Wednesday, March 28, 2007

THIS is the type of thing where the UN could actually be helpful!

The United Nations has proven woefully impotent to have a positive impact in even 1 of the endless swirl of deadly conflict and international discord that haunts our time.

Yet wouldn't occasions and events such as this define a perfect set of parameters in which which the UN could actually be helpful. Proper UN mediation to help parties such as Iran and Great Britain resolve a clearly defined dispute is the perfect level of genuine service the UN could perform. Of course the dangers in this stand off are massive, but the parameters of the issue itself are very manageable. It would be infinitely easier for Iran to return the sailors in compliance with a UN ruling offered upon hearing all evidence from both sides, than it will be for Iran to respond to British threats compounded by asinine, unhelpful war simulation around Iran's coast conducted by US forces.

Britain releases evidence in Iran dispute

Britain today released maps and evidence that officials said showed the 15 UK service personnel captured by Iran last week had been 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi territorial waters.

Vice Admiral Style, the deputy chief of the defence staff, said one of the two small British craft intercepted by the Iranian navy at gunpoint had a GPS (global positioning system) device on board.

Information from that device, along with further evidence from a British military helicopter, proved the sailors were operating "well inside" Iraqi waters when they were seized last Friday, he said.

The Ministry of Defence "unambiguously contested both locations" given by Iran, the vice admiral said. He told reporters that the detention of the British personnel was "unjustified and wrong".

The personnel 14 men and one woman were on patrol in an area in the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab waterway, which forms part of the border of Iran and Iraq.

The situation has been further complicated by the fact that there has been a dispute over the border between the two countries for decades. However, Vice Admiral Style said the boarding of the dhow had taken place 7.5 nautical miles south-east of the al-Faw peninsula in Iran.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Two problems here

Relevant article below

1. Hopefully all will soon lose interest in purely political efforts to resolve these wearisome, intractable, and carnage-laden standoffs. Human life and reality is divided into at minimum 3 levels of organization, 1. Religious, 2. Social, and 3. Political. Politicians are in fact LEAST equipped by profession and orientation to have insight and reflexes toward peace.

We should all stop running at Lucy's football, and simply yawn at trips like those of Secretary of State Rice. She is from a profession incapable of brokering peace.

2. The US under president Bush has all but forfeited its ability to stand as a mediator in the region. Until we dig ourselves out of our (on-going) post 9-11 failures, US leaders should not bother to travel to the region alone. We should work with other countries first (such as Indonesia), and then travel to meet Middle East leaders together with partners who stand in a better position to be heard.
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Muted reaction to US Mid-East peace push
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Jerusalem on 27 March 2007
"Diplomacy, dishmomacy," were his actual words.
'Damage limitation exercise'
A land-for-peace proposal where Israel would withdraw from the land it occupied after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, allowing a Palestinian state to be formed in Gaza and the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
This done, Arab nations would recognise Israel.
But Ms Rice wants them to do so beforehand as an incentive to Israel to sit at the negotiating table.
'Biased' mediator
Palestinian critics say Ms Rice has shown, once again, that she is a friend of Israel, not an honest broker in this process.

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Childish and unhelpful

Great Britain is trying to negotiate for the peaceful return of 15 young people,

In Tehran, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, insisted the detained Britons had been treated well: "They are in completely good health. Rest assured that they have been treated with humanitarian and moral behavior."

Hosseini said the 26-year-old female sailor, Faye Turney, had complete privacy. "Definitely, all ethics have been observed," he said. He would not say where the Britons were being kept.

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and this is what the US decides to do:

The maneuvers, involving 15 U.S. warships and more than a hundred planes, were certain to increase tension with Iran, which has frequently condemned the U.S. military presence off its coastline.

The exercises began only four days after Iran captured 15 British sailors and marines whom it accused of straying into Iranian waters near the Gulf. Britain and the U.S. Navy have insisted the British sailors were operating in Iraqi waters.

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On Tuesday, the U.S. Navy began its largest demonstration of force in the Persian Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, with two aircraft carriers and backed by warplanes flying simulated attack maneuvers off the coast of Iran.

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Kevin Aandahl said the U.S. maneuvers were not organized in response to the capture of the British sailors — nor were they meant to threaten the Islamic Republic, whose navy operates in the same waters.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Peace work

Anyone afraid of death should not be in the business of peace, and should avoid visiting dangerous places.
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UN chief startled by rocket attack in Iraq

BAGHDAD -- A rocket landed near the prime minister's office Thursday during the first visit to Iraq by the head of the United Nations in nearly a year and a half, sending Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ducking unharmed behind a podium at a news conference.

The rocket caused no injuries but rattled the building in the heavily guarded Green Zone, sent small chips of debris floating from the ceiling, and left a one-metre-wide crater about 45 metres away outside.

