Eighty Million Dead, Two Idiots

What if…World War II started because of a giant miscalculation on Hitler’s (and von Ribbentrop’s) side? After all, it would perfectly fit with the incredible mess they made out of managing the conquered territories:

When I entered the next room Hitler was sitting at his desk and Ribbentrop stood by the window. Both looked up expectantly as I came in. I stopped at some distance from Hitler’s desk, and then slowly translated the British Government’s ultimatum. When I finished, there was complete silence. Hitler sat immobile, gazing before him. He was not at a loss, as was afterwards stated, nor did he rage as others allege. He sat completely silent and unmoving. After an interval which seemed an age, he turned to Ribbentrop, who had remained standing by the window. ‘What now?’ asked Hitler with a savage look, as though implying that his Foreign Minister had misled him about England’s probable reaction. Ribbentrop answered quietly: ‘I assume that the French will hand in a similar ultimatum within the hour.

Not All Civilians Are Born Equal

Reuters: “Obama condemns Iran crackdown on protests” Tue Jun 23, 2009 12:45pm EDT

“we deplore violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place,” [Obama] said

BBC: “‘Dozens dead’ in US drone strike” Page last updated at 12:22 GMT, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 13:22 UK

There have been more than 35 US strikes since last August – killing over 340 people – and most have landed in the North and South Waziristan tribal regions

Georgia and Russia: Where Are We?

It’s been a month since the first Georgian attack against the civilian population of South Ossetia. Where are we? Here a brief summary, based on various sources (Il Sole 24 Ore, The Economist, International Herald Tribune / The New York Times, Spiked Online, Il Corriere della Sera, Il Riformista, The Globe and Mail):

  1. Russia: weak and insecure. It “needs” to prove itself otherwise, but then fighting soldiers don’t even have a decent pair of boots. With its strong internal problems, and a strong inferiority complex, it is pretty much isolated, constantly just two steps ahead of a crisis. For how long?
  2. Georgia: maybe a democracy, maybe not. Surely, it is not a solid democracy. There is too much desire for a fight. It is like a “Russia of the Caucasus”: same weakness, same inferiority complex, etc. etc.
  3. The EU: it has done well with its cease-fire diplomacy, only to revert to type and to its abundancy of stupid national interests. The whole is less than the sum of the parts indeed, making it vulnerable and dependent, despite its size and wealth.
  4. The USA: its own dependency on oil has reduced the one and only Superpower to a tired, failed has-been. Too many people in the control rooms still play like in the Cold War, and still think of revenge despite having won twenty years ago.
  5. The Rest of the World: orphans of a serious U.S. policy, they move back and forth waiting to see what the consequences will be.
  6. Several commentators: all involved in the game of historical equivalence. Some say it’s 1968 all over again, some point 1956, others to 1938. I say it’s 1919. In any case, I have read quite a few pernicious, interventionist ideas, in a chaos of ideals without purpose.

With Five Months To Go, Let’s Pray About Iran

For the next five months President George W Bush will remain Commander in Chief of the armed forces of the United States.

In other words, there are still slightly more than 150 possibilities for Iran to be attacked.

And the strange thing is, nobody can really do much to prevent President Bush from taking advantage of any of those opportunities. It’s a danger highlighted by the words of Thomas Powers in the New York Review of Books’ “Iran: The Threat” (July 17, 2008; Powers’ words are in italic ):

  • According to the President, “all options” must remain “on the table.”
  • Last April, information about an Israeli air strike in Siria has been released explicitly with the aim of “sending a message to Iran”
  • According to Administration officials, Tehran wants a bomb in order to dominate the Persian Gulf region and to threaten its neighbors, especially Israel
  • The seriousness of American threats is confirmed by the fact that [...] the whole country listens to the administration’s threats with breath held [...] in effect leaving the decision entirely to [Bush and Cheney]
  • President Bush has accompanied periodic threats against Iran, supporting them with practical steps—the presence of large American armies just across Iran’s borders in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the dispatch of the world’s largest fleet of warships to cruise along Iran’s Persian Gulf coastline. The Bush administration further accuses Iran of “meddling” in the affairs of its neighbors, of supplying weapons and training to Iraqis who kill Americans, and of being the world’s principal state sponsor of terrorism
  • [Bush and Cheney's] frequent warnings that the United States does not trust Iran with the knowledge to enrich bomb-grade uranium and will not tolerate an Iranian bomb. Many of these warnings have been issued in the last month or two and we may expect a continuing barrage until their final days in office.
  • The President’s frustration is plainly evident: Saddam Hussein may be gone, but Iran remains defiant, and more powerful than ever. The President’s male pride seems to have been aroused; he said he was going to solve the Iranian problem and he doesn’t want to back down.

