Posts tagged ‘South Asia’

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

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02/09/2012

Maldives: Two Unconstitutional Acts

The Maldives, a small island-nation of 396,334, located 400 miles southwest of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, was subjected to two unconstitutional acts as: 1) President Mohammed Nasheed arrested Judge Abdulla Mohamed, because he had found the detention of a government critic illegal; and as: 2) army and police officers, allegedly working for Vice-President Mohammed Hassan, responded by threatening to use firearms against Nasheed, if he refused to leave office, which he did.

In terms of legal traditions, the Maldives was governed by Dutch law for 231 years, from 1656, when the Netherlands took the islands, until 1887, when Britain seized control. English law was then used for the next 78 years, through independence in 1965.

After independence, one-party rule was imposed in 1968. One man dictated everything for 30 years, from 1978 through 2008. Upon the adoption of a democratic system in 2008, Nasheed took office, as the island’s first freely-elected leader.

From an American standpoint, with our written constitution, and respect for the rule-of-law and separation-of-powers, the act of jailing a judge, without due process, and forcing a President out, because he imprisoned the judge, are not the way to do things.

The problem is the people of the Maldives have no American-style tradition of an independent judiciary, or of using elections as a means of changing power, since they were governed by Dutch and British monarchs for 309 years.

We in the U.S. would never tolerate the jailing a judge by a President over a disagreement regarding a court ruling, nor should the Maldives. By the same token, we would not respond to a President’s illegal jailing of a judge, by threatening violence as a means of forcing him out of office. We would instead instigate impeachment proceedings, and would not remove him, until he was first given the due process of law.

Legal proceedings to formally impeach President Nasheed for jailing the judge should now be commenced, even though he is already out of office, so his removal is retroactively based on evidence, properly presented under the Maldives constitution. If for no other reason, it is not good for trade or tourism (their primary industry) to let stand the removal of leader by force.

08/31/2011

Former Soviets Still Need Democracy

Five former Soviet states could do a much better job of advancing democracy, by removing their dictators, holding new elections, and by enforcing a two-term limit of no more than 10 years total.

BELARUS: Alexander Lukashenko has ruled the former Soviet Republic of Belarus since 1994. After winning the 2001 election, he abolished presidential term limits in 2004, and essentially made himself dictator for life. Opposition candidates received just 2% of the vote in 2006, in a contest the EU called fundamentally flawed. Policemen severely beat two opposition candidates in the 2010 race, causing EU members to boycott his 2011 inauguration. Belarus must now remove Lukashenko, choose a new leader, enforce term limits, and rightfully join the democracies of Europe.

KAZAKHSTAN: Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan has been in power since the Soviet Union dissolved, under a system which is one of the most corrupt in the world. His regime drafted a constitution that virtually gives him unchecked powers. He took bribes in the 1990s from U.S. oil interests. He won the 1991 election, because opposition candidates were not allowed. Instead of using the electoral process, he extended his rule for four more years in 1995, through a referendum. Although the constitution had a two-term limit, it was amended by his friends in parliament to let him run as often as he wanted. He was re-elected in 1999 and 2005, with 91%, in races criticized by international groups.

UZBEKISTAN: Islam Karimov has controlled Uzbekistan since 1989. When independence was declared in 1991, he became their first president, with 86% support, by manipulating the vote. He limited opposition parties by requiring them to obtain 60,000 signatures to register. He extended his reign in 1995 for five more years via a referendum, and then claimed 91% of the vote in 2000. He let the U.S. use military bases (2001-05). Despite a two-term limit, he won a third term in 2007 with 88% of the vote against no opposition. As one of the worst dictators, Islam Karimov must go.

TAJIKISTAN: Emomalii Rahmon has held power in Tajikistan since 1992. He was “elected” in 1994, and again in 1999, with 97% of the vote. He controls much of the economy. Like others in the region, he used referendums, instead of elections, to remain in office beyond his term. He received 79% of the vote in 2006, and commenced another 7-year term. It is time to remove this dictator and establish a true democracy in Tajikistan.

