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Дональд Рамсфельд
20 октября, 23:48

Leaked Podesta Email Reveals Why Larry Summers Did Not Become Obama's Treasury Secretary

Three years ago, a very unhappy Larry Summers conceded that he would not become Fed Chair when he withdrew from the running to become Ben Bernanke's replacement on September 15, 2013, following some dramatic pressure by the press and numerous liberal economists. However, we now know that that was only the most recent of Larry's disappointments. According to one of the Podesta emails released today, it appears that America was this close to having Larry Summers as the appointed replacement to Hank Paulson as Treasury Secretary by the Obama administration in 2009. However, that did not happen as a result of what may have been a letter from the late powerful corporate lawyer Bob Pirie, founder of Skadden Arps, who on November 7, 2008 wrote an email to John Podesta by way of Harold Ickes, explaining why Obama should pick Tim Geithner or Paul Volcker, and not Larry Summers. From the leaked Podesta email: Harold would you be kind enough to forward this to John Podesta? He must be very busy and perhaps this is a better way of communicating than via the phone. give a yell when you are coming this way. Bob Dear John, Although still in a state of euphoria over the results on Tuesday, I am concerned that the appointment for Treasury Secretary offers either a great opportunity or a lost one or in one case would create a future problem.   The latter, obviously, is Larry Summers who is an extra bright version of Donald Rumsfeld, arrogantly unpleasant to his subordinates, dismissive to his equals and pandering to his superiors. I spent some time with Neil Rudenstine on Wednesday, and he would use even stronger terms and would be happy to talk to anyone on the subject.   On a positive note, I think the one person with global credibility is Paul Volcker and credibility is as useful a currency as cash for addressing our problems and perhaps even rarer. He was at my house for election eve and did not object to my forwarding his name, but, properly, will not seek it directly.   The answer to the age issue, putting aside that he is demonstrably very active, would be to appoint Tim Geithner as deputy with the clear understanding, but not commitment, that he would succeed in a year or two. Geithner was at my house for dinner last spring with Paul, Felix, Henry Kissinger and a few others to discuss the situation as it then existed, and I was impressed with him, but he seemed a little young (that may be a reflection on me not him) so a few years of seasoning would not be a bad thing. I have talked to John Whitehead, Felix Rohatyn and Joe Flom about this, and they have authorized me to say that they fully support it. Three months later, on January 26, Tim Geithner was was appointed US Treasury Secretary. Who was Bob Pirie and why did his opinion matter? "During the 1960s and early 1970s Pirie was associated with law firms in Boston. His work for the Harold Hughes election campaign during this time landed him on the master list of Nixon political opponents." And some more from his NYT obituary: He had been involved in mergers and acquisitions while practicing at Gaston, Snow, Motley & Holt in Boston in the early 1970s when he joined forces in a hostile takeover with Joseph Flom, a founder of the powerful New York firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Mr. Pirie developed into an aggressive mergers-and-acquisitions lawyer, spending much of his time in New York. In his book “Skadden: Power, Money, and the Rise of a Legal Empire” (1993), Lincoln Caplan described Mr. Pirie as “an iconoclast.”Mr. Caplan wrote:   “A lawyer who worked with him said, ‘He bulls his way through everything in a larger-than-life way, and he knows he’s doing it. He affects a kind of entitlement, with a confidence and a flair that enable him to pull it off.’ ”   Mr. Pirie was a partner at the firm from 1973 until 1982, when he was named president and chief executive of Rothschild Inc., the New York investment banking arm of the Rothschild family. Among the deals he was involved in at Rothschild were the media mogul Robert Maxwell’s takeover of the publishing company Macmillan and James Goldsmith’s of the paper giant Crown Zellerbach.   “Bob Pirie is a man with green fingers who knows how to make money,” David de Rothschild, head of the Rothschild bank in Paris, said at the time.   Mr. Pirie later became senior managing director of Bear Stearns & Company and vice chairman of investment banking at SG Cowen Securities. We find it amusing, and ironic, that the American people may owe a career lawyer/banker and ex-Rothschildian a favor for preventing Larry Summers from becoming Obama's Treasury Secretary.

20 октября, 19:01

Risk: Dealing With Known-Unknowns

As any parent will confirm, teenagers know one thing. Unfortunately, it is “every”-thing. The rest of the population, by contrast, recognizes and appreciates the complexity of the world in which

19 октября, 18:05

Condoleezza Rice's Response To Trump Calling Her A 'Bitch' Is All Of Us

Condoleezza Rice is counting down the days until the election just like the rest of us, after Deadspin recently dug up a 2006 speech by Donald Trump in which he calls the former secretary of state a “bitch.” He allegedly made the insulting remark while giving a keynote address at the Learning Annex Real Estate & Wealth Expo at the Javits Center in New York City in front of thousands of attendees.  From the New York Daily News:  “Condoleezza Rice, she’s a lovely woman, but I think she’s a bitch,” Trump said to wild applause. “She goes around to other countries and other nations, negotiates with their leaders, comes back and nothing ever happens. Sounding more like a presidential candidate than a real estate mogul, Trump then set his sights on [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld. “You look at Rumsfeld and we spend $900 million a year, and arms and legs and lives are wasted,” Trump said. “You look at all this and you ask what kind of government is this? ... If you don’t have smart people running the government, then good entrepreneurship will get you nowhere.”  CNN reached out to Rice for comment on the resurfaced remarks.  “Can’t wait until November 9!” she replied, referencing the Wednesday after Election Day 2016.  CNN uncovered a video clip from the speech showing Trump saying “I wish she was a bitch. I don’t care if she’s a lovely woman. I want somebody that can go and make deals.” The Daily News reports these comments were made in addition to the others referenced in their initial 2006 reporting. Earlier this month, Rice, who does not frequently post on social media, took to her Facebook account to say Trump should withdraw from the presidential race.  This piece has been updated with additional information from CNN.  Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S. Stay informed with the latest news and video. Download HuffPost’s news app. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

13 октября, 21:06

United States Teaches International Law is What You Do to Your Enemies but Withhold from Yourself and Friends

