A blog by an American expatriate living in the heart of New Europe

"It's a lateral transfer" -- George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States
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Friday, December 31, 2004

Abandon the War on Terror?

I knew that would get ya.

Chris Bowers wrote an interesting piece yesterday about why the whole "war on terror" undermines the Democratic argument. He postulates that the "war on terror" is a phrase invented by the Bush team which frames the US's national security debate in an inherently pro-Republican context. According to Bowers, the term "war on terror" connotes (emphasis his):

[T]he need for continuing escalation of the size and influence of the military industrial complex; a simplistic conceptualization of identity revolving primarily around the notion of a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West; a view that threats can only be countered and tamed through the use of force; justification of any United States military action overseas, whether unilateral or pre-emptive.

I myself have questioned the phrasing of the "war on terror" -- if it's a war, when will we know it's been won? Bush himself said he doesn't think "you can win it". It also sounds suspiciously like the "war on drugs" -- and we all know how well that went.

While Bowers offers up several points where the Democratic party has its own very clear policies on international intervention, such as the prosecution of war criminals, preventing genocide, support for internal democratic groups as well as funding of economic and humanitarian aid, he disappointingly doesn't give an alternative frame by which Democrats could escape from this Republican rhetoric.

But I think he may be onto something. Just about every progressive out there laments the Democratic party's seemingly permanent default mode of defining itself against the GOP, rather than on its own set of values. Since the Democratic party is weak in the voters' minds on the war on terror and more historically on national security in general, offering a clear, fresh, overall policy on security might not be a bad idea. We could define it as a "Strategy for Security" (just throwing out an idea) by promoting progress on social issues both at home and abroad, while emphasizing the need to maintain American military power, but as a force for protecting, supporting, and promoting that progress. A continued American presence in Iraq would be completely compatible with such a policy (for example), but pre-emptive wars of choice would not. With all the talk these days of the Dems' need to take a stand on "moral issues", Democrats could focus the debate on the morality of this position.

We all know that the Democrats can never win by continuing to be the party of un-Elephants. At a time when the War in Iraq is losing popular support, this may be the time to make our assault on the centerpiece of Republican policy -- if we have the guts.

It was only a matter of time

As anyone could have expected, the Bush foreign policy is now producing a noticeably negative effect on the US economy, according to an article by Jim Lobe. While Bush had hoped his (denail of his) weak dollar policy (the dollar is now worth less than 3 złoty) would stem the ballooning trade deficit, cheap American products seem not to be enticing Europeans and Canadians.

Some choice excerpts:
Twenty percent of respondents in Europe and Canada said they consciously avoided buying U.S. products as a protest against those policies. That finding was consistent with a similar poll carried out by GMI three weeks after Bush's November election victory. . .

Half of the entire sample said they distrusted U.S. companies, at least in part because of the U.S. foreign policy. Seventy-nine percent said they distrusted the U.S. government for the same reason, while 39 percent said they distrusted the American public.

We have officially lost the world's trust, and it will not only cost us our physical security, but also our economic security. Thank you, red America.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Only the blind

From the Post:

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said that despite some shortcomings, the elections were largely fair.

"I cannot express to you how delighted I am to say that in our collective view, Ukraine's elections have moved substantially closer to meeting OSCE and other European standards in such a short period of time," Bruce George, special coordinator for the short-term observers, said at a news conference. "In our judgment, the people of this great country can be truly proud that yesterday they took a great step toward free and democratic elections by electing the next president of Ukraine."

Yanukovych dismissed that judgment, saying "only the blind couldn't see how many violations there were."

A Yushchenko spokeswoman, Irina Heraschenko, said the opposition was not worried by Yanukovych's planned appeal.

"He has the right to go to the courts," she said. "But his appeal should be based upon facts, not disappointment. And we haven't heard any facts."

She noted that Yanukovych's claim that 4.8 million people had been disenfranchised far exceeded any previous tally of the vote at home by the disabled, and that under the new regulations, everyone still had the right to apply for an at-home ballot.

Yanukovych also said he wanted his appeal heard by the entire Supreme Court of 85 judges, not the Supreme Court civil panel that overturned a Nov. 21 election in which Yanukovych was declared the official winner.

