Bush Must Sober Up To Reality

The New York Times will report in today’s paper that the Baker/Hamilton Iraq Commission has unanimously agreed that President Bush should start a phased draw down of U.S. troops from Iraq in 2007.  The full report is slated for publication on December 6th, but the NYT reports from solid sources that while the Commission will not set any timetables for the troops to leave, they will make it clear to Bush that a military win is not in the cards.

Bush now must make a decision about how to lead.  On Tuesday he again made his usual note card statement about staying in Iraq until the mission has been completed.  He has defined and redefined the mission so many times that really no one is paying any attention to him anymore. First it was WMD’s, though many us here never thought that there were any such weapons in Iraq.  When the weapons issue was proved to be false, Bush then tried to sell the idea that liberating Iraq from a leader that he did not like justified occupation of a Middle Eastern nation.  When the people of Iraq struck back at the U.S. invaders Bush said “we need to fight them over there so we do not need to fight them over here.”  When it became obvious that the internal struggle was between various tribes and sects that had no interest in coming to America, Bush still waxes nostalgic about “the mission.”  Bush acts as if there was ever a serious mission, other than a calculated political war.

Bush must now sober up to the reality of the results of the Baker/Hamilton Report.  His ‘mission’ is over, and his Presidency will be harshly judged by future historians for the way he misled a nation into war, and the death of nearly 3,000 American soldiers, and countless Iraqi citizens.  The damage that President Bush was done to the Middle East will take decades to resolve.

While this blogger was against the war, and for most of the past three years argued for a policy change to improve the situation, there comes a time to say that Bush lost Iraq, and our soldiers need to come home. 

Bush needs to make a decision.  In the end there is only one way to proceed.  Bring our troops home in a timely manner.
Technorati Tags: , , ,

The Pope As Politician

Vatican political intrigue often makes Washington’s political antics look downright tame.  While most of Washington’s inner workings has a good chance at making page one in a major daily newspaper, the same is not true for the Vatican. There is a mysterious, and at times dark imagery, to the inside workings of the robed ones.  When something newsworthy takes place with the Pope, or the higher operations of the Catholic Church, it is often left to speculation as to what really happened, and why.

Such is the case with the welcomed news that Pope Benedict XVI has endorsed the idea of Turkey being allowed to join the European Union.  At the airport landing in Turkey, the Pope made it known to the Turkish Prime Minister that the Vatican now hoped for the inclusion of Turkey into the Union. It was a major reversal of ideas, since in 2004, while serving as Cardinal, he spoke strongly against the same idea.

I applaud the Pope’s changing of his words, and welcome it as a real gesture towards the finding of common ground with the Islamic world.  His first words in a Muslim country were a far cry from the views he espoused as a Cardinal, and he should be applauded for that action, and his tone.  I also applaud the fact that he thought it wiser to act like a politician, than the leader of the Catholic Church. 

His true inner feelings both as a staunch conservative, and a mentally robust theologian, have not changed.  We all understand that.  But he chose to rise above his own viewpoints and strive for harmony on a larger scale.  That makes him a true politician, and for all my disagreements with him on various issues, I applaud him today.

I think we would all enjoy knowing the inner workings in the corridors of the Vatican that led to this reversal of words.  Was there an agreement that the Pope needed a grand gesture to combat the anger that his previous comments on Islam had unleashed?  How much is symbolism, and how much is true movement towards a united relationship with the Islamic world?

We will not know the answers for a long time, but history proves they will be consequential.
Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Don’t Throw Cranberries In Glass Houses

I think it reasonable to expect the governmental process to be as open and transparent as possible.  The more information the public has about the law making process, the better the final result will be, and the more credibility it will have with the public.

The same can be said for the political process that results in candidates becoming elected officials.  The more candid and straightforward the nominee is during the campaign, the more solid a foundation that person will have in an elected position.

Sadly, that is not the case with newly elected Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.  During his campaign to be the top justice official in the state he slammed a correct decision by AG Peg Lautenschlager concerning a lawsuit of a cranberry farmer polluting a lake in Sawyer County.  I have no problem with a fresh perspective, and even a contrary position on an issue of this type in an election.  After all, that is the reason we hold elections and review the actions of our elected officers. 

But while claiming some high ground on the campaign trail against what he saw as a lawsuit not having merit, he failed to mention the law firm that was representing the cranberry grower also hired him.  Hmmmm….I think as a voter and a citizen I (we) had a right to know that before the election.  In addition the law firm, DeWitt, Ross & Stevens, has two lawyers working as paid lobbyists for the Cranberry Growers Association.   Again, I think that this information would have put J.B.’s claims in perspective.