In the manner of a papal encyclical, Secretary of State John Kerry stood at the State Department podium on October 7, 2016 and pontificated for an international war crimes investigation by the International Criminal Court of atrocities allegedly perpetrated by Presidents President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Vladimir Putin of Russia in Syria. Mr. Kerry preached: "Russia and the [Syrian] regime owe the world more than an explanation about why they keep hitting hospitals, and medical facilities, and children and women. These are acts that beg for an appropriate investigation of war crimes, and those who commit these would and should be held accountable for these actions. This is a targeted strategy to terrorize civilians." The Secretary was espousing the longstanding United States doctrine that international law is what you do to your enemies but withhold from yourself and friends. He omitted the following context which made his summons for a war crimes investigation ring hollow. The United States refused to join the International Criminal Court to block prosecution of our officials for war crimes. The United States refused to ratify the Law of the Sea Convention (and then shamelessly berated China, a signatory, for disobeying provisions that we refused to accept for ourselves). The United States flouted the ruling of the International Court of Justice in Republic of Nicaragua v. United States (1986). The Court found that the United States violated customary international law and Nicaragua's sovereignty by ''training, arming, equipping, financing and supplying the contra forces.'' It found the United States guilty of direct attacks on Nicaraguan oil installations, ports and shipping in 1983 and 1984. It concluded that the United States broke international law by authorizing overflights of Nicaraguan territory and by mining Nicaraguan ports and harbors in 1984. The Court also ruled that the United States trade embargo against Nicaragua, decreed in May 1985, violated a 1956 bilateral treaty of friendship. The Court condemned the United States for allowing distribution of a Central Intelligence Agency manual on guerrilla warfare techniques to the contras that encouraged ''acts contrary to the general principles of humanitarian law.'' And we ignored everything the ICJ decided. A 1993 Belgium law, as amended in 1999, endowed Belgium courts with jurisdiction over crimes against humanity, genocide or war crimes occurring anywhere in the world. Complaints were filed against former President George H.W. Bush, former Secretary of Defense and Vice President Dick Cheney, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, and U.S. General Tommy Franks. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld swiftly journeyed to Brussels threatening to remove NATO headquarters from the city if Belgium tarried in repealing the law. Belgium saluted. The complaints were dismissed. NATO remained in Brussels. And international law was orphaned. The United States has refused to pursue good faith negotiations for nuclear disarmament as stipulated by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The United States has failed to investigate credible allegations of torture unearthed by the Senate Intelligence Committee or otherwise, including waterboarding, as required by the Convention Against Torture. What we did during our secret, gratuitous war against Laos from 1964-1973 in violation of the United Nations Charter prohibition on war except in self-defense makes what Presidents Assad and Putin are doing in Aleppo a tea party in comparison. We dropped over 2 million tons of ordnance in 580,000 bombing missions, the equivalent of one planeload every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for 9 years. At least 270 million cluster bomblets were released; approximately 80 million failed to detonate. Data from a survey completed in 2009 indicate that UXO (unexploded ordnance), including cluster bombs, have killed or maimed as many as 50,000 civilians in Laos since 1964 (and 20,000 since 1973, after the war ended). Over the past two years, there have been over one hundred new casualties annually. Over the past four decades, less than 1% of the bomblets that failed to detonate have been cleared. All 17 provinces in Laos, and 41 of 46 of the poorest districts in Laos, remain endangered by UXO contamination. The United States is a co-belligerent with Saudi Arabia in its war against Yemen's Houthi-Ali Saleh forces. Among other things, we supply Saudi Arabia with munitions and intelligence. Saudi Arabia keeps hitting hospitals, medical facilities, funerals, and women and children aping Assad and Putin in Syria. But Secretary Kerry has refrained from calling for war crimes investigations of Saudi Arabia or the United States. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has promised to practice torture and to assassinate civilians in fighting ISIS if he is elected. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has promised to play prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner to kill ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi if she is elected. The United States teaches the world by example. If we wish other nations to follow international law, we must do likewise. If we do not, we will reap what we sow. Aleppo is proof. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

09 октября, 16:00

Падение американского мира

Любые модели – от власти Советов до кейнсианского государства всеобщего благоденствия или неолиберализма в духе Рейгана и Тэтчер – являются идеологически обусловленной импровизацией Предисловие переводчика: В одном из старых анекдотов разъяренный Мишель Нострадамус тычет своего кота мордой в тапок со словами: «Вот кто здесь нагадит через полчаса? Кто? Я кого спрашиваю?». В состоянии ли было […]

06 октября, 17:32

Trump Time Capsule #129: 'Nobody Says It the Other Way'

Before anyone writes in to point it out: of course a public figure mis-pronouncing a certain place’s name, when visiting…

06 октября, 04:15

Afghanistan 15 Years On: Obama’s Sorriest Legacy

Why America’s longest war will remain a muddle for the next president. If only Trump or Clinton were paying attention.

03 октября, 22:12

Assailing a Statutory Paragon

Detractors of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) are to justice what slaveholders were to freedom. They deplore the statutory exposure of foreign governments to liability in United States courts for international terrorist murders or assassinations here. They are seemingly appalled that the law, if it had been enacted in 1976, would have exposed Chile to civil litigation by the estates of former Chilean foreign minister Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt for their murders in Washington, D.C. ordered by Chilean President Augusto Pinochet and executed by the head of Chile's secret police, Manual Contreras. A declassified October 6, 1987 Memorandum from Secretary of State George Schultz to President Ronald Reagan relates: "[T]his is a blatant example of a chief of state's direct involvement in an act of state terrorism, one that is particularly disturbing...because it occurred in our capital...." JASTA's critics must be equally alarmed by the prospect that North Korea could be sued for damages under the new law if the Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, undertook cyber-terrorism that caused a plane to crash, a train to derail, a power plant to fail, or otherwise in the United States that caused deaths. Have they no sense of decency? The American Revolution was fought, among other things, to overthrow the principle that, "The King can do no wrong." In the famous case of Marbury v. Madison (1803), Chief Justice John Marshall sermonized that the "very essence of civil liberty certainly consists in the right of every individual to claim the protection of the laws, whenever he receives an injury...[We cannot have a] government of laws, and not of men . . . . if the laws furnish no remedy for the violation of a vested legal right." The law protects the weak from the strong. Among the strong, governments are the strongest because they enjoy monopolies on legalized violence and the taxing power. The law is on its highest moral ground when it holds governments accountable for their wrongdoing--especially acts of international terrorism that cause death, physical injury, or the destruction of property. JASTA's provision of a civil cause of action against any foreign state complicit in international terrorism in the United States is thus morally irreproachable. It is retroactive to September 11, 2001. Saudi Arabia may be a defendant if credible proof of its complicity in the approximately 3,000 terrorist murders on that date can be unearthed. The statute does not invite frivolous litigation against foreign governments. Plaintiffs will encounter at least three substantial deterrents: expense, time, and the difficulty of discovering substantial incriminating evidence before a complaint is even filed. The latter is necessary to avoid immediate dismissal of the complaint under the Supreme Court's strict pleading standards. Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary defined a lawsuit as: "A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage." Would-be plaintiffs know that. President Obama's futile veto message expressed horror that JASTA might provoke foreign nations to expose the United States to civil litigation in their courts for complicity in international terrorism in their countries. Why the horror? If there is proof in a tribunal bearing the trappings of due process, the United States should pay the victims of its international terrorism. We applauded when Libya paid more than $1 billion to the families of victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in which it was implicated. In many foreign nations, however, courts are political tools of the government. They could be used to harass the United States with judgments resting on fabricated or flimsy evidence of international terrorism. But if a foreign nation wishes to harass the United States in that way, it will do so irrespective of JASTA. The financial or military leverage we enjoy over most nations will deter them from inviting vexatious litigation against us in their courts. The tale of Belgium is exemplary. A 1993 law, amended in 1999, created jurisdiction in Belgium courts for crimes against humanity, genocide or war crimes occurring anywhere in the world. Under the law, complaints were filed against former President George H.W. Bush, former Secretary of Defense and Vice President Dick Cheney, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, and U.S. General Tommy Franks. Then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld promptly journeyed to Brussels to threaten withdrawal of NATO headquarters if Belgium tarried in repealing the law. Belgium saluted. The law was repealed in August 2003. And the complaints were dismissed. It speaks volumes about our dangerous love affair with limitless executive power that a Washington Post editorial scorned JASTA as "Mob legislating by Congress." If there are more Orwellian characterizations of the statute, they do not readily come to mind. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

