Monday, December 26, 2011

Who are the Terrorists?

On the morning of July 12, 2007, the year of Bush’s Iraqi Surge which saw 1,000 American combat fatalities, two on-loan Apache AH-64 attack helicopters joined the First Infantry Division as part of Operation Ilaaj (Care) in south Baghdad.  The goal of the six hour operation which involved 240 US infantrymen in 65 humvees and several Bradley Fighting Vehicles was to counter recent attacks on US forces by supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.  In announcing the operation to his Battalion, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich offered the encouraging words “it’s time to get some.”

Embedded with Battalion 2-16 that day was David Finkel, a Pulitzer prize winning Washington Post reporter, who went on to write about what became a world famous horrific experience in a July 13th Post article entitled “US Shiite Fighters Clash in Baghdad” and further expounded about the incident in his acclaimed book, “The Good Soldiers” recounting his embedded status in Iraq between January, 2007 and June, 2008.

In 2003, as the Bush Administration geared up for its pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, criticism of a lack of access for reporters during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan provided the perfect foil for adoption of new agreed-upon journalistic rules to control information from the frontlines.  While providing reporters with protection, the deal required that the 800 American journalists expected to cover the war would be ‘embedded’ with a specific Army unit during combat and that they would sign a contract promising to not reveal certain ‘classified’ information that might assist the enemy.   Every major US media outlet sending a journalist to cover the upcoming conflict jumped at the chance for a ringside seat with little concern that journalistic freedom might be compromised.  Clearly, the Administration and Pentagon were well aware that whoever controls information may also control public opinion – and nowhere is that more true than during war. 

The American media establishment did not need a Thesaurus to know what the term ‘embedded’ meant: that while their reporters would be on the front line of the battle, they were acquiescing their First Amendment rights to interact with the Iraqi population, to question the wisdom of  military decisions and to equitably present both sides of the conflict – independent of any expectation of a favorable bias influenced by 24-7 bonding with American boys; some just off the farm and others away from home for the first time.  With the easy capitulation of major US media outlets, the Pentagon created an effective propaganda arm, reducing war-time journalists to little more than a servile body of stenographers outfitted in 21st Century ballistic helmets and Kevlar vests.  

What Finkel, whose 2006 Pulitzer was in the “Explanatory Reporting” category, had no way of knowing when his book was published in 2009 was that the on-board video from the Apache helicopter would ultimately surface as part of the Wikileaks expose in 2010. 

As reported by Finkel (with co-author Joshua Partlow of the Post’s Foreign Service), the assertion that U.S. “soldiers clashed with Shiite militiamen leaving at least 11 Iraqis dead and an unknown number injured, including two children hit by shrapnel from a U.S. helicopter attack, according to American soldiers who took part in the mission” failed to acknowledge that there was no away for the Apache crew to know beforehand that the group of unarmed civilians in their gun sights were Shiite fighters or militiamen.

The Post article’s statement that “during the fighting, an Apache helicopter “fired bursts of 30mm rounds toward several people who had been directing machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades at U.S. soldiers” is not supported by viewing the 38 minute video.  

The Post article goes on to state that “American soldiers recovered two cameras from the site” and that ‘A camera believed to belong to the Reuters photographer lay nearby. Reporting that  “it was unclear whether the journalists had been killed by U.S. fire or by shooting from the Iraqis targeted by the Apache” and that “the cameraman gave every appearance of preparing to fire an RPG on US soldiers are gross distortions of the facts as confirmed by a review of the video.   The Post article, no doubt written within hours of the attack, fails to mention any weapons being found at the site and it was not until after two Reuters employees were identified among the victims that Pentagon officials claimed the retrieval of an AK47 and an RPG.     

The video begins with the Apache crews impatiently stalking the Iraqis in their cross-hairs with disturbing radio chatter that makes any listener wonder what kind of American family produced the young man who became known as Crazy Horse 1-8.  In their eagerness to ‘engage’, Crazy Horse 1-8 and his counterpart known as Hotel 2-6 mistakenly identified the Reuter’s long telephoto lens  - ‘that’s a weapon,’ “yep,’ and “..two individuals with weapons’ suddenly became “we have five or six individuals with AK 47’s.”   And then, certain of their target, “light’em up…firing..(delay)…come on, fire” followed by “look at those dead bastards,”  “nice shooting”  and “thanks.”

The Post article reported that “The helicopter also fired on a silver Toyota minivan in the area as several people approached the vehicle” yet completely missed the commission of a war crime as two unarmed civilians aiding a wounded civilian were mercilessly gunned down by the Apache crew.  The radio chatter between Crazy Horse and Hotel included “just trying to find targets again” and “we got one crawling around down there but we can definitely get him…” followed by “is he picking up a weapon” and  “you shoot, I’ll talk,”  “come on, let’s shoot.”  Minutes later, “look at that – right through the windshield – aha!” with audible snickers and then ‘…slight movement from the van – looks like kids.”  Once confirmed that a two year girl and her brother had been seriously wounded, “that’s what they get for bringing children to a battle” and “that’s right.” 

As if that was not enough killing for one day,  the unedited version of the video shows a third attack (not mentioned in the Post article or in The Good Soldiers) minutes later when an unarmed Iraqi civilian is seen entering a building, followed by two additional civilians who may be carrying some unidentifiable object enter the same building.  The Apache crew, now claiming “at least six individuals in the building with weapons,” fire three AGM-114 Hellfire missiles into the building which housed three families, killing four to six more Iraqis – and we wonder why the Arab world hates Americans.

In The Good Soldiers, Finkel notes that the Reuters photographer was not ‘embedded’ and therefore had not informed the U.S. military of his presence. Back at camp, while it was ‘concluded that everyone had acted appropriately,” Finkel asks, but “had the (Reuters) journalists?  That would be for others to decide” concluding that “the good soldiers were still the Good Soldiers and the time had come for dinner.” 

Immediately after the incident, the Post article quotes Major Brent Cummings, the Battalion’s Executive Officer that “the Apache crew fired because they had positive identification that the militants" had weapons and were using them against coalition and Iraqi security forces."  Neither assertion is supported by the video.  Cummings went on to say that "No innocent civilians were killed on our part deliberately. I don't know how the children were hurt."  After the incident, Iraqi police referred to the attack as a ‘random American bombardment.”

