Monday, January 29, 2007

One Hundred Flags

Sgt Ian Anderson

Just another ordinary day
The TV's on while the children play
The phone rings, I'm on my way
I know I can't be late

On the other side of town
The Patriot Riders gather round
Ride Captain said a little prayer
Reminded us why we were there

No time at all we were on our way
The bikes roared to life
On this ordinary day

A mile long we travelled down the road
Flashing lights let the people know
There's a reason for our parade
One of ours came home today

Traffic stopped and the people stared
For a moment they might have cared
Just a little break away
From their ordinary day

The wind blew cold as I stepped outside
But it wasn't just the wind
That brought the tears to my eyes

I was standing in a cemetary
One hundred flags flying o'er me
Taps echoed in the wind
As the buglers played a final hymn

Men saluted as his widow cried
A captain knelt down by her side
Drew close and whispered in her ear
As the young wife dried her tears

On behalf of a grateful nation
Please accept this flag and citation
Thank you for your sacrifice
Freedom called and he paid the price

I listened to the words he had to say
And I was proud to be a part
Of this ordinary day

In the car on my way home
I turned on the radio
Nothing new for me to hear
Same old same, a different year

People marching in the streets
Carrying signs demanding peace
I turned off the radio
I'd been somewhere they would never go

I was standing in a cemetary
One hundred flags flying o'er me
Taps echoed in the wind
As the buglers played a final hymn

Men saluted as his widow cried
A captain knelt down by her side
Drew close and whispered in her ear
As the young wife dried her tears

On behalf of a greatful nation
Please accept this flag and citation
Thank you for your sacrifice
Freedom called and he paid the price

Just another ordinary day
The phone rings, I'm on my way

In memory of Sgt. Ian Anderson and all those who have paid the price. A special thank you to his family for allowing the Patriot Guard Riders to stand for him as he stood for us.

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This was originally written as a song which may explain some of the odd cadences. If I can record it, I'll post it here.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Democrat's Iraq Strategy or Cold War Rivisited

Before you can understand the strategy, you have to know a few things beyond the nightly sqawks on either side of the aisle peppered with sloganistic jingoism. None of which really indicates what either party sees as the defining purpose, direction and outcome of said plans.

Before Iraq, read about the Eqyptian propaganda war against the Shia and what an Egyptian blogger calls "the coming war between Sunni and Shia": That Train Won't Be Late

The people who read me regularly and know me personally know that I am a believer that the next war in the middle-east won't be fought between the arabs and the jews, but rather between the Sunnis and the Shia. Iran seems to be overstepping its influence in the region, with meddeling in Iraq, Lebanon and Bahrain, which is freaking Saudi and the other sunni gulf states out, and for some reason Egypt's as well. It makes sense that the gulf states would want Mubarak to join the effort, since Egypt is the only country in the region wih population to equal Iran's and a military in par with it (What is Egypt now if not a big ,yet not very efficient, military structure?). The Egyptian government (i.e. Mubarak), for its part, has been very big on persecuting the Shia in Egypt.

US Tells Iran To Back Off:

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the United States Tuesday of stirring up conflict between rival Muslim sects to maintain U.S. influence in the Middle East.

"The U.S. intends to cause insecurity and dispute and weaken independent governments in the region to continue with its dominance over the Middle East and achieve its arrogant goals," Ahmadinejad said during a meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem.

"The U.S. and Zionist regime have a conspiracy to stir up conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in order to plunder the wealth of the regional nations," the president said, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency, or IRNA.[snip]

Some among the audience of Dubai-based diplomats and analysts complained that American wars in the Middle East were already threatening the region's stability and asked Burns to sort out Iraq and the Israel-Palestinian conflict before turning attention to Iran.

"What we are not interested in is another war in the region," Mohammed al-Naqbi, who heads the Gulf Negotiations Center, told Burns. "Iraq is your problem, not the problem of the Arabs. You destroyed a country that had institutions. You handed that country to Iran. Now you are crying to Europe and the Arabs to help you out of this mess."

