Kellia’s World – Recommended Reading

Challenging the assumptions we live by — Because I want to.

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Wrapping up

Posted by kelliasworld on September 10, 2009

This Blog will close as of Oct. 1. Other things are in the works. Please join me at kellia.ning.com and/or subscribe to my audio podcast, Broadcaster At-Large, on iTunes or Radio4all.net

Thank You.

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Poor debtors go to jail and are billed for the privilege

Posted by kelliasworld on April 30, 2009

Commentary
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

Apr 27, 2009, 00:20

A doctor in the Midwest wrote to me again this past Friday about how the economic mess is destroying people.

He wrote, “One of my patients is a . . . 40ish CPA and she was in for an eye problem yesterday . . . She was distraught over the state of the economy and its effect on her clients. She has had many this year who have lost their homes to foreclosure. To her — and her clients’ — dismay, the bank or lending institution is issuing 1099 forms for re-po’d property to the victims. Apparently, since the hapless former homeowners are effectively ‘forgiven’ the remaining amounts on their loans, that is imputed as earned income and they are turned into the IRS for large tax liabilities!!! How’s that for justice? She said that she had actually had people speak seriously about killing themselves!”

“What a screwed up country . . . Yesterday, I finally bit the bullet and cashed in part of my IRA (already down near 50%) to pay off office credit cards (we have depended on these credit lines for office expenses for some time) because they all raised their rates to 30%!!! Of course, O[bama] has nothing to say about usury . . .

“On top of this, I ran across this today . . .” What followed was an article by Eric Ruder, Guilty of Being Poor from dissidentvoice.org. I will highlight some of its points but this is a must-read. It picks up the theme that the good doctor and his patient experienced firsthand, that of debtor’s prison, or jail time for nonpayment of debt.

As Ruder points out, “19th century jailers, even pre-Civil war, largely abandoned this odious practice of putting people in jail for falling into debt . . . In fact, in the 1970s and 80s, the US Supreme Court affirmed that incarcerating people who can’t pay fines because of poverty violates the US Constitution.” As he states, “some states and county jails never got the memo. Welcome to the debtor’s prisons of the 21st century.” He then detailed a number of real-life, often tragic cases.

The first was a poor Michigan resident who was ordered to reimburse a juvenile detention center $104 a month for holding her 16-year old son. This was the subject of a New York Times editorial, as well. I wonder if Ponzi swindler Bernie Madoff will be billed for his coming stay in prison, or Tyco International’s CEO Dennis Koslowski or Enron’s former CEO Jeff Skilling pay for their stays in prison.

In regard to the hapless Michigan resident, Edwina Nowlin, the Times wrote, “When she explained to the court that she could not afford to pay, Ms. Nowlin was sent to prison. The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which helped get her out last week after she spent 28 days behind bars, says it is seeing more people being sent because they cannot make various court-ordered payments. That is both barbaric and unconstitutional.”

Ruder wrote Nowlin’s case was more serious than the Times imagined. “Not only was Nowlin under orders to pay a fine stemming from someone else’s actions, but she had been laid off from work and lost her home at the time she was ordered to ‘reimburse’ the county for her son’s detention.” And even though she couldn’t pay, the court held her in contempt and laid a 30-day sentence on her.

Three days after she was jailed, she was let out for a day to work. She picked up a paycheck of $178.53, which she assumed could be put towards paying off the $104 to gain release from jail. But no, when she returned to the jail, “the sheriff told her to sign her paycheck over to the country—to pay $120 for her own room and board plus $22 for a drug test and booking fee.”

Nowlin asked for but was denied a court-appointed lawyer for her defense. “So, because she was too poor to pay for a lawyer and denied her constitutional right to a court-provided lawyer, she couldn’t fight the contempt charge that resulted from her poverty.” This as the fines and fees she was supposed to pay now multiplied like a credit card balance.

The director of the Michigan ACLU said, “Jailing her because of her poverty is not only unconstitutional. It’s unconscionable and a shameful waste of resources. It is not a crime to be poor in this country, and the government must stop resurrecting debtor’s prisons from the dustbin of history.”

