Wednesday, March 28, 2007

United States To Attack Iran?

According to this Russian news article, the United States, it seems, is prepping to attack Iran.
Russian military intelligence services are reporting a flurry of activity by U.S. Armed Forces near Iran's borders, a high-ranking security source said Tuesday.

"The latest military intelligence data point to heightened U.S. military preparations for both an air and ground operation against Iran," the official said, adding that the Pentagon has probably not yet made a final decision as to when an attack will be launched.

He said the Pentagon is looking for a way to deliver a strike against Iran "that would enable the Americans to bring the country to its knees at minimal cost."
I don’t know how trustworthy this story is as the Russian media is not always reliable, and is increasingly (and willingly) becoming a tool for the state. And if the United States is poised to attack Iraq, is it just saber-rattling or something else all together?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dinesh D'Souza Advocates Theocracy

Here’s another—much longer—review by Andrew Sullivan of Dinesh D’Souza’s rather despicable book, The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11. I think Sullivan got it right when he says:
The crisis, rather, is of a different kind. It is intellectual, and it is deeper than anything captured by the conventional categories. The sole merit of Dinesh D'Souza's new book is that it acknowledges this intellectual collapse, even as it is itself a document of that collapse; and it proposes a new way forward.
When you’re advocating a theocracy—or theoconservatism—you are essentially trying to abrogate the Constitution. The Bush Administration has done a really good job of dismantling the Constitution already in its war against terrorism (or is it freedom?) and replacing it with a theocratic dogma that Dinesh D’Souza promotes in his book.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Coup In Pakistan?

The blog American Footprints links to an article about the possibility of a coup in Pakistan; which may, or may not, have the support of the United States.

Don’t know why the United States would want to get rid of Musharraf? Aside from the fact that they have found someone better they can do business with on the issue of terrorism, especially someone who is very keen on chasing after Taliban/Al-Qaeda elements along the Afghanistan border with increased vigor, which President Musharraf no longer does.

Or it could be the fact that President Musharraf has become increasingly autocratic of late: his constant refusal to shed his uniform, even after many promises to do so; his demand for another five-year term; lack of progress on the democratic front; etc.

It is highly unlikely any coup is in the works: nothing more than rumors planted to rattle Musharraf's cage. Nevertheless, President Musharraf seems unhinged, of late. Perhaps the time has come for him to go?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

U.S. Congress Weary of Pakistan

In an article in Dawn, the United States Congress passed a bill restricting aid to Pakistan because of its wishy-washy support in the war against terrorism, and lack of progress on the democratic front.
It notes that since Sept 11, 2001, Pakistan has been an important partner in removing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and combating Al Qaeda and international terrorism, “engaging in operations that have led to the deaths of hundreds of Pakistani security personnel and enduring acts of terrorism and sectarian violence that have killed many innocent civilians.”

But it also notes that “senior US military and intelligence officials have stated that the Taliban and Al Qaeda have established critical sanctuaries in Pakistan from where Al Qaeda is rebuilding its global terrorist network and Taliban forces are crossing into Afghanistan and attacking Afghan, US, and International Security Assistance Force personnel.
The U.S. Congress is right to restrict aid because, let’s face it, Pakistan hasn’t been living up to its side of the bargain. By opting out of military operations along the border, especially in the sensitive Federally Administrated Tribal Areas, Pakistan has ceded an advantage to the Taliban/Al-Qaeda combine, who are not only using FATA as a sanctuary, but are staging attacks into Afghanistan.

The other issue, that goes unmentioned in the article, of course, is the man-handling, with threats of bodily harm, to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who had the temerity to question President Musharraf’s authority on certain matters. It’s hardly democratic for a President to bend the law let alone shaping it anyway he sees fit, but President Musharraf has been doing just that—changing laws by personal fiat rather than through the country's democratic institutions. His pattern of behavior is an accordance with that of a dictator.

The U.S. Congress finally sees what President Musharraf for what he is. Even Republicans, who steadfastly supported Pakistan post-9/11, are seeing the light.

US An Imperial Power? Not Really...

Praful Bidwai is a prominent Indian columnist, pacifist, progressive, and noted critic of the United States. No one has beaten the drums of U.S. defeat in Iraq more loudly than Mr. Bidwai.
These critics don't see the disaster's root-cause: the US's project of Empire.