West's Iran Plan

While it is too early to say if Tehran will be ready to alter its nuclear course or is simply concerned about Ahmadinejad's extremist image, some experts say it is equally unclear how Mr. Bush will interpret the events in Tehran – and whether or not he will see them as the fruit of diplomacy.

"What we are seeing is the success of American and European pressure. It is not American pressure on its own," says Anatol Lieven, a foreign-policy expert at the New America Foundation in Washington. He sees growing Iranian isolation in the region "as a result of Iran's overambitious and menacing stance."

The turn of events is "an example of multilateralism, not of America working on its own," he says.

Iranian's Love Affair With America

This may be avoided if we actually listen to the voices coming out of Iran. Iranians are overwhelmingly in favor of normalizing relations with the US, but oppose any intervention in their nation's internal affairs. Forces seem to be aligning in favor of direct dialogue between the two estranged governments.

Pragmatic voices are wresting control from both neoconservatives in the US and their fundamentalist counterparts in Iran. Let's hope they win out. Opening up relations with Iran is not appeasement; it's necessary because it allows home-grown demo cratic forces to work on their own terms.

Recall 2004 campaign...

Double Special Forces

He also called for doubling the number of elite US special forces, who have been particularly active in those war zones.[snip]

The new special forces units would be part of a 40,000-troop expansion that Kerry called for last year and would come about through more aggressive recruiting, aides said, although there would be no new financial incentives to help the military fill its ranks.

GWOT is not a conventional war, it is a war of intelligence gathering, global network of allies and semi-allies with similar concerns/expectations and special forces to take out small targets, not big countries.

America should lead by extending a hand, not a fist. (Aug 2004)
American power comes from respect, not weapons. (May 2004)
Excluding other nations in rebuilding Iraq is dumb. (Dec 2003)
Cast a global net for terrorists. (Aug 2004)
Improve intelligence capabilities to counter terrorism. (Aug 2004)
Cut off terrorists funds. (Aug 2004)
Prevent Afghanistan & others from becoming terrorist havens. (Aug 2004)
Add 40,000 troops and double anti-terrorism special forces. (Jul 2004)
Four new imperatives: alliances, modernize, end Mideast oil. (May 2004)
Focus more on human intelligence gathering. (Nov 2003)
Ending Iraq war requires summit including Iran & Syria. (Jun 2006)
Focus on the real war on terror and find bin Laden.

The strategy is very simple:

1) Accept that the Iranians have influence over both the politics and violence in Iraq.
2) Accept that they have more power to sway or control the Shia, at least in so far as cutting off direct money and material support to botht he political apparatus as well as the militia.
3) Give Iran security and economic guarantees in order to get them to back off supplying these forces or at least influence the Iraqi Shia to draw back long enough for the Iraqi government to stabilize and focus on the Sunni while the US withdraws.
4) Shia dominated government will likely negotiate directly and politically with the Sunni to end attacks since the US will be gone and it will be in their interest to do so.
5) If the negotiations at behest of Shia do not work, the Shia dominate the country, the politics, the police and military, thus they may mobilize and brutally put down the Sunni insurgents/Al Qaeda terrorists/Ba'athists (all hopes of the US efforts) in such a way that only Iraqis can do to Iraqis as it is "internal". Hopefully, this does not start until we completely withdraw from the country in order to avoid being tainted.
6) Whether through negotiation or brutal war, Sunni support for Al Qaeda type terrorists and ability to hide/protect camps, travelers, planners, etc would be greatly reduced because the Shia will control Iraq.
7) If it results in Shia v. Sunni internal brutal war in Iraq, the conflict will most likely draw money, material and human support from regional nations as well as regional terrorist organizations, possibly deflecting attention and efforts from western targets or interests while consuming money, material and human support of both regional nations and terrorist organizations.
8) US will work with local allies to beef up defences and intelligence to guard against blow back or terrorists returning to upset allied governments.
9) If internal war between Shia and Sunni is quickly resolved, Iran will still have influence over Iraq which the Saudis, Gulf Arabs and Egypt see as a threat to their security and economy. This may push the Saudis even further to cooperate for protection, but may also deflect "Arab Anger" from US on to other natural allies.
10) Any increase in oil prices from the Iranian hegemony and alliances over OPEC states can be absorbed and is cheaper in the long run than war or continued military efforts. Democrat house will most likely impose serious gas economy standards on automobile makers in a gesture to at least appear like they are taking oil economy seriously. Taxes on oil and income will be raised to pay for all of the above efforts.
11) Use contacts and discussions to forward economic rapproachment with Iran in order to decrease fear of invasion and demand for nuclear weapons. May be able to use economic incentives to influence Iranian support of Hizbullah and even Al qaeda.
12) Reduce "war on terror" efforts back to police/intelligence type endeavors including arresting, extraditing or covertly killing terrorists with either special forces, other country's forces or "risk free" weapons such as missiles or other devices.

