U.S. Weapons Proliferation

July 31, 2007

Yesterday, the Bush administration announced that they would give 20 billion dollars worth of arms to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. According to the party line this is a viable attempt to bolster our relationships in the Middle East. This deal of course was opposed by Israel so to accompany the deal with the Gulf States the U.S. has increased military aid to Israel by 43%, adding 9.1 billion more dollars. Bush believes that heavily arming the Sunni Saudi Arabia will help the U.S. isolate Iran, a county supportive of the Shiite sect. This move is more of the same political posturing that will only further inflame the violence in Iraq and in the Middle Eat as a whole.

My first question is why are we friends with Saudi Arabia? Human rights violations alone should be enough to consider it a difficult state. But there is more. Saudi Arabia has been a negative influence on our occupation in many of the same ways that the President accuses Iran. A New York Times article recently pointed to U.S. intelligence which said, “Of an estimated 60 to 80 foreign fighters who enter Iraq each month, American military and intelligence officials say that nearly half are coming from Saudi Arabia and that the Saudis have not done enough to stem the flow.” Adding to this a senior administration official says he has seen evidence that Saudi Arabia is providing financial support to opponents of Mr. Nuri al-Maliki. Despite this the Bush administration continues to point only to Iran and Syria as counter productive to peace in the region.

My second question – how is giving weapons to sworn enemies going to promote peaceful dialogue? Israeli military forces, disabled after their loss last summer to Hezbollah, now see an opportunity to reassert their military influence in the region. Iran sees another example of the U.S. destabilizing the region to our own advantage – this will only further inflame radical groups in Iran and all over the Middle East. Even if this military power is only a perception at this point it emboldens one state to try to undermine another.

My third question – will we as citizens let our government use our cries for peace to further promote violence? The U.S., for its part, is set on political posturing and weapons proliferation – perhaps in an attempt to extract ourselves from Iraq and let the larger states in the region fight for control. I am sure that Bush sees this as an opportunity to show his popularity with some states in the Middle East and a way to boost the U.S. economy. Our leadership in this deal will bring nothing but blood.

Despite the political players and their influence on our occupation of Iraq proliferating weapons will never foster peace. This is a basic principle. The only way to engage the regional players in Iraq is through conflict resolution dialogue. A cold or hot war with Iran will be devastating – our actions in the past week will do nothing but promote that war.


THE UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA

July 25, 2007

If you follow the Bush administration’s line of thinking (at least the line they have used in their talking points) we have been having trouble with Iran for decades. In fact, it was highly publicized that the recent talks with Iran were the first since a 20 year diplomatic freeze between the two states. According to James Dobbins, who was the Bush administration’s first envoy for Afghanistan after September 11th, that is hardly the case. His insights in a July 22nd Washington Post column shed light on how we have and can continue to engage Iran as a partner for stabilizing the Middle East and fighting al-Qaeda.

“Many believe that in the wake of Sept. 11, the United States formed an international coalition and toppled the Taliban. It would be more accurate to say that the U.S. joined a coalition that had been battling the Taliban for nearly a decade. This coalition – made up of Iran, India, Russia and the Northern Alliance, and aided by massive American airpower – drove the Taliban from power.”

This was not an anxious alliance, Dobbins goes on to emphasize the openness of the talks in 2001 during the U.N. conference in Bonn, Germany. “The Iranian representatives were particularly helpful…then-Secretary of State Colin Powell authorized me to meet anywhere, anytime, on any matter with any Iranian official, as long as our discussions related to Afghanistan.”

Contrast this attitude toward Iran with that of the Bush administration in 2007 when talks on Iraq went into their second, most recent, session. “U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said he also challenged Iran over its suspected support for other radical groups in the Middle East such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Iran rejected all of the accusations, he said…. Crocker said there had been several “heated exchanges” in the seven hours of talks, and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari described them as ‘very challenging.’” (Associated Press)

So what happened to our coalition against terrorists? “Only weeks after Hamid Karzai was sworn in as interim leader in Afghanistan, President Bush listed Iran among the ‘axis of evil’ – surprising payback for Tehran’s help in Bonn.” I can’t speculate on the reasoning for this change – I can only condemn it.

