John (“Bomb Iran”) Bolton, the New Warmonger in the White House

From today’s The New Yorker Magazine:

Hawks are closing in on the White House. John Bolton, arguably the most abrasive American diplomat of the twenty-first century, will soon assume the top foreign-policy job at the National Security Council. As is his wont, President Trump announced yet another shakeup of his inner circle in a tweet late on Thursday. He dismissed General H. R. McMaster, who couldn’t survive a testy relationship with the impatient President despite his battle-hardened career and three stars on his epaulets. Trump tapped Bolton to take over. A former U.N. Ambassador currently best known as a Fox News pundit, Bolton has advocated far harder positions than Trump, including bombing campaigns, wars, and regime change. The late-day news flash sent chills across Washington, even among some Republicans.

With Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, due to take over from the ousted Rex Tillerson at the State Department, the team deciding American actions across the globe will now be weighted by hard-liners and war advocates. Defense Secretary James Mattis, a retired marine general, is the most pragmatic policymaker left. What an irony. (And how long will Mattis stay? He was photographed having dinner with Tillerson on Tuesday.)

Bolton, a Yale-educated lawyer whose trademark is a white walrus mustache, championed the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which produced chaos followed by waves of extremist violence in the region. He also advocated international intervention to oust Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. He has repeatedly urged military action in Iran and North Korea, which he has called “two sides of the same coin.”

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, written two months ago, Bolton condemned the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran as a “massive strategic blunder”—then went further. American policy, he wrote, “should be ending Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution before its fortieth anniversary,” next February. “Recognizing a new Iranian regime in 2019 would reverse the shame of once seeing our diplomats held hostage for four hundred and forty-four days. The former hostages can cut the ribbon to open the new U.S. Embassy in Tehran.”

Read the complete article here.

Syrian security forces fire on protests

The widespread discontent with governments throughout the Middle East and North Africa continues, as troops in Yemen, Bahrain, and now Syria use lethal force against its citizens in an effort to stop the organization of dissent that has toppled governments in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.

Get used to seeing this map, too. The Middle East is undergoing a prolonged titantic shift as democratic protests topple governments after years of repression and stagnation.

The use of lethal force has become the fulcrum on which U.S. diplomacy and military intervention turns, and in an interesting development about  the brute fact that events are moving too quickly for our comfortable categories to keep up with, the U.S. is dropping the ball. Once again, U.S. intelligence, and therefore policies of diplomacy and military intervention, are lagging in ways that reveal deep inconsistencies about the way we define self-interest and sovereignty in relation to ourselves and in relation to other peoples and states. Our assumptions about the Muslim world and its people, and our willful ignorance of the diversity of economic, social, and political dynamics in different countries, have literally exploded in the last two months as the Middle East experiences a sudden seismic shift in a direction that, like it or not, we cannot ultimately control.

Two questions. Why are we continuing to support some dictatorships in countries that either collaborate with us in the war on terror, or provide us with oil, or both? The governments in both Bahrain and Yemen have been firing on protests and using violent suppression to stop protesters from regrouping, but the U.S. ignores the pleas of those people while barely condemning the actions of their governments with strong language. Yet in the case of Libya the situation apparently warrants military action? Perhaps the economies of scale warrant the change in policy, if the systematic use of indiscriminate military force against civilian populations changes the equation.

How many countries will the U.S. have to intervene in before there is stability? The scene is worrisome in the Middle East because as governments topple and fragile democracies are formed, there is an explicit conservative element of religious fundamentalism (not unlike the religious-right in this country) that will fill that void and use the state for its own puritanical and tyrannical ends, and this would be a dangerous turn for our war on terror. The more there is instability, the more imperatives arise for military intervention, and the more military intervention, the more resistance to U.S. military presence will grow throughout the Middle East. The U.S. position in the Middle East is growing weaker, and expanding the use of force is probably to make its position even worse off in the long run, unless our policies of engagement in this region are reformed from the ground up.

Permanent crises, disaster capitalism, and kanji

The earthquake that leveled much of northern Japan on March 11 and the tsunami that followed, stresses the fragility of humanity despite modern technology. In the aftermath of a 9.0 earthquake such technology turns out not only to be a blessing as resources and aid workers can and did mobilize quickly to help the Japanese people, it also turns out to be a liability. What started out as a natural disaster has quickly turned into a manmade disaster. Several of Japan’s nuclear power plants are severely damaged and are in danger of melting down, a scenario that makes Russia’s Chernobyl incident in 1986 pale by comparison.

"But surely you agree we can do without Mother Nature?" —Monty Burns

Although information filters such as government and media blur the picture of events in Japan, it appears that the scale of the crisis might have peaked, and that a full-blown meltdown will not occur now that power has been restored. After lacking power for several days many of the reactors cores reached dangerous levels of heat without turbines to keep them cooled in large tanks of heavy water. Radiation levels in the power plants reached dangerous proportions within 24 hours, and in a fine example of Japanese kanji 50 workers at Fukushima remained behind to try and contain radiation. Soon radiation levels in surround areas reached dangerous levels, and evacuations commenced. Now there are dangerous levels of radiation and radioactive iodine showing up in food sources and the water supply. With millions of Japanese living in the streets, in tents or temporary shelters, and in the rubble of their homes, the refugee crisis alone is daunting without worrying about further consequences of long-term radiation exposure for the environment and the Japanese people.

A global conversation immediately has ensued about the safety of nuclear power even though this question has been debated since nuclear energy was first harnessed for commercial purposes. There are different positions in this debate, ranging from abolitionists of all forms of nuclear power (including weapons) to policy makers who want more use of it as part of a long-term strategy to rid human beings completely from dependence on non-renewable resources. The Japanese nuclear crisis is forcing some reconsideration of assumptions in this debate because the relationship between nuclear power our environmental concerns turns out to run in the other direction as well. In addition to being concerned about the environmental costs of nuclear power, which is not by any means an environmentally neutral form of energy conversion, we now have to be concerned about the nuclear costs of environmental imbalances.

Like BP’s Gulf oil spill in 2010, the over-compensation of technology in environmentally challenging geographies poses questions about the hubris of our technological intervention in Mother Nature. If the nuclear crisis in Japan is averted with little lasting radiation, it will be a testament to Japanese intelligence, will, and kanji. The conversation must not stop there, however. We must fit this disaster into another larger conversation about technology capabilities and environmental imbalances. In the context of Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf oil spill, and the current nuclear crisis in Japan, perhaps it is time to start asking whether our roles in these disasters can be averted in the future by taking more responsibility for our technological intervention in Mother Nature.

The fact that Japan is presently struggling with another nuclear crisis—one the U.S. made during WWII with its decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the other by its own making with a push from Mother Nature—shows that learning the hard lessons by correcting for past mistakes remains elusive in spite of our amazing technological prowess. For some strange reason, this has been a particularly hard lesson to learn for global capitalism and its apologists.

UN moves against Qaddafi regime

Developments in the Libyan conflict moved quickly last week as the United Nations Security Council voted to impose a “no-fly zone” over Libya in order to help rebel forces there, who have had several setbacks at Kaddafi’s loyalist forces and mercenaries have driven them from previously kept rebel strongholds in the eastern part of that country.

President Obama announced that an international coalition led by France, UK, and America would impose the “no-fly zone” as well as target Kaddafi military forces that are targeting civilians. France and the UK took the lead on Saturday by immediately bombing military targets in Libya, including anti-aircraft missile sites and radar installations. In addition, U.S. military warships launched Tomahawk missiles at similar targets.

In less than 10 years now the U.S. has engaged in its third military action in the Middle East, raising questions about the coherence of its piecemeal response to ongoing crises in various Muslim countries as well as its long term strategy for promoting peaceful transitions to democratic regimes. For example, many people are asking why the U.S. is intervening in Libya but not in Bahrain or Yemen where authoritarian regimes have cracked down on pro-reform demonstrators and hundreds of protesters have been killed by military and police forces. On Sunday, demonstrators seethed with rage in Manama, Bahrain as the government  tore down the giant tower in Pearl Square, which had become the central battleground, and effective symbol, for protesters demanding democratic reforms.

The problem with asymmetries in U.S. foreign policy in the region was highlighted on Saturday as Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that imposing a “no-fly zone” in Libya amounted to a war because it would require destroying key military targets, radar, and airfields. He also was skeptical of the usefulness of “no-fly zones,” but claimed that this would be the only limited the step the U.S. would take at this time, warning that no ground troops would be sent in to support the rebel forces. Gates stressed this was a conflict for the Libyans to solve, and that imposing a “no-fly zone” is to protect the mass murder of innocent civilians by loyalist forces of Kaddafi.

The situation in Libya is growing tense. Many fear that if Kaddafi is not deposed soon, the struggle will turn into a long and bloody one for control of different regions of Libya, exacerbating long and deep tribal and clan divisions. The best hope is that the international coalition provide support and aid to the rebel coalition in an effort to defeat Kaddafi’s loyalist forces before bloody civil war becomes a permanent part of Libyans’ lives.

Mummifed pharaoh sits on asp

President Hasni Mubarak of Egypt thought someone said “sit down” not “step down,” and in an alarming development apparently sat on his pet asp, a poisonous snake best known for taking the life of Cleopatra. Reporters were unsure if the ass biting incident with the snake happened before the press conference convened. Mubarak appeared tired and his face looked like crate paper, as if he had been recently preserved for dead, but his slurring and lethargic speech, while defiant, also was largely unintelligible. These unconfirmed rumors of poisoning were widespread. “Lots of mumbling,” an unnamed Mubarak aid mentioned in passing. “Are you kidding me,” said a military official. “It’s a regular Weekend at Bernie’s around here!”

Egypt’s Mubarak refuses to cede power

In a televised address to the Egyptian nation, President Hasni Mubarak is refusing to step down despite weeks of protest that has brought the world’s most populous Muslim country to a virtual standstill. Even though the writing is on the wall that his reign of terror has come to an end, Mubarak’s stubborn refusal puts the personal ambitions of a man before the security and prosperity of an entire people.

His announcement means two things:  protestors will continue to resist Mubarak’s decision with even more fierce determination than before, while the military will mobilize to quell more unrest. This will lead to more conflict and violence in the streets of Cairo and around the nation. The ensuing bloodshed  will be on the head of Mubarak. His unwillingness to listen to the people of Egypt means effectively that his regime will have to be toppled by violence. Even worse, it could lead to a military coup as the army leadership looks for ways to bring security to Egypt with as little bloodshed as possible.

President Obama should demand the immediate resignation of Mubarak for the sake of keeping the peace, and for the sake of regional stability. The people have spoken. Mubarak must go, and if he does not Egypt faces the real threat of collapsing into political violence, revolution, and military dictatorship if he does not heed their will.

US evangelicals push anti-gay agenda abroad

The New York Times has been following a story over the last two years about the presence of US evangelical missionary groups in Uganda. A Times article published in January 2010 claimed missionaries gave public lectures in the capital of Kampala, promoting an anti-gay agenda.

“For three days, according to participants and audio recordings, thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on homosexuality. The visitors discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how ‘the gay movement is an evil institution” whose goal is “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.'”

Now the Times is reporting that David Kato, the country’s most prominent gay rights spokesperson has been beaten to death with a hammer in his Kampala home, signaling that the anti-gay seeds US missionaries have sewn here have taken root.

Listen to audio recordings of the anti-gay propaganda of US evangelicals being spread in Uganda, which was posted in the January 2010 Times article. Disgusting beliefs and actions from people who profess to follow the love of the Gospels. The right-wing organizations  sponsoring this missionary activity should be heavily scrutinized by both US officials and civil rights organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, and their activities should be disrupted by protest that draw public attention to their evil ways.