Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Leaked memos expose the hypocrisy of the Left over Iran

These past two years it has become received wisdom in influential sections of the foreign policy community that, in the wake of the Bush administration's foreign policy excesses and errors, the chief imperative of US foreign policy is to avoid any further foreign entanglements. In the pursuit of this shimmering transcendent goal, however, it soon enough becomes necessary to use any and every argument that comes to hand, no matter how implausible.

Thus Iran-apologists such as former State Department officials Floyd and Hillary Leverett - who holidayed in Tehran's best uptown hotels while, downtown, protesters were seized at random off the streets and beaten into a state of permanent incapacity, or sexually violated with broken bottles - are associated with prestigious progressive think-tanks, and invited to speak at respectable gatherings of international relations scholars. And their considered view that the Iranian regime is a victim of unrestrained US aggression is taken as a mainstream scholarly opinion.

Yet these are the same Leveretts who insisted, 18 months ago in The Washington Post, that Iran's elections were not only free and fair, but actually freer and fairer than those of their own country. Even though, as the WikiLeaks cables have now clarified, US diplomats knew all along that the result was fixed; and further knew that the actual election figures were very similar to those revealed by a brave young official in the Iranian Information Ministry, Mohammad Asghari, who paid for this act of heroism with his life, only to have his information greeted with pure white silence in Washington.

In this scholarly mirror universe, where truth and fiction are equally interesting so long as they titillate the creative intellect, and where a generalised hostility to Western interests can pass as a proxy for political progressivism, the old hard Left and the new far Right join together in a splendid danse macabre, Black and Red carolling in joyous euphony.

In June last year we were confidently informed that President Obama's conciliatory Cairo speech - where he declared to the Iranian regime that the US was willing "to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect" - would provide moral succour to the populations of the Middle East and reassure them that the US held no animosity towards them.

We now know that when they heard those fateful words - uttered a mere fortnight before the Iranian elections, so easily debauched before Washington's studiously averted eyes - every significant Arab leader must actually have been appalled, and must have wondered what on earth the US President could be thinking.

For as the cables conveyed to Washington by its regional offices make clear, nobody there took the pseudo-scholarly arguments for "constructive engagement" seriously. Take this assessment relayed from Amman by ambassador Stephen Beecroft, two months before Obama's soaring and eloquent, if foolish and empty, Cairo peroration: "Jordanian leaders' comments betray a powerful undercurrent of doubt that the US knows how to deal effectively with Iran. Foreign Minister Nasser Joudeh has suggested the Iranians would be happy to let talks with the US continue for 10 years without moving them forward, believing that they can benefit from perceived acceptance after years of isolation without paying a price."

Or take this honest but doomed communication from Timothy Richardson, acting director of America's Iran Regional Presence Office in Dubai: "Any US effort to engage the current Iranian government will be perceived by a wide spectrum of Arabs as accommodation with [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad." Isn't this what any moderately informed, intelligent Western observer would also have concluded, had political affections not required them to pretend otherwise?

During the past week our grand legion of "engagers" have been at pains to insist that sentiments such as these show only the supposed "hypocrisy" of Arab leaders on Iran, since they express views in private that they do not express in public.

Yet it isn't the Arab governments who have been hypocritical: indeed, the advice from Jordan is demonstrably more sober and honest than that of many foreign policy experts. Rather, the charge of hypocrisy better fits our faux-conciliators and Iran apologists, since they advocate in the name of high principle a policy they know in their hearts indefinitely prolongs the life of one of the planet's most awful and despised regimes, with the sole rationale of avoiding foreign entanglements at any cost.

What is worse, the cables support what many feared when they observed Obama's emotionless, zen-like reaction to the Green Movement's suppression: that from Washington's point of view the Iranian rebels were an encumbrance rather than an ally.

According to Alan Eyre, the Iran RPO director, in January this year: "Iran's current domestic strife is a political black hole that swallows all other issues . . . such that until a new homeostasis is reached in Iran's political ruling class, progress on issues of bilateral importance will be even more difficult than usual."