"I don't trust them," he said of the judges who heard Yushchenko's appeal.

"Yanukovych obviously did not consult any lawyers," said Sergei Koziakov, a lawyer with a leading Kiev firm. "This is all emotion. The procedural codes of Ukraine do not allow such cases to be heard by the entire Supreme Court."

A supporter of Ukraine's Viktor Yushchenko, holding a Polish flag, shouts at a rally in Kiev. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski was among the leaders to congratulate Yushchenko.

A much more lonely fight

From the Times:

This time, in a reversal of the Nov. 21 election, it was Mr. Yanukovich who was refusing to accept the outcome. Speaking Monday evening at his headquarters, he asserted that a huge number of Ukrainians had been denied access to the polls, either by restrictive new voting rules or by intimidation by Mr. Yushchenko's supporters. He said he would file a challenge to the Supreme Court, seeking cancellation of the results.

"This is a crying fact: Millions of Ukrainian citizens did not have a chance to vote," he said. "They were thrown out. They were humiliated. There were more than 4,800,000 of such people."

Mr. Yanukovich's claim did not square with the reports of international observers or journalists, and although for a moment Kiev seemed bound for a continued standoff in this protracted race, the prime minister's challenge appeared destined to go forward without independent corroboration or European support.

Furthermore, while Mr. Yanukovich appeared to be following the Yushchenko playbook in protesting the results, there were other unmistakable differences. Mr. Yushchenko's complaints last month were matched not just by Western leaders but by a huge outpouring of support in Ukraine. Parliament also took up his case.

But Mr. Yanukovich was stepping into a much more lonely fight. He mustered few supporters in the capital on Monday, and Parliament ignored him, announcing plans through a spokesman to prepare for Mr. Yushchenko's inauguration.

A few of Prime Minister Yanukovich's supporters did show up on Monday to wave his distinctive blue and white flags near his headquarters. But they numbered only a few dozen, and seemed more worried than inspired.


Mr. Yanukovich had previously said he planned to bring huge numbers of his supporters to Kiev in the event he lost the race, but his supporters on the streets on Monday said they were local people, and they showed little signs of organization or preparation.

On the corner outside the prime minister's headquarters, three young men had only one banner to wave, and they shared a single bottle of beer.

"There were falsifications on the Yushchenko side," said one of them, Doniyel Yashikov, 18, a student at the Interior Ministry's law enforcement academy. "I will never recognize him."

Asked how he would resist, Mr. Yashikov said he would go to rallies. There were no rallies in sight, just cars passing by with their drivers and passengers largely ignoring him. Many of their antennas bore the orange ribbons of the Yushchenko campaign.

As we Democrats can attest, it's no fun losing an election. But when the results are clear and the election is fair, you pack up, go home, and work at becoming an opposition. Not even Putin will help them now.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Let Freedom Ring

According to Gazeta Wyborcza (Polish language link), Ukraine's Central Election Commission has declared Yushchenko the winner of yesterday's elections.

From the BBC:

Yushchenko: 52.3%
Yanukovych: 43.9%
Turnout: 77%
Source: Ukraine Central Election Commission, with 98% of votes counted

Welcome to New Europe, Ukraine. We've been waiting.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Open thread

My family would like me to spend some time with them now that I'm here, but that last thread was getting a bit crowded, so I decided to post a new one. You can continue from the last thread here, but I'll also throw out a couple new topics of discussion.

1. Donald Rumsfeld sucks. Discuss.

2. Kerik -- just a nanny thing? Ha! GWB's new attorney general isn't getting off to a very good start if he can't even dig up dirt on this guy with a trail of corruption a mile long. GWB picked this guy because of his "gut" feeling. What the hell does that say about his gut?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Not just about intel anymore

According to an article in the The New York Times today, the Pentagon is trying to increase the role of the military in intelligence-collection operations.

"Not so strange," you might say. "After all, the President has just signed a bill significantly reducing the Pentagon's oversight over intelligence. Rummy's just looking to muscle back into the intel racket."


But this passage gave me pause:

"Right now, we're looking at providing Special Operations forces some of the flexibility the C.I.A. has had for years," said a Defense Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan has not yet been approved.

