Showing posts with label International-Government. Show all posts
Showing posts with label International-Government. Show all posts

May 9, 2016

Israeli General Accuses Gov of Fear Mongering Coming out of Holocaust Day

Moshe Yaalon (L) at cabinet meeting on 10 April
Mr Yaalon said senior officers should be able to provide a moral compass for their troops

Maj-Gen Yair Golan said on the eve of Thursday's annual Holocaust Day that he detected trends in Israeli society suggestive of "nauseating processes" that occurred in 1930s Nazi Germany. 
Mr Netanyahu said the comments were outrageous, cheapened the Holocaust and caused harm to Israel. 
Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said he had "total confidence" in Gen Golan.
"If there's something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance it's the recognition of the nauseating processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then - 70, 80 and 90 years ago - and finding signs of them here among us today in 2016," the deputy chief of staff said on Wednesday.
"There is, after all, nothing easier and simpler than hating the foreigner... arousing fears and terrifying."
But Mr Netanyahu said Gen Golan's remarks were "utterly mistaken and unacceptable to me".
"The comparison drawn in the words of the deputy chief of staff regarding events which characterised Nazi Germany 80 years ago is outrageous," he said.
“They do injustice to Israeli society and cause a belittling of the Holocaust." 
Correspondents say right-wing members of Mr Netanyahu's coalition have called for Gen Golan's resignation, accusing him of dishonouring the dead.
But Defence Minister Yaalon said the criticism was an attempt to cause political harm to the military.
"The attacks against [Gen Golan] and the current criticism against him are deliberate distortions of interpretation of the things he said last night," he added.
The remarks come at a time of heightened tension between Israelis and Palestinians.
A wave of stabbing, shooting and car-ramming attacks by Palestinians and Israeli Arabs over the past eight months have left 29 Israelis dead.
More than 200 Palestinians - mostly attackers, Israel says - have also been killed in that period.
There has been debate and controversy over Israelis' response to the attacks.
In March, an Israeli soldier was filmed shooting dead a wounded Palestinian. He has been charged with manslaughter.
There has been some public sympathy for the soldier but Mr Yaalon backed the military establishment in prosecuting him.
In October last year, an Eritrean immigrant was shot and beaten to death by an angry crowd after being mistaken for an Arab militant in the town of Beersheba, prompting concern about mob reactions to people thought to be suspicious.

November 6, 2014

The Revolution is Over in Iran

FROM THE MOUNTAINS of the Caucasus to the waters of the Indian Ocean, Iranians are watching intently as their government haggles with foreign powers over trade sanctions imposed to restrain its nuclear programme. Pointing to a corner of his office, the owner of a struggling cannery says: “See that television set? I watch it hour by hour, hoping for news that sanctions will be lifted.”
Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only. The West, not unreasonably, fears that Iran is building a bomb. In the hope of preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, America and its allies have made it very difficult for Iran to engage in international commerce. The country’s oil exports have dwindled to half their former level. The Iranian government, for its part, has broken a habit of a lifetime and publicly held detailed discussions with countries it regards as hostile, including America. As this special report will explain, its motives are internal as much as external. All sides are keen to find a solution to this long-running stand-off. A deadline of November 24th has been set. An agreement to shackle the nuclear programme would have wide-ranging geopolitical consequences and could push Iran further towards modernity.

