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Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Pat Buchanan vs. History
I read with interest Pat Buchanan's latest column for the fast-failing Human Events (they keep sending me increasingly desperate fundraising emails, meaning they're either on death's door or mimicking those electronic stores that stage "Going Out of Business" sales every week for years on end...)

In his column, the wonderfully entertaining (and occasionally on point) Buchanan lambastes President Obama for being too cudly with leftist LatAm leaders and for not walking out on Daniel Ortega's 50-minute anti-Western and anti-American (and let's face it, for Pat, anti-white) diatribe during the recent Summit of the Americas (for the record, Pulitzer Prize winner Eugene Robinson took President Obama to task for not "slapping back" at Ortega's rant, too.) Pat's beef:

For 50 minutes, Obama sat mute, as a Marxist thug from Nicaragua delivered his diatribe, charging America with a century of terrorist aggression in Central America.

After Daniel Ortega finished spitting in our face, accusing us of inhumanity toward Fidel Castro's Cuba, Obama was asked his thoughts.

"I thought it was 50 minutes long. That's what I thought."

Pat goes on to defend America's role in Latin America as one of a "liberator." But here's the problem. Ortega is the same guy Buchanan and Company's favorite president, Ronald Reagan, tried to oust in a CIA-sponsored coup, in which the "rebels" were a gang of thugs paid for with drug money, and with clandestine U.S. sales of armaments to of all people, Iran. Around here, we call it "Iran Contra," and if Congress and the Independent Counsel had had any cojones, it would have resulted in the impeachment of the then-president and vice president, and charges against several officials under the Trading with the Enemy Act, not to mention the fact that Oliver North would be in prison instead of working for Rupert Murdoch. Back to the speech. As Murdoch's Fox News reported it:

Ortega, meanwhile, droned on about the offenses of the past, dredging up U.S. support of the Somoza regime and the "illegal" war against the Sandinista regime he once led by U.S.-backed Contra rebels in the 1980s. Ortega was a member of the revolutionary junta that drove Anastasio Somoza from power in 1979 and was elected president in 1985. He was defeated in 1990 by Violeta Chamorro and ran unsuccessfully twice for the presidency before winning in 2006.

Of the 19th and 20th centuries, Ortega said: "Nicaragua central America, we haven't been shaken since the past century by what have been the expansionist policies, war policies, that even led us in the 1850s, 1855, 1856 to bring Central American people together. We united, with Costa Ricans, with people from Honduras, the people from Guatemala, El Salvador. We all got together, united so we could defeat the expansionist policy of the United States. And after that, after interventions that extended since 1912, all the way up to 1932 and that left, as a result the imposition of that tyranny of the Samoas. Armed, funded, defended by the American leaders."

Ortega denounced the U.S.-backed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro's new Communist government in Cuba in 1961, a history of US racism and what he called suffocating U.S. economic policies in the region.

And while Ortega isn't exactly a paragon of virtue, he is the twice-elected president of Nicaragua, unlike what the Contra regime would have been (a U.S. installed government by coup.) Buchanan and other righties like to caricature him, and Brazil's Lula de Silva, Bolivia's Evo Morales and especially the Venezuelan boogeyman, Hugo Chavez, as "left wing dictators," ignoring the fact that all were democratically elected. Does Chavez want to be president for life? Signs point to yes. But his elections have yet to be questioned as false, and the plain fact is that the spread of socialist government across Latin America is in many ways a reaction to generations of U.S. policy in the hemisphere, where we have participated in coup after bloody coup, and supported dictator upon dictator, from Cuba's noxious Batista regime (which turned that country into America's Caribbean gambling whore house) to Somoza, to the ruthless, U.S. installed dictator Agusto Pinochet of Chile. Between that and the failed attempts, including the Bay of Pigs and what sure looked like a Bush Team action against Chavez in 2002, it's not all that hard to understand why so many Latin American leaders aren't fond of the U.S. As the BBC's LatAm correspondent put it back in 2006:

In pursuit of American interests, the US has overthrown or undermined around 40 Latin American governments in the 20th Century.
The reporter goes on to describe, via a case study of Nicaragua, how to lose a hemisphere:

As a young reporter I travelled across Nicaragua witnessing the fall of the left-wing Sandinista government led by the revolutionary Daniel Ortega.

