Archive for the On Foreign Affairs Category

What Militant Islam Looks Like in Africa

Posted in On Foreign Affairs with tags , , , on April 13, 2014 by playthell

 Boko Harem - Islamic Terrorists

Nihilistic Boko Haram Fanatics in Nigeria

 

A Clear and Present Danger to Nigeria’s Quest for Modernity

The latest atrocity committed by fanatical Islamists is the slaughter of over a hundred people in the predominantly Muslim northern region of Nigeria. Gun-wielding Islamic zealots for a Jihadist group calling itself Boko Haram – which means “against western education” – is blamed for the slaughter. In order to understand the thinking behind such bloodthirsty acts one need only study the views of Abubaker Shekau, the supreme leader of Boko Haram.

A shadowy figure that never appears in public and makes his views known through internet video tapes, like Osama bin Laden, Shekau has a proactive attitude toward religiously inspired murder.  In this he is a cookie cutter copy of all jihadist leaders. In a report filed by Addullah Tasiu of the BBC’s Hausa Service, we are told by Professor Abubakar Mu’azu from the University of Maiduguri that Shekau is “is the leader of the more militant wing of the group as testified by his aping of Osama Bin Laden in his video appearances.”

These videos are posted online surreptitiously by a secret cell in Boko Haram known as the “Public Enlightenment Department.” In one of these videos, released in the aftermath of a killing spree where Boko Haram butchers slaughtered 180 innocent people in Kano – the largest city in the predominately Muslim northern region – Abubaker Shenkau looks into the camera and announces to the world: “I enjoy killing anyone that God commands me to kill – the way I enjoy killing chickens and rams.”

To those looking on, this writer included, the question that begs an answer is: “What manner of man is this that could say such a thing?   Shekau does not appear in public due to the fact that the founder of Boko Haram, and his immediate predecessor, Muhammad Yusef, was killed by security forces and Shekau himself barely escaped execution by them.

Now the most wanted man in Nigeria, he would surely be shot on sight if discovered by Nigerian security forces or captured and subjected to a worse fate as an example to others who would follow in his footsteps, Shekua remains in hiding and we are left with descriptions of him by people who knew him before he became notorious.

The Nigerian journalist Ahmed Salkida is such a person.  We are told in the BBC report that Salkida’s access to Skekau and other Boko Haram militants once attracted the attention of Nigeria’s security forces, which became suspicious of his relationship with them, and he barely escaped execution on the spot by virtue of the intervention of a superior officer.  Salkida describes the Boko Haram leader as “a fearless loner, a complex, paradoxical man – part intellectual, part gangster” who is between 36 and 40 years old.  In the picture below he reminds me of former New York Knicks star Earl “The Pearl” Monroe.

Abubeker Shekau
abubakar boko haram
Nigeria’s Most Wanted

A closer look at the life of Skekua and his fanatical co-conspirators in Boko Haram reveals similar patterns of development with other militant Islamic Jihadist movements such as the murderous Taliban in Afghanistan and the multi-national Al Qaeda, the authors of the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York City. The “Taliban,” which translates in English as “Seminarians” are doctrinaire Islamic fundamentalists committed to the establishment of Sharia Law.

Hence this is a religious movement born in the Islamic seminaries in Afghanistan. Abubaker Shekau was recruited and tutored by Mamman Nur, a mutual friend of his and of Boko Haram founder Muhammad Yusef, who were also seminary students.  Mamman is charged with organizing the notorious 2011 bombing of United Nation’s offices in Nigeria. Addressed by the clerical title “Imam” by his followers, Shekau is viewed by authorities as “the quietest and perhaps the most radical of them,” reports the BBC’s Tsiu.

According to Ahmed Sakilda, the journalist who knows him best: “He is one of those who believes that you can sacrifice anything for your belief,” Mr Salkida says.  Mr Shekau is fluent in his native Kanuri, Hausa and Arabic languages – he does not speak English. I used to joke with him that he should teach me Arabic and I would teach him English.”

Like the Talaban,Boko Haram is opposed to all western influence and is willing to resort to intimidation and murder to keep women in a state of complete subjugation to men, forcing them to wear veils, denying them education and employment as professionals, and even needing male permission to leave the house.  Both movements justify such practices as following the dictates of the Koran.

This is what happens when these ancient religious texts are taken literally – for the Christian Bible also contains its share of barbaric absurdities if taken literally. Boko Haram has an organizational structure based on independent cells with a decentralized command structure that makes them impossible to effectively infiltrate.  Their operational principles appear to be “invisible organization” and “Phantom Leadership.”

This explains how they are able to conduct lightning strikes all across Northern Nigeria and disappear as if into thin air.  And the increasing ruthlessness of the Nigerian security forces only serves to increase support for the movement among devout Muslims.

A Boko Haram Cell

 Boko Horem II

 African Soldiers of Allah

Many of these people dwell in a universe dominated by radical Islamic theology that envisions a world that harkens back to the 11th century, a time when, as the Afro-American Astrophysicist Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson points out, a leading Islamic philosopher decided that mathematics was “the work of the Devil’ and set in motion the anti-intellectual forces that ended Islamic civilization’s 300 years of preeminence in science.

Alas the rejection of “western education” is the 21st century counterpart of this reactionary self-destructive mindset – which arrested development of Islamic civilization and led to the ascension a modern western civilization that dominated the world and the subjugated the Islamic world to the humiliation of European colonialism – the consequences of which they are still struggling to overcome.

Hence when we consider that the main targets of Boko Haram are schools, libraries, cell phone services,  newspapers, etc – the tools of modernization – the Nigerian government has no choice but to crush Boko Haram if it intends to continue its march towards modernity…which is a precondition for effectively competing in a 21st century world.

A Boko Haram’s Mosque
_57829325_girlsmaidugurimosque_afpboko haram mosque
 They would replace Modern schools with this

******************

Playthell G. Benjamin
San Francisco, California
April 13, 2004

An Open Letter to President Obama

Posted in On Foreign Affairs with tags , , , , on March 28, 2014 by playthell
Barack Obama Barack’s Resolve in full Effect

 

Mr. President: Stand Your Ground against the Warmongers!

Throughout your tumultuous and productive presidency, through thick and thin, I have been an unwavering supporter and friend.  I have fearlessly defended your record and character from attacks on the right and left. I have shared your vision and supported your policies because I believed they were the best possible choices among the possibilities.

Upon coming into office you inherited one of the worst crisis’ in history, a multi-level mess that involved a wrecked economy, a world financial system on the brink of collapse, and two foreign wars; yet you resolved them with Christian compassion and Solomonic wisdom. I have been looking over your shoulder the whole time, recording your major moves in writing – which has now run into hundreds of essays, and the first volume of a compilation will be published this year.

It is because I have paid such close attention to your policies and proposals, and the nasty nature of a Republican opposition whose actions have endangered national security and bordered on treason, that I have repeatedly taken on friends and colleagues on the radical left, or pompous self-righteous liberals, in a protracted no holds barred rumble when they attacked you because you didn’t embrace their ideology or couldn’t make all their dreams come true. I, on the other hand, am amazed at what you have actually accomplished under the circumstances. Since I have written about this elsewhere I won’t reiterate it here.

Unlike some of your most vociferous critics, ala Cornel West and Boyce Watkins, who portray your compromises as betrayal, I know that you are just playing politics.  And like you, who is obviously gifted at the game, I understand that politics is the art of the possible!  Hence if we look candidly at the present political realities in US domestic affairs and our foreign relations just now, it is fair to say that you have some monumental fights ahead.

Between the tumultuous events abroad, which the US cannot control but refuses to accept, and your increasing inability to govern at home because of the disloyal Republicans in the House of Representatives and US Senate, whose sole mission has not been to govern effectively but to destroy your presidency, it does not take a seer to see that it will require your best efforts to avoid disaster at home and abroad.

As the crisis in the Ukraine grows more antagonistic it is absolutely critical that you follow the example of your fellow Chicagoan, the brilliant song poet and compassionate humanist Oscar Brown Jr.,  who declared “I always live by one golden rule: Whatever happens don’t blow yo cool!” If ever there was a time to be the calm and collected fellow we came to know as “No Drama Obama” ……it is now.  For you are confronted with a situation that if handled badly could result in a catastrophe worse than the Old Testament’s descriptions of the Flood of Noah, which, despite its horrors and widespread destruction, life flourishes on this planet.

But as James Baldwin, the prescient Afro-American scribe and seer warned: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign….no more water, the fire next time!” This, in essence, is the fundamental issue: Will you be the one to spark the atomic fire that will incinerate the earth and destroy not only modern civilization but all life on this planet, which, as near as our brightest scientist can tell, is unique in the vast expanse of the universe?  In the absence of great diplomacy while mediating the crisis between Russia and the Ukraine, the destruction of the world will be your legacy Mr President.  “To be or not to be?….this is the question.”

Doomsday!

Atomic Explosion II
The end of our world is closer than you think

I have been told that my concern about thermonuclear war is excessive by some very intelligent and well-meaning people, but I find their confidence to be based more on faith that politicians will act rationally than any understanding about how nuclear weapons systems actually work.  In fact, like most Americans, they have not really given the matter much thought. Thus they discount the possibility that a nuclear war could start by accident.

But I have been intensely interested in the question of nuclear warfare for over half a century now, because it has been omnipresent in my life, and I don’t share their optimism. Coming of age at the height of the “Cold War” with the Soviet Union I participated in gruesome “atom bomb drills” at school which required us to go through the motions of procedures we were told would be required for surviving an atomic bomb detonation. Unlike the blasé attitude of the public today, people in the 1950’s thought an atomic war with Russia was not only possible but probable.  General Curtis Lemay, commander of the US Strategic Air Command,  thought it was enevitable.

Indeed, this fear was the raison d’etre for our massive Civil Defense programs. The more cynical among the students – this writer included – took these exercises as a sort of make believe; a sick joke in the tradition of gallows humor.  None of us thought we would survive such a war. In fact we even designed a sign and surreptitiously posted it on the bulletin board that announced: “In case of an atomic attack get under your desk, pull you head between your knees, and kiss yo ass good bye!”

A few years later, when I wound up in the Strategic Air Command with a Top Secret security clearance, which was then the supreme US nuclear strike force, I no longer wanted to survive a nuclear war because I knew the aftermath would be such a horror the living would be jealous of the dead. Back then the threat came largely from transcontinental strategic bombers that could refuel in mid-air.

Today the threat lies in intercontinental ballistic missiles with MIRV – Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles – nuclear warheads which can strike several targets at once.  They can be fired from land, air or sea and they are all subject to computer errors!  Furthermore I know for sure that there are people sitting in front of radar screens in secret locations unknown to the general US public as I write who will launch our missiles should the right scenario appear on their screens.  Having dwelled among them I know they will do it!

The same thing can be said of the Russians.  And if they ever launch these doomsday weapons we can kiss this planet goodbye….if we have time before the big bang. This is why ratcheting up tensions with talk of expanded naval maneuvers in the Black Sea, while ground forces exercise in the former Warsaw Pact countries that border Russia and was part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics during the communist period of Russian history, is the extremist folly….the acme of absurdities!

When George Bush was poised to invade Iraq based on the flawed logic, outright lies and consequently bad advice of his top advisors – most of whom are now attempting to goad you into taking antagonistic actions toward Russia by calling you weak in a Greek chorus of repetitive voices accompanied by rattling sabers – I vociferously opposed it from the beginning.

In an essay titled “The Iraq Attack: Bush’s March of Folly” –See: The Prophetic Commentary on Iraq at www.commentariesonthetimes.wordpress.com. –  I predicted an attack on Iraq would end in a tragic fiasco that would do nothing to diminish the threat from Islamic Jihadists.  Today, with the impeccable hindsight of history it is altogether fitting to call that essay “prophetic,” for the facts prove me entirely right.

I am calling your attention to this essay – and my essays on the “Arab Spring” such as Sleeping in the Same Bed Dreaming Different Dreams - not to gloat, but if by chance my letter should reach you I want to point out that I have a paper trail which demonstrates why you should be listening to me rather than some of those jokers who are presently advising you on foreign affairs.

Although the Iraq war cost us trillions of dollars and buckets of blood, the nation survived Bush’s folly.  Alas, the world cannot survive similar blunders in the present situation.  A drift into military hostilities with a nuclear armed Russia could, as a recent Russian commentator reminded us, “reduce the US to a pile of radioactive dust.”  The fact that we can return the destruction as the MAD doctrine dictates is no consolation…it is the essence of a pyrrhic victory.

