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Saying “”It remains a vital interest of the whole world community to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran,” Germany’s warmongering Chancellor Angela (Hey…wasn’t Hitler a Chancellor too?) Merkel joined French President Sarkozy in virtually ignoring the recently released NIE on Iran and sticking to their plans to promote more sanctions against the mullahs.

Writing in the German daily Handelsblatt, Merkel showed eminently more sense than just about any leftist Democrat in the United States:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that heading off the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, with tougher sanctions if needed, remains a “vital interest” for the world community, according to a report Thursday. Iran’s nuclear program is “one of our biggest security policy concerns,” Merkel wrote in an article for the daily Handelsblatt, which the newspaper posted on its Web site ahead of print publication on Friday.

Germany, along with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, has played a leading role in addressing worries over Iran’s nuclear work.

Earlier this month, an American push for new sanctions was dampened with the release of a new US intelligence report concluding Iran had halted a nuclear weapons development program in 2003 and had not resumed it since.

Merkel did not refer specifically to that assessment, but wrote that “it is dangerous and still grounds for great concern that Iran, in the face of the UN Security Council’s resolutions, continues to refuse to suspend uranium enrichment,” Handelsblatt reported.

Compare Merkel’s attitude with the attitude of most lefties who, whenever Iran is mentioned these days, will hold the Iran NIE aloft a la Chamberlain coming home from Munich as proof of the mullahs benign intentions.

If their childish, irrational naivete weren’t so horribly, dangerously wrong, it might be funny. As it is, we have to keep reminding ourselves that these bozos might be in charge of American foreign policy next year – a thought that gives no end of amusement to the leaders of the Iranian regime, I’m sure.

What a terrible turn of events when pacifist Germany subtly criticizes America for “dangerous” thinking when it comes to Iran. A topsy turvy world, indeed.

By: Rick Moran at 5:00 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (0)


“Anything is possible.”

That’s what I wrote on Monday morning following the “narrow” win by the NO! forces in the Venezuelan referendum on granting President Hugo Chavez enormous and unprecedented powers. My speculation seemed wild at the time but was based on reports coming from Venezuelan bloggers who turned out to be pretty damn reliable in the end.

Most pre-election polls had NO! winning by 55% or greater. For those on the left who are sneering about the fact that Chavez didn’t try and rig the election, I would suggest you wait a day or two. There certainly were some strange things going on at CNE headquarters in the wee hours of the morning.

And one rumor is the final margin of victory for the opposition was actually negotiated between the two sides so that Chavez could save face with a razor thin loss rather than the 57%-58% that some polls were showing prior to the vote. That particular rumor seems wildly off base – until you remember we’re talking about Chavez’s Venezuela where after the last presidential election, half full ballot boxes disappeared for hours only to turn up later stuffed to the brim with votes for Chavez.

As it turns out, the NO! vote was indeed a landslide and Chavez was in the process of rigging the election in his favor when the Army came a-calling and told him if he cheated, he’d be gone:

Most of Latin America’s leaders breathed a sigh of relief earlier this week, after Venezuelan voters rejected President Hugo Chávez’s constitutional amendment referendum. In private they were undoubtedly relieved that Chávez lost, and in public they expressed delight that he accepted defeat and did not steal the election. But by midweek enough information had emerged to conclude that Chávez did, in fact, try to overturn the results. As reported in El Nacional, and confirmed to me by an intelligence source, the Venezuelan military high command virtually threatened him with a coup d’état if he insisted on doing so. Finally, after a late-night phone call from Raúl Isaías Baduel, a budding opposition leader and former Chávez comrade in arms, the president conceded—but with one condition: he demanded his margin of defeat be reduced to a bare minimum in official tallies, so he could save face and appear as a magnanimous democrat in the eyes of the world.
(HT: Ed Morrissey)

I also reported the role of General Baduel in heading Chavez off at the pass by going on TV and demanding that the vote – already held up several hours by the CNE - be released. Either shortly before or after he made that appearance, he placed his call to Chavez telling him the jig was up.

There are so many lefties with egg on their faces this morning that the liberal blogosphere could very well be mistaken for an omelet chef blog burst in progress. Praise for that great “democrat” Chavez and comparing him favorably to Bush was laughable at the time and now, simply priceless – one of those moments in blog history that can be trotted out time and time again whenever some lefty gets a little too large for their suspenders.

Just for fun, let’s review what some on the left had to say about their buddy Hugo and how he was a superior democrat to American leaders:

“I would be the last to claim that Hugo Chavez is a saint, or even a politician worth emulating. But I do find it interesting that when faced with the will of the people, Bush ignored that will and Chavez bowed to it. One we are told, is a vile threat to the freedom of his nation because of his incessant power grabs and disdain for democratic process. The other is a great leader of men, fully committed to democracy in his home country and abroad. If I hadn’t attached names to this story, could you tell which was supposed to be which?

This is one of my favorites:

Before the vote began, Venezuela’s government had agreed to randomly open 30% of the ballot boxes to monitors in order to assure a fair election. Upon receipt of the result, President Hugo Chavez—the putative dictator in waiting for Venezuela—announced simply, “I congratulate my adversaries for this victory. For now, we could not do it.”

The Venezuelan and American press—both enormously and dishonestly hostile to Venezuela’s Bolivarian transformation—had spun the article dropping term limits as a bid to become “President for Life,” though there was no provision to ever stop presidential elections that put that decision into the hands of Venezuelan voters. We shall now see if a single mea culpa is expressed by any of the media in the wake of the Chavez government’s quick and gracious acceptance of the referendum result. I doubt it.

The author never mentioned that the agreement to “randomly open 30% of the ballot boxes” went by the wayside that night – as did every other agreement Chavez made prior to the election about independent electoral observers, opposition access to the raw vote count, and anything else that would have prevented Chavez from stealing the vote.

And as far as shenanigans that occurred during voting, here’s a few of dozens of irregularities from this revealing letter sent by two International Observers to the Venezuelan recall vote in 2004 to Members of Congress:

  • We were threatened on several occasions, at least once with pistols concealed under the shirts of Chavistas who yelled threats and showed us their weapons.
  • When we went into the 23 de Enero barrio, Chavistas working in the voting area turned into rabble-rousers and tried to stir the crowd into attacking us. The Plan República troops did nothing to stop them, and when our safety was in question, they escorted us out. We could no longer observe the many irregularities in the area.
  • We r eceived first hand reports from witnesses who saw armed Comando Maisanta and Circulos Bolivarianos posted outside voting centers, threatening the people who tried to vote SI.
  • We witnessed military officers prohibiting the vote of people in the opposition areas because they were “wearing shorts”, a violation of the constitution and their human rights.
  • Thousands of voters who voted SI, were physically assaulted at the voting centers.
  • In some voting centers, the review process was started without the presence of Opposition witnesses to guarantee transparency.
  • Opposition witnesses and table members were physically removed from voting centers or blocked from entering and guaranteeing transparency.

This is the election Jimmy Carter guaranteed as fair and open.

Of course, the biggest omelet on the face goes to Roger Cohen for this lights-out slice of schadenfreud:

I salute you, Hugo Chávez.