After the death of its two employees, Reuters filed a Freedom of Information request for a copy of the video and the Pentagon’s internal investigation. They were refused and until the April, 2010 Wikileaks release, the raw footage of the Apache attacks remained ‘classified.”  Reassessing the day of the Apache’s multiple attacks on Iraqi civilians raises disturbing questions about the role of a free press on crucial issues of Constitutional importance. Coverage of the Apache attack presents an ominous picture of how an ‘embedded’ journalist reports on a combat situation (with irrefutable evidence of at least one war crime) prior to any expectation that the tragedy would become an internationally reviled occurrence. 

The Good Soldier’s chapter about the July 12th incident contains numerous, very specific quotes and details that could only have come from the Apache video – or from Finkel being on-board one of the Apaches (as former CIA agent Ray McGovern believes) as the 2010 Wikileaks video had not been made public by the time TGS went to press in 2009.   So while Reuters was denied a copy of the video in 2007, the possibility exists that an embedded reporter was provided access to a ‘classified’ video in order to complete his manuscript.

Finkel’s responses to questions in his April, 2010 Washington Post blog immediately after  Wikileak release of the video are deliberately vague when he refers to his ‘presence in the area that day’.. “without going into the details…I’ll say the best source of information was being there.”  Whether Finkel was on the ground with the First Infantry that morning or in the company of Crazy Horse 1-8 as a first-hand eyewitness who audio-taped the radio chatter, Finkel’s comment that he “based the account in my book on multiple sources, all unclassified” indicates the irresistible temptation of embedded journalists to report skewed versions of the facts that benefit the military’s eternal goal of sanitizing the horror of war.     

As Bradley Manning awaits a military judge’s decision on whether to set him for court-martial and Julian Assange fights extradition that will surely bring him to the United States for prosecution as a ‘terrorist’, the essential question remains:  Exactly who is responsible for the Apache helicopter attack on Iraqi civilians?    

Recommended Reading

A Must-Read to better understand how the US went to war in Iraq and why the American public is being manipulated with fear of Iran as a prelude to invasion.

"The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Senate's Wheel of Vote Rotation

Despite flowery speeches and grand statements about protecting the middle class, it is the Senate’s roll call votes that are the true measure of a Senator’s worth.  A voting record that covers six years in office is more revealing than any 60 Minute interview and communicates more about a Senator’s true beliefs than any Floor speech  – and it is the civic responsibility of citizens to scrutinize those votes or risk being snookered by those who cast votes contrary to the best interests of their constituents.

Bringing new meaning to the old adage that ‘actions speak louder than words,” any citizen curious about how their Senator votes and willing to take the time to monitor those votes, will find that after staring at endless lists of the ayes and nays, it becomes apparent that something does not compute.  A close examination of the public record reveals a plethora of inexplicable Democratic Senate votes in conflict with perceived Democratic principles, votes that were sufficient to defeat certain progressive legislation, most often by a narrow margin.

At first glance, one irregular vote may appear to be just a ‘bad day at the office’ or an aberration when a liberal Senate Democrat votes against an amendment they would be expected to support or votes in favor of legislation they would normally be expected to oppose.  What may seem like trivial minutiae to others is more than just an academic exercise.   The act of sifting through lists of Senate names marked with a Y or a N searching for clues takes on a life of its own with the awareness that there is more here than meets the eye.  

One vote gone awry is only one vote - until it becomes a pattern of ‘bad’ behavior responsible for really important social legislation like the DREAM Act to be defeated as it was in the Senate in December, 2010.  At first, the possibility of collusion on votes may seem a preposterous theory but the recorded votes, enshrined in the Congressional Record, do not lie.

On the surface, there appears to be no logic to justify those baffling Senate votes and monitoring a Senator’s voting history for a length of time becomes a puzzling, sometimes frustrating avocation until suddenly one day, out of the blue, the obvious becomes apparent with the most plausible explanation - the existence of a Wheel of Vote Rotation.  

Hidden deep within one Senator’s voting record, rarely scrutinized for its commitment to a broad progressive philosophy, is evidence of the Senate’s near-total breakdown and its inability to function as a vibrant democratic institution.  When viewed in a wholistic way, from a ‘big’ picture perspective rather than taking each vote as a random separate act, the individual votes become the whole, a pattern emerges with each vote creating a larger paradigm.  It is in reviewing that totality that aberrant votes are most readily apparent.   
The DREAM  (Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act provided a path to citizenship for immigrant children who had been in the United States for at least five years and were pursuing higher education or military enlistment.   

During the Congressional lame duck Session of 2010, the still Democratically -controlled House adopted the Act (HR 2965) by a vote of 216 in favor (including 8 Republicans) vs. 198 against (including 38 Democrats.)   With 60 Democrats in the majority in the Senate, the Act (S 3992) went on to lose on a vote of 59 Yes vs. 40 No votes.  Only in the US Senate can 59 votes be declared the losing side while 40 votes carries the day, thanks to the Senate’s acceptance of an arbitrary 60 vote requirement to break a filibuster.    
But here’s the rub on the Dream Act:  Four Senate Democrats (Feingold, Menendez, Merkley and Pryor) voted against the Act while five Republicans (Murkowski, Corker, Crapo, Risch and Vitter) voted in Favor of the Act.  A  reasonable question is what motivated Sen. Russ Feingold, a progressive hero who’d been defeated for re-election and was on his way out of the Senate, to vote against citizenship for immigrant children - or why Sen. Bob Menendez, himself the son of Cuban immigrants, voted to not support the Act?  As the votes were being counted that day with ultimately one vote making the difference, did it ever occur to the liberals (Feingold, Menendez or Merkley) that unless they switched their vote, thousands of immigrant children who’d grown up in the United States, the only home they’d ever known, would be denied citizenship and doomed to live in fear of deportation? 

What happened to the Dream Act was not an anomaly and can be found on a wide variety of ‘big’ legislative votes on high profile progressive issues like Supreme Court confirmations (see including assorted war funding and Patriot Act votes among others.   What happened to the Dream Act is a reflection of how totally the elite political-corporate-financial establishment dominates the public’s business.   
Hypothetically, the game is played  after a vigorous spin of the Wheel by the Wizard of Oz.  Each Senator takes a turn casting a ‘bad’ vote; like any prizefighter ‘throwing’ a bout, often enough to spread the burden out over a period of time and to shift the focus so as not to arouse undesirable attention.  