Thus you must resist calls for military adventurism in Eastern Europe Mr. President, no matter how loudly the hysterical warmongers on the right may howl; led by that soulless opportunist and Vietnam-era snitch posing as a war hero John McCain, who seems intent upon exorcising his Vietnam demons by starting wars everywhere in the hope of winning one somewhere.  And his Senate sidekick Lindsay Graham, a shameless moral jellyfish whose allegiance is dictated by expedience in matters of principle, deserves no hearing.

Let them talk, you are the Commander-In-Chief, and we chose you over the Mack Man for the position, so you need pay him no rabbit ass mind. The boisterous Arizona jingoist is just one of a hundred Senators, and nowhere near the best statesman in that august body, but you sir are the President.  Fortunately for this nation and the world, McCain is all blow and no go, but what you say and do can determine the course of history.

You have inherited a very dangerous situation in Eastern Europe due to some badly misguided decisions by your predecessors; the most volatile of which was the decision to recruit former members of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This was as bone headed a move as ever there was in the history of modern diplomacy.

As a student of history you well understand that NATO was a creation of the Cold War era following the carnage of World War II, when the Us and Russia were feverishly contending for world domination as representatives of the capitalist and communist systems.  Thus NATO should have been disbanded at the end of the Cold War in the 1990’s when the Russians dismantled their communist system, outlawed the Communist Party and disbanded the Warsaw Pact – a military alliance between socialist countries that was the counter-force to NATO.

But instead of ending the alliance the US fought not only to preserve NATO but expand it….right to the doorsteps of Russia. This means that should Slovenia or Latvia have a military conflict with Russia the US is at war with Russia! Which is why heating up the rhetoric with Russia poses such great dangers; if ever there was a time for cool heads to prevail it is now Mr. President.

Hence it is imperative that you play past all the tough talk from your critics on the right, tell them them save the drama for they mamma, and don’t take no wooden nickels masquerading as real currency.  Keep your eyes on the prize – a peaceable settlement of the Ukrainian crisis – for the fate of the earth hangs in the balance.

*****************************

  Playthell G. Benjamin
On the beautiful San Francisco Bay
March, 27 2014

Putin, Obama and the Ukrainian Crisis

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 8, 2014 by playthell

Barack - putin-obama_2252410b

Can Barack and Putin work it out?

 Successful Diplomacy or Nuclear Apocolypse?

The Ukrainian crisis is a very complex affair, dramatic changes are occurring so quickly things could fall apart. In the past few weeks we have witnessed a democratically elected president driven from office and into exile by raging mobs in the street who disagreed with his decision to form closer economic ties with Russia, rather than seizing an opportunity to form closer economic ties with the European Union.  A new government of questionable legitimacy has been hastily cobbled together, with the new President, Arseniy Yatseniuk, also holding the office of Chairman of the Parliament, although the Fatherland Party, which he represents, only holds 25% of the seats in the Ukrainian parliament.

This is equivalent to President Obama being overthrown by an armed right-wing mob and somebody from the Tea Party becoming President, Speaker of the House and the Majority leader of the Senate.  While the US accepts this arrangement, albeit temporarily until new elections can be held, the Russians do not, they view these developments as an illegal coup engineered in Washington and the European Union, with Andrea Merkle of Germany playing a major role.

The American role in manipulating events that led to the overthrow of the elected president Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych, is confirmed in statements made on the phone by Undersecretary of State for Europe,Victoria Nuland, which was tapped by some hacker and put on the internet.  Nuland’s conversation with the American ambassador to the Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, leave no doubt that Washington was moving people and parties as if the Ukraine were a chessboard….they were involved in the overthrow of the president up to their teeth.  I have attached the transcript of Secretary Nuland’s conversation with Ambassador Pyatt’s conversation to the bottom of this essay, so the reader can see for themselves the extent of American meddling.

Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt
American diplomats Victoria Nuland and Geoffrey Pyatt Plotting the future of Ukraine with Vitali Klitchko and Arseniy Yatseniuk

 Now the question is whether the country will break up, when the predominately Russian-speaking population in the Crimea region votes on whether to rejoin Great Russia in the upcoming referendum. This is such a volatile issue the country could quickly descend into civil war. In such a scenario the Russians will certainly become militarily involved, and the fact is that an American guided missile ship is steaming by the Crimean Peninsula right now –  probably armed with nuclear missiles – right through the shipping lanes where the Russian naval vessels routinely patrol.

This strikes me as an extraordinarily reckless move, and I am surprised that President Obama let his military advisors talk him into it – or maybe he ordered this despite the advice of the Joint Chiefs. In any case, despite the lame explanation that this voyage had been planned before the Ukrainian conflict began, I find the President’s decision to order an American warship into these troubled waters impossible to reconcile with the geo-political realities of this historical moment.

The USS Tuxton Cruising the Black Sea
American Missile Ship in Black Sea
An American Missile Ship armed with Tomahawks and other weaponry
A Russian Delta Class Nuclear Submarine
N1401-SCN-S94-011
Playing A Deadly Game of cat and Mouse on the High Seas

I becomes even more puzzling when we learn that the Tuxton, which is armed with Tomahawk Cruise missiles, is steaming to the Black Sea in order to participate in joint naval exercise with the Romanian and Bulgarian navies.  The US government has announced that we will be sending in 12 F-16 fighter planes and 3oo air-force service personnel to Poland, at the request of Polish Minister of Defense Tomaz Simoniak, who is concerned about the Russian takeover of Crimea.  And the US sent five F-15 fighter planes to Lithuania last Thursday, because their Minister of Defense was alarmed by “Russian Aggression in the in Ukraine.”

The Pentagon has also announced that these American fighter planes will be patrolling the skies over the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.  What we the people desperately need to know is what are their orders, what are the rules of engagement and with whom are they to engage.  We need to know the answers to these questions because if these American fighter planses have orders to engage Russian aircraft this is a scenario that could spark a nuclear confrontation!  Yet the US cannot avoid these actions because of NATO.

The essential problem with NATO,  for the US government, goes back to a decision made a decade ago on May 2, 2004, when the 19 member states of NATO decided to admit seven former members of the Warsaw Pact, including former Soviet Republics which had become independent states after the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, whose center of power was Moscow, thirteen years earlier.  Latvia, Estonia, Romania, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria all joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Many observers thought this was a bad idea at the time – this writer included – and believed that it would come back to haunt us.

Well, we were right.  In the euphoria following the collapse of Communism, when talk of a “new world order” based on a unipolar world where all roads led to Washington, and projections for “a new American Century” appeared to be simply acknowledging the obvious, people forgot that nationalism and religious fanaticism have led to more wars than communism ever did.  These are the forces that America now struggles to deal with in the Mid-East and  in Eastern Europe, with the eye of the storm in Russia, which is well armed with nuclear weapons and whose armies are invincible on Russian soil.  Hence bombing Russia or invading her are both out of the question.

Yet the US is committed to an organization whose fundamental objective is mutual defense.  And NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer left no doubt when he told the Foreign Ministers assembled for the admission of the former Russian allies: “The accession of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia demonstrates the principle that freedom is irrepressible.   From now on, 26 Allies will be joined in a commitment to defend each others’ security and territorial integrity. This is the strongest, most solemn commitment nations can undertake.”

Herein lies our problem and it is a mess.  This commitment means that should any of these former Soviet Republics get in an armed dispute with Russia, the US is bound by NATO protocol to act as if the attack was against America!  And yet, as if we are not  in enough of a quagmire, there are Republican Senators calling for the Ukraine to be admitted to NATO.   It is an invitation to disaster!

The dangers portended by Ukrainian events require the most calm and thoughtful deliberation, exactly the kind of approach that President Obama has been pursuing.  Unfortunately, he is not indifferent to the vicissitudes of American domestic politics and this crisis is unfolding just as the Republicans are holding their C-Pac convention.

This is where all those who pretend to the presidency hold forth before the most rabidly right-wing sector of the Party – the so called Republican base – who are rabid Obama-haters.  A parade of presidential hopefuls seeking to seduce this crowd and gain their support try to out-do each other in rushing to the far right of the American political continuum.

They all know that the easiest way to get some love from this crowd is to bash President Obama, so we see the President trying to conduct very difficult and dangerous diplomatic relations with Russia while assailed by a constant chorus of ridicule from Republicans Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, to Lindsay Graham and the Alaskan Barbarian Sarah Palin.

There are two themes that run through their attacks on the president. “The Ukraine crisis is the result of Barack Obama’s “weakness” in asserting American military power in promoting US foreign policy objectives in places like Syria and Iran, and this has emboldened America’s adversaries around the world.”  And “he is being bullied in the Ukrainian conflict because President Putin knows Obama is a punk.”

These vociferous denunciations of President Obama are accompanied by praise songs for the “toughness and decisiveness” of Putin; one wise media wag has labeled the phenomenon “Putin Love.”  None dare call it by its proper name: disloyal opposition bordering on treason! When you consider that far from doing nothing,  as the Republicans charge repeatedly, the evidence shows that President is doing far too much in the Ukrainian mess; this baseless criticism exposes the same deep-seated racist attitudes that compelled white American soldiers to permit German Nazi prisoners of war to share bathrooms with them, while the black American soldiers guarding them had to relieve themselves in ditches beside the road!

What Dr. DuBois said of Jack Johnson, the first black Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the world, is also true of Barack Obama, the first son of an African father to become President of the most powerful nation in the world.  Whites didn’t hate Jack Johnson because of anything he did, because they had done far worse; the source of their hatred is his “unforgivable blackness.”  Hence they see in Barack things that are not there, but are projected onto him  - by envious, racist whites who become hysterical at the very thought of a black First Family in the White House,   an uppity nigger with an African name who is way smarter than they are, running the USA….which they believe is a white man’s job and it just drives them bonkers!

The Republican warmongers hold an Oxymoronic position regarding the President: on the one hand they hate Putin and call him a ruthless dictator – House Speaker John Boehner call the Russian President “a thug” – but they are pissed off because President Obama is not more like him.   Sarah Palin, one of the loudest and most mindless voices on the right, denounces Obama as “a tyrant who ignores the constitution and constantly violates the law”, but gushes over Putin: “He rides bare-chested on a horse, wrestles bears and drills for oil….while Obama walks around in Mommy Jeans.”  This white trash debutante who nearly became vice-president on the US appears to cream in her jeans when she rhapsodizes about the manly virtues of the Russian President…Putin Love indeed.

 Alexander Putin: Tough Guy or…..
Alexander Putin on horseback  Just A Wrinkled old White Boy Riding a Nag

The more we hear from these twisted people the more obvious it becomes how lucky we are that Barack Obama and not John McCain became president five years ago. Under a McCain presidency we would be in wars everywhere, and the Alaskan Barbarian would be a heartbeat away from the Oval Office.  When viewed from the perspective of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy, Barack’s wisdom in managing this nation’s foreign affairs has been Solomonic.

He has found and offed Osama bin Laden, something the tough talking Bushmen never managed to do…in fact George Bush gave up trying to find him. The former President said he wasn’t even thinking about him anymore as he waged a war of choice against Sadam Hussein and Osama bin Laden became “Osama been Forgotten.”

Barack has also devastated Al Qaeda’s leadership, successfully wound down two wars the Republicans started that have become by far the longest running wars in our history – over twice as long as World War II – and he has kept us out of other foreign wars that John McCain would have eagerly waded into.  And Barack is the only American President to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  He was awarded the Prize even while waging two wars, but they were wars that he inherited from the Bush years and the wise members of the Nobel Prize committee were prescient in their vision of Barack as a peacemaker who would steer American away from the war path.  In his acceptance speech President Obama displayed his gift for reconciling contending forces that he has employed in his diplomacy. (See: “Hooray for the Juggler!”)*

Alas, with the Ukrainian crisis we are witnessing the return of all the warmongering cretins from the neo-con cabal hatched in The Project for a New American Century – see “How the Iraq War was Hatched in a Think Tank” – that pushed a clueless George W Bush into invading Iraq; the same crew that his wiser father George I called “The Crazies” – Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, John Bolton, et al.

Once again the Grand Obstructionist Party is sending in the clowns….and they are a murderous bunch with blood and gore on their hands…..much of it innocent blood from the needless slaughter of women and children.  And these homicidal jokers are itching to start another war.  Just look at that madman John Bolton, Bush’s UN Ambassador, whining about President Obama’s reluctance to intervene in every crisis that arises in the world with armed forces, or that little grinning jackal Bill Kristol, who, from his position as Editor of the influential right-wing Journal The Weekly Standard and Director of the Project for a New American Century, played a major role in convincing Bush to invade Iraq on phony information.