27 сентября, 18:25

U.S. Special Operations Command Details Dismal U.S. Military Record

Win, Lose, or Draw  Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com Winning: it’s written into the DNA of the U.S.A.  After all, what’s more American than football legend Vince Lombardi’s famous (if purloined) maxim: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”?  Americans expect to be number one.  First Lady Michelle Obama recently called the United States the “greatest country on Earth.” (Take that, world public opinion, and your choice of Germany!) Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton went even further, touting America as “the greatest country that has ever been created.”  Her rival, Donald Trump, who for political gain badmouths the country that made him rich and famous, does so in the hope of returning America to supposedly halcyon days of unparalleled greatness.  He’s predicted that his presidency might lead to an actual winning overload.  “We're going to win so much,” he told supporters.  “You're going to get tired of winning. You’re going to say, ‘Please, Mr. President... don't win so much’… And I'm going to say, ‘No, we have to make America great again... We're gonna keep winning.’”  As Trump well knows, Americans take winning very seriously.  Look no further than the U.S. gold medal count at the recent Rio Olympics: 46. The next highest total?  Great Britain’s 27, almost 20 fewer than those of the country whose upstart rebels bested them in the eighteenth century, the nation’s ur-victory.  The young United States then beat back the Brits in the early 1800s, and twice bailed them out in victorious world wars during the twentieth century.      In the intervening years, the U.S. built up a gaudy military record -- slaughtering native tribes, punishing Mexico, pummeling Spain -- but the best was yet to come.  “Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world,” boasted President Barack Obama in this year’s State of the Union address.  In this he echoed his predecessor, George W. Bush, who, in May 2001, declared that “America today has the finest [military] the world has ever seen.” In the years between those two moments of high-flown rhetoric, the United States military fought in nine conflicts, according to a 2015 briefing produced by U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the umbrella organization for America’s most elite forces including Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets.  The record of the greatest fighting force in the history of the world, according to SOCOM: zero wins, two losses, and seven ties. This dismal record is catalogued in a briefing slide produced by SOCOM’s Intelligence Directorate last September and obtained by TomDispatch via the Freedom of Information Act.  “A Century of War and Gray Zone Challenges” -- a timeline of conflicts ranked as wins, losses, and ties -- examines the last 100 years of America’s wars and interventions.  “Gray zone” is an increasingly popular term of the trade for operations conducted somewhere on the continuum between war and peace.  “Traditional war is the paradigm,” the briefing slide asserts.  “Gray zone conflict is the norm.” While he finds a great deal to fault in SOCOM’s analysis, retired Army colonel Andrew Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, believes its assessment of post-9/11 conflicts “is quite accurate.”  Although American politicians like Hillary Clinton regularly insist that the U.S. possesses “the greatest military” on the planet, they avoid addressing the question of what the country’s armed interventions have actually accomplished when it comes to policy goals -- the true measure of success in war.  “We have not shown an ability to achieve our stated political aims in a conclusive way at an acceptable cost,” Bacevich says.  “That’s simply a fact.” “A Century of War and Gray Zone Challenges” -- A September 2015 briefing slide produced by the Intelligence Directorate of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM).CLICK TO ENLARGE The Greatest Journeyman Military in History? Twelve wins and nine losses.  In baseball, it’s the annual record of a journeyman pitcher like Bill Caudill of the Seattle Mariners in 1982, Dave LaPoint of the Saint Louis Cardinals in 1983, or Norm Charlton of the Cincinnati Reds in 1990, to mention just three examples.  It’s certainly not the record of an ace. Likewise, 12 victories and nine losses is a far-from-dazzling stat when it comes to warfare, especially for a nation that prides itself on its martial prowess.   But that was the SOCOM Intelligence Directorate’s assessment of the last century of American war: 12 and 9 with a mind-boggling 43 “ties.”  Among those 64 conflicts, the command counts just five full-fledged wars in which the U.S. has come up with three wins (World War I, World War II, and Desert Storm), one loss (Vietnam), and one tie (Korea).  In the gray zone -- what SOCOM calls “the norm” when it comes to conflict -- the record is far bleaker, the barest of winning percentages at 9 victories, 8 losses, and 42 draws.  “If you accept the terms of analysis, that things can be reduced to win, loss, and tie, then this record is not very good,” Bacevich says.  “While there aren’t many losses -- according to how they code -- there’s a hell of a lot of ties, which would beg the question of why, based on these criteria, U.S. policy has seemingly been so ineffective.” The assessments of, and in some instances the very inclusion of, numerous operations, missions, and interventions by SOCOM are dubious.  Bacevich, for example, questions its decision to include pre-World War II U.S. military missions in China (a draw according to the command).  “I don’t know on what basis one would say ‘China, 1912 to 1941’ qualifies as a tie,” he adds, noting on the other hand that a good case could be made for classifying two of SOCOM’S gray zone “ties” -- in Haiti and Nicaragua -- during the same era as wins instead of draws based on the achievement of policy aims alone.    It’s even harder to imagine why, for example, limited assistance to Chad in its conflict with Libya and indigenous rebels in 1983 or military assistance in evacuating U.S. personnel from Albania in 1997 should make the list.  Meanwhile, America’s so-called longest war, in Afghanistan, inexplicably ends in 2014 on SOCOM’S timeline.  (That was, of course, the year that the Obama administration formally ended the “combat mission” in that country, but it would assuredly be news to the 8,400 troops, including special operators, still conducting missions there today.)  Beyond that, for reasons unexplained, SOCOM doesn’t even classify Afghanistan as a “war.”  Instead, it’s considered one of 59 gray-zone challenges, on a par with the 1948-1949 Berlin Airlift or small-scale deployments to the restive Congo in the 1960s.  No less bizarre, the command categorizes America’s 2003-2011 occupation of Iraq in a similar fashion.  “It deserves to be in the same category as Korea and Vietnam,” says Bacevich, the author of America's War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History.  Killing People and Breaking Things Can the post-9/11 U.S. military simultaneously be the finest fighting force in history and unable to win wars or quasi-wars?  It may depend on our understanding of what exactly the Department of Defense and its military services are meant to do. While the 1789 act that established its precursor, the Department of War, is sparse on details about its raison d'être, the very name suggests its purpose -- presumably preparing for, fighting, and winning wars.  The 1947 legislation creating its successor, the “National Military Establishment” was similarly light on specifics concerning the ultimate aims of the organization, as were the amendments of 1949 that recast it as the Department of Defense (DoD).  During a Republican primary debate earlier this year, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee offered his own definition.  