Under the guise of preserving a historic Senate procedure, the Senate’s arcane process of roll call votes, considerably less open and transparent than the House with no electronic tally board, further provides an opportunity to quietly rotate votes without being exposed publicly.  As CSPAN viewers have noted, Senate votes are cast with the public largely in the dark until the final tally is announced.   
Predominately a function of Democrats who have had an identity crisis since the 1980’s, the Wheel of Vote Rotation applies less to Republicans since they vote in block almost 100% of the time and the Republican base is not as easily duped as the more gullible Democratic base.  Senator Bernie Sanders who routinely challenges the ruling oligarchy with relish as if his job depended on it, is the only known exception to the Wheel game.    

There is also a Vote Swinger Option which allows a Senator to be accepted as an unreliable Democratic vote.  Senators Ben Nelson (D-ND) and Joe Leiberman (I-CT) come readily to mind.  This Option comes in handy so that, when necessary,  ‘swing’ votes will not be considered an unusual occurrence.  With no apparent consequence from the Democratic Party, after endorsing John McCain in 2008, Leiberman was rewarded with Chair of the important Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee while the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee has already contributed $1 million to Nelson’s 2012 re-election.  Republicans have no comparable Vote Swingers.   
Above all, vote rotation must maintain the appearance of spontaneity for the results to be seen as credible and be apportioned only on very special votes. A tip-off that the Wheel is ‘in play’ is when “moderate’ Democrats like Sens. Kent Conrad or Max Baucus vote (against their natural inclination) in a progressive way as they did on the Dream Act.    

If the vote rotation hypothesis seems like an improbable theory, skeptics can easily (dis)prove its validity for themselves by conducting their own meticulous scrutiny of Senatorial votes that fit a progressive profile. 
 Whether the Senate’s Ethical Deficit Disorder is due to a formalized vote rotation system or whether we are naïve enough to believe that those perverse votes are merely spontaneous errors in judgment, the implications of how a publicly-elected, taxpayer-funded Senator participates in a 21st Century election scam, should be enough to disqualify them from continued public service.  

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Senate Approves Indefinite Detention

If Al Qaeda needed a recruitment tool for its dwindling numbers, its operatives simply needed to video tape the Senate’s recent consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (S. 1867). 

What should have been a serious discussion on the cost and moral authority of the President’s endless war policy stretching U.S. military tentacles around the globe morphed instead into a platform for endless harangues about American ‘traitors’ during WWII, inflamed passions about ‘terrorists’, bipartisan ravings in fear of Iran, redefining the Constitution and other war-mongering subjects.    
The grim reality is that with the country presumably on the edge of a cataclysmic deficit crisis, Senate Democrats who once might have been expected to support the Rule of Law, lined up on the side of a $690 billion appropriation for the Pentagon including $119 billion for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with NO debate on military funding over the country’s favored People Programs or the Constitutionality of drone attacks.   

Once the House of Representatives approved the Act (HR 1540) on a 322 – 96 vote (with 90 Progressive Democrats and 6 Republicans against the Act), the legislation was referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee with legislative oversight for all things military including the Department of Defense.  Normal parliamentary procedure would have seen the Act referred to other Committees with shared authority, a series of public hearings would have been conducted with debate on amendments before a Committee vote sent the bill to the Senate floor – but that’s not how the NDAA proceeded.    
Instead, as if a Congressional approval rating of 9% doesn’t matter, the SASC’s autocratic procedure offers proof positive that the Senate not only deserves a lower approval rating but more importantly, that democracy is on a very thin thread.   

Not only did the Committee violate its own legislative procedures which protect the public’s right to know, it never issued its customary Committee report which presents the Committee’s work for public inspection – nor was the Congressional Budget Office or the Congressional Research Service able to prepare their usual summaries prior to Senate floor consideration.  Given what we know now, such a public process would have set off alarm bells raising public concern about why the Senate bill had been prepared behind closed doors and approved by the Committee in secret.     
Through legislative flim-flam, Committee Chair Carl Levin (D-Mich) and ranking minority Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) reworded House-approved Section 1031 to allow any citizen anywhere in the world to be held in indefinite detention by military authorities without charges or trial on the ‘suspicion’ of association with terrorists.  In an on-going attack on the Constitution, the Levin-McCain rewrite offered no opportunity for legal counsel or an opportunity to prove one’s innocence.  The Senate’s transfer of all prosecutorial authority for detentions from the Department of Justice to the Defense Department assures the militarization of all domestic dissent.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) made the point that the inclusion of such language not only jeopardized Constitutional protections but implied a future of never-ending wars.  Neither Levin, McCain nor any other Senator challenged Paul’s assertion.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), smooth as a snake-oil salesman who featured prominently throughout the bill’s consideration, defended S 1867 that “says in law for the first time that the Homeland is part of the battlefield” and that people can be imprisoned “American citizen or not.” 

In a shameful colloquy, Graham played the once-liberal stalwart Levin with the deftness of a Stradivarius, as Graham, who served six years as a Judge Advocate in the Air Force safely ensconced in Germany, offered the alarming assertion that the Posse Comitatus Act does not prevent a military presence from American streets in pursuit of ‘terrorists.’  The goal of the Act, adopted after the Civil War in 1876 when Northern troops were withdrawn from the South, was to prevent Federal military troops from enforcing the law of the land.  Levin, in an ominous metaphor of how liberals have emerged as pro-military, pro-war and neutral on the Rule of Law, never questioned Graham’s logic.
As a prelude to voting on a series of flimsy amendments offered by Sen. Udall (D-Co) and Feinstein (D-Cal) to clarify Section 1031 that American citizens could not be arrested, detained indefinitely or sent to Guantanamo, Sen. Paul Kirk (R-Ill) took the Senate floor and proceeded to educate the Senate on the merits of the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution and its ‘inalienable rights.’  For one brief, shining moment, when Kirk returned to defend himself, there was a rare face to face debate on the Senate floor with Graham and McCain sputtering and fuming at Kirk’s insolence.