Now here he is again, while the nation is still recovering from that criminal folly, recklessly calling for ratcheting up tensions with the Russians by “humiliating Putin.”  These neo-con clowns never learn; they are stuck on stupid.

Bill Kristol
 Bill Kristol
A tough talkin mouse
 Dirty Dick Cheney
Dirty Dick Cheney
War Criminal!

However this little poot-butt provocateur, Wee Willie Kristol, who like Dirty Dick Cheney has never spent a day in the military, does not seem to understand that provoking a military conflict in the Ukraine is a very different class of event from invading Iraq, because within such a conflict lies the seeds of our own destruction; which was never a possibility in the invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, or even Vietnam.

Yet any military conflict with Russia could devolve into nuclear war; a prognosis that has been greeted with disbelief, even ridicule, by some really smart and thoughtful people. They are certain that the mostly straight white males who monopolize the instruments of power are rational actors, and supreme egotists, committed to self-preservation.  Therefore any mention of the possiblilty of a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia over the Ukraine is prima facie “absurd.”

It is fairly certain that no rational person would make a decision to destroy modern civilization.  I even had a wag with a PhD in political science tell me as much in this very language as he dismissed my concerns, and I must confess that on the face of it he appears to be right.  Yet the leading nations are well-armed with nuclear weapons and nuclear war remains an option, despite their awareness of the fact that all mankind has achieved during our history on earth would evaporate in a flash.  And those who survive would be struggling to sustain life on a radioactive planet with Stone Age technology.  This could be our fate an hour from now if the US and Russia had a nuclear exchange.

Such an event is, in fact, unthinkable.  Until you begin to consider that the mere possession of nuclear weapons is evidence of a collective madness among our leaders, who are prepared to perpetrate a massive crime against humanity, a catastrophe of biblical proportions, for their deployment would be worse than the sum total of all the atrocities man has committed against man in the history of the world.  An attack with nuclear weapons would instantaneously achieve mass murder on a scale that would make the Nazi holocaust look like a minor event.

Yet the most advanced civilizations in the world are awash in these weapons and cannot find a way to rid mankind of this horror!  This means that all of these “rational actors” in whom my friend has placed his confidence are ready and willing to slaughter millions of innocent civilians; all they need is the right scenario to develop on a computer screen and they will launch.  And since I have been in the room with the people who are assigned this task during a stint in Strategic Air Command at the height of the Cold War, right on the cusp of the Cuban Missile Crisis, I have no doubt that they will do it.

I would have done it!   That’s the way we were trained and I, like everybody else in Central Security Control, would have been convinced that I was serving the best interests of my country.  Yet I would not have raped a woman, mugged anybody and robbed them of their coin, and would readily give the elderly or handicapped my seat on the bus…in fact I was something of a Good Samaritan in everyday life…but I would have pushed the button and launched a nuclear attack on Russia upon command. This is what the philosopher Hanna Arendt meant by “The banality of evil.”

The real danger here is not that a group of men will sit quietly around a table ensconced underneath a mountain somewhere and decide to launch a nuclear attack, even though I believe the only reason they won’t is not moral restraint but the MAD doctrine: Mutual Assured Destruction, because I know men are indeed capable of such evil.  The clear and present danger that confronts us is that it could all happen by accident.

In the event of a serious miscommunication where a computer says the other side has launched an attack ,there is so little time to retaliate by those who believe that their nation is under attack they would have to launch immediately.  This is why fomenting hostility and mistrust between the US and Russia is akin to playing Russian roulette with the whole world.

Hence all the talk from Republicans about building anti-missile systems on the doorstep of Russia in places like Poland, and recruiting Poland, Georgia and Ukraine into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, is a doomsday scenario.  The people who advocate this madness often talk as if the rest of us are fools.

For instance Lindsay Graham, a Republican Senator from South Carolina, often talks this way. A smart man, albeit unprincipled, this former Air Force lawyer is openly calling on President Obama to invite former Republics that were a part of the Soviet Union until the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 – and they became independent nations – to join NATO.  We are left to speculate as to what the senator’s motives are, but he talks like a man who is intoxicated on the opiate of “American Exceptionalism,” terrified by a Tea Party threat to “primary” him, and seduced by the limelight that follows actors on the stage of national politics.

Professor Stephen Cohen – the Director of Russian Studies Centers at Princeton and Columbia Universities –is convinced that should the US pursue this course it will lead to nuclear catastrophe.  Dr. Cohen – whom I regard as a cut above former  functionaries in the US foreign policy establishment like Madeline Albright, Ziebnew Brzezinski, and Hilary Clinton – argues that if the US put troops in  Poland, which has now joined  NATO, the Russians will militarily occupy the Ukraine and they will be prepared to defend their position at all cost, including nuclear holocaust!

Since Romania and Bulgaria, who were formerly Russia’s allies in the now disloved Warsaw Pact, have also joined  NATO, should the US gain control of the Ukraine they would have succeeded in bringing their forward military position to Russia’s front door.  The Russians will resist this advance and any conflict between Russia and one of these new NATO countries would immediately become a military confrontation between the US and Russia. It is in the nature and letter of the agreement.

This is a plausible scenario of how a nuclear war could begin, because when there are military tensions between nuclear armed nations they put their nuclear forces on Alert. And once this happens the possibilities for an accidental nuclear conflagration greatly increases.  That’s why we need careful diplomacy in times like these and any suggestion of introducing military forces into the equation, such as conducting military maneuvers in the area, deploying American forces on Polish soil, or promoting any military activity in Crimea is destabilizing.

The Crimean Peninsula

Crimea -

Is it worth risking war with Russia

Never has this nation needed the calm deliberative style of President Obama more than now. His choice of quiet diplomacy over saber-rattling and caustic rhetoric calms the situation and gives everybody time to think. If John McCain were president just now the world would be in a state of nuclear terror as the destruction of our planet hung in the balance. Rejecting this old whacko warmonger in favor of the humanist visionary Barack Obama was the American electorate’s finest hour!

One of the greatest dangers of the American Exceptionalist doctrine is that it encourages national chauvinism and prevents Americans from recognizing the just claims and interests of other nations; they view the world with blinders on, like a draft horse pulling a wagon in city traffic that you want to look in only one direction. Alas, while this may be a good thing for draft horses it is suicidal in international politics where nuclear weapons are involved.

In order to understand how Putin would view the Ukraine entering NATO, one need only recall the US response when the Russians deployed missiles in Cuba.  The US government under President Kennedy was prepared to start a nuclear war over it.  When Kennedy ordered the US Navy to blockade Cuba and challenge a nuclear armed Russian fleet on the high seas, the world came so close to destruction the Cuban Missile Crisis –as it has become known in historyhad a lasting effect on Robert McNamara, the American Secretary of Defense at the time.

Before coming into government Robert McNamara was a hot shot corporate Titan, a former Air Force captain who was computer savvy – which was unique in the early 1960’s – McNamara was president of the Ford Motor Company, but after he left government he spent the rest of his life promoting peaceful development among the world’s poorest countries by employing the resources of the World Bank, which he headed.

Later in life he produced a documentary film titled “The Fog of War” in which he recounts how close they came to destroying the world during the Cuban Crisis.  He even traveled to Russia and Cuba and talked to his counterparts on the other side.  The question he most wanted them to answer was “would you really have launched your nuclear weapons?”  The fact that they said yes, as did he, shook him to the core, this question hounded him to his dying day is: “how could a group of rational, intelligent, sane, men even consider such a crime against the earth?

I believe the answer lies in our basic instinct for survival and the strong impulse to protect home and family.  The US government felt Americans could not live with the threat of Russian nuclear weapons just 90 miles away on the Island of Cuba because it threatened our national existence.  Hence no measure was too extreme to prevent it….even gambling with the fate of the earth.  That’s how the Russians feel about American incursions into their spheres of influence: and there is every reason to believe they will use any means necessary to prevent Americans from gaining military hegemony on their door step.

This is why President Obama must remain steady as she goes in steering the American ship of state through these troubled waters, and he must pay the Republican clowns screaming on the sidelines no mind.  First of all their criticisms of his foreign policy, like their claims that he is a lawless dictator who has usurped the Constitutional powers of the government, are all a damned lie!  These jackanapes –who chatter on ad nauseum spouting putrid nonsense like drunken magpies – foam at the mouth as they denounce the president’s “weakness” and “indecisiveness” in refusing to “do something” about the Russian transgressions.  This, like all of the criticism in their narrative of the Obama residency is a balantant lie!

They conveniently forget – and some are so ignorant of US history they never knew – that the Russians invaded several Eastern European nations while Republican Presidents occupied the Oval Office –and these were actual invasions, not like this little walkabout in the Crimea, where nobody will even admit they are Russian soldiers. There was the 1956 invasion of Hungary under Eisenhower – a Five Star general who only a decade earlier had led the victory over Nazi Germany as the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe.  But he refused to intervene despite many calls to do so.  Ike weighted the costs – a possible nuclear war with Russia – against the nebulous benefits, and decided to chill out despite the shrill cries for intervention on the right.

General Eisenhower
Eisenhower
Ike Maintained his Cool

When the Warsaw Pact forces – a group of five Eastern European countries led by the Soviet Union – invaded Czechoslovakia during the presidential elections of 1968, Richard Nixon did nothing to intervene in the situation after he won by a landslide.  Nixon, who had been Ike’s vice-president when the Soviets invaded Hungary, was no stranger to Russian invasions and was enraged by the Czech affair, but made no attempt to intervene in the situation because he knew that the Soviets had gained parity in nuclear weapons with the US.

Furthermore, given American actions in invading Cuba after the Revolution led by Fidel Castro turned in a socialist direction, Nixon, a very bright but morally deformed man, must have recognized that the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia to overthrow the Dubcek government, which was moving away from the Russian communist model, mirrored US actions in Cuba, although they would never admit this obvious parallel.  So he sought the friendship of China, breaking an American policy of ignoring mainland, or “Red China,” that had prevailed since the triumph of the Communist Revolution led by Mao Tse Tung, and promoted the absurd fiction that “the real China” was the off shore island of Taiwan. 

The strategy of exploiting serious ideological difference between the two communist titans, China and Russia,  by cozying up to China,  led  to an American rapprochement with China and Detente with Russia. This artful foreign policy was possible because Nixon was advised by Henry Kissinger, whereas George Bush was advised by people like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their Guru, the neo-con warmonger Paul Wolfowitz and his PNAC cabal.

In 2008 the Russian army invaded the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, and Bush, already burdened with two wars that he started, did nothing!  And although Senator John McCain is demanding an investigation of the CIA to find out why they didn’t predict a situation that erupted at rapid speed, a question whose answer does not require a costly congressional investigation; the answer is obvious to any reasonably informed person looking objectively upon the situation rather than through a veil of bias.

The fact is that there is nothing unusual about the CIA getting caught off guard: they got caught off guard in each of the full scale Russian Invasions under three Republican presidents. Thus all of this self-righteous posturing and demonstrations of outrage from people like John McCain,  that smug Howdy Doody looking charlatan that sits in the governor’s mansion in Louisiana, that fat dumb dope fiend Rush Limbaugh and that evil hysterical anorexic witch Gun Boat Annie Coulter are pure bullshit, as the Princeton Philosopher Harry G. Franks describes bullshit arguments in his book  “Bullshit”.

Consider the account of Daniel Fata – the assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy from September 2005 to September 2008, which was most of George Bush’s second term.  He recalls in an interview with Professor Stephen Benedict Dyson, a Professor of political science at the University of Connecticut,  that when the Russian Army invaded Georgia ““We were scrambling for information during these critical initial hours. My desk officer, who had great personal ties at the highest levels in Tbilisi, had the most usable real time information via texts from his friends in Georgia.” And he went on to observe “Putin was never punished by the international community.”  Notice he said nothing about the Bush Administration punishing Putin…it appears to have never entered their minds!

Bush evidently decided that he had gotten in enough trouble listening to Cheney, Rumsfeld, and their neo-con crew.  In view of the history of Republican presidential inaction in the face of actual Russian invasions…..why are these chattering clowns so hard on President Obama, who has not even been confronted with a “Russian invasion?”  At worse, thus far, the president is dealing with a pooty-pop police action.  And as I have shown: Barack has already done far too much!