If Roger had stopped there, people would have only thought him crazy, not an idiot:

And yet, there was a glum Chávez declaring in the unadorned language no totalitarian system can abide that: “The people’s decision will be upheld in respect of the basic rule of democracy: the winning option is the one that gets most votes.”

The United States might ponder those words — not just because of what happened in the presidential election of 2000; not just because the arithmetic of voting has proved unpalatable in Palestine; not just because of the past U.S.-abetted trampling of elected Latin American leaders in Chile and elsewhere — but because democracy was alive and vital in Venezuela on Sunday in a way foreign to President Bush’s America.

As I said in my American Thinker blog post, “Thank God for that.” And I might have added, thank God Cohen only writes for the Times and not a real newspaper:

But his honoring of democracy’s brittle wonders still merits a salute. Above all, however, I salute the Venezuelan people. Chávez said before the referendum that a “no” vote equaled a vote for Bush. Unperturbed, Venezuelans went ahead. And they gave a civic example from which Bush’s battered and blathering democracy can learn.

Bush’s “blathering” democracy apparently doesn’t need to negotiate with the opposition his margin of defeat. What say ye, Roger? Up for eating a little crow?

It’s childish, of course, to gloat so. But when people are constantly throwing mud in your face, it’s sometimes nice to return the favor by tossing a banana cream pie and hitting them right in the kisser.

By: Rick Moran at 2:16 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)


As the clock ticks toward midnight, the factions in Lebanon, unable to agree on a consensus candidate for president, have resigned themselves to the fact that they are about ready to enter unknown territory.

A constitutional vacuum is about to open up – if, as he has promised, soon-to-be-ex-president Emil Lahoud resigns as planned. What does it mean in practical terms? No one knows which is why pronouncements like this from Lahoud are not helpful:

Premier Fouad Saniora on Friday rejected a controversial measure by outgoing President Emile Lahoud ordering the army to enforce law and order after claiming that “risks of a state of emergency” prevail over the nation.

A three-article statement signed by Lahoud said: “The risks of a state of emergency prevail over all the territories of the Republic of Lebanon as of Nov. 24.

“The army is assigned the task of maintaining security and all military forces would be placed at the army’s service,” the statement added.

It said that once a “legitimate government is formed” the army command would coordinate its moves with it.

However, a statement issued by Saniora’s press office said the presidential measure is “not factual and not based on constitutional or legal authorities.”

It recalled that, constitutionally, only the government has the authority to declare a state of emergency, subject to revision by parliament in eight days.

The Saniora statement said Lahoud wants to allude that the nation is facing serious threats “at a time security prevails because the army maintains the nation’s security and protects the people’s safety.”

The statement concluded by stressing that the government is both “legal and constitutional.”

Lahoud has maintained for almost a year now that because 6 opposition ministers resigned from the cabinet, subsequent decisions taken by the Siniora government have been illegal and that the government itself is not legitimate.

It is unclear whether Lahoud’s statement is meant to urge the army to carry out a coup although by asking the military to “maintain security” until a “legitimate government is formed” while all but declaring a state of emergency, it is hard to interpret his statement otherwise.

In fact, Abu Kais at From Beirut to the Beltway writes that even if Siniora insists on maintaining his position, the cabinet no longer controls the military:

Although Lahoud did not directly call for state of emergency (post corrected), he handed over all security matters to the Lebanese army, meaning the cabinet would no longer have power over it. AFP quoted an official in the Siniora government as saying Lahoud’s statement “is not valid and is unconstitutional…It is as if the statement was never issued.”

One more unknown in a sea of unknowables.

Meanwhile, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri has rescheduled the presidential vote for November 30. As the majority bends over backward to accommodate the opposition by not taking advantage of the constitutional option open to it and electing a president by simple parliamentary majority, some have taken the government to task for this inaction:

Now that the “opposition”, including Nabih Berri, has adopted Aoun’s “initiative”, March 14 finds itself, yet again, outmaneuvered. After living in the Berri-esque illusion that Bkirki’s list will be respected, March 14 rediscovered the dishonesty of its opponents. Over the past month, the “opposition” successfully managed to prevent the parliament’s majority from electing a president through distraction and deceit. Hours before the constitutional deadline expires, the Syrian-puppet president is preparing to announce measures designed to prevent the Siniora cabinet from assuming power. Lahoud is armed with Hizbullah’s blessing and the complicity of Michel Aoun. March 14 is counting on assurances given by Berri that the “opposition” will not escalate the situation if a president in not elected through a majority vote.

March 14’s Fares Soueid said the movement is waiting for Lahoud’s announcement before taking such a step. Sadly, March 14 deputies came to parliament today and consented to a postponement, forfeiting their constitutional right to holding such a session. Considering that Berri couldn’t hold his end of the French-sponsored bargain, it seems strange to this blogger that so much faith is still being placed in his promises, and in reaching agreement with him.

It should be clear that Lahoud is not bound by any arrangement Berri may have made with the majority. It should also be clear that Hizbullah and Aoun have been using Berri to buy time and keep March 14 from convening its deputies. One wonders if March 14’s current strategy, which is sadly being pushed by Jumblatt and Hariri, will cost them the country.

The feeling is widespread among March 14th supporters that their leaders have not taken advantage of the legal mechanism open to them and simply elected a president by majority vote. The feeling seems to be “Let Hizbullah do their damndest and to hell with Michel Aoun.”

I can understand their frustration but speaking as an outsider and a supporter of the government I sympathize with the majority’s plight. They have been well and truly trapped ever since the opposition ministers walked out of the government almost exactly a year ago. The government of Lebanon – any government – was dependent on the cooperation of Hizbullah both for legitimacy and to get anything done. Once that cooperation was withdrawn (with the realization that Nasrallah has no intention of granting it again unless he gets to call the shots) everything that has happened between then and now could have been foreseen.

The assassinations, the war with Israel, the constant, unyielding pressure on the government to compromise is being cheered on in Damascus if not planned and carried out on President Bashar Assad’s orders. Only Syria benefits from the chaos that threatens the peace in Lebanon. Despite the United Nations moving forward with the Hariri Tribunal – almost certain to implicate Syrian officials in the political violence that has taken place in Lebanon – they are moving glacially. And if the government changes hands, peacefully or otherwise, the chances of that Tribunal getting any cooperation from Lebanon vanishes. In that case, it is very difficult to see how the Tribunal will be able to do its job properly – something devoutly wished by Assad and his henchmen who UN prosecutors are convinced are involved in the assassination of the ex-prime minister.

There are precious few options left for the majority. It seems clear that by next week’s deadline, they will either have resigned themselves to the prospect of civil strife by electing a president themselves or will continue to dither, hoping lightening will strike and the opposition presents a candidate who would be acceptable to them.

The latter prospect is not in the cards which is why it is more than likely that eventually and reluctantly, the elected majority government of Lebanon will take the fateful step of thrusting aside opposition objections and, being constitutionally empowered to do so, will elect a president by simple majority vote. What this action will precipitate is anyone’s guess. Anything from violence in the streets to the opposition setting up their own president and cabinet and calling it the “legitimate” government of Lebanon is possible.

A “sea of unknowables” indeed.


Street celebrations are underway as Emil Lahoud leaves office. What is his legacy?