Nor is Michigan the only state where you can be jailed for involuntary poverty. This nefarious process is going on every day in courtrooms around the USA. Read Ruder’s story for these hair-raising examples.

They take place in a number of southern states, including Georgia and Louisiana, and bear the unmistakable stamp of racism, as well as state-sponsored usury, a kind of terrorism all its own. It includes debtors being turned over to for-profit collection companies until they pay off their fines. So, while on prison probation, they have to come up with substantial monthly “supervision fees” that can double or triple the amount that a well-situated person would have to pay for the same offense.

Thus, this poverty profiling of debtors only serves to dig its victims deeper into debt with the possibility of longer and longer jail time, for which, in turn, there will be new charges.

That’s almost as vicious as Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and as criminal, given the defendant’s inability to obtain legal counsel.

Eric Ruder’s writes, “We need to build a movement, like the working-class struggles of the 1930s, that can demand an end to the inhuman practice of incarcerating people for no other crime than finding themselves at the bottom of the social ladder.”

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York City. Reach him at gvmaz@verizon.net. His new book, “State Of Shock: Poems from 9/11 on” is available at http://www.jerrymazza.com, Amazon or Barnesandnoble.com.

——-
The judges who did these things are a disgrace to the constitution and the court system. They should be immediately impeached, removed from office, and disbarred.

As for imputed income, I say we should pay taxes on imputed income when we can buy groceries with it. K.R.

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Twitter Comments

Posted by kelliasworld on April 3, 2009

April 3, 2009
The WordPress Twitter widget is new and still has bugs. If you see the message “no response from Twitter” in the Twitter widget on the left sidebar, please refresh the page. Maybe that will work. Maybe not.

If you would like to comment on anything I have posted in the Twitter widget on the left sidebar, please feel free to do so here.

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DIME (focused lethality) weapons

Posted by kelliasworld on February 13, 2009

Israel Treated Gaza Like Its Own Private Death Laboratory

By Conn Hallinan, Foreign Policy. Posted February 13, 2009.

Israel tested out a “focused lethality” weapon that minimizes explosive damage to structures while inflicting catastrophic wounds on its victims.

Erik Fosse, a Norwegian cardiologist, worked in Gaza hospitals during the recent war.”It was as if they had stepped on a mine,” he says of certain Palestinian patients he treated. “But there was no shrapnel in the wound. Some had lost their legs. It looked as though they had been sliced off. I have been to war zones for 30 years, but I have never seen such injuries before.”

Dr. Fosse was describing the effects of a U.S. “focused lethality” weapon that minimizes explosive damage to structures while inflicting catastrophic wounds on its victims. But where did the Israelis get this weapon? And was their widespread use in the attack on Gaza a field test for a new generation of explosives?

DIMEd to Death

The specific weapon is called a Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME). In 2000, the U.S. Air Force teamed up with the University of California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The weapon wraps high explosives with a tungsten alloy and other metals like cobalt, nickel, or iron in a carbon fiber/epoxy container. When the bomb explodes the container evaporates, and the tungsten turns into micro-shrapnel that is extremely lethal within a 13-foot radius. Tungsten is inert, so it doesn’t react chemically with the explosive. While a non-inert metal like aluminum would increase the blast, tungsten actually contains the explosion to a limited area.

Within the weapon’s range, however, it’s inordinately lethal. *****According to Norwegian doctor Mad Gilbert, the blast results in multiple amputations and “very severe fractures. The muscles are sort of split from the bones, hanging loose, and you also have quite severe burns.” Most of those who survive the initial blast quickly succumb to septicemia and organ collapse. “Initially, everything seems in order but it turns out on operation that dozens of miniature particles can be found in all their organs,” says Dr. Jam Brommundt, a German doctor working in Kham Younis, a city in southern Gaza. “It seems to be some sort of explosive or shell that disperses tiny particles that penetrate all organs, these miniature injuries, you are not able to attack them surgically.” According to Brommundt, the particles cause multiple organ failures.*****

*****If by some miracle victims resist those conditions, they are almost certain to develop rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), a particularly deadly cancer that deeply embeds itself into tissue and is almost impossible to treat. A 2005 U.S. Department of health study found that tungsten stimulated RMS cancers even in very low doses. All of the 92 rats tested developed the cancer.*****

While DIMEs were originally designed to avoid “collateral” damage generated by standard high-explosive bombs, the weapon’s lethality and profound long-term toxicity hardly seem like an improvement.