The gravity of a revised House Section 1031 lies in the fact that while the President has already assumed Executive privilege with the ability to arrest and detain an American (Jose Padilla) without due process and to assassinate (Anwar al Awlaki) American citizens without charges or trial, what Levin and McCain have done is to codify illegitimate precepts like the erosion of habeas corpus and Grand Jury protections, denial of a civil trial and to permit unreasonable search and seizures into American law; further eroding a Constitutional government’s ability to operate within the Rule of Law. 

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) lost an opportunity to contribute to world peace by introducing an amendment meant to stir patriotic fervor as it sanctioned the Central Bank of Iran and any financial institution doing business with it. Independent scientists have criticized the recent IAEA report on Iran as a flawed politically-inspired document.  Menendez’ amendment which could have been adopted as a routine unanimous consent item, was brought to a roll call vote (100-0) in order to warn Iran that the US Senate ‘meant business.’   After reciting incorrect assertions with regard to Iran’s nuclear program, the mindless flag-waving threats were reminiscent of 2002 and raised the question of whether the Senate has learned anything in the last decade.
While most Democrats were content to wring their hands in pro-military  doublespeak, Sen. Paul offered a stunning amendment to de-authorize the 2002 Authorized Use of Military Force in Iraq Resolution.  Paul’s amendment would have not only truly ended the Iraq war but would have removed the government’s legal rationale to currently engage in warrantless surveillance on Americans and restore Congressional authority to make war.  Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) spoke in support citing that the Executive ‘never wants to hand back authority’ and that “Congress has yielded its authority too often; too many times Congress failed to do its fair share in the Constitutional framework.”   Paul’s amendment lost on a 67-30 vote with 25 Democrats voting NO.

With a complicit media blackout similar to how Izvestia ‘managed’ the news, by the time of final passage, 93 – 7 (Sens. Wyden and Merkley of Oregon, Paul, Harkin of Iowa, Lee of Utah, Sanders of Vermont and Coburn of Oklahoma), it was obvious that despite being held in extreme disregard by a huge majority of Americans and with 63% against the war in Afghanistan, the U. S. Senate continues to embarrass itself and the country with no realization that the whole world is watching.  

If a total lack of esteem on the part of American taxpayers is not enough motivation to change, what will it take for Congress to recognize it has a problem and that ‘It” is the problem.

While President Obama’s warning of a veto makes good campaign rhetoric, there is little serious expectation that the Constitutional scholar in the Oval Office will follow-through.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Threats from the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board

As the recent spraying of weapons-grade pepper spray of students at UC Davis represents a new element in the attack on public education, important questions need to be asked about how University Administration allowed a safety-security force to morph into a fully-armed paramilitary presence on the campus of a publicly funded educational institution.  As if students are now the enemy, why is it necessary for a police presence to be equipped with lethal battle gear as if going into combat with a highly-sophisticated military adversary as University Administration allowed their campus to become a one-sided battle zone rather than an academic bastion of the First Amendment.  

Consider the highly–problematic creation of the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board (NSHEAB) in September, 2005 by FBI Director Robert Mueller to encourage ”a spirit of cooperation and to promote understanding between higher education and the FBI and other federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense.”  The FBI-academic alliance would also “open doors of understanding and cooperation” on ‘national security, terrorism, counter intelligence, cyber threats, and certain other criminal matters’.  

This Mission Statement should alarm every American citizen concerned about the long term implications of an FBI-University collaboration on a democratic society.  The American public needs to know exactly what are the national security threats on campus to justify NSHEAB and to demand that Congress hold oversight hearings on Mueller’s assumption of authority to militarize American college campuses.      

The NSHEAB currently includes over 20 University Presidents or Chancellors from publicly supported Universities in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas A&M, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin as well as private educational institutions like Carnegie-Mellon, Cornell, MIT, Purdue and Rice. Given the nature of their highly confidential agendas, all Board members must hold a ‘secret’ security clearance at minimum.  UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi joined the Board in October, 2010 after organizing a comparable quasi-military International Committee on Higher Education in Greece.

Almost one hundred years ago, when University Presidents were held in high esteem, some participated in national debates and even joined the ranks of the anti-imperialist Mugwump party, one wonders if any University President declined the FBI’s invitation to the participate in the NSHEAB.

With major University investments in sustainable energy, agricultural production and nanotechnology, the NSHEAB is concerned with the flow of illicit acquisition and export of sensitive technologies and outright theft of information that might compromise national security.  To date, cooperation with the FBI has resulted in the conviction of at least three University professors from various campuses for violating export control laws and for mishandling ‘sensitive information’ from an Air Force research project.

Since its inception, the Board has met on a regular basis three times a year at FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC where Members receive routine briefings from the Agency’s Counter Intelligence Division and its Domestic Terror Analysis Unit.  Agenda items include ‘current threats’ like the Animal Liberation Front, a group dedicated to the elimination of animal suffering, and environmental ‘extremist’ groups.  The FBI considers the ALF that admits to economic sabotage to be the country’s “number one domestic eco-terrorist threat” with a history of “violent crimes and terrorist actions,” according to John Lewis of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division.

A Freedom of Information request filed at UC Davis revealed collusion between top University administrators and local law enforcement with creation in 2009 of a “Student Activism Response Team.”  The Team has the responsibility to monitor any potential student activity, keep tabs on pertinent Facebook accounts and infiltrate student organizations as it did last spring during peaceful student protests of tuition increases.  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why re-elect Senate Democrats?

With Democratic control (53 – 47) of the Senate at risk, twenty-three Democratic Senate seats (including two Independents who caucus with the Dems) are on the 2012 ballot.  By contrast, with only ten Republicans running for re-election, the odds do not look good for Democrats.  Of those twenty-three Democratic seats, six Democratic Senators and two Republican Senators have announced their retirement, leaving eight Senate seats up for grabs without an incumbent candidate.  

With public support for Congress hovering at 10% and a perceived difference between the parties mostly along the edges of inflammatory social issues, Senate Democrats have given the American public little reason to fear a Republican takeover. 