To treat the Crimean situation as some major aggression by the Russians that threatens US interests, and therefore requires our intervention, is surely some species of madness. This peculiar madness is magnified when you reflect upon the fact that American officials travelled to the Ukraine and openly encouraged the insurgents to overthrow the pro-Russian President

Yet given the level of routine obfuscation and outright lying, the massive and systematic disinformation campaign being conducted by the right-wing media complex, and the fact that the overwhelming majority of their listeners are pugnacious airheads whose understanding of political reality is akin to the man who couldn’t tell his rectum from a hole in the ground, you have an untutored impassioned mob who can be manipulated into believing anything.  Hence the Republican politicians who are hurling slanders at the President that have not a trace of truth, but plays big with their audience, could just be playing politics.

If that is true, and given the intellectual shallowness and situational ethics that inform the actions of many Republican politicians in could well be true – then they are even more dangerous than the true believers.  Intelligent people who hold sincere beliefs can be persuaded to change their view, but a soulless, ignorant, charlatan has nothing there.  They’ve got a hole in their soul, and thus could demagogue a grave issue of national security for partisan political advantage.

These are people for whom only money and power are sacred; so even now they are trying their best to tie the conflict in the Ukraine to the refusal of President Obama to sign the Canadian pipeline deal.  Aside from confusing the foreign policy debate, their constant chatter, scripted lines repeated ad nauseum,  paid for by plutocrats and beamed into the skulls of the vast untutored working class – and that includes many white collar “professionals” – shamelessly plays on their fears in order to panic them into voting reactionaries into political office who despise them and constantly injure their interests.

President Obama is in a tight predicament.  He is bound by an attitude of fear and suspicion toward Russia that has long been cultivated in this country. The ignorance of Americans regarding Russia is abominable, hence they are prepared to believe the worst.  When coupled with the sense of American Exceptionalism that almost all Americans in their smug self-righteousness believe in, it makes sense to them when the Republican clowns cry out about President Obama’s weakness in the face of Russian aggression.

Since they know nothing of American history, they really believe that Putin would never have committed such a criminal act of aggression if that “lily livered; mommy jean wearing; secret agent for Al Queda; European socialist communist low down dirty half-breed mongrel nigger” had not “duped the American people and wormed his way into the White House”.

Yet even if we discounted all the other madness in this description of our fabulous President, arguably the best ever, and simply accepted that they believe Barack could deceive the Secret Service, the FBI, the National Immigration Service, the National Security agency et al, even  believed that Donald Trump’s alleged private investigators could detect such fraud, is frightening testimony of the epidemic of irrational thinking among millions of Americans who come out aggressively and vote!

Barak Obama’s actions and pronouncements regarding the Ukrainian situation are formulated with an eye toward domestic politics.  After all, he is not only a politician but a great one….perhaps the greatest of all times.  In fact I have argued this very point elsewhere see: “The GOAT: Greatest of All Times” on this blog.  And the first step in being a successful politician is to recognize that politics is the art of the possible!  Barack not only recognizes this, he understands how to win elections.

The fact that fact a young black guy who looks like he might be hanging out on the basketball, courts in Chicago waiting for a pick-up game, and is married to a big fine chocolate, brilliant, sassy soul sister who can dance her ass off and will bust a move anywhere, getting himself elected president twice, is driving a lot of these white boys like Donald Trump – who was born to the purple but can’t get elected to the villager dogcatcher’s post in Washington – clear out of their  minds!

So the Republican propaganda machine, disguised as news sources, make up lies about him and broadcast them on a non-stop loop, right into the fickle brains of Dumb Dora and Joe Six Pack.  And they have done it so well that millions of Americans – most white but some black leftist too – actually believe it.  And that is part of my evidence for his greatness: with all of their researchers they cannot come up with an authentic complaint against Obama.  Yet perception is reality in the eyes of the beholder.  Hence President Obama must pay homage to the prevailing American myth….because it is firmly rooted in the Master Narrative of American civilization.

Hence we see President Obama, a brilliant man who must recognize that Russia has a legitimate right to their Sphere of Influence, and that Putin is doing nothing that the US has not done –and far worse – all over the world!  Yet he must pay lip service to the American Exceptionalists vision or be labeled a traitor and hung if they had their druthers. And he knows that none of his major policy objectives can be realized so long as Republicans control the House of Representatives, and should they take the senate in the elections this year he will spend the rest of his second term mainly casting vetoes, Barack must pay attention to domestic politics.  All of these factors figure strongly in the presidents public posture toward Russia.

As important as these other issues are, they are picayune matters compared to a military conflict with Russia.  This is as serious as it gets.  Things on the ground in the Ukraine are changing so fast the President must focus on the fundamental issues involved here and correctly decide where American interests truly lie. Considering that he has ordered an American guided missile ship into waters off the coast of Crimea, one wonders if he is becoming confused on this issue.  Hilary Clinton, his recently retired Secretary of State is obviously confused by the Ukrainian affair because she is talking like a babbling idiot….  spouting dangerous and misleading nonsense comparing Putin to Hitler and muttering about the similarity to the Munich Conference?

This kind of crazy talk invites comparison of President Obama to the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. I am expecting to hear cries of “appeasement” from the Republicans any day now.  Although she has tried to equivocate on here statement, saying she was not implying an exact comparison, Hilary comes across as either a fool or an opportunist.  Conversations about Hitler and Munich conferences from the middle of the last century is not the conversation we should be having now….for it confuses far more than it clarifies and provides fuel for the verbal arsonists in right-wing media.

All of this is a distraction.  The thing that should remain uppermost in President Obama’s mind and that of all American political leaders is whatever happens in the Ukraine it is not worth one ounce of American blood, nor the profligate squandering of American treasure. President Obama should also be aware that many thoughtful Americans, this writer included, resent the fact that the Republicans who control the House of Representatives quickly voted a billion dollars in emergency aid to the Ukraine, while denying benefits to American workers suffering long term unemployment, and kills every program President Obama proposes to help desperate Americans and rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

Yet above and beyond all everything else, no matter what, the President must constantly think about avoiding any action that could make the Russians nervous about their national security, because they will surely put more nuclear weapons on alert….alas some are already on alert.   For most people these weapons are like something out of science fiction like the transformers firing laser beams, that explains why most are going merrily about their business totally unaware that 40 minutes from now our world go up in radioactive flames. They are like sheep quietly going to slaughter; for if they had any idea what a nuclear war means they would out in the streets demanding that President Obama call off the proposed naval exercise involving the US and Romanian forces in the Black Sea.

Ignorance about the world is dangerous in any case, but ignorance about the nuclear forces of the US and Russia could prove fatal.  Both nations have triple threat strike forces that consists of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, Long range bombers, and naval forces composed of nuclear submarines and missile ships that fire from surface platforms.  The IBMs can be launched from silos on land or beneath the sea; they go up out of the earth’s atmosphere and return to earth to hit their targets.  They also have MIRVED warheads – Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles – which means that a single missile carry up to eight separate warheads capable of being programmed to strike different targets.

In order to gain some understanding of the scale of destruction a single missile can wreak consider the following facts.  The atomic bombs dropped on Japanese cities had an explosive power equivalent to 20, 000 tons of high explosive TNT, plus the intense heat from the nuclear reaction and the radioactive fallout. The nuclear warheads carried by the MIRVED missiles are 5 megatons each, which amounts to 45 million tons of TNT per missile!   And we have thousands of them ready to launch at a moment’s notice….and so do the Russians.  And since this is a neutron hydrogen bomb, the radiation is immeasurably more intense.

I can still remember the day I first found out about all this.  It was in an orientation class for those of us with Top Secret security clearances when I arrived on the Strategic Air Command base in Glasgow Montana, up on the DEW line – Distance Early Warning – out in the Great Plains near the Canadian Border, where I would be stationed.  At the time SAC was the center of the US nuclear strike force and from where we were the giant B-52 Strato-Bombers, which flew at supersonic speeds at very high altitudes, could be over Moscow in less than an hour.  After showing us the official SAC films on the atomic bombing of Japan, an unspeakably horrible event, the colonel conducting the class said, “Or this is nothing…those bombs are like firecrackers compared to the ordinance we have on this base.”

After seeing the giant radioactive fireball rise up over Japanese cities, and heard the tales of poisonous black rain and the nuclear night that followed the atomic flash upon detonation, creating such intense heat people who saw it eyeballs melted and people were bursting into flames everywhere.  And all this was from the little 20,000 tons of TNT bomb; the instructor pointed out that we had bombs of 100 million ton capacity!  I thought it was madness, and I have never changed my views on the matter of nuclear weapons.  As I have said previously, I consider the mere possession of them to be a crime against humanity.

However the bombers, while still active, are third in destructive capacity in the tripartite US nuclear war machine. There are the missiles I described, and then there are the nuclear submarines, marvelous frightening instruments of mass destruction, one of which has more firepower than all of the ordinance exploded in World War II, including the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan.  And we have about a dozen of them prowling under the world’s ocean seas.

Should a nuclear exchange begin there will be two chain reactions: the atomic one and a human one.   For once it starts the computers will take overs and both sides will empty their arsenals in order to make sure the other side will not survive….the computers are programmed to see to that.  It is such an unspeakable horror, the destruction of all life on our planet, it is no wonder people don’t want to think about it, but I’m just keepin it real!  It is no exaggeration to say that those who do survive for a while will envy the dead.  This is the possibility we are playing with as I write.

The way things are developing in terms of the rapid deterioration of US/Russian relations over the crisis in the Ukraine is frightening to those who pay attention to the possibility of blundering into an accidental nuclear war.  As I said early on in this essay I was prompted to write it because of an exchange I had with a friend who smugly assured me that a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia couldn’t happen.  However I take my cue from the people who understand this problem best: The Bulletin of Atomic Scientist.  Their views regarding the danger of an outbreak of nuclear war – which is to say its probability – is succinctly expressed by the position of the hands on the Doomsday Clock.

This clock was created in 1947 by the scientists from the Manhattan Project, the guys who invented the atomic bombs that were dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki only two years earlier, the only time atomic weapons have been used in human history.  Over the last 67 years the hands on the clock have been moved 18 times by the scientists affiliated with the Bulletin, which includes 18 Nobel Laureates, an astonishing number for any organization.  The scientists move the hands on the Doomsday Clock based on their assessment of how close human beings have come to self-annihilation.

At present the hands on the clock stands at five minutes to mid-night! And, despite so major changes in US/Russian relations, the nuclear arsenals possessed by these nations remain the most dangerous threat to continued human existence.  The Bulletin of Atomic Scientist sums it up thusly:

“Today, the mind-numbing possibility of nuclear annihilation as a result of a deliberate attack on the other by the United States or Russia seems a thing of the past, yet the potential for an accidental, unauthorized, or inadvertent nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia remains, with both countries anachronistically maintaining more than 800 warheads on high alert, ready to launch within tens of minutes”.

That’s why President Obama had better move with the greatest caution in his policy choices regarding the Ukraine.  He must maintain his fabled cool as – “No Drama Obama” – pay the hysterical hawks on the Republican right no mind and make keeping the peace his first priority.  Because as we know from former Defense Secretary Bob McNamara: things get confusing in the fog of war. And before you know what happened we could be the late….great….planet earth.

 Doomsday!!!

Atomic_bomb_explosion-SPL

It could come to this!

************************

Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
March 8, 2014

****** Transcript from hacked phone conversation between Undersecretary of State for Europe, Victoria Nuland for and the US Ambassador as they secretly  minipulate the political events in Ukraine.

An apparently bugged phone conversation in which a senior US diplomat disparages the EU over the Ukraine crisis has been posted online. The alleged conversation between Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, appeared on YouTube on Thursday. It is not clearly when the alleged conversation took place.

Here is a transcript, with analysis by BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus:

Warning: This transcript contains swearing.

Voice thought to be Nuland’s: What do you think?

  • Jonathan Marcus: At the outset it should be clear that this is a fragment of what may well be a larger phone conversation. But the US has not denied its veracity and has been quick to point a finger at the Russian authorities for being behind its interception and leak.

Voice thought to be Pyatt’s: I think we’re in play. The Klitschko [Vitaly Klitschko, one of three main opposition leaders] piece is obviously the complicated electron here. Especially the announcement of him as deputy prime minister and you’ve seen some of my notes on the troubles in the marriage right now so we’re trying to get a read really fast on where he is on this stuff. But I think your argument to him, which you’ll need to make, I think that’s the next phone call you want to set up, is exactly the one you made to Yats [Arseniy Yatseniuk, another opposition leader]. And I’m glad you sort of put him on the spot on where he fits in this scenario. And I’m very glad that he said what he said in response.