Flexibility? What might that mean?

Remember water boarding?

From Newsweek's June 21 Issue

"There was a spike in a lot of intel that we were picking up in terms of more attacks" on America, said Gen. James Hill, chief of the U.S. Southern Command. "We weren't getting anything out of [Mohamed al Qatani]" using standard techniques outlined in Army Field Manual 34-52. So CIA and military-intel interrogators came up with new tactics based on the sorts of methods that U.S. Special Forces are specifically trained to resist, a Defense source says.

Is the Pentagon now trying to give Special Forces the power to use those methods? -- What the CIA does with interrogation subjects is barely legal, if at all.


Counterterrorism officials reportedly said that the methods used by the CIA are so harsh that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned its agents not to participate in the interrogations of high-level detainees — the techniques employed by the CIA would be prohibited in criminal cases and could compromise FBI agents in future cases.

Right now, the Pentagon is describing the proposal as mostly about "commencing combat operations chiefly to obtain intelligence."

From the Times:

Until now, intelligence operations run by the Pentagon have focused primarily on gathering information about enemy forces. But the overarching proposal being drafted in the Pentagon, which encompasses General Boykin's efforts, would focus military intelligence operations increasingly on counterterrorism and counterproliferation, areas in which the C.I.A. has played the leading role.

The "overarching proposal" -- But if Special Forces got those other powers, Rummy would no longer have to worry about the illegal abuse of prisoners.

Most of it wouldn't be illegal anymore.

And if you think members of the Special Forces don't do prisons, you'd be wrong.

From the New Yorker:

Last June [2003], Janis Karpinski, an Army reserve brigadier general, was named commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade and put in charge of military prisons in Iraq. General Karpinski, the only female commander in the war zone, was an experienced operations and intelligence officer who had served with the Special Forces and in the 1991 Gulf War, but she had never run a prison system.

Is this about a power-struggle between the CIA and the Pentagon?


But that's not the whole story. If we're not careful, the Pentagon is going to sneak legalized torture into the military. And right under our noses.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Is it or isn't it?

Is Poland growing in significance for the U.S., or isn't it? My inkling, with the importance of the Boeing contract, Bush's mention of Kwaśniewski at every opportunity, and Bush's trust of him during the Ukraine crisis -- not to mention Poland's involvement in Iraq (reports say that today 3 Polish soldiers died -- bringing the grand total up to 16), tell me that Poland is a growing power, and indeed, a more important ally to the US than it was just a few years ago. But I'm living here, and I must admit that I WANT the situation to be that way. You folk out there don't have that bias, so, what do you think?

Here's an article from the Los Angeles Times that says Poles disagree. Please remember that Poles are generally ornery to begin with.

Here's an excerpt:

"It's like this," said Polish legislator Henryk Dzido. "America and Poland are a married couple. The husband -- America -- is a despot, cheating and fooling around on his Polish wife. But she still loves him. Then one day the man tells the wife she has to support herself, but, not to fear, because he will still be her husband."

Before everyone starts in with the "We saved their asses in WWII, and this is the thanks we get?" line, please remember that Poland wasn't saved -- it was abandoned by the US to the Russians at Yalta, and that America's involvement in WWII wasn't completely altruistic. However, Poles do remain thankful to Americans for what they did do (a great deal, admittedly), and Poles are probably the biggest Americophiles in Europe, if not the world. It has been said that the Poles love America more than Americans ...

So, how big of an ally is Poland to the US really?

The Heartland Strategy

From Will Marshall at the Progressive Policy Institute:

Can it work?

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Pied Piper?

There are those who say that privatizing Social Security may be beneficial -- remember that SS nowadays doesn't even give you a return at the same level of inflation.

That's not to mention all the problems it will have in the future. Reducing benefits and pushing up the retirement age are the painful, but inevitable solutions we'll have to one day come to terms with. Perhaps putting some of that money into the stock market could generate better returns in order to help relieve the squeeze. Some believe it could solve the problem entirely.

And some folks believe that the President's scheme to privatize a portion of SS is just a red herring, designed to start us on the slow roll to abolishing social security altogether.

Yesterday, Josh Marshall made this claim.

