- Peace Garden: 02/01/2009 - 03/01/2009


Saturday, February 28, 2009

Separated at birth or morphing into a new monster?


A New "War President"

Obama Sells Continuation of Iraq War as the New Pullout Plan
In a speech today at Camp Lajeune, North Carolina took a page out of his predecessor’s book when he declared that “by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end,” even as his administration prepares to keep the combat going until at least the end of 2011. His administration has been touting a military surge in Afghanistan which would bring the overall American force to roughly 50,000 troops. That is taking a war to the next level. Bringing the level of troops in Iraq to roughly the same level, somehow, is being sold to the public as the end of that war. Will anyone buy it?
I don't buy it. O"Bush"ama is continuing and even growing the wars.


Ending one...building another?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Obama to Troops: Iraq Mission to End in August 2010

Before 2,000 Marines here on Friday, President Obama announced that the United States combat presence in Iraq will end in August 2010 after about 90,000 troops are withdrawn. "Let me say this as plainly as I can: By August 31st, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end," Obama said to applause from the Marines. The president said he plans to leave a force of 35,000 to 50,000 to advise Iraqi security forces, conduct counter-terrorism missions and protect U.S. personnel. The drawdown should signal to Iraqis that they are responsible for their country's future, he said.
35 to 50K? Too many right? But still, the troops are coming home....not quite...
By removing most troops from Iraq over the next 18 months, Obama will free up forces to fight in Afghanistan and relieve stress on Marine and Army forces that have been repeatedly deployed. There are about 142,000 troops in Iraq.
Take from one frying pan and put it into another.


Why not all?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Officials: ‘Most’ US troops to Leave Iraq by August 2010
Officials say that the Obama Administration intends to have most troops out of Iraq by August 2010, replacing the president’s 16 month timetable from the campaign with a 19 month one that would end with a considerable “residual force” beyond that date.


End Times - the new leader?

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Choice Between Peace and Peril

Bibi Netanyahu’s assumption of power in Israel sets the stage for a huge campaign by the Israeli government, and its well-oiled lobby groups in Washington, to push us into a war with Iran.

Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program, according to U.S. and European intelligence agencies. But reality rarely impedes on politics. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, along with Netanyahu, all talk as if Iran is on the brink of dropping the big one on the Jewish state.

Netanyahu on Friday named Iran as Israel’s main threat after he was called to form a new government following the Feb. 20 elections.

“Iran is seeking to obtain a nuclear weapon and constitutes the gravest threat to our existence since the war of independence,” Netanyahu said at a ceremony at President Shimon Peres’ official residence. “The terrorist forces of Iran threaten us from the north,” the presumptive prime minister said in reference to Lebanon and Syria, where Israel says Tehran supplies arms to Hezbollah and Hamas. “For decades, Israel has not faced such formidable challenges.”

Netanyahu, whose arrogance is as outsized as his bellicosity, knows that for all his threats and chest thumping Israel is incapable of attacking Iranian targets alone. Israel cannot fly its attack aircraft over Iraqi air space into Iran without U.S. permission, something George W. Bush refused to grant, fearing massive retaliatory strikes by Iran on American bases in Iraq. Israel’s air force is not big enough to neutralize the multiple targets, from radar stations to missile batteries to Revolutionary Guard units to bunkers housing Iran’s Soviet- and Chinese-made fighter jets and bombers, and also hit suspected nuclear targets. The only route to a war with Tehran for the Israeli military is through Washington.

There is a lot riding on whom President Obama names as his special envoy to Iran. If, as expected, it is Dennis Ross, a former official of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, we will be in deep trouble. Ross, who is expected to be placed in charge of the Iranian portfolio this week, is a vocal supporter of Israel’s call for increased pressure on Iran. He is distrusted, even despised, in the Muslim world and especially in Tehran. With good reason, he is not viewed as an impartial broker.
So is there hope the O regime will listen to the experts who say - no nuke weapons program is in place?
Obama has an opportunity to radically alter the course we have charted in the Middle East. The key will be his administration’s relationship with Iran. If he gives in to the Israel lobby, if he empowers Ross, if he defines Iran as the enemy before he begins to attempt a negotiated peace, he could ignite a fuse that will see our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan evolve into a regional conflagration. This may be the most important decision of his presidency. Let’s pray he does not blow it.
And here I thought W was the one who would lead us to the End Times.


