Archive for ‘International’

12/26/2016

WHAT WILL TRUMP DO ABROAD?

China: In 1971, after the UN voted to recognize the mainland People’s Republic of China in lieu of the Nationalist Chinese government on the island of Taiwan, Nixon visited Mao Tse Tung in 1972, and agreed to withdraw 8,000 U.S. troops from Taiwan. President Carter then recognized the People’s Republic as sole legitimate government in 1979, and the U.S. severed all official ties to Taiwan. The U.S. then started doing business in China under Reagan in 1980, and in 2001, George W. Bush helped them get into the tariff-free World Trade Organization. After the 2016 election, Trump didn’t realize that by communicating with the Taiwanese leader, he would be setting off a storm. Trump’s lack of knowledge of international law and history is a great concern.

Foreign Trade: The U.S. has had trade deficits with foreign nations since 1981, when Reagan took office. Trump said he couldn’t believe how much they’ve soared. While there is some truth to the need for better balance, Trump has not seriously thought through the issue. He speaks a good nationalist populist line, but he does not demonstrate an understanding of global economics. He talks about imposing 15% to 35% tariffs on goods imported from abroad. Most Republicans oppose such taxes, arguing they’d only be passed on to American consumers in the form of higher prices. Cheap clothing from abroad would suddenly cost a lot more. So would TVs, radios, and electronics. Prices for the vast majority of things purchased from abroad would increase. The bottom line is if tariffs are imposed, all American consumers will pay. When people talk about NAFTA, (which only affects 3 countries), it means they don’t understand trade. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the real player, since almost all nations belong. If the U.S. imposes tariffs, all WTO members will be authorized to punish the U.S. with retaliatory tariffs, and our exports to other nations will be priced out of the market. Bullies don’t get their way in trade—it’s a two-way street Donald.

Mexican Deportations: If Trump commands the army to go door-to-door to round up millions of Mexican workers, who may be in the U.S. illegally, there is a strong likelihood his order will be disobeyed. It would take an extremely long time to carry out, and the costs would be astronomical. We are a nation of laws, not dictators. Detainees would be entitled to due process before deportation. While Trump may stage some “show trials,” he would never rid the country of all illegals. Although he may continue to make verbal broadsides by calling “all” Mexicans rapists, without supporting evidence, the courts are not that abusive. The main reason nothing much will happen to illegal aliens is that the Republican business community needs them now more than ever. Certain segments of our economy would simply collapse without them.

Mexican Wall: Trump made the ridiculous assertion that he was going to build a wall from Brownsville, Texas to San Diego, California, a distance of 1,553 miles. He then added the absurd idea that he would make Mexico pay for it. The Great Wall of China stretches more than 1,500 miles and it is about 25 feet high. It took the Chinese literally hundreds of years to complete it. Even with modern equipment, building a wall separating the U.S. and Mexico would take an extremely long time. A baby born today would never see it. The cost of constructing such a wall would be astronomical, bankrupting the U.S. Treasury. Maintaining it with guards posted at every tenth of a mile or so, 24 hours a day, would also be extremely pricey. The smarter members of Congress laughed at Trump’s silly idea, as there is absolutely no chance of it being implemented.

Middle East: Trump has not shown any inclination to be an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians, or the rest of the Muslim world. As a result, he will have a tough time doing anything useful in the Mideast. He talks about defeating ISIS, but how does one defeat an attitude? How does one stop an individual suicidal bomber? One has to first acquire an understanding of the enemy mind. Thus far, Trump has not shown any intellectual capacity to even begin to understand.

Military: Trump said the military could be supported for much less than we spend on it. While he’s certainly correct, the Republican Congress is not going to propose any spending reductions, so nothing will change in that regard. We will continue to waste millions. The bigger problem is Trump’s ability to draw us into a shooting war. Although Congress holds the power to declare war, Presidents with hot heads, like Trump, can force their hand. Though Trump never served in the army, he went to a military academy as a teen. My suspicion is that he was arrested for battery or sexual assault as a teen, and his father kept him out of a juvenile court reformatory by asking a sympathetic judge to send him to a military school. Trump’s background bothers me, since the best predictor of future behavior is past conduct. Have no doubt, Trump will use military force.

