Friday, July 31, 2009

The Accidental Triumvirate

The caller who alerted the Cambridge Police about a suspected break-in at the house of the African American scholar, Henry Louis Gates, could scarcely have known what can of worms she was about to open. Her innocent and well intentioned call subsequently touched off a fire-storm of racial controversy that sucked in the President of the United States who, like everyone else in the country, dared to comment on this age old topic of race in America. In the end, what could aptly be described as the proverbial "tempest in a teacup" ended up as a major public relations crisis for the President and reopened the slow to heal sore that is racial discord in America which pits blacks against whites and Republicans against Democratic liberal thinkers. In short order, the whole world was reminded again of what makes the United States of America a misnomer for a nation so divided and polarized about race.

In his initial comment on this sad episode, the President said - among other points he made - that if everything he had heard about the case was true, the Cambridge Police acted stupidly in arresting a man who was rightly in his own home while on a call to investigate a call about a suspected burglary of the very same home. The hue and cry that ensued over the use of the word "stupid" in describing the action of the Cambridge Police and specifically Officer Crowley forced the President to back pedal from his initial comment and admit to choosing his words wrongly. This blogger opines that this was the President's first mistake and a clear sign of weakness for someone known for being always deliberate and calculating in his public utterances. His reason for the apparent recant was not borne out by the resultant escalation of the criticisms by his political foes in the GOP and the ever self-righteous Police Union which called for an apology from the Commander-in-Chief.

The news media took up the battle cry and engaged in the most tedious debate and analysis of one person's opinion of a case of poor judgment by the Cambridge Police, even if that person happens to be the President of the United States. This begs the question, would the comment have received such attention, indignation and second guessing had it been made by a President who was white? My strong guess is definitely not or highly unlikely. George Bush's strong condemnation of the former Senate Minority Whip, Trent Lott, over the latter's comment endorsing Sen. Strum Thurmond's racist stand received nary a quip. He may not have used the word "stupid" but what words he used fit the House Majority Leader's ill-advised utterance. There's after all a saying that "if the shoe fits, wear it". The Cambrdge Police and Officer Crowley undoubtedly acted stupidly in the exercise of their police power. At the very least they exercised poor judgment. Hiding behind the letters of the law and pinning their hopes of being right on the conventional but unproven wisdom that you do not argue with the lawman is a poor excuse for handcuffing a well-known and eminent scholar who was in his house. Officer Crowley, in the dispatch tape that I heard, said the Professor was yelling. Yelling in one's home, particularly when provoked by a cop who does not know the limits of his power, is not a crime in any book.

In the end the President convened a tripartite beer party which turned into a foursome when the Vice President joined in to bring this unfortunate event to a close. Has this soiree over beer by the four participants solved the problem of racial profiling by the police all over America? Only time will tell. I, for one, am not going to hold my breath. I do, however, believe that many police officers in America need to grow a thick skin in order to avoid incidents such as we witnessed. The gun and bullet-proof jacket are not enough insulation against the longstanding antagonism and resentment they instantly arouse in people of color when incidents bring the two face to face.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Iran, Ahmedenijad and the Bush/Cheney Administration