Going further than W

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Obama Widens Missile Strikes Inside Pakistan

With two missile strikes over the past week, the Obama administration has expanded the covert war run by the Central Intelligence Agency inside Pakistan, attacking a militant network seeking to topple the Pakistani government.

The missile strikes on training camps run by Baitullah Mehsud represent a broadening of the American campaign inside Pakistan, which has been largely carried out by drone aircraft. Under President Bush, the United States frequently attacked militants from Al Qaeda and the Taliban involved in cross-border attacks into Afghanistan, but had stopped short of raids aimed at Mr. Mehsud and his followers, who have played less of a direct role in attacks on American troops.
It looks like all hope for change is fading fast - fading with every increase in the wars.


Green Lessons from the "Reds"

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

6 Green Lessons We Can Learn From Communism
What do you think of when someone mentions communism? Stalin, a hammer and sickle, the color red, Russia, Cuba, factories, soldiers marching in unison, and cold, cold oppression? Yeah, me too. But what if I told you that in some ways, communism is green?
Communists may have inadvertently advocated low-impact lifestyles (on the individual level, at least—the sprawling factories are another matter). "To each according to his ability, each according to his need." Think about it; an entire doctrine based on using only what you need, and doing what you're capable of. Now I'm not saying we should start rationing borscht and forcing people out into the fields against their will with a sickle. But if you consider the principle in environmental terms, it means watching our consumption—buying only the foods and goods we need. Overconsumption creates a huge environmental burden in rich capitalist societies; we could take a cue from the communists and try to buy nothing more often.
The article also lists other points. Maybe it is time?


Another losing decision

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Obama OKs 17,000 troops for Afghanistan
President Barack Obama approved adding some 17,000 U.S. troops for the flagging war in Afghanistan, his first significant move to change the course of a conflict that his closest military advisers have warned the United States is not winning.
We're not winning and never will. Will we ever learn from history?


The names have been changed to keep the dollars flowing

Monday, February 16, 2009

Blackwater by Any Other Name Would Still Smell Like Shit
Blackwater Worldwide, the ultimate mercenary firm and war profiteer, wants to shed its vile brand name, according to the Associated Press. They're switching over to the name Xe (like in the words xenophobia or xenobiotic, which fittingly refers to a chemical substance that is foreign and usually harmful to living organisms). The funny part is Blackwater claims the name change is to "focus away from the business of providing private security." You don't say!
If any agency or nation does business with Xe, shame. The name change means absolutely nothing. It still thinks it is above all law. It still is a disgrace.


Here we go again

The chatter for an Iranian attack starts up again. It was relatively quiet before our and Israeli elections. But let the drums start beating again.

Sirens go off in Israel for war on Iran

Israel, the sole possessor of a nuclear warhead in the Middle East, has long claimed that Iran, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signatory, will have enough fissile material to become a nuclear power by the end of 2009.

Under the allegation, Israeli officials argue that a military attack is a legitimate option for taking out Iran's nuclear infrastructure.


New strategy - same as the old

Sunday, February 15, 2009

US Drone Strike Kills At Least 30 in South Waziristan

A US drone launched two missiles at a large house in South Waziristan this morning, killing at least 30 and wounding seven others. A Pakistani intelligence official is quoted as saying more people are believed to be buried under the rubble.

At least 50 people were in the house at the time of the attacks, mostly Uzbeks and Arabs believed to be fighters for the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The compound reportedly was frequented by Baitullah Mehsud, a top Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader, though he does not appear to have been present during the attack.

The timing of the attack sends a clear message to the Pakistani government, which had been hoping yesterday that President Obama would reveal his “new strategy” with respect to the drones soon.

Should they have expected anything different when the same generals, same regime leaders from the old regime are still in charge? As The Who sang: "Meet the new boss, Same as the old boss."