He appeared frightened, casting his eyes right and left as he rose after ducking behind the podium where he was standing and answering questions with al-Maliki. A worried-looking Ban turned to one of his aides and asked: "Is it OK?"

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Of All People

Relevant article below

Who would have dreamt that the Democrats of all people would be the group to come to the rescue of Americans longing for freedom from an intrusive and oppressive federal government!

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Congress to probe improper FBI spying

"Many of us have been saying that the potential for abuse of the Patriot Act's national security letter authority is almost without limit," Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. John Conyers (news, bio, voting record), Jr., D-Mich., said in announcing the hearings. "This report demonstrates how that potential has now become a reality.

In 2001, the Patriot Act eliminated any requirement that the records belong to someone under suspicion. Now an innocent person's records can be obtained if FBI field agents consider them merely relevant to an ongoing terrorism or spying investigation.

In 2000, the FBI issued an estimated 8,500 requests. That number peaked in 2004 with 56,000. Overall, the FBI reported issuing 143,074 requests in national security letters between 2003 and 2005. In 2005, 53 percent were for records of U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

WASHINGTON - Congress wants to know how the FBI illegally or improperly gathered telephone, e-mail and financial records of Americans and foreigners while chasing terrorists.

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Envoy: NKorea refuses to join nuke talks

Relevant articles attached below

This author urges rapid movement past the Banco Delta Asia obstacle, and further, though sympathetic with Japan, past concerns over Japanese citizens kidnapped in the 1970's and 80's.

Indeed negotiations are exasperating, especially on those rare occasions when a lesser power gains a strong position from which to negotiate. The rich and powerful are never very comfortable in such circumstances.

The points here are three:
  1. The goal and potential rewards here are astronomical. The chance to pull the plug on the otherwise inevitable domino-effect nuclearization of Northeast Asia is invaluable.
    1. Now is NOT the time to confound the conversation. The counterfeiting issue, and the missing citizens are important surely, but please, one thing at a time.
  2. Related to this is the incredible leap being considered by North Korea. Think of what they are being asked to give up! And in return besides "cash" they gain nothing more than to become utterly dependent on the good will of the more powerful nations with whom they are negotiating. (Would you trust the US, China, Russia, et al?)
  3. The whole matter is one of pride. Avoid all trifles that introduce humiliation to North Korea. These important matters can be addressed at another time.
Finally, Japan should resist falling onto the outside of a positive communal outcome as matters hopefully return to on track. With both pro-North, and pro-South Koreans there, Japan is in many ways one of the keys to stabilization of the region. It is crucial that Japan retain a position from which it can remain deeply integrated into long term engagement with North Korea, helping it to grow, mature and prosper post de-nuclearization. With Korea's mineral wealth, Japan stands to gain a great deal through such a relationship, if it can keep its eyes on the long-term future.

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Envoy: NKorea refuses to join nuke talks

BEIJING - International talks on North Korea's nuclear program stalled again Tuesday, with Pyongyang refusing to take part until it receives $25 million from a bank blacklisted by the United States, Japan's chief envoy said.

"According to China, North Korea said they will not come to join further discussions until they confirm that their money got into their bank account in China," Sasae said.

North Korea boycotted the international nuclear talks for more than a year after the U.S. alleged it was using Banco Delta Asia to launder money and process counterfeit currency.

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Japan row threat to N Korea talks
The comments, carried by the North's official news agency, follow tensions about the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by Pyongyang decades ago.
The row threatens to overshadow the six-nation talks taking place in Beijing on a nuclear deal.
But Tuesday's session was under threat after North Korea reportedly boycotted a meeting of the chief delegates over another issue that threatens the deal - the lifting of a freeze on its assets in a Macau bank.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Ahmadinejad - Abdullah meeting

Had Saddam not crossed the House of Saud by invading Kuwait in 1990, he might still be in power today. It seems that Ahmadinejad is determined not to make the same mistake. He journeyed to Riyadh to receive, if not the blessing of King Abdullah on his adventurism and jockeying for Islamic leadership, then at least a signal from the King that the Saudis would not resist him as long as he doesn’t interfere with their interests. However, at the same time, Iran’s former consul-general in Dubai, Adel Assadinia, charges that Iran has planted sleeper cells in the Gulf states to recruit Shi’ites and to sow civil strife, as well as to attack American interests, if the U.S. or Israel attacks Iran. In that event, reports the Telegraph, “such cells would be instructed to foment long-dormant sectarian grievances and attack the extensive American and European business interests in wealthy states such as Dubai and Saudi Arabia. Such a scenario would bring chaos to the Gulf, one of the few areas of the Middle East that remains prosperous and has largely pro-Western governments.”

