Tuesday, March 24, 2009

CNN’s Michael Ware Takes a Look at Mexico

When the going was hairy in Iraq, CNN appointed foreign correspondent Michael Ware to cover the carnage and idiocy passing for foreign policy in the Bush administration. Michael Ware was not part of the officially okayed bunch of clowns the Bush administration “embedded” with the US troops and told what to say and how to say it. Ware never shied from letting it be known (which was often) when he thought the US generals were off base and doing our troops a disservice. Ware has an Australian accent, but he had lived in Baghdad since before the US invasion. He is now 40 years old and CNN has sent him to Mexico to have a look-see at the drug war. Last night, Michael Ware reported back to Wolf Blitzer in CNN’s Situation Room. Blitzer asked if the beefing up of the US border with Mexico would make a difference. Ware said, “Well, you certainly have to applaud any measure. But I have to say, from what I've seen so far in Mexico -- and I'm about to be spending a lot more time there -- this is a drop in the bucket, finger in the dike stuff. “I mean let's not forget what's driving this war. It's two things. One is the profit motive of the cartels. And beefing up the border even more hasn't stopped them so far. When they closed the routes through Florida and the Caribbean for the Colombian cartels, that's when the Mexican cartels took over and said we'll get it in. “I don't see that being stopped. We can disrupt it, make business more expensive, but it's not going to stop because they have the other coastline—the land border and they’ll never shut that tight. “Have you seen the drug subs? The guerrillas in Colombia actually built drug submarines that were able to skim just under the surface of the water, carrying as much as a ton of cocaine. And in the last couple of years, there's been increasing interceptions of those.” Ware estimates the drug cartels have 100,000 foot soldiers. These are well-armed troops with fully automatic weapons -- grenades and .50 caliber Barrett sniper rifles. “Now, these are a military weapon that I've only ever seen in the hands of the Marines and the U.S. Army,” Ware said. Blitzer asked for a comparison between the troops in Iraq and the drug cartel troops in Mexico. Ware said, “ Well, I'm very shy of making comparisons between a holy war or a political insurgency in Iraq and a profit-motivated drug war in Mexico. “However, I have to say, when I was in Juarez, the city that's right on the border with El Paso, the front line town, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was in the midst of an insurgency.” Blitzer asked about the Mexican military, if it doesn’t have the capability to deal with the drug cartels. Ware said, “Oh, Wolf -- Wolf, please. Please. Look, already the Mexican military has as many as 45,000 troops in the field, in their own country, fighting their own citizens. Now, this is a military trained like anyone else's military, to defend the sovereign territory of their country. And now they're being turned into super armed policemen, because you can't trust the local police. They're riddled with corruption. You can't...” Blitzer cut in saying, “But you're not really saying, are you, Michael, that you -- you think the United States should send in thousands of American troops onto sovereign Mexican soil to fight this war?” Ware answered, “Well, good -- heaven forbid that that should ever happen. But you either legalize these things and cut the demand or you're going to have to intervene. Now, what I'm looking to the White House and President Obama for is a third way. Now, that's what he's going to have to find -- some measure between those two things, because America is responsible for this war, Wolf. It's American demand for the illicit drugs that's fueling it. It's being fought on both sides with American weapons. And it's been neglected by the United States pretty much since 9/11.” Blitzer noted that secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be in Mexico later this week; the president is planning a trip next month; and Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano is going to confab with the Calderon government soon. Blitzer said he assumes they’ll all come up with some sort of new strategy. Ware said Admiral Stavridis (head of Southern Command) went to Mexico a couple weeks ago after which he briefed President Obama. As Blitzer noted, the big sign that something big is brewing in Mexico is that CNN sent Michael Ware to cover it. And yes, of course, Ware is right on the money: The drug problem is totally due to American demand for illicit drugs.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Pope Gets it Wrong Again

On his monthly gaffe run, Pope Benedict XVI made new headlines yesterday. Last month, His Eminence recommunicated Bishop Richard Williamson--or whatever it’s called when the Pope reinstates an excommunicated member of the Roman Catholic Church. Along with three other bishops, Pope John Paul had excommunicated Bishop Williamson in 1988. Their ordination hadn’t had papal approval. The leader of an ultraconservative group, the Society of St. Pius X, ordained the four, which was against the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. This past January, in order to heal a schism in the church, Pope Benedict revoked the excommunication of the four Bishops. Not a month after being reinstated, Bishop Williamson said on Swedish television that the Nazi gas chambers had never existed and that no more than 300,000 people had died in the Holocaust. It didn’t sit well in the world that a German Pope had reinstated a Holocaust denier who was still in full vigor and proclaiming his anti-Semitic nonsense even into the 21st century. With the Vatican’s highly vaunted “moral authority” in question, the Vatican’s PR hype-machine revved up and scrambled to do damage control. The Pope repeatedly condemned Holocaust denial. To add to Pope Benedict’s humiliation, Williamson has never recanted his statement, he has simply said he’s sorry his remarks caused “harm and hurt”. He claims he’s a “nonhistorian” and that his perspective was formed “20 years ago on the basis of evidence then available.” Oh please! Twenty years ago was 1989. All available evidence supported the existence of the Holocaust in 1989. Time races forward. It is now a month after the Bishop Williamson debacle and the Pope has hit the news again. Yesterday Pope Benedict said from Yaounde, Cameroon, Africa: “You can’t resolve H.I.V./AIDS with the distribution of condoms, on the contrary, condoms increase the problem.” All known authorities on AIDS readily admit that condoms do not solve the AIDS issues. However, all known authorities on AIDS agree that the distribution of condoms is the one way that the spread of AIDS can be diminished to a large degree. The distribution of condoms does NOT increase the problem. The pope said, “a responsible and moral attitude toward sex would help fight the disease.” A responsible and moral Pope would help fight many of the problems in the world. Sadly, we do not have a responsible and moral Pope. And that is unfortunate for the world, the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church.