Emile Lahoud packed the sack and evacuated the hilltop Baabda Republican Palace at midnight Friday, leaving behind a record of two Syrian-sponsored constitutional amendments that placed him in office … and kept him there for nine years.

A cheerful crowd took to the streets of Beirut’s Tarik Jedideh district to celebrate the end of Lahoud’s term in office chanting “Lahoud out.”

Lahoud, 71, also has a long list of leftovers: Four military aides behind bars, 12 unsettled political crimes, a split nation struggling to avoid renewed civil strife and a vacant presidential office waiting for the election of a new head of state who can patch up a people that cannot agree even on one answer to a simple question: Who is the enemy?

Sounds more like an indictment.

Speaking of indictments, when will justice be served?

In 1998, Syrian President Hafez Assad sponsored a constitutional amendment that allowed Army Commander Lahoud to run for Lebanon’s top post.

The Syrian-controlled parliament responded, not only by adopting the Assad-inspired constitutional amendment, but also by unanimously electing his chosen candidate to Lebanon’s top post.

Blessed by “the father”, Lahoud enjoyed another constitutional amendment inspired by the late Syrian President’s son-heir Bashar Assad in 2004 that kept him in office for three years more.

Shortly after Lahoud received the second Assad Blessing, Communications Minister Marwan Hamadeh survived a car-bomb attack on Oct. 1, 2004 and the list of serial killings rolled:

Ex-Premier Rafik Hariri, Minister of Economy Basel Fleihan, columnist Samir Qassir, former leader of the Communist Party George Hawi, TV journalist May Chidiac, Defense Minister Elias Murr, MP Jibran Tueni, Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel, MP Walid Eido and MP Antoine Ghanem.

The Assassination of ex-MP Elias Hobeika in 2002 also remains a mystery.

No coincidence, all the victims were prominent opponents Lahoud, or both Lahoud and Syria’s dominance over Lebanon.

I have said it many times but it bears repeating; the similarity between the Syrian regime and a Mafia crime family are striking. Both use intimidation and murder to achieve their ends. Both set up “protection rackets” to soak their victims. Both are made up of a small, vicious cadres of lieutenants who are loyal to a crime boss.

Read the whole article by Mohammed Salam, one of Naharnet’s most insightful writers.

UPDATE: 11/24

Gateway Pundit has a good round up and some telling photos of Lebanese celebrating the end of Lahoud’s presidency.

By: Rick Moran at 6:15 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (4) Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with Political tumult intensifies in Lebanon ...

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A spokesman for the Alfred E. Nobel Foundation announcing Al Gore’s Peace Prize.

Al Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

He follows a long line of illustrious humanitarians who have selflessly and with no thought of personal reward, served the needs of humanity through the sheer goodness and purity of their souls. Or, in Gore’s case, those who have shamelessly promoted themselves as saviors of the planet when they have been proven in a court of law to be nothing more than alarmist charlatans.

Dedicated peace activists like the Dali Lama, Nelson Mandela, and Mother Teresa have preceded Mr. Gore in winning the Prize. As have not so dedicated peace activists like Yassar Arafat (who could have been described as a “piece” advocate due to the condition of the bodies of his victims after they were blown to bits), Mikhail Gorbachev – the first time a Peace Prize was awarded to a dictator for not sending in tanks to crush liberty, and Kofi Anan whose contributions to the peace of such places as Rwanda and Darfur will long be remembered – at least by those lucky enough to be left alive following his spectacularly inept and corrupt leadership.

Yes, our Al is in good company alright. But never mind the Peace Prize. Will he or won’t he? Does the light of ambition burn bright enough that he would, once again, shoulder the burdens of a long, difficult campaign for the presidency of the United States?

Though Gore’s name has been frequently mentioned in presidential politics this year, potentially as a “draft” nominee, he has declined to enter the contest.

But the Nobel is a huge honor recognized worldwide and gives him even more stature. It gives him a moment to reconsider the race for the Democratic nomination, now led by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Gore has not completely ruled out running, saying in the past he had “no plans” to be a candidate and shying away from the fund-raising extravaganza that now is central to American politics. At one point, he even said that he is “not very good” at politics. Critics often lampooned him as wooden as a campaigner.

Let’s put it this way; I doubt whether Hillary Clinton is losing any sleep over a potential Gore candidacy. She’s way ahead, she has more money than God, and it’s just about 90 days to the New Hampshire primary – not enough time to pull an organization together, raise the money, and run any kind of a professional campaign. It’s not that his chances of success would be small. His chances of success would be zero.

All that aside, just what has the Nobel Committee done by giving the prize to a man a British Court called an “alarmist” just the other day? He is a man whose major achievement – his film Inconvenient Truth – has been debunked even by scientists who share his fears of climate change. Other scientists have called on the former Vice President to quit being such an alarmist.

The fact is, Gore’s major “contribution” to the global warming debate has been shown to be at the very least problematic and at worse, a shameless piece of propaganda. Yeah – but at least his heart is in the right place.

I can never decide whether Gore is being used by the Luddites, the one worlders, the NGO’s, the anti-globalists, and the anti-industrialists as a front man for the implementation of their political agendas or whether he actually agrees with many of their ideas. The fact is, it’s not about the science. It’s never been about the science. If it were about the science, those who do not believe in anthropomorphic global warming theories wouldn’t be branded as “Nazis” and would receive a fair hearing. Similarly, those who reject the idea that global warming, even if it comes to pass, would not have the catastrophic effects promised by the alarmists, would not be marginalized and shunted to the sidelines of scientific debate.

Global warming is mostly about politics which is why Gore has probably done so well in promoting it. It has left the realm of science and entered the world of religion – a belief system with dogma, sacraments, and penalties for apostasy. And standing above all others as the High Priest, Great Prophet, and number one snake oil salesman has been Albert Arnold Gore, Jr.

Our climate is changing and thank God for that. About 20,000 years ago, there was an ice sheet a mile thick where I am sitting right now. I daresay if I had been siting in the same place back then, it would have been a tad uncomfortable. But the earth warmed, the glacier receded, and the Great Lakes were created in all their beauty and splendor.

I simply don’t know if the scientists who posit catastrophe are right. I do know that every “sign” pointed to as “proof” their theories are correct by global warming advocates today is not indicative of long term climate change. But I do not reject out of hand the idea that greenhouse gas emissions must be cut in order to prevent (or mitigate) drastic changes in the climate.

In short, I’m an agnostic on the subject. I am not a scientist. I can’t examine the evidence the way a climate modeller or a atmospheric physicist can and reach an intelligent conclusion. We must base our beliefs on explanations of that data by scientists themselves.

No, I am not a scientist. But neither is Al Gore. And the Nobel Committee’s curious choice of the former Vice President for the Peace Prize is perplexing indeed. Global warming is a scientific phenomena. To give it to someone whose scientific acumen has been questioned both by scientists and the courts strikes me as incomprehensible.

But then, that seems to be par for the course as far as the Nobel Committee is concerned.

By: Rick Moran at 6:04 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (5) Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with Could Nobel Prize Spur Gore To Run In '08?...

I don’t get it. I mean, I know that Bush and the open borders crowd want to bring as many “undocumented workers” as possible “out from the shadows and into the light” so that presumably, those who were at one time considered lawbreakers would magically be forgiven their sins and morph into upstanding citizens of the republic with just a wave of government’s magic wand.