For now, Iran is disliked and mistrusted across much of the democratic world. Terrible things have been done in the name of its revolution. Some of its leaders have denied the Holocaust. They have locked up and tortured citizens who dared to challenge them openly. The country really could be set on having a bomb. But while the world has been cut off from Iran, it has failed to notice how much Iranians have changed. No longer is the country seething with hatred and bent on destruction. Instead, the revolution has sunk into the disillusion and distractions of middle age. This is not always a nice place, perhaps, but not a Satanic one, either.
To be sure, Iran is hard to fathom. It often makes visitors feel unwelcome. Journalists who have been able to obtain a precious visa still leave with a sense of uncertainty as few Iranians feel free to speak their mind. For years the government even refused to share information with the World Bank. John Limbert, an American diplomat held hostage in Tehran in 1979 who served his country until 2010, points out that “almost nobody in Washington has been to Iran in decades.”
Yet the country has unmistakably changed. The regime may remain suspicious of the West, and drone on about seeding revolutions in oppressor countries, but the revolutionary fervour and drab conformism have gone. Iran is desperate to trade with whomever will buy its oil. Globalisation trumps puritanism even here.
Revolution as a political lodestar has a limited shelf life. Adam Michnik, a historian who helped to overthrow the Soviets in Poland, once said: “Revolutions have two phases: first comes a struggle for freedom, then a struggle for power. The first makes the human spirit soar and brings out the best in people. The second unleashes the worst: envy, intrigue, greed, suspicion and the urge for revenge.” Iran followed this pattern. First came courageous street protests during the 1979 revolution, then the infighting started. Thousands were executed, properties were seized, bread was short.
Colour me mellow
Arguably, there is a third phase to a revolution: the struggle for acceptance. Once power is secure, revolutionaries often seek recognition by strong outsiders. In a globalised world, that means engaging with the great trading countries. Children of Iranian revolutionaries have long followed this path. Privilege for them equals access to Western education and Asian consumer markets. Even hardliners allow their children to jet around the world. The offspring of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the revolution, have flocked to Instagram and embrace Western mores. Seven of his 15 grandchildren have openly criticised the regime. Many of the students who took American diplomats hostage 35 years ago have become reformists and wish to see closer ties with the West. Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, who was one of their spokesmen and then served on Tehran’s city council, now says: “I no longer take radical actions and I believe gradual reforms last longer than radical change.”
The appetite for revolution has waned on all sides. Reformists are tired after their failed attempt in 2009 to push aside a government they considered illegitimate because the vote was rigged. Protests were put down bloodily, reminding many of the unhappy years after the revolution. Since then, reformists have recoiled at political bloodshed in neighbouring countries. Conservatives, for their part, have come to see revolution as a threat to their interests abroad; regimes they fostered in Iraq and Syria are fighting rebellions not unlike Iran’s home-grown one in 1979. “The Arab spring fallout has scared everyone,” says a Western diplomat in Tehran. “Iran is now a bastion of stability. The question of the validity of the regime has been settled.”
Many regard the nuclear programme as a symbol of national strength at a time of perplexing social changes
Yet although revolutionary fervour has waned, Iran’s 1979 revolution itself remains a source of legitimacy for the regime. Many Iranians, or at least the ethnic Persian majority among them, continue to associate it with national liberation from foreign oppression. Not being Arab, Turkic or South Asian, they feel friendless among their neighbours. This is vital to understanding Iranian foreign policy and helps explain why the nuclear programme enjoys widespread popular support despite the pain that the sanctions have inflicted. Many regard it as a symbol of national strength at a time of perplexing social changes. This special report will examine the effect of those changes on Iran’s politics, its economy and its place in the world.
Hardliners have long railed against “Westoxification” (the title of a book by Jalal Al-e Ahmad, published in 1962), yet in their daily lives they are now surrounded by Western consumer goods, computer games, beauty ideals, gender roles and many other influences. Iranian culture has not disappeared, but the traditional society envisaged by the fathers of the revolution is receding ever further.
The most visible shift is in public infrastructure. Tehran, the capital, is a tangle of new tunnels, bridges, overpasses, elevated roads and pedestrian walkways. Shiny towers rise in large numbers, despite the sanctions. Screens at bus stops display schedules in real time. Jack Straw, a former British foreign minister and a regular visitor, says that “Tehran looks and feels these days more like Madrid and Athens than Mumbai or Cairo.”
Smaller Iranian cities have changed even more. Tabriz, Shiraz and Isfahan are working on underground railways. Half the traditional bathhouses in Qazvin, an industrial town west of Tehran, have closed in recent years. In a basement with a domed ceiling built 350 years ago, the forlorn manager sweeps around two kittens and bemoans the loss of a 700-year-old competitor, musing that “people now have bathrooms with hot running water.” In Yalayesh, a remote village near the Caspian sea, entertainment remains old-fashioned: a Kurdish strongman, Ismail the Hero, shows off a lion in a cage on the back of his blue truck. Still, two years ago the government finished piping natural gas into every house, making winters with temperatures of -20ºC “tolerable for the first time”, says a spectator.
