Friday, May 30, 2008

stuff and links

More on the FARC Documents.
More on the FARC Documents Come to Light. By Douglas Farah
Serial bomb blasts leave 60 dead in India.

NEW YORK TIMES. 5.22.08
Kennedy Talked, Khrushchev Triumphed.
By NATHAN THRALL and JESSE JAMES WILKINS
Published: May 22, 2008

IN his inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy expressed in two eloquent sentences, often invoked by Barack Obama, a policy that turned out to be one of his presidency’s — indeed one of the cold war’s — most consequential: “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Kennedy’s special assistant, called those sentences “the distinctive note” of the inaugural.

They have also been a distinctive note in Senator Obama’s campaign, and were made even more prominent last week when President Bush, in a speech to Israel’s Parliament, disparaged a willingness to negotiate with America’s adversaries as appeasement. Senator Obama defended his position by again enlisting Kennedy’s legacy: “If George Bush and John McCain have a problem with direct diplomacy led by the president of the United States, then they can explain why they have a problem with John F. Kennedy, because that’s what he did with Khrushchev.”

But Kennedy’s one presidential meeting with Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet premier, suggests that there are legitimate reasons to fear negotiating with one’s adversaries. Although Kennedy was keenly aware of some of the risks of such meetings — his Harvard thesis was titled “Appeasement at Munich” — he embarked on a summit meeting with Khrushchev in Vienna in June 1961, a move that would be recorded as one of the more self-destructive American actions of the cold war, and one that contributed to the most dangerous crisis of the nuclear age.

Senior American statesmen like George Kennan advised Kennedy not to rush into a high-level meeting, arguing that Khrushchev had engaged in anti-American propaganda and that the issues at hand could as well be addressed by lower-level diplomats. Kennedy’s own secretary of state, Dean Rusk, had argued much the same in a Foreign Affairs article the previous year: “Is it wise to gamble so heavily? Are not these two men who should be kept apart until others have found a sure meeting ground of accommodation between them?”

But Kennedy went ahead, and for two days he was pummeled by the Soviet leader. Despite his eloquence, Kennedy was no match as a sparring partner, and offered only token resistance as Khrushchev lectured him on the hypocrisy of American foreign policy, cautioned America against supporting “old, moribund, reactionary regimes” and asserted that the United States, which had valiantly risen against the British, now stood “against other peoples following its suit.” Khrushchev used the opportunity of a face-to-face meeting to warn Kennedy that his country could not be intimidated and that it was “very unwise” for the United States to surround the Soviet Union with military bases.

Kennedy’s aides convinced the press at the time that behind closed doors the president was performing well, but American diplomats in attendance, including the ambassador to the Soviet Union, later said they were shocked that Kennedy had taken so much abuse. Paul Nitze, the assistant secretary of defense, said the meeting was “just a disaster.” Khrushchev’s aide, after the first day, said the American president seemed “very inexperienced, even immature.” Khrushchev agreed, noting that the youthful Kennedy was “too intelligent and too weak.” The Soviet leader left Vienna elated — and with a very low opinion of the leader of the free world.

Kennedy’s assessment of his own performance was no less severe. Only a few minutes after parting with Khrushchev, Kennedy, a World War II veteran, told James Reston of The New York Times that the summit meeting had been the “roughest thing in my life.” Kennedy went on: “He just beat the hell out of me. I’ve got a terrible problem if he thinks I’m inexperienced and have no guts. Until we remove those ideas we won’t get anywhere with him.”

A little more than two months later, Khrushchev gave the go-ahead to begin erecting what would become the Berlin Wall. Kennedy had resigned himself to it, telling his aides in private that “a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.” The following spring, Khrushchev made plans to “throw a hedgehog at Uncle Sam’s pants”: nuclear missiles in Cuba. And while there were many factors that led to the missile crisis, it is no exaggeration to say that the impression Khrushchev formed at Vienna — of Kennedy as ineffective — was among them.

If Barack Obama wants to follow in Kennedy’s footsteps, he should heed the lesson that Kennedy learned in his first year in office: sometimes there is good reason to fear to negotiate.