No doubt this return to business as usual will come as a great relief to the "constructive engagement" set in Washington and beyond. Except that this time around the Iranian spectre will shadow not only the region, but potentially the entire world. And this time there is not the slightest chance that a peaceful change of government can avert the looming catastrophe.



WikiLeaks no threat to free society

by Steven Greenhut

The response by pundits to the latest WikiLeaks classified-document dump has reminded me of a preacher who decries pornography, but who also insists on reading the dirty magazines page by page so that he can better understand the depth of the world's depravity. If WikiLeaks' actions were so wrong, why is there such widespread interest in these cables, often by the same people vociferously criticizing their release?

Clearly, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has done our nation a service by publishing at-times embarrassing accounts of how the U.S. government conducts its foreign policy. This is a government that claims to be of the people, by the people and for the people, and which has grand pretenses about projecting freedom worldwide, yet it wants to be able to keep most of the details of its actions away from the prying eyes of the public.

There's no evidence that any information released will endanger anyone, and the U.S. government reportedly refused Assange's request to work with him to scrub any names that could be compromised. Officials will always trot out the "endangering lives" or "protecting security" argument so they don't have to reveal what they are doing, how they are doing it, or any misconduct or mistakes they have made while doing it. That's human nature. I'm surprised by how readily most Americans, liberal and conservative, are content with allowing so much of their government to operate in secrecy, even though open government is the cornerstone of a free society.

Cablegate separates Americans into two categories. There are those who agree with our founders that government power is a corrupting force, so government officials need to be closely monitored. And there are those who have nearly blind trust in the public-spiritedness of those who run the bureaucracies and rule us.

Put me in category A, which is why I applaud WikiLeaks and its efforts to provide the information necessary so Americans can govern themselves in this supposedly self-governing society.

"How can the American system be regarded as participatory if the most potentially explosive government conduct is hidden?" writer Sheldon Richman asked in a Christian Science Monitor column. "Are 'we the people' really in charge or not?" That's the question of the hour.

I'm most astounded that some journalists interviewed have been so half-hearted in their defense of Assange. Journalists know that government officials fight the release of virtually every piece of information, especially that which casts them in a less-than-favorable light. I've received police reports with nearly every word (other than "is," "are" and "by") redacted. I've had information requests dismissed and ignored, even for information that is unquestionably part of the public record.

Officials obfuscate and delay and then force the average citizen to go to court to get files that are supposed to be ours, as citizens. They know that few people can afford the legal fight, and there's little cost for refusing to adhere to public records laws.

This is the nature of government. If it weren't for anonymous sources and leaked information, the journalism business would serve as a press-release service for officialdom. We're all better off because courageous people leak important documents to the media. That's true even when leakers have a personal agenda in releasing the information.

The New York Times reports that the leaked diplomatic cables "contain a fresh American intelligence assessment of Iran's missile program. They reveal for the first time that the United States believes that Iran has obtained advanced missiles from North Korea that could let it strike at Western European capitals and Moscow and help it develop more formidable long-range ballistic missiles." That seems like useful information if we, the people, want to monitor our political leaders' decisions about how to deal with those two rogue nations. No wonder Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad joined Republicans and Democrats in denouncing WikiLeaks.

We learned that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wanted to collect personal and financial information about foreign leaders, which gives the public valuable insight into this presidential hopeful's view of civil liberties and personal privacy.

Even conservative writer Jonah Goldberg, who wondered why Assange hasn't been "garroted in his hotel room" after the previous WikiLeaks release of documents relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan described U.S. forces shooting at a group that included civilians, found worthwhile information in the latest documents: "And what these documents confirm is that President Obama's foreign policy is a mess."

Despite that useful insight, Goldberg is still angry at Assange, who "is convinced that he has revealed the hypocrisy and corruption of U.S. foreign policy, when in reality all he has revealed is that pursuing foreign-policy ideals is messier and more complicated in a world where bad people pursue bad ends."

The public is better off that we can debate Goldberg's point, rather than remain in the dark about these matters.

Liberals have been as bad as conservatives in denouncing Assange as treasonous. This is not surprising, given how committed they are to a massive government that manages our lives.