***It appears DIME weapons may have been used in the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, but not enough to alarm medical workers. But in Gaza, the ordinance was widely used. Al-Shifta alone has seen 100 to 150 victims of these attacks.***

Gaza as Test

Dr. Gilbert told the Oslo Gardermoen, “there is a strong suspicionthat Gaza is now being used as a test laboratory for new weapons.”

***DIME is a U.S. invention. Did the Israelis get the weapons from the United States, or did they design similar ones themselves? Given the close relations between the two militaries, it isn’t unlikely that the U.S. Air Force supplied the weapons or, at least, the specifications on how to construct them. And since the United States has yet to use the device in a war, it would certainly benefit from seeing how these new “focused lethality” weapons worked under battlefield conditions.***

Marc Garlasco, Human Rights Watch’s senior military advisor, says “it remains to be seen how Israel has acquired the technology, whether they purchased weapons from the United States under some agreement, or if they in fact licensed or developed their own type of munitions.”

*******DIME weapons aren’t banned under the Geneva Conventions because they have never been officially tested. However, any weapon capable of inflicting such horrendous damage is normally barred from use, particularly in one of the most densely populated regions in the world.*******

For one thing, no one knows how long the tungsten remains in the environment or how it could affect people who return to homes attacked by a DIME. University of Arizona cancer researcher Dr. Mark Witten, who investigates links between tungsten and leukemia,
says that in his opinion “there needs to be much more research on the health effects of tungsten before the military increases its usage.”

Beyond DIMEs

*****DIMEs weren’t the only controversial weapons used in Gaza. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) also made generous use of white phosphorus, a chemical that burns with intense heat and inflicts terrible burns on victims. In its vapor form it also damages breathing passages. International law prohibits the weapon’s use near population areas and requires that “all reasonable precautions” be taken to avoid civilians.*****

Israel initially denied using the chemical. “The IDF acts only in accordance with what is permitted by international law and does not use white phosphorus,”
said Israel’s Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi on January 13.

But eyewitness accounts in Gaza and Israel soon forced the IDF to admit that they were, indeed, using the substance. On January 20, the IDF confessed to using phosphorus artillery shells as smokescreens, as well as 200 U.S.-made M825A1 phosphorus mortar shells on “Hamas fighters and rocket launching crews in northern Gaza.”

Three of those shells hit the UN Works and Relief Agency compound on January 15, igniting a fire that destroyed hundreds of tons of humanitarian supplies. A phosphorus shell also hit Al-Quds hospital in Gaza City. The Israelis say there were Hamas fighters near the two targets, a charge that witnesses adamantly deny.

*****Donatella Rovera of Amnesty International said: “Such extensive use of this weapon in Gaza’s densely-populated residential neighborhoodsand its toll on civilians is a war crime.”*****

*****Israel is also accused of using depleted uranium ammunition (DUA), which a UN sub-commission in 2002 found in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions, the International Convention Against Torture, the Conventional Weapons Convention, and the Hague Conventions against the use of poison weapons.*****

***DUA isn’t highly radioactive, but after exploding, some of it turns into a gas that can easily be inhaled. The dense shrapnel that survives also tends to bury itself deeply, leaching low-level radioactivity into water-tables.***

War Crimes?

*******Other human-rights groups, including B’Tselem, Gisha, and Physicians for Human Rights, charge that the IDF intentionally targeted medical personal, killing over a dozen, including paramedics and ambulance drivers.*******

The International Federation for Human Rights called on the UN Security Council to refer Israel to the International Criminal Court for possible war crimes.

Although the Israelis dismiss the war-crimes charges, the fact that the Israeli cabinet held a special meeting on January 25 to discuss the issue suggests they’re concerned about being charged with “disproportionate” use of force. The Geneva Conventions require belligerents to at “all times” distinguish between combatants and civilians and to avoid “disproportionate force” in seeking military gains.

Hamas’ use of unguided missiles fired at Israel would also be a war crime under the Conventions.

“The one-sidedness of casualty figures is one measure of disproportion,” says Richard Falk, the UN’s human rights envoy for the occupied territories. A total of 14 Israelis have been killed in the fighting, three of them civilians killed by rockets, 11 of them soldiers, four of the latter by “friendly fire.” Some 50 IDF soldiers were also wounded.

In contrast, 1,330 Palestinians have died and 5,450 were injured, the overwhelming bulk of them civilians.

“This kind of fighting constitutes a blatant violation of the laws of warfare, which we ask to be investigated by the Commission of War Crimes,” a coalition of Israeli human rights groups and Amnesty International said in a joint statement. “The responsibility of the state of Israel is beyond doubt.”

Enter the Hague?

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann would coordinate the defense of any soldier or commander charged with a war crime. In any case, the United States would veto any effort by the UN Security Council to refer Israelis to the International Court at The Hague.

But, ***as the Financial Times points out, “all countries have an obligation to search out those accused of ‘grave’ breaches of the rules of war and to put them on trial or extradite them to a country that will.”***

***That was the basis under which the British police arrested Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998.***

***”We’re in a seismic shift in international law,” Amnesty International legal advisor Christopher Hall told the Financial Times, who says Israel’s foreign ministry is already examining the risk to Israelis who travel abroad.***

***”It’s like walking across the street against a red light,” he says. “The risk may be low, but you’re going to think twice before committing a crime or traveling if you have committed one.”***

Copyright — 2009 Foreign Policy in Focus.

Conn Hallinan is a Foreign Policy In Focus columnist.

__________

More information on DIME weapons: (Note: proponents of this weapon say there is low collateral damage. True if you are talking about  buildings. False if you are talking about people).

Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/dime.htm

The DIME Bomb: Yet Another Genotoxic Weapon, Part I – http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/27a/308.html

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Changes to this blog

Posted by kelliasworld on February 13, 2009

February 13, 2009

As of today, this blog will become a satellite to my new Ning site at http://kellia.ning.com/

That site will focus on my work and I hope will host discussions. I think it is more suited to multimedia presentation, at least as I want to do it, than this platform is. You are invited to join it.

This site will post interesting articles written by others. Activity on it should increase as it will be easy for me to just post articles to it. You are welcome to also be here to read and comment on what you have read.

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Obama: Change you can believe in… NOT!

Posted by kelliasworld on October 28, 2008

[This article was first published on the website “Speaking Truth to Power”. Please forgive any formatting errors as we don’t have the formatting software or expert personnel that professional online magazines have.]

Part 2: Foreign Policy

By Kéllia Ramares

During a debate on January 31, 2008, Sen. Barack Obama said, “I don’t want to just end the war, but I want to end the mind-set that got us into war in the first place.”1 That is an excellent idea. But Obama’s other words, the Democratic Party Platform, and the advisers he has chosen for his foreign policy team indicates that the January statement is just a bunch of pretty words. He will not reverse the trend of American military interventionism that is so costly in lives, money, and American standing in the world. As Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has written, “much of the Democrats’ anti-war rhetoric has more to do with politics and anti-Bush sentiment than it does with ideological opposition to the use of force.”2

Yes, Obama wants to end the Iraq War but,

The 2008 Democratic Party platform flatly states:

Expand the Armed Forces

We support plans to increase the size of the Army by 65,000 troops and the Marines by

27,000 troops. Increasing our end strength will help units retrain and re-equip properly between

deployments and decrease the strain on military families.3

Recruit and Retain

A nation of 300 million people should not struggle to find additional qualified personnel to serve.

Recruitment and retention problems have been swept under the rug, including by applying inconsistent standards and using the “Stop Loss” program to keep our servicemen and women in the force after their enlistment has expired. We will reach out to youth, as well as to the parents, teachers, coaches, and community and religious leaders who influence them, (emphasis mine) and make it an imperative to restore the ethic of public service, whether it be serving their local

communities in such roles as teachers or first responders, or serving in the military and reserve forces (emphasis mine)or diplomatic corps that keep our nation free and safe.4

Re-train and re-equip properly between deployments? Sounds like Obama plans to keep the military busy.

This indicates that Obama will only provide a change of tactics, not strategy. The Iraq War is bad, but war itself is a perfectly permissible tool of foreign policy. Rep. Ron Paul, who sought the Republican nomination himself this year, understands the issue. In an interview with CNN’s Kiran Chetry in August, he stated that there was no difference between the foreign policies of Sens. McCain and Obama:


“Their foreign policies are identical,” Paul explained. “They want more troops in Afghanistan. They want to send more support to Georgia to protect the oil line there. Neither one says bring home the troops from Iraq from the bases — you know the bases are going to stay there, the embassy as big as the Vatican, that’s going to remain. So their foreign policies are exactly the same. They’re both very, very aggressive with Iran. So I would say there’s no difference.”


“How would you handle these global threats, then, if it’s not to send our troops there and make sure that we’re protected?” Chetry asked.

“We create the threats!” Paul replied emphatically.5

American foreign policy will not change substantially until a president acknowledges that we create threats, and figures out that we all would be better off if the US didn’t act like a bully, or the world’s policeman. That is not likely to happen until the sheeple who attend Sarah Palin’s rallies, and who think patriotism means blind adoration of your country and its leaders, and that any finding of fault means you hate America, stop sitting on their brains. As long as Palin’s “Pro-America” small-towners and their brothers and sisters in larger cities who swallowed Bush’s post 9-11 propaganda about evildoers who “hate our freedoms” post “United We Stand” and “We are Resolved” signs in their shop windows, and “Support the Troops” stickers on their cars without ever asking “Stand where?”, “Resolved to do what?” and “Who benefits from our troops being in harm’s way?” this nation will always have cannon fodder for the politicians of both parties, who receive contributions from the corporations that are the true beneficiaries of American’s pro-war foreign policy. And while those politicians are bailing out Wall Street, the veterans are being tossed onto Main Street. Although solid numbers on veteran foreclosures are not available, RealtyTrac, a Web site that follows foreclosures nationwide, reported earlier this year that areas with large numbers of military personnel have foreclosures at a rate four times the national average.6

Obama does not believe that the “war on terror” is wrong. He sees a place for military engagement with Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. For example, the Democratic Party Platform says: We cannot tolerate a sanctuary for Al Qaeda. We need a stronger and sustained partnership between Afghanistan, Pakistan, and NATO–including necessary assets like satellites and predator drones–to better secure the border, to take out terrorist camps, and to crack down on cross-border insurgents.7 (I will not here get into the issue of how real or how infiltrated by CIA Al-Qaeda might be). Even if you do not believe that the United States government let 9/11 happen on purpose, or to go even further, as I do, that the United States government made 9/11 happen on purpose, you should ask yourself: Does our continued military presence in Southwest Asia only increase the recruitment capability of terrorist groups? Let’s put it another way: If a foreign military force occupied your hometown, would you resist or aid the resisters, even is that resistance included violence? One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

The Black Bill Clinton

The parallels between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are truly striking. Both first sought the presidency while still in their forties. Both faced opponents a generation older. Both were raised in financially straitened households with an absent father. (Clinton’s birth father died before Bill was born and his stepfather was an alcoholic. Barack’s father left the family when Barack was 2). Both managed nonetheless to attend prestigious universities (Clinton: Georgetown, Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship and Yale Law; Obama: Columbia and Harvard Law). Both married strong, highly educated women and both fathered daughters.

The Obama campaign has frequently argued that a John McCain presidency would be, in effect, the third Bush term. Barack Obama appears to be a continuation of Bill Clinton.

At this year’s first debate among the Democratic candidates the moderator asked, “Senator Obama, you have Bill Clinton’s former national security adviser, state department policy director and navy secretary, among others, advising you. With relatively little foreign policy experience of you own, how will you rely on so many Clinton advisers and still deliver the kind of break from the past that you’re promising voters?” As Obama fumbled for an answer, “Well, the,uh, I am…” Senator Hillary Clinton started cackling and said, “I wanna hear that.” To which Obama replied, “Well, Hillary, I’m looking forward to you advising me as well. I wanna gather up talent from everywhere.”8

Indeed, Obama has hundreds of advisers, paid and volunteer, in both domestic and foreign policy. But those closest to him are a recycling of previous administrations and Washington power politics. The change is in the offices they will sit in during an Obama Administration. If he really wanted change, he would surround himself mostly with the best and brightest of the men and women whose voices are not often heard in Washington. If you are reading this article, you have probably read, or listened to, or taken a class from, or participated in a project started by these new people. Recycling is generally a good thing, but it does have its limits.

The Vice President

Sen. Obama named as his running mate a Senate colleague who represents a state that has only 3 electoral votes, and whose own two presidential bids ended early. What does Joseph Biden bring to the ticket and to a potential Obama Administration?

The Vice-Presidency has become a powerful office in the last three decades, and, as Vice President, Joe Biden would be one of, if not THE closest advisor to President Obama. Biden’s age (68), length of Senate service, (first elected to the Senate in 1972) and status as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, give the campaign of the youthful (47), relatively inexperienced (first elected to the Senate in 2004) gentleman from Illinois a certain gravitas, especially in foreign affairs.

But it is a gravitas that suggests that the veteran Senator from Delaware will advise Obama to take traditional courses of action in foreign policy viz., heavy on militarism. While Obama was opposing the invasion of Iraq as a member of the Illinois state senate, Biden was in Washington carrying water for George W. Bush.


Biden claimed that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a threat to our national security. He held hearings on Iraq that excluded Iraq WMD expert Scott Ritter, who would have testified to Iraq’s lack of such weapons, or dissenters in the Pentagon and State Department who refused to march to the ideological beat of the White House war drums.9 Biden was calling for an invasion of Iraq in 1998, during the Clinton Administration.10


More recently, Biden has been the principal congressional backer of a de facto partition of the country between Kurdish, Sunni Arab, and Shia Arab segments, a proposal opposed by a solid majority of Iraqis.11 More generally, the Delaware senator has been one the leading congressional supporters of U.S. militarization of the Middle East and Eastern Europe, of strict economic sanctions against Cuba, and of Israeli occupation policies.12


On privacy, a right that has lost much protection in the name of “national security,” Biden has proved to be a reliable friend of the FBI. In the 1990s, Biden was chairman of the Judiciary Committee and introduced two bills, one called the Comprehensive Counter-Terrorism Act,13 and the other the Violent Crime Control Act.14,15 Both mandated government “backdoors”:


It is the sense of Congress that providers of electronic communications services and manufacturers of electronic communications service equipment shall ensure that communications systems permit the government to obtain the plain text contents of voice, data, and other communications when appropriately authorized by law.16

Let me here remind people who think that the Democrats are the protectors of our freedoms that January 1993-January 2001 were the Clinton years and that Bill Clinton staunchly favored government backdoors into our computers.


While neither of Biden’s pair of bills became law, they did foreshadow the FBI’s pro-wiretapping, anti-encryption legislative strategy that followed.17


Zbigniew Brzezinski: Carter Redux


I recall some snickering when George W. Bush reached back into the Nixon Administration for two of his closest advisors: Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. But Zbigniew Brzezinski, Obama’s chief foreign policy adviser, is also a retread. This old Cold Warrior was born in Poland, and served as Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor. During the Carter years he promoted Islamic fundamentalism to counteract then-Soviet influence in the Middle East. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) a member of the Middle East and South Asia subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has said, “I remember thinking, ‘Why are we listening to him?’ (Brzezinski) He was the national security adviser for Jimmy Carter 30 years ago. He proceeded to talk to us about Iran, and I said, ‘Let me see, didn’t the ayatollahs come to power, didn’t we have this problem when you were in the White House?'”18


People who want to see the Taliban defeated because of what they have done to women should remember that Afghani women were among the freest in the Islamic world when that nation was under a Soviet-influenced government. And while we’re on the subject of Afghanistan let us remember that Obama’s much touted call for an end to the war in Iraq does not come from a desire to set America on a path to peace, but to enable the Pentagon to commit more troops to Afghanistan.