That's just the top 12 I can think of based current and previous Democrat comments on Iraq, Iran and the Middle East. It probably extends beyond that.

During a recent conversation, a friend told me he did not think the Democrats could think of all of these potential outcomes and plan for them. Some of them were wishful thinking, some were short sighted and many required deep thinking and reliance on less than trustworthy adversaries. In short, the Democrats were too stupid to think of this in the long term and too smart to imagine they could do it without suffering serious political and economical consequences.

I have to disagree. It's not as if this is a new concept. It's not only a rehash of the Clinton political book, but it is "Cold War" take II, only there is no Great Russian Bear to balance out our super power. It's individual states that were once under the control of the Bear.

The question is, can all of these assumptions hold true? Are we willing to accept the outcome of placing Iran into the exact position of power it wanted all along - regional hegemony over oil producing regional states? Can the Iranians be trusted to reduce funding or cut off completely to both Shia and Sunni terrorists in exchange for higher oil rates and economic incentives? Are the Democrats hoping to turn Iran into the next China? Imagining that the only Iran needs is a good dose of capitalism to turn them into true Democrats?

Tune in again for a discussion of the potential success or fall out of this strategy and why it continues to go unnamed.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Economic Warfare: The Axis of Evil From Iran to Latin America

When President Bush talked about the "Axis of Evil" (Iraq, Iran and North Korea), he missed Venezuela and Hugo's Mini-me in Bolivia. Not only is Chavez continuing to erode freedom in his own country with Mini-me in hot pursuit, he continues to meet and, put it bluntly, connive with the Iranians.

At home, to their supporters, they pretend to be the leaders of the new social justice revolution, standing against greedy capitalist nations that exploit their people while thugs in all countries, both elected and brown shirt followers, beat down the population. Hugo Chavez rules by decree. He threw out the constitution and desolved parliament. And they let him. Voted to do it.

For those who compare Bush to Hitler or tend to see his actions as tending towards autocratic rule eroding American civil liberties please come back to reality. While every citizen of a democratic nation that prides itself on freedom should be wary of growing government power and reduction of individual liberties, there is simply no comparison to the acts of people like Chavez or Ahmadinejad.

Meanwhile, the Venezuelan is using his recent election victory to consolidate his grip on the economy. A week ago, he announced he would nationalize the country's electricity and telephone companies; he already controls the oil business. His goal here is to redistribute income but especially to shrink the private economy in order to reduce the space in which any political opposition can operate.

[snip] He's moving to withdraw the license of a prominent independent television network, and he has asked Congress to grant him temporary executive power to rule by decree. "The world should know: Our revolution is not turning back," he said. "This is the path our boat is on: socialism. Country, socialism, or death."

Besides Hugo becoming the next bloody dictator in our southern hemisphere, he and the Mad Dog from Iran aren't just hoping to rule their own little piece of thug-o-cratic dreamworld. Both Venezuela and Iran are members of OPEC and would like nothing better than to complete a real power alliance to either gain control of OPEC or challenge the power of Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Arab producers. Both Venezuela and Iran need high oil prices to finance their regimes and insure their continued power. Both Venezuela and Iranian economy (50% of total revenues and 70% of export revenues) are based on oil and natural gas (largely oil).