NATO: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was originally set up as a check against a perceived Soviet threat in Western Europe. Their mission has now morphed into areas outside Europe. While all NATO nations need to belly up to the bar to pay for the treaty organization, and efficiencies could be made, Trump was mistaken to threaten a U.S. withdrawal. I doubt the Republican Congress will end our commitment to NATO.

Russia: Godless Russian communists are seriously our best friends against the fundamentalist religious Islamic fanatics. The old Soviet Union included areas where Islam was practiced and they have people who could easily infiltrate terrorist organizations. Having said that, Putin has suppressed free speech, manipulated elections, and violated international law by invading the Ukraine, conduct an American President cannot condone. Trump and his Exxon Sec of State see nothing but an oil deal with Russia. Sadly, energy alone should not govern our relationship.

Tanzania: There are 52 independent nations in Africa. One would expect a President to have at least a minimal understanding of each. One important country is Tanzania, where our U.S. Embassy was bombed by terrorists in 1998. On April 27, 2016, Trump pronounced Tanzania “Tan-ZAY-nee-uh,” instead of the correct “Tan-zu-KNEE-uh.” This elementary school gaff was troubling, as it indicates Trump has no real working knowledge of even important African states, like Tanzania.

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05/11/2013

Immigration: 200 Years of Law

Although immigration is once again being debated, it’s an issue that’s been discussed on and off since the founding of our nation. Before Congress and the President pass another bill, perhaps it’s time to review the federal laws previously enacted.

Let’s start with the U.S. Constitution. The score here is one right and one wrong. The Founders got it right when they delegated to Congress the power over Naturalization and Citizenship and thereby federalized the issue (Art I, Sec. 8). It would have been a mistake if they had allowed each state to write their own laws.

The Founders, however, got the idea of Citizenship wrong when they counted only 3/5ths of slaves and initially limited immigration to only free white persons (1790).

Congress got it right as they required immigrants to first reside in the U.S. for five years before they could become citizens (1795). They got it wrong by extending residency to fourteen years (1798), but then corrected the error, by returning to five (1802).

Congress got it right in the mid-1800s, when they ignored the Know Nothing Party and their Protestant members, who wanted Irish immigrants excluded, simply because they were Catholic.

America got it right after the Civil War when the 14th Amendment made all persons born or naturalized here, Citizens of the U.S. and of the state where they resided. Citizenship by birth, regardless of the nationality of their parents, was the right thing to do.

Congress got it wrong as they passed laws that excluded Chinese and other Asians based on nothing more than race (1875-92)

Congress got it right when they made some knowledge of the English language a condition of citizenship (1906). There is nothing wrong with requiring English reading tests (1917). Some civics is also not too much to ask from someone who wants to become a U.S. Citizen.

Congress got it wrong after WWI when they limited entry of newcomers to small numbers, by establishing quotas based on the nationalities of those already in the U.S. (1921-24). Ironically, the exclusion of foreigners, willing to work for low wages, helped organized labor in the U.S., by giving American citizens more job opportunities and greater bargaining power during the roaring 20s.

America got it right after WWII, when millions of homeless and orphaned displaced persons were taken in from war-torn Europe.

Congress got it wrong in the McCarthy Era (1950s) as suspected subversives were deported, and blacklisted people, like future Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, were kept out.

Congress got it right in 1965 when they abolished the nationality quotas established in 1924, and started focusing instead on immigrant work skills, regardless of country of origin.

Congress got it right in 1986, as they imposed sanctions against employers who hired illegal immigrants. But they got it wrong by giving amnesty to three million illegal-aliens, as this had the unintended effect of encouraging even more to enter unlawfully.

Congress got it right in 1990 when they increased the annual number of legal immigrants from 500,000 to 700,000.

Congress got it right in 1996 when welfare and immigration reform made immigrants here illegally ineligible for most forms of federal assistance, including many types of Social Security.

We’ve learned from history the federal government, and not the states, have exclusive jurisdiction over immigration policies. These laws should not reject people on the basis of race or religion. Immigration policies must properly require newcomers to learn civics and to read and write English. People with useful skills should be allowed to enter the work force, as the U.S. needs a steady flow to insure a gradual rise in population. Caps on the annual flow are needed, however, so unemployed American citizens are able to find jobs, and not be displaced by excessive foreign labor, willing to work for less. Employer sanctions must be enforced, so everyone pays into the Social Security System. The underground economy must be destroyed to end cash payments under the table, so everyone contributes income taxes.