During the eight-year presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which ended in 2013, prosperity spread rapidly. Loans, handouts and social-housing programmes, however corrupt and ineptly run, showered billions of oil dollars on the poor. Many found white-collar jobs in government agencies. The middle class ballooned. Villagers streamed into Tehran to buy property as GDP per person rose from $4,400 in 1993 to $13,200 last year (at purchasing-power parity). Despite the sanctions, Iran does not look like beleaguered Cuba; people drive new sedans made locally, not 1950s Chevrolets. Life became harder when sanctions were tightened in 2011, but even now Iranians live much better than most of their neighbours.
Prosperity has inspired an obsession with technology that restrictions on internet access cannot dampen. Facebook is the primary medium for half the country’s youth and Twitter is used by officials to put out statements—never mind that both are banned. Freedom House, an American human-rights lobby, ranks Iran last in the world in terms of internet freedom, but in reality access is cheap and fast. (The fastest speeds are achieved near seminaries, since clerics preach online and get priority on fibre-optic cables.)
Although the media are controlled by the state, uncensored news is easily available. Foreign websites like Tehran Bureau, based in London, fill the gaps. Iranians access them using virtual private networks (VPN). Almost everybody has one. Sitting under a tree in the Alborz mountains, a group of farmers nod cautiously when asked about internet access. One of them explains later that most download “sexy films”, hence the shy response. Pornography, although strictly banned, blazes a trail for freedom.
“The government tries to put up controls, but people are well versed in evading them,” says one of Iran’s first bloggers. A lot of effort has gone into trying to mimic China’s strategy of nurturing local websites that can be controlled, such as, a search engine. But most of these have failed spectacularly because access to superior foreign competitors is easy. So-called VPNtrepreneurs sell the software and access codes to bypass controls. A 21-year-old wearing cordless headphones says he charges a dollar a month or $10 a year and has 80,000 clients. His day job at an IT company is a cover. Occasionally he pays the cyber-police a few hundred dollars in bribes.
The hunger for free information is fuelled by rising education levels, which are now comparable to those in Western countries. In 2009, 34% of Iranians in the relevant age group went to university. Three years later the number had gone up to 55% and is said to have climbed further since then, mostly thanks to the huge expansion of Azad University, which now has over 100 campuses and 1.5m students. Iran’s cabinet has more members with PhDs from American universities than that of America itself; the president, Hassan Rohani, got his in Scotland. According to SCImago, a Spanish firm that monitors academic journals, Iran’s scientific output has increased by 575% in the past decade. The country also publishes three times more books than all Arab nations combined.
The vastly expanded education system, which makes particular efforts to reach poor and rural families, has acted as a catalyst for independent thinking. The art world has opened up. Film scripts still require approval, but religious themes have faded. Culture is no longer a mere propaganda tool.
One of the knock-on effects of these social changes has been a demographic shift. Iran is fast becoming a middle-aged country (see chart 1). After the revolution the birth rate soared, but as Iranians became more prosperous and educated it started falling and eventually dropped below pre-revolution levels. The size of the population has doubled since the 1980s but the number of births has halved. There are no reliable figures, but experts put it at 1.6-1.9 children per woman, broadly in line with European rates. In neighbouring Iraq it is 3.5. The calming impact on politics is unmistakable. The largest age bracket now is 25- to 29-year-olds. Soon most of them will be married and lose interest in street protests.
Nor are they much interested in religion (see article). The majority of Iranians are Shia Muslims; they generally put less emphasis on public worship than Sunnis, but that alone cannot explain the many empty mosques. Friday prayers at Tehran University—often the place for ideological pontificating by clerical leaders—are well attended, but in the provinces it is different. Few believers turn up in the main mosque in Zanjan, a soaring concrete structure with double-glazed windows and powerful air-conditioning near the Azeri border.
All these social changes have had a palpable effect on Iranian politics. In the presidential election last year most of the debate was focused on which candidate was the better manager, even among conservatives. Few tried to bring in religion, which was seen as a vote-loser. Nasser Hadian, an academic and government adviser, says that “ideology has been losing its potency in domestic politics.” Ten-storey-high murals showing martyred fighters still stare down from the façades of prominent buildings, but Iranians are generally fed up with mass mobilisation and indoctrination, and most of them prize individualism above public duty. The death-loving idealism of the past has become a minority interest.
The winner of last year’s election, Mr Rohani, is pursuing a moderate agenda. His government is staffed by pragmatic technocrats rather than messianic nationalists. It has allowed Iran’s people more freedom, though many restrictions remain. As one local journalist puts it, “We can now print things that were off-limits last year, but of course not everything.” Headscarves have crept backwards, yet women who discard them altogether may still be detained by the “morality police”.
Mr Rohani seems to recognise that past belligerence has hurt Iran. In an article in the Washington Post last year he wrote: “We must work together to end the unhealthy rivalries and interferences that fuel violence and drive us apart.” But does he mean it, and if so, will the rest of the political establishment support him?