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Ahmadinejad's Game

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Iraq for sale video

This video reports the privatization of US war in Iraq
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US Embassy in Iraq

From The Times of London
May 03, 2006
In the chaos of Iraq, one project is on target: a giant US embassy

From Daniel McGrory in Baghdad

THE question puzzles and enrages a city: how is it that the Americans cannot keep the electricity running in Baghdad for more than a couple of hours a day, yet still manage to build themselves the biggest embassy on Earth?

Irritation grows as residents deprived of air-conditioning and running water three years after the US-led invasion watch the massive US Embassy they call “George W’s palace” rising from the banks of the Tigris.

In the pavement caf├ęs, people moan that the structure is bigger than anything Saddam Hussein built. They are not impressed by the architects’ claims that the diplomatic outpost will be visible from space and cover an area that is larger than the Vatican city and big enough to accommodate four Millennium Domes. They are more interested in knowing whether the US State Department paid for the prime real estate or simply took it.

While families in the capital suffer electricity cuts, queue all day to fuel their cars and wait for water pipes to be connected, the US mission due to open in June next year will have its own power and water plants to cater for a population the size of a small town.

Officially, the design of the compound is supposed to be a secret, but you cannot hide the giant construction cranes and the concrete contours of the 21 buildings that are taking shape. Looming over the skyline, the embassy has the distinction of being the only big US building project in Iraq that is on time and within budget.

In a week when Washington revealed a startling list of missed deadlines and overspending on building projects, Congress was told that the bill for the embassy was $592 million (£312 million).

The heavily guarded 42-hectare (104-acre) site — which will have a 15ft thick perimeter wall — has hundreds of workers swarming on scaffolding. Local residents are bitter that the Kuwaiti contractor has employed only foreign staff and is busing them in from a temporary camp nearby.

After roughing it in Saddam’s abandoned palaces, diplomats should have every comfort in their new home. There will be impressive residences for the Ambassador and his deputy, six apartments for senior officials, and two huge office blocks for 8,000 staff to work in. There will be what is rumoured to be the biggest swimming pool in Iraq, a state-of-the-art gymnasium, a cinema, restaurants offering delicacies from favourite US food chains, tennis courts and a swish American Club for evening functions.

The security measures being installed are described as extraordinary. US officials are preparing for the day when the so-called green zone, the fortified and sealed-off compound where international diplomats and Iraq’s leaders live and work, is reopened to the rest of the city’s residents, and American diplomats can retreat to their own secure area.

Iraqi politicians opposed to the US presence protest that the scale of the project suggests that America retains long-term ambitions here. The International Crisis Group, a think-tank, said the embassy’s size “is seen by Iraqis as an indication of who actually exercises power in their country”.

A State Department official said that the size reflected the “massive amount of work still facing the US and our commitment to see it through”.


A US Inspector General’s report into reconstruction found that although $22 billion had been spent, water, sewage and electricity, infrastructure still operated at prewar levels

Despite “significant progress” in recent months, less than half the water and electricity projects have been completed

Only six of the 150 planned health centres have been completed

US officials spent $70 million on medical equipment for health clinics that are unlikely ever to be built. More than 75 per cent of the funds for the 150 planned clinics have been allocated

Task Force Shield, the $147 million programme to train Iraqi security units to protect key oil and electrical sites failed to meet its goals. A fraud investigation is under way

Oil production was 2.18 million barrels per day in the last week of March. Before the war it was 2.6 million

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The nauseating and wearisome quality of partisan politics

What can be done about politics in democracies? Why is the politsphere so alien in its ways and dynamics to the simple realities we clearly know and see in daily life? We pay SO much to have these politicians around us, but they are so bizarre in their behavior, wildly (and problematically) different from normal people. Is it possible that a radical change in how society is governed is soon to be upon us? Might it be possible that governance will start to reflect normal human behavior?

Below is an article from the SF Chronicle about Senator McCain being forced by Karen Finney of the DNC to "apologize immediately for his callous comments" McCain said US lives were "wasted" in Iraq.

McCain Says He Regrets Iraq Comment

We ALL know speaking is speaking. We ALL know that we don't get things right every time we speak. We ALL know we ALL get things a little off, a little wrong a lot of the time. John McCain IS Mr. Soldier. Everyone knows that. McCain is the America's biggest cheerleader for the US invasion of Iraq outside the Bush circle. His whole persona is military. Democrats jumping all over him for a wrong word? Who's kidding whom?

We don't need this wasteful, fantasy world of the constant lust for political advantage constantly swirling around us and using up our money. We need a concept of governance that spares us this perversity, and releases human good will to engage political reality in search of solutions and pursuit of a wholesome vision for life in the world. The oppositionness of American society is now extreme to a harmful degree. Americans should revolt against the persistence of this moribund system.

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