04/23/2013

Boston Bomber To Use Civilian Court

Since the Boston Marathon Bombings, some have advocated processing the surviving defendant in a Military Tribunal, but since he is a U.S. Citizen, and a civilian, he will be indicted and tried in the ordinary American criminal court system.

Whether someone is to be tried as a civilian, or as a combatant, depends on the circumstances. The following is a review of the various categories.

Civilian U.S. Citizens, who are not combatants, alleged to have committed a crime in the United States, are given access to the civilian courts, with all the rights of the accused, provided in routine jury trials. If they are found “guilty,” they can be sentenced to prison or to death if the offense and the jurisdiction allows it, but if the verdict is “not guilty,” they must be released. An example in this category is the domestic terrorist, Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, who was convicted in our civilian court system, sentenced to death, and executed.

Combatant U.S. Citizens, enlisted in the U.S. military, and charged with an offense, would be entitled to Courts-Martial proceedings, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, again with all the due process rights and privileges provided by our Constitution. An example would be U.S. Lt. William Calley, who was charged with massacring hundreds of defenseless Vietnamese women and children, and convicted by U.S. combat officers, who served as a jury of his peers.

Enemy Alien Combatants, captured in the field, who may have killed our soldiers, but who did not violate any of the Laws of War, would be entitled to Prisoners-of-War status, and can held for the duration of the conflict, provided they are granted prisoner rights, under the Geneva Conventions. For example, thousands of ordinary German soldiers, taken prisoner by the U.S. in WWII, were entitled to this status, as they were held and later released to go home.

Unlawful Enemy Alien Combatants, captured in the field, would initially be treated as prisoners-of-war, but if evidence surfaced they had committed illegal acts in violation of the Laws of War, they could be subjected to a trial by a Military Commission to answer for their illegal acts. For example, many Japanese commanders in WWII, who had executed defenseless civilians in the Philippines and elsewhere, were tried in Military Commissions, convicted, and executed.

The Boston Marathon Bomber is not a member of the armed forces of another nation. He was not for example an Afghan Taliban captured in the field or a member of the Iraqi Army. He has no status as a enemy combatant, and cannot be tried in a Military Commission. Moreover, he is not an alien, but rather a naturalized American citizen. His status as an American guarantees him all of the Constitutional rights allowed under our civilian judicial system.

04/19/2013

Roots of Chechnya Separatism

Towards the end of the Soviet War in Afghanistan (1980-88), Mikhail Gorbachev withdrew troops from what was Russia’s Vietnam. He proceeded in 1988 to advocate reform from within, as he promoted glasnost (openness) and perestroika (rebuilding). Open elections in the Soviet Union followed in 1989, for the first time in 70 years. 200,000 marched in 1990 before the Kremlin, calling for an end to the central Soviet government.

Independent satellite states, like Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and others that had been occupied since the end of World War II, insisted on freedom and demanded that the Russians get out.

More significantly, the Soviet Union itself, comprised of 14 Republics, forged together in the 1920s after the Russian Revolution, also demanded independence from centralized Soviet control. The USSR soon imploded from within, as states like the Ukraine, Estonia and Latvia, and 11 others gained independence. A reactionary coup tried to reassert control, but the Soviet egg had been broken, and it couldn’t be put back together again.

After Russia lost control over the states occupied since 1945, and the 14 Republics that formed the Soviet Union, all that remained was the Russian land that predated the Russian Revolution. The problem was the separatist spirit was alive and longstanding religious or ethnic forces sought to break up Russia. This is where the Russians drew the line and fought to hold their territories.

After Boris Yeltsin replaced Gorbachev in 1991, as President of the new Russian Republic, he presided over the 1st Chechen War (1994-96). He tried to stop a secessionist revolt in Chechnya, which borders North Ossetia to the west, and the Republic of Georgia to the south. When a 2nd Chechen War (1999-09) erupted, Islamic forces invaded Dagestan, and the Russia people turned to former KBG Chief Vladimir Putin to replace Yeltsin. Putin promptly took a hard line to subdue the separatists, as he bombed the Chechnya capital at Grozny. The war later migrated into Ingushetia in 2007, located between Chechnya and North Ossetia.

Although Chechnya is a part of Russia, its people differ ethnically and have beliefs at odds with the Russians in Moscow. While they say they are freedom fighters, Russia calls them terrorists.