This, after all, is the position advanced by the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, and other business groups who salivate at the prospect of millions of low wage workers toiling away, allowing them to keep that balance sheet nicely in the black. It’s really not a question of the new arrivals doing the jobs that Americans won’t do. It’s a matter of the immigrants doing those jobs at wages no self respecting American would tolerate.

That’s why I’m excited about this new union they’re talking about forming. It’s called the North American Union and from what I’ve heard, it will solve our illegal immigration problem, strengthen our economy, increase our security, and generally make life in these United States a heaven on earth.

Just tell me where to sign up to join this new union. I wonder if they have health benefits? Paid vacations? Sick days? Personal days? What about pensions?

What’s that you say? I’ve got it wrong? The North American Union will do WHAT?

Secretly, the Bush administration is pursuing a policy to expand NAFTA politically, setting the stage for a North American Union designed to encompass the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. What the Bush administration truly wants is the free, unimpeded movement of people across open borders with Mexico and Canada.

President Bush intends to abrogate U.S. sovereignty to the North American Union, a new economic and political entity which the President is quietly forming, much as the European Union has formed.

No wonder Canadian bacon has been flooding our markets recently. And have you noticed that there seem to be a lot of Canadian actors and actresses working in Hollywood? It’s an invasion I tell you!

And by the way, you do realize that Taco Bell is now the second largest fast food franchise in the world, don’t you? You know what that means? And what’s with all this Mexican beer I’ve been seeing lately? The brazenness of it all! They’re even advertising Corona on television.

If Lou Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly say it’s true, then it must be so. And to cinch the case, the idea has been advanced by none other than the Dark Lords who work for the Council on Foreign Relations.

If we keep looking, I have no doubt we’ll find connections to the Tri-Lateral Commission, the Democratic Party, and other anti-American, anti-sovereignty groups.

“Nobody is proposing a North American Union,” countered Robert Pastor, the American University professor to whom conspiracy theorists point as “the father of the NAU.” They cite his 2001 book, “Towards a North American Community: Lessons from the Old World for the New,” as the basic text for the plan. They also note his co-chairmanship of a Council on Foreign Relations task force that produced a 2005 report on cooperation among the three countries.

The cur! I’ll bet he wears a lapel pin with the US, Mexican, and Canadian flags:

Wearing a lapel pin featuring the flags of the U.S., Canada and Mexico, Pastor told AIM that he favors a $200-billion North American Investment Fund to pull Mexico out of poverty and a national biometric identity card for the purpose of controlling the movement of people in and out of the U.S.

So the “conspiracy” is now very much out in the open, if only the media would pay some attention to it.

Yep. Sounds like we should get ready to start saluting the flag of the North American Union rather than Old Glory. One sure sign that we’re about to lose our sovereignty is creating a fund to pull Mexico out of poverty. It’s right here in my “Conspiracies for Fun and Profit” handbook.

Perhaps we should look a little deeper into this conspiracy. Just what are our elites up to?

In March 2005, the leaders of Canada, Mexico, and the United States adopted a Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP), establishing ministerial-level working groups to address key security and economic issues facing North America and setting a short deadline for reporting progress back to their governments. President Bush described the significance of the SPP as putting forward a common commitment “to markets and democracy, freedom and trade, and mutual prosperity and security.” The policy framework articulated by the three leaders is a significant commitment that will benefit from broad discussion and advice. The Task Force is pleased to provide specific advice on how the partnership can be pursued and realized.

To that end, the Task Force proposes the creation by 2010 of a North American community to enhance security, prosperity, and opportunity. We propose a community based on the principle affirmed in the March 2005 Joint Statement of the three leaders that “our security and prosperity are mutually dependent and complementary.” Its boundaries will be defined by a common external tariff and an outer security perimeter within which the movement of people, products, and capital will be legal, orderly and safe. Its goal will be to guarantee a free, secure, just, and prosperous North America.

I don’t know about you, but I’m convinced. All this talk about enhancing security and prosperity is just a smoke screen. In order to ascertain the real intent of these people, you can’t take what everyone is saying at face value. You have to gaze beyond the words they’re saying and look into their very souls in order to glimpse the true nature of this massive conspiracy.

And that word “community” – another smokescreen to hide the real word they dare not use; UNION! Insidious, I tell you.

Just think of it. No more Fourth of July. No more George Washington. No more “Made in America.” And the prospect of being forced to watch Mexican soaps on TV is just too horrid to contemplate. All this cross border, cross cultural mixing has only one purpose; a political union with Mexico and Canada.

Would the NFL be forced to adopt Canadian football rules? Would soccer become the national past time? Would we see even more baseball games on television? These are the kind of nightmares that could become a reality if this North American Union thing actually goes through.

And of course, they would never put such a notion as a North American Union to a vote. We’re just going to wake up one morning and find out that America is no more. Those slick bastards! Lull us to sleep and then put one over on us when we aren’t paying any attention. Too clever by half. But not clever enough. Not when we have patriots like Lou Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly guarding our sovereignty. Don’t you sleep better at night knowing that those two watchdogs are on the case, protecting America from being subsumed by hordes of Mexicans and pasty faced Canadians who would invade our country and steal us blind? I sure do.

No doubt there are some of your who can’t see where there is any conspiracy to unite North American under one flag. I pray that you come to your senses soon. Before you know it, we’ll be buying our Tacos with Canadian dollars and then it will be too late.

By: Rick Moran at 7:01 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (22)


Even though it has been a given for more than a year that Tony Blair would step down as Prime Minister of Great Britain before his term ended in 2009, his announcement today confirming that he will resign as party leader (maintaining his position as Prime Minister until a new Labour head is named) still should elicit much sadness here in the United States.

Blair forged one of the unique personal relationships of our times with George Bush that, much to his detriment and own personal political standing in Great Britain, has sustained the war effort in Iraq. The two made something of an odd couple although they complemented each other beautifully. Bush as the blunt, outspoken and emotional leader while Blair played counterpoint as the suave, sophisticated and often eloquent partner. Where Bush’s defense of his policies sometimes fell flat, Blair’s ringing endorsement of the war and the necessity for it made it seem at times that he was the senior member of the partnership.

And this is where the Bush-Blair relationship differed markedly from the FDR-Churchill and Reagan-Thatcher partnerships of the past. Blair was much more Bush’s equal in the “special relationship” that has endured between the United Kingdom and America for more than a century. It was Blair who convinced Bush at the beginning of the war to try and get the United Nations on board – a futile effort given the amount of Oil For Food bribery Saddam had spread around the Security Council membership as well as the general anti-American feelings in that body. But by taking his case to the Security Council, Bush gained some much needed legitimacy for the war with the American people – at least for a time.

And it was also Blair who outshone the President in defending the decision to go to war in Iraq as well as advocating a united western response to the threat of Islamic radicals – a threat that to this day is not acknowledged by much of the western left.

To win, we have to win the battle of values, as much as arms. We have to show these are not western still less American or Anglo-Saxon values but values in the common ownership of humanity, universal values that should be the right of the global citizen.

This is the challenge. Ranged against us are the people who hate us; but beyond them are many more who don’t hate us but question our motives, our good faith, our even-handedness, who could support our values but believe we support them selectively.