Jonathan Marcus: The US says that it is working with all sides in the crisis to reach a peaceful solution, noting that “ultimately it is up to the Ukrainian people to decide their future”. However this transcript suggests that the US has very clear ideas about what the outcome should be and is striving to achieve these goals. Russian spokesmen have insisted that the US is meddling in Ukraine’s affairs – no more than Moscow, the cynic might say – but Washington clearly has its own game-plan. The clear purpose in leaking this conversation is to embarrass Washington and for audiences susceptible to Moscow’s message to portray the US as interfering in Ukraine’s domestic affairs.

Nuland: Good. I don’t think Klitsch should go into the government. I don’t think it’s necessary, I don’t think it’s a good idea.

Pyatt: Yeah. I guess… in terms of him not going into the government, just let him stay out and do his political homework and stuff. I’m just thinking in terms of sort of the process moving ahead we want to keep the moderate democrats together. The problem is going to be Tyahnybok [Oleh Tyahnybok, the other opposition leader] and his guys and I’m sure that’s part of what [President Viktor] Yanukovych is calculating on all this.

Continue reading the main story

Ukraine unrest: Timeline

21 November 2013: Protests start after Ukraine announces it will not sign a deal aimed at strengthening ties with the EU

17 December: Russia agrees to buy $15bn of Ukrainian government bonds and slash the price of gas it sells to the country

16 January 2014: Parliament passes law restricting the right to protest

22 January: Two protesters die from bullet wounds during clashes with police in Kiev; protests spread across many cities

25 January: President Yanukovych offers seniorjobs to the opposition, including that of prime minister, but these are rejected

28 January: Parliament votes to annul protest law and President Yanukovych accepts resignation of PM and cabinet

29 January: Parliament passes amnesty law for detained protesters, under the condition occupied buildings are vacated

Nuland: [Breaks in] I think Yats is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. He’s the… what he needs is Klitsch and Tyahnybok on the outside. He needs to be talking to them four times a week, you know. I just think Klitsch going in… he’s going to be at that level working for Yatseniuk, it’s just not going to work.

Pyatt: Yeah, no, I think that’s right. OK. Good. Do you want us to set up a call with him as the next step?

Nuland: My understanding from that call – but you tell me – was that the big three were going into their own meeting and that Yats was going to offer in that context a… three-plus-one conversation or three-plus-two with you. Is that not how you understood it?

Pyatt: No. I think… I mean that’s what he proposed but I think, just knowing the dynamic that’s been with them where Klitschko has been the top dog, he’s going to take a while to show up for whatever meeting they’ve got and he’s probably talking to his guys at this point, so I think you reaching out directly to him helps with the personality management among the three and it gives you also a chance to move fast on all this stuff and put us behind it before they all sit down and he explains why he doesn’t like it.

Nuland: OK, good. I’m happy. Why don’t you reach out to him and see if he wants to talk before or after.

Pyatt: OK, will do. Thanks.

Nuland: OK… one more wrinkle for you Geoff. [A click can be heard] I can’t remember if I told you this, or if I only told Washington this, that when I talked to Jeff Feltman [United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs] this morning, he had a new name for the UN guy Robert Serry did I write you that this morning?

  • Jonathan Marcus: An intriguing insight into the foreign policy process with work going on at a number of levels: Various officials attempting to marshal the Ukrainian opposition; efforts to get the UN to play an active role in bolstering a deal; and (as you can see below) the big guns waiting in the wings – US Vice-President Joe Biden clearly being lined up to give private words of encouragement at the appropriate moment.

Pyatt: Yeah I saw that.

Nuland: OK. He’s now gotten both Serry and [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-moon to agree that Serry could come in Monday or Tuesday. So that would be great, I think, to help glue this thing and to have the UN help glue it and, you know, Fuck the EU.

Jonathan Marcus: Not for the first time in an international crisis, the US expresses frustration at the EU’s efforts. Washington and Brussels have not been completely in step during the Ukraine crisis. The EU is divided and to some extent hesitant about picking a fight with Moscow. It certainly cannot win a short-term battle for Ukraine’s affections with Moscow – it just does not have the cash inducements available. The EU has sought to play a longer game; banking on its attraction over time. But the US clearly is determined to take a much more activist role.

Pyatt: No, exactly. And I think we’ve got to do something to make it stick together because you can be pretty sure that if it does start to gain altitude, that the Russians will be working behind the scenes to try to torpedo it. And again the fact that this is out there right now, I’m still trying to figure out in my mind why Yanukovych (garbled) that. In the meantime there’s a Party of Regions faction meeting going on right now and I’m sure there’s a lively argument going on in that group at this point. But anyway we could land jelly side up on this one if we move fast. So let me work on Klitschko and if you can just keep… we want to try to get somebody with an international personality to come out here and help to midwife this thing. The other issue is some kind of outreach to Yanukovych but we probably regroup on that tomorrow as we see how things start to fall into place.

Nuland: So on that piece Geoff, when I wrote the note [US vice-president's national security adviser Jake] Sullivan’s come back to me VFR [direct to me], saying you need [US Vice-President Joe] Biden and I said probably tomorrow for an atta-boy and to get the deets [details] to stick. So Biden’s willing.

Pyatt: OK. Great. Thanks.

Jonathan Marcus: Overall this is a damaging episode between Washington and Moscow. Nobody really emerges with any credit. The US is clearly much more involved in trying to broker a deal in Ukraine than it publicly lets on. There is some embarrassment too for the Americans given the ease with which their communications were hacked. But is the interception and leaking of communications really the way Russia wants to conduct its foreign policy ? Goodness – after Wikileaks, Edward Snowden and the like could the Russian government be joining the radical apostles of open government? I doubt it. Though given some of the comments from Vladimir Putin’s adviser on Ukraine Sergei Glazyev – for example his interview with the Kommersant-Ukraine newspaper the other day – you don’t need your own listening station to be clear about Russia’s intentions. Russia he said “must interfere in Ukraine” and the authorities there should use force against the demonstrators.

US Should Stay out of Ukrainian Crisis!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs with tags , , on February 24, 2014 by playthell
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Things Fall Apart!

President Obama must resist calls to meddle in the Ukraine

As a shocked and confused world watched in awe, the Ukrainian government, which just days before appeared to be all-powerful, crumbled like a sand castle hit by a tidal wave.  President Viktor F. Yanukovich fled the capitol and went into hiding to escape the righteous wrath of the howling mob calling for his head, and has since been impeached by a parliament dominated by members of his own party, while an assortment of misguided American voices are calling for American intervention in that unstable violence-torn nation at the door of the steppes of Russia.

Led by pugnacious politicians like Senator John McCain – who recently travelled to that country during the uprising and urged the angry anti-government crowds on – and talkative media wags, all drunk on the ideological opiate of American Excptionalisism, are demanding that President Obama “do something” to influence the outcome of that volatile internal crisis that threatens to spill over its borders and spark a conflict with Russia. Although none of these eager interventionists seem to have a clear idea exactly what the President ought to do.

Influential journalists invited to comment on MSNBC’s Morning Joe at  the height of the violence in the streets last week, like the popular television commentators Andrea Mitchell and David Gregory, are talking air heads that understand no more about the Ukraine that a mule knows about playing a fiddle. And based on the specious prattle these talking heads confuse with serious analysis of the of the situation in Eastern Europe, I found myself saying thank God for Dr. Jeffery Sachs, a Columbia University economist, whose presence gave some semblance of intelligence to the discourse.

Although given Dr. Sach’s nefarious role as an advocate of “Shock Treatment” – a spurious and dangerous economic theory promoted by the right-wing free market theologian Milton Freedman – in countries like Chile and especially Russia after the fall of the Communist Party, which caused horrendous human suffering and bears some blame for the present crisis, I never thought I would be applauding anything that emanated from his mouth.  Alas, the fact that Jeffery Sachs now sounds like a wise man is a measure of the depths to which American political discourse has plunged.

To his credit Dr. Sachs calmly pointed out what ought to be obvious to anyone with an inkling of how the world actually works. First the Russians have their national interests and the Ukraine is a matter of grave national interest to them.  Second the US has no power to do anything about the situation because it lies within the heart of their Sphere of Influence.  And to those who are whining about President Obama’s timidity, Dr. Sachs pointed out that President Eisenhower – a Republican former general who had led the fight that defeated the Nazis – did nothing when the Soviet army invaded Hungary in 1956!

Once again we see the indisputable truth of historian Benjamin Quarles’ observation that in order to fully understand the complexities of the present “one needs the added dimension of historical perspective.” Hence it is of critical importance – a life and death matter really – that we understand the reason why Ike refused to intervene in the Hungarian mess.  As a former Five Star General who witnessed the horror of the atomic bombing of Japan, Ike understood that the US had no power to affect the situation militarily and thus to risk a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union would be suicidal folly!

Presiding over a nation that had operated under the Monroe Doctrine, initiated by President William Monroe in 1830, which declared all of the Americas from Canada to Chile and the islands of the seas an American Sphere of Influence, for which the US was willing to go to war in order to prevent encroachment by the imperial powers of Europe – a doctrine which eventually led to the Spanish American war some sixty years later – Ike realized the absurdity and futility of attempting to deny another great power, especially one armed with nuclear weapons, their natural Sphere of Influence.

The prestige of Ike’s military record enabled him to stand firm against his more bellicose critics who urged him to “do something!”  It is hugely instructive that he was called a “communist collaborator” by Senator Joseph McCarthy, a deranged rightwing Democrat from Wisconsin who bore a remarkable resemblance to Ted Cruz, a deranged rightwing Republican Senator from Texas, whose crazy Cuban exile dad traverses the country addressing the lunatic rightwing of the Republican/Tea Party explaining how President Obama is a communist dictator.  And the silly old fart continues to draw enthusiastic crowds anxious to hear him blow hot air out of his ass despite the absence of any hint of reality.

Yet those who are calling for American meddling in the Ukrainian crisis appear not to recognize that despite the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republicans – which is why the Ukraine is now an independent nation – the Russians have a greater nuclear capacity than they had in 1956…which means they have the power to destroy every American city within half an hour!

Yet from the response of Joe Scarborough – a pompous airhead whose success as a TV pundit appears to be based more on the fact that he is a John Wayne lookalike than intellectual gravitas – Dr. Sach’s sober analysis of why any attempt by the US government would be a dangerous exercise in futility was like pouring water on a duck’s back as Joe dismissed his comparative analysis as a “false analogy.”  It was anything but; it was in fact a paragon of political wisdom.

This discourse demonstrates the vital need for well-informed commentators to discuss these issues in mass forums like Morning Joe, in order to raise the level of understanding on the part of an abysmally ignorant American public that knows but little of the critical issues in American politics – recent polls reveal that more Americans can name the judges on American Idol than the US Supreme Court – let alone the complexities of the issues that underlie the present Ukranian crisis, which more and more resembles a civil war.

Nothing reflects this ignorance more than American calls for President Obama to “do something” about the Ukrainian crisis.  Just as in the uprisings collectively called “the Arab Spring” the US has no power to determine the course or outcome of events.  In order to properly define US options regarding the crisis in Ukraine we must first gain a thorough understanding of the nature of this situation by a careful analysis of the ideology and objectives of contending forces.

Those who are demanding that President Obama intervene in this faraway conflict display no evidence that they have carefully sifted the facts.  Although American intelligence agencies understand the identity and relationships of the political forces at work better than was the case with the “Arab Spring” uprisings, we are just as powerless to determine the outcome of the Ukrainian crisis or predict the course of events.  Hence what the would-be interventionists are suggesting is akin to dancing in the dark in the middle of a mine field.

Which Way Ukraine?

Anti-government protesters prepare to advance over a burning barricade in Kiev's Independence Square

Where Things Goes…..Nobody Knows

Note: Part II will examine the ideology and objectives of the contending forces in the Ukraine.

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
February 23, 2014

Kerry’s Axis of Evil

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , on September 4, 2013 by playthell
John Kerry
Watch the Hands

 Pleading the Case for War

As I listened to Secretary of State John Kerry argue the case for launching yet another war in the Muslim world, I thought of the old axiom “truth is the first casualty of war,” which once more demonstrates its veracity.  To listen to his impassioned plea for an attack on Syria, an action they have cloaked in noble rhetoric and infused with high minded purpose, and to take it seriously, it is fairly easy to conclude that going to war in Syria is a benefaction for mankind.  And to do nothing imperils the fate of our republic…which we are assured is “the last best hope of mankind,” even with all our faults.