After the World Trade Center attack in 2001, the U.S. and Russia became allies against their respective terrorist enemies. Since Chechnya is opposed to the Russian government, and the U.S. is allied with Russia, the U.S. is now a target of some Chechnyans.

11/04/2012

Undecided Voters: Foreign Policy Issues

The better choice on each issue is in the left column, indicated by a (D) for Democrat, (R) for Republican, or (N) for neither.

(D) TRADE WITH CHINA: Although Romney called China a currency manipulator and promised to prosecute them in the World Trade Organization (WTO) for the right to impose tariffs (10-11-11) (11-9-11) (11-12-11) (1-7-12) (1-19-12), since the Great Depression, both parties have worked together to eliminate tariffs, and in recent years, the Republicans have been the loudest advocate of free trade. It is highly unlikely Romney will seek or impose protective tariffs, or interfere with free trade.

(D) TRADE WITH CUBA: Although Romney said he would not open trade with Cuba, until Fidel Castro is dead (1-23-12) (1-26-12), there is actually no reason to treat Cuba any different than the People’s Republic of China, Vietnam, or any other country we now trade with, who was once our enemy. Open the door now.

(D) EURO CRISIS: If the banks and economies around the world were collapsing, Romney said he would act to prevent contagion. (10-11-11). He also said Europe should take care of their own problems (11-9-11), and if Europe had a financial crisis, he wouldn’t give them a blank check, or save their banks (1-16-12). He was critical of the European for using IMF Funds (11-9-11). It appears, as usual, Romney wants to cover both sides of the issue.

(D) IMMIGRATION: Romney promised to crack down on immigration. (8-11-11). He said employers who hire illegal aliens are magnets. (9-7-11) (9-22-11). He would make businesses check the E-Verify data base. (10-18-11) (12-15-11) (1-19-12) (1-26-11). He thinks illegal aliens without jobs will self-deport (1-26-12). He said amnesty for illegal immigrants is another magnet that only encourages more. (12-10-11). He would not give aliens tuition assistance. (9-12-11) (9-22-11) (10-18-11). He would not give them Driver’s licenses. (9-12-11). He wants people with math and science degrees (11-22-11), and English language emersion for immigrants. (1-23-12) (1-26-12). He opposes special routes to citizenship (1-16-12). Although many Republicans favor what Romney has said, business owners in his own party wish to continue hiring illegal aliens, so they can keep paying cash under the table, to avoid payroll taxes and other legal obligations.

(D) MILITARY SERVICE: Romney, who received several deferments during the Vietnam War, found it extraordinary that only a few families were paying the price for freedom (1-7-12)

(D) IRAQ: Obama carried out his campaign pledge to end the misguided War in Iraq. Romney said he thought we had to go to war against Iraq. (1-16-12). Why is that even remotely true?

(D) BIN LADEN: President Obama was the Commander-in-Chief over the raid that eliminated Osama bin Laden. If a Republican had been President when the mission was accomplished, they would be carving his face into Mt. Rushmore. On the assumption Bin Laden was responsible for 911, it was a job well done, and Obama should be credited.

(D) ASSASSINATION: Romney said he thinks the President has a right to order the death of any “American citizens” suspected of terrorism (11-12-11) Sorry, Mitt, no such right.

(D) LIBYA: President Obama waged an almost flawless campaign to help the Libyan freedom fighters remove Gaddafi, their long-time dictator. He refused to put U.S. troops on the ground, but supplied aid to the rebels, and succeeded in bringing change to Libya. Republicans, who spend time on the recent incident in Bengazi, can’t see the forest for the trees.

(D) AFGHANISTAN: We should withdraw from Afghanistan as soon as possible, so our troops can come home, and we can save billions. Romney was vague about Afghanistan during the Republican debates. He said he would defer to generals and conditions on the ground. (6-13-11) (8-11-11) He thinks our commanders in the field don’t want to withdraw. He wouldn’t cut and run. He thinks Obama’s announcement of a withdrawal weakened us (1-16-12) He accused Obama of withdrawing early, but then he also said he would stay until 2014. (11-12-11) (11-22-11) He gave no reasons for wanting to stay until 2014. (1-7-12). He wouldn’t negotiate with the Taliban, since he said they’re terrorists. He incorrectly said they declared war on us. (1-16-12). Romney wants to win in Afghanistan by defeating the Taliban (1-23-12) He also said he wants a gradual transfer to Afghan Security Forces. Frankly, I think Romney wants to be President and will say just about anything, depending on who’s listening.