These are the people we have to persuade. They have to know this is about justice and fairness as well as security and prosperity. And in truth there is no prosperity without security; and no security without justice. That is the consequence of an inter-connected world.

But perhaps most strikingly, Blair is one of the few European leaders who acknowledged the “madness” of anti-Americanism and how destructive and dangerous this virulent hatred of all things American had become in the west:

And I want to speak plainly here. I do not always agree with the US. Sometimes they can be difficult friends to have. But the strain of, frankly, anti-American feeling in parts of European politics is madness when set against the long-term interests of the world we believe in.

The danger with America today is not that they are too much involved. The danger is they decide to pull up the drawbridge and disengage. We need them involved. We want them engaged. The reality is that none of the problems that press in on us, can be resolved or even contemplated without them.

Our task is to ensure that with them, we do not limit the agenda to security. If our security lies in our values and our values are about justice and fairness as well as freedom from fear, then the agenda must be more than security and the alliance include more than America.

Those are words that have needed to be said for more than a generation as much of Europe has gloried in tweaking America’s tail every chance it gets. Now, with new leadership in Germany and France and a new Prime Minister ready in the wings in Great Britain, Europe may be turning the corner in its relations with the United States. Chancellor Merkel of Germany and President-elect Sarkozy of France cannot be considered “pro-American” by a long shot. But they represent a qualitative improvement over the nakedly anti-American attitudes of their predecessors. This bodes well for the United States as we ourselves prepare to elect a new President. Whoever takes possession of the oval office in January, 2009 will have an historic opportunity to forge new and stronger links to Europe which can only help the United States face the challenges in the Middle East and beyond.

Much will depend on the new US President’s attitude toward global warming and whether or not the US will join the rest of the industrialized world in making a serious effort to combat it. Even more than the Iraq War, the biggest stumbling block to better relations between Europe’s “Big Three” of France, Germany, and Great Britain and America is the perception that America is ignoring what the Europeans see as the real dangers of climate change.

But at the same time, Europe fails to acknowledge that by far the biggest economic burdens to be born in the fight against global warming will be carried by the US economy and industries. Even modest efforts to cut emissions here in the US will mean tens of billions of dollars in lost economic activity and probably increased unemployment. And as long as China and India – the two biggest polluters on the planet – are exempt from any climate treaties, the US will probably refuse to take any meaningful steps to reduce their carbon footprint.

Clearly, the new US President and his counterparts in Europe will have their work cut out for them.

For Great Britain, it is almost a certainty that Blair’s deputy Gordon Brown will succeed him as Labour Party leader and Prime Minister. What kind of man is he? What is his attitude toward America and the “special relationship” enjoyed by the two countries?

I gave some background on Chancellor Brown last year when it first became apparent that Blair would leave before his term expired:

Asked during the General Election of 2005 what Britain would look like under a Brown Premiership, the Chancellor replied ‘more like America’. Brown is a passionate Americanist, having studied economics at MIT and regularly vacationing on the East Coast. American business practice is held in reverence by him. A consistent theme has emerged in Brown’s key economic speeches; he wants the British and European economy to become more like the United States. More competitive, entrepreneurial and dynamic, but combining free-market capitalism with social justice. The Chancellor’s first foray into foreign policy, last autumn, with a EU/G8 trip to Palestine, gives us an insight of Brown’s approach to international policy. Brown intends to bring his economic expertise to the aid of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, by attempting to reduce the poverty and unemployment experienced by Palestinians, which makes them ripe for transforming into Jihadists.

Mr. Brown has been a staunch supporter of the Iraq War and has praised America’s ‘courageous leadership’ in the fight against Islamist terrorism. There has never been a hint from his camp that he would have done things differently, and on several tense occasions when Mr. Blair has been under fire over Iraq, Mr. Brown has intervened to offer his backing.

Clearly, Brown is a man we can do business with. But it remains to be seen whether the new British Prime Minister will be able to create the same kind of productive partnership that his predecessor forged with George Bush. And there may be a feeling among some of Mr. Brown’s supporters that perhaps being so close to America is not such a good idea, that pulling away from the extraordinary and unique Anglo-American alliance that has dominated the world for a century may be politically smart and in the national interest as well.

I believe this would be a huge mistake. The US and Great Britain have steadfastly supported each other through some of the most turbulent times in world history. The alliance has benefited each country enormously both economically and strategically. We’ve had each other’s backs for more than 100 years – World Wars, the Cold War, Viet Nam, the Falklands, and now Iraq. We’ve assisted in peace efforts in Northern Ireland as well as using Britain’s good offices on more than one occasion when our diplomacy has been stuck in a rut. There is a symbiosis, a melding of interests between the two countries that would not be easily pried apart. And any effort to do so would not only affect our two countries, but also Europe and points beyond as well.

For these reasons, I feel confident Mr. Brown will resist calls to redefine our relationship and instead, try and establish that special bond with the American President – whoever it ends up being – that has been the hallmark of this, the most remarkable partnership the modern world knows. It has benefited both nations in the past. And I see no reason why it can’t be a plus in the future.


Blair announced he’s stepping down as party leader on June 27:

Tony Blair has announced he will stand down as prime minister on 27 June.
He made the announcement in a speech to party activists in his Sedgefield constituency, after earlier briefing the Cabinet on his plans.

He acknowledged his government had not always lived up to high expectations but said he had been very lucky to lead “the greatest nation on earth”.

He will stay on in Downing Street until the Labour Party elects a new leader – widely expected to be Gordon Brown.

(HT: Fausta)


Michelle Malkin rounds up react from the MSM as well as some interesting comments from British bloggers.

She also has an extended excerpt from one of Blair’s most eloquent speeches on the war.

By: Rick Moran at 7:26 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (9) Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with UK's Blair set to announce departure...

Say what you want to about those insufferably arrogant, lazy-ass Frenchmen. When it comes to Presidential elections, they have the right idea.

Turnout at an astonishing 85%. A relatively short campaign season. Lots of intrigue and backstabbing for us political junkies. The novelty of a woman heading up a major party’s ticket. Even the threat of violence from left wing loons following an election defeat which shows once again how the Euro-twits and socialists never tire of aping the tactics of their 1960’s ideological counterparts.

In fact, the winner of yesterday’s contest, Nicolas Sarkozy, made it a central theme of his campaign to once and for all rid French politics of the disease that infected the country in 1968. In May of that year, a series of student strikes led to a general strike that paralyzed many parts of the country. Despite the fact that the protests failed to change much of anything in French society and culture much less altering any of President DeGaulle’s policies, the battle cry “May ‘68” lives on in leftist legend much the same way the legend of Woodstock lives on in this country; as an iconic representation of a time and place that never was. Instead, those two events are treated by the left as talismans that are trotted out at regular intervals and lovingly stroked and fondled by those who see the “revolutionary spirit” or “spirit of Woodstock” as more important than any tangible benefit to society that accrued as a result of those events.

For the French, the legacy of May ‘68 has been devastating. It has led France down the primrose path of hard left socialism much to the detriment of the economy and culture. But beyond that, the infection has created the illusion that if only France were to pile more socialist experimentation on top of what has already been tried, the “spirit” of May ‘68 would become flesh and a socialist paradise would be created.