The fact that 60% of the American people want no part of yet another war in the Middle East, or anywhere else for that matter, poses a problem for the members of Congress, who must vote on questions of war and peace.  Under the US Constitution the nation’s war-making powers are invested in the Congress.  Since President Obama is not only a lawyer but a former professor of Constitutional Law, who has written thoughtfully about that hallowed foundational document, it will be fascinating to watch how he handles it should the Congress fail to co-sign his plan for a military intervention in Syria.  For as we know all too well, past Presidents have found ways to bypass Congress and deployed American military forces abroad.

The most disturbing aspect of the hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,  is that few Senators offered stiff opposition to the Administration’s plan.  More often than not their questions concentrated on operational matters, such as types of forces and possible casualities, and what plans are we making to support the Syrian opposition after the initial military assault.  This kind of talk takes on a dangerous urgency when it is bolstered with talk about Assad’s use of chemical weapons in Syria posing a grave danger to the national security of the United States.

Even more disturbing is the line of questioning pursued by Senator Flake, a Republican from Arizona, who argues that the Administration already has the authority to act if the situation in Syria is as bad as they say it is.  Hence he questioned the motives of the administration in bringing the issue to the Congress for a vote.  His response put Secretary Kerry in the bizarre position of pointing out that the Constitution mandates that the President consult the Congress before going to war.

Senator Udall’s questions to the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense were a refreshing departure from the mealy mouthed acquiescence to Administration policy from both sides of the aisle.  Among other things Mr. Udall raised sharp questions as to how he can be sure that American military action will not enable the Jihadist forces to take power.  And his point-blank question as to whether the US should continue to assume the role of global cop, especially in light of our spectacular failures in Iraq or Afghanistan, went straight to the heart of the matter at hand.

I was delighted to witness the Senator standing his ground in face of the huffing and puffing from an unusually animated Secretary of State in defense of his historic military adventure.  At the end of Kerry’s impassioned monologue, in which the Secretary painted his proposed military adventure as the last chance to save the world from barbarism, Senator Udall remained unconvinced that a military intervention in Syria was either a good thing in general, or that our national security was dependent upon it. Alas, his Republican colleague, John McCain, wants an even wider American commitment to war.

However the most probing questions came from Senator Rand Paul, a man with whom I usually disagree with about everything including the weather. It is a sign of the impoverishment of the discourse that Paul, who generally plays the charlatan in shameless fashion, should emerge as a voice of wisdom and truth.  But his unflinching challenge to the Secretary, about both the reliability of his predictions regarding the behavior of Syrian president Assad and the constitutionality of the President’s deployment of military forces on foreign soil if the Congress votes down the his request for a pro-war resolution, went straight to the heart of the matter,

For the Senator the matter was clear, and he cited a compelling passage from James Madison’s writing in the Federalist Papers.  Here Madison argues that the Constitution specifically invested the war making power in the Congress because the great expanse of history demonstrates that it is the executive branch of government that is most promiscuous in its pursuit of war.

Rand Paul, a libertarian Republican, was followed by the newly elected Democratic Senator from Massachusetts Ed Markey, who ironically holds the Senate seat recently abandoned by John  Kerry when he became Secretary of State.  The Senator reminded his colleagues and the representatives of the Obama Administration how we blundered into the Iraq war, and expressed doubt about the certainty of the Administration’s claims regarding the situation in Syria, and the outcome of the proposed military action there.  I share their skepticism.

As I listened to the Secretary of State paint a frightening scenario of the disaster that will befall the world, with grave consequences for the US, should we fail to attack Syria, I became uneasy.    He is certain to include all the bad actors that are routinely vilified in the American media, from the Islamic Caliphate of Iran to the insular communist nation of North Korea.  It reminds me far too much of Colin Powell’s performance before the United Nations, when he argued the case for the invasion of Iraq, and it also evoked the image of Mr. Kerry’s impassioned denunciation of American military actions in Vietnam as a recently returned veteran.

Hence witnessing his performance as a passionate advocate for an attack on Syria had the feeling of dwelling in a Barney and Bailey world, a strange new world where everything had become its opposite.   Mr. Kerry unfolded a list of America’s enemies that bore an uncanny resemblance to George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil,” and predicted a chain of events to follow in the wake of an American failure to intervene in Syria that resembled a global  “Domino Theory.”   It was as if I had stumbled into a time warp.  This was bad enough, but when I heard Senator Robert Menendez referring to his standing up to the neighborhood bully in New Jersey, as a model from which the US government should fashion our policy toward embattled Syria, it scared the shit outta me!  Hence I am more convinced than ever that my position is right on: NO ATTACK ON SYRIA!!!!!

 Power Corrupts or the Motion of History?
AP A DC USA IRAQ THROUGH VIETNAM
 John Kerry testifying Against war 42 years ago

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Playthell G. Benjamin

San Francisco, Ca.

September 3, 2013

A Memo to President Obama…

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East!, Uncategorized on August 29, 2013 by playthell

A devestated Syria

A country already devastated by internecine conflict

 …No Unilateral Strike on Syria!!

Once again the saber rattlers in Washington are seriously considering a military action in an Islamic country in order to “liberate” the people from an oppressive government.  As the Obama Administration reviews evidence that the Syrian government has used poison  gas  against opponents of the embattled Assad regime, talk of an air strike  in Syria is growing louder even as the polls show that a majority of Americans want no part of it, this writer included.

This growing opposition to American intervention is fueled by a combination of war weariness and the belief that American treasure can be put to better use rebuilding our country and rescuing millions of Americans from economic desperation. There is also widespread skepticism about the so-called “evidence,” for it evokes bitter memories of the Bush Administrations “evidence” regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  Even in a nation famous for historical amnesia, this four trillion dollar debacle has not been forgotten – especially when the American Society of Civil Engineers have calculated that we could have completely rebuilt the entire infrastructure of the US, laying the basis for a new economic takeoff, for half that price.

While I cannot be counted as a fellow isolationist in lockstep with the Libertarians who believe  the US should never intervene in the affairs of a sovereign country no matter what, and even oppose the granting of foreign aid – i.e. Ron and Rand Paul – I am nonetheless cautious about American intervention in other countries.  Needless to say, as a humanitarian and one who cares deeply about the future of our country, I believe we cannot ignore genuine cases of genocide in the world, and the idea of cutting off all foreign aid from the richest country in on earth is irresponsible and dangerous nonsense!

Like the Chinese, I think our foreign policy should be largely oriented toward aid, trade and technical assistance and less toward military actions.  But I also believe that Chinese indifference to questions of human rights in their foreign policy is amoral, such as in the Sudan,  and here they can learn something from us. 

If morality is to play any role in foreign policy, and I believe the world will be a more dangerous place without it, there are situations where the deployment of military force in a foreign country can be a heroic and benevolent act.  The invasion of Nazi Germany to liberate the Jews, and a proposed invasion of Rwanda to prevent genocide are obvious situations where US intervention would be justified.

However more often than not, American military intervention has been a disaster, both for the US and the people in the countries under attack.  Iran, Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan, et al are excellent cases in point.  Not to mention the countless US interventions in Latin American counties, often subverting the democratic will of the people if it didn’t compliment American interests in the region – such as the overthrow of Dr. Salvador Allende in Chile.  

In every instance these interventions were justified with high minded rhetoric about promoting freedom and democracy…despite abundant evidence to the contrary.  At one point cynics about the real aims of American foreign policy began to refer to the CIA the “Community Interventionist Agency,” and the American claim as “freedom fighters” was met with the retort: “Yes, they fight freedom everywhere!”

Obviously, international relations being the complicated mess that it is there is no easy or simple answer to the question of military intervention in foreign countries.  While the strict Chinese policy of non-intervention into the internal affairs of other nations serves the interest of China well, since rapid domestic development and modernization is their paramount objective at this juncture in their history, if the rest of the world adopted a similar position every variety of evil tyrant and murderous mad man could use national sovereignty as a shield behind which to commit all manner of evil against their people, including genocide.

The way in which the US has treated Afro-Americans and Native Americans for most of its history is a strong case in point.  And although American military power made intervention unthinkable by other countries – even if they had the inclination to do so – the arrival of the Cold War in the mid-twentieth century and the coincidental rise of anti-colonial national liberation movements that resulted in the emergence of a host of newly independent non-white nations exerted tremendous pressure on the US to scrap its racist policies.

For the ruling elites in the US this dramatic about face was not a question of morality, as it is so often represented, but was dictated by the need to win the hearts and minds of the millions who lived in the “Bandung World” in order to prevent them from aligning with the Communist block led by the increasingly powerful, nuclear armed, Soviet Union.

This political reality was far more powerful than moral preachment in convincing many in the US government to dismantle racial apartheid.  Hence as a member of a powerless minority that has suffered great oppression from our government and witnessed genocide against Native Americans, I could never be persuaded to adopt a position of non-intervention no matter what that is the mantra of the Libertarian fringe of the Republican Party.

Having said this however, I feel that the US cannot continue to pursue go it alone policies, as if America has been appointed the moral arbiter of the world by some divine power – as some of my fellow citizens appear to believe.  For we have neither the wisdom nor the wealth to carry out such a task.  Hence the Obama Administration must heed the warning of the United Nations not to launch a unilateral strike, or an attack by an American made “coalition of the willing” such as we witnessed in Iraq.  Instead the US government must follow the norms of international law, and submit their findings before the UN and allow the international community of nations to act on it.

It is no secret that I believe that in messy matters of foreign policy President Obama has acted with Solomonic wisdom.  Yet because his actions must be governed by the imperatives of defending American interests in the world, while protecting the homeland against terrorist assault from the Islamic Jihadists, he will never satisfy the committed pacifist or the self-righteous ideologues on the left.  

 The President is about to make what I believe will prove to be a foreign policy blunder of historic proportions if he plunges headlong into the Syrian conflict without a genuine debate in the UN, and awaiting the unbiased conclusion of the international team of UN weapons inspectors who are assessing the situation on the ground in Syria.

Are more bombs the answer here?
A devastated Syria
A country in desperate need of peace

If we have learned anything from the colossal blunder in Iraq it is the folly of launching a military assault based on inadequate or inaccurate information.  The fact that there may have been toxic gas used in Syria, as the intelligence seems to suggest, does not tell us who used it.   And of this we must be sure before we commit American blood and treasure in that conflict. 

Furthermore, even if the Obama Administration is convinced that their intelligence proves it was the Syrian government – who controls one of the largest stock piles of chemical weapons on earth – that gave the order, they must still submit that evidence and allow the UN to adjudicate the matter.

We should also have learned by now that it is far easier to start a war than to end one, as the present attempts to disengage from a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan makes all too clear.  And that sometimes the “cure” turns out to be worse than the disease…especially in the Islamic world, a region of unfathomable complexities and contradictions.  The Syrian situation has the warning “beware of quagmires!” emblazoned all over it like a flashing neon sign.  For all these reasons, and possibly more, the US must not launch a unilateral attack on Syria!

 

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Playthell  G. Benjamin

San Francisco, California

August 28, 2013

In Egypt its a Fight to the Finish!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , on August 21, 2013 by playthell
Islamic militants take to the streets
egypt-coup-morsi-us
Fear of death has not deterred them

But What Should the US Do?

The widening conflict in Egypt and the rising body count contains the fundamental feature of classical tragedy, magnificent mortals pitted against cosmic forces whose heroic efforts are doomed to failure.  For some time now I have been writing about the situation in Egypt and the possibility of an armed conflict between the Islamic theocrats and secular military strong men, as they contend for power in that oldest and most populous of the Arab nations.

One can simply enter “On Egypt” in the search engine on this blog to review the paper trail, and it will reveal why I am not surprised that it has come to this tragic state of affairs in that ancient country.  The record will show that I have always believed it would come to something like this i.e. open armed conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian Armed forces that will result in one side vanquishing the other.

Let me hasten to confess that I have no crystal ball and do not claim supernatural powers.  Nor do I have vast intelligence agencies briefing me.  Instead I rely on the lessons of history and take the Islamist at their word.  Hence at the onset of the so called Arab Spring, an impromptu movement for popular democracy in the Arab world characterized by disruptive mass demonstrations directed from Facebook, I have always been skeptical that the movement would result in anything like the western democratic societies as many had vainly hoped.

In fact I have consistently argued that we were far more likely to wind up with a “Tyranny of the Majority,” as Alexis de Tocqueville, that prescient 19th century tribune and incisive analyst of American democracy called it.  Even in the US, this has been the case when the racial caste system is taken into account.  Hence in this land of ancient grievances, the most potent of which in the modern era being based in religious disputes and secularist vs. theocrats, democracy is a synonym for tyranny.  In such a scenario the common place bromides about the virtues of popular democracy do not apply; ideology is contradicted by reality and thus things fall apart.