For years Mr Ortega was Washington's Enemy Number One, the ultimate bogeyman.

President Bush's father, George Bush senior, was a key player in undermining Mr Ortega and the Sandinistas.

Mr Bush senior had been Director of Central Intelligence and Ronald Reagan's vice-president before he became president of the United States in January 1989.

During the Reagan administration money was channelled - illegally Democrats said - to the Nicaraguan "Contra" guerrillas, a motley crew of CIA trained anti-communists, paramilitaries and thugs.

The resulting scandal - known as "Iran-Contra" - almost brought down the Reagan administration. George Bush senior survived the scandal, and as president managed to see his policies finally work when Nicaragua's own people threw out the Sandinistas in a democratic election in 1990.

After the polls closed in the capital, Managua, I stood in a counting station next to a young Sandinista woman in green military fatigues. Shaking with emotion she brushed away a tear as the voting papers piled up for the Washington-supported opposition candidate, Violeta Chamorro.

"Adios, muchachos," the Sandinista girl called out to her defeated comrades, "companeros de mi vida!!!" (Goodbye boys, comrades of my life.)

Money issue

That was then. This is now. The young Sandinista revolutionary, Daniel Ortega, is back. He may well be re-elected president of Nicaragua.

Can you imagine it? The man who survived CIA plots and Contra death squads, who relinquished power peacefully to Washington's candidate, Violeta Chamorro, sweeping back into the Nicaraguan presidency?

It will be a huge embarrassment for George Bush junior, a symbol of everything that has gone wrong with American foreign policy in the hemisphere. And guess who predicted it would go wrong? Violeta Chamorro herself.

The night before her election victory over Mr Ortega I was invited to dinner at the walled compound of Mrs Chamorro's house in Managua. She told me that Washington politicians could always find money for wars in Latin America - but rarely for peace in Latin America.

She said even a slice of the money used to back the anti-communist Contra guerrillas could build a new Nicaragua - but she predicted that if she won the election Washington would declare victory - and then cut off the money supply. She was right.
And there you go.

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posted by JReid @ 9:15 AM  
Friday, April 17, 2009
Do as we say...
As President Obama heads to the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, his administration finally releases the last (we hope) of the torture memos. (Curious that the wingers have no problem with things like torture, secret detentions, sneak and peak searches, forcing librarians to divulge customer reading habits, infiltration of Quaker peace groups etc., but they're all a-teabaggin' over a 4 percent increase in rich people's taxes... but I digress...)

Meanwhile, here in Florida, Cuban-Americans are needled by the fact that several Latin American presidents, including Lula of Brazil, Hugo of Venezuela and Evo of Bolivia, among others, will likely push for an end to Cuba's exclusion from the Organization of American States, which forms the attendance base of the summit. Writes the Miami Herald's Myriam Marquez:

Cuba's not invited to the big party in Trinidad and Tobago, but it will crash it anyway.

It'll be the pesky ghost at the table, pushing, shoving and booing -- all in an effort to derail President Barack Obama's first foray Friday into Latin America's often messy love-hate relationship with the United States.

With the help of Hugo, Lula, Evo, Daniel, Michelle, Cristina and many other Latin American presidents who learned how to play leftie politics -- and win -- virtually at Fidel Castro's knee, the ghost is demanding a clean slate and collective amnesia.

Forget 50 years of an atrocious human-rights record. Never mind that there are no property rights, labor unions or free speech.

Forget multiparty elections, the ghost thunders, it's tiny Cuba vs. the bad Imperialist Goliath.

Obama would rather forget, too, but he's not ready to deliver more freebies like the end of the U.S. embargo or the tourist ban -- yet. But as first steps, he has opened the door wide for Cuban-American travel and unlimited remittances to Cuba.

He figures that's enough to get the ghost off his back at the summit, where Brazil's Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has vowed to press for the island's membership in the Organization of American States.

OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza told Herald reporter Frances Robles at the summit Thursday that he agrees. Obama counters that Cuba needs to first show it belongs back in the organization that kicked it out in 1962.

Fidel Castro rails against any such inclusion in the OAS, calling it a tool of U.S. will. One reason he won't give: Cuba doesn't begin to meet the principle of the OAS charter -- democracy.