This piece of news must be very disturbing to them: Oil Prices Continue to Slide. Both Venezuela and Iran are trying to pressure Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf producers to commit to and comply with a reduction in output, increasing the gulf between supply and demand, increasing the price of oil and thus saving their economies from going into the dumps (closely followed by their regimes).

The Caracas Stock Exchange Index fell 16% last week, but that didn't phase Señor Chávez.

It didn't phase him because it is in direct relations to his attempts to Nationalize the electricity and telecommunications industries. The government's continued spending spree coupled with the rise in oil prices has spawned what can only be a short lived growth in GDP. Once oil revenue decreases, the amount available for government expenditures, thus social welfare programs that support Chavez's popularity in Venezuela will be slowly eroded.

Aug 18, 2006 - ``These numbers should be analyzed more over the long-term and not solely in the short-term. Venezuela is spending all its oil earnings and it isn't saving or investing at all. We have huge GDP growth today, but it isn't going to be sustainable,'' said Alberto Ramos, senior Latin America economist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in New York.


Ramos said government spending is climbing at a pace of about 50 percent annually, a move which makes the country vulnerable to a possible drop in oil prices. Ramos today raised his forecast for Venezuela's GDP growth this year to 8 percent, from an earlier forecast of as much as 7 percent.

Too late. That's what we're seeing now.

For Iran, if forecasted decreases continue and then stabilize in 2007, it will most likely result in a loss of $13 billion in revenue to the state. With 11% unemployment, 44% of Iranians employed by the service sector which is dominated by state owned and operated companies and another 30% are employed in the gas, oil and mining industries, also largely owned by the Iranian government. Almost 70% of the population receiving some sort of state stipend.

Add to that Ahmadinejad is strangely being criticized by MPs and conservative papers back in Iran while he's galivanting around with the South Americans.

Ahmadinejad has been under criticism for abrupt decisions during his provincial tours where he promises lofty sums from the budget regardless of pre-planned macroeconomic outlines.

One hundred and fifty deputies have already issued a public statement warning the government over next year's budget, setting out "eight conditions for a favourable budget law".

"The government's efforts must be focused on decreasing spending and cutting its dependence on oil revenues," the Sarmayeh newspaper quoted the statement as saying.[snip]

Open letters from academics and experts have over the past year accused the government's economic policies of being expansionist and "lacking a scientific and expert basis" which risked fuelling "persistent inflation".

In fact, despite record oil prices (or maybe because of it), inflation is growing at record speeds with some estimates putting it at 16%. In any other country, 16% inflation, 11% (or greater) unemployment spells a recession if not depression.

It should be a very real National Security concern when dedicated foes of the United States, including Iran, Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaraugua, seek to form an alliance. Whether that alliance is as a voting block in OPEC (Iran and Venezuela)that can effect oil prices and, thus, the American economy or the possibility that Iran, widely supposed to be using the development of “civil” nuclear power as a front for developing nuclear weapons, would share such technology with a country within our hemisphere and capable of directly threatening US soil, it is all the same: a danger to the security, economy and very life of citizens of the United States.

Venezuela has purchased MiG fighters and licensed a Kalishnakov factory in order to build up its military power. Chavez has made repeated accusations that the US is attempting to over throw his government or contemplating direct attacks against Venezuela. The US may be attempting to support opposition to Chavez, but it’s unlikely that overt attacks were ever considered. This is typical rhetoric meant to stir fear in the populace against American supported NGOs or opposition groups which Chavez can claim to have ties with the US and threaten Venezuelan autonomy. It may also provide the onus under which he may threaten or actually attack US allies in the region. The final threat may be to stir up opposition in neighboring sympathetic countries to free trade pacts with the US in attempt to weaken US economic security.

Fortunately, all of the countries in question seem bent on using destructive Soviet or Cuban style economics. Which makes them very vulnerable to the very thing that destroyed the Soviet Union and makes Cuba a boil in the Carribean: economic warfare.

Greedy capitalists are very good at that.