He asserted that the “purpose of the military is to kill people and break things.”  Some in the armed forces took umbrage at that, though the military has, in fact, done both to great effect in a great many places for a very long time.  For its part, the DoD sees its purpose quite differently: “The mission of the Department of Defense is to provide the military forces needed to deter war and to protect the security of our country.” If, in SOCOM’s accounting, the U.S. has engaged in relatively few actual wars, don’t credit “deterrence.” Instead, the command has done its best to simply redefine war out of existence, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, in favor of those “gray zone challenges.”  If one accepts that quasi-wars are actually war, then the Defense Department has done little to deter conflict.  The United States has, in fact, been involved in some kind of military action -- by SOCOM’s definition -- in every year since 1980.   Beyond its single sentence mission statement, a DoD directive delineating the “functions of the Department of Defense and its major components” provides slightly more details.  The DoD, it states, “shall maintain and use armed forces to: a. Support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. b. Ensure, by timely and effective military action, the security of the United States, its possessions, and areas vital to its interest. c. Uphold and advance the national policies and interests of the United States.” Since the Department of Defense came into existence, the U.S. has -- as the SOCOM briefing slide notes  -- carried out deployments, interventions, and other undertakings in Lebanon (1958), Congo (1964 and 1967), the Dominican Republic (1965), Cambodia (1975), Iran (1980), El Salvador (1980-1992), Grenada (1983), Chad (1983), Libya (1986), the Persian Gulf (1987-1988), Honduras (1988), Panama (1989), Somalia (1992-1995), Haiti (1994-1995), and Albania (1997), among other countries. You may have no memory of some (perhaps many) of these interventions, no less a sense of why they occurred or their results -- and that might be the most salient take-away from SOCOM’s list.  So many of these conflicts have, by now, disappeared into the gray zone of American memory.  Were these operations targeting enemies which actually posed a threat to the U.S. Constitution?  Did ceaseless operations across the globe actually ensure the safety and security of the United States?  Did they truly advance U.S. policy interests and if so, how?  From the above list, according to SOCOM, only El Salvador, Grenada, Libya, and Panama were “wins,” but what, exactly, did America win?  Did any of these quasi-wars fully meet the Defense Department’s own criteria?  What about the Korean War (tie), the Bay of Pigs (loss), the Vietnam War (loss), or the not-so-secret “secret war” in Laos (loss)?  And have any of SOCOM’s eight losses or ties in the post-9/11 era accomplished the Defense Department’s stated mission? “I have killed people and broken things in war, but, as a military officer, that was never the end. There was a purpose, a reason, a goal,” wrote Major Matt Cavanaugh, a U.S. Army strategist, in response to Huckabee’s comment.  He then drew attention to the fact that “Joint Publication 1: Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States” asserts that “military power is integrated with other instruments of national power to advance and defend U.S. values, interests, and objectives.”  Did the wars in Vietnam or Laos defend those same values?  What about the war waged in Iraq by the “finest fighting force” in world history?  In March 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld laid out U.S aims for that conflict.  “Our goal is to defend the American people, and to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and to liberate the Iraqi people,” he said, before offering even more specific objectives, such as having U.S. troops “search for, capture, [and] drive out terrorists who have found safe harbor in Iraq.”  Of course, the invasion and occupation of Iraq would turn that country into a terrorist magnet, leading to the ultimate safe harbor; a terror caliphate extending over swaths of that country and neighboring Syria.  The elimination of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction would prove impossible for obvious reasons.  The “liberation” of its people would lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands; the forced displacement of millions; and a country divided along sectarian lines, where up to 50% of its 33 million inhabitants may suffer from the effects of trauma brought on by the last few decades of war.  And what about the defense of the American people?  They certainly don’t feel defended.  According to recent polling, more Americans fear terrorism today than just after 9/11.  And the particular threat Americans fear most?  The terror groupborn and bred in America’s Iraqi prison camps: ISIS. This record seems to matter little to the presidential candidate who, as a senator, voted for the invasion of Iraq.  Regarding that war and other military missions, Hillary Clinton, as Bacevich notes, continues to avoid asking the most obvious question: “Is the use of the American military conclusively, and at reasonable costs, achieving our political objectives?”  Trump’s perspective seems to better fit SOCOM’s assessment when it comes to America’s warfighting prowess in these years.  “We don't win.  We can't beat ISIS.  Can you imagine General Douglas MacArthur or General Patton?  Can [you] imagine they are spinning in their grave right now when they see the way we fight,” he recently told FOX News’s Bill O’Reilly, invoking the names of those military luminaries who both served in a “draw” in Mexico in the 1910s and U.S. victories in World Wars I and II, and in the case of MacArthur a stalemate in Korea as well.  Neither the Clinton nor Trump campaigns responded to TomDispatch’s requests for comment.  SOCOM similarly failed to respond before publication to questions about the conclusions to be drawn from its timeline, but its figures alone -- especially regarding post-9/11 conflicts -- speak volumes. “In order to evaluate our recent military history and the gap between the rhetoric and the results,” says Andrew Bacevich, “the angle of analysis must be one that acknowledges our capacity to break things and kill people, indeed that acknowledges that U.S. forces have performed brilliantly at breaking things and killing people, whether it be breaking a building -- by putting a precision missile through the window -- or breaking countries by invading them and producing chaos as a consequence.”  SOCOM’s briefing slide seems to recognize this fact.  The U.S. has carried out a century of conflict, killing people from Nicaragua and Haiti to Germany and Japan; battering countries from the Koreas and Vietnams to Iraq and Afghanistan; fighting on a constant basis since 1980.  All that death and devastation, however, led to few victories.  Worse yet for the armed forces, the win-loss record of this highly professionalized, technologically sophisticated, and exceptionally well-funded military has, since assuming the mantle of the finest fighting force in the history of the world, plummeted precipitously, as SOCOM’s Intelligence Directorate points out.  An American century of carnage and combat has yielded many lessons learned, but not, it seems, the most important one when it comes to military conflict.  “We can kill people, we can break things,” Bacevich observes, “but we don’t accomplish our political goals.”  Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch, a fellow at the Nation Institute, and a contributing writer for the Intercept. His book Tomorrow's Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa recently received an American Book Award. His latest book is Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan. His website is NickTurse.com.  Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt's latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