Nathan Thrall is a journalist. Jesse James Wilkins is a doctoral candidate in political science at Columbia.

Small Steps in Talks on Kashmir.
By HEATHER TIMMONS.
Published: May 22, 2008

India and Pakistan agreed to give consular access to each other’s prisoners and increase cross-border bus service in the disputed region of Kashmir during talks between the countries’ foreign ministers. The small concessions were considered a sign of progress between the nuclear powers. Shah Mehmood Qureshi, foreign minister of Pakistan, said talks were “very frank,” while India’s foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee, said the two countries “have to cover a long distance.” The governments plan to meet again in July.

Bring On the Foreign Policy Debate.
By JOHN R. BOLTON.
May 19, 2008; Page A15.

President Bush's speech to Israel's Knesset, where he equated "negotiat[ing] with the terrorists and radicals" to "the false comfort of appeasement," drew harsh criticism from Barack Obama and other Democratic leaders. They apparently thought the president was talking about them, and perhaps he was.

Wittingly or not, the president may well have created a defining moment in the 2008 campaign. And Mr. Obama stepped right into the vortex by saying he was willing to debate John McCain on national security "any time, any place." Mr. McCain should accept that challenge today.

The Obama view of negotiations as the alpha and the omega of U.S. foreign policy highlights a fundamental conceptual divide between the major parties and their putative presidential nominees. This divide also opened in 2004, when John Kerry insisted that our foreign policy pass a "global test" to be considered legitimate.

At first glance, the idea of sitting down with adversaries seems hard to quarrel with. In our daily lives, we meet with competitors, opponents and unpleasant people all the time. Mr. Obama hopes to characterize the debate about international negotiations as one between his reasonableness and the hard-line attitude of a group of unilateralist GOP cowboys.

The real debate is radically different. On one side are those who believe that negotiations should be used to resolve international disputes 99% of the time. That is where I am, and where I think Mr. McCain is. On the other side are those like Mr. Obama, who apparently want to use negotiations 100% of the time. It is the 100%-ers who suffer from an obsession that is naïve and dangerous.

Negotiation is not a policy. It is a technique. Saying that one favors negotiation with, say, Iran, has no more intellectual content than saying one favors using a spoon. For what? Under what circumstances? With what objectives? On these specifics, Mr. Obama has been consistently sketchy.

Like all human activity, negotiation has costs and benefits. If only benefits were involved, then it would be hard to quarrel with the "what can we lose?" mantra one hears so often. In fact, the costs and potential downsides are real, and not to be ignored.

When the U.S. negotiates with "terrorists and radicals," it gives them legitimacy, a precious and tangible political asset. Thus, even Mr. Obama criticized former President Jimmy Carter for his recent meetings with Hamas leaders. Meeting with leaders of state sponsors of terrorism such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il is also a mistake. State sponsors use others as surrogates, but they are just as much terrorists as those who actually carry out the dastardly acts. Legitimacy and international acceptability are qualities terrorists crave, and should therefore not be conferred casually, if at all.

Moreover, negotiations – especially those "without precondition" as Mr. Obama has specifically advocated – consume time, another precious asset that terrorists and rogue leaders prize. Here, President Bush's reference to Hitler was particularly apt: While the diplomats of European democracies played with their umbrellas, the Nazis were rearming and expanding their industrial power.

In today's world of weapons of mass destruction, time is again a precious asset, one almost invariably on the side of the would-be proliferators. Time allows them to perfect the complex science and technology necessary to sustain nuclear weapons and missile programs, and provides far greater opportunity for concealing their activities from our ability to detect and, if necessary, destroy them.

Iran has conclusively proven how to use negotiations to this end. After five years of negotiations with the Europeans, with the Bush administration's approbation throughout, the only result is that Iran is five years closer to having nuclear weapons. North Korea has also used the Six-Party Talks to gain time, testing its first nuclear weapon in 2006, all the while cloning its Yongbyon reactor in the Syrian desert.

