The military effort to “advance security and opportunity, so that Pakistanis and Afghans can pursue the promise of a better life” is accelerating in both countries. It sounded good when President Obama said it at the White House:
We meet today as three sovereign nations joined by a common goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their ability to operate in either country in the future. And to achieve that goal, we must deny them the space to threaten the Pakistani, Afghan, or American people. And we must also advance security and opportunity, so that Pakistanis and Afghans can pursue the promise of a better life.
. . .But we must also meet the threat of extremism with a positive program of growth and opportunity. And that’s why my administration is working with members of Congress to create opportunity zones to spark development. That’s why I’m proud that we’ve helped advance negotiations towards landmark transit-trade agreements to open Afghanistan and Pakistan borders to more commerce.
Within Afghanistan, we must help grow the economy, while developing alternatives to the drug trade by tapping the resilience and the ingenuity of the Afghan people. We must support free and open national elections later this fall, while helping to protect the hard-earned rights of all Afghans. And we must support the capacity of local governments and stand up to corruption that blocks progress
. . .we must stand with those who want to build Pakistan. And that is why I’ve asked Congress for sustained funding, to build schools and roads and hospitals. I want the Pakistani people to understand that America is not simply against terrorism — we are on the side of their hopes and their aspirations, because we know that the future of Pakistan must be determined by the talent, innovation, and intelligence of its people.
The new annual State Department Report on Terrorism is out. It’s primarily the same as last year’s report. You were expecting changes maybe?
Here are the lead paragraphs from last year. . .
AL-QA’IDA AND ASSOCIATED TRENDS: Al-Qa’ida (AQ) and associated networks remained the greatest terrorist threat to the United States and its partners in 2007. It has reconstituted some of its pre-9/11 operational capabilities through the exploitation of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), replacement of captured or killed operational lieutenants, and the restoration of some central control by its top leadership, in particular Ayman al-Zawahiri. Although Usama bin Ladin remained the group’s ideological figurehead, Zawahiri has emerged as AQ’s strategic and operational planner.
. . .and this year.
AL-QA’IDA AND ASSOCIATED TRENDS: Al-Qa’ida (AQ) and associated networks continued to lose ground, both structurally and in the court of world public opinion, but remained the greatest terrorist threat to the United States and its partners in 2008. AQ has reconstituted some of its pre-9/11 operational capabilities through the exploitation of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the replacement of captured or killed operational lieutenants, and the restoration of some central control by its top leadership, in particular Ayman al-Zawahiri. Worldwide efforts to counter terrorist financing have resulted in AQ appealing for money in its last few messages.
Same old stuff.
First, going back to the year of the Golden Snake (nothing personal, George) — April 26, 2001:
REPORTER: Do we have an obligation to defend the Taiwanese?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes we do. And the Chinese must understand that. Yes I would.
REPORTER: With the full force of the American military?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Whatever it took to help Taiwan defend herself.
and an S, and an R,A,E and L
Whaddya got? You got the Israel 2009 pep rally, more formally known as the “AIPAC Policy Conference: The pro-Israel community’s preeminent annual gathering, with world leaders and activists, Policy Conference 2009, May 3-5, Washington, D.C.”
AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee calls itself America’s Pro-Israel Lobby. The annual Israel pep rally is unique. There is no other country that has a promotional pep rally like this. Imagine, Israel is only about the size of New Jersey, with a million less people than New Jersey, and yet the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has such clout. I’m guessing that there’s money involved. Lots of money.
The 2009 Israel Pep Rally promises to a blockbuster. If it’s anything like previous years it’ll feature 7,000 people, paying $499 each, including half the US Senate and many House members. It’ll be followed by 500 meetings with lawmakers in furtherance of policies and programs friendly to Israel.
To get a real feeling of the content and energy level, view the video here.
Remember the boy heroes — Mexicans do.
Who were the boy heroes?
Los Niños Héroes (the “Boy Heroes”) were six teenage military cadets who died defending Mexico at Mexico City’s Chapultepec Castle (then serving as the Mexican army’s military academy) from invading U.S. forces in the September, 1847 Battle of Chapultepec.