May 5, 2013

UK } Nigel Evans Held on Suspicion on Raping Another Man

 The Conservative MP and deputy speaker of the Commons, Nigel Evans, was arrested yesterday at his cottage in Lancashire on suspicion of rape and sexual assault. Forensic teams searched the property, in the village of Pendleton, and Mr Evans was then questioned at Preston police station before being released on bail.

The 55-year-old MP, who came out as gay in 2010, is accused of raping a man and sexually assaulting a second man between July 2009 and March this year. The attacks are alleged to have taken place against men in their 20s. He has represented the safe Conservative seat of Ribble Valley for 21 years. Both the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and Speaker of the Commons, John Bercow, were immediately informed of Mr Evans's arrest.
The MP, who also has a home in east London, was born in Swansea, the son of a newsagent, and has held a variety of government posts in the course of his career. He was a parliamentary private secretary to several senior ministers in John Major's government, including employment secretary David Hunt, and William Hague. He has since held a series of senior roles in the party, including vice-chairman in 2004. He is a noted global-warming sceptic, and has been a consistent opponent of the minimum wage.
Councillor Terry Hill, deputy chairman of the Ribble Valley Conservative Association, said: "I have just heard the news. I am in complete and utter shock.
"People are innocent until proven guilty, but I'm sure that discussions will take place pretty quickly to decide what reaction [the association] gives."
Brian Binley, Tory MP for Northampton South, said: "I know him to be caring, compassionate and in no way would he inflict himself violently on any other person. I just hope and pray that this thing is cleared up sooner rather than later."
Mr Evans came out as a gay in 2010 in an interview with The Mail on Sunday, saying that he was "tired of living a lie". The MP said he had been persuaded to go public after a conversation at a party with the Coronation Street actress Vicky Entwistle, who lives in his Lancashire constituency. "Vicky and I went for a drink after the party and she said to me, 'You're gay, aren't you?' It's a subject I avoid usually but Vicky is very natural and I told her I was," he said. "I thought to myself, 'I am now telling people I am gay – it's time I did something about it and told everyone.'"
Mr Evans said he had been inspired by the rugby union player Gareth Thomas, a fellow Welshman, who had come out a few months previously. "If people like Gareth, who was married, can come out, it should be no big deal for me," he said. Mr Evans claims that he had been challenged by an unnamed Labour MP to go public with his sexuality, reportedly with the threat that he would be exposed otherwise, before coming out.
The MP's parents ran a corner shop on a council estate in Swansea, South Wales, while he was growing up. Mr Evans joined the Conservative Party aged 17 and served as a local councillor in West Glamorgan. He had lost elections in Swansea West and Pontypridd before taking on his current constituency of Ribble Valley. He lost a by-election there in 1991 but won the seat from the Lib Dems the following year at the general election. He has held the seat comfortably since, and at the last general election increased his majority.
A spokesman for Lancashire Police said: "We take all allegations of a sexual nature extremely seriously and understand how difficult it can be for alleged victims to have the confidence to come forward."
Mr Evans has been bailed to return before police on 19 June.

May 3, 2013

Venezuela’s National Aseembly Had a Brawl } We Are Waiting for US Congress to Join One of These Days. At Least The’ll be doing Something

 Republicans and Democrats aren’t coming to blows. Check out the wild brawl that broke out on Tuesday in Venezuela’s National Assembly.
This isn’t the first time Venezuelan elected officials have engaged in fisticuffs — check out these parliamentary brawlers in 2011.
There’s nothing better than a good parliamentary brawl. Point of order? Yes, um, PUNCH. Ukraine likes to brawl. South Korea likes to brawl. Venezuela, as we said, likes to brawl! In Romania people just like to jump off balconies.
After the fight, opposition lawmaker Julio Borges arrived with a bruised face to his political party’s headquarters. Nasty wounds.
Julio Borges
AP Photo/Fernando Llano
The Guardian has more on the cause of this week’s fight:
The opposition said seven of its parliamentarians were attacked and hurt when protesting against a measure that blocks them from speaking in the National Assembly because they have refused to recognise Nicolás Maduro’s 14 April election as president.
Government legislators blamed their “fascist” rivals for starting the violence, which illustrated the volatile state of politics after the death of socialist leader Hugo Chávez in March.
“We knew the opposition came to provoke violence,” Maduro said of the incident. “This must not be repeated.”
The 50-year-old Maduro, who was Chávez’s chosen successor, defeated opposition candidate Henrique Capriles by 1.5 percentage points. Capriles, 40, has refused to recognise his victory, alleging that thousands of irregularities occurred and the vote was “stolen”. The election exposed a nation evenly divided after 14 years of Chávez’s hardline socialist rule.
Wild stuff from Venezuela. We’ll update when we have more …