Bill Anderson, writing for the libertarian Web site Lewrockwell.com, reminds readers that 19th century Americans largely embraced the view that "politicians were corrupt, governments generally wasted tax dollars and that elected officials could not be trusted." The Progressive movement then came onto the scene to advance its reforms, by which a gifted intelligentsia would rule for the public good. Open government is anathema to such elite rule, as the public gets to see that the elites are mere human beings with all the same temptations and foibles as everybody else.

WikiLeaks has helped demystify the inner workings of our government, sparking a much-needed debate over various U.S. policies across the world and reminded Americans that free societies depend on an informed citizenry. And the disclosures even provided some levity, as we got to read some honest assessments of puffed-up world leaders. We should thank Assange rather than malign him, and we should eagerly await his next release.



Deficit cutting commission gets it wrong

The Bowles Simpson deficit cutting commission is more Washington theater. Another show with an impressive cast designed to give the appearance of being serious. This kind of theater, unfortunately, not only accomplishes little or nothing, but it makes things worse. Under the guise of doing something, it obfuscates our real problems.

Our federal budget did not explode over a few short years to sucking up a quarter of our economy because we didn't have politicos with green eyeshades looking at it. It exploded because we have government in Washington that can do practically anything it wants.

Without clarity about the role of government and meaningful law enforcing it, we're never going to get spending and debt under control. And this is what Americans need to wise up to and get resigned about.

Here's a few things sticking in my craw from just over the last week that speak to the reality of government with no constitutional constraint....

Peter Wallison and Edward Pinto of the American Enterprise Institute write that little has happened to fix what caused the great collapse in our financial markets. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the taxpayer backed mortgage behemoths, carried out their government mandate to expand homeownership by pushing a flood of subprime mortgages into the market and laid the groundwork for the collapse. They can no longer do this now that both have been bailed out by taxpayers to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars.

But this doesn't mean that Washington is now deterred from promoting home ownership by using taxpayers to back unsound mortgages. Now it's just being done through the Federal Housing Administration. According to Wallison and Pinto, this mission has shifted to FHA, who "... now accounts for 60 percent of all US home purchase mortgage originations," and, "FHA just announced its intention to push almost half of its home purchase volume into subprime territory by 2014-2017."

But perhaps the week's prize for taxpayer abuse must go to former VP Al Gore. Gore, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, admitted to a group of college students that government subsidies of ethanol are a bad idea. The energy and environmental benefits of ethanol are "trivial," he said, but "It's hard once such a program is put in place to deal with the lobbies that keep it going." Then he added that his own support for these subsidies was driven by his presidential ambitions.

We're drowning in spending and debt because theft is legal in Washington. This is our problem and the Bowles Simpson commission totally ignores it.




When the government promises it won’t abuse its powers, it’s lying: "Most people who supported the USA PATRIOT Act and the creation of DHS, no matter how unjustifiably, presumably believed that those extraordinary grants of power would be used only for the extraordinary purpose of fighting genuine terror networks like Al Qaeda and preventing terrorist attacks on the United States. It should be abundantly clear now that those people were had.”

Leak embarrassments : "My strong impression is that free men and women must never trust those in government very much, given that such folks have immense power and unless they and their works are watched carefully they are likely to abuse it–to quote the famous English political theorist Lord Acton, ‘Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ So there is good reason to applaud WikiLeaks’ efforts to inform us about how the governments of the world go about their business. The excuse that such knowledge may be embarrassing seems to me quite irrelevant since governments simply ought not to engage in conduct that embarrasses them.”

British taxes chase another major British company away: "The US owners of Cadbury are to switch control of the company to Switzerland in a move that could deprive Britain of more than £60 million in tax every year. The plan has been hatched by food giant Kraft, which took over the iconic British chocolate manufacturer earlier this year after a bitter £11 billion bid battle. It will see ownership of much-loved Cadbury brands including Dairy Milk, Crunchie and Twirl handed to a holding company in Zurich, where Kraft already has a major base."

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.

My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena

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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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