Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

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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  
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Condi Rice's April Glaspie moment?
Meanwhile in the, "even Gregory couldn't screw this one up" category, Stretch did manage to have an interesting exchange with "Russia expert" (ahem) Condi Rice on this week's "Meet the Press." The exchange revealed a bit more about what the administration knew, what it didn't, and what it might have done to bring on the Georgia-Russia crisis:
MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about how we got here and what precipitated this crisis. This is how The New York Times reported it this week about a visit to Georgia back in July by you. "During a private dinner [in Tbilisi]" "Ms. Rice's aides say she warned President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia not to get into a military conflict with" Georgia--with "Russia," rather--"that Georgia could not win. `She told him, in no uncertain terms, that he had to put a non-use of force pledge on the table,' according to a senior administration official who accompanied Ms. Rice to the Georgia capital. ...

"In the days since the simmering conflict between Russia and Georgia erupted into war, Bush administration officials have been adamant in asserting that they warned the government in Tbilisi not to let Moscow provoke it into a fight - and that they were surprised when their advice went unheeded."

Well who wouldn't be?
MR. GREGORY: Did Georgia provoke this crisis?

SEC'Y RICE: This crisis has been going on for, as I said, more than a decade. It has been a hot zone and a volatile zone where there have been skirmishes over a significant period of time. It is absolutely the case that we have cautioned all parties against the use of force. In fact, I also talked to the Russians repeatedly in this period about the railway troops that they were bringing in, about reinforcing their peacekeepers, about overflying Georgian territory. So this had been a zone of conflict. We were trying to resolve it peacefully.

Oh, just answer the question, woman!
... SEC'Y RICE: David, as I've said, this--you can't just start with, "we told the Georgian's this." We also told the Russians not to engage in certain activities that they were engaging in. This was a zone of conflict, we were trying to do it peacefully. But whatever happened before this, once this broke out in South Ossetia, it could have been confined to South Ossetia. Rather than confine it to that and deal with the facts on the ground there, the Russians decided to go deeper into Georgia, to bomb Georgian ports, to bomb Georgian military installations, to go into the city of Gori. And so it was that escalation that got us to the point that where we're at now. And that...

MR. GREGORY: And give--but given...

SEC'Y RICE: ...fully has been...

MR. GREGORY: ...that escalation, Secretary Rice, do you understand why there are some within the Georgian leadership who feel betrayed by the U.S.? Do they have an unreasonable expectation that the U.S. would come in guns blazing, as it were, to protect them?

SEC'Y RICE: I don't think anybody...

...could have imagined planes flying into buildings??? Oh ... sorry ... go on Secretary Rice...
... had an expectation that the United States was going to use military force in this conflict. But we need to keep the focus on the culprit here, and the culprit here is that Russia over-reached, used disproportionate force against a small neighbor and is now paying the price for that, because Russia's reputation as a potential partner in international institutions, diplomatic, political, security, economic, is frankly in tatters.

Kind of reminds you of when a certain Bush I administration State Department official told Saddam Hussein back in 1991 that the U.S. would have no opinion about his adventures in Kuwait... et tu, April Glaspie...?

Meanwhile, the NYT reports that far from backing down, Russia is moving ballistic missile launchers into South Ossetia, solidifying its hold on the province, while at the same time threatening Poland with possible nuclear attack over the "missile shield" system we're putting there.

Great work Dr. Rice! You taught our Dubha well...


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posted by JReid @ 10:35 PM  
Friday, August 15, 2008
Irony alert: Bush scolds Russians on 'bullying and intimidation'
Offering further proof that Republicans now believe the U.S. invasion of Iraq happened in the 20th century, President Bush today slammed Russia for invading a sovereign country that didn't threaten it:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Friday chided Russia for Cold War-style behavior, saying, "Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century."
Really??? Remember this?
[Feb. 23, 2003] Bush Threatens Economic Retaliation If Other Countries Do not Support Invasion - [Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria] Aznar pleads for patience from Bush, and says that a UN resolution is vital. Aznar notes that public opinion in Spain is heavily against the war. Bush retorts that should certain countries not support the war in the UN, they could face retaliation from the US: “Countries like Mexico, Chile, Angola, and Cameroon should know that what’s at stake is the security of the United States.” Bush mentions negative votes could endanger a free trade agreement with Chile and financial support for Angola. [Agence France-Presse, 9/26/2007]
Back to today's events...

Bush said the United States stands "with the people of Georgia and their democratically elected government." He said the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity "must be respected."

"We will not cast them aside," he said.

Bush said Russia's invasion of Georgia in recent days has "damaged its credibility."

Russia must respect the freedom of its neighbors," Bush said, calling Georgia a "courageous democracy."

Sovereignty ... damaged credibility ... where have I heard those phrases before... oh, I remember!
The way the Iraq war was conducted was a "tragedy" that has seriously damaged the credibility of the US and the UK on the international stage, according to former British Ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock.

Greenstock blamed the architects of the 2003 joint invasion, in particular the US, of "woefully inadequate planning." Years of potential progress were wasted in the first few days in April 2003 after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, he said.

... Greenstock served as UK Ambassador in New York during the countdown to the war and subsequently as Prime Minister Tony Blair's special envoy to Iraq. His own memoirs have reportedly been blocked by the UK Foreign Office.

"We cannot just put these mistakes behind us and move on, because the consequences have seriously affected, at least for a while, the credibility of the US and the UK in the international arena," he warned.

Yes, that's the ticket.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condi Rice is headed to Georgia carrying a peace treaty that would essentially allow Russia to have the two break-away Georgian provinces it already occupies, by letting Russian troops remain there, something Moscow apparently concurs with, since Vlad Putin has already told Georgia to forget about getting them back.

I think it's proper to ask whether the U.S. invasion of a sovereign Iraq and its aggressive, "bullying" tactics in the run-up to that invasion emboldened the Russians, both by setting a dangerous precedent for pre-emptive war, and by neutering the U.S.' ability to respond militarily to an actual crisis. Russia knows that any consequences it suffers from the U.S. will be minor, since the Iraq war also enriched Russia as a major oil producer (those inflated prices went right into their pockets.) So Putin is probably laughing at the man he duped into believing he was his friend, while asking Dubya, in regard to "consequences": you and what army.

Oh, and that Poland missile shield deal? That's not going to back Russia down. It will probably make things worse.


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posted by JReid @ 8:41 AM  
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