I fault the media for not having ferreted out this story during the campaign since it is quite clear we could not expect openness and honesty from J.B.  (I still cannot believe we elected someone to high office that goes by his initials.)  Had there been one intrepid reporter in Wisconsin doing some background on this matter, a conflict of issue could have been made known to the voting public.  As of now there will be a direct conflict of interest once Van Hollen takes office.  Even though he asserts no knowledge of the case, and claims not to have participated in the law firm’s actions, one must assume, given his less than candid stance during the campaign, that he cannot be trusted.

I think it rich that Van Hollen would claim Lautenschlager made political decisions over this issue, when he was at the very center of the lawsuit the whole time.  One thing is clear, and that is Van Hollen will start his term in the A.G.’s office with a stench due to not conducting an open and candid campaign in the fall election.  The public now understands that buying a political position is harmful to the state.   Wisconsin suffers when a candidate thinks his election is more important than the integrity of the office he hopes to gain.
Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Daddy Bush To The Rescue

It has been a no-brainer in many posts here that the Bush Administration needs to change direction and talk with nations that we have major disagreements with.  Iran and Syria are at the top of the list, and with the decision to invade Iraq now proven to be a colossal mistake there is no getting around the obvious need to begin the regional dialogue that many of us have advocated for at least three years.  The Bush Administration has long rejected those who understood the need to bring other nations into the discussions about how to proceed in Iraq.  They felt they could bluster their way along and hope that something good might fall out of the sky and undo their flawed foreign policy. Instead, a civil war is underway in Iraq, the United States military is stretched thin, and the average American is fed up with the war.  George Bush would be well advised to grab a chair at the nearest negotiation table.

It appears from the tidbits that are leaking in advance of the soon-to-be-released report by Jim Baker’s Iraq Study Group, that there will be a strong suggestion for the Bush White House to get serious about speaking with Iran and Syria.  It is assumed that President Bush will latch onto the report and find comfort in it, as it is Daddy Bush’s old pal that has been recruited to come in and clean up the mess, and help save the floundering son.  Jim Baker has the clout that the younger Bush can stand under, as his White House is forced to reverse direction.  The first thing required will be opening up dialogue with both Iran and Syria.

Talking with Iran and Syria is something that Iraq is already doing.  Iraqi President Talabani asked the Iranian President today for “comprehensive help” to make the war torn nation secure.  The United States is well aware that one of the possible conditions for Iran’s help in stopping the violence in Iraq will be for the U.S. to stop threatening Iran.  While a nuclear Iran is highly undesirable, the immediate threat posed by the ever-growing civil war in Iraq must be contained with all due speed.  To achieve that, some compromises will have to be made.  It must not be forgotten that the policy decisions we may have to accept now, are the direct result of the lies told to the American public by the Bush White House as they salivated over invading Iraq.

Many of us progressives argued that the long term foreign policy implications would be harmful should we invade Iraq.  Too few cared to listen, and so today we must deal with the situation, as it now exists.   That means we need Syria and Iran more than they need us, as they have the ability to affect conditions in Iraq that will not only lessen the death toll of Iraqis, but also prevent more of our soldiers from being killed, and prevent the turmoil from spreading to neighboring countries.

The fact that we should have already been talking for years with Syria and Iran about the Iraq disaster shows how needed Daddy Bush is in this current White House.  I am sure the GOP will be putting as much pressure on the White House to open talks as the Democrats will, since no one wants to enter the 2008 elections with an-out-of-control Iraq civil war dominating U.S. politics.  I trust the GOP learned at least that much from this November’s slap down.
Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Healing Process Needed With Muslims

If you can believe it, there will be more security to protect the Pope when he travels to Turkey this week, than what was provided for President Bush when he visited that country, according to the Turkish Foreign Minister this weekend.  The need for such high security follows the Pope’s thoughtless remarks made earlier this year about the Islamic faith. 

Pope Benedict XVI will visit Turkey, a mostly Muslim nation, in a bid to repair the divide with the Orthodox Christian Church.  The eastern branch of the Christian Church has had their share of concerns with the Vatican for many centuries, and much interest around the globe with this trip by the Pope has developed over the months. 

While in Turkey the Pope will also try to undo the damage that he created while traveling in Bavaria this year, where he quoted a long forgotten Byzantine emperor who stated prophet Mohammed was evil and inhuman.  Whatever the larger message that Benedict was trying to convey in that speech was lost due to the blunder in making such a statement.  John Kerry and the Pope both share a love for verbal gaffes.

Prior to becoming Pope, then Cardinal Ratzinger mused that Turkey did not belong in the European Union.  His reasoning then, while serving as Foreign Secretary of the Vatican, was that the Turks were not culturally or religiously connected with Europe.  It is little wonder then that the official welcoming delegation for the Pope will be left to the Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs.