Ironically enough, the "Inter-American Democracy Charter"was adopted by the OAS on September 11, 2001 during a special session in Peru, hours after the 9/11 attacks in New York. The charter lays out the essentials of regional cooperation, democracy, the need to fight poverty and improve education and the environment, and of course human rights -- which brings us back to Cuba, which has got some issues on that front. And yet, as Marquez points out, over the last eight years the U.S. hasn't exactly been a champion of human rights, either (see "torture memos" above...) So Obama goes into the summit borne on the winds of change, but still refusing, as of yesterday, to hold the previous administration accountable for the human rights abuses that, if we were, say, applying for membership to the OAS today, would likely make us as ineligible as Fidel's Cuba.

Related: Raul says he's willing to talk to the U.S., including about human rights.

Cuban President Raul Castro has said he is willing to talk to Washington about everything, including human rights, political prisoners and press freedom.

His comments came hours after US President Barack Obama said Cuba needed to make the next move if there was to be further improvement in relations.

Mr Castro was speaking in Venezuela ahead of a Summit of the Americas.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he will veto any final declaration as Cuba is excluded from the meeting.

The summit, due to start in Trinidad, includes 34 Latin American and Caribbean countries.

The US has said the gathering is reserved for democratic nations.

Which brings us back to our checkered recent past:

Speaking to Latin American leaders in Venezuela, President Castro said he had sent word to the US government "in private and in public" that he is open to negotiations as long as it is "on equal terms".

Alas, amigos, we're pretty much already on equal terms. More on the potential thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations here.

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posted by JReid @ 7:46 AM  
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
CBC members gush over Fidel ... now there's a bad idea!
There is a certain segment of the 60s-era left (the Ron Kuby segment, we'll call it) and of the 60s-ear African-American left, too, that remains enamored of Fidel Castro. Not sure if it's the favorable impression on black America when he first took power, even traveling to Harlem and staying at the famous Theresa Hotel, or Cuba's taking in black activist Assata Shakur after her cop killing conviction, or Castro's alleged abolishment of racism on the island (Kuby's love affair is due to the fact that he just likes revolution, according to a recent ep of his radio show.) However ... um ... Fidel Castro is a dictator, guys ... an actual one. And while I think the U.S. embargo of Cuba is a stupid anachronism that should be scrapped immediately -- especially since we're the only ones upholding it (while trading with and being bankrolled by Communist China) -- sometimes I wish that black folk with Castro affections would keep those particular feelings to themselves...
Lee and others heaped praise on Castro, calling him warm and receptive during their discussion. But the lawmakers disputed Castro's later statement that members of the congressional delegation said American society is still racist.

"It was quite a moment to behold," Lee said, recalling her moments with Castro.

“It was almost like listening to an old friend,” said Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Il.), adding that he found Castro’s home to be modest and Castro’s wife to be particularly hospitable.

“In my household I told Castro he is known as the ultimate survivor,” Rush said.
Um ... yeah. ... That said, it's hard not to support the purpose of the CBC trip -- to encourage normalized relations, trade and dialogue. Only, without the gushing, maybe?

Meanwhile: President Obama will head to Trinidad & Tobago next week for the Summit of the Americas regional meeting, which will include Hugo Chavez, but apparently, there will be no one-on-one talks. However:

What if Chávez walks over to Obama during a coffee break, I asked. ''If they run into one another at a coffee break, my president is not going to run away from him,'' one U.S. official said.

Hey, and Chavez probably won't call Obama the Devil, either. Progress!

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posted by JReid @ 1:09 AM  
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Report card: under Bush, U.S. influence has nosedived ... but Iraq's got Christmas!

Photo credit: Caricatures by Lisa

A damning retrospective on the Bush years in today's Los Angeles Times:
In the 1990s, America exerted leadership in all the remote corners of the globe, from the southern cone of South America to Central Asia. Now, the United States has largely left the field in many regions, leaving others to step forward.

Bush has been blamed widely for the erosion of American prestige. And the decline in U.S. influence is partly the result of the reaction to his invasion of Iraq, his campaign against Islamic militants and his early disdain for treaties and international bodies.

But the shift is also a result of independent forces, though hastened by an aversion to Bush. These include the steady ascent of China, India and other developing countries that throughout the last decade have seen their economies grow, amassing wealth and quietly extending their reach.