26 сентября, 17:23

Guns and Butter

In October 2015, when he was a very, very long shot for the Republican nomination, Donald Trump the businessman promised to make the military "much stronger than it is right now" without increasing military spending. "But you know what?" he declared, "We can do it for less." In September 2016, as the Republican nominee, Donald Trump the politician dramatically reversed his position. He now proposes a massive increase in military spending. And instead of making the military more efficient by cutting Pentagon waste, Trump will "fully offset" the increase in military spending by reducing spending on non-defense programs through reducing their "government waste and budget gimmicks." For an idea of what that might entail for non-defense spending, consider the Republican budget blueprint passed by the House in early 2015 (no Democrat voted in favor). To offset a significant increase in military spending, the New York Times reports, Medicaid would be cut by $900 billion. Spending on the food stamp program would be shrunk by hundreds of billions of dollars. Spending for Pell Grants for college, job training and housing assistance would be slashed. The 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) stopped the Republicans from achieving their guns-not-butter budgetary. The BCA emerged from a confluence of events: A soaring deficit, the result of extensive federal spending that stopped a major economic recession from becoming a major economic depression and the Republican takeover of the House after the 2010 election. The result was a dramatic near government shut down showdown on how to cut the deficit. The White House and Congress couldn't agree. The BCA was a bludgeon, a crude across-the-board spending mandate intended to spur Congress and the White House to negotiate a more thoughtful approach. They couldn't. As a consequence, in 2013 there was an immediate $110 billion cut in spending, divided more or less equally from defense and non-defense programs. Defense spending comprises about 54 percent of the discretionary budget, that part of the federal budget over which Congress has direct control through annual appropriations. Congress also imposed caps on defense and non-defense spending through 2021. Although the cuts were supposedly proportional, the pain inflicted was not. Real per-capita funding for non-defense programs have fallen more than 10 percent below 2010 levels while the population served and the demand for services grew. The Veterans Administration, considered non-defense spending, has been swamped by increased demand from older Vietnam War veterans and a new influx from Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. Rising rents and stagnant incomes have led to an increased demand for rental assistance even while the total number of families receiving assistance has fallen. The injury to the Pentagon was far more modest. Troop levels declined, but that was to be expected given that two major wars were winding down. The Navy and Air Force got fewer new ships and aircraft than they wanted. Base construction slowed. The Pentagon also suffered less because it was able to tap into another source of funding: The Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) reserve established to give the Pentagon immediate flexibility in war spending. Originally the OCO was subject to budget caps but in 2011, the same year caps were enacted, Congress exempted OCO spending, expanded the fund and began tapping it for non war-related Pentagon spending. Since 2013, Republicans and Democrats have battled over the caps. Each time, at the 11th hour they've agreed to increase them equally for both military and non-military spending, most recently in late 2015 after President Obama vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act that would have raised military but not non-military spending. Donald Trump proposes to eliminate the caps on military spending and reimburse DOD tens of billions of dollars it lost from past cuts. Increased military spending will be offset by decreasing non-defense spending through improving program efficiency and reducing waste. But the evidence is overwhelming that the inefficiencies and waste fall most heavily on the military side. Consider that in 1994, the Government Management Reform Act required the Inspector General of each federal agency to audit and publish the financial statements of their agency. All Non-Defense agencies complied. The Department of Defense did not. In 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld confessed, "we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions." In June 2016, Pentagon's Inspector General criticized the US Army for misreporting $6.5 trillion (yes, trillion with a T) for the 2015 fiscal year. "(I)nserting phony numbers" is how Reuters describes the Pentagon's strategy for balancing the books. In 2009 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported on audit quality and independence issues at the Pentagon's Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), the federal watchdog responsible for auditing oversight of military contractors. One Pentagon auditor admitted he did not perform detailed tests because, "The contractor would not appreciate it." That statement makes no sense unless you understand the intimate relationship between the Pentagon and its contractors. From 2004 to 2008, 80 percent of retiring three and four star officers went to work as consultants or defense executives. "In almost any other realm it would seem a clear conflict of interest. But this is the Pentagon where...such apparent conflicts are a routine fact of life", an in-depth investigation by the Boston Globe concluded. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 imposes criminal penalties on corporate managers who certify false financial reports. But, according to Mike Young, a former Air Force logistics officer, "The concept of Sarbanes-Oxley is completely foreign" to the Pentagon. According to the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) the Pentagon so far has spent roughly $6 billion on "fixing" the audit problem without success. (POGO is by far the best resource for information related to military spending.) I doubt there's a real sense of urgency. The military knows that if it misses the next congressionally mandated deadline there will be no consequences. In 2012 Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced a bill Audit the Pentagon that would reduce by 5 percent the budget of any federal agency without an unqualified audit opinion by an external, independent auditor. The bill did not receive a hearing. In 2014 and 2015 she reintroduced the bill but reduced the penalty to a 0.5 percent budget reduction. Still there were no hearings. For William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy we are living in "a golden age for Pentagon waste". A recent Reuters investigation by Scot J. Paltrow sums up the shocking mess. The Pentagon is "largely incapable of keeping track of its vast stores of weapons, ammunition and other supplies; thus it continues to spend money on new supplies it doesn't need and on storing others long out of date. It has amassed a backlog of more than half a trillion dollars in unaudited contracts with outside vendors; how much of that money paid for actual goods and services delivered isn't known. And it repeatedly falls prey to fraud and theft that can go undiscovered for years, often eventually detected by external law enforcement agencies." When outside agencies have been able to gather data they've discovered rampant fraud. Records show that the Raytheon Company defrauded the Pentagon 5 times up until 2003. Lockheed Martin 7 times as of 2013, Northrup Grumman 7 times as of 2010. They continued to receive huge Pentagon contracts. What could be more vulgar than corruption disguised as patriotism? Jon Basil Utley, publisher of The American Conservative describes the sorry process by which the Pentagon develops weapons. Weapons are designed to be built in key congressional districts, not to be the most efficient or cost effective.... The F-22 had 1,000 suppliers in 44 states. The F-35 has 1,300 suppliers in 45 states in key congressional districts and is now estimated to cost up to $300 million per plane. Weapons manufacturing is started before finalized testing so as to build a constituency for programs' continuation. Military contractors then get cost-plus contracts to modify the weapons, which won't work properly because insufficient initial testing was done before manufacturing them. Given this dysfunctional and self-serving process, it should come as no surprise that the GAO found "staggering" cost overruns of almost $300 billion in nearly 70 percent of the Pentagon's 96 major weapons. In the 1960s, Pentagon whistleblower Ernest Fitzgerald exposed $2 billion in cost overruns on Lockheed's C-5A transport aircraft. It was considered a scandal. Today's F-35 fighter plane already has posted cost overruns of $500 billion and more is to come. The F-35 has yet to prove itself battle-ready, and may never be. Nevertheless, earlier this year Congress added and the President signed off on 11 additional F-35's to DOD appropriations. Wastefulness is not the hallmark only of weapons procurement. Personnel costs are also wildly excessive. The Pentagon is top heavy with officers and generals paid vastly more than civilians with the same skills and education. Most of these officers work in public affairs or procurement or financial management or other jobs that do not require an officer. The Pentagon currently has over 640,000 private contractors. No one knows the exact number but this is almost certainly an underestimate. They work alongside 800,000 civilian employees. A Rand Corporation report concluded contracting out is 25 percent more expensive than if performed by government employees. One Congressional study found that such contracts are on average, twice as expansive as in-house work. Some 70 percent of federal spending on intelligence is on private contracts. (Think Edward Snowden). POGO estimates the Pentagon could save more than $20 billion a year if it reduced just its contractor work force by 15 percent. Walter Pincus writes in the Washington Post about the inherent inefficiencies of contracting out. "The government pays to get the worker qualified, then ends up leasing back . . . former employees." There is another danger in contracting out. As a 2014 GAO report warns, "Without a thorough review of contractor activities, DOD risks becoming overly reliant on contractors to support core missions." Major Kevin P. Stiens and Lt. Colonel (Ret.) Susan L. Turley have observed, "The government lost personnel experience and continuity, along with operational control, by moving to contractors." Air Force Colonel Steven Zamperelli adds, "Private employees have distinctly different motivations, responsibilities and loyalties than those in the public military." In 2008, in an infamous incident starkly revealed the flaws in private contracting. At least 12 U.S. soldiers were accidentally electrocuted inside their bases in Iraq. Later it was discovered the private contractor knew there were potentially serious electrical problems in the facility's construction, but its contract didn't cover "fixing potential hazards." It only required repairing items already broken! While politicians refuse to penalize the DOD for not cleaning up its act, many are more than willing to demand accountability for every penny spent on non-defense programs, especially those helping the poor. In March 2014 Virginia House GOP leaders demanded the state's Medicaid program undergo a two-year external audit before expanding it. More than 60 audits had already been performed. In 2013 the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform did a detailed analysis of New York State's Medicaid program because, "Each dollar misspent on Medicaid is one less dollar for the country to use for better health care for the poor, education, infrastructure, national defense, deficit reduction, or any other priority." To date the Committee has yet to do any such analysis of Pentagon spending. Facing up to and correcting the wastefulness and corruption in the military budget could go a long way toward meeting the rising demands on the non-military, aka, the "butter" side of our national ledger. In this election season, will the citizenry force this issue, this travesty on the national agenda?     -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

