New Year’s Eve Letter From President George H.W. Bush

Slices of history from former presidents as they entered a new year make for a couple of interesting posts on this blog as we enter 2022. History never fails to strike a chord for me, and this letter is evidence as to why that is true.

The following letter was typewritten by President George H.W. Bush on New Year’s Eve in 1990 and addressed to his five children – George, Jeb, Neil, Marvin, and Doro. In the letter, he writes about the family time spent at Camp David over Christmas and his feelings about going to war with Iraq.

Baath Party Archives Are Back in Iraq

This is one of those intriguing and years-long stories that has kept many interested for the next development.

Here is that next part of that story of the much-traveled Baath Party documents.

A US military cargo plane arrived in Baghdad on Monday carrying more than 6 million pages of Iraqi government records dating from the Saddam Hussein era and prior.

The papers, including intelligence files and administrative records, were discovered in a basement under the Baath Party headquarters in the Iraqi capital in 2003 before being transferred to the United States for safekeeping in 2005.

The Wall Street Journal first revealed that the documents had quietly been returned on Monday, fulfilling a long-held hope of successive Iraqi governments since the United States overthrew the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003.

For my readers, due to a paywall, I photo the story below.


Why it matters: The trove is an invaluable and minutely detailed record of Iraq’s painful history under the Baathist regime. Its return is a sign of the US government’s trust in Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s government.

Back in 2003, Kadhimi, then a human rights advocate who had fled Hussein’s regime nearly two decades prior, along with Iraqi scholar Kanan Makiya helped to preserve documents after they were discovered in a Baghdad cellar.

What’s next:Iraqi officials hope to one day make the documents available to the public but say that will take time.

Some of the information is highly sensitive, containing names of informants for the Baathists’ violently repressive regime and raising concerns that the documents could be used for revenge.

The archives are being held at an undisclosed and secure location in the Iraqi capital, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Trump’s Mercurial Side As Professional Insiders Force His Hand

This is the type of deep reporting and insightful journalism that I rely on to better understand  what is happening in the nation.  The Wall Street Journal gave a great perspective into the removal of Iraq from the troubled and troubling anti-Muslim travel ban.  The workings of a White House, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, intrigues me and this article was most worthy of reading.

In meetings in Baghdad, Washington and Munich, officials including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly talked through the travel ban and laid down arguments for a significantly revised one that could address Mr. Trump’s terrorism concerns but align better with national-security strategy and stand up in court.

Throughout the process, they kept private their discussions, both with Iraqi leaders and with the mercurial new president, so as not to ratchet up public pressure on Mr. Trump while they prodded him toward action.

Ultimately, Mr. Trump accepted changes to his travel order, including leaving Iraq out of it. For the first time in his short period in office, Mr. Trump moved from his preferred option to something less sweeping. Yet he immediately complained to his staff that a replacement order was “watered down.” Days after agreeing to it, he told supporters at a rally in Tennessee that he had followed “the lawyers” but thought his original was better.

One of many unknowns of the Trump administration is how a president with no governing experience, and in particular no military or foreign-affairs experience, would interact with advisers steeped in such matters. The story of the travel ban shows a president who proved willing to listen, even defer, to a parade of advisers pushing a different line, yet one who remained confident in his own instincts.

Mr. Trump wasn’t happy with the idea of changing the order. The day before he agreed to it, he had a heated conversation with his general counsel, Don McGahn, in the Oval Office over what the president saw as a watering down of his order, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Trump signed the revised order in the Oval Office on March 6. There were no reporters present. The only photo documenting the moment was taken by press secretary Sean Spicer.

Trump’s Dire Need For Muslim Travel Ban And What Liberals Have Learned

The scroll bar on the bottom of the television screen this morning announced the revised travel ban will not be forthcoming until perhaps next week.  How can that be?

Was this ban not, as Trump told everyone, critical and required for immediate national security?  So how can delay be possible in the face of such dire warnings?  The answer is of course that white nationalism is a train-wreck that once exposed shows only hate drives the engine.  The original order which made for legal pitfalls and political embarrassment for the Trump White House is dead.