It is hoped however that the man with the red Prada loafers can rise above his previous statements and present a forgiving face to the Turks.  The world is in need of unity and grace, and one can only hope that this week the Pope can rise to the occasion.  The religious wars, in word and deed, which have been fought over the ‘one true religion’, have not made our world more godly or just.  I hope that the Pope can truly find the place and time to speak from his heart about his past statements in an effort to start the healing process with the Islamic faith.
Technorati Tags: , , ,

Palestinians And The Cease-fire

In sharp contrast to the brutal and savage bloodletting in Iraq over this past week, there is a hopeful sign in the Middle East today.  A region short on good news finally produced one when a cease-fire was called between the Israeli government and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

But with every piece of hopeful news there are always many undercurrents at work that could destroy best intentions.  A major concern will be if Palestinian Authority President Abbas can insure that his security forces, which are now deployed in northern Gaza, actually work to stop militants from firing rockets into Israel.   I will take it as a sure sign that this cease-fire has teeth if the Palestinians themselves work to stop any such attempt at launching missiles into Israel, and use force against those who wish to undermine the cease-fire.

If a working relationship of some sort can emerge from the Gaza cease-fire, and then have it extend to the West Bank, people throughout that region will have reason for hope after a most dreadful year.  The economic situation that resulted from nearly 40 years of often-bloody occupation by Israel needs the full attention of the world community.  With a working cease-fire where each side acts boldly to silence those who would wish to disrupt it, there is again a chance for progress on the long-term differences between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Cloak And Dagger

For most of my growing up years the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was the menace that dominated foreign affairs.  I recall every May Day how news reporters would try to determine the political future of the men in the Kremlin by how they stood in relation to the leader of the Soviet Union as the huge parade marched by in Red Square.  At the time everything seemed to be viewed through the lenses of the Cold War, and the threat that the Soviet Union posed to our freedoms.  If the newspapers did not provide enough international drama about the arms race between the superpowers, or the darkness that lurked just behind the Iron Curtain, then the best selling authors of spy novels could surely provide the rest.  John Le Carre and Robert Ludlum are perhaps the best at describing the intrigue of the espionage game that was played for the highest stakes in the nuclear weapons laced poker game. 

I am addicted to spy novels and books about espionage that take place during the years that the U.S.S.R dominated the headlines.  I suspect that one needs to have lived some of those years to fully appreciate the suspense and danger that fill the pages of books about MI5, secret drops, and the ‘fifth man.’  I am not sure if young adults today enjoy, to the same degree that other generations do, a spy yarn about a superpower that no longer exists, and which no longer blusters its way through history.  While Middle East terrorists and their warped sense of mission dominate many paperbacks these days, I think they lack the power punch that a night in the Lubyanka provides to the reader.

The first spy writer in America was James Fenimore Cooper who penned “The Spy” in 1821 concerning the American Revolutionary War.  There were many spy novels of various qualities about the Civil War, the vast majority being more fiction than fact.  In the 1930’s pulp magazines popped out many spy stories in serial form, and the public loved it.  But it was World War II that formed a new breed of writers for spy novels.  Men who worked for intelligence agencies and gained experience would later use their insight to craft tales that folks like me stay up far to late at night to read.

Ian Fleming was one of those men who worked on the inside during the war and wrote superb books after leaving the service.  Where would the world be without James Bond?  President Kennedy loved Fleming’s work and called him one of his favorite authors. La Carre was yet another master of his craft with his creation of the famous George Smiley.  LaCarre learned much from his years inside British intelligence.

Though spy agencies may frown on the idea of an agent giving up the cloak and dagger for the pen I am glad they do write of accounts that somewhat mirror reality.  In fact, spy agencies use writers to bring fame to their ‘industry’, as was the case when CIA Director Helms asked Howard Hunt (yup, that one) to write spy novels to make the CIA as popular as Fleming had made British spy agencies.  Sadly, I think we all know how that episode ended. 

This weekend as another James Bond film demands attention at the box office, and a real ex-KGB agent is murdered in London with Russian President Putin listed as a potential part of the plot, it is easy to see that cloak and daggers, both fact and fiction, are very much alive.
Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Happy Thanksgiving!

This starts my favorite time of year as the weather turns cold and snow is just around the corner.  (Hopefully!)  With family and friends we share the holidays over the next six weeks with cookies, small gatherings, Christmas concerts, and that old-fashioned feeling that seems in short supply the other months of the year.

Before I escape for a couple days away from my blog I want to thank you, my readers, for being a part of the journey these past few months.  Not only have we experienced a most remarkable election together, but also I have finally developed a blog the way I have always wanted it to be.  I have had a great time learning, and I hope you think the blog rises to the occasion. I look foward to the news and politics that we will share here in the months ahead.

Now it is time to shut the blog off for a couple days, turn off the news, and do some other things.  First up some turkey and pie on Thursday with my family, getting the Christmas Tree Friday, and relaxing and enjoying every minute of this weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving!