The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Archive for February 2008

Why the US and Russia care about Kosovo

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“Can they do that?” So I thought when I heard of Kosovo’s secession from Serbia. After all, in America, secession triggered a massive civil war. But when there were congratulations and quick recognition from the President, it all seemed good enough. So I figured this was how it works and I just didn’t understand.

Then the Russians got all exercised, even threatening invasion. Huh?

There had to be more to the story. Why were the US and Russia so aggressively pro and con? I found an answer in a post of Thomas Scahill in Counterpunch.

Turned out both nations have much at stake that isn’t in the headlines.

And hello, déjà-vu. Here’s the story:

In Kosovo, there is . . .

clipped from www.counterpunch.org
a massive US military base, Camp Bondsteel, which conveniently is located in an area of tremendous geopolitical interest to Washington.
In November 2005, Alvaro Gil-Robles, the human rights envoy of the Council of Europe, described Bondsteel as a “smaller version of Guantanamo.” Oh, and Bondsteel was constructed by former Halliburton subsidiary KBR.
The Serbian government is largely oriented toward Europe, not the US. The country’s prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, is not enthusiastic about a US military base on Serbian soil. He charged that, in recognizing Kosovo, Washington was”ready to unscrupulously and violently jeopardize international order for the sake of its own military interests.” To the would-be independent Kosovo government, however, Bondsteel is no problem.
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According to Robert Hayden, Director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh: “We have in Serbia a situation in which the U.S. has forced an action –the proclamation of independence by the Kosovo Albanians — that is in clear violation of the most fundamental principles of international law after World War II. Borders cannot be changed by force and without consent — that principle was actually the main stated reason for the 1991 U.S. attack on Iraq.”

So here’s the dope: Washington has fallen all over itself to recognize Kosovo’s illegal secession, and Russia has threatened military intervention, partly because the secession keeps a US military base on Russia’s doorstep (and, guess what, it’s just over the hill from an Asia-to-Europe oil pipeline). To Russia, it must be what Americans would feel if Russians established a military command center a hundred miles on the other side of, say, El Paso.

And once again, Washington’s worldwide military aspirations are the back-story of global conflict.


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Written by Monte

February 25, 2008 at 11:59 am

Selling snake-oil to the Christian right?

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Many of my colleagues are pretty sure that Muslim extremists are planning all-out war on the USA. Some have attended conventions (with names along the lines of “Conference on the Christian Family) where well-known guest speakers made the case that Islam is inherently against us. Some have 20th-century eschatological views that hold war to be inevitable, and a necessary step toward the return of Jesus Christ. John Hagee, a preacher who advocates that view, has had considerable influence in Washington, D.C.

Now it appears that three of the better-known authorities may be hucksters. Consider these excerpts from a story called Snake Oil Sellers of the Christian Right? from the Inter Press Service, reprinted in CommonDreams:

WASHINGTON, Feb 21 (IPS) – The U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs came under heavy criticism earlier this month from Muslim and religious freedom advocacy groups after it invited to a conference three self-professed “former terrorists” with strong links to the Christian right. […]0222 06

Collectively known as the “3-X Terrorists”, Walid Shoebat, Kamel Saleem and Zacharia Anani are front line soldiers in the U.S. “culture wars” […]

To supporters, the 3-X represent “moderate” voices; they are self-professed Muslim extremists who converted to evangelical Christianity and are now exposing Islam for what it really is. To critics, they are frauds, accused of fabricating much of their past exploits as mass murderers in order to peddle their Islamophobia on the lecture circuit and on cable news networks, including Fox News Corp. and CNN. […]

The relationship between the evangelical Christian Right and 3-X runs deep, with connections to Reverend John Hagee’s Christian-Zionist Christians United for Israel (CUFI), as well as Focus on the Family, Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

February 23, 2008 at 5:17 pm

Is Obama more style than substance? We consult Factcheck.org

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It’s certainly a popular comment – but is it true? We went to Factcheck.org, an independent political accountability group. Their evaluation includes a quote from last night’s debate:

Clinton: “I was somewhat amused the other night when on one of the TV shows, one of Senator Obama’s supporters was asked to name one accomplishment of Senator Obama, and he couldn’t.”

And Factcheck analyzes:

Clinton is referring to Texas state Sen. Kirk Watson, who completely whiffed when Hardball’s Chris Matthews threw him a softball question. But Clinton is wrong to suggest that Watson’s inability to answer means that Obama lacks substantive accomplishments.

In fact, Obama sponsored more than 800 bills during his eight years as an Illinois state senator. And his U.S. Senate career, while brief, has been action-packed.

As for Obama’s list of his accomplishments, he’s right on every count. A Washington Post editorial credited Obama for helping to create “the strongest ethics legislation to emerge from Congress yet,” and the Coburn-Obama Act created a new Web site, USAspending.gov, which allows anyone to see where federal contracting and grant money is being spent. Moreover, it was an Obama-sponsored amendment that ended Walter Reed’s practice of requiring outpatient military personnel to pay for their own meals.

And as a state senator in Illinois, Obama championed a bill requiring the police to videotape prisoner interrogations. Although initially controversial, the measure passed the Senate unanimously; even Republicans conceded that the turnaround was largely Obama’s doing.