The new version of the travel ban will be significantly different.  For starters, one of the seven countries – Iraq – is coming off the list entirely.  Iraq was discussed in the news when the first travel ban was signed as being problematic due to needed military relations with a close ally.   And the idea that the new order may exempt all current visas holders from all of the countries listed is a major reversal.   What started as a Muslim ban could end up being tighter restrictions on those coming from six predominantly Muslim countries, with current visa holders unaffected.

The dire nature of what Trump was spouting at the outset was just pure racism.  It was due to the liberal resistance and legal moves which prevented that order from standing.  There is a major lesson to be gained from this outcome.

When The Mosul Dam Breaks

The catastrophe will come as no shock.  The manner in which the Mosul Dam was built and the why as to its construction is only the start of the reasons as to why there will be many held responsible for the carnage.

The U.S. Embassy’s report on the Mosul Dam envisions a similar scenario, magnified by the dam’s greater size and the densely populated areas downstream. A “tsunami-like wave” would rush through Mosul, carrying away everything in its path, including bodies, buildings, cars, unexploded bombs, hazardous chemicals, and human waste. The wave would almost certainly catch most of the people trying to outrun it. Residents of Mosul, scrambling on foot and by car through a citywide traffic jam, would need to travel at least three and a half miles to survive. In less than an hour, those who remained would be under as much as sixty feet of water.

With Mosul and other nearby villages occupied by ISIS, an orderly evacuation would be unlikely; the prospect of large numbers of people fleeing cities under ISIS control would pose its own security challenges. “Some evacuees may not have freedom of movement sufficient to escape,” the report said. An inland tidal wave could displace the 1.2 million refugees now living in tents and temporary quarters in northern Iraq, adding to the chaos.

The wave, the Embassy’s report predicted, would move rapidly through the cities of Bayji, Tikrit, and Samarra, wiping out roads, power stations, and oil refineries; damage to the electrical grid would probably leave the entire country without power. At least two-thirds of Iraq’s wheat fields would be flooded.

South of Samarra, residents would likely have to get farther away to avoid flooding, since the land begins to flatten out, making the floodplain wider. Shallow floods, the State Department said, could not be ignored. “Less than six inches of moving water is strong enough to knock a person off his feet,” the statement said.

Within four days, the wave would reach Baghdad, depositing as much as sixteen feet of water in many areas of the city, probably including the airport and the Green Zone, the site of government buildings and most of the embassies. The report said the majority of the city’s six million residents would face Hurricane Katrina-like conditions: people forced from their homes, with limited or no mobility and no essential services.

ISIS Smashes Priceless Ancient Artifacts

I so want to use all the words that I think are not professional or suited for blogging.  You have no idea what I want to type about this matter.     My heart sank tonight as I watched and heard Scott Pelly report the news.   I had to rewind the DVR to really believe that the ISIS forces are working to destroy historic sites in Nineveh and the remains of the ancient wall of Mosul.

Using a great amount of explosives ISIS forces blew away pieces of the wall considered the most important historical monument of the Iraqui province and the whole region, dating back to the civilization of the Assyrian kings in the eighth century BC.

Barbaric uneducated slime.

Scott Walker’s International Policy Shortcomings On Display–Even When He Is Correct

While I find the news made Sunday morning by Wisconsin Governor and almost certain-to-be presidential candidate Scott Walker interesting, I also find his lack of international experience and knowledge troubling.

This is very early in the political process which will lead to a vote for a new president in November 2016.   While we will have plenty of time to examine all the candidates and their policy ideas it is essential that we not accept a nominee from either party who is unqualified to lead this nation at a time many international crises are taking place.

That point was certainly the case when Walker spoke to ABC’s This Week’s Martha Raddatz  and proved that getting onto the national stage takes more than just a desire to be president.  It also takes some experience with how to think about international affairs and then know how to address them when asked to do so by a reporter.

WALKER: I think we need to have an aggressive strategy anywhere around the world. I think it’s a mistake to –

RADDATZ: But what does that mean? I don’t know what aggressive strategy means. If we’re bombing and we’ve done 2,000 air strikes, what does an aggressive strategy mean in foreign policy?