26 сентября, 09:41

Ahead Of Debate, Bush Alumni Endorse Donald Trump

function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible); Dozens of former appointees of the administration of former President George W. Bush announced their support for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Sunday in a bid for party unity ahead of Trump’s first debate with Democrat Hillary Clinton. The Bush family and many connected to it remain cool to Trump. Former President George H.W. Bush reportedly plans to vote for Clinton in the Nov. 8 election, former Trump rival Jeb Bush has said he will not vote for Clinton or Trump, and George W. Bush has avoided the presidential race while helping raise money for Republican congressional candidates. But a number of former Bush appointees have decided to endorse the New York businessman, who is in a tight race with Clinton and is to debate her one-one-one at Hofstra University on Monday night in Hempstead, New York. Fifty former Bush appointees were on a list of people described as founding members of a coalition of Bush alumni supportive of Trump. The list was provided by a Republican official close to the Trump campaign. The list included former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, former Treasury Secretary John Snow and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. The list also included former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi and former deputy White House political director Matt Schlapp, who is chairman of the American Conservative Union. Thompson, in a statement, explained his decision to be on the list. “Americans want to trust our leaders again, to know that they are fighting for everyday Americans by creating jobs, growing our economy, defending our nation from terrorism, and respecting the voters enough to be straight-forward and honest with them,” Thompson said. Trump has struggled to rally many in the Republican Party behind him. On Friday, he received the endorsement of former rival Ted Cruz, but many establishment figures remain skeptical about him, such as Ohio Governor John Kasich. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

25 сентября, 05:37

WP: Шанс на стратегическое партнерство с Россией был упущен при Буше

Украина и Сирия остаются главными внешнеполитическими вопросами, по которым у обеих держав возникают серьезные трения. Очевидное нарушение перемирия в Сирии, по мнению автора статьи, раскрывает не только трудноразрешимые политические разногласия, но и опасности для российских и американских военных, которые сражаются в непосредственной близости друг от друга в «тумане этой гражданской войны». И российские, и американские политики согласились, пишет Качинс, с тем, что это не «новая холодная война», но многие опасаются, что происходящее куда более опасно. «Это не так плохо, как выглядит, это куда хуже», - приводит в заключение статьи вывод американского политика Эндрю Качинс

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22 сентября, 18:01

Rumsfeld on George H.W. Bush voting for Clinton: ‘He’s up in years’

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended his endorsement of GOP nominee Donald Trump, when prodded, by suggesting that the Republican nominee is “not untruthful.”Rumsfeld, who served as defense secretary under Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush, offered his reasoning on supporting Trump over Hillary Clinton in an interview with MSNBC that aired Thursday: “I look at it and say, I don’t agree with either of them 100 percent of the time, but who do I think would be best for the country, and what do I think is acceptable?”“Maybe not preferred. But acceptable, as opposed to what’s unacceptable, and I think truthfulness and believability and,” Rumsfeld said, pausing before concluding: “Truthfulness is important.”MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle followed up, asking, “You think he’s truthful?”“I think he's not untruthful,” Rumsfeld elaborated. “And I think she is.”According to recent polling, both candidates face the perception among many voters that they are dishonest, and Clinton has grappled with voters’ belief that she is untrustworthy, fueled by criticisms over her use of a private email server as secretary of state. But Trump, too, has repeatedly made false statements on the campaign trail, to the point that some critics have accused him of propagating conspiracy theories. He only last week backed down from his false claim that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.Ruhle also asked Rumsfeld about reports that former President George H. Bush plans to vote for Clinton, rather than Trump, in November. Rumsfeld said he’s not surprised, and asked why, Rumsfeld replied, “He’s up in years.”“So are you,” Ruhle said back.Rumsfeld elaborated: “He's up in years, and he obviously comes from a totally different cut than Donald Trump, and he gets his choice.”

22 сентября, 17:51

Donald Rumsfeld On George H.W. Bush Voting For Hillary Clinton: 'He's Up In Years'

function onPlayerReadyVidible(e){'undefined'!=typeof HPTrack&&HPTrack.Vid.Vidible_track(e)}!function(e,i){if(e.vdb_Player){if('object'==typeof commercial_video){var a='',o='m.fwsitesection='+commercial_video.site_and_category;if(a+=o,commercial_video['package']){var c='&m.fwkeyvalues=sponsorship%3D'+commercial_video['package'];a+=c}e.setAttribute('vdb_params',a)}i(e.vdb_Player)}else{var t=arguments.callee;setTimeout(function(){t(e,i)},0)}}(document.getElementById('vidible_1'),onPlayerReadyVidible); Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld took a shot at George H.W. Bush’s age on Thursday after being asked in an MSNBC interview whether he was surprised that the 92-year-old former president was supporting Hillary Clinton in November. MSNBC: Are you surprised? Rumsfeld: No. MSNBC: Why? Rumsfeld : Oh, he’s up in years. MSNBC: So are you. Rumsfeld: But he’s up in years, and he obviously comes from a totally different cut than Donald Trump. He gets his choice and if that’s true, he’s made his choice, then that’s fine, he can go do what he wants to do. It’s not the first time the 84-year-old Rumsfeld, who served under George W. Bush, swiped at the elder Bush by invoking his age. After George H.W. Bush called Rumsfeld an “arrogant fellow” who served his son “badly” in a biography last year, the former secretary of defense told NBC News the elder Bush was “getting up in years and misjudges Bush 43, who I found made his own decisions.” Rumsfeld endorsed GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump earlier this year, calling him a “known unknown,” a famous phrase he used in 2002 in response to a question about the lack of evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Asked in the MSNBC interview whether he believed Trump was truthful, Rumsfeld applied the same logic in a comparison with Clinton. “I think truthfulness and believability,” he said, before taking a long pause. “Truthfulness is important. I think he’s not untruthful. And I think she is.” Earlier this week, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway also conveniently snuck in a reference to the elder Bush’s age when asked to respond to his choice for president. “Well, I respect the 92-year old former president very much and his decision,” she said on CNN, “and I think that Americans are very grateful to the Bush family for their public service, that’s his right.” Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