Finally, while Obama didn’t mention this one, we think it’s worth noting that the Lugar-Obama non-proliferation initiative provided funds for destroying nuclear weapons and for intercepting weapons of mass destruction.

In short, Clinton is wrong to suggest that Obama lacks a substantive legislative record.

Well now, voter friend: Do you think eight hundred bills in the Illinois legislature is “all talk?” Do you think making the Army pay for veterans’ meals during treatment is “all style?”

May I invite you to bookmark this clip? If you should enjoy responding to those ubiquitous allegations, it could come in handy.  And I suppose there are a thousand such posts, and people everywhere who are doing the same thing.

We get to be a part, you and I, in these glorious internet days, of creating a groundswell of truth where once facts were too hard to come by.  What a privilege!  What a time to be alive!


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Written by Monte

February 22, 2008 at 10:39 pm

Posted in Politics, Social change

Coming to Bed?

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clipped from xkcd.com

Duty Calls
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I’m afraid I don’t understand this at all!!
At all!!


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Written by Monte

February 21, 2008 at 5:50 pm

Posted in Blogs, humor

Stuff white people like

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Courtesy of Utne Reader, I stumbled upon a pretty funny blog. It appears to be giving advice to non-white people about how to get along with whites, but is really a spoof on white stuff. Here’s a smidge, from a post entitled, “Recycling.” Hop over and enjoy some of the others.

clipped from stuffwhitepeoplelike.wordpress.com
Recycling is a part of a larger theme of stuff white people like: saving the earth without having to do that much. Recycling is fantastic! You can still buy all the stuff you like (bottled water, beer, wine, organic iced tea, and cans of all varieties) and then when you’re done you just put it in a DIFFERENT bin than where you would throw your other garbage. And boom! Environment saved! Everyone feels great, it’s so easy!

[If you see a white person with an empty bottle] watch their actions. They will first say “where’s the recycling?” If you say “we don’t recycle,” prepare for some awkwardness. They will make a move to throw the bottle away, they will hesitate, and then ultimately throw the bottle away. But after they return look in their eyes. All they can see is the bottle lasting forever in a landfill, trapping small animals. It will eat at them for days, at this point you should say “I’m just kidding, the recycling is under the sink. Can you fish out that bottle?” And they will do it 100% of the time!

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Written by Monte

February 20, 2008 at 5:55 pm

Posted in humor, Race, Social change

Gitmo trials rigged; JAG officers want out

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Former chief prosecutor says fair trials “not possible”

[Update, 2/27/08: “The Department of Defense announced today that General Counsel of the Department of Defense William J. Haynes II is returning to private life next month.”]

The Nation writes that the Bush appointee in charge of the entire military tribunal process—to whom its judges, prosecutors, and defenders report—has sent word that “not guilty” is not an option. Follow the link for more details; here’s a summary:

Col. Morris DavisAccording to Col. Morris Davis (right), former chief prosecutor for Guantánamo’s military commissions, the process has been manipulated by Administration appointees in an attempt to foreclose the possibility of acquittal.

Colonel Davis … [told] the Washington Post that he had been pressured by politically appointed senior defense officials to pursue cases deemed “sexy” and of “high-interest” … in the run-up to the 2008 elections. Davis, once a staunch defender of the commissions process, elaborated … “I concluded that full, fair and open trials were not possible under the current system … I felt that the system had become deeply politicized and that I could no longer do my job effectively.”

When asked if he thought the men at Guantánamo could receive a fair trial, Davis provided the following account of an August 2005 meeting he had with Pentagon general counsel William Haynes–the man who now oversees the tribunal process for the Defense Department. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

February 20, 2008 at 3:15 pm

He won’t be working for cluster bomb maker

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So your company’s bought by another. And this other makes things that maim children – things that the U.N. has cluster bombsasked world governments never to use. Is it your problem?

[Update, 2-19-08: Today’s Common Dreams reports “Children Are Forty Percent of Cluster Bomb Casualties“]

[Update 2, 3-6-08:  See new post American clusters bombs still explode Laotian children]

Paul Cottle is not a pacificist. But when he found himself working for Alliant Techsystems (ATK), which makes cluster bombs, depleted uranium shells and landmines—all war products that remain lethal after the troops go home—here’s how he called it:

clipped from www.commondreams.org
0213 03A man from Beckley has made headlines in Canada for quitting his job. For three years, Paul Cottle worked as an engineer at MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, an information solutions company in British Columbia. […]In January, the CEO gathered all employees and told them half the company would be sold to Alliant Techsystems, a Minnesota-based arms manufacturer known as ATK. […]“I knew [ATK] was nothing I wanted to be involved with,” the 31-year-old said. “Leaving my job … was an absolute certainty that I knew right away.” … So he quit right then. […]

ATK describes itself as “an advanced weapon and space systems company.” It is the world’s leading supplier of solid rocket motors and the largest U.S. manufacturer of ammunition. … It also makes cluster bombs, depleted uranium shells and landmines. […]

“What I am against is working for a company that makes weapons that have been shown to be as to harmful to civilians as to soldiers.”

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Seems heroic to me. How ’bout you?


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Written by Monte

February 17, 2008 at 4:48 pm