Still at war...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Top Obama Aides Embrace Bush’s War on Terror Rhetoric and Enemy Combatant Policy
This has been a uniquely bad week for civil libertarians. The Obama Administration appears to be rushing to dispel any notions that Obama will fight for civil liberties or war crimes investigations. After Eric Holder allegedly assured a senator that there would be no war crimes investigation and seemed to defend Bush policies, Harvard Law Dean Elena Kagan, Obama’s Solicitor General nominee, reportedly told a Republican senator that the Administration agreed with Bush that we are “at war” and therefore can hold enemy combatants indefinitely. In the meantime, Obama himself seemed to tie himself in knots when asked about investigating war crimes and leading democrats are again pushing for a symbolic “truth commission.”
Feel your vote made a difference in foreign policy?


When will we be told?

Iraqi FM says no sudden US pullout

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said on Wednesday he had been "reassured" by the United States that there would be no sudden pullout of American troops, despite an improving security situation.

President Barack Obama's desire to redeploy thousands of US soldiers from Iraq to Afghanistan has raised expectations of a troop drawdown ahead of a 2011 deadline for leaving the country.

Here I am hoping that our new regime will end the wars and they tell the Iraqis not to worry. I guess I have to worry that we are there for much, much longer. As I have said before, Same Old Shit.


Answer: Really, really bad

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Question: Paul Krugman, what is your opinion of the compromised economic plan?

What the Centrists Have Wrought

The short answer: to appease the centrists, a plan that was already too small and too focused on ineffective tax cuts has been made significantly smaller, and even more focused on tax cuts.

Now the centrists have shaved off $86 billion in spending — much of it among the most effective and most needed parts of the plan. In particular, aid to state governments, which are in desperate straits, is both fast — because it prevents spending cuts rather than having to start up new projects — and effective, because it would in fact be spent; plus state and local governments are cutting back on essentials, so the social value of this spending would be high. But in the name of mighty centrism, $40 billion of that aid has been cut out.

My first cut says that the changes to the Senate bill will ensure that we have at least 600,000 fewer Americans employed over the next two years. The real question now is whether Obama will be able to come back for more once it’s clear that the plan is way inadequate. My guess is no. This is really, really bad.


Will we invade Britain?

CIA warns Barack Obama that British terrorists are the biggest threat to the US

American spy chiefs have told the President that the CIA has launched a vast spying operation in the UK to prevent a repeat of the 9/11 attacks being launched from Britain.

They believe that a British-born Pakistani extremist entering the US under the visa waiver programme is the most likely source of another terrorist spectacular on American soil.

Obama is following W's lead in Iraq and Afghanistan - keep the war going. Let's hope he doesn't follow W's theory of "rooting out all terrorists." Obama, listen to W's ghosts and the idiots you kept over from W's regime and "Bomb Britain won't be far behind.


A sign of hope?

Obama puts brake on Afghan surge

PRESIDENT Barack Obama has demanded that American defence chiefs review their strategy in Afghanistan before going ahead with a troop surge.

There is concern among senior Democrats that the military is preparing to send up to 30,000 extra troops without a coherent plan or exit strategy.

The Pentagon was set to announce the deployment of 17,000 extra soldiers and marines last week but Robert Gates, the defence secretary, postponed the decision after questions from Obama.

The president was concerned by a lack of strategy at his first meeting with Gates and the US joint chiefs of staff last month in “the tank”, the secure conference room in the Pentagon. He asked: “What’s the endgame?” and did not receive a convincing answer.

Has he realized that the war in Afghanistan is one that cannot be won? Is he living up to his dream of shifting away from a diplomacy based on might , power and military? Or is he just pissed off that Gates was not prepared?

Let's hope it is the first two reasons.


Stimulus package compromise

Saturday, February 07, 2009

More Bipartisanship, Less Stimulus

The plan is now more weighted than before toward tax cuts (which will account for more than 40 percent of the overall cost of the package) that will do little or nothing to stimulate job creation for a country than lost almost 600,000 positions in January alone. As French President Nicolas Sarkozy, no liberal, said Friday of countries that opt for tax cuts rather than stimulus: The approach "will bring them nothing" in the way of economic renewal.

The Senate's increased emphasis on tax cuts comes at the expense of the sort of aggressive spending that might actually get a stalled economy moving.