WALKER: I think anywhere and everywhere, we have to be – go beyond just aggressive air strikes. We have to look at other surgical methods. And ultimately, we have to be prepared to put boots on the ground if that’s what it takes, because I think, you know–

RADDATZ: Boots on the ground in Syria? U.S. boots on the ground in Syria?

WALKER: I don’t think that is an immediate plan, but I think anywhere in the world–

RADDATZ: But you would not rule that out.

WALKER: I wouldn’t rule anything out.

Almost instantly once Walker’s words were aired some of those who disagree with him made his comments out to be the end of his campaign–a race which has not even officially started.   While Walker could have commented much differently and more intelligently on the whole issue under question I do agree with one part of his response about the crisis that is taking place with ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Clearly there needs to be some serious adjustments to the military methods being used today to stop ISIS from taking more land, and also roll back the territory they now control.  While no one wants to see another land war in the Middle East that involves Americans it is also important to have policies based on what is required—what will be needed for a military win over ISIS.  Given that need it very well may require American troops on the ground.  In that respect Walker is correct.

There is no serious person in Washington who will disagree.  Even Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has made it known that American troops might be needed to fight ISIS. After all, the objectives that are to be met will require the methods best suited to achieve them.  At the core of Walker’s comments concerning the fact ISIS needs to be stopped in Iraq and Syria there is little to argue with when it comes to the possible future use of American troops

Where Walker is to be faulted in his comments is not drawing a clear line about how many places around the globe he thinks our troops should be stationed for battle.  Walker can be challenged for not making it clear that the goal of this nation should be to lend air support and all types of logistics for a united force of Middle Eastern nations that would supply the ground troops.  Only after all the other avenues proved to be unsuccessful would our troops be engaged.

No one will deny the fact that Walker has no background or grasp of foreign policy.  There is no record of Walker having a long list of interviews where foreign policy questions have dominated.  Except for the quick sound bite interviews Walker has never had to provide a detailed and rational answer that would give insight into his conceptual viewpoint of world affairs.  I do not think he has a world view, and clearly from his remarks on ABC has a problem articulating what he thinks he does know.

Where we can all agree, however, is that Walker’s absence of a larger perspective on the world is most troubling and certainly makes us feel uncomfortable with his candidacy.

The political angle that will make for interesting discussion this week is how this whole range of possible foreign policy questions was not better contemplated and a series of thoughtful answers not formulated in the prep sessions for these types of interviews.

But then again if someone was grounded in international affairs they would be aware of how to answer the questions without needing to be prepped.

That is the type of person we should want to see nominated from both parties come 2016.

Should Iraq Be Split In Order To Survive?

In 2006 then senator and now Vice-President Biden made the argument that perhaps the best way to remedy the political problems in Iraq is to divide the country.

The first is to establish three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security. The central government would control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues. Baghdad would become a federal zone, while densely populated areas of mixed populations would receive both multisectarian and international police protection.

In the past months as ISIS has grown and expanded it is clear the Kurds are capable of fighting to protect their interests, and also support the larger needs of the region.  But make no mistake there is a larger game plan underway, and one that the United States should very much consider.

The incursion of ISIS presents the Kurds with both opportunity and risk. In June, the ISIS army swept out of the Syrian desert and into Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. As the Islamist forces took control, Iraqi Army soldiers fled, setting off a military collapse through the region. The Kurds, taking advantage of the chaos, seized huge tracts of territory that had been claimed by both Kurdistan and the government in Baghdad. With the newly acquired land, the political climate for independence seemed promising. The region was also finding new economic strength; vast reserves of oil have been discovered there in the past decade. In July, President Barzani asked the Kurdish parliament to begin preparations for a vote on self-rule. “The time has come to decide our fate, and we should not wait for other people to decide it for us,” Barzani said.

European powers thought it best to craft this area into a country for mostly British interests, and clearly not for those who had to abide within the boundaries.  With the absence of a powerful enforcer who used brutal tactics–such as Saddam Hussein–the nation is not able to govern itself or meet the needs of the people.  In no way am I desiring a tyrant to gain control in Iraq.  Instead let of us agree the aspirations of the people in Iraq need to be recognized and perhaps the best route to meet that goal is to again look at the separation idea that Biden advocated almost  a decade ago.