The Bush Administration has had a field day in the effort to demonize Iran and the visiting President of that country. Starting with the orchestrated escoriation of Ahmedenijad by the President of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger, who unashamedly heaped insults on his captive guest to the walk out by the US delegation during Ahmadenijad's address at the UN, the Bush Administration has managed to put its worst display of crude diplomacy and downright lack of class. Not that this Administration has ever been "guilty" of good taste and decency when dealing with nations and people it considers unfriendly. The net result of this petulant behaviour of taking umbrage where none was shown is that all good Americans who feel this could have all been handled with dignity and class with better result now have been smeared and stained by the disgraceful act of bad host by an Administration that vaunts its claim to moral high ground in its dealings with Iran.
Mr. Bollinger, who asserted that he is a Professor, chose a very funny way of showing it by going into the gutter to find words to insult a guest whose only crime is having accepted an invitation to speak at Mr. Bollinger's home turf. It was at best a cowardly display of self righteous indignation to use the advantage of home court to insult and ridicule a head of state, calling him a petty and cruel dictator. To his credit, Ahmadenijad patiently sat through Mr. Bollinger's tirade, punctuated by raucuous applause by the equally misguided half of the audience in attendance who supported Mr. Bollinger's distasteful remarks.
The stage for all that happened Monday was set by the 60 minutes reporter who interviewed the Iranian leader. The reporter, whose name I forget, was clearly out of line and acted more as an interrogator than a reporter. He too, managed to insult a head of state by accusing him of murder and saying he has blood on his hands. The implication here is that Ahmadenijad is complicit in the alleged involvement by Iran in supplying IEDs that are killing US soldiers. Never mind that the Bush Administration through the Pentagon supplies Israel with sophisticated and deadly war arsenals that the IDF uses to kill Palestinians and Hezbollah fighters, not to mention innocent and unarmed Palestinians and Lebanese. Perhaps the same reporter is unaware that in the eight year long war between Iraq and Iran, the US supplied Saddam Hussein, an ally at the time, with all the weapons that Iraqi soldiers used to kill Iranian soldiers and civilians. It was US supplied Stinger missiles that helped the Afghan Mujahideen fighters destroy Soviet MIGs and kill their pilots. The people of East Timor will attest to the fact that the US, under President Gerald Ford, along with Henry Kissinger supplied the arms to Indonesia under President Suharto with which the Indonesian military slaughtered thousands of East Timor citizens. It goes without saying that the 60 minutes reporter would never in a lifetime suggest, as he did when interviewing Ahmedinejad, that the sitting US Presidents at the time of these events had blood on their hands. It is clear that in the deadly and sordid business of arms trade in which the US is the leader, it matters only whose ox is being gored.
Ahmejenidad is also castigated for his single minded support of his country's nuclear program. His detractors say he poses a threat to Israel and the US if Iran is allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. The double standard implicit in this argument is laughable were it not such a serious issue. Here we see again, that Iran is singled out, against every sensible logic, for demonization. Israel, India, Pakistan, China, all of the Western Alliance and the Soviet bloc, have nuclear weapons stockpile. In addition, the US has the dubious honor of being the only country in the history of the world to have used nuclear weapon against a civilian population. Where is the moral high ground for saying the Iranians should not have nuclear capability?
Perhaps, the most difficult indictment of the Iranian leader to understand is the one that accuses him of denying the holocaust. Holy, sacred cow!!! Most of the world know that the Jews suffered terribly under Nazi Germany, culminating in the holocaust. Equally, over 95% of the world population believe in God. However, there are thousands, if not millions who deny the existence of God. This latter is totally acceptable and goes by the name of religious freedom. A majority of the world population also believe in the story of creation, as told in Genesis. But the argument persists till today against this almost universal belief. But it is never considered blasphemous to declare that one is either an aetheist, a believer in evolution versus creation, or that the world is flat rather than the proven fact that it is actually round. The holocaust, a tragedy in a world full of many equally tragic events has become the universal sacred cow that must not be gainsaid. I suspect Ahmajenidad would be much safer denying the existence of God than question the holocaust. The logic here is not only baffling but preposterous.
It is widely rumoured that the Bush Administration is hell bent on waging war on Iran and these drum beats of accusations levelled at Ahmedenijad are merely a prelude and a pretext for justifying this insane adventure. Obviously, Vietnam and Iraq have not served as object lessons to the US in the futility of war.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Iraq: The bipartisan betrayal of trust.

