetics.This strategy is in full play these days as international media, in cahoots with their Pakistani counterparts, is busy day and night in creating misperceptions about Pakistan's security establishment and its intelligence arm. The media works hard to blame the security establishment for anything going wrong anywhere in the world.Take the case of missing persons of Balochistan where Pakistani intelligence agencies are fighting an open war with CIA, Mossad and RAW and arming and aiding the insurgents in a blatant manner. The media is glorifying the atrocities of the insurgents and highlighting the issue of missing persons. In effect, a pro-India section of the media is pressurizing the apex court to indict the security establishment for these missing persons. Although, a judicial panel headed by Justice Javed Iqbal has established that the missing persons are indeed missing but not in the custody of security agencies. They are hiding in the safe havens of a hostile neighbor, yet the apex court is under tremendous pressure to order punitive action against the security agencies.Explaining media manipulations against ISI, an article titled as Misperceptions of Internal Entities against ISI appeared in an online journal. According to this well-researched piece, Indo-Israeli lobbies which are well-penetrated in US-led European NGOs, human rights organizations and media started a deliberate campaign against Pak Army and ISI, implicating for extrajudicial killings and forced abductions. While, fact of the matter is that majority of the missing persons have been killed in subversive acts like bomb blasts, target killings, ethnic and sectarian violence in various places of Pakistan, arranged by American CIA, Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad and their affiliated militants groups. In case of Balochistan, everyone knows that Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and another group, Jundollah (God's soldiers) which have been fighting for secession of the province gets logistic support from CIA and RAW. Their militants kidnapped and killed many innocent people and the security personnel in the province, while claiming responsibility in this respect. And since 2001, a majority of Pakistanis also left for Afghanistan for Jehad purposes, without informing their families, while many people joined the Jahadi groups.According to the article, some journalists have penetrated in Pakistan's media in such a way that it is much difficult for the general masses to understand their real intentions as they are completing the secret agenda of anti-Pakistan elements by maligning country's superior agency. In this regard, Pakistani TV anchors and senior journalists like Hamid Mir and Najam Sethi who also implicate ISI are serving the interests of US and India clandestinely by sabotaging the national interests of Pakistan.The most favorite target of these elements was former head of ISI who took many steps to improve the efficiency of the agency. At that time, intermittently, the US high officials and media have been accusing Pakistan's army and superior spy agency of close contacts with the Afghan Taliban and cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan. Under the pretext of these false allegations, US top officials started insisting upon Islamabad that ISI should be restructured. There were some concrete efforts undertaken in compliance with American desires like transferring control of ISI, tabling of a draft law for taming the ISI and launch of a ruthless media campaign.The US and its allies were against the said ISI chief because of his services such as capture of renowned Taliban commanders and blockage of the activities of Blackwater including CIA agents. Americans were annoyed because ISI interrupted covert activities of the so-called diplomats. In this respect, on the information of this top spy agency, Pakistan's establishment expelled several American spies operating in the country. Taking note of ISI positive role in defending the national interests of Pakistan, American high officials, US-led India and Israel including Indo-Israeli lobbies and foreign media revived propaganda against this agency and its head, raising false allegations.But in Pakistan, anti-Pakistan politicians and media men were rubbishing the services of the intelligence agencies without having any clue to the working of these institutions, and without having a full grasp of the American game plan. The way Pakistan's opportunist politicians and partisan media anchors were attacking ISI made them darling of the anti-Pakistan elements and they were duly rewarded in the form of enhanced international projection and awards disproportionate to their contributions and status.Can media anchors and politicians in the US, India and Israel dare to slate the services of CIA, RAW and Mossad the way Pakistanis have liberty to do?The campaign against the security establishment was launched in a very powerful and professional manner suggesting that external input was handy for the internal players. If you go by the book, some of the main tactics used by the mainstream media to mislead the masses include:a) Lie Big, Retract Quietly: Mainstream media sources (especially newspapers) are notorious for reporting flagrantly dishonest and unsupported news stories on the front page, then quietly retracting those stories on the very back page when they are caught.b) Unconfirmed or Controlled Sources As Fact: Cable news venues often cite information from "unnamed" sources, government sources that have an obvious bias or agenda, or "expert" sources without providing an alternative "expert" view. The information provided by these sources is usually backed by nothing more than blind faith.c) Calculated Omission: Otherwise known as "cherry picking" data. One simple piece of information or root item of truth can derail an entire disinfo news story, so instead of trying to gloss over it, they simply pretend as if it doesn't exist. When the fact is omitted, the lie can appear entirely rational. This tactic is also used extensively when disinformation agents and crooked journalists engage in open debate.d) Distraction and the Manufacture of Relevance: Sometimes the truth wells up into the public awareness regardless of what the media does to bury it. When this occurs their only recourse is to attempt to change the public's focus and thereby distract them from the truth they were so close to grasping. The media accomplishes this by "over-reporting" on a subject that has nothing to do with the more important issues at hand.e) Dishonest Debate Tactics: Sometimes, men who actually are concerned are rarely allowed to share their views or insights without having to fight through a wall of carefully crafted deceit and propaganda. Because the media know they will lose credibility if they do not allow guests with opposing viewpoints every once in a while, they set up and choreograph specialized T.V. debates in highly restrictive environments which put the guest on the defensive, and make it difficult for them to clearly convey their ideas or facts.There are new players of the game who are increasing occupying the online and social. There are Internet trolls, also known as "paid posters" or "paid bloggers." Internet "trolling" is indeed a fast growing industry. Trolls use a wide variety of strategies, some of which are unique to the internet, here are just a few: Make outrageous comments designed to distract or frustrate, pose as a supporter of the truth, then make comments that discredit the movement, dominate discussions, give prewritten responses and accuse the opposition of subscribing to a certain point of view, even if he does not, and then attacks that point of view.
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