If we truly seek a democratic and stable Middle East region we cannot continue on this path. Iraq is a central place to bring our diplomatic relations back into reality. “None of Iraq’s neighbors was eager for the invasion four years ago ….All are now worried that the civil war in Iraq will serve as a breeding ground for terror and violence that will be increasingly exported to their own countries.” (Brookings)

Iran has the most capability to be a decisive force given its intimate ties to virtually every Shia and Kurdish politician, its geography and its economic connections.” Iran’s influence in Iraq is more than apparent. Their cooperation in the stabilization and re-building of Iraq is essential to creating a workable plan.

The Bush administration would have us believe that staying in Iraq is the only option. Samuel Berger and Bruce Riedel would vehemently disagree. These Brookings scholars believe that Iraq’s neighbors cannot engage with the U.S. diplomatically before we end our occupation. Most notably, Iran fears Iraq becoming a base for the U.S to launch an attack against their country. Why would they cooperate if the feel threatened?

Creating a peaceful region without a permanent U.S. presence should be the number one priority of all involved. The first step toward this end is a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops and cooperation with Iran akin to that of 2001.


Iraq Toll

July 25, 2007

Those who died in Iraq from Jul 15 to 21:

Eric M Holke  31  Crestline CA

Cpl Shawn Stankovich  20  Arlington WA

Maj Jaroslav Pozadzy  39  Poland

Pvt Brandon Bobb  20  Orlando FL

Pvt Ron Joshua Jr  19  Austin TX

Sgt Nathan Barnes  23  American Fork UT

CPO Patrick Wade  38  Key West FL

PO Jeffrey Chaney  35  Omaha NE

Pvt James Harrelson  19  Dadeville AL

Spc Zachary Clouser  19  Dover PA

Spc Daniel Gomez  21  Warner Robbins GA

Spc Richard Gilmore III  22  Jasper AL

Sgt Luis Gutierrez  38  Bakersfield CA

Sgt Ronald Coffelt  36  Fair Oaks CA

Cpl Brandon Craig  25  Earleville MD

Air Peter McFerran  24  Wales UK

Air Christopher Dunsmore  29  Leicester UK

Air Matthew Caldwell  22  Birmingham UK

Cpl Rhett Butler  22  Fort Worth TX

Cpl Timothy Flowers  25  No Ireland UK

Sgt Jacob Schmuecker  27  Atkinson NE

Cpl Christopher Scherer  21  E Northport NY

5 were seriously wounded.

105 wounded were returned to kill fields.

492 Iraqi sisters and brothers were killed.


Kevin Martin, PA Exc. Director on Pacificia Radio

July 20, 2007

The roundtable is about the need for real security and a drastic change in U.S. foreign policy.

Check it out:  www.uprisingradio.org


Iraq Toll

July 18, 2007

I recieve updates on the number of casualties in Iraq on a regular basis. As a tribute to their sacrifice and a reminder of the price we pay for wars we create I will regluarly post these names to the Peace Blog.

Those who died in Iraq from Jul 8 to 14:

Cpl Kory Wiens 20 Independence MO

Pvt Bruce Salazar Jr 24 Tracy CA

Sgt Gene Lamie 25 Homerville GA

Pvt LeRon Wilson 18 Queens NY

Cpl Christopher Read 22 Dorset UK

Pvt Jason Dore 25 Moscow ME

Cap Maria Ortiz 40 Bayamon PR

Sgt Jeffrey McKinney 40 Garland TX

Sgt Courtney Johnson 26 Garner NC

Sgt Allen Greka 29 Alpena MI

Pvt Christopher Kube 18 Sterling Hts MI

Sgt John Massey 29 Judsonia AR

Pvt Benjamin Bartlett Jr 25 Manchester GA

Spc Robert Varga 24 Monroe City MO

55 were seriously wounded and maimed.

82 wounded were returned to occupation.

625+ Iraqi sisters and brothers were killed.

Cf: www.icasualties.org

In peace and with the hope for a better future,

Barb


The Nuclear Question…there should be no question.

July 17, 2007

The recent tragedy in Japan, where an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.6 injured 47 people and killed 9, sparks another debate about the use of nuclear materials in our world. In the earthquake two nuclear energy plants, owned and operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), were near the epicenter and were damaged during the event. The following are excerpts from a Guardian Article describing the damage to these 2 facilities: 50 cases of malfunctioning and trouble have been found since the quake Monday.