So exactly why are those Democratic seats, held by mostly docile, ineffective officeholders, so important?  If all or any of those 23 Democrats are re-elected, how exactly will ‘We, the People” be better off?  Will any of those deadbeat Democrats be more responsive to the demands of democracy?  Is it too much to expect one Democrat to critically discuss Obama’s inclination for spreading US military around the globe including the truth about Iran’s nuclear capability, the unconstitutionality of the Patriot Act, adoption of a foreclosure moratorium, how ‘real’ health care reform can cut the deficit, restructure of the country’s economic institutions, prosecution of the banksters or the fatal errors of globalization?

As the Super Committee fails to agree on $1.2 Trillion cuts thereby kicking the can into the 2012 campaign for further budget cuts in 2013 and a pseudo-liberal media is uncertain whether to heap praise or scorn, are any of those incumbent Democratic Senators willing to abandon the herd mentality and step outside the box to solve the country’s problems?  

There was once a reasonable expectation that Democrats, considered the ‘conscience of the nation,’ would offer a bold vision as they better represented the 99%ers than Republicans who are still proud descendants of Calvin Coolidge.  Instead, 2012 incumbent Democratic Senators pretend to be what they are  not - spouting populist slogans as they cut $78 billion out of Social Security in 2009, unable to deliver enough Democratic votes for Obama’s anemic American Jobs Act and caving on the debt ceiling to allow $2.5 trillion cuts instead of going the 14th Amendment route.  When neo-liberal multi-bazillionaire Democratic Senator John Kerry unabashedly brags that it was Democrats on the Super Committee who put forward the President’s ‘grand bargain’ of $4 Trillion worth of cuts, with deep reductions to the country’s favorite Big Three social programs, as if it were a heroic gesture and expressed willingness to ‘expedite’ tax reform, it should come as no surprise that the suffering of the American public is far from over.

Never meant to be exclusively a legislative body like the House, the Senate, with its quasi-executive functions, has relinquished its claim to the “world’s greatest deliberative body.”  An incompetent institution, Senate Democrats offer no resistance as they blame Republican obstructionism for every failed vote, portraying themselves as powerless while the ‘tyranny of the minority’ is allowed to prevail as though no legislative remedy were available. 

Even as George W. Bush sought the formality of Congressional approval for the invasion of Iraq, it was clear that Senate Democrats had lost their Constitutional fervor as a ‘check and balance’ on the Executive Branch.  For example, one special advantage of holding the majority is its abiilty to conduct oversight hearings on issues like the aforementioned; if for no other reason than assurance that the Senate still understood its Constittuional preorgative.  Now, with a faux-liberal non-partisan Democrat in the White House, Senate Democrats have further acquiesced their statutory role as Obama’s foreign policy initiatives include combat troops in Africa and a new US ‘permanent’ base of marines in Australia.  Democrats in the Senate remain mute with the collapse of Constitutional democracy close at hand. 

In 2008, Democrats controlled the Senate by a 60 – 40 margin but without reliable party discipline, Republican demands for a ‘filibuster-proof’ majority of 60 votes thwarted public policy debates.  Inexplicably unable to convert a 20 vote spread into legislative victories, the Democratic Senate failed to act on hundreds of pieces of worthwhile legislation referred from the House for final action.  As the Democratic majority shrunk to 53 with the 2010 election, the party of Jefferson and Jackson remained as impotent as it was with its 2008 majority.  Yet, at the start of the 112th Session of Congress last January, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid convinced Democratic Senators to stifle necessary ‘reform’ of the Senate’s subversive filibuster rule in defense of someday they will be the minority.    

Once ‘move the previous question’ language (in effect since 1789) was removed from Senate rules in 1806, lengthy, unlimited speeches degenerated into ‘talking (a bill) to death’ or sometimes to express passionate beliefs as Sen. Bernie Sanders did, standing alone during an 8.5 hour filibuster last December in opposition to tax cuts for the rich.  In 1917, the ‘cloture’ rule was adopted after twelve anti-war Senators successfully filibustered the Armed Ship Act, delaying US entry into WWI.  Since then, cloture was used (albeit rarely until 2008) to prevent a minority of 41 from thwarting the majority of 59 with unbridled speechifying as ‘reform’ centered on how many cloture votes were needed to shut down a filibuster. 

Pitting raw power politics against Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, the “Senate shall appoint judges of the Supreme al” should be the undisputed guiding language for all judicial nominees until Senate Rules reinterpreted the Constitution with filibuster and cloture procedures favoring a partisan adaptation.  As a result, there are an estimated 150 Obama judicial appointments awaiting Senate confirmation.  Article II contains no reference to a specific number of votes required (with the exception of two-thirds for approval of treaties), implying a simple one-vote majority for all other purposes.  Despite a brief precedent in the 1970’s when the one-vote majority for cloture was adopted, a two-thirds (67) vote required in 1917 was amended to a three-fifths (60) vote in 1975 which continues today.   

Even President George W. Bush believed a filibuster of judicial nominees to be inconsistent with the Senate’s Constitutional responsibilities as outlined in Article II pointing out that “The Senate has a constitutional responsibility to hold an up-or-down vote on every judicial nominee, and throughout its 216-year history, the Senate has held an up-or-down vote on every Supreme Court nominee with majority Senate support." 

Always aware of their options, Democrats remain unwilling to challenge Republican running rough-shod over the Constitution.  To call the Republican bluff and ‘bring in the cots,’ Democrats have the choice to show a willingness to fight for the Rule of Law as they maintain an on-going all-night debate.   Yet, in deference to their own corporate masters, Democrats have chosen to capitulate as the country’s most urgent problems continue to fester. 

The American public understands that neither party has shown the capacity to govern and that both have failed to fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities.  The net effect leaves both parties complicit in Congressional gridlock with the Democrat majority arrogant in their willingness to squander the Obama Administration’s first two years of opportunity.         

The age-old question of why Senate Democrats deserve to be re-elected frequently boils down to fear of Supreme Court nominations falling into Republican hands yet the record shows that Democratic votes are equally responsible with Republicans for the appointment of Justices to the Court who have done their best to shred the Constitution as they undermine democracy.  Here is a summary:  

*   In 1986, Antonin Scalia’s nomination was approved on a 98-0 Senate vote including all Democratic Senators despite Scalia’s well-known aggressive right wing views.  

*   Clarence Thomas was confirmed in 1991 on a 52 – 48 vote including 11 Democratic votes in support and eight votes short of the 60 vote threshold.    