Whatever the US Constitution has to say about war, the President of the United States can do pretty much anything he wants, under the guise of “executive power”. For an example, think of the botched rescue attempt of the American hostages in Iran, in 1980. Likewise, the successful invasion of Grenada in 1983.

And so we can literally wake up any day with the “news” of a US attack against Iran. Because as Powers concludes:

if attack is impossible, why does Bush talk himself into an ever-tighter corner by continuing to issue threats? Does he believe Iran will cave? Are these the only words he thinks people will still listen to? Is he hoping to tie the hands of the next president? Or is he preparing to summon the power of his office to carry out the last option on the table? One hardly knows whether to take the question seriously. It seems alarmist and overexcited even to pose it when the realities are so clear. But it is impossible to be sure—Bush has a history

Hypothesis Russia

More details are coming out about the reasons behind the war in South Ossetia between Georgia and Russia. Beyond the rhetoric (here’s a shameful commentary by The New York Times), it appears clear that Saakashvili wanted a fight, but Putin/Medvedev were also fully ready for war.

Anyway I look at it though, I can only think of one way to explain the whole situation…and that involves having one or more Russian agents in the upper echelons of the Tbilisi government.

The Russian victory on all fronts, military, political, diplomatic is so complete, it can only have been carefully prepared for months in the past.

I was kidding when suggesting that Saakashvili be a friend of Russia. Or was I?

=======

By the way…from Wikipedia, a map of ethnic groups in the Caucasus. Looks like more than one border should be redrawn…

In Georgia, Game, Set and Match for Russia

Is President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia a Russian agent?

Surely with his still-unexplained decision to move troops into South Ossetia on the day of the Olympics, he’s become the best thing that happened to Russia since the day oil prices started going up. What friend of Putin and Medvedev would ever be able to accomplish such an impressive series of pro-Russian feats:

  • Demonstrating that Russia is the Power in charge in the Caucasus
  • Showing that for all its rhetoric, the USA and NATO have no willingness to help whatever “ally” finds itself in the wrong situation against Russia
  • Restoring Russian pride in its military, with a swift and comprehensive victory, including a seemingly-unstoppable invasion of Tbilisi-controlled Georgia
  • Allowing the Moscow government to bask in diplomatic glory and magnanimity, refusing to bring the conflict to its logical conclusion (the occupation of Tbilisi)

Now that Saakashvili has achieved its aims, perhaps he should just gracefully step down and let a new, pro-Russian government draft a federal constitution for Georgia/Abkhazia/South Ossetia.

Time to Indict George W Bush for War Crimes?

Requests periodically recur for the indictment of U.S. President George W Bush, perhaps in front of an International Court, for various charges of war crimes, from the making-up of the “evidence” against Saddam Hussein to the list of abuses by American soldiers in Iraq and at Guantanamo against their prisoners, to the use of torture to extract information and confessions from terrorist suspects.

What is the feasibility of all that? It depends. Of the fact that the build-up to the war in Iraq in 2003 was based on nothing, I do not think there can be any doubt. Furthermore, it was definitely not me the one in charge whilst abuses and torture were (are?) being practiced. If Bush were a private citizen, the whole thing would already be in the hands of prosecutors and defense lawyers, trying to establish the boundaries between law, crime and ineptitude.

But Bush is no private citizen. Instead, he has spent eight years at the top of the Superpower. What hope could then be in getting him indicted, let alone sentenced?

First thing to be clarified is, would there be any role for an International Court? I do not think so. What future U.S. Administration would take the responsibility of establishing a precedent, sending a former president abroad to answer for war crimes? The only possibility is via the American own justice system.

Even in that case, one would have to present shock-and-awe evidence of criminal intent. It is true that, however slowly, the Congress is publishing reports very critical of the choices and behaviour of members of the Bush Administration, such as the results of the Senate Intelligence Committee chaired by Senator John D. “Jay” Rockefeller IV (D, W Va.), published about a month ago. But first of all, behind all that it’s simple partisan struggle, Democrats against Republicans in a fight which little interest in finding the truth about the President: because the only thing they care about is of course, getting re-elected.