18 сентября, 19:13

Trump Campaign Manager Says Robert Gates Doesn’t Understand Terrorism Threat

Donald Trump’s campaign manager thinks former Defense Secretary Robert Gates was critical of Trump because Gates doesn’t understand terrorism, she suggested Sunday morning.  “Secretary Gates really should have, I think, in his book been a little bit more forceful about the fact that radical Islam has ideological moorings,” Kellyanne Conway said on CBS’ “Face The Nation.” “He acts like terrorism is something like the weather. It just happens. And we as Americans know that’s not true.” Trump and his campaign are on the attack after Gates published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday calling Trump “unfit” to be president. Trump referred to Gates as a “clown” in a campaign rally and “dopey” on social media. Given his decades of experience and numerous high-level positions in the period after Sept. 11, 2001, Gates is likely well aware of the threat terrorism poses. The alleged dopey clown spent much of his career with the Central Intelligence Agency, serving as director under President George H.W. Bush after a brief stint as his deputy national security advisor. Gates was secretary of defense from late 2006 until mid-2011, taking over from Donald Rumsfeld under President George W. Bush and continuing through the first half of President Barack Obama’s first term. Gates managed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the book Conway references details his time in that office. When pressed on Gates’ specific critique that Trump is thin-skinned, as demonstrated by his name-calling, Conway insisted Trump was “defending himself.” “Mr. Trump has a right to defend himself from people who I don’t think are looking at the substance of his plans. They’re just ― they’re just judging someone they’ve never met,” she said. Unfortunately, interviewer John Dickerson didn’t note that Trump had done the same thing at Saturday night’s rally. “Never met the guy, never saw him. I saw him on television, didn’t like him. The end result is look where we are. He’s a mess, OK?” Trump said at his Colorado Springs event. “He’s a nasty guy. Probably has a problem that we don’t know about.” Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

18 сентября, 15:00

TWILIGHT OF THE ELITES: Colin Powell’s Emails Provide A Window Into Why We Got Trump: Even as De…

TWILIGHT OF THE ELITES: Colin Powell’s Emails Provide A Window Into Why We Got Trump: Even as Democrats have accused Republicans of “epistemic closure” in their beliefs, the bipartisan governing class may have similar problems of its own. Powell’s emails make clear that he lives a life of television appearances, lucrative paid speeches, and expensive […]

17 сентября, 01:19

How Religion Drove George W. Bush's Decisions: An Interview with Biographer Jean Edward Smith