*   In 2005, John Roberts was confirmed to become Chief Justice with a 78 – 22 vote including 22 Democrats in support.

*  In 2006, Samuel Alito was confirmed on a 58 – 42 vote, two votes shy of the 60 vote threshold. Like Thomas, Roberts and Scalia, Alito’s right wing politics were well known and led to an abbreviated Democratic filibuster to block his appointment.  A cloture vote to shut off debate was adopted on a 75-25 with 19 Democrats providing the margin.  

*  Obama’s two Supreme Count nominations, Sonya Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, were both held to the 60 vote standard garnering 68 – 31 and 63- 37 votes, respectively.

The impact of the Senate’s filibuster policy goes far beyond the appointment of Supreme Court Justices as it has become a standard legislative ploy to manipulate all public business scheduled for the Senate floor allowing a more vocal, more aggressive minority to derail a progressive legislative agenda.  The Democratic Senate majority continues to sing their ‘sorry, we just don’t have the votes’ song while millions of Americans continue to lose their homes, their jobs, their health care, their life savings and their peace of mind.

Reliance on a hypothetical filibuster has had the effect of rescinding the ‘one vote majority’ principle implicit in the Constitution that has guided American democracy for more than 200 years as today’s Senate continues to operate in an illegitimate manner, unacceptable for a democratically-elected body.  A universal basis for every parliamentary democracy, the ‘one vote majority’ represents a stabilizing element that provides a strong incentive for minority Members to participate in the legislative process – currently not a factor in today’s Senate.  Without a firm ‘one vote majority’ threshold, elections become meaningless and erosion of the Rule of Law translates into the deterioration of a Constitutional government. 

Despite the lack of strong, clear progressive voices in the Senate, the luxury of giving up on electoral politics because of past disappointments is no longer an alternative.  Our teetering democracy is in urgent need of a new crop of courageous, independent, tough-minded, progressive Senators with an inner grit unafraid to speak out against corruption, who care more about the future of democracy than the future of Wall Street and are willing to turn the Senate on its head. Republicans have Senators like that.  Why don’t Progressives?  

With a modern day Democratic Party so far removed from what Jefferson and Madison envisioned as to be indistinguishable and unworthy of trust with real political power, the country’s ruling bi-partisan establishment has rigged the electoral system against any third party effort in favor of their own interests. And as dissatisfaction with the existing political structure spreads, the image of a new political paradigm appears on the horizon, a new political strategy not beholden to the old partisan structure.  As an insurgent force against the status quo, the Democratic party offers the best existing political structure to begin the process of reclaiming democracy and the transformational work of rebuilding a newly aligned national government devoted to People’s needs.

The bottom line is that electoral politics is the most immediate vehicle available for a powerful progressive political movement to bring about meaningful structural change.  Elections matter.  Elections have consequences.  Elections are where life-changing decisions are made – and this country is worth fighting for.

*      *      *      *      *

The eight States with open Senate seats are Arizona, New Mexico, Connecticut, Virginia, Wisconsin, Hawaii, North Dakota and Texas.  Democratic incumbents seeking re-election in 2012 are  Sens. Menendez

of NJ, Feinstein of Calif., both Nelsons one from Florida other Nebraska, Stabenow of Michigan, Klobuchar of Minnesota, McCaskill of Missouri, Sherood Brown of Ohio, Whitehouse of RI, Cardin of Maryland, Gillibrand

of NY, Cantwell of Washington, Casey of PA, Carper of Del, Tester of Montana,  Manchin of WVa and Sanders who caucuses with the Democrats.  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Quote of the Month

"Give me control of a nation's finance and I care not who makes its laws."
                                                        Meyer Amschel Rothschild

Sixty Democrats Sign Letter to Super Committee

The 100 House members including members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who signed a letter asking Congress' debt-reduction committee to consider all options including cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security:

Democrats: Robert E. Andrews (N.J.), John Barrow (Ga.), Timothy Bishop (N.Y.), Dan Boren Okla.), Leonard Boswell (Iowa), Dennis Cardoza (Calif.), John Carney (Del.), Kathy Castor (Fla.), Ben Chandler (Ky.), Emanuel Cleaver II (Mo.), Gerry Connolly (Va.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Jim Costa (Calif.), Henry Cuellar (Texas), Danny K. Davis (Ill.), Peter DeFazio (Ore.), Diana DeGette (Colo.), Norm Dicks (Wash.), Chaka Fattah (Pa.), John Garamendi (Calif.), Brian Higgins (N.Y.), Jim Himes (Conn.), Steny Hoyer (Md.), Dale Kildee (Mich.), Ron Kind (Wis.), Rick Larsen (Wash.), John Larson (Conn.), Daniel Lipinski (Ill.), David Loebsack (Iowa), Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Gregory Meeks (N.Y.), James Moran (Va.), William Owens (N.Y.), Bill Pascrell (N.J.), Ed Perlmutter (Colo.), Gary Peters (Mich.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Chellie Pingree (Maine), Jared Polis (Colo.), David Price (N.C.), Mike Quigley (Ill.), Nick Rahall (W.Va.), Mike Ross (Ark.), Steven Rothman (N.J.), Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), Adam Schiff (Calif.), Kurt Schrader (Ore.), Allyson Schwartz (Pa.), Terri Sewell (Ala.), Heath Shuler (N.C.), Adam Smith (Wash.), Mike Thompson (Calif.), Niki Tsongas (Mass.), Peter Visclosky (Ind.), Tim Walz (Minn.), Mel Watt (N.C.), Peter Welch (Vt.), John Yarmuth (Ky.).