April 7, 2013

Health Care in Russia Has Two Parts,Uppers and Crisis Downers

Russian Hospitals Face Drastic Shortage of Anesthetics: Report

When citizens become patients, the country's growing economic divide is painfully evident.
miss the video at the end of the page
Irina, an elegant 70-year-old pensioner with a shock of white hair, sporting modest makeup and a smart black coat, cut a peculiar figure behind the wheel of a taxi on Moscow’s snowy roads this month.
A widow, Irina says that cab fares are the only way she can make enough money to get treatment for her daughter. She brushes away tears with apparent embarrassment as she explains that her divorced 33-year-old daughter, a German-Russian translator, has advanced leukemia and urgently requires a blood transfusion to replace platelets in her blood stream.
“I am not getting out of this car until I have 5000 rubles,” Irina says. “That’s what it costs for a donor for a single day. They say that if she doesn’t get this blood, it will be too late and the illness will become irreversible. This is quite literally a matter of life and death.” 

Irina gets a monthly pension of 13,000 rubles as a former civil servant who retired from the Foreign Ministry a decade ago. She says she has no one to turn to for help. 
“If anyone tries to tell me that we have good medical health care, what can I say? It is bad. Where can I get 5,000 rubles in a day? Tell me — where?”
She declines to give her surname or be photographed out of apparent shame for herself and her daughter. “I’m not healthy either," she says. "I am disabled and I have problems with my lungs. And I’m driving  I’m earning money. I’m ashamed. I’m so unbelievably ashamed. When you see a woman of my age driving a taxi… it is shame. Pure shame.” 
"I really wish care wasn’t so expensive," says Lyubov Mitichkina, a Sister of Mercy and senior nurse at Saint Alexei. “The vulnerable section of society really need the government’s help as they can only receive free care to a very limited extent.”
Queues and corruption 
Alexander Saversky, head of the Patients' Rights Protection League, said the health care system is increasingly focused on paid treatment. He says that state hospitals offer paid services in parallel with free services, which he claims makes it profitable for doctors to pressure patients into paying for treatment.
“We have queues because the top doctors want to earn more money and create queues so that for patients get to treatment they have to pay money,” said Saversky.
He explained that the health care system has not recovered from the lows of the turbulent 1990s that followed the Soviet collapse. He pointed to the World Health Organization’s 2000 report that ranked Russia in 130th. He said Russia’s system had deteriorated faster than its post Soviet neighbors Kazakhstan and Belarus, which ranked 64th and 72nd respectively.
Research from the ROMIR center found last year that 65 percent of Russians paid for medical services and 20 percent of patients made informal payments to doctors. One estimate put these shadow patients at $5.5 billion last year.
Natalya Bondarenko of the Levada Center said that every year there is a larger portion of Russians who say the health care situation is worsening. In 2012, polls showed it was a bigger national bugbear than corruption, one of the main drivers of the last year of street protests against President Vladimir Putin.
"It is a larger concern than the problem of corruption and improvement of the police force. That's a pretty significant indicator,” said Bondarenko.
Fewer Russians who can afford to go private, risk going to state-funded services, according to Elena Prikhodova, 44, the executive director of a fund that allocates health cover for personnel at JSC Medicina.
“Free health care in Russia doesn’t exist,” says Prikhodova. “The range of medicines that are available for free are probably not enough. You need more. If you want to be healthy, then you have to pay.”
Pirkhodova holds medical insurance at JSC Medicina, an award-winning private clinic in the elite Mayakovskaya district of Moscow established in 1990.
A first-time consultation with the doctor costs between $80 and $100.
A Maserati is parked outside and a harp player strums in the foyer as receptionists guide patients through spacious, wood-paneled corridors. These lead into immaculate clinics with state-of-the-art equipment.