In 5 reactors major exhaust pipes were knocked out of place and TEPCO was investigating whether they had leaked radioactive materials.

100 drums containing low-level nuclear waste feel at the plant. Some were found with their lids wide open.

Small amounts of radioactive materials, cobalt-60 and chromium-51, have been emitted into the atmosphere from an exhaust stack.

A small fire caused a leak of water containing radioactive material.

While TEPCO insists that no significant damage was done to the environment and they claim there are no health concerns as yet. Japanese Prime Minister took a less flippant view of the outcome saying, “They raised the alert too later. I have sent them stern instructions that such alerts must be raised seriously and swiftly. Those involved should repent for their actions.”

The effects of leaked nuclear materials are clear from the incidences at 3-mile Island and Chernobyl. The environmental and human causalities are devastating. In Ukraine birth defects and cancer are common even 21 years later.

Despite this, and the obviously catastrophic implications of a nuclear bomb, there are still people who refuse to support the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It is beyond time for the U.S. to take a leadership role in nuclear abolition.

The future of our world is dependant on our outrage. Each time these poisons enter our water and air systems we jeopardize the health and safety of the next generation. We must remind our leaders that there is never a nuclear option.


Working the Political System

July 12, 2007

The Senate has let down the troops and the nation once more. Despite new pushes from both the Democratic and Republican sides of the isle the voices of moderation, peace, and patriotism were overshadowed by those of the war mongers and politicos. A bill, proposed by Sen. Jim Webb, one of the few Senators who have a child serving in Iraq, was centered on troop readiness: it said, “Men and women serving in the military deserved the same amount of time at home that they served overseas. The proposal died when the Senate voted 56 to 41 against moving to a vote, four short under the Senate’s rules.” (New York Times July 12, 2007).

A number of Republican Senators have come out and claimed “there needs to be a change of course in Iraq.” Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John Warner (R., Va.) and former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Richard Lugar (R., Ind.), worked with the White House at the outset of the war; but, are drafting their own legislation to force the President to ‘change course.’ I would ask, what does this ‘change’ mean? Wall Street Journal – July 12, 2007

The same is true for Democrats who are hungry to set themselves apart as the peace party. Sen. Carl Levin, who is a Chairperson on the Armed Services Committee, has proposed a mandatory deadline for troop withdrawal by April 30th. Sen. Harry Reid and Levin have co-sponsored another bill demanding a complete withdrawal in 120 days after enactment.

Another piece of bi-partisan legislation, brought by Sen.’s Ken Salazar and Lamar Alexander, calls to change the mission in Iraq with a goal of getting troops out by the end of March. New York Times – July 12, 2007

Of course, none of these Senators are talking about the massive project of reconstruction in Iraq; the amount of work and money it will take to fix the mess we created in Iraq.

Part of what is keeping Iraq votes stagnant is the hard-line attitude of some Senators. “Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the Republican leader, sought to close ranks in advance of the vote {on Webb’s amendment}. In a private meeting, an aide confirmed, he urged members not to join the “wimps,” a term he used to describe senators who have broken with the president” (New York Times – July 12, 2007). On the other side, “Reid harshly dismissed the measure with the broadest bipartisan backing — a compilation of Iraq Study Group recommendations offered by freshman Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.). The Salazar proposal, which as of last night had attracted six Democratic and six Republican co-sponsors, “won’t change one thing that the president does,” Reid said, who is opposed to anything short of legislation ending U.S. combat operations.” (Washington Post – July 12, 2007)

 

Not one Senator legislatively acknowledges the impossibility of the situation in Iraq and the decades it will take to rebuild the countries infrastructure, government, and culture. Bush wants to wait until September to judge the situation — but even from oceans away we, the people of the United States, know the situation is grim. It will be grim in September and for the next few decades. All we can do it push for responsibility and peace.

It seems our representatives are in need of some guidance from the public. Peace Action has prepared a tool for you to contact your representatives during this critical time. We have pre-written a letter based on our priorities but I encourage you to change it to suit your view. Most importantly please remember to speak out. “It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate tireless minority keep to set brushfires in peoples minds” (Samuel Adams).


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