Republicans: Charles Bass (N.H.), John Carter (Texas), Howard Coble (N.C.), Tom Cole (Okla.), Ander Crenshaw (Fla.), Charlie Dent (Pa.), Robert Dold (Ill.), John J. Duncan Jr. (Tenn.), Jo Ann Emerson (Mo.), Michael Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Jeff Fortenberry (Neb.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Michael Grimm (N.Y.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.), Gregg Harper (Miss.), Mike Kelly (Pa.), Peter King (N.Y.), Jack Kingston (Ga.), Steven LaTourette (Ohio), Billy Long (Mo.), Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), Thomas Marino (Pa.), David McKinley (W.Va.), Patrick Meehan (Pa.), Devin Nunes (Calif.), Ron Paul (Texas), Tom Petri (Wis.), Todd Platts (Pa.), Tom Reed (N.Y.), Reid Ribble (Wis.), Phil Roe (Tenn.), Tom Rooney (Fla.), Mike Simpson (Idaho), Marlin Stutzman (Ind.), John Sullivan (Okla.), Lee Terry (Neb.), Bob Turner (N.Y.), Ed Wh

Monday, October 31, 2011

From Iraq to Africa - America's Next Military Occupation

Political observers may view President Obama’s unexpected Friday afternoon announcement of an end to the Iraq War, his second in little more than a year, as more about reclaiming his 2008 ‘peace candidate’ image in time for the 2012 election than it was about ending the $1 trilion-plus conflict that cost 4,500 American lives with 32,000 American wounded, not including veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress.  

Even with a $3 billion sale of eighteen F16 fighter jets to that beleaguered country earlier in the month, the President suggested, with hollow words of praise, that American troops will leave that war-torn, devastated country with ‘heads held high, proud of their success.” Obama’s version of ‘success’ failed to acknowledge the greatest, most enduring foreign policy failure in this country’s history including an Iraq more aligned today with Iran than prior to the 2001 invasion or an Iraq no closer to a western-style democracy than it was under Saddam Hussein or that sectarian strife has escalated into a civil war that now threatens to spread beyond northern Iraq. 

Despite the President’s ability to adroitly put a self-satisfied spin on any pronouncement, Obama neglected to mention that the withdrawal was hastened by Iraq’s steadfast refusal to modify the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement.  The deal was brokered by President Bush and ratified by the Iraqi Parliament setting the December 31st withdrawal deadline.  At issue was the American insistence that any remaining military troops be immune from the Rule of Law in the case of belligerent acts against Iraq’s civilian population as they are in South Korea and Japan.   

Neo-liberal Democrats hailed Obama’s announcement as fulfilling his earlier campaign commitment while Republicans criticized the withdrawal as strengthening Iran’s presence in the region – a deep irony considering that  a major justification for the war was the overthrow and ultimate demise of Saddam Hussein, then-Iran’s most worrisome adversary.   
While the President was pledging an end to the U.S. combat mission, Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough said that negotiations are continuing that “could provide for the presence of the U.S. personnel.”   Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul, long time critic of the war and the only candidate to criticize drones as violating the War Powers Resolution, commented that with 15,000 State Department personnel remaining in Iraq along with 5,000 private contractors “only the names will change.”    

Near simultaneous with the Iraq withdrawal announcement that same afternoon was a Presidential letter to Congress that he had authorized the deployment of up to 100 US Special Op troops and military advisers to central Africa.  
As if American citizens were not already bone-weary of its leaders who offer selective bits of truth in pursuit of military excursions to unknown parts of the world while ignoring the basic needs of its citizens, Obama has expanded President Bush’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) established in 2007 into a permanent militarized bulwark throughout the resource-rich African continent. More in sync with his predecessor than his supporters would like to admit, Obama’s introduction of combat-ready forces and increased military advisers makes no pretense that broadening AFRICOM’s capability will alleviate the decades of pathological tribal hatred that has generated a constant misery, massive starvation and suffering of humanity.

Implying a humanitarian use of the U.S. military, the combat troops are to help the Uganda government track down Joseph Kony and a rebel force known as the Lord’s Resistance Army with a well-earned reputation for murder, rape, mutilation and kidnapping throughout central Africa.  Prior to the deployment, Mr. Kony’s Army had been dubbed a ‘rag tag’ force of no more than 400 rebels raises questions of whether the LRA represents a sufficient threat to attract the military might of the United States.
The LRA is sought by the International Criminal Court  for war crimes and crimes against humanity with the United States (along with Israel and Sudan) a notable absent signatoree of the ICC.  

Obama’s letter sent after the deployment had already begun, gives no insight into how US combat presence "furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy” with the assurance that ‘although U.S. forces are combat-equipped, they will not engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense” or how  “regional stability’ will be achieved by a military internationally known for its destabilizing efforts.      

The President’s letter added, as cover for a deeper purpose of its proxy war, that elements of U.S. forces will deploy into Uganda, South Sudan,  the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo which is already being trained by US Special Forces as a light infantry battalion.   In addition, AFRICOM reports that the US has training missions throughout the continent in Somalia, Sierra Leone, Chad, Liberia, Kenya and Ethiopia (with a drone base) and about 3500 Special Forces troops conducting missions in Djibouti (another drone base).  With the anxious Ugandans watching Kenya’s recent invasion into Somalia chasing al Shabaab rebels, the entire central sub-Saharan of Africa is a potential powder keg.   

Citing the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009 adopted unanimously by Congress which encouraged the US military to eliminate the LRA threat, the President’s letter was intended to satisfy the War Powers Resolution requiring Congressional approval prior to military action.  Obama’s October 14th letter left open the legal question of whether putting combat forces into harm’s way requires more than just a two page letter.     

The House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing held within days after the President’s announcement proved awkward with moments of discomfort for its members who had supported the 2009 LRA Act which the President was now inaugurating.  Ranking committee member Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif) reminded Members of both sides that “It is Congress that played a leading role in putting the LRA on the foreign policy agenda.”  Following the Administration’s lead in support for a military occupation and in an innuendo-filled statement, Berman proclaimed that “While the LRA may not pose a direct security threat to the US in narrowly defined terms, it does threaten a large swath of Africa the size of California. I believe it is squarely in our national interest to build capacity of allied forces so they can fight on their own and to support our allies when they need assistance, as we expect them to do for us.“

The level of testimony presented by Administration bureaucrats from the State Department and Department of Defense was sparse eliciting light reprimands from Members of the panel as the officials were unprepared to provide the Committee with details of the operation or its estimated costs; except to offer assurance that US combat troops would hold the hands of Uganda troops without personally engaging the LRA.   

There was no denial from Administration officials that the deployment wasn’t the first time the US has attempted to track down Mr. Koney or that previous unsuccessful battles to capture Kony and dismantle the LRA had already cost the US $497 Million since 2008, according to Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) who was critical of the escapade. 