He says:

It wouldn't be abolished overnight, of course, but phased out over time. So any oldsters collecting benefits now wouldn't need to worry. And the same would probably go for pre-fogies too ... say, anyone over 55.

But that's the essence of it: abolishing Social Security or not.

So here are some questions:

Should we abolish Social Security and replace it with a system of loosely-federally-regulated 401ks, or not? Why?

Don't you suspect that a number of representatives in the federal government might see this as a goal? How many do you think in the House? The Senate?

In other words:
With the conservative wing of the Republican Party controlling the party, couldn't it just be possible that this is what they have up their sleeve?

Or could Bush ever manage such a feat? Getting it past the public would be a challenge.

But if it happens slowly ...

Should we follow President Bush down the road to privatizing social security, hoping he won't drive us off the cliff? Or are you confident that we can slam on the breaks, even with him in the drivers' seat?

On Mr Bush's irresponsible plan to accomplish SS privatization, please see yesterday's Bull Moose.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Canadians not afraid of homos

In a landmark ruling today, the Canadian Supreme Court has declared homosexual marriage constitutional.

However, the court added that religious officials cannot be forced to perform unions against their beliefs.

Which had, for some reason, been a controversial issue. I'm no expert on Canadian Law, but this last part seems awfully reasonable.

If approved by a majority of the House of Commons, as widely expected, Canada would become the third country to embrace marriage by homosexuals and lesbians. Belgium and the Netherlands are the other two.

There was a day when America was the pioneer when it came to human rights. Is our colleague Andrew correct in believing we're now experiencing the age of America's decline?

Lessons from Warsaw's Past

In keeping with the Polish focus on this website, I'm posting a link to this article about a 6-page diary found from the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The most telling passage is her last:

The only thing we are left with is our hiding place. Of course this will not be a safe place for very long.

If any of you don't know about the uprising in Warsaw's Jewish Ghetto in 1943, I suggest you bone up on your WWII history. Long story short, is this:

On April 19, 1943, the Warsaw ghetto uprising began after German troops and police entered the ghetto to deport its surviving inhabitants. Seven hundred and fifty fighters fought the heavily armed and well-trained Germans. The ghetto fighters were able to hold out for nearly a month, but on May 16, 1943, the revolt ended. The Germans had slowly crushed the resistance. Of the more than 56,000 Jews captured, about 7,000 were shot, and the remainder were deported to killing centers or concentration camps. Link here.

Nigdy więcej wojny.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Bull Moose on Rummy, part II

Another excellent quote from Bull Moose:

Of course, the truth is that it was the President that determined the timing of this war. If there wasn't enough equipment before the war, the President could have delayed the start at the recommendation of his Secretary of Defense. It is not as if we were facing a Pearl Harbor situation. And if we are truly at war, why doesn't the President take extraordinary measures as FDR did during the second world war and force the manufacturers to turn out the necessary vehicles to ensure our troops' safety?

Oh no, Mr. Moose. Don't you see it's international organizations like the UN, and the terrible opposition of the EU that has prevented our troops from getting the proper equipment? If these lilly-livered peaceniks handn't opposed the war, none of these problems would have ever taken place!

If you haven't taken a look at Bull Moose yet, I suggest you do. All regular Warsaw-Stationers should have taken a look at Talking Points Memo by now, as well as Andrew Sullivan and Redneck's Revenge.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Breaking up is hard to do

According to this Friday's lead article on EU Business Online, when it comes to the transatlantic relationship, Bush has finally come to his senses.

A cheap dollar can't do it all to close the trade deficit.

The Economist has an interesting article on the dollar's decline as the world's reserve currency.

As long as I've been here, I've calculated złoty's to dollars at a rate of approximately 4 to 1. One złoty was always worth about one quarter.

Friday, the dollar closed at 3.1466 złoty.

No pass no play

More on keeping Rummy, from Bull Moose:

Despite the mass exodus, the incompetent one remains -Rummy. All that happened on his watch was an abysmal post-war plan and a prison scandal. This confirms that the only ones held accountable in this Administration are welfare mothers and struggling third grade students. For them, standards and accountability apply. For Rumsfeld, he is just passed along to the next grade (or term) regardless of his performance.