For a while, Americans opposed to the invasion and occupation of Iraq by the US under the Bush administration, looked up to the Democrats in Congress to force an end to the occupation. The elections last fall seemingly provided not only the mandate but the impetus the Democrats needed to bring this about. Hopes were high and expectations lofty, as anti-war organizations rallied around the Democrats to make the push for the redeployment of our troops out of Iraq. It is becoming increasingly clear, however, that the Dems are woefully incapable of capitalizing on this groundswell of support to bring this unpopular occupation to an end. Indeed, there is an increasing realization by many in the anti-war faction, that the determination to continue the occupation is not only the work of the Bush/Cheney administration but a bipartisan effort with help from Democratic lawmakers that now amounts to a bipartisan betrayal of trust.
Lending credence to this belief by the anti-war movement is the reluctance by the Democrats to vote for not funding the war, as has been proposed by Dennis Kucinich, one of the few Democratic lawmakers to have steadfastly oppose this war. Early signs of the impotence of the Democratic majority came when the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, declared shortly after assuming her post that impeachment of the President and the Vice President was off the table. Since then, the Democrats have found every excuse for not heeding the popular wish of Americans to bring the war to an end and stop the endless carnage that is claiming not only the lives of innocent Iraqis but our own brave soldiers.
The parallels of this Iraq misadventure to the Vietnam war is all too apparent except to our myopic President, aided by those who are profiting financially from the continuation of this futile war. They include the contractors like Halliburton, Blackwater and all the other shadowy cronies of the President and Dick Cheney. Those who continue to support this illegal occupation of Iraq in the name of support for our troops need to be mindful of this fact: that their support is fertile ground for the obscene war profiteering by these contractors and their primary enablers, the Administration. Our Democratic lawmakers also need to know that the only way to not be complicit in this obscene act of war profiteering is to dissociate themselves from any moves to prolong this war.


The Bipartisa Betrayal of trust

The Bipartisa Betrayal of trust

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Nuclear Capability: A Club of Good Old Boys?

The recent announcement of the agreement for nuclear cooperation between the United States and the government of India comes at a time when the United States and the European Union are fiercely engaged in coercing Iran to abandon its pursuit of nuclear capability. The same coercive means has already resulted in North Korea shutting down its nuclear reactor. With Iraq under occupation by the US, ostensibly for "possession of weapons of mass destruction" including nuclear ambition under Saadam Hussein, the message and the picture become very clear. Those countries that fall under the umbrella of the "Axis of Evil", as designated by George W. Bush, are inelligible to possess nuclear capability. Iran, of course, is the only one of the three "evil" countries defying this arbitrary and whimsical denial of the right of possession.
The stockpile of nuclear weapons in the US surpasses that of any other country in the world, including Russia. And yet the Bush Administration has plans afoot to further develop more sophisticated, and by implication, nuclear weapons with greater killing power. All of the European countries, Australia, Israel, Pakistan, and India are known to possess nuclear weapons in varying numbers relative to their economic and military strength. Together, these countries have become a de facto elite Club of good old boys with common friendly ties to the United States. Israel's nuclear facilities are not even subject to inspection, as are those of the United States and major countries in the Club: Britain, France, Russia, Australia and Spain. Again, the implication is that in order to be elligible to possess nuclear capability, either the United States has to sign off on it, you must belong to the European Union or be an ally of the United States. The other proviso to membership, specifically for the junior members of the Club (India and Pakistan), is that their facilities remain open for inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The strongest argument for denying Iran the right to nuclear capability is that the Mullahs who rule that country are, somehow, of questionable stability of mind and pose a great threat to Israel. The flaw in this argument, of course, cannot escape scrutiny and rebuttal by a fair minded observer. During the Cold War, when IBMs were pointed in either direction at the US and the Soviet Union, it is generally agreed that the threat of mutual annihilation was the greatest deterrent to either side using its arsenal to attack the other. Fast forward to the present and the same argument can be made that possession of nuclear weapons by Iran and Israel will deter either side from mounting a nuclear attack against the other side. Besides, Iran claims - and there is no reason to disbelieve - that its nuclear program is non military but for domestic energy self sufficiency when their oil reserves run out, as they predictably will.
All of this, of course, misses the point that nuclear weapons pose a great danger to the entire human race, no matter in whose hands. Therefore, the discussion has to focus on non-proliferation instead of escalation. The United States which has the greatest stockpile of nuclear arms has a moral obligation to initiate the process of disarmament to get rid of its vast stockpile. The other major countries in the Old Boy's Club of nuclear capable countries should then immediately follow the lead by the United States to disarm. Only then can they, collectively, have the moral justification to discourage countries like Iran from embarking on a quest for nuclear capability. The policy of " do as I say and not as I do" will always ring hollow in the ears of determined and defiant aspirants to nuclear capability like the Iranians. Even worse is the use of threats of military action to force compliance. The rulers of Iran have no greater propensity for the misuse of nuclear weapons than the rulers of Israel, India or Pakistan.
We need only look back to history to learn that when it comes to judging who poses the greatest threat to using nuclear weapons, the answer lies in the Club of the good old boys of nuclear capable countries. The US remains the only country that has used nuclear weapons against a civilian population. The world has also witnessed, in the last decade, the hair trigger nuclear standoff between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. These two historical events combine to strip the Club of any shred of moral superiority over Iran as a nuclear risk.