The Democratic Party platform contains a section titled Win in Afghanistan. It says: “Our troops are performing heroically in Afghanistan, but as countless military commanders and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledge, we lack the resources to finish the job because of our commitment to Iraq, We will finally make the fight against Al Q’aeda and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. We will send at least two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan, and use this commitment to seek greater contributions—with fewer restrictions—from our NATO allies.19


So progressive voters who want peace should realize that Obama, doubtlessly backed others on his foreign affairs team, shares the old hubris about American military might, even though history tells us that Afghanistan is a nation that has never been successfully subdued by an invading force. And current allies also doubt the likelihood of military success. For example, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, Britain’s commander in Afghanistan recently said: “We’re not going to win this war. It’s about reducing it to a manageable level of insurgency that’s not a strategic threat and can be managed by the Afghan army.”20


Interestingly enough, Brzezinski does not share the enthusiasm for stepping up combat in Afghanistan.


We cannot try to create a modern, centralized, democratic state in Afghanistan from the top down using essentially foreign troops to impose such a solution. This collides with the sense of ethnic identity and religious sensitivity in a country that is very resistant to foreign intrusions. We need an altogether different approach. Some additional troops in the short run may be necessary, but the main emphasis has to be on decentralized political accommodation with the different elements which are collectively described as the Taliban but in fact representing a much more diversified group.”21

But Brzezinski wants to see the United States continue its imperial ways. He is the author of a book called “The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives”:


…it is correct to assert that America has become, as President Clinton put it, the world’s “indispensible nation.”…Without sustained and directed American involvement, before long, the forces of global disorder could come to dominate the world scene. And the possibility of such a fragmentation is inherent in the geopolitical tensions not only of today’s Eurasia but of the world more generally.22

Indispensible nation? Does this mean that some nations are dispensible? Who gets to make that determination and on what basis can it be made? And what does he mean by forces of global disorder? Terrorists, or people who want self-determination rather than the dictates of the United States or the New World Order?

The most immediate task is to make certain that no state or combination of states gains the capacity to expel the United States from Eurasia or even to diminish significantly its decisive arbitrating role.23

Is there any wonder some people have resorted to terrorism in the face of this appalling imperial hubris?

Eleven years later, we see in the Democratic Party platform a section bearing Zbig’s imprint. It is titled: Lead in Asia:

We will encourage China to play a responsible role as a growing power–to help lead in addressing the common problems of the 21st century. 24

The Chinese have the world’s largest population, a 5,000-year-old culture, nuclear weapons and a trade surplus with the US that reached $75.3 billion dollars in the first half of 2008.25 That statement in the platform treats China like a junior partner in an American enterprise. Given the trade surplus and the fact that the United States depends on China to buy much of its government debt, such an attitude is presumptuous and patronizing in the absurd. But it also represents the Post WWII American exceptionalism that the stock-in-trade for people such as Brzezinski.

Brzezinski’s views on democracy and empire are downright scary:

A genuinely populist democracy has never before attained international supremacy. The pursuit of power and especially the economic costs and human sacrifice that the exercise of such power often requires are not generally congenial to democratic instincts. Democratization is inimical to imperial mobilization.26(emphasis mine).

Is that why the Constitution has gone into to shredder over the past eight years?

And:

Moreover, as America becomes an increasingly multicultural society, it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in circumstances of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat. (emphasis mine)27

Direct external threat? Like 9-11, perhaps? Does this sound like a man who would advise Obama to restore democracy at home to serve as an example to peoples abroad?

Of course, given the current financial crisis, caused in part by the disastrous and expensive invasion and occupation of Iraq, as well as by the massive corruption and exploitation in the financial industry, it is questionable whether America can remain the world’s “indispensable nation.”


And what about Russia?