Prikhodova says she recently injured her leg when she slipped while making her children’s beds at home. She says she was rapidly seen by a doctor, X-rayed quickly and received top-class treatment. She squeezed in a subsequent check-up during her lunch break.
“Of course,” she says, “a main problem is avoiding long queues.”
The clinic has a bustling commercial marketing department, which did not allow GlobalPost to interview patients apart from Prikhodova.
It forwarded kitschy promotional images of expansive hotel-style recovery rooms featuring planted patients relaxing in large quilted beds beside faux antique telephones. Its clientele are top managers, cultural figures and politicians, as well as middle managers.

“Haggling” for health

The Sisters of Mercy operate a nightly bus of volunteers who reach out to the homeless with shelter, food and treatment during Moscow’s bitter winters. It also helps poor families raise funds for expensive medical care.
Without such charity financing, there is every chance wheelchair-bound 12-year old Dasha Smirnova would not have survived 2012. She was born with cerebral palsy and her mother Polina was told that she would die unless she received risky corrective surgery on her spinal cord.
But Russia’s top state institute for this surgery declined to perform the operation, leaving what looked like only one option — to use inexperienced surgeons in Moscow.
“I asked them whether they had ever done the operation and they openly admitted that they had only done it twice over a matter of years. Dasha is my only child – I decided to try different options.”
Polina Smirnova, 37, is not poor by any stretch in terms of property and income, She owns a 9-floor apartment which she inherited from the mass post-Soviet housing privatization and she earns 40,000 rubles a month ($1,320) as an assistant at a jewelry company.
But, she says, the operation, wheelchair, medicine and rehabilitation for her daughter far surpass her insurance coverage.
Smirnova applied to various charity support schemes and raised 1.6 million rubles through the Sisters of Mercy, which allowed her to fly Dasha to Germany for the operation. It also afforded her a German-made wheelchair.
Polina knows how lucky she has been to find charity help. Every year thousands of children are handed over to orphanages as parents see health complications such as cerebral palsy as an insurmountable challenge.
“The state does not pay for medicine for disabled children. So I have to buy medicine,” said Polina, adding that up to $200 a month goes to stocking up on a pages-long shopping list of medicines. She says she feels abandoned by the state.
Saversky of the Patients' Rights Protection League sums up the health care landscape for Muscovites:
“The patient is constantly haggling,” he says. “Do you want the pills that work or do you want the ones that could maim you? Do you want the prosthetic limb that becomes rusty or do you want the one that will last your whole life? The system is always bearing down on the patient.”

March 17, 2013

Irag War Has Left The USA No Better off after All The Billions Spent

US Marine covers the face of Saddam Hussein on a statue in Baghdad's al-Fardous square via AFP
The US-led invasion of Iraq overthrew a dictator, but 10 years on the war is seen to have destabilized the Middle East, exposed the limits of military power and left America no stronger than before.
With US forces having withdrawn after the deaths of almost 4,500 American troops and an estimated $1 trillion outlay, there is little soul-searching in Washington today about a war that has faded from public consciousness.
And 10 years after the “shock and awe” that launched Operation Iraqi Freedom, removing Saddam Hussein from power, most analysts and diplomats agree the Iraq war did nothing to improve the US position in the Middle East.
“Regardless of whether genuine democracy is viable or even sustainable, the Iraq war did not serve any strategic net gain for the United States,” said Ramzy Mardini, a fellow at the Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies in Beirut.
On the contrary, “misplaced certainty” about the ability of US military power to do the job and a lack of regard to Saddam’s role as an Arab counterbalance to Iran have harmed American interests, he said.
“The fall of Saddam didn’t just create a power vacuum in Baghdad, it created a power vacuum in the region, which plunged neighboring states into an intense environment of security competition” that continues today, Mardini added.
Such miscalculations were not confined to the presidency of George W. Bush, according to Christopher Hill, a veteran of the peace settlement in Bosnia and North Korea nuclear talks, who arrived in Baghdad in 2009 as the US ambassador.
Hill, now dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, suggested the “complete disconnect between Washington” and people such as himself “on the ground” continued until the end.
Barack Obama had used his opposition to the war to distinguish himself from Hillary Clinton when seeking the Democratic nomination in 2008. As president, he ended US military involvement on the same December 2011 timeline set by Bush.
“America did not show enough strategic patience with politics in Iraq,” Hill said, recalling the months he spent trying to ensure a government was formed after elections in 2010 that served Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish interests.
Instead, US policy continued to be largely guided by military considerations, said Hill, noting that general David Petraeus’s recent fall from grace has left many people “including me” to take “a more honest look” at Iraq.
Petraeus became the face of the “surge,” a mix of troop reinforcements and counterinsurgency tactics which in 2007 was credited, along with Sunni tribes turning against Al-Qaeda and siding with the US military, with halting the worst of Iraq’s bloody sectarian conflict.
“There were people in Washington more interested in consolidating gains made in counterinsurgency warfare than in understanding the essential politics of the country,” said Hill.
As a result, the Iraq that America left behind had a “democratic standard that we would not sign off on,” and the “great game for Iraq” is under way among its neighbors, Hill added.
Obama’s desire for a smooth military exit perhaps reflects the tortured place that the conflict occupies in the American psyche.
“All rhetoric aside, we invaded a country by mistake,” said James Dobbins, director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the Rand Corporation, a Washington think tank with close ties to the US government.
“For all Saddam’s malign intent, he had effectively been disarmed already. The sanctions had worked.”
With no nuclear weapons program or significant chemical weapons dumps ever found, the second Bush administration refocused its effort on establishing a pro-Western state in occupied Iraq, aiming to gain a regional ally.
 (via Agence France-Presse}Dobbins, who has held State Department and White House posts, including assistant secretary of state for Europe and special assistant to the president, said Americans should not fool themselves about the limited outcome.    ON THE SIDE:
It appears that in only 10 years Iraq has emerged has one of the world’s military weapons and hardware buyer. They have oil and it seems they have given the priority to National Defense. They have no Street sewage but would have nice shinny tanks and airplanes.