We have been assured of this result by no less an authority than the official ideologist of the Andropov regime in Soviet Russia, who confessed that the powerful Communist Party of the Soviet Union collapsed mainly because “when reality disagreed with our ideology we dismissed reality.”  That’s what some “experts” who now talk about restoring “democratic government” in Egypt are doing.  As history has repeatedly demonstrated: In the Muslim world, when unfettered popular elections allow the majority of the populace to express their political will, they often elect Islamic parties to power.

It has even happened in Turkey, a nation founded on the principle of separation of church and state.  Indeed, the key to understanding the present conflict in Egypt is to grasp the significance of the Turkish experiment with constructing a secular democracy in an Islamic country.  Kamal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state, had figured out that there was a correlation between the modernization of western societies and the separation of church and state that had occurred there.

He saw that in a modern secular society science is given primacy over religion, physics over metaphysics, and merit over tribalism.  Ataturk recognized that these changes were the essential  building blocks of modernity.  And he understood that if the Islamic countries were going to ever catch up to the West they would have to undergo a similar religious reformation as that in the west, and he put measures in place to insure the development and preservation of secularism in Turkish politics and public policy.

But the secular character of Turkish society in now threatened by the success of the Justice and Development Party, which is an Islamic Party. One female Turkish journalist that I recently interviewed – and who wishes to remain anonymous – is horrified by the rise of this Islamic Party to power. She is hoping that the military will intervene to stop them from passing repressive laws against women and curtailing other civil liberties.  And she is very worried about the fact that some top military men have been removed from their positions, since Ataturk had envisioned the military as the guardian of Turkey’s secular democracy.

Islamic Demonstrators in Turkey
turkey_demonstrators001_16x9
A frightening sight to secular democrats

The Egyptian government has been able to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood only by employing the heavy hand of the military since the middle of the twentieth century; which is why Muhammad Morsi is the first elected civilian leader in Egypt’s history.  The entire history of the modern Egyptian state is marked by the rule of military strongmen: Abdel Gamal Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Honsi Mubarak, all army officers. And for most of this period the country was governed under martial law, a system which gave extraordinary powers to the government.

When criticized on this policy by the US and other western governments the Egyptian strong men said martial law was necessary in order to keep the Islamic militants in check, preventing them from wreaking havoc. They were convinced that if the Muslim Brotherhood ever took over the country they would establish Sharia i.e. Islamic law. As modern secular men the military has been consistently opposed to the Islamicization of Egypt.   That’s why the Egyptian activist, who led the pro-democracy movement that toppled the Mubarak regime and forced the military out of politics, were begging them to overthrow the Muhamad Morsi government before he was halfway through his first term as President.

The reason millions of Egyptians who had cursed the military establishment just a year or two ago now enthusiastically sing their praises, is because after giving them a taste of power they now recognize that the Muslim Brotherhood, like all Islamic parties, is fundamentally opposed to a secular democratic society.

Hence no matter what they say, they are committed to establishing an Islamic Caliphate. Yet to the careful and informed observer all of this was predictable, as you can see from reading my essays on Egypt.  To grasp what has happened here one need only remember that the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt was the incubator in which the theology of Sayyid Guthb, the theologian whose writings inspired the modern Jihad, was hatched. And they have not repudiated these beliefs.

Thus in order to understand the Muslim Brotherhoods political behavior, understanding their view of politics is essential.  The most important thing to understand about their attitude toward democratic politics is that Sayyid Guthb preached that all the troubles of the contemporary world are rooted in the separation of church and state.  To them all the world should be living under Sharia Law, which they believe was handed down from God/Allah and is therefore the perfect plan for a fulfilling and righteous human community.

Allah’s Army

Uprising

They will not be easily deterred

They also believe that all leaders of predominately Muslim countries that are not governed by Sharia law are apostates worthy of death.  They are referred to as “Jahlili,” which means a barbarian or savage who is living in contradiction of God’s Plan.  Sayyid divided the world into “Dat El Islam” and “Dar El Harb,”  the difference between the two is one is governed by Sharia Law and the other by laws of man.  In his view these societies are natural enemies and  the latter must be subordinated to the former by any means nescissary,  Hence they view it as their duty to eradicate secular democracy in Muslim countries because they are sacrilegious abominations that interfere with God’s perfect plan.  There’s is a totalitarian doctrine; Just like the Communists who believe that Marxism is a socio-political version of what physicist call “Unified Field theory,” a theory that explains everything.

However since the standards of physics is far more exacting than Marxism physicist readily admit that they have no such theory; yet the Marxist are certain that they have.  Hence in any coalition with communist their objective is to eventually take it over and impose their worldview.  If you add to the certainty of the Marxist that they have the “science” that explains every aspect of human society, to the Islamic theocrat’s view that their plan was handed down to man by God almighty himself, even a blind man can see that there is no compromise to be found with them.  Hence they must be defeated!

It is this understanding on the part of secular military men, supported by Egyptians who have witnessed enough of the Muslim Brotherhood’s approach to governence to know that they cannot be trusted to safeguard democracy and religious pluralism.   This has led to the present violent conflict between the supporters on the Muslim Brotherhood and those who support the ideal of secular democracy.  Since Americans would not wish to live under religious dictators, and it is not in the interests of the US to have an Islamic fundamentalist government in Egypt, it would be both hypocritical and self-destructive for President Obama to follow the advice of those who are calling for him to cut off aid to the Egyptian military.

Although the scenes of carnage we see on our television screens are troubling, the consequences of an Islamic fundamentalist government would be far worse – remember the mass executions in Iran after the Ayatollahs came to power in an Islamic revolution spurred by American meddling?   This is a situation where all of the choices are bad.  Hence while moralist look for a perfect solution, politicians must choose the lesser evil.  In the present instance this means supporting the Egyptian military.  Anyone who is not capable of making this kind of old blooded decision based on realpolitik should choose another profession – such as a preacher or philosopher.

The Carnage in Syria

download

Slaughtered innocents are everywhere

Alas, the most critical lesson of the Egyptian crisis – and other upheavals in the Middle Easy – is that the US is not the world’s policeman and thus cannot control the behavior of other nations.  That is a lesson we should also remember when our political leaders talk about wading into the Syrian Quagmire, where thousands of people are being slaughtered as I write.  The region is on fire and the danger zone is everywhere!  We will continue to monitor this developing situation in the Arab world with great interests.

The Middle East is Being Reduced to Rubble
 Free Syrian Army fighters are seen as a fire burns after what activists said was a shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad in Homs
 And America has no solution to this.
 

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
August 21, 2013

Secularists vs. Theocrats in Egypt!

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , , on July 12, 2013 by playthell

fl26egypt

                       A Muslim Imam and Colonel Nasser

 Can Egyptians Avoid Civil War?

The present Egyptian crisis, in which 51 people have been killed in the last few days and threatens to rip the nation apart, was sparked by events growing out of the last election a year ago, yet it has deep roots in the nation’s modern history, harkening back to the founding of Egypt as an independent nation in the middle of the last century.  At best it is old wine in new bottles. Hence the issues that have moved the nation to the brink of what increasingly looks like a brewing Civil War represent a persistent theme in the political history of Egypt over the last 61 years: The struggle between the secularists, represented by military strong men, and the Theocrats in the Muslim Brotherhood.

It is only when viewed from this perspective that the present conflict can be understood. Since the middle of the 20th century the Egyptians have gone through three major struggles in an attempt to forge an independent modern nation state.  First there was the movement for national independence from British protectorate status, secondly there was the struggle for a more equitable society, and finally there was the struggle against a takeover of the country by Islamic extremist, who were represented by the Muslim Brotherhood.

During the anti-colonial struggle to overthrow the government of King Forouk, Colonel Abdel Gamel Nasser, a secular nationalist soldier trained in the art of war at Sandhurst, England’s elite military academy, enlisted the Muslim Brotherhood in the fight.  In 1952 he led a group of military men called the “Free Officers” that overthrew the Farouk regime and set up the Revolutionary Command Council, which was headed by Major General Muhammad Naguib.  But Nasser removed him from office two years later and declared himself Prime Minister.  In 1956 he was elected President of a new single party socialist government, whose constitution was also approved in the election, both by 98% of the vote

At first all was well, as both the secular nationalists and the Muslim Brotherhood wanted to put an end to foreign domination, however when Egypt emerged as an independent nation the radical differences in their vision of the ideal society came to the fore and would eventually lead to open conflict.  Things got so bad the Muslim Brotherhood tried to assassinate Colonel Nasser, and he in return imprisoned their leading theologian Sayeed Guthb, author of the massive thirty volume theological exegesis “In the Shade of the Koran,” which along with Sayeed’s single volume treatise Milestones underpins the theology of the modern Jihad.

In 1966, Sayeed’s opposition to the secular Egyptian government, which inspired Islamic fanatics to attempt another assassination of Colonel Nasser, resulted in Nasser’s decision to send the militant Muslims an unmistakable message and hung Sayeed Guthb – who remained an unrepentant fanatic to the end, kissing the scaffold just before the put the noose around his neck.  This initiated a protracted struggle between the Secularist government and fanatical theocrats who want to establish Islamic Sharia law in Egypt that persists as I write.

This is why Egypt has been governed by a succession of secular military strong men over the last fifty years, and they kept the Muslim Brotherhood in check.  However it was not an easy task.  Colonel Anwar Sadat, who succeeded Colonel Nasser, was the first Arab leader to sign a peace treaty with Israel.  He was assassinated by an Islamic fundamentalist as he sat on a reviewing stand during a military parade and he was followed by Colonel Honsi Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for the next 30 years, until he was driven from office by the recent uprisings and put on trial for crimes against the Egyptian people.  The first multi-party elections in Egyptian history were held last year and Mohammad Morsi, who was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, was elected.  A year later he was deposed and placed under house arrest by the by the military…to many observers it looks like de ja vu.

Sayeed Guthb

Saayd Guthb

Militant Theologian Hung by Nasser

Anwar Sadat

Anwar Sadat

Assassinated by a Muslim fundamentalist

However a closer look will reveal some important differences.  In 1952 the military overthrew a universally hated regime and held power, until the military leader was confirmed by a vote in a one party election four years later. In 2012 the military forced one of its own to step down as a result of a mass uprising of the Egyptian people.

The present takeover occurred after Mohamad Morsi was elected in a multi-party election in which many of the people who voted for Morsi vehemently disagreed with the decision of the military to depose Morsi.  Their massive demonstrations, vows of further resistance and the violence that followed Morsi’s removal make it clear that the situation in Egypt is far from resolved.

However while Morsi’s die hard supporters took to the streets in a fit of rage, some even fired on the police, many millions more cheered his removal by the army.  They cheered, and sang, and even set off fireworks while chanting “God is great!”  This is what distinguished the action of the military in this instance from a traditional coup, although some American politicians, like Senator John McCain, argue that it is.

The truth is that the military was carrying out the popular will, many on the scene observers who were there during the demonstrations that brought the authoritarian Mubarak regime down, say the demonstrations demanding the ouster of Morsi were larger.  This is because many Egyptians, who hoped the new government would bring a wider arena of freedom and democratic practice, felt that the actions of the Morsi government were a betrayal.  Before the army intervened the country was on the verge of anarchy and religious conflict, hence I think Dr. Ziebneiw Brzezinsky is right when he calls the military’s actions “a coup against anarchy.”

The People Return to the Streets in outrage

Egyptian Revolution 2013

Demanding an end to the Islamist Government!
Then the Army Stepped In
_Egypt_2013
And Restores Order

The fundamental problem with the new Egyptian “democracy” is that it was in reality a “tyranny of the majority,” a term coined by the French social theorist Alex de Tocqueville in his two volume masterwork “Democracy in America,” the pioneering study on the American style of governance published in 1830, in order to distinguish a true democracy in which the opposition and unpopular minorities are protected in the law, and a system in which the majority simply imposes it’s will without regard for dissenting opinions.

The latter approach is how the Morsi government went about its business as they cobbled together a constitution that was laying the groundwork for the establishment of an Islamic state; which has been a longtime objective of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Furthermore the constitution had no mechanism such as impeachment or recall procedures for the lawful removal of a president who misused his office.