News of the deployment seemed curious; sparking an interest in whether ‘national security and foreign policy interests’ was diplomatic code for allowing unfettered access to Africa’s mineral and resource rich assets by American international conglomerates. 

In 2002, the African Oil Policy Initiative Group (AOPIG) initiated discussion within the US national security community regarding the formation of an Africa Command based on the prediction of the National Intelligence Council that the United States will be buying 25% of its oil from Africa by 2015. 

By early 2007, fanning the flames of Islamic terrorists hiding in every corner of the Continent, oblivious to the impact of discrediting moderate Moslems while increasing repression of legitimate democratic movements, creating adversaries where none previously existed that resulted in undermining an opportunity to build trust and good will, President George W. Bush consolidated pieces of the European, Central and Pacific Military Commands to create AFRICOM, a Unified Command for the African continent morphing a new precedent-setting collaboration with the militarization of US foreign policy being dictated by the Pentagon.  That same year, the Navy’s Postgraduate School identified the increasing importance of African oil to American energy needs.

Driven by the hypothesis of American exceptionalism, Africom’s mission is to protect and defend the national security interests of the United States by strengthening the defense capabilities of African states and conduct military operations to deter and defeat transnational threats including sustained security engagement through military-to-military programs.  Unwilling to acquiesce to United Nations leadership in their historic ‘peacekeeping’ role, AFRICOM symbolizes a 21st century neo-colonial military occupation while adding the latest link in an international drone network that grew out of a recognition to ensure a reliable energy supply beyond the volatile Mideast and to protect African crude imported to the US in the name of national security. 

Mindful of its reputation in Iraq and Afghanistan, the right of the United States to divide the Continent into a military command with the insistence of an exemption from ICC prosecutions and a reluctance to accept AFRFICOM's presence resulted in abandonment of US plans to relocate AFRICOM headquarters to the Continent.  
Prior to the deployment announcement, the Gulf of Guinea countries along the south Atlantic Ocean represented a strong US strategic interest with a ‘sweet spot’ of 1.2 million prime acres for off shore oil production.  Boasting the fastest rate of new discoveries in the world, Nigeria and Angola are among the top ten oil importers to the US.  Total imports to the US from the West African Gulf is expected to increase to 25% by 2015, on a par with US imports from the Persian Gulf.
Nigeria, with proven reserves of 37 billion barrels is the Continent’s fourth largest supplier of a sweet, light crude with a low sulfur content especially suitable for US markets as gasoline.  Nine per cent of US imported crude is from Nigeria.   Unrest in the Niger Delta has proven to be an obstacle to reliable crude production with rebels kidnapping oil executives, taking over oil facilities, vandalizing pipelines and causing a 20% drop in production.   

With proven reserves of 13.5 billion barrels, Angola exports 31% of its oil to the US worth $9 billion in 2009.  Angola’s oil production represents 90% of its exports creating a petroleum-dependent economy which is 40% of GDP and 80% of government revenues  

Other Gulf countries include Gabon with a 3.7 billion barrel reserve of which almost 50% is exported to the US, Equatorial Guinea with 1 billion barrel reserves, the Republic of the Congo with 1.6 billion barrels and Chad at 1.5 billion barrels – all of which are prime US importers.  

Other non-Gulf oil-rich countries include Libya with proven reserves of 46 billion barrels which, according to a 2010 Reuters report, invested billions of its oil export profits in the infrastructure needs of its African Union neighbors - free from western banks.  Algeria has proven reserves of 12 billion barrels, the Sudan with 6.8 billion barrels, Ghana with 5 billion barrels  and Uganda with a 1 billion barrel reserve and a newly discovered site of 6 billion barrels along Lake Albert.  

Under cover of the LRA pursuit, AFRICOM has positioned itself to move into Nigeria or Angola or wherever it might be needed to protect America’s national security interests.  Mission creep in the turbulent Niger Delta area or into the Gulf of Guinea countries is a matter of time. 

With a fragile political history after an arbitrarily-imposed colonial border partition that encouraged social turbulence, civil wars and violent insurrections, the nations of Africa are reluctant to directly challenge a paralyzing US military presence.  Still a continent seeking enlightenment, Africa represents the world’s least developed and most economically marginalized continent now totally dependent on oil exports for its fiscal health, the African continent’s 13% of the world’s population consumes energy at a 3.4% rate.  The United States with an annual consumption of 21 million barrels a day, consumes 22% of the world’s oil production annually and imports over 60% of its total energy needs.
The United States has invested so heavily in Africa’s oil infrastructure with 75% of all US investment earmarked for petroleum production yet the vast wealth produced by oil exports has not translated into an improved quality of life for the local African population.  It is no secret that millions and billions of US taxpayer dollars have been funneled through American agencies like the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Export Import Bank, the Agency for International Development and other US sources for the sole benefit of the multinational petroleum industry.  In addition, US taxpayers supported AFRICOM's administrative budget with $298 Million in 2011, up from $255 million in 2010, not including CIA or other military expenses.

If the White House occupant were more of a Constitutionalist or more committed to openness and transparency, we might expect a press conference where a better explanation of the President’s deployment could be vetted or if the beltway media were doing its job, they might ask:
 ·        What is the role of the US using Nairobi as a base to pursue Islamic       insurgents and Kenya's recent invasions into Somalia and the South Sudan which included war planes?  

·         To what extent does Obama’s militarization of foreign policy represent another departure from the US historic ‘centrist’ foreign policy of diplomacy just as Geo W did in the Middle East?
·         Once the IMF (as an agent for the US) has its dirty hands on the African economies, how long before the US (agents for the petroleum multinationals) totally control the flow of African oil and the profits from its export?

·         With African countries already in desperate fiscal situations, once they  ‘borrow’ and allow the west’s rapacious banks to penetrate the heart of their sovereignty, how long before the African Union sees the writing on the wall of a fiscal paralysis just to cover the debt service.     

·         What level of fiscal crisis is required for the US to confront its own hypocrisy requiring other nations to identify insolvent banks, nationalize and dismantle those most vulnerable?

*   Instead of advocating a military response, will the United States ever truly understand what ‘winning the hearts and minds’ means as the Chinese have been building infrastructure projects such as roads, hospitals, schools, clean water systems and, most importantly, forgiving a $10 billion debt owed by African countries.