To leave everything in the hands of various parliamentary committees, from this point of view, only serves to hush-hush the whole thing, with potential defendants more likely to die of old age than of attending a single hearing in a court of law. Ah, and to polarize the electorate for no overall gain (another positive opportunity for the politicians, and a pernicious disaster for the electorate itself).

One should therefore more than welcome the latest proposal by Nicholas D Kristof, from the pages of International Herald Tribune: forget the parliamentary committees, the courts, the discussions on the legality of Presidential decisions, in favor of a “Truth Commission” (TC) modeled on the one that helped South Africa become a democratic nation without bloodshed.

The TC would be something coming out of the U.S. themselves, thereby dismissing suggestions of “international interference”; it would only establish a single precedent, namely the fact that Presidents are responsible for what they do, and for what they leave behind; many of the “crimes” would be out in the open, because perpetrators just as in South Africa would prefer sincerity in front of the TC, to the danger of being brought in front of a criminal court.

At the end of the day, what Justice is the one that never comes to conclusions? It is much better to “know the truth”, because it allows us to dream to be able to avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future.

Banning Cluster Bombs – Dublin, May 19-30 2008

(letter published on Saturday May 10 in the International Herald Tribune, written by Jakob Kellenberger, Geneva President, International Committee of the Red Cross)

Note how the proposed new Treaty is not to ban cluster munitions outright: it is to prevent the deployment of ineffectual bombs that do not explode during a conflict, and despite having zero military strategic or tactical value, rather hang on waiting to kill or wound unsuspecting, perfectly innocent civilians years and even decades after the war has ended.

More than 100 countries are due to meet in Dublin later this month to negotiate a new international treaty banning cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. They should seize this historic opportunity to prevent these weapons from killing and maiming countless other men, women and children.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has repeatedly witnessed the terrible impact of cluster munitions on civilians in armed conflicts across the globe. Their deadly legacy can continue for generations.

Laos, for example, the world’s worst affected country, is still struggling to deal with the estimated 270 million munitions dropped there in the 1960s and 1970s. Tens of millions failed to explode and go on killing people today.

In more than 20 countries around the world, unexploded cluster munitions have effectively rendered vast areas as hazardous as minefields.

Without urgent concerted international action, the human toll of cluster munitions could become far worse than that of antipersonnel landmines, which are now banned by three-quarters of the world’s countries.

Meanwhile, billions of cluster munitions are currently in the stockpiles of many nations. Many models are aged, inaccurate and unreliable. But unlike antipersonnel landmines, which were in the hands of virtually all armed forces, only about 75 countries currently possess cluster munitions.

The Dublin conference is the culmination of a process that started in Oslo in February 2007 and has been building momentum ever since. Participants should agree to a treaty that prohibits inaccurate and unreliable cluster munitions, provides for their clearance and ensures assistance to victims.

Jakob Kellenberger, Geneva President, International Committee of the Red Cross

Some useful links related to the above:

A Different Way to Celebrate Remembrance Day

Who knows, perhaps some future Prime Minister will take advantage of the somber celebrations on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to announce 11 (or more) years of peace for the British State that “over the last 200 years… has waged more wars and won more conflicts than any other nation in the world

History, a Murderous Farce

Napoleon, the Emperor of the French, destroyed the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, thereby establishing the basis for the ascent of the German Empire that was going to humiliate France in 1871.

Prussia and Austria fought hard to establish their leadership over Germany. The result was a militarized Prussian class that killed Germany once in the First World War, and then again with its support for Hitler.

“Of course” Adolf, from Austria of all places, dedicated his life to the nationalist cause, with the result that Germany was annihilate and Prussia airbrushed from history at the end of World War II.

Those are not the only ironies of history. The end result of the Christian Crusades was the undermining of the Byzantine Empire, and the opening up of Eastern Europe to the Ottoman Muslims. Nobody has killed as many Communists as Stalin, or as many Chinese as Chairman Mao, and since Tamerlane perhaps nobody has killed as many Muslims as Osama bin Laden and his loose “organization”.

I am sure there are many more examples of unbelievably unintended consequences. Hadn’t it been for the continuous slaughter, History would be a topic to laugh very hard about.