Finally, negotiations entail opportunity costs, consuming scarce presidential time and attention. Those resources cannot be applied everywhere, and engaging in true discussions, as opposed to political charades, does divert time and attention from other priorities. No better example can be found than the Bush administration's pursuit of the Annapolis Process between Arabs and Israelis, which has gone and will go nowhere. While Annapolis has been burning up U.S. time and effort, Lebanon has been burning, as Hezbollah strengthens its position there. This is an opportunity cost for the U.S., and a tragedy for the people of Lebanon.

President Bush is not running this November, no matter how hard Mr. Obama wishes it were so. Mr. McCain will have the chance to set out his own views on when and where diplomacy is appropriate, and where more fortitude is required. In any event, from the American voter's perspective, this debate on the role of negotiations in foreign policy will be critically, perhaps mortally, important. Bring it on.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.

And add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum
.

Orwell Lives in Burma Today.
By EMMA LARKIN.
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL ASIA
May 19, 2008

RANGOON, Burma
.

The ruling military junta here is trying hard to pretend it has the country under control in the wake of Cyclone Nargis. On Saturday, the regime flew foreign diplomats to neatly-configured aid camps. State-run radio is optimistic. The regime's state newspaper, the New Light of Myanmar, ran articles last week claiming the national relief operation is officially over. Photographs showed soldiers loading or unloading neatly-packed trucks filled with sacks of rice. Generals are seen handing blankets to grateful survivors who kneel at their feet.

Welcome to the Orwellian world of life in Burma today, where the media portrays a reality unknown to most residents. The real story is far more horrifying.

On the ground here in an Irrawaddy Delta village called Kungyangon, near Rangoon, aid workers report that the muddy, washed-out road is lined with thousands of desperate people who have no place to live and no food to feed themselves. A businessman who just returned from the worst-hit south-western reaches of the Delta showed me film footage recorded in one village over ten days after the cyclone hit. Blank-faced survivors said they had not yet received aid of any kind. The camera captured bloated bodies floating in ponds and flooded paddy fields.

Meanwhile, the few international aid agencies already on the ground here, such as Save the Children and the World Food Programme, have been prevented by the authorities from accessing affected areas. Most foreign aid workers are confined to their offices in Rangoon, supported by small teams of local Burmese staff who have been granted travel permission to affected areas. Unable to travel down to the Delta -- the road is now blocked by military checkpoints and foreigners who are caught are turned back -- international disaster relief experts are holding secret meetings to train local Burmese volunteers in the basic of emergency response management. It's hardly enough when the junta itself admitted Friday that 78,000 have died from the Cyclone. This number is likely to increase as disease and hunger kicks in.

The disconnect between what's happening here and what the state media reports is nothing new. After the nationwide uprising of 1988, when an estimated 3,000 people were killed by government soldiers, the regime began a massive cover-up campaign, arresting dissidents and relocating neighborhoods that had been considered hotbeds of political opposition. After the demonstrations led by Buddhist monks in September last year, when soldiers killed a still unconfirmed number of peaceful protestors, the Burmese regime shut down Internet connections and limited the amount of outside assistance allowed into the country.

The generals are well-practiced in hiding the truth of events, distorting the news, and rewriting history in their own favor. When the international community erupts in protest, they hunker down and wait for the international attention to fade away.

Most Burmese seem resigned to this fate. This is the way the generals have always acted and always will act, they say -- no matter what happens. They are occupied with rebuilding damaged homes, coping with rising food and fuel prices, and mobilizing whatever aid they can acquire to help people in the Delta.

Barring a split in the regime, it is difficult to think that any kind of immediate change or opening up can come from this. The generals are, after all, using tried and tested methods of self-protection and displaying a determination to hold on to power against all odds, and at any cost. The epic proportion of this disaster only makes their actions more unbelievable, and reprehensible.

Ms. Larkin is the pen name of an American writer based in Bangkok, Thailand. She is the author of "Finding George Orwell in Burma" (Penguin, 2005).

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.

And add your comments to the
Opinion Journal forum.