Zbigniew Brzezinski is joined on Obama’s foreign policy team by another Russia hard-liner, Michael McFaul. McFaul is a political scientist is the Hoover Institution on the campus of Stanford University, and McFaul is a former Russian policy adviser to George W. Bush.28 Mention McFaul’s credentials to someone who tries to argue to you that Obama is some sort of radical liberal. McFaul favors the expansion of NATO to include Ukraine and Georgia,29 something Russia opposes. Russia does not like the idea of its historical adversaries (NATO) expanding right up to its borders. Obama seems to be quite willing to antagonize the Russia bear by supporting NATO expansion.


Dmitri Simes, president of the Nixon Center in Washington, is a Republican but not a neoconservative.30 He has said, “Brzezinski and McFaul are not known for their desire to engage Russia on anything. If McFaul is representative of Obama’s foreign policy thinking, it’s difficult to imagine that there will be any sort of positive engagement with Russia if he is elected.”31


Failure to engage a nation with whom we disagree is not change. It is the standard policy, as anyone who pays attention to Cuba can tell you.


Simes’ prediction bodes ill, not only for US-Russia relations, but for relations between the US and Europe as Europe becomes more and more dependent on Russian energy supplies.


Where are we headed?


…To Be Continued

1 Spencer Akerman, “The Obama Doctrine”, The American Prospect, March 24, 2008,

http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=the_obama_doctrine

2 Michael Rubin, “Obama or McCain, Iran stance won’t change”, The Australian, Oct. 3, 2008, http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24437864-7583,00.html

3 Renewing America’s Promise: The 2008 Democratic National Platform, as approved by the 2008 Democratic National Convention Monday, August 25, 2008, Denver, Colorado, p. 34,

http://www.democrats.org/a/party/platform.html

4 Renewing America’s Promise p. 34, http://www.democrats.org/a/party/platform.html

5 David Edwards and Muriel Kane, “Ron Paul: ‘There’s no difference’ between McCain and Obama”, The Raw Story, Aug. 28, 2008, http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Ron_Paul_will_not_support_John_0828.html

6 Malcolm Garcia, “Foreclosure crisis falls hard on veterans”, The Kansas City Star, Oct. 21, 2008

http://www.kansascity.com/637/story/852096.html

7 Renewing America’s Promise, p. 30, http://www.democrats.org/a/party/platform.html

8 Obama to Hillary: I look forward to you advising me,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhPxSm9Es0w

9 Stephen Zunes, “Biden, Iraq and Obama’s betrayal”, Foreign Policy in Focus, Aug. 24, 2008, http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/5492

15 Declan McCullagh, “Joe Biden’s Pro-RIAA, Pro-FBI tech voting record”, CNET news, Aug 23, 2008 http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10024163-38.html

18 Eli Lake, “Obama Adviser Leads Delegation to Damascus”, The NY Sun, Feb 12, 2008,

http://www.nysun.com/foreign/obama-adviser-leads-delegation-to-damascus/71123/

19 Renewing America’s Promise, p. 29, http://www.democrats.org/a/party/platform.html

20 “British commander says war in Afghanistan cannot be won”, Reuters, Oct. 5, 2008,

http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSTRE4940O020081005?rpc=64

21 Brzezinski: West Must Avoid Russia’s Mistakes in Afghanistan

Deutche-Welle, Oct. 16, 2008, http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,3715692,00.html

22 Brzezinski, Zbigniew, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives. (New York, Basic Books, 1997). p. 195.

23 Brzezinski, ibid. p. 198.

24 Renewing America’s Promise, p. 28, http://www.democrats.org/a/party/platform.html

25 China’s trade surplus falls more than 11% in H1, Xinhua, Oct. 7, 2008 as printed in The China Daily, Oct. 16, 2008, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2008-07/10/content_6834802.htm

26 Brzezinski, op. cit., p. 210.

27 Brzezinski, op. cit., p. 211.

28 Robert Dreyfuss, The Rise and McFaul of Obama’s Foreign Policy, The Nation, July 2, 2008, http://www.thenation.com/blogs/dreyfuss/334120/

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