This political mindset permeated not only the hard left but also the soft right and moderates in France. To one degree or another, every French government for more than 35 years – left, right, or in between – has tried to keep faith with that revolutionary spirit.

Until today. President-elect Sarkozy has finally said “non” and vowed to change course nearly 180 degrees:

Mr. Sarkozy acknowledges he is now part of the elites of French society, but he pledges he will govern in a way that is beyond their interests. “If I’m elected,” he told reporters before yesterday’s balloting, “it won’t be the press, the polls, the elites. It will have been the people.” His clearest break with much of French elite opinion came last week when he made a dramatic speech about a “moral crisis” the nation entered in 1968, when the “moral and intellectual relativism” embodied by the 1968 student revolt that helped topple President Charles de Gaulle from power the next year. Today, many philosophers and media commentators routinely pay homage to “the élan of 1968” and lament that the revolutionary spirit of the time did not succeed in transforming bourgeois French society more than it did.

Mr. Sarkozy took on that ‘60s nostalgia. He labelled Ms. Royal and her supporters the descendants of the nihilists of 1968, and even appealed to France’s “silent majority” to repudiate the false lessons of that period. He claimed that too many Royal backers continue to hesitate in reacting against riots by “thugs, troublemakers and fraudsters.” He declared this Sunday’s election would settle the “question of whether the heritage of May ‘68 should be perpetuated or if it should be liquidated once and for all.”

It appears that Mr. Sarkozy may have found the ultimate “wedge” issue in France, judging by the solid margin he won many traditional working-class neighborhoods that normally support Socialist candidates. Mr. Sarkozy’s triumph provides at least a chance that there will be a real debate on the role of the state in France’s economy and, yes, even some discussion of whether France should be in perpetual conflict with America.

Can it be done? Can benefits and economic policies that have given the people of France an unprecedented amount of job security and leisure time not to mention the comfy, warm blanket of cradle-to-grave nanny state guarantees that government will always take care of its citizens actually be withdrawn at the behest of the people these programs and policies help the most?

It would be unprecedented in the history of Democratic states – at least to the degree that Sarkozy is talking about altering the social compact between citizen and government. And the reason he may succeed is the almost universal agreement among the voters (except the die hard left and anarchists) that the reforms Sarkozy is talking about are absolutely necessary if France is to find its way back to economic greatness:

Mr Sarkozy delivered a lyrical victory speech, voicing his love for “this great and beautiful nation which has given me everything”. He promised to be “the president of all the French” and fulfill his promise of immediate radical reform.

“The French have chosen to break with the ideas, habits and behaviour of the past,” he said. “I will restore the value of work, authority, merit and respect for the nation.”

He would also rid France of its habit of “repenting” for its past historical sins. “This repentance is a form of self-hatred,” he said.

What Sarkozy proposes is nothing less than an “Americanization” of the French economy and a Reaganesque revival of national self-confidence. The new French President has continuously gotten into trouble at home with the Yankophobes by expressing his admiration for the American system as well as his desire to repair the almost shattered relations between the two countries – a state of affairs that hurts the national interest of both nations. The French can be extraordinarily trying as an ally. But their positions directly opposing many American initiatives in the international arena has been a disaster for our foreign policy. Like it or not, the French are still a major power with influence over most of their former colonies as well as a large segment of the Third World who view the French as something of a champion. Even a modest improvement in relations would be a boon to American interests.

From what I’ve seen of Sarkozy, I like. He seems straightforward, down to earth, and something of an idealist. After 12 years of the cynical Chiraq, he’s like a breath of fresh air. Whether he succeeds or not depends on how he handles the coming painful transition to economic sanity that will almost surely roil the streets of France, setting off massive demonstrations against his program. And it’s almost a dead certainty that his “law and order” program will not sit well with the immigrant communities – particularly the Muslim ghettoes where unrest is almost a nightly occurrence.

In his favor, the people of France seem to have spoken fairly convincingly that they want reform. But it will take all of his skills as a politician and communicator to turn his ideas into reality without shattering French society in the process.

It should be interesting to watch.

By: Rick Moran at 9:14 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (9) Political News and Blog Aggregator linked with U.S. Hails Sarkozy's Election in France...
The Thunder Run linked with Web Reconnaissance for 05/07/2007...

It appears that the hostage crisis in Iran is over. President Ahmadinejad has “pardoned” the British sailors and has given them back to Britain as a “gift:”

During his press conference taking place right now, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has just announced that he has “pardoned” the British marines and sailors and that they will be released as a “gift” to Britain. (Sky News live broadcast, no link)

The presser is still going on as I speak, although I wouldn’t necessarily call it a press conference since, as is his wont, the talkative Ahmadiinejad is apparently asking and answering his own questions. And being a long winded sort of fellow, the hostages may be in for a long wait for freedom:

Iran is to free the 15 UK sailors and marines taken captive in the Shatt al Arab waterway as a “gift” to Britain.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the group would be released promptly and handed over to the British embassy in Tehran.

He said he had pardoned the sailors as a gift to the British people and to mark the birthday of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed and Easter.

He made the pledge after awarding medals to the “brave” border guards who arrested the Britons.

“I would like to thank the Iranian coast guard for courgeously defending our Iranian territorial waters,” he said.

He then pinned medals on the chests of three Coast Guard officers. The ceremony was performed during a broadcast broadcast around the world.

While the release of the hostages is welcome news (and I doubt that Blair would turn them away no matter what Ahmadinejad had made them out to be), the Iranian president’s “pardon” of the sailors is hugely significant. It presupposes that the sailors had done something wrong in the first place – an idea directly at odds with what the British government has been saying since the crisis began. In the end, Ahmadinejad found a way to humiliate the Brits while coming out smelling like a rose himself thanks to his “Easter gift” to the British people.

I realize that this is news and must be covered. I also realize that reporters sitting in Tehran are not about to get up and call out the Iranians on this shameless, nauseating piece of propaganda.

But the commentary I’m hearing on the voice over from Skye News is unbelievable. No mention that this is so obvious a propaganda dog and pony show. No comment about what a “pardon” for people who have done nothing wrong might mean. And certainly nothing about how this has placed Ahmadinejad on the top of the heap once again in Iran.

For the last 3 or 4 days, some of the less fanatical leaders in Iran (I will not refer to them as “moderates” or “pragmatists” which makes a mockery of the English language in so doing) shoved Ahmadinejad and his radical brethren to the sidelines in this dispute, working the phones and trying to get the British to agree to some kind of language where the Brits would admit to violating Iranian territorial waters without actually saying so. And they seemed to be making some progress.

And then, out of the clear blue, Ahmadinejad grabs the bull by the horns and “pardons” them all and then pins medals on the border guards who kidnapped the sailors illegally in the first place. Hard to beat that kind of chutzpah. In one fell swoop, he has scored an incredible propaganda victory for the regime, making them look like reasonable human beings instead of the drooling fanatics they are portrayed as being. And he has humiliated one of the great powers of Europe, making them accept his definition of what happened and acquiescing in his “pardon” of the innocent sailors. Ahmadinejad even managed to go over the heads of the British government by offering the sailors as a “gift” to the British people – no doubt many of whom will be eternally grateful that the thug didn’t torture and behead them while they were in his custody.