It was clear that, like all Islamic parties when they come to power, these people believed their actions were ordained by God, so who cares about the wishes of men.  This kind of thinking leads to a system where you have one person one vote once!  Hence the Egyptian people, who sought a true democracy where political decisions are based on the will of the electorate, not the word of God whispered into the ears of some Islamic zealot, wouldn’t stand for it and took to the streets en mass.

Only the intervention of the army could prevent chaos.  That’s why in the eyes of the majority of Egyptians the soldiers are heroes who rescued the nation from catastrophe; and those Americans who oppose the wisdom of the Egyptian people – like the Arizona bully John McCain – remind me of the suspicious characters an old Ibo proverb warns us about:” Beware of the stranger who comes to the funeral and cries louder than the bereaved family! “

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NOTE: This is the first of a multi-part series on the Egyptian crisis.

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

July 11, 2013

On The Perils of Arab Democracy

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , on July 3, 2013 by playthell
_Egypt_2013
Police and Protesters Clash

 The Troubling Case of Egypt

 The brief reign of the Muhammad Morsi’s government in Egypt confirms verifies some critical points that I have argued for some time about the pitfalls of democracy in the Arab world.  Two things in particular: If allowed to express their will the masses in most Islamic countries will elect Islamic parties to power – they even did this in Turkey, a country founded as a secular state by Kamal Ataturk.  The only force in the Muslim world that prevents the Mullahs from taking over is the secular military strong men.

This is precisely the reason why modern Egypt has been ruled by a succession of military for over half a century.  They went from Colonel Abdel Nasser, to Colonel Anwar Sadat, to Colonel Honsi Mubarik, and they ruled under a constant state of emergency.  Their greatest fear was that that the Muslim brotherhood would take over the country if given the opportunity.  Rule by marshal law allowed the Egyptian government to outlaw the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood and keep track of all radical religious trends.

Although it was not always the subject of news coverage, the struggle between the Islamic and the secularist forces in the Muslim world has been ongoing since the last century.  I first made this point in my essay opposing the decision of the Bush administration to invade Iraq on the premise that Sadam Hussein was secretly in league with Osama Bin Laden see: The Prophetic Commentary on Iraq.  I pointed out that Sadam and Osama were direct opposites and there was no way they were collaborating in a plot complex enough the massive attack of 9/11.

The other point that I have argued is that there is no institutional or ideological foundation on which to build a functional democratic government in most Islamic countries.  Hence when a popular vote is finally held what will emerge is a tyranny of the majority, not a liberal democracy in which the rights of unpopular minorities and opposing political parties are protected by law.  Such a system is a perversion of the ideal of democracy which is incapable of transferring power from one party to another, we often get one man one vote one time.

This is clearly at the root of the present uprising that has resulted in the military overthrow of the first elected government in modern Egyptian history after only a year in office.  What is most fascinating about this sudden turn in the political fate of Egypt is the military removed the recently elected President by popular demand.  The mass demonstrations that brought down the 30 year reign of Honsi Mubarik a year ago are out in the streets raising hell again, and by several estimates they are even bigger than before.

The ouster of the Egyptian President in order to restore law and order has set a bad precedent.  If a democratically elected president can be overthrown by the military acting on the demands of the mob in the largest and most advanced Arab country, what does that portend for the future of democratic governance in the Arab world?  Although President Obama stood aside and let the Egyptian people work their will – even while taking severe criticism from the Republican right, who felt we should have supported Honsi Mubarik a reliable supporter of US policy – some of the protesters are unfurling banners blaming President Obama for his support for what they are now calling Islamic “Fascist!”

It is a totally unfair charge: President Obama supported the government they elected.  In fact, he persuaded Honsi Mubarik to step aside and allow the people to express themselves at the ballot box.  The attempt to blame him for the government they chose demonstrates how little these people understands about the working of the democratic process.

This banner announces the high level of confusion among the Egyptian opposition.  From the beginning of the first uprising I pointed out that the opposition didn’t have a coherent ideology, or commonly agreed upon principles about governance, and thus anything could happen.  Early on I predicted that the Muslim brotherhood would emerge as the ruling faction when the smoke cleared, because of their superior and coherent world view compared to the other factions.  I also said that no matter what kind of smiley faces the Muslim Brothers adopted, nor how much lip service they paid to “democracy,” once they took power religious tyranny will be the inevitable result.

 The Revolt is fueled by Hatred for the President
Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi speaks during a news conference with Turkish President Abdullah Gul after their meeting at Presidential Palace "Qasr Al Quba" in Cairo
The Odd Man Out: The hated face of the Islamist

This is exactly what happened.  The reason for the mass uprising today is that the opposition saw the Brotherhood dominated government rapidly taking steps to Islamize the country and felt they must be stopped now, before they could put their ideas into law.  They were not reassured that this would not happen even after President Morisi publicly resigned from the Muslim Brotherhood, whose party had  elected him President  with great fanfare.  Hence they are calling the role played by the military a “democratic” coup.”  The army has announced that it is acting in defense of the people, declaring itself an instrument of the popular will.

What is clear about the first uprising is that the various factions that came together to overthrow Honsi Mubarik were sleeping in the same bed but dreaming different dreams.  Now the country has been thrown into a world of confusion that could result in Civil War unless the army swiftly cracks down on any resistance by militant Islamists.  The US has no role in this, it is a purely Egyptian affair and they must resolve it.  And it could take a civil war to decide who shall rule Egypt.  It is a sad end to Egypt’s first democratically elected government…and we may yet see the same fate befall the democratically elected Islamist government in Turkey if the military is forced to step in.

There is a strong cautionary tale in all this regarding US policy in Syria, under no circumstance should Barack allow the Republican and Democratic hawks to force him into getting militarily involved…even to the extent of arming rebel factions, who are more mysterious than the various forces that comprise the Egyptian opposition.  We will be watching the situation closely: Stay tuned!

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Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

July 3, 2013

For further reading: Look under the section titled War and Peace in the Middle East

Barack Obama in Africa

Posted in On Foreign Affairs with tags , on June 30, 2013 by playthell

Obama in South Africa

                        The President and First Lady Toast the President of South Africa

 A Sojourn in the Land of his Father

On his three nations African tour Barack Hussein Obama is being greeted with enthusiastic cheers from the people and warmly welcomed by heads of state.  Beginning his week long journey on the continent in Senegal, a democratic francophone nation on the West Coast of Africa, he was greeted like the prodigal son returning home and was showered with love everywhere he went.   South Africa was somewhat different.

As is the case here in the US, the left boisterously protested a variety of issues in South Africa; which is healthy because it signifies a robust democracy in both countries.  I am fairly certain that the members of the South African trade Unions that staged the demonstrations failed to appreciate the fact that President Obama is fighting for their right to organize everywhere in Africa – which is far from the case now.

This kind of freedom of speech has a short tenure in South Africa, which just a little over 20 years ago was a white supremacist police state with a racial caste system enforced by the police powers of the apartheid government.  The same was true for the US, which only dismantled the last vestiges of its white supremacist legal structure in 1964, less than 50 years ago.

Although African Americans were first granted the right to vote with the ratification of the 15th Amendment in 1870, the southern states of the former confederacy found ways to nullify it by the end of the 19th century.  It took the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to restore the vote to millions of black Americans; but the Supreme Court had just gutted the heart of the law, and act which experts say will decrease the vote of Afro-Americans and other minorities.

Hence in South Africa and the US the struggle for racial equality continues, which has left many in the historically oppressed classes disillusioned. Agitated and organized by the left, some factions of the black communities have rejected the new black leaders and are even accusing them of betrayal.

Everywhere the Youths Beamed Sunshine Smiles….

Obama in South Africa

 …..that mirrored their Affection and Pride in President Obama

However, the leftist are a minority.  The majority of black people in Africa and America believe that for those two formerly Herrenvolk democracies, based on white master race ideology – a set of beliefs in which blacks were viewed as little more than beast of burden – to now be governed by black Presidents is a great leap forward for African people in the world. This was abundantly clear from the radiant smiles on the faces of the brightest young people; they know that this is a great moment in the history of their people that is the culmination of centuries of struggle, and they fully understand what this means for their future even if the self-styled leftist “revolutionaries” are cluless.

The South African Left Reflects the American Right

Protesters gather outside Johannesburg University

 The Idiotic South African Left advertising its Confusion

The attempt to cast President Obama as Adolph Hitler is one of the most scurrilous tactics of the racist American right.  It is ahistorical and stupid, and for black South African leftist to also adopt this tactic confirms the fact that they are as deluded as their Tea Party soul mates in the US despite their leftist rhetoric.  Which explains why I am contemptuous of ideologues of whatever stripe.  The demonstrations were organized by the Congress of South African Trade Unions – COSATU – the South African Communist Party, A Muslim organization that tried to get a warrant for President Obama’s arrest as a war criminal – an idea they probably borrowed from that gapped tooth bushy headed buffoon Cornel West – and radical students.

The first thing the careful observer notices is that if this coailtion of groups were to succeed in taking power in South Africa – although I suspect we have a better chance of witnessing elephants fly – they would soon be at each other’s throats.  Marxist and Muslims are a worse mix than oil and water, and the Communist Party would end up at war with the unions because communist do not permit independent unions that challenge the power of the Party…politics make strange bedfellows.

A Racist Poster from the American Right
 obama_hitler
Is the South African Left and the American Right Soul Brothers?

In order to recognize the impotence of the South African left as an oppositional force to the government, we need look no further than Egypt.  As I write the opposition to the government is expressed in mass demonstrations with people packed together in row upon row of impassioned protesters demanding the resignation of the nation’s president.  This is a true people’s movement in Egypt, but based on the reactions to South Africa’s left-wing “No Obama” campaign, they don’t appear to be much more effective than the Black Obama bashers in the US at convincing the masses of black people that President Obama is their enemy!

Those who grew up under apartheid, when the US government supported white supremacy and the CIA tracked down Nelson Mandela for the fascist apartheid regime, know better from bitter experience and most of the students seem able to sense it.  One only has to witness the admiration showered upon the President every time he spoke to the youths to recognize that the anti-Obama propaganda from the left had no effect.

There is nothing the leftist ideologues can say with their “rhapsody” of gloom and doom that can equal the power of hope and possibility the youths of Africa heard in Barack Obama’s speech at the University of Cape Town; especially since he embodies their dreams in his example.   The President told the students how his interest in politics was inspired by the struggle of Mandela and the ANC against Apartheid, and reflected on how far black people have advanced in both South Africa and the USA since then.

The screams of protest from the left rang hollow when played against the President’s message outlining the road to a bright future that awaits young people in Africa, and the role that trade and investment with the US will play.  And they were especially attentive when he talked about the role of personal  “freedom” in economic development and scientific innovation, or explained the importance of food security.  They broke into tumultuous applause when he announced a 7 billion dollar US investment in Africa to double the electrical output on the continent.

They responded with sustained applause when he said that full development can only happen “when governments exist to serve the people and not the other way around,” and explained the elements of democratic government.  And his call for the equal education of women was greeted by repeated outburst of applause.  As was his arguments against the notion that democratic government is the sole heritage of the white west, while pointing out that their experiment with democracy in South Africa now inspires people around the world.

And they listened with rapt attention when he explained that the role of the Africa Command – whose mission is much maligned by the left - is to assist Africans in keeping the peace in places like Somalia, Mali, Central African Republic, Congo – places where genocide might otherwise occur.  He spoke directly to the charges of the Left and demolished them with ease.  Throughout his speech the President constantly quoted the words of Nelson Mandela, the father of the nation who is lying in the hospital under a death watch, to underline his point.

When President Obama’s sunshine smile, infectious charm, brilliant mind, great since of humor and impeccable comic timing, and moving eloquence is added to his basic decency, lack of pretentiousness and hip understanding of pop culture – as when he casually rattled off the names of top South African pop music groups – he is without peers among his critics on the left or right…which is why they are like Jackals howling in the bush while the caravan moves on.

The President’s critics have not yet recognized that in order to prevail in their attempt to win the hearts and minds of the people and turn them against him they must offer a vision of freedom, justice and progress that can match his.  Thus far they have been a colossal failure!  And even so, Barack is the President of the USA, the most powerful man in the world; he can make things happen…while his critics can only complain.  And then he also has a secret weapon: our first Lady Michelle, whose genuine warmth and charm coupled with great intelligence beguiles people all over the world!  In Africa or America the Obamas are da bomb!  The Huxtables on steroids and even more popular.

A Magic Moment with the First Lady
Michelle and African Girls 
A Moment these girls will Never Forget
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(Part two of my of our look at President Obama’s African sojourn we will examine the economic, political and military conditions on the African continent.)

 

Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

6/30/13

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