RUSSIA: Outside pressure from Russia would help to change the politics in this region, but Vadimir Putin also has trouble letting go. When Boris Yeltsin resigned as President, Putin finished his term (1999-00). Putin was then elected in his own right, (2000-04), and re-elected for another 4-year presidential term (2004-08). Instead of stepping down at that point, and leaving government, he became Prime Minister (2008-). After 12 years as President and Prime Minister, Putin still appears to be the one in control, and it’s time for him to set an example by leaving the Kremlin.

06/24/2011

Afghanistan Withdrawal Like Vietnam’s

Although I respect President Obama and would vote for him over any Republican, his schedule to withdraw from Afghanistan looks more like a political timetable, than anything connected to the reality on the ground, and it resembles Nixon’s Vietnam plan.

Richard Nixon was elected in 1968, based on a secret plan to end the War in Vietnam. At the start of President Johnson’s last full year in office, in Jan. 1968, the U.S. had 486,000 men in Vietnam. When Nixon was sworn in, he first increased troop strength from Jan. through April 1969, to a peak of 543,000, before starting a very slow de-escalation. By Jan. 1970, 475,000 boots were still on the ground and nearly as many as there were two years earlier.

Instead of just getting out of Vietnam immediately, as he implied in the 1968 campaign, Nixon broadened the war in April 1970, by conducting an invasion into neighboring Cambodia. That surge, if you will, accomplished nothing, but more death and destruction.

While Nixon told the American people in Jan. 1971, the U.S. was pulling out, the number of troops still stood at 234,000, two years after he took office. Instead of simply withdrawing, which is what most Americans wanted, Nixon re-escalated the war again in Feb. 1971, by backing a South Vietnamese invasion into Laos. Among other losses, that effort destroyed 89 U.S. helicopters and crews.

As of Jan. 1972, three years after Nixon was sworn in, the U.S. still had 156,000 troops in Vietnam. When the North Vietnamese launched an offensive across the DMZ in March 1972, instead of just letting it go, Nixon resumed the bombing of North Vietnam, which President Johnson had halted 3½ years earlier. Nixon then ordered the mining of Haiphong Harbor, in May 1972.

To insure a political victory, Nixon instructed Sec. of State Henry Kissinger to announce: “peace is at hand” in Oct., just before the Nov. 1972 election. This helped Nixon defeat Democratic Sen. George McGovern, a decorated WWII combat pilot. Once Nixon was in his second term, in Dec. 1972, he quickly resumed a vicious full-scale bombing campaign over Vietnam, known as the Christmas Bombings. Nixon finally gave up in Vietnam on Jan. 27, 1973, under the same terms he could have had 4 years earlier.

Two years later, after Nixon had resigned, the inevitable occurred on April 30, 1975 as the North reunited all of Vietnam and finally ended the conflict for the Vietnamese. President Ford acknowledged: “America is no longer at war,” on May 7, 1975.

Like Nixon, Obama gave the impression he would end the war, sooner than later. Under the recent plan however, it will take at least four years to get out of Afghanistan. Like Nixon, Obama increased troop strength, before starting to reduce it, a cleaver plan someone in the Pentagon must have dreamed up. Like Nixon’s incursion into Cambodia, Obama’s cross-over into Pakistan was without legal authority.

The Afghan withdrawal, scheduled to be done by Oct. 2012, is timed to insure victory in the Nov. 2012 election, just like Kissinger’s peace is at hand statement in Oct. 1972 was made to seal a win in Nov. 1972. The saddest part of the whole thing, is just like Nixon, Obama could have obtained the same result, if he had withdrawn immediately, upon taking office in Jan. 2009. The sad truth is we will not have gained anything but more body bags by staying another four years. The reality on the ground is we can never “win” in Afghanistan, no matter how long we stay. It was a lesson most Americans learned about 40 years ago already.

04/20/2011

Pakistan Needs Religious Tolerance

The Blasphemy Law in Pakistan caused the murder of Shahbaz Bahtti on March 2, 2011. He was the only Christian in the Pakistani government, serving as Minister of Non-Muslim Minorities. The law also led to the death, on Jan. 4, 2011, of Salman Taseer, the Christian governor of the Punjab Province, whose only crime was his public support for Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to death by hanging in Nov 2010, for Blasphemy.