What this means no body knows. Lets hope that the government stabilizes there. At the present  the small kingdom of Jordan may be the only government stable enough that an ally can depend on not being drag to war alongside them.
Everyone had their hopes in Egypt but the election in which the Moslem Brotherhood took over and proceeded to bring Egypt back to the middle ages with their sharia laws. This happened because the moderate people did not like the choices so they stayed home. Big mistake that some times we make here in the USA and find ourselves decades after an incompetent president leaves, yet through his life  appointments will linger on until death and their unjust laws with them. Just because we were not 100% satisfied on the candidates and either stayed home or voted with the majority not to have a’wasted’ vote…which by the way that is something that does not exists. Doing just that is what brings misery to the country every 20 to 40 years or so.
Adam Gonzalez for adamfoxie*

March 16, 2013

'The Dirty War' and a Franciscan that Becomes Pope

Some photos of desaparecidos from Argentina's declassified military archives

BUENOS AIRES (ARGENTINA): It's beyond dispute that Jorge Mario Bergoglio, like most other Argentines, failed to openly confront the 1976-1983 military junta as it kidnapped and killed thousands of people in a "dirty war" to eliminate leftist opponents

However, human rights activists differ on how much responsibility Pope Francis personally deserves for the Argentine church's dark historyof supporting the murderous dictatorship

The new pope's authorized biographer, Sergio Rubin, argues that this was a failure of theRoman Catholic Church in general, and that it's unfair to label Bergoglio, then a thirty-something leader of Argentina's Jesuits, with the collective guilt that many Argentines of his generation still wrestle with. 

"In some way many of us Argentines ended up being accomplices," at a time when anyone who spoke out could be targeted, Rubin recalled in an interview with Associated Press just before the papal conclave

Some leading Argentine human rights activists agree that Bergoglio, now 76, doesn't deserve to be lumped together with other church figures who were closely aligned with the dictatorship. 

"Perhaps he didn't have the courage of other priests, but he never collaborated with the dictatorship," Adolfo Perez Esquivel, who won the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize for documenting the junta's atrocities, said Thursday. "Bergoglio was no accomplice of the dictatorship. He can't be accused of that," Perez Esquivel told Radio de la Red in Buenos Aires. 

However, others say Bergoglio's rise through the Argentine church since then has put him in many positions of power where he could have done more to atone for the sins of Catholic officialswho did actively conspire with the dictators. Some priests even worked inside torture centers, and blessed those doing the killing. 

And now that Argentina is actively putting former dictatorship figures on trial for human rights violations, they say he's been more concerned about preserving the church's image than providing evidence that could lead to convictions. 

"There's hypocrisy here when it comes to the church's conduct, and with Bergoglio in particular," said Estela de la Cuadra, whose family lost five members during the junta years and whose mother co-founded the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo activist group to search for missing people. "There are trials of all kinds now, and Bergoglio systematically refuses to support them." 