As smaller countries have built economic and political ties to these rising powers, they have worked to free themselves from exclusive dependence on the United States.

"There is no return to the time when the United States was the 'indispensable power,' " said Stewart M. Patrick, a former State Department official at the Council on Foreign Relations. "The world has moved on."
According to the author, part of the problem is Bush unilateralism in Iraq, on climate change, and on Russia. Another factor in the decline is Bush's benign neglect of whole regions, including both Asia and South America:
The U.S. National Intelligence Council issued a report this year, "Global Trends 2025," that notes a shift of economic power from the West to the East that is "without precedent." In 2025, the United States will "remain the single most powerful country, but will be less dominant," it predicts.

Since World War II, the United States has led by its power of persuasion, as well as its economic might. But other countries' unhappiness with the Iraq war and the conduct of the Bush administration's "global war on terror," means that the "American brand is less legitimate and its persuasive powers are compromised," said Charles Kupchan of Georgetown University and the Council on Foreign Relations.

There also has been a dwindling of U.S. influence as the administration has focused most of its energy and resources on the Middle East and Southwest Asia, leaving much less for Central and Southeast Asia, Latin America and other regions. Many are going their own way, developing new ties among neighbors.

Latin American countries, for example, are building an organization called the Union of South American Nations and a NATO-like defense alliance called the South American Defense Council. The United States, long dominant in the hemisphere, is pointedly excluded from both.

An 8-year-old group called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, with Russia, China, and four Central Asian states, has been slowly developing, in part because some members want a bulwark against U.S. involvement in the region.

So is there any good news for the Bushies? Well ... Iraq does have Christmas now ...
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's Christians, a scant minority in this overwhelmingly Muslim country, quietly celebrated Christmas on Thursday with a present from the government, which declared it an official holiday for the first time.

But security worries overshadowed the day for many, particularly in the north where thousands of Christians have fled to escape religious attacks.

Overall security in Iraq has improved markedly in the past year, but a fatal car bombing in Baghdad on Christmas morning was a gruesome reminder that serious problems remain.

The bombing outside a restaurant frequented by police killed four people and wounded 25 others in the Shiite neighborhood of Shula, said a police officer on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give information to news media. The U.S. military later announced that one person was killed and 21 wounded. There was no way to immediately reconcile the differing numbers.

An American soldier was killed in a rocket or mortar attack near the northern city of Mosul, the military announced.
Well ... I didn't say it was a merry Christmas...

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posted by JReid @ 9:51 PM  
Friday, March 09, 2007
Call me Mr. Jinx
President Bush tours an ethanol plant with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

President Bush hasn't had much fun on his Latin America jaunt so far, between the angry protesters wearing Hitler=Bush T-shirts and burning effigies of him, and the tepid reponse of Latin leaders to his initiatives. But damn, now his very presence is being counted as toxic. According to a news report:
With Bush scheduled to visit Guatemala City next week, Bush antagonism has reached new levels as Mayan priests decide to purify a sacred archaeological site to eliminate 'bad spirits' after his visit.

Juan Tiney, the director of a Mayan non-governmental organization with close ties to Mayan political and religious political leaders said: “That a person like (Bush), with the persecution of our migrant brothers in the United States, with the wars he has provoked, is going to walk on our sacred lands, is considered an offense for the Mayan people and their culture.”

Bush's controversial seven-day tour of South America includes a stopover in Guatemala late Sunday. He is scheduled to visit the consecrated archaeological site 'Iximche' on the high Western plateau in a region of the Central American country populated mostly by Mayans.

Tiney said the “spirit guides of the Maya community” decided it would be necessary to cleanse the sacred site of “bad spirits” after Bush's visit so that their ancestors could rest in peace.

Bush's trip has already sparked protests in other Latin American countries, showing the immense depths of his unpopularity in the continent. There were protests and clashes with police in Brazil hours before his arrival. In Bogota, Columbia, which Bush will visit on Sunday, 200 masked students battled 300 riot police with rocks and homemade explosives.

The tour is seen to be a desperate attempt at challenging rising support for the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who is steadily gaining strong influence in the region. Chavez has publicly called Bush “history's greatest killer” and “the devil”.
Silly Maya, everybody knows the Devil is Dick Cheney...

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posted by JReid @ 4:37 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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