Monday, March 16, 2009

True, I Couldn’t Watch ALL of Cheney on CNN

I could stand only about half of John King’s interview with former Vice President Dick Cheney yesterday. But I have read the entire transcript of Cheney’s exercise in revising history (even in the face of John King’s pointed questions). And Cheney has his post-Bush-regime delivery down pat. He acts like he’s thought about his answers and he has a considered and reasonable air. He doesn’t go off on tangents or fuss, fume or rant. He doesn’t need to. The GOP has Rush Limbaugh. Cheney said, “Rush is a good friend. I love him. I think Rush is a good man.” Dick Cheney simply continued to tell lies about the past eight years. He appeared to assume that he, his sect and his devotees had been the only ones who witnessed history as it played out. The rest of us don’t matter. 1) King asked if the Bush administration left a mess for President Obama to clean up. Cheney said: “I don't think you can blame the Bush administration for the creation of those circumstances. It's a global financial problem.” And by the way, all through the interview, Cheney deferred to George W. Bush, saying that Bush had made the decisions, some of which Cheney did not agree with. Okay, if that’s the way the GOP wants to play it, that’s the way it will be played. However, it would be interesting to know who actually was making the decisions that Cheney disagreed with because of this we may be sure, the decider was not the overmedicated, underachieving, out-of-the-loop, mumbling, babbling, incoherent George W. Bush 2) King asked: “Is the Obama administration going to be successful in restoring confidence in the markets?” Cheney said he “hoped the Obama administration would be successful". He added, “I noted when the markets were going down, they didn't want to talk about it.” I have no idea what Cheney meant by that. The Dems have always been willing and eager to talk about the markets beginning to plummet—it was during the Bush years. 3) King asked: “If you were in Rahm Emanuel’s place (Chief of Staff) would you tell Obama he’s trying to do too much too fast? Cheney said Obama’s situation is like the first Bush term. People are giving Obama a lot of advice to change his program and the Bush administration rejected the idea to change. “We did not allow the critics to diminish what we were trying to accomplish,” Cheney said. Um so...I guess we are to infer Cheney would not tell Obama he's moving too fast. It was kind of John King not to say that the Bush administration had been perfectly capable of diminishing their accomplishments themselves. 4) King asked why people should listen to Cheney now in view of the fact that unemployment numbers, poverty numbers and the budget deficit were at record levels during the Bush administration. Cheney said, “Eight months after we arrived, we had 9/11. We had 3,000 Americans killed one morning by al Qaeda terrorists here in the United States. We immediately had to go into the wartime mode. We ended up with two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of that is still very active. We had major problems with respect to things like Katrina, for example. All of these things required us to spend money that we had not originally planned to spend, or weren't originally part of the budget. Stuff happens. And the administration has to be able to respond to that, and we did.” In addition, Cheney again equated the Iraq war to World War II, which it never has been on a par with. Cheney said, “We always said -- I always said that wartime scenario is cause for an exception in terms of spending. It was appropriate in World War II, certainly, and I think it's appropriate now.” Cheney probably didn’t mean that “now” to mean now. But that’s what he said. King asked Cheney, given that Cheney was an MBA, a Washington insider and a CEO, how come he and the people in the administration couldn’t see the financial meltdown coming? Were they all so caught up in the boom times that they couldn’t see the warning signs? Cheney said, “I think so. I don't recall, you know, sort of a general warning of concern until things started to turn -- turn south on us.” Oh my! He doesn’t recall. About the Iraq war, Cheney said, “we've accomplished nearly everything we set out to do.” John King asked if Cheney would go so far as to say, “Mission Accomplished”? Cheney said he wouldn’t use that term, but only because it would trigger reactions the GOP doesn’t need. So. Yeah, Cheney is still defending invading Iraq, still saying it was the right thing to do and still saying the Bush administration kept Americans safe. He even said that Obama’s decision not to use torture would endanger America. Cheney was very clear that he believed Obama would not keep the USA safe. Here’s an interesting and telling note. Cheney claimed that the Bush administration had kept the US safe in myriad ways. He said there had been many, many, many planned attacks on the United States that Bush and Crew had intercepted, and most of these planned attacks had been kept secret. But he said one serious plan to attack the US was made public. This was, Cheney said, “the potential attack coming out of Heathrow, when they were going to have several American planes with terrorists on board, with liquid explosives, and they were going to blow those planes up over the United States. That attack was intercepted and stopped, partly because of the programs we had put in place.” To recap that incident in the here and now and to take it out of Cheney's fantasy realm: On August 10th, 2006, the British police arrested 25 suspects in a plot supposedly using liquid explosives to blow a plane up over the United States. Eventually, only 8 men (Ahmed Abdullah Ali, Assad Sarwar, Tanvir Hussain, Oliver Savant, Arafat Khan, Waheed Zaman, Umar Islam, Mohammed Gulzar) were charged in connection with the plot. The trial began in England in April 2008. On September 8th 2008, after more than 50 hours of deliberations, the jury did not find any of the defendants guilty of conspiring to target aircraft. Why should we listen to Dick Cheney? There is absolutely no rational reason under the sun.