The Pakistani Blasphemy Law carries a possible death sentence. It forbids the wounding the religious feelings of Islamic persons, defiling the Quran, or defaming the prophet Muhammad. Trials are held before Muslim judges. Many people have been charged with Blasphemy and have been prosecuted over the past decades.

Pakistan was created as an Islamic state by Britain, when they segregated the Muslims and Hindus of India into two nations (1947). A decade later, the young nation formally became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (1956). They later integrated Islamic Sharia law into their legal code (1991). Now, it is being used in the provinces. In the Waziristan Province, for example, it was adopted in exchange for a ceasefire from Islamic militants (2008).

Unfortunately, an accused in Pakistan has no American-style First Amendment, barring the Establishment of Religion. There is no way to declare the Blasphemy Law unconstitutional. So it needs to be challenged as a violation of due process, which requires all crimes to be clearly defined. Laws cannot be so vague as to leave the accused unsure of what conduct is allowed or prohibited.

How would one possibly know if they are wounding the feelings of Islamic persons? How would they know if they are defaming the Prophet Muhammad? What if the speech was truthful and directed at the Quran for having demonstrably false entries? Would this be defiling the Quran? Would it be defamatory?

Pakistan, a nation with a large Muslim majority (97%), needs to change and allow religious tolerance. While it is hard to control 176 million people, they must engage in an educational campaign to tone down the madness. Once tempers have calmed down, they  must either repeal the Blasphemy law, or amend it, to grant due process, by narrowing definitions of what may be deemed illegal.

03/18/2011

Afghanistan: Spending For What?

The Republican-controlled House voted 321-93 against a resolution calling for an Afghanistan troop withdrawal and a reduction in our wasteful federal spending. Only 8 Republicans voted to cut the budget by reducing discretionary appropriations for that optional war.

Has the conflict in Afghanistan become a permanent part of our budget? Do we plan to fight there forever? What is our goal in that mountainous landlocked Asian state?

Are we there to find Osama bin Laden and those involved in 911? That would be acceptable, if they were still alive, and we knew where they were. After 10 years of searching, perhaps it is time to give that approach a rest. It hasn’t worked.

I hope our goal is not to change their religion. 99% of Afghans were Muslim when President Bush invaded, and nothing our military has done, or will do, will ever change that. We cannot prohibit the use the Koran. We can’t stop Mullahs from interpreting Islamic law. We cannot change their culture by force.

Russia tried to promote a secular government, but the Muslims revolted. The Soviets invaded, because they feared an Islamic regime, like the one that emerged in neighboring Iran (1979). For 10 years, the Mujahedeen waged a guerilla war against 115,000 Russian troops, until Gorbachev finally gave up (1989). In the civil war that followed, the Mujahedeen, later known as the Taliban, ousted the secular government (1992). After more bloodshed, they imposed a harsh Islamic theology (1996). The Soviet effort made the question of religion worse, not better.

Is our goal is to create permanent bases? That isn’t going to work. Afghanistan has a long history of resisting foreign intervention. British troops tried to occupy Afghanistan in the 19th Century, but they were massacred in Kabul and eventually gave up.

I hope our objective is not to starve out our perceived enemies with sanctions. Following the 1998 bombings against U.S. embassies in Africa, President Clinton launched air strikes against suspected terrorist camps in Afghanistan in an effort to get them to surrender bin Laden, but that did not work, and when the Taliban was accused of sheltering and training terrorists, sanctions were imposed, but they also yielded no results.

Finally, I hope we do not seriously expect a military victory. There never will be a Victory over Afghanistan Day. Thousands of unshaven men are not suddenly going to emerge from their caves carrying white flags with their hands up.

When Bush invaded Afghanistan, the UN refused to authorize the American war, because there was no evidence anyone there had anything to do with 911 and no proof U.S. forces would be acting in self-defense.

The Taliban has pledged there will be no peace, until the foreigners leave. Ho Chi Minh said something strikingly similar. It’s time to bring our boys home. It’s time to regroup and save our resources for a winnable mission.