Spending for school construction that would actually have put people to work -- while at the same time investing in the future -- has been slashed.

Title I funding increases have been cut.

Supplemental transportation funding has been hacked.

Axed, as well, has been $90 million that was to have been allocated to plan for and manage a potential flu pandemic that economists and public health experts worry could shutter remaining businesses, bring the economy to a complete standstill and throw the country into a deep depression.

The bottom line is that, under the Senate plan:

* States will get less aid.

* Schools will get less help.

* Job creation programs will be less well funded.

* Preparations to combat potential public health disasters -- which could put the final nail in the economy's coffin -- will not be made.

We are in for a long, long ride!


How much inconvenience ?

Friday, February 06, 2009

Dumping the Refrigerator for a Greener Planet

FOR the last two years, Rachel Muston, a 32-year-old information-technology worker for the Canadian government in Ottawa, has been taking steps to reduce her carbon footprint — composting, line-drying clothes, installing an efficient furnace in her three-story house downtown.

About a year ago, though, she decided to “go big” in her effort to be more environmentally responsible, she said. After mulling the idea over for several weeks, she and her husband, Scott Young, did something many would find unthinkable: they unplugged their refrigerator. For good.

Ms. Muston estimated that her own fridge, which was in the house when they bought it five years ago and most likely dates back much longer, used 1,300 kilowatt-hours per year, or produced roughly 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide — the same amount from burning 105 gallons of gasoline. And even a newer, more efficient model, which could have cut that figure in half, would have used too much energy in her view.

Ms. Muston now uses a small freezer in the basement in tandem with a cooler upstairs; the cooler is kept cold by two-liter soda bottles full of frozen water, which are rotated to the freezer when they melt. (The fridge, meanwhile, sits empty in the kitchen.) She acknowledges that living this way isn’t always convenient. For starters, it has altered the couple’s eating habits.

Save money, improve a diet, reduce your carbon footprint...a little inconvenience isn't too bad a deal, right?
Asked whether the couple had to give up any cherished foods, Ms. Muston sighed. “Cold beer,” she said. “Scott can’t come home and grab a cold beer out of the fridge anymore. He has to put it in the cooler and wait an hour.”
Well, some things are harder to give up than others.

Warm beer - a true sacrifice for a better world.


When will I be happy?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Just thinking about it on the surface, I should be jumping up and down because John and Sarah are not our leaders. We don't have to worry about John taking a dive and the rifle-packing hockey mom ready to take the nation to God. (Not that I am so comfortable with Joe taking over for Obama).

I should be happy that Obama talks about change, diplomacy, "ending the war"... So why am I so cynical?

Maybe it is because of his actions in the first few weeks...

Obama Gathering a Flock of Hawks to Oversee U.S. Foreign Policy

For a man who was elected in part on the promise to not just end the war in Iraq but to "end the mindset that got us into war in the first place," it's profoundly disappointing that a majority of his key appointments -- Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, Dennis Blair, Janet Napolitano, Richard Holbrooke and Jim Jones, among others -- have been among those who represent that very mindset.

As president, Obama is ultimately the one in charge, so judgment should not be based upon his appointments alone. Indeed, some of his early decisions regarding foreign policy and national security – such as ordering the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, initiating the necessary steps for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, and ending the "global gag rule" on funding for international family-planning programs – have been quite positive.

But it's still significant that the majority of people appointed to key foreign policy positions, like those in comparable positions in the Bush administration, appear to be more committed to U.S. hegemony than the right of self-determination, human rights and international law.

Is there hope - a chance to be happy?
Indeed, with a few conscientious exceptions, Democratic officials have rarely led in terms of a more progressive foreign policy. They have generally abandoned hawkish policies only after being forced to do so by popular mobilizations. From Vietnam to Central America to the nuclear arms race to South Africa to Iraq, Democratic leaders initially allied with the Republicans until they recognized their political futures were at stake unless they listened to the rank-and-file Democrats for whom they were dependent for their re-election. Then, and only then, were they willing to change course.

As a result, what may be most important will not be the people that Obama appoints, but the choices we give them.


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