The effect of these gestures was to cut the less fanatical mullahs off at the knees, leaving them looking like idiots for trying to get the Brits to agree to language that would have been problematic in the extreme when all Ahmadinejad had to do to get exactly the same result was unilaterally declare the Brits in the wrong by pardoning the sailors.

Pretty brilliant stuff.

I have no doubt this has emboldened Ahmadinejad and his radical brethren although they’d be daft to try something like this on the United States. More likely, Iran will continue to probe the periphery of the west, searching for weakness and exploiting it when they can. Clearly, they are now big-time players in the Middle East – something they have been pointing to since long before our invasion of Iraq – and will either cause our allies to buckle and try and make the best accommodations possible with Tehran or they will look to the US for assistance.

Given the ever more strident calls for our leaving Iraq to the tender mercies of those allied with Tehran in the first place, I doubt whether our allies in the region are feeling encouraged today.


Ed Morrissey, celebrating the return home of his beloved First Mate following kidney transplant surgery, takes a slightly less optimistic view of the Iranian victory:

Ahmadinejad makes the most out of the reversal. Facing the threat of a blockade if Iran pressed this any further, he gets to look magnanimous while still maintaining the notion that he could have tried the sailors for espionage, even while dressed in uniform. It’s a net win, allowing the Iranians to feel as though they won a tactical victory while avoiding having to back up their rhetoric with action.

Whether this is a win for Tony Blair remains to be seen. He stuck with negotiations and got the 15 back, and he didn’t have to apologize for a violation that never occurred. On the surface, it looks great—an end to the crisis without a shot being fired. It’s what happened below the surface and behind the scenes that will determine how Blair fared against Ahmadinejad. What did the British have to give up in order to get their personnel back?

First, it would have taken a helluva lot of provocation for the Brits to have instituted (or asked our help in instituting) a blockade. I don’t think that was ever a serious option as long as the Iranians didn’t put the sailors on trial.

Secondly, few questions will be asked of Blair about the resolution of this crisis. As Ed says, he got them home and nobody died. No doubt the left in Britain will trumpet this “victory” and compare it unfavorably to something the US may have done. But because they have the introspective capabilities of a three toed sloth, the British left will fail to realize that Ahmadinejad has forced the Brits to tacitly admit that everything the Iranians said about the sailors was true; that they were spying, they were in Iranian waters deliberately, and that the British government is a bunch of liars for trying to say differently.

But hey! Nobody died!

And Allah sees the pardon as a sign of weakness on Ahmadinejad’s part:

The fact that they let/made Ahmadinejad make the announcement smacks of a face-saving gesture. According to the Times, Ahmadinejad’s hardliners were split with the pragmatists about how far to pursue confrontation here. You may remember the Times of London claimed a few days ago that the hardliners themselves were split, with the head of the Revolutionary Guard advocating that the sailors be freed. Sounds like “Mahdi” and his crew lost the debate but Khamenei threw him a bone by letting him look powerful and magnanimous by framing the release as a presidential pardon. The fact that it’s a pardon also assumes that a crime was committed, of course, which is another face-saving gesture.

The question now, given the de facto prisoner exchange yesterday involving that Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Iraq, is how much Britain — or we — gave up to make this happen.

Allah points to a report out of Iran that apparently we are going to allow an Iranian diplomat to look in on the Rev guards we captured at Irbil a few weeks ago.

“Quid pro quo, Clarice…”?

By: Rick Moran at 9:38 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (10)

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It’s been nearly 35 years since the United States negotiated an end to the Viet Nam War. There have been several excellent chronicles of those negotiations most notably, Henry Kissinger’s massive The White House Years gives an obviously self-serving but nevertheless fascinating account of the personalities and twists and turns that led to peace.

For my money, Larry Berman’s No Peace, No Honor is a much livelier read, very critical of Kissinger, and surprisingly harsh on the North Vietnamese.

Both Kissinger and Berman make one thing clear: Following the signing of that agreement, the Soviets, the Chinese, and the North broke both the spirit and letter of the treaty almost immediately. The Soviets and Chinese sent massive amounts of aid to North Viet Nam in direct violation of the accords. And immediately after releasing our prisoners, the North began a buildup in the South, transferring units and supplies to positions in South Vietnamese territory, contravening the stipulation in the agreement that they not reinforce their forces on territory they occupied in the South.

It didn’t matter anyway. South Viet Nam was doomed the day that the US agreed to allow the North’s troops to maintain their positions in the country, something Berman points out and adds that Kissinger knew full well the fate of the South was sealed once the US left.

And now, 30 years later, the United States has once again made an agreement with the Vietnamese Communists. This time, we have sacrificed a nascent democratic reform movement in exchange for some short term political capital at home.

In exchange for our helping Viet Nam achieve membership in the World Trade Organization, the Communists promised to open their society ever so slightly by not cracking down on dissidents and releasing some of those already detained.

Will we ever learn?

It is being characterized by international rights groups as Vietnam’s biggest crackdown on political dissent in more than 20 years. And the intensifying harassment and growing number of detentions are fast sapping the life out of the country’s nascent but bold democratic-reform movement that the US tacitly supports.

Last month, Vietnamese police arrested Catholic priest and democracy activist Nguyen Van Ly on charges that he attempted to undermine the government through the establishment of an independent political organization. Ly is a founding member of Bloc 8406, a budding pro-democracy movement launched publicly last April that has called for more democracy and rights. He and two other Bloc 8406 members have been permitted only state-appointed legal counsel and face trial on Friday.

On March 6, police arrested and jailed human-rights lawyers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan on criminal charges that they had propagandized against the state. The authorities early last month detained Dang Thang Tien, spokesman for the Vietnam Progression Party, one of a handful of small opposition parties that have been established over the past year. On February 3, engineer and democracy activist Bach Ngoc Duong was arrested, beaten and even strangled during interrogations, according to dissident groups. They all face jail sentences of up to 20 years if convicted on anti-state charges.

As this analysis from the Asia Times makes clear, Viet Nam is spitting in our face as they round up advocates for democracy who have bravely stood up to Hanoi’s oppression:

The hard-knuckled crackdown coincides with Vietnam’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), of which it became an official member on January 11. It’s now brutally apparent that the new, younger generation of communist leaders who took power last year from their war-hardened revolutionary predecessors have no intention of coupling their impressive economic-reform drive with complementing political reforms.

Moreover, the mounting crackdown represents a deliberate diplomatic slight to the United States, which was instrumental in brokering Hanoi’s highly coveted WTO membership. Washington’s support for Hanoi’s WTO bid was predicated on the Communist Party substantially improving its human-rights record, which includes the detention in abysmal prison conditions of hundreds of political and religious activists.

During last year’s negotiations, the Vietnamese government agreed to release a handful of high-profile political prisoners identified by Washington, but simultaneously detained dozens of other democracy activists, journalists, cyber-dissidents and Christian activists. Nonetheless, US President George W Bush’s commercially oriented administration agreed to remove Vietnam from its watch list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC), above the protests of religious-freedom organizations and exiled Vietnamese democracy groups, and successfully lobbied Congress to grant Vietnam Permanent Normal Trade Relations status last December.

Prior to Bush’s trip last November, the Republicans stalled the Viet Nam trade bill in Congress, somewhat of an embarrassment for the President who hoped to hold the trade agreement up at the Asian Economic Summit he was attending as a sign of progress in the region.

