Sunday, September 21, 2008

Insanity Round-up: Setting Fires the World Over

Posted by Joshua Holland, AlterNet at 1:56 PM on September 19, 2008.

Quick hits you might have missed.

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Reading the news is getting painful these days.

Consider these stories ...

From the Times of India:

WASHINGTON: The United States is suddenly faced with the uncomfortable scenario of confronting the very same weapons and military hardware, including F-16 fighter jets, it has armed Pakistan with for decades.
The unsavoury prospect of having to take a crack at the its one-time ally has surfaced most starkly in the skies over the Afghan-Pakistan border this weekend after the Pakistan Air Force deployed its US-supplied F-16s to challenge the violation of its airspace by US drones, and in one case, an airborne assault that landed US Navy Seals inside Pakistani territory.
The turnaround of Pakistan from an ally to a potential enemy has alarmed lawmakers, some of whom are now questioning the continued supply of arms to Islamabad.
In July, the Bush administration sought to shift $226.5 million in US counterterrorism aid for .... F-16 upgrades.

A week ago, the U.S., "fearing a strike on Iran," refused to equip the Israeli airforce with new tankers for middair refuleing. They were concerned. This week, not so much, according to Ha'aretz:

U.S. to sell IAF smart bombs for heavily fortified targets

Despite reservations in Washington regarding a possible Israeli strike on Iran, the American administration will supply Israel with sophisticated weapons for heavily fortified targets, the U.S. administration announced.
The U.S. Department of Defense announced it would sell the Israel Air Force 1,000 new smart bombs, rumored to significantly enhance the IAF's military capabilities. The deal was approved amid public and secret messages from Washington, with the Americans expressing their reservations about a possible Israeli strike against the Islamic Republic's suspected nuclear sites.

Just part of a larger theme, as the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports:

The Bush administration is pushing through a broad array of foreign weapons deals as it seeks to rearm Iraq and Afghanistan, contain North Korea and Iran, and solidify ties with onetime Russian allies.
From tanks, helicopters and fighter jets to missiles, remotely piloted aircraft and even warships, the Department of Defense has agreed so far this fiscal year to sell or transfer more than $32 billion in weapons and other military equipment to foreign governments, compared with $12 billion in 2005.
The trend, which started in 2006, is most pronounced in the Middle East, but it reaches into northern Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and even Canada, through dozens of deals that senior Bush administration officials say they are confident will both tighten military alliances and combat terrorism.
"This is not about being gunrunners," said Bruce S. Lemkin, the Air Force deputy undersecretary who is helping to coordinate many of the biggest sales.
"This is about building a more secure world."

That's hilarious. Thanks for the stability -- the planet's oozing with it.

Especially Iraq, where, you know, the surge has worked and all that. Gulf News ...

US 'may plot assassination of Al Maliki'
By Basil Adas, Correspondent
Baghdad: Americans, increasingly resenting recent moves by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, could seek to topple or even assassinate him, says a secret report by a Kurdish political party, which is part of the national government.
The report, which Gulf News has seen, says Al Maliki does not want to see any US soldier in Iraq after 2011 and he preferred strong political, economic and military relations with the Americans but not the presence and influence of the US military in his country.
The latest US resentment stem from Al Maliki's strong stance in the current talks to reach a strategic security agreement between the two countries, the report said.
"Al Maliki has started to undermine the influence of those in the Iraqi military and security commanders who are classified as proteges of the Americans. This has raised concerns in the US military command in Baghdad. The freezing of the powers of the Iraqi Army's chief of staff, Babakir Zebari, is the first indication of this trend," the report said.
According to the report, the US suspects Al Maliki of getting closer to Iran in order to launch a broad military operation in Basra, Al Sadr City in Baghdad and Maysan province, in preparation for a complete withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.

Maybe they'll bring back Iyad Allawi.

Here's one from the Associated Press:

A soldier was detained in Iraq after he allegedly opened fire on a superior and another unit member, killing them both, the Army said Wednesday.
The soldier was subdued by other troops, and medics tried unsuccessfully to save the wounded soldiers, said Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo, commanding general at Fort Stewart in southern Georgia, where the soldiers' unit is based.
An Army spokesman said the shooting happened Sunday in Tunnis, Iraq.

Meanwhile, closer to home, some cause and effect.

Cause, via the brilliant blog BoRev last April:

Dear dumb Latins. We Americans are super sorry about all the misunderstandings we've had throughout the years, particularly all those times where you have misinterpreted our good intentions and thought we might have had a hand in some of those unfortunate armed conflicts in Honduras or Panama or Ecuador or Cuba or Nicaragua or Grenada or the Dominican Republic or Chile or El Salvador or Uruguay or Guatemala or wherever. How stupid of you, right? But hey we're willing to let bygones be bygones.

Anyhoo as part of our ongoing efforts to "build confidence and trust among nations through collective maritime security efforts that focus on common threats and mutual interests," we intend to station an entire Naval fleet off the coast of Venezuela, headed up by a nuclear aircraft carrier, forever! Doesn't that sound collective and confidence building? The whole thing is meant to "send a message to the entire region, not just Venezuela," so don't worry. We're still figuring out the "focus," of the "mission." but it "will probably be on security."

This was your heads up so you don't do anything stupid like invade our mobile sovereign coastal boundaries or kablooey, k?

Your friend,


Effect, via Canada's National Post:

Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan President, was beside himself late last week as two Russian Tu-160 bombers landed in Venezuela for a series of "training flights."
The arrival of the Blackjack strategic nuclear bombers was a warning to the United States, he declared.
"Russia is with us. We are strategic allies," he told the audience of his weekend television talk show. "It's a message to the Empire. Venezuela is no longer poor and alone."
"Go ahead and squeal, Yankees," he taunted.

Oh, and they kicked our ambassador to the curb. I think a new Cold War in our backyard is a spanking good idea, no? Not like we have any other problems right now.

Speaking of good ideas, how's that whole "free trade" thingy been working out for you? Have another helping:

Colombia President Alvaro Uribe pressed on Friday for the U.S. Congress to quickly approve a bilateral free-trade agreement that was sidelined in April by House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
"We are hopeful that we can at any moment have the approval in the United States Congress of our free-trade agreement," Uribe said in a speech at the Brookings Institution at the start of two-day effort to boost chances for the deal.

Via email, a statement by Rep. Phil Hare, co-chair of the House International Workers' Rights caucus:

As President Uribe makes a last ditch effort to convince Congress to enact a flawed trade agreement with his nation, all signs point to the fact that Colombia has actually taken a step back in its stated effort to reduce violence against union organizers.
"41 trade unionists have been murdered in the first 8 months of 2008--more than all of last year.
"In the meantime, impunity rates for the perpetrators of these killings still stand at an unacceptable 96 percent.
"Collective bargaining is a basic human right. How in good conscience can we trade with a nation where joining a union can cost you your life?
"Instead of wining and dining at the White House, President Uribe should be back in Colombia clamping down on this violence and bringing its perpetrators to justice."

Of course, in Colombia, "cracking down on this violence" would entail Uribe throwing all his friends and family into prison, so I'm not holding my breath.

I grow weary. Go read Inter Press news or Foreign Policy in Focus for more.


Tagged as: foreign policy, insanity

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet.

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