Father of Potential Euthanasia Victim Lauren Richardson Asks Gov for Help.
by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
May 7, 2008
.

Source: LifeNews.com.

Dover, DE (LifeNews.com) -- The family of Lauren Richardson continues to press her case and is now calling on the governor of Delaware for help to save her life. Richardson has become the next Terri Schiavo as her parents engage in a massive legal and philosophical debate about whether she should live or die.

Richardson is a 23-year-old woman who overdosed on heroin in August 2006 while she was three months pregnant with a baby girl.

Doctors kept Lauren on life support until she delivered her baby in February 2007. Shortly thereafter, her parents began a fight that is reminiscent of the battle over Terri's life and death.

Edith Towers, Lauren's mother, wants to remove her feeding tube and starve and dehydrate her to death in the same manner that Michael Schiavo subjected Terri.

On the other side is Randy Richardson, Lauren's father, who is fighting to save her life and wants to be appointed as her guardian to ensure she receives appropriate medical care and treatment.

Richardson recently said the fight to save Lauren continues and that he is "totally committed to a path that includes rehabilitative treatment and therapy with the hope that Lauren can recover significantly from her disability."

>He hope that, one day, Lauren may be able to "participate in the raising of her daughter that she gave birth to while in her current condition."

Randy Richardson says, "Lauren’s mother, after convincing one Delaware judge to declare that she should be Lauren’s guardian, remains resolute in her assertion that Lauren is vegetative and cannot recover."

"Her mother has withheld authorization for any rehabilitative medical treatment and therapy for Lauren, and intends to have Lauren’s feeding tube halted" if his efforts to save her fail.

"We cannot understand her reasoning in refusing a path of hope, healing, and restoration for Lauren, and insisting on causing her death by withholding food and water from her," he added.

"The issue in Lauren’s case is the eternal truth that all people, no matter what their medical condition, bear the image of God and deserve basic care and an opportunity to be restored to health," he said.

Richardson's family is calling on Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner to intervene and save Lauren from an expected court order dictating her euthanasia death.

As in the Terri Schiavo case, physicians have been quick to label Lauren as having a persistent vegetative state -- something Terri's family called dehumanizing and medically inaccurate as patients have recovered from it.

Noted attorney and author Wesley Smith has written about Lauren's case and he says he viewed a video Richardson's father released and he says she seems reactive particularly when her father attempts to interact with her.

"Whether she is conscious or not is irrelevant to her equal moral worth as a human being," Smith adds.

"The fight in this case is over whether she lives as a profoundly disabled woman or is made to die slowly over two weeks by dehydration--as Terri Schiavo did," Smith explained. "If we did that to a dog, we would go to jail. Do it to a disabled woman who needs a feeding tube and it is called medical ethics."

ACTION: Contact Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner at governor.minner@state.de.us and ask her to help Randy Richardson save his daughter's life.

Related web sites: Life for Lauren.

Iraqi troops seize IEDs in east Mansour.
MND-B PAO

BAGHDAD (May 8, 2008) – Alert Iraqi army soldiers and Iraqi policemen prevented potential improvised explosive device attacks in the East Mansour District of Baghdad when they stopped a vehicle that was being used by criminal forces to transport IEDs in the area at about 1 p.m. May 7.

Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 54th Brigade, 6th Iraqi army division, along with Jamia Iraqi policemen, conducted a traffic stop after noticing a suspicious individual driving down a road.

After stopping the vehicle, the alert soldiers and policemen discovered the deadly weapons in the vehicle. The forces fired at the man and wounded him.

Inside the vehicle, the forces seized three tanks of oxygen that were set up as IEDs.

An explosive ordnance detachment arrived on the scene and detonated the device.

“The Iraqi security forces continue to demonstrate their professionalism every day as the combat the terrorist forces,” said Col. Allen Batschelet, chief of staff, Multi-National Division – Baghdad and the 4th Infantry Division. “Their attention to detail prevented what could have been a deadly attack on the innocent people of Iraq.”

Source: CENTCOM.

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