Okuche 07/31/07

Saturday, July 28, 2007

To Impeach or not to impeach, that is the burning question

Slowly, inexorably, and like a gathering storm, the calls for the impeachment of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are growing. The President and the Vice President are unquestionably an embattled pair as their reputation, credibility and job approval rating have sunk to an all time low. Even the President's Attorney General, Alberto Gonzalez, whose duty it is to advise the President on legal matters in times of crisis such as now, appears to be sinking under the weight of his own problems as Senate hearings after Senate hearings reveal the depth of the incompetence, abuse of power and brazen untruths to cover up evidence of malfeasance by the Attorney General.
The calls for impeachment have the added unique quality of being bipartisan and across party lines। While the loudest calls for impeaching the President and the Veep come from Democrats, liberals and the progressive left who have collectively been the main voice of opposition to the Administration's policies, there is a growing and vocal group of principled people within the GOP who are openly critical of the President and who have given subtle hints of their acquiescence to the idea of impeachment। There are also others in the GOP who, while not openly calling for impeachment, have openly expressed their tiredness with the President's prosecution of the war in Iraq and asked for a change in direction . Notable among these are senior Senators in the Senate: Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Richard Lugar of Indiana, Pete Domenici of New Mexico and John Warner of Virginia.
There remains, however, a hard core group of supporters of the President even in the face of overwhelming lack of confidence in his leadership and job approval rating. It is this core group that has caused those who vacillate about impeachment to call for caution in the push for impeachment. This writer, however, maintains that the time for impeachment is now because there is a rising groundswell of support for it. Cindy Sheehan who started the peace movement has come out of her self imposed retirement, fully energized and ready to continue the fight to hold the President and the Vice President accountable for their high crimes and misdemeanor. Close to a million and a half signatures have been collected by her group towards this effort. Her decision to run against Nancy Pelosi for taking impeachment off the table has been greeted with great enthusiasm by progressives in huge numbers. With Senator Kucinich leading the impeachment call in the Senate and Maxine Waters in the House, the momentum can only get bigger.
The added voices from bloggers, political pundits and authors who have written and made compelling cases for impeachment are all indications that impeachment is no longer a matter of "should we" but one of "when and how quickly". The following is a list of five publications, out of several now in print, that outline in very precise and cogent reasoning why impeachment is a very urgent and pressing option to hold the President and the Vice President accountable:
1. "U.S. Vs George W. Bush et al" by Elizabeth de la Vega
2. "Cowboy Republic: six ways the Bush gang has defied the Law" by Marjorie
3. "Articles of Impeachment against George W. Bush" by the Center for Constitutional Rights.
4. "The Impeachment of George W. Bush: a practical guide for concerned citizens
by Elizabetj Holtzman
5. "The Case for Impeachment" by David Lindorff and Barbara Olshansky.
The Democrats got a mandate from the electorate last fall to end the occupation of Iraq and to seek for accountability for all the lies and manipulation of intelligence by the President and Dick Cheney to wage this unnecessary war. The Democratic leadership has a chance to make history and reclaim the prestige, honor and integrity that the US has lost as a result of the actions of the President and the Vice President. Failure by the Democrats to do this will result in the loss of confidence by voters of this country in the two party system of government. They must fight for the restoration of the checks and balances built into our Constitution specifically to prevent the emergence of an imperial President which this President is trying to become. To them I say "seize the momnet" and make history. Cape diem.
Okuche 07/29/07