Their commanders, General Nicolás Bravo and General José Mariano Monterde, had ordered them to fall back from Chapultepec, a large building on a steep hill near Mexico City, but the cadets did not; instead, they resisted the invaders until they were killed, with accounts maintaining that the last survivor leapt from Chapultepec Castle, down a steep cliff, wrapped in the Mexican flag to prevent it from being taken by the enemy.
The cadets are honored by an imposing monument at the entrance to Chapultepec Park; and the name Niños Héroes, along with the cadets’ individual names, are commonly given to streets, squares and schools across the country. For many years they appeared on the MXP $5000 banknote, and they currently appear on the MXN $50 coin. Mexico City Metro station Metro Niños Héroes is also named after them.
Why do I bring this up?
In Iraq, that is.
Under a security agreement signed between Washington and Baghdad last November during president George Bush’s tenure, U.S. troops will withdraw from towns and cities by June 30 and from the whole country by the end of 2011.
Apparently the first milestone is in a bit of danger.
Let me explain:
from the Pakistan press:
Lahore, Pakistan: Of the 60 cross-border predator strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in Pakistan between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, only 10 were able to hit their actual targets, killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders, besides perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians.
Fourteen “wanted al-Qaeda leaders” and 687 innocent Pakistanis — men, women and children — killed by unmanned, controlled Predator airplanes firing AGM-114 Hellfire missiles with blast fragmentation warheads.
Government programs normally have an objective, a goal. There are funded programs to educate children, help the elderly, provide housing for the poor, build bridges and highways, etc. These programs normally have recognized, specific goals and are funded commensurate with the goals.
The government also has programs to provide security. Currently “homeland security” is a program to secure the ports and borders of the country, and there is also a program, costing hundreds of billions of dollars, as much as all other countries on the planet spend combined, to provide what are called conventional military forces.
The question is, do these very expensive military programs have an objective, a goal?
President Obama in Iraq:
This is going to be a critical period, these next 18 months.
Three Friedman Units.
The term [Friedman Unit] is in reference to a May 16, 2006 article by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) detailing journalist Thomas Friedman’s repeated use of “the next six months” as the period in which, according to Friedman, “we’re going to find out…whether a decent outcome is possible” in the Iraq War.
President Obama also said:
It is time for us to transition to the Iraqis. (Applause.) They need to take responsibility for their country and for their sovereignty. (Applause.)
And in order for them to do that, they have got to make political accommodations. They’re going to have to decide that they want to resolve their differences through constitutional means and legal means. They are going to have to focus on providing government services that encourage confidence among their citizens.
All those things they have to do. We can’t do it for them. But what we can do is make sure that we are a stalwart partner, that we are working alongside them, that we are committed to their success, that in terms of training their security forces, training their civilian forces in order to achieve a more effective government, they know that they have a steady partner with us.
And so just as we thank you for what you’ve already accomplished, I want to say thank you because you will be critical in terms of us being able to make sure that Iraq is stable, that it is not a safe haven for terrorists, that it is a good neighbor and a good ally, and we can start bringing our folks home.
“We can start bringing our folks home.” When? Silly me, I thought that was going to happen right away. (Obama also said the Iraq war “is an extraordinary achievement,” but we’ll let that go, not without noting the million deaths and the four million displaced.)
from President Obama‘s press conference on the results of the recently concluded G20 Summit Meeting in London:
Earlier today, we finished a very productive summit that will be, I believe, a turning point in our pursuit of global economic recovery. By any measure, the London summit was historic. It was historic because of the size and the scope of the challenges that we face, and because of the timeliness and magnitude of our response.
The G-20 is made up of the finance ministers and central bank governors of 19 countries plus a representative of the European Union, established in 1999 “to bring together systemically important industrialized and developing economies to discuss key issues in the global economy”. The G20 had high hopes for its recent summit meeting in London.
The G-20 will need to send a strong signal that it is prepared to take whatever further actions are necessary to stabilise the financial system and to provide further macroeconomic support.
What happened? Was it really a turning point? Here are comments on the major G20 promises from me and others.