A moral leader?

Andrew Sullivan sees a culture of abuse in the US military-- a direct result of the Bush administration's ends-justify-the-means policy.

And the Bush administration has already made it absolutely clear that no one of any consequence will be held responsible. They make me ashamed.

Me too. Bewildering that after so many cabinet members have been discarded, Rumsfeld remains safe and sound. A travesty.

Sullvan cites this article as more evidence, as if we needed any.

Please tell me again how this is keeping us safe from terrorism.

Some might argue that such behavior is inevitable during war. My answer: exactly, which is why I and so many others were against it in the first place. We knew this kind of thing was bound to happen (although we perhaps didn't expect it on this scale, and so well documented), while Wolfowitz was harboring hallucinations of rose-petal-strewn streets in the heart of Bagdad.

Four more years. ugh.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Mr Sour

kwaśny (kfash-nih) adj-- sour

Our man Mr Kwaśniewski (all together now--"kfash-NYEV-ski") is getting an awful lot of press lately.

President Bush:

"I informed the prime minister that i had talked this morning to President Kwasniewski of Poland. President Kwasniewski will again lead a delegation which will include a representative of the European Union to the Ukraine to encourage the parties to reject violence and to urge the parties to engage in dialogue toward a political and legal solution to the current crisis. Our common goal is to see the will of the Ukrainian people prevail. The prime minister and I want to thank President Kwasniewski for his efforts, and we wish him all the success."

That's it, Kwaśniewski's plan has been annointed. According to Polish press (Gazeta Wyborcza- Polish article), it's even a five point plan. The report claims that only two points so far are known: First, a pledge from both sides to refrain from violence. Second, to commit to dialog.

But now we know the third:

--WARSAW, Nov 30 (AFP) - Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski on Tuesday called for a new presidential runoff in Ukraine "as soon as possible" if the Ukrainian Supreme Court determines that the recent disputed vote was rigged.--

The right move, I judge. Sounds to me like a call to the Ukrainian Supreme Court to expedite matters and come to a verdict (that the election was indeed rigged), so that negotiations can quickly move on to settling the terms of these new elections. A verdict the other way could lead to dangerous consequences, so I hope the Court follows Kwaśniewski's advice. The longer the protesters on the streets of Kiev (or if you prefer, Kyiv) are left dangling in political limbo, the greater the chances for violence.

Yanukovych is losing traction by the day-- Kuchma's support for fresh elections has put him at an extreme disadvantage. He has offered to make Yushchenko Prime Minister if he becomes President (Yushchenko brushed it off), and has also suggested that if a new vote is held, neither man run, and new candidates be chosen.

He knows he's done for. Yushchenko smells blood. Don't expect him to make any public concessions anytime soon.

Enter Kwaśniewski. He has knowledge of the region, he has Bush's support, and he's known very well by all of the EU's leaders.

--Kwasniweski said his initiative had the support of US President George W. Bush, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.--

With these relationships, he's managed to push Wałęsa (Va-WEN-sah) out of the picture, and could, depending on the outcome of this crisis, finally achieve his dream of outshining him.

This is Mr Sour's time to shine.
He has the support, the consensus, and the momentum.

And it's probably the most important moment of his presidency.

Let's also note that Poland is finally on the path to playing it's proper role in world politics. Clearly, this nation has carved out a place of real significance in the EU, in the Coalition of the Willing, and in NATO. Poland is not only one of the forces pulling US and EU foreign policy closer together, but it is now the go-to guy on Central and Eastern European diplomacy. A fitting role, and none too dishonorable.

Ukraine latest:

--Threats to Ukraine's unity, meanwhile, seemed to dissipate after the eastern Donetsk region said it would not hold its referendum on self-rule as planned Sunday amid sharp criticism from lawmakers and potential legal action to protect the nation's territorial integrity. The Kharkiv regional legislature also retracted its threat to introduce self-rule.--

Thank God.

And in grammar news. . .

"I fully understand the cattle business. I understand the pressures placed upon Canadian ranchers," he said. But he noted, "There's a bureaucracy involved. I readily concede we've got one."

That's right, bureaucracy is now officially a countable noun. Take notes, it'll be on the test.

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