The US wagPublish Posted war on Iraq out of choice. It knew Iraq didn't possess mass-destruction weapons, nor was its government in league with al-Qaeda. The US wanted to bring about "regime change" and "instill some democracy in the heart of the Middle East" -- as part of Bush's Greater Middle East Initiative.
Yes, the invasion and occupation of Iraq is about establishing empire, as Mr. Bidwai writes. And, yes, the claims about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction and links to al-Qaeda were all fabrications to make it easier to release the hounds of war. But if this is true, then why is the United States so bad at building and maintaining empires?

The only reason I can gather is that the United States is neither harsh nor brutal enough to crush the insurgency and subdue a hostile populace. A competent colonial power rewards with one hand and punishes with the other. The United States is doing neither well.
Washington's core-objectives were to secure access to West Asia's energy resources, promote Israel's security, establish its global hegemony, and reduce the global spread of terrorism.
The reasons listed above are boilerplate, wielded by leftists like Mr. Bidwai when sanity leaves them. It’s very cynical, I suppose, to say that the primary reason the United States invaded Iraq was to take the country oil—all of it. Is it not more cynical, not to mention easier, for the United States just to keep Saddam Hussein in power and buy the oil directly sans occupation and the death and misery it brings?

Invade Iraq to protect Israel? A red herring, I say. Since when did Israel ever need protection from Iraq? Israel is quite capable of not only defending itself, but, if necessary, striking Iraq (like in the 1981 attack on its nuclear weapon program) at will. And aside from a few harmless Scud missiles launched during the Gulf War in 1991, Iraq has yet to lay a hand on her.

Is the United States a hegemonic power? That’s laughable. Perhaps in the cultural and economic spheres, but as I explained earlier, the United States is an inept imperial power, second-rate to England, France, Germany, Russia, China, etc.

And what is wrong with trying to stamp out global terrorism? How is this considered imperialism? It’s stupid thing to say; and hardly worthy of comment.
All of these stand defeated. The US achieved what an Egyptian described as "a miracle:" "It has made people regret the downfall of Saddam's regime."
This is one of the refrains used by leftists—many of whom, it seems, have a soft spot for populist dictators like Chavez, Castro, Mugabe—that Saddam Hussein wasn’t all that bad of a guy. He was, after all, secular and progressive. He was also a blood-thirsty, autocratic thug who ruled through fear and violence, not love and compassion.

Mr. Bidwai should talk to the Kurds in the north and the Shias in the south (who make up a clear majority in Iraq) about how much they miss Saddam Hussein (they don’t). The only people who miss Saddam Hussein are the Sunni minority who benefited from the regime’s largesse. If one must be brutally frank, in the historical sense, the Sunnis are getting their comeuppance (this is what much of the sectarian violence is about—revenge). Regardless of what the polling data may say now, most Iraqis are happy to see Saddam go, but they are very unhappy about the occupation.

Mr. Bidwai finishes his column in typical fashion, with abstractions:
It's in humanity's interest that jehadi forces don't gain. That will only produce more violence and insecurity -- and eventually, assaults on human rights and democracy. However, the way the US is acting will ensure precisely that outcome.

The US must be dissuaded from this catastrophic course. This poses a challenge before the global peace movement and progressive political forces.
These aren’t concrete solutions just nonsensical sayings of a dreamer. It seems, even among the left, there is a paucity of ideas.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Congress To Increase H-1B Quota?

According to this post on TAPPED, Democrats are open to the idea of increasing the H-1B cap from its pathetically low 65,000 visas a year to something more to the IT industry's liking. And they're serious about making it happen:
Apparently, without many folks noticing, Nancy Pelosi switched the chairmanship of the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law from Texas's Sheila Jackson-Lee to California's Zoe Lofgren. The importance of the move is geographic: Lofgren is a Silicon Valley Democrat, and thus exquisitely attuned to the tech industry's desire for more work visas for highly skilled immigrants.
If Democrats are on board, and with pro-business Republicans (including President Bush) supporting the increase, there is a good chance something will be passed within the year. Now if they would only give the President fast-track authority he needs to cement free-trade agreements. Remember, free trade and free labor go hand-in-hand.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Hekmatyar Returns To The Scene

Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar keeps coming back like a bad dream, and this time he wants a deal with the Afghan government. From the Counterterrorism Blog:
The Associated Press has released an exclusive story in which Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, longtime Afghan tribal warlord who has allied with the Taliban for years, announced that he has ended his cooperation with them and "suggested" that he could reach a peace deal with the Afghan government.
Hekmatyar is not to be trusted at any cost. The man will say and do anything to save his skin, and this offer of a deal is one of his schemes to do just that. The man is a mercenary, pure and simple.