(D) LAWS OF WAR: Romney said the rights that apply to criminal law are different than those applicable in war (11-22-11)

(D) GUANTANAMO: As to the Guantanamo Prison, Romney thinks we have a right to deny al Qaeda due process. (1-16-12).

(D) PAKISTAN: Romney is concerned about the fact Pakistan has nuclear weapons (2-22-12) He believes they are a fragile nation close to a failed state. He wants to bring Pakistan into the 21st Century (11-22-11) He wants them to let us go after the Taliban and Haqqani Network inside Pakistan (11-12-11). We need to stay out of Pakistan, Mitt. You’re playing with fire there.

(D) SYRIA: Romney said Syria is a threat to Israel (1-26-12), and an ally of Iran. He would use covert means to end Assad’s dictatorship (11-12-11) He would not however impose a no-fly zone over Syria. He would use sanctions and covert means (11-22-11) I say let’s stay out of their war altogether.

(D) ISRAEL: Although Republicans accuse Obama of sticking a thumb in Israel’s eye (8-11-11), the American problem is not too little support for Israel, it’s too much. Our bipartisan American foreign-policy has been controlled by Israeli special interests for a long time. Romney is frightening, because he sounds like a weak leader, who would allow outsiders to control our foreign policy. Romney said it was wrong for Obama to criticize Israel for illegally constructing settlements in occupied Palestine (9-22-11) Weak Republicans like Romney would abandon our long-standing objection to Israel’s illegal taking of the Palestinian territories in 1967. (8-11-11) Since Obama courageously followed international law, we need him to keep Israel from taking the U.S. even deeper into their conflict. Romney pandered to the Jewish community while in Florida (1-26-12), and it’s not surprising his first foreign policy trip would be to Israel (11-22-11) We need a leader much stronger than Romney, one who would stand up to Israel.

(D) IRAN: Romney has a desire to impose crippling sanctions against Iran to keep them from developing nuclear weapons, which he called unacceptable (9-22-11) He falsely accused Obama of not putting crippling sanctions against Iran (1-7-12) He supports Iranian dissidents. He favors regime change and would take military action to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons (11-12-11) He called Obama weak on Iran (12-15-11) Romney said if Iran shut down the Straits of Hormuz, it would be an act of war (1-23-12). He thinks they will sneak dirty bombs into the U.S. through Latin America (2-22-12) Romney would indict Ahmadinejad for violating the Genocide Convention (11-22-11)

(D) LATIN AMERICA: Romney actually thinks the Hezbollah is working in Latin America (11-22-11) (2-22-12) Get real Mitt.

(D) RUSSIA: In one debate, Romney sounded like he didn’t know the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. He was still talking as though Russia was an enemy, as he accused Obama of giving them what they wanted. (11-12-11). Romney worries me.

(D) FOREIGN AID: Romney thinks the U.S. spends more on foreign aid than we should (10-18-11). We are still the richest nation on earth, and if we want allies, we need to give some aid.

(D) HOMELAND SECURITY: Romney would let people who are a “lower risk” go through TSA screening quickly. (11-22-11). Sounds like he wants to set up a fast track for his friends like Donald Trump, while the rest of us wait in line.

10/21/2012

McGovern 1972: Better Man on Vietnam

Sen. George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic candidate for President, passed away today, and he should remembered and honored now for his courageous opposition to the Vietnam War.

McGovern was a combat veteran who enlisted in the Army Air Corps in World War II, and flew 35 missions over Europe, where was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Upon receiving a Phd. in history from Northwestern University, he won a House seat in South Dakota, and later became a U.S. Senator.

McGovern was an intelligent man, who understood most conflict in the second half of the 20th Century was against French, British, Dutch, and Portuguese colonial rule, and not a part of some grand Communist conspiracy to conquer the world. Yes, the insurgents got their guns from the Soviets, but this was only because they couldn’t get them from their colonial masters in Western Europe.

McGovern studied French colonialism, which started in Vietnam in 1843. He knew their modern Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh, was a Nationalist, who after WWI petitioned for self-determination. He followed what happened during and after WWII, and was aware Roosevelt’s Office of Strategic Services had funded and trained Ho’s forces to resist the Japanese occupation, beginning in 1944. McGovern never forgot that as Ho declared independence in 1945, U.S. Agents were with him.