Bergoglio twice invoked his right under Argentine law to refuse to appear in open court in trials involving torture and murder inside the feared Navy Mechanics School and the theft of babies from detainees. When he eventually did testify in 2010, his answers were evasive, human rights attorney Myriam Bregman told the AP. 

Bergoglio's own statements proved church officials knew from early on that the junta was torturing and killing its citizens even as the church publicly endorsed the dictators, she said. "The dictatorship could not have operated this way without this key support," she said. 

Rubin, a religious affairs writer for the Argentine newspaper Clarin, said Bergoglio actually took major risks to save so-called "subversives" during the dictatorship, but never spoke about it publicly before his 2010 biography, "The Jesuit." 

pinochet-y-videlaIn the book, Bergoglio said he didn't want to stoop to his critics' level — and then shared some of his stories. Bergoglio said he once passed his Argentine identity papers to a wanted man with a similar appearance, enabling him to escape over the border to Brazil. Various times, he said he sheltered people inside church properties before they were safely delivered into exile. 

The most damning accusation against Bergoglio is that as the military junta took over in 1976, he withdrew his support for two slum priests whose activist colleagues in the liberation theology movement were disappearing. The priests were then kidnapped and tortured at the Navy Mechanics School, which the junta used as a clandestine prison.
 (Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio meets Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner)
Bergoglio said he had told the priests — Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics — to give up their slum work for their own safety, and they refused. 

"I warned them to be very careful," Bergoglio told Rubin. "They were too exposed to the paranoia of the witch hunt. Because they stayed in the barrio, Yorio and Jalics were kidnapped." 

Yorio later accused Bergoglio of effectively delivering them to the death squads by declining to publicly endorse their work. Yorio is now dead, and Jalics has refused to discuss those events since moving into a German monastery. 

Both priests were eventually dropped off blindfolded in a field after a harrowing helicopter ride, two of the few detainees to have survived that prison. 

Rubin said Bergoglio only reluctantly told him the rest of the story: that he had gone to extraordinary, behind-the-scenes lengths to save them. 

The Jesuit leader persuaded the family priest of feared dictator Jorge Videla to call in sick so that he could say Mass instead. Once inside the junta leader's home, Bergoglio privately appealed for mercy, Rubin wrote. 

"Fortunately, a while later they were freed, first because they couldn't accuse them of anything, and second, because we moved like crazy people. The very night that I learned of their kidnapping, I began moving" to save them, Bergoglio recalled. All this was done in secret, at a time when other church leaders were publicly endorsing the junta and calling on Catholics to restore their "love for country" despite the terror in the streets. Other members of the slum church who were captured along with the priests were never seen again. 

"It's a very sensitive subject," Rubin told the AP. "The Argentine church was one of the most conservative in Latin America. It showed a good disposition toward the military authorities, who, to make matters worse, considered themselves Christians and called themselves good Catholics." 

There were about 50 Argentine bishops at the time, and Bergoglio was somewhere in the middle politically, Rubin suggested. 

"There were some who were in it up to their necks," he said, citing Christian Federico von Wernich, who served as a police chaplain then and is now serving a life sentence for torture and kidnapping. 

"There were those who risked it all to openly challenge the junta, and some of those ended up dead," Rubin added, among them Bishop Enrique Angelelli who was killed in a suspicious traffic accident in 1976 while carrying evidence about two murdered priests. 

Activists say the church has yet to fully apologize for its human rights record, identify those responsible for the many violations the church knew about at the time, or lead Argentina's justice system to bodies and people who were stolen as babies from their birth families. 

Bergoglio said when he ran Argentina's bishops conference in the 1990s that no such evidence existed in church files, but that hasn't satisfied Gaston Chillier, director of the Center for Legal and Social Studies, which tracks the country's human rights cases. 

"There's a serious problem here, that the new pope could be involved in confusing episodes over his role in covering up the human rights violations during the dictatorship, and beyond that, he was the head of the church for a long time during which they didn't apologize. This affects the legitimacy they were hoping to confer on the leader of the church," Chillier said. 

Bergoglio was named Buenos Aires cardinal in 2001, after running the Argentine conference of bishops for several years. Under his leadership, Argentina's bishops issued a collective apology in October 2012 for the church's failures to protect its flock during the dictatorship, but the statement blamed the era's violence in roughly equal measure on both the junta and its enemies. 

"Bergoglio has been very critical of human rights violations during the dictatorship, but he has always also criticized the leftist guerrillas; he doesn't forget that side," Rubin said

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