As of now, as the
post contends, he patronizes the Iranians, but he was a client for the United States and Pakistan during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Pakistan, who controlled the flow of weapons and aid into Afghanistan, especially liked him because Hekmatyar didn’t have a real powerbase like other warlords, hence he was more malleable and easier to control.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

How Bush Lost Latin America

Douglas Farah explains why much of Latin America is going left: the United States has been an absentee parent.
By ignoring Latin America for six years, the United States has set the stage for a strong and perhaps irreversible (at least in the short term) trend for which we will pay a steep price-the rise of a nationalist ethos that is rapidly allying with radical Islam, at least on a tactical level. Chavez, flush with oil money, can keep several such government afloat (Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Nicaragua) at least for a while.
Much of Latin America resents the United State: not for being an imperialist power, but for not paying enough attention to a corner of the globe that has been unfairly sidelined since 9/11. This has given Chavez the opportunity to fill a power vacuum foolishly vacated by the United States.

Douglas is correct that nothing can be done in the short-term, but it is an opportune time for the United States to reexamine its Latin American policy and begin, in the interim, a vigorous process of engaging the various Latin American countries on multiple fronts, especially on the war against terrorism.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Review: Shah of Shahs

Ryszard Kapuściński's Shah of Shahs is no ordinary account on the fall of the Shah; but a meditation, of sorts, at a deeply personal, and almost atomic level, on why it all happened. The book captures the pathos of Iran’s revolution by plumbing the psyche of its people, and doing so with a literary flair that makes Shah of Shahs a befitting addition to any library about Iran.
The Shah left people a choice between Savak and the mullahs. And they chose the mullahs.
In a nutshell this answers the question why the Shah was overthrown—the country simply hated him. The Shah passed himself as a progressive and a modernizer; who promised to make Iran “the second America” within a generation, but his methods were crude and medieval. He was also despotic, autocratic, and incredibly cruel.

The Shah spent billions to modernize Iran but barely spent a cent on developing the most valuable resource he had—people. The Shah never trusted his people. Too much education is not always a good thing, according to the Shah. That is why he sent the country’s brightest students to Europe and the United States for higher studies because universities are, according to the Shah, almost always a source of opposition. The Shah did not have to worry on that score, the students, sensing danger, wisely decided not to return.

Nevertheless, you cannot build a modern nation by importing machines and building factories alone; you must rescue people mentally and physically mired in the past. But instead of taking the people into his confidence and instilling in them a sense of a brighter future, the Shah’s way was to literally beat modernity into them whether they liked it or not; and he did it with the military—his sole power base—and state security services like Savak, the dreaded secret police. The Shah, the self-proclaimed progressive and modernizer, brooked no opposition or criticism of his rule, which was absolute and unyielding.

The people, in turn, responded by retreating inward, to the core of their being: a combination of Shia Islam and Persian nationalism. And the more they retreated the crueler the Shah became. Man has his limits, after all; and by 1979 Iranians had enough. The whole country, led by the mullahs, convulsed into a revolution, sweeping Ayatollah Khomeini to power, where he quickly established a theocratic state, which still stands today.

It surprised no one that the monarchy crumbled so quickly except for the Shah. No one was more shocked than he; who, of course, thought the people loved him (and he, in turn, loved them, but in a strange and twisted away). He entered exile a bitter and broken man.

Now that the Shah was gone, people hoped for better days. It was a hopeless dream. Little did people realize they were simply exchanging one tyranny for another. The cruelty, the autocracy, the corruption, and the anti-intellectualism, all the hallmarks of the Shah’s regime, continued without missing a step, except now victims became tormentors, and tormentors became victims.