The Administration argued unsuccessfully that “normal” trade status was the best way of getting Viet Nam to abide by international trade rules, including bans on copyright piracy – a particular concern given the cheap knockoffs produced in Viet Nam of American movies, CD’s, and other intellectual property. This is a huge business for Viet Nam, as they sell the knockoffs all over Asia raking in billions and costing the American entertainment and software industries hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties. The trade bill eventually passed in December.

But Vietnamese perfidy with regards to their human rights crackdown has hardly raised an eyebrow in Washington. Despite protests and entreaties by Vietnamese exile groups, the issue of Viet Nam’s backsliding hasn’t gotten much support in Congress:

Republican Congressman Chris Smith, who in the past has met with Ly, Dai and scores of other Vietnamese dissidents, recently introduced a resolution in Congress that condemns the attacks and calls for the unconditional release of jailed dissidents and warns that ongoing harassment, detentions and arrests will harm the broadening ties with the US. The resolution also aims to put Vietnam back on the US State Department’s rights-related CPC list.

In a press conference, Smith referred to the jailed dissidents as the future “Vaclav Havels of Vietnam”, a reference to the Czech dissident playwright who became a democratic symbol across former communist-controlled Eastern Europe. Yet so far Smith’s remains a lonely voice in the diplomatic wilderness. President Bush has remained conspicuously mum on the crackdown, presumably because it represents such a clear-cut failure of his administration’s engagement policy toward Vietnam, which from the start prioritized commercial and security concerns over democracy promotion.

So much for those grand words uttered in his second inaugural address about there being “no justice without freedom.” I guess Bush should have added “unless there are markets to be opened for American businesses.”

Viet Nam’s Communists have proved once again that they cannot be trusted to keep an agreement. It remains to be seen whether anyone in Washington will hear the cries of the oppressed and stop handling these brutes with kid gloves.

By: Rick Moran at 5:51 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)


The British hostage “crisis” is proving to be a real eye opener both for London’s allies and any potential adversary. In fact, in some ways the British response to this outrageous and provocative act of war by Iran has been truly frightening – a sense that for a variety of reasons, the British people and their government are sleepwalking through history, living a dream that reality cannot intrude upon.

Reading the British papers, an American is struck by the fact that there is very little outrage among most of the population – at least as it is reported. Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips has noticed the same thing:

Yet in its response to these events, Britain seems to be in some kind of dreamworld. There is no sense of urgency or crisis, no outpouring of anger. There seems to be virtually no grasp of what is at stake.

Some commentators have languidly observed that in another age this would have been regarded as an act of war. What on earth are they talking about? It is an act of war. There can hardly be a more blatant act of aggression than the kidnapping of another country’s military personnel.

What clearly does belong to another age is this country’s ability to understand the proper way to respond to an act of war. When his Marines were seized by the Iranians, the commander of HMS Cornwall, Commodore Nick Lambert, did nothing to stop them and later said it was probably all a misunderstanding. If Nelson had been such a diplomat in such circumstances, Trafalgar would surely have been lost.

The reaction brings to mind the London bombings on 7/7/05. I wrote something similar at that time:

From much of the reaction I’ve seen, with the exception of most politicians (who will probably wait until after the funerals to begin their Bush-Blair bashing) the reaction of the average Brit has underwhelmed me and left me with a sense that the Great Britain of today is a far cry from the Great Britain of my father’s day.

Would the British population of today stood up to Hitler? Would they have stuck with Churchill? Or would they have accepted Hitler’s “peace” offer that the Nazi dictator gave prior to the start of the Battle of Britain which guaranteed British sovereignty?

The Brits back then didn’t even bother to respond. In fact, the BBC gave an eloquent response rejecting Hitler’s offer without even consulting the government. Now that was a spirit of resistance.

It’s clear to me that something has gone out of Great Britain in the last decade or so. I am not accusing them of cowardice. Rather it appears to be a disease infecting most of the western world; a curious, debilitating loss of faith in the beliefs and values that animated the west for nearly 4 centuries. Some of those beliefs were pernicious to be sure; a feeling of superiority over the benighted savages in Africa and Asia, a nauseating self righteousness that allowed all sorts of despicable practices like slavery and colonialism to become commonplace, and a moral blindness regarding the effect of many of our policies on the developing world.

But dwelling on the sins of the west ignores the truly remarkable achievements that have accrued to all of humanity as a result of western dominance of the planet. People are living longer and healthier lives despite widespread poverty. Many diseases that scourged the world for centuries – smallpox, malaria, polio, to name a few – have been wiped out or dramatically decreased. Literacy is commonplace. Agriculture has been revolutionized. Communications, travel, education – all have been transformed in third world societies as a direct result of contact with western nations.

But the deadening effect of the guilt ridden western left that so dominates the media and culture in Europe and America have so cowed the leadership, the opinion makers, and ordinary citizens that even when attacked, people sit and wonder if they are at fault for “provoking” such an act.

Ms. Phillips sees an even more immediate and specific cause of Britain’s lack of outrage:

Twenty-five years ago, we re-took the Falklands after the Argentines invaded. Faced with an act of war against our dependency, Mrs Thatcher had no hesitation. Aggression had to be fought and our people defended. It was the right thing to do.

Can anyone imagine Mrs T wringing her hands in this way over Iran’s seizure of our Marines?

True, we are now living in very different times. Personally, I supported the Iraq war, and still do. But the undoubted mistakes and disasters made by the coalition since the fall of Saddam have caused this country to throw up its hands over the whole issue of aggression by the Arab and Muslim world.

As a result, many in Britain are failing to see the big picture. Iraq is merely one theatre in a global war which threatens us and in which Iran is a major player.

And Arthur Herman is even more blunt:

Britain has been an exception. In places like Bosnia and the Persian Gulf, and in operations like Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, its help has been solid and genuine, as well as important in a symbolic sense. America always looks better when a couple of frigates flying the Royal Navy’s White Ensignare side by side with those flying the Stars and Stripes. U.S. sailors also know that in a real fight, the men of the Royal Navy, which our navy men still call the “Senior Service,” will never let them down.

That contribution has never been vital to America – yet it was a badge of honor for Britain. It had echoes of past glory as an empire, of course, but also of Britain’s historic role as protector of a civilized and stable world order, and specifically the role of the Royal Navy. The British navy had wiped out the slave trade; it had single-handedly defied tyrants from Louis XIV and Napoleon to Hitler; and it served as midwife to the ideas of free trade and the balance of power.

Now those days are gone for good. Yet, if today’s Britons thought that by shedding that historic responsibility they could buy themselves some peace of mind, the current hostage crisis has just proved them wrong

What will it take for Britain and the rest of the western world to wake up? A better question might be is there anything that will accomplish that goal? Have Britain and Europe fallen into a permanent stupor, a languid state of denial and equivocation that will spell the end of the great alliance between America and Europe, allowing the enemies of democracy to simply grow themselves into a majority?

A change of course is desperately needed. Who will lead it and will the people follow are two questions that, at present, cannot be answered with any confidence much less certainty.

By: Rick Moran at 11:47 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (29)

The Thunder Run linked with Web Reconnaissance for 03/29/2007