Robin Lindley is a Seattle-based writer and attorney, and the features editor of the History News Network (hnn.us). His articles have appeared in HNN, Crosscut, Salon, Real Change, Documentary, Writer's Chronicle, and others. He has a special interest in the history of conflict and human rights. You can find his other interviews here. His email: [email protected] Professor Jean Edward Smith's in-depth and incisive new biography of the 43rd president, Bush (Simon and Schuster) begins with this striking sentence: "Rarely in the history of the United States has the nation been so ill-served as during the presidency of George W. Bush." He proves his case in the following pages. In Bush, Professor Smith recounts W's childhood in Texas; lackluster academic career at Andover, Yale, and Harvard Business School; Air National Guard service; business ventures; alcoholism; marriage to Laura; embrace of born-again Christianity; and term as Texas governor. But the bulk of the book is devoted to Bush's presidency and his disastrous foreign policy. Notably, Professor Smith belies the impression that Bush was manipulated by high-level advisors such as Vice President Dick Cheney, Advisor Karl Rove, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and other neoconservatives. Bush prided himself on being "The Decider" and, after 9/11, as "The War President." He conducted his foreign policy with a religious certitude. He oversimplified conflicts abroad and saw himself as a Christian crusader, as God's agent to defeat evil. According to Professor Smith, Bush--not his seasoned advisors-- made the decisions to invade Iraq and to prolong the war after "Mission Accomplished," and then to allow, among other actions, widespread surveillance, torture, and rendition of suspected terrorists--all while testing the bounds of domestic and international law and often ignoring the concerns of military and diplomatic experts. Professor Smith credits Bush with domestic successes such as No Child Left Behind, drug benefits for seniors, and leading the global fight against AIDS. But he carefully explores Bush's record and finds that his actions in the Middle East were disastrous. In the last sentence of his book, Professor Smith concludes that Bush's "decision to invade Iraq is easily the worst foreign policy decision made by an American president." Professor Smith's acclaimed books also include Eisenhower in War and Peace; FDR, winner of the 2008 Francis Parkman Prize of the Society of American Historians; Grant, a 2002 Pulitzer Prize finalist; John Marshall: Definer of a Nation; and Lucius D. Clay: An American Life. George F. Will called Professor Smith "America's greatest living biographer." Professor Smith taught at the University of Toronto for 35 years before joining the faculty at Marshall University where he was the John Marshall Professor of Political Science. He has also served as a visiting scholar at Columbia, Princeton, and Georgetown. Professor Smith generously responded by telephone to a series of questions on his work. Robin Lindley: I admire your past biographies Professor Smith. In your earlier books, you wrote about exalted figures of the past such as John Marshall, Grant, FDR and Eisenhower. What inspired your book on a living ex-president, George W. Bush? Professor Jean Edward Smith: I had just finished the manuscript of the Eisenhower book and was in New York talking with my editor. He asked me what I wanted to do and, off the top of my head, I said, "Why not George W. Bush?" Now, Bush is really the second biography I've written about someone who is still alive. My first biography before John Marshall was about Lucius Clay, the governor of Germany and later head of Lehmann Brothers, who was still alive. So I had some experience in writing about someone who was still alive. Robin Lindley: My editor Rick Shenkman and I are both curious about what it was like for you to work every day for years on the life of George W. Bush? Professor Jean Edward Smith: It took me about four years and I worked just about every day. I get up early in the morning and write in the mornings. I had signed a contract to write it, so I just wrote it. It wasn't as enjoyable as writing about Grant or Roosevelt or Eisenhower, but I felt it was a challenge to say how things were. The challenge kept me going. Robin Lindley: What was your research process for this book on Bush? I understand that Bush refused to talk with you. Did you have an opportunity to talk with other officials from his administration? Professor Jean Edward Smith: Yes. I spoke with Dick Cheney a number of times and I spoke with Don Rumsfeld a number of times. Let me say that people write books quite differently and research differently. Some people do their research for two or three years before they start to write, on one end of the spectrum. I'm at the other end of the spectrum. I do it chapter by chapter. I do research on one chapter and write it, then another chapter and write it, and so forth. I find that an orderly way to do it and that way I don't have to have the whole thing laid out in front of me before I begin. And I think if you do it chapter by chapter it narrows the work down. Robin Lindley: You tell the story in a masterful and very compelling way. Before I get into the book, I want to ask about your writing process. I understand that you write your drafts on yellow legal pads. Professor Jean Edward Smith: It's very primitive. I write on yellow paper with a ballpoint pen. I've always done that and, fortunately, I have a secretary who can read what I write. The first draft is handwritten and from then on we're dealing with typescript. Yes, I write the first draft by hand, and I try to write three or four pages a day. That keeps me moving through. Robin Lindley: Were you interested in history and biography even as child? Professor Jean Edward Smith: [Laughter] I'm laughing because, as a child, my grandmother read to me in biography almost every day before I even went to elementary school. So yes, I've been dealing with biography from a very early age. Curiously, when I was doing my doctorate at Columbia, the chairman of the department when I took my orals asked me about the books I'd read, and he said, "My goodness. There are a lot of biographies here." So it's something I've kept up. Robin Lindley: What was the topic of your dissertation? Professor Jean Edward Smith: That's an interesting question. Columbia has a rule that they will accept a book in print as a dissertation. I wrote The Defense of Berlin after I got out of the Army and before I went to graduate school, and it was published by Johns Hopkins University Press, and Columbia accepted it as my dissertation. Robin Lindley: Was that book on the Berlin Airlift? Professor Jean Edward Smith: It took up the whole Berlin business from 1944 until the building of the wall in 1961. The book is really about the building of the wall but it starts with the decisions in 1944 to divide Berlin and to divide Germany into zones of occupation. Robin Lindley: That sounds fascinating. To go to your new biography Bush, you detail the family history and George W. Bush's younger years. What did you see in his pre-presidential years that hinted at a future presidency? Professor Jean Edward Smith: There wasn't much there in terms of executive experience but there's a lot there in the sense that Bush became a born-again Christian. He believed that he and God were very close and that he was God's agent here on earth just to fight evil. That's something Bush developed during that time. In 1994, after his father lost the election [for the presidency] in 1992, he ran for governor of Texas against Ann Richards who was heavily favored, and Bush upset her. I think that upsetting her energized him a great deal as far as politics. His brother Jeb also ran for governor of Florida in 1994, and Jeb lost, although Jeb had been favored. I think those two gubernatorial elections in 1994 put George on the road to succeed his father rather than Jeb. Robin Lindley: You note that the governor of Texas is largely a symbolic role with little authority. Did you see experiences in Bush's work as governor or other events in his life before the presidency that prepared him for the presidency? Professor Jean Edward Smith: No, unlike Roosevelt or Eisenhower or Grant, for that matter. But on the other hand, he was very effective in terms of his public relations and in terms of getting votes. He knew how to run an election and to win. That's very important for a president. Robin Lindley: And you stress that, as president, Bush was "The Decider," as he famously proclaimed. There has been a sense that the decision makers were Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove and others in the White House, but you make a strong case that Bush was truly making the decisions and reveled in his role as "the war president." Professor Jean Edward Smith: Yes. When he came into office initially, I think Cheney did play an important role because, after all, Cheney had been chief of staff to Ford and Secretary of Defense under George Herbert Walker Bush, and a member of Congress for 11 years. So Cheney did know Washington and initially Cheney did play an important role. But Bush pursued what he wanted to pursue. For example, when he first came into office, he was interested in tax cuts, so he pursued that. Then he was interested in No Child Left Behind, and he pursued that. But after 9/11 Bush played his role as commander-in-chief and everyone fell into line, and Bush was comfortable with that. Robin Lindley: Some commentators have written that Bush and his neoconservative advisors, from day one in office, wanted to go after Saddam even as they dropped the ball on anti-terrorism efforts under Clinton that were targeting al Qaeda. Your account is more nuanced. Professor Jean Edward Smith: [Saddam] was on a back burner perhaps, but Bush was interested in domestic affairs when he came into office. The National Security Council met 23 times before 9/11, and Bush attended only the first one of those meetings. That was an area he wasn't much involved in. But after 9/11, that became the center of his attention. And Bush insisted he was the commander-in-chief. Cheney, for example, the day after 9/11--on 9/12--met with Bush early in the morning and said he'd conduct a meeting of cabinet officials and present Bush with solutions. Bush said no. He was commander-in-chief and he would take care of it, which he then did. Bush was very much in charge and he was "The Decider." Cheney's role diminished after the first year and, of course, the Scooter Libby incident diminished him further. So Cheney was eventually on the sidelines. Robin Lindley: It's incredible to me how often Bush rejected the advice of his Secretary of State Colin Powell and other experienced military leaders. As you describe, when Bush proclaimed "Mission Accomplished" on May 1, 2003--weeks after the Iraq invasion, he then went on to proclaim that he aimed to establish a democracy in Iraq, and he said that out of the blue without planning or consulting of anyone else. Professor Jean Edward Smith: That's exactly right. That's one of the crucial decisions in this whole business. The military and State Department both assumed were going in to topple Saddam and find whatever weapons of mass destruction and get out within 90 days, and leave it up to the Iraqis to solve things. Bush pulled them up short when he did that on May 1, 2003 on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln. They were totally unprepared for it. Rumsfeld objected a bit to it by sending a memo to Bush, but then [his advisors] simply carried out Bush's instructions. Let me give you another example of that. In March 2001, the South Korean president came to Washington. The Clinton administration and South Korea had worked from 1994 on to bring North Korea back into the family of nations. North Korea was going to renounce nuclear weapons and the South Koreans and the United States were going to provide financial assistance. Clinton's Secretary of State Madeleine Albright went to Pyongyang in December 2000, and the president of South Korean came to Washington in March to put the final seal on the deal. Bush unilaterally said no. That was the first time that General Powell was caught off base with Bush who said he wouldn't do this. Bush said the North Koreans were evil and we would not deal with them, and that was it. That's an example of the president doing something by taking personal charge. And that was a great disaster probably. Robin Lindley: His religious beliefs must have affected that Korean decision and his crusade in the Middle East. Professor Jean Edward Smith: Exactly. Bush felt he was God's agent here on earth to defeat evil. If you believe that, you don't have to worry about all of the other restrictions. The clearest example of that is when he called President Chirac of France just before the invasion of Iraq, and he wanted France to be with us in that. He told Chirac that this was conflict against "Gog and Magog before the final judgment"--from the book of Revelation. Chirac didn't know what Bush was talking about. When it was explained to him, it made Chirac all the more certain that he didn't want any part of it. Robin Lindley: It's stunning that Bush's religion played such a key role as he acted as "The Decider" and ignored advisors. Professor Jean Edward Smith: It led to catastrophe. I think in 2007 and 2008 Bush was aware that he overreacted. He was much more cautious by his last two years in office. That explains why, in 2008 during the financial downturn, he was able to follow the advice of his Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke. So he did two things that he wouldn't ordinarily have done to stop the downturn. Robin Lindley: You give Bush a lot of credit for handling the financial crisis, but I sensed he was remote from those decisions by Paulson and Bernanke. Professor Jean Edward Smith: He made those decisions and those decisions were his. He didn't insert his own judgment into it. He followed what Paulson and Bernanke advised him to do. That was so much different from what he did in foreign relations. Robin Lindley: Condoleezza Rice is a somewhat overlooked figure, but I get the sense from your book that she was Bush's most important advisor. It seems Bush relied on her advice more than on anyone else. Professor Jean Edward Smith