Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Time Has Come For Brilliance and Generosity

The Time Has Come For Brilliance and Generosity

Is the opinion of those who live outside the borders of the United States important? In the new global economy where we seek to peacefully cooperate with the international community and create opportunity and security for us all, it matters now more than it ever did before. That's why I'm disturbed to see our nation going in the opposite direction in the court of world opinion of the one in which we should be going, especially in nations we need on our side in order to win the war on terrorism and extremism.

The Pew Global attitudes project has released the results of a study upon which Informed Comment blogger Juan Cole recently commented:

Communist China is now widely viewed as much less dangerous than the democratic United States. Don't you think that might turn into actual consequences?

Bush repeated at the news conference his statement that the US was not in Iraq in the 1990s when the US embassies in Africa and the USS Cole were hit by al-Qaeda or in 2001 when al-Qaeda hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

This meme is so stupid and even Bush should be ashamed for trotting it out. First of all, al-Qaeda had other grievances at that time, including the US military presence in Saudi Arabia and the Israeli occupation of the Muslim holy city of Jerusalem and its mistreatment of Muslim Palestinians. They were also angry about the US propping up the governments they were trying to overthrow, including Egypt and Algeria.

But that al-Qaeda had these grievances does not mean that Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq cannot now generate more terrorism. If a few thousand Muslims were upset about the al-Qaeda grievances of 1996 through 2001, many millions of Muslims are upset about US actions in Iraq.

In Nigeria, the favorable view of the United States has risen. Why? The report says that most people in Nigeria have not heard of America's torture of prisoners of war and that health concerns for themselves and their own families such as bird flu and other communicable diseases are on their minds. Nigeria has suffered with a lot of internal strife. It is no wonder there is a high rate of citizen discontent within their nation. Last week at the Clinton Global Initiative, I met a journalist named Akinwale who grew up in Nigeria and now lives in the United States. We spoke about the spread of HIV/AIDS and many other preventable diseases in Nigeria and the ways that philanthropy and NGO activity, often inspired by Americans (famous or otherwise) who come to Africa to see for themselves how their fellow human beings suffer and to generate or provide help, is making a difference in how people in Nigeria view the people of the United States. Akinwale said that he hoped more and more Americans would travel to African nations and see for themselves, people-to-people, what we can accomplish together as a decent human race.

We can't say "No" any longer and we can't say "It can never be done." Our great nation has expanded its commerce and influence across the planet and we must act in a responsible way toward our global family. We cannot shrink backward now, for the world has  progressed forward from isolated populations; to interdependent peoples who have formed their own democratic governments; to what is now an absolutely necessary time for  international cooperation and respect. Unnecessary wars must end. It must be done if our mission is to form a more perfect union which is not only for the richest nation on earth, but for all of us. If citizens of nations across the sea do not see the American people - allegedly the freest society on earth - as a caring and concerned group; and if they don't see America as a responsible and honest broker, we might as well shrink back into our old isolation.  

Queen Rania al Abdullah of Jordan, has said:

In this day and age, with increased globalization on a daily basis, we are dealing with people from different countries and different cultures. We are using products that come from different countries, et cetera, yet we are not armed with the knowledge that we need to really understand one another and that only comes through human interaction, person to person interaction.

We win hearts and minds through our good faith efforts to truly understand each other and to ease suffering and increase opportunity in the world -  rather than making war over the heads of innocent populations who are already in despair.

A change in U.S. foreign policy is clearly indicated by these latest Pew findings. This is not the world of our fathers - it's a changed world with new technologies and new risks. It's smaller than ever before. Our economic well being and our national security depends heavily upon the peace and good will that can exist in this world. While battling the forces of extremism, it's time for an increase in generosity. It's time for brilliance in leadership. It's time for governing with good faith in the spirit of cooperation toward the rest of our world. It's time to develop public policy that promotes cross-cultural education and understanding at home and abroad. Americans should be fed information instead of fear. If we can't learn to live together and respect the best of our differences, we will perish alone.

Helping to cure Schistosomiasis in Kwa'al, Nigeria
photo credit: Carter Center photo, Emily Howard Staub

Go to this site to view the Carter Center's work in Nigeria.

Where's Mullah Omar?

Where's Mullah Omar?

"Where's Mullah Omar?" has become a question that rings through our ears like "Where's Waldo?"...but in a much more serious sense, of course. We're not talking about a child's picture book - we're talking about tracking down a dangerous terrorist leader. What seems obvious is that neither Hamid Karzai nor Pervez Musharraf know where Mullah Omar is, and the pressure to track him down by the U.S. has them at each other's throats. This is a U.S. effort as well as an effort between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan rejects the accusation that it is not doing enough, saying it has deployed 80,000 troops along the porous border. Musharraf says the problem lies in Afghanistan, and that is creating the problem in Pakistan. Karzai said his government has not stopped the Taliban from committing acts of terrorism because of the country's police and military structures have been weakened from years of war. He also claims that some people in the region are using extremists to maintain their own political power. (Does he mean Musharraf?)

I doubt that any of the leaders involved would deliberately hide the whereabouts of Omar (the retribution from the U.S. would be too great. Our best hope is that U.S. mediators will do their job in a way that encourages all leaders to work in harmony and use their best intelligence to tackle the problem. I was lucky enough to have seen and heard both Presidents Karzai and Musharraf speak in New York last week, and I came away with the feeling that both Presidents are comitted to a wise solution to terror and extremism within their nations. If they understand the Bush administration like we do, these two Middle Eastern leaders probably understand that they're going to have to take the reins and find a way to be the diplomats that BushCo never have been and likely never will be.

The government of Pakistan is denying this report.

President Musharraf seems very concerned about separating himself and his nation from any impression that he is harboring or dealing with Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Omar's like the hot potato that neither Karzai nor Musharraf cares to admit they're anywhere near. Musharraf has claimed that recent media reports have been reporting errant and misleading information about a truce that he says Pakistan made with a grand jurga, which is an assembly of tribal elders...not at all to be confused w/Mullah Omar or his terrorist faction. He accused the media of not clearly understanding culture and custom, in which tribal elders actually fight the terrorist factions. (Who are we to believe?)

His words from a press con last week:

"This treaty is not to deal with the Taliban. It is actually to fight the Taliban. The misperception in the media, I did clarify to the president, and may I very briefly say, and what I explained to the president, that this is a holistic approach that we are taking to fighting terrorism in Pakistan, in the tribal agencies of Pakistan.

This is a political side of the holistic strategy, the holistic strategy being the military arm being used, a political element, an administrative element and a reconstruction element.

So we want to move, on all these aspects, forward.

Confining myself to this deal, this deal is not at all with the Taliban. As I said, this is against the Taliban, actually. This deal is with the tribal elders of North Waziristan agency."

Last week I heard President Musharraf say that he believes that the Israel/Palestinian conflict is at the heart of extremism and until the conflict is addressed and resolved, there will be no "winning a war on terror." He believes that miltary action alone to fight terrorism is widening the canyon-sized rift between East and West - and increasing extremism. How do you fight terrorism when extremism gets worse by the day?

Keith Olbermann: Clinton's Spoken the Truth About 9/11

Keith Olbermann: Clinton's Spoken the Truth About 9/11

Please read this piece by MSNBC's Keith Olbermann.

An excerpt:

The headlines about them are, of course, entirely wrong.

It is not essential that a past president, bullied and sandbagged by a monkey posing as a newscaster, finally lashed back.

It is not important that the current President's portable public chorus has described his predecessor's tone as "crazed."

Our tone should be crazed. The nation's freedoms are under assault by an administration whose policies can do us as much damage as al Qaida; the nation's marketplace of ideas is being poisoned by a propaganda company so blatant that Tokyo Rose would've quit.

Nonetheless. The headline is this:

Bill Clinton did what almost none of us have done in five years.

He has spoken the truth about 9/11, and the current presidential administration.

Right on, Keith.

Cornyn Appears on Divisive Show and Says We Need to Unite!

Cornyn Appears on Divisive Show and Says We Need to Unite!

The Gall!

Senator John Cornyn [R-Tx] gave a phone interview to Rush Limbaugh on his radio show today and called the Clinton presidency "mediocre" and "an embarassment at best." I thought that he sounded like an insulting little weasel to talk about a former President in such demeaning terms. The man I heard talking to Rush today was no gentleman - no statesman.

Cornyn said he believes that the nation needs to come together to confront Islamic extremism in divese places around the world. If that's the case, I wonder why Cornyn made no mention of Chris Wallace's extremely divisive attitude in interviewing the former President while the topic was open for discussion on the Limbaugh show? If the great American discussion is divisive - as we know it is on Fox News and on the Rush Limbaugh radio show - then why is Cornyn running to such a show if he believes we need to come together so badly?

Cornyn used the stupid and false-premised "the enemy will follow you home" excuse for staying a miserably disastrous and failed course in Iraq. He says he thinks that Osama bin Laden and his folowers were "emboldened" by Black Hawk down in Somalia *As if they weren't emboldened by Bush's knee-jerk neocon reaction to attack a country that had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11.

Like a dumb wounded animal, Bush played our nation directly into Bin Laden's sly hopes and dreams - the great spread of anti-Western terror. Don't believe me? Check the latest NIE. Weren't we the clever ones?

Senator Cornyn stated that terrorists "don't respect" weakness or a cut and run attitude. Who gives a damn what these murderers respect? Why would we be after their respect? Is that what this war's about? Get Aretha Franklin to sing about it if all we want is respect.

What is this war in Iraq about, anyhow?

The GOP and the Bush administration have given us at least 21 rationales, none of them true or even credible with what we now know with certainty. Our goals in Iraq have never been clearly delineated.

* Speaking of "embarassments," Senator Cornyn's own constituents are embarrassed by the fact that he's perpetuating blatant and stubborn lies in public while facing witnesses who know a hell of a lot more than he does.

*Max Blumenthal says that Cornyn's shifted to the right to support George W. Bush's reactionary agenda. He wonders if has Cornyn has lurched so far to the right that he now supports the views of Thomas Fleming and his confederates?

Gen. Clark: America Will Use the Draft Again

Gen. Clark: America Will Use the Draft Again

At Daily Kos, there is a diary from mikebailey2000 about a fundraiser he attended at a private home for Colonel Mike Weaver who is running in Kentucky's 2nd district. In this day and age, I think a lot about the draft, because thanks to the Bush administration's foreign-policy facilitation of the increase of extremism around the world, there is a thin line between being able to make do with a volunteer force to meet challenges and conscripting our young men and women to war. This statement caught my attention:
General Wesley Clark does not think BushCo has the guts or political clout to start the draft at this time. Interestingly, Clark is not anti-draft. He feels there is a time and place for the draft, and when the American public is in agreement about that time and place, America will use the draft again. But Iran will not be that time and place.
It's a dismal thought, and our military recruiters are having a hard time getting new volunteers to join up because potential recruits have seen how current volunteers are being stretched to the point of mental and physical fatigue in places like Iraq.

I think we'd best open up this discussion here and now - before the time comes for a draft and we're unprepared.

Bush Giving Away Secrets to Protect Himself?

Bush Giving Away Secrets to Protect Himself?

Democrats can't get a closed session on the new NIE, but President Bush says that he will release sensitive classified information from the report in order to save his own political ass. That's been a disturbing trend with Bush. He went all out to tell the world all about our secret CIA prisons in order to defend his political penchant for torture. Now he wants to tell the world all about our failures and shortcomings. This guy is all about his political self-interest while he gives away secrets and endangers Americans. What's wrong with this picture?

House Aide to Bass Resigns Over Fake Blog Posts

House Aide to Bass Resigns Over Fake Blog Posts

House Aide Resigns Over Fake Blog Posts
What a pathetic waste of a political career and a good reputation. Why would Tad Furtado have risked so much by posing as a liberal blogger? Is it because the grassroots influence of the internet has become so powerful that it attracts those professional political operatives who are so threatened that they would sink to deception in order to win?

*This CBS article is now available.

Opera Cancelled in Berlin Due to Controversy Over Muhammed Scene

Opera Cancelled in Berlin Due to Controversy Over Muhammed Scene

Deutsche Oper has cancelled a 3-year old production because of a scene in which a severed head of the prohet Muhammed is delivered. After its premiere in 2003, the production of Mozart's "Idomeneo", an opera produced by Hans Neuenfels, drew much criticism over a scene in which King Idomeneo presents the severed heads of Poseidon, Muhammad, Jesus and Buddha.

The scene, which is in dispute because Berlin security officials have warned of an "incalculable risk" due to the recent explosive reactions of some fundamentalist Muslims to such artistic forms of free speech around the world, was not an original part of Mozart's original staging of the 225-year-old opera, but was an addition of Neuenfels' production, which was last performed by the company in March 2004.

The Financial Times is reporting:
Wolfgang Schäuble, interior minister, attacked the decision by Berlin’s Deutsche Oper not to show the 200-year-old work as “crazy”, “ridiculous” and “unacceptable”.

Bernd Neumann, culture minister, said it showed “the democratic culture of free speech is in danger”.

Merkel Says Let the Show Go On
From Reuters Sept 27th:
Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans on Wednesday not to bow to fears of Islamic violence after a Berlin opera house canceled a Mozart work over concerns some scenes could enrage Muslims and pose a security risk.

``I think the cancellation was a mistake. I think self-censorship does not help us against people who want to practise violence in the name of Islam,'' she told reporters. ''It makes no sense to retreat.''

On the Gordon Brown/Cherie Blair Dust-Up

On the Gordon Brown/Cherie Blair Dust-Up

I found it to be extremely unfortunate that Cherie Blair, wife of British PM Tony Blair, made a statement in which she accused likely Blair-successor Gordon Brown of lying when he told the conference on Monday that it had been a privilege to work for Blair. It makes her appear very small on the world stage. She denies it, but I highly doubt that the writers at Bloomberg News would have just made something like that up.

I think that many Americans already see Gordon Brown as the next British Prime Minister. From what I have seen and heard from Chancellor Brown, he seems to possess the strength, judgment, weight, and ideas of a solid leader for both the affairs of Great Britain and global affairs.

No matter what Cherie B. says about him.

Former President Clinton to UK Labour Party:
Change You Must

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton waded into the debate on the future of Britain's ruling Labour Party on Wednesday, warning that its achievements could be swept away if it lost the next election.

"I think your biggest problem right now is that people take your achievements and your ideas for the future for granted," Clinton told the Labour Party's annual conference. [..]

[..] "You have produced prosperity and social progress for so long it is easy for people to believe it's just part of the landscape ... or (that) if you get a set of new faces in the driver's seat, surely they wouldn't change what's working?" said Clinton, watched by Blair and Brown.

I have been there,'' he said, drawing laughter from the packed audience. [..]

[..]We were on our way to becoming debt-free as a country for the first time since 1837 ... Now we've added trillions and trillions of dollars to the debt,'' Clinton said.

``I say that to remind you that it can change quickly,'' he told the Labour Party faithful, in a warning against complacency after its three successive election victories. [..]

[..] "The question for New Labour and the British people is not whether you will change, it is how you will change and in what direction," he said.

[Reuters, Politics, Sept. 27 2006]

U.S. Economic World Competitiveness Rating Sinks

U.S. Economic World Competitiveness Rating Sinks

Consumer confidence may be slightly up, but our economy is quickly becoming less competitive on a global scale. Macroeconomic concerns are eroding prospects for the the health and competitive abilities of the U.S. economy, due in good part to the U.S.' tremendous level of defense spending and tax cuts. The U.S. slipped from Number one in 2005 to Number 6 in 2006.
In a report released on Tuesday, the [Geneva-based] World Economic Forum said Washington's huge defense and homeland security spending commitments, plans to lower taxes further, and long-term potential costs from health care and pensions were creating worrisome fiscal strains.

``With a low savings rate, record-high current account deficits and a worsening of the U.S. net debtor position, there is a non-negligible risk to both the country's overall competitiveness and, given the relative size of the U.S. economy, the future of the global economy,'' it said.
It's clear that we need public policy changes in order to become a more competitive economy. As we all know too well, getting out of Iraq with national honor and grace is going to be a tough "go".. but we need to "go." Not only is it a matter of glaring foreign policy error that we are there to begin with, but our global competitiveness suffers for it. Tax reform seems to be a chief requirement at a time when revenues are not meeting our defense spending requirements at a level where our economy can compete with that of nations like Switzerland, Finland, and Sweden. (You'll note that these aforementioned globally competitive nations are not at war - unnecessary wars or otherwise).

Some Middle Eastern nations are improving as competitive forces. Oil price gains have improved business confidence in countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

I think about their global competitiveness as I stand at the fuel pump happily paying almost $3 a gallon .. not.

Musharraf Reveals Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Linked to London Attacks

Musharraf Reveals Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Linked to London Attacks

In his new book "In The Line of Fire," Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf claims that ex-al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was linked to the July 7, 2005, London subway bombings.

According to an AP story, this allegation made by President Musharraf is the first one that publicly links Mohammed to the subway attacks, which killed 52 people and four bombers. According to President Musharraf, the terrorist group was also thinking seriously about bombing Heathrow Airport.

Musharraf also makes a chilling accusation:

Pakistan, the United States and Saudi Arabia created an extremist ''monster'' by supporting Islamic groups fighting the Soviet Union's 1979-89 occupation of Afghanistan, Musharraf wrote.

''We had assisted in the rise of the Taliban after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, which was then callously abandoned by the United States,'' he wrote.

It was within this vacuum that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terror network strengthened, thanks to the support of the Taliban's leader, Mullah Omar, he added.

In another related story, the lawyer of an Islamist militant, British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh - better known as Sheikh Omar, sentenced to hang in Pakistan for his role in the murder of U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl said on Tuesday he would use President Pervez Musharraf's memoir to support an appeal. [NYT]

Elizabeth Edwards and Her Family On Oprah Wednesday

Elizabeth Edwards and Her Family On Oprah Wednesday

Elizabeth, John and Cate Edwards will be joining Oprah Winfrey this Wednesday, September 27th, to talk about the power of community that Elizabeth writes about in her new book, "Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers."

Click here to check your local listings and find out what time the program will be broadcast in your area.

As I blogged last week, Elizabeth has written "Saving Graces" as a tribute to all of the people who have helped her and sustained her during the challenges she has faced in her life. To read an excerpt from her new book, click here.

Rice Would've Dumped Clinton Plan as Quickly as She Demoted Clarke

Rice Would've Dumped Clinton Plan as Quickly as She Demoted Clarke

I look at the picture of Condoleeza Rice, the woman who, after 9/11, told me and the rest of my fellow Americans that she had no idea that al Qaeda would use domestic airliners to attack tall U.S. buildings. She expected us to take her at her word. I look at the face of the same woman who sat with PBS interviewer Jim Lehrer and frightened us all with the scenario of the mushroom cloud that could be delivered to us anytime from Iraq. She expected us to take her seriously.

And now we are subject to her rambling excuses about how the Clinton administration left her no "plan" to tackle al Qaeda - as if there are clean little instruction manuals passed down from administration to administration. She expects us to take her seriously.

I'm tired of soft lies, hard lies, and lame excuses. We respect leaders when they are humble and open to accountability. Condoleeza Rice is a brilliant woman. I wish she would respect America enough to not expect us to swallow such horseshit. If Bill Clinton's administration had offered the Bush crowd a plan, they would have dumped it as quickly as they demoted Richard Clarke.

Don't miss Barbara O'Brien's diary at Daily Kos which tells far more of the truth than Secretary of State Rice would like you to know.

Daily Kossack kharma comments:

Shorter Condi

"No one could have anticipated that we would be such incompetent losers. Plus, Clinton didn't give us that information until he left office...that didn't give us much between the vacations and treasury looting excursions."