The Senator knew President Truman misread the situation in 1950 when he sent aid and advisors to help colonial France in response to Ho’s declaration his government was the only legitimate one.

McGovern knew President Eisenhower and Vice-President Nixon erred as to their Vietnam policies. Following the 1952 election, Nixon advocated direct U.S. intervention to bail out the French Army, but Ike sent more aid and Air Force personnel to provide additional technical assistance. By 1953, the Eisenhower-Nixon team was subsidizing 80% of France’s war. Sec. of State John Foster Dulles ramped up the anti-Communist hysteria, saying in 1954, if Vietnam fell, the rest of Asia would fall like dominoes. After a 55-day siege at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the French Army surrendered and finally withdrew from Vietnam.

McGovern knew conservatives in the U.S. misconstrued the end to colonial rule as a step towards global communism. They made the major mistake of dividing North and South Vietnam at the 17th Parallel, under the Geneva Accords of 1954, an error that would not be corrected until 1975, by the Vietnamese themselves.

McGovern correctly saw the Vietnam War as a civil war, between the North, led by Ho, and the South, ruled by Diem. He knew Diem used rigged elections to maintain power from 1955 onward.

McGovern would not have increased the number of advisors in Vietnam from 700 to 3,000 in 1961, to 11,000 in 1962, or to 16,000 in 1963, when Diem and then Kennedy were assassinated.

After American ships falsely claimed they were attacked in 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving President Johnson the authority to wage the American War in Vietnam (1964-73). This caused McGovern distance himself from Johnson and to become more critical. While Johnson pledged to stay until the Vietnamese were defeated, McGovern correctly accepted Ho’s statement that peace would only come when the U.S. withdrew.

McGovern heard Richard Nixon say in 1968 he had a secret plan to end the War in Vietnam. But instead of withdrawing promptly, Nixon tried to win the war, by slowly de-escalating the 543,000 men who were stationed there. His withdrawal was in fact so slow Ho would die before it was completed. Nixon still had 475,000 troops in Vietnam in 1970, when he broadened the conflict into neighboring Cambodia. In Jan. 1971, 234,000 men remained, as Nixon re-escalated into another neighbor Laos, causing the Vietnam Vets against the War, led by John Kerry, to throw their medals away at the Capitol.

McGovern ran against Nixon, because there were still 156,000 men in Vietnam on Jan. 1, 1972. That spring, as the North and the Viet Cong launched an offensive, Nixon ordered the mining of Haiphong Harbor, and resumed the bombing of North Vietnam, following a 3½-year moratorium. When McGovern told the American people it was a mistake to have gone to war, or to stay, he was telling them something they didn’t want to hear. At that time, most were not even close to admitting their country had been wrong. Just before the Nov. 1972 election, Nixon’s Sec. of State announced Peace is at hand, sealing McGovern’s defeat.

Six weeks after the deceptive pre-election statement that peace was at hand, in Dec. 1972, Nixon resumed an unnecessary full-scale “Christmas Bombing” in Vietnam, before ultimately settling for the same terms they could have had years earlier, including a release of prisoners. More than two years after the Paris Peace Accords were signed on Jan. 27, 1973, the North finally sweep into Saigon in April 1975, and reunited the country, prompting President Ford to declare: “America is no longer at war.”

In the final analysis, McGovern knew there was no good reason for 58,183 Americans to die in Vietnam, or for thousands more to sustain permanent injuries. He was equally as certain there was no justification in killing roughly 2 million Vietnamese. McGovern was clearly the better candidate in 1972, and he will be missed.

05/08/2012

Russia’s Putin is no Gorbachev

Russia has a new virtual czar named Vladimir Putin, who was sworn in yesterday for a third term as President, despite the fact the legitimate Russian Constitution limits him to just two terms.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union over 20 years ago, Russia remains an important country, since it continues to hold a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and remains influential in many developing nations. Although Russia adopted market and political reforms under Gorbachev in 1991, Putin’s recent power grab, has set Russia back in the eyes of the world.

The problem is many Russians like Putin lack a role-model for good governance. They have no George Washington to look up to, a man who could have been the first American king, if he had only wanted a crown. Since George abhorred the very idea of monarchy, he settled for President, and proved his real faith in democracy, as he voluntarily left office after two 4-year terms.

The problem in Russia is most of their well known figures were either czars or brutal dictators. Peter the Great, whose army expanded Russian interests along the Baltic, was no democrat. When Napoleon’s Grand Army invaded Russia in 1812 to liberate humanity from the tyranny of monarchs, the Russians stood on the wrong side of history, and defended the czar. When Alexander II freed the serfs in 1861, he forgot to give them any land, and of course doomed them to a never-ending cycle of poverty.

Even after the birth of the Bolsheviks, Russians gained no lasting role-model. While Karl Marx condemned the Czar, arguing wealth was accumulated through the exploitation of labor, no one today uses his icon. Vladimir Lenin, whose bust was everywhere in the Soviet Union 30 years ago, has been relegated to the pages of history. Certainly no one now could emulate Joseph Stalin, whose murderous dictatorship carried on for nearly 30 years, (1924-53).

The man Putin and others could admire is Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-91), but for some reason his lead is not being followed. Gorbachev was perhaps the greatest man of the 20th Century, as he unilaterally withdrew Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1988, advocated glasnost (openness), and promoted perestroika (a rebuilding). He ushered in open elections in 1989, for the first time in 70 years. He received the Nobel Peace Prize, as he took out old-line communists, and faced off against 100,000 reactionaries, whose coup attempt against him failed. Gorbachev single-handedly dissolved the Soviet Union from within in 1991, as 14 former Soviet republics celebrated their independence.

Following Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin served as President (1991-99) until he resigned in 1999. When Vladimir Putin, finished his term (1999-00), there was hope Russia was on its way to a free and open system, as Putin was elected in his own right (2000-04), and then re-elected for a second four-year term (2004-08).

Russia however turned in the wrong direction in 2008, when Putin failed to leave government, and instead cut a deal with a little inconsequential man named Dmitry Medvedev, who kept Putin’s seat warm for four years, while Putin served as Prime Minister (2008-12). After Medvedev abolished the Constitutional ban against serving more than two terms, Medvedev stepped down, making way for the Presidential return of the power-hungry Putin.

As President for nine years and Prime Minister for four, Putin has already been in charge for 13 years, and he should now leave the Kremlin. Gorbachev did not dissolve the dictatorial rule of the old Soviet guard, only to see it replaced by a new round of corrupt men. While Russia badly needs another Gorbachev, they got stuck instead with Putin, and more of the same. The Russian people must re-assert their Constitutional term limits, take Putin and Medvedev out, and replace them with a modern-day Gorbachev.

 

04/16/2012

Guantanamo Bay Base: Give It Up

The U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, on the island of Cuba, has been operated illegally, against the wishes of the Cuban government for 114 years, and it should now be torn down, and the port should be returned to the Cuban people.

As far back as 1854, the U.S. has made frivolous claims to Cuba. When Franklin Pierce (1853-57) was President, future President James Buchanan, a member of his administration, issued the Ostend Manifesto, which claimed the U.S. had a right to seize the island by force, if Spain refused to sell it. Buchanan was afraid a slave rebellion would turn the island into a disorderly republic, like Haiti, but his real motive was to create another slave state.

After a revolt broke out in 1895 between the Cubans and colonial Spain, the Maine, an American ship, was blown up in Havana Harbor in 1898, and though there was no proof the explosion was caused by the Spanish, the U.S. invaded, and won the Spanish-American War.

When the Americans first occupied the island, they were greeted as liberators, but the mood soon changed, as the newly liberated people were forced, under the Platt Amendment (1901), to give the U.S. a right to intervene in their internal affairs. Although President Theodore Roosevelt granted independence, under the Cuban-American Treaty (1903), the catch was they had to give the U.S. a perpetual lease to Guantanamo Bay.

A generation later, President Franklin Roosevelt offered to annul the right to intervene, provided the Cubans signed the Treaty between the U.S. and Cuba (1934), which allowed the unwelcome U.S. military presence at Guantanamo to continue. Realizing they would never get a better deal from a conservative American President, the Cubans accepted a half a loaf from liberal FDR, instead of nothing at all.

The Cubans have since continued to protest the American military presence on the island. When Fidel Castro took over in 1959, he escalated the objection by shutting off the water to the American base, in an attempt to get the U.S. to go home, but the U.S. Navy started filtering seawater through a desalination plant in 1964. To this day, Cuba does not cash rental checks from the U.S.

The U.S. has no legitimate right to use the Guantanamo Bay Navy Base, as the lease was forced upon Cuba under what international law would refer to as an unequal treaty. Since President Obama promised to close Guantanamo, now would be the perfect time to give the port back.

04/13/2012

Close Persian Gulf Region Bases

How many military bases does the United States really need for national security purposes in the Persian Gulf and the surrounding region? The following, which excludes any lingering unclassified facilities in Iraq, is just a partial list of our presence in the area.

KUWAIT
Army: Camp Arifjan
Air Force: Ahmed Al-Jaber Air Base
Air Force & Army: Ali Al-Salem Air Base (since 1991)
Army: Camp Buehring (NW)
Army: Camp Virginia
Navy: Kuwait Naval Base

BAHRAIN
Navy: Manama Naval Base
Air Force: Sheikh Isa Air Base
Air Force: Bahrain International Airport

SAUDI ARABIA
Air Force: Eskan Village

QATAR
Air Force: al-Udeid Air Base
Camp al-Saliyah

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Navy: Fujairah Naval Base
Navy: Jebel Ali Seaport
Air Force: al-Dhafra Air Base

OMAN
Air Force: Masirah Air Base
Air Force: Thumrait Air Base
Seeb International Airport (dual use)

DJIBOUTI
Navy: Camp Le Monier

TURKEY
Air Force: Incirlik Air Base

ISRAEL
Army: Dimona Radar Facility
Navy: Port of Haifa (6th Fleet)

INDIAN OCEAN
Navy: Diego Garcia

AFGHANISTAN
Marines: Camp Dwyer
Marines: Camp Leatherneck
Marines: Camp Rhino
Marines: FOB Delhi
Marines: FOB Delaram
Marines: FOB Fiddler’s Green
Marines: FOB Geronimo
Marines: PB Jaker
Air Force: Bagram Airfield
Air Force: Shindand Airbase
Air Force: Kandahar International Airport

KYRGYZSTAN
Air Force: Manas Air Base

UZBEKISTAN
Termez Air Base Khanabad

KAZAKHSTAN
U.S. military presence

TAJIKISTAN
NATO presence

04/12/2012

European Bases Should Be Vacated

In addition to the large number of U.S. military facilities in Germany, there are several in other European countries, that are draining funds from the federal treasury, without yielding much of anything in return, and they should be closed.

BRITAIN: In addition to supporting seven NATO facilities in the United Kingdom, the U.S. leases the following installations:
Air Force: RAF: Lakenheath, Brandon, Suffolk
Air Force: RAF: Menwith Hill, Yorkshire Dales
Air Force: RAF: Mildenhall
Air Force: RAF: Croughton, Upper Heyford
Air Force: RAF: Alconbury, Cambridgeshire

NETHERLANDS: The U.S. Air Force contributes to the Joint Force Command Brunssum (NATO) in the Netherlands.

PORTUGAL: The U.S. Air Force leases a base at Lajes Field in the Azores, which are Portugese Islands in the Atlantic. We also contribute funds to support a NATO facility in Portugal itself.

SPAIN: The U.S. Navy uses the Rota Naval Station in Spain, and our Air Force has bases in Andalucia.

ITALY: The exact number of U.S. bases in Italy is not clear. One author claims there are over 100, while another source lists just a few. The U.S. uses at least the following:
Army and Air Force: Aviano Air Base (NATO)
Army: Caserma Ederle, Vicenza
Army & Air Force: Camp Darby, Pisa-Livorno
Army: San Vito Dei Normanni Air Station—Brindisi
Navy and Air Force: Naval Air Station Sigonella (NATO)
Navy: Naval Support Activity Gaeta
Navy: Naval Support Activity Naples
Navy: NCTS Naples

KOSOVO: Since the Serbian bombings in the 1990s, the U.S. has had a presence in Kosovo. The U.S. Army uses Camp Bondsteel and Film City-Pristina.

BULGARIA: Since Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2005, the U.S. presence in Bulgaria has grown. The U.S. Army has bases at Aytos Logistics Center (Burgas Region) and Novo Selo Range (Sliven Region), while the U.S. Air Force has a presence at Bezmer Air Base in the Yambol Region, and Graf Ignatievo in the Plavdiv Region.

GREECE: The U.S. Navy uses a Naval Support Activity at Souda Bay, on the island of Crete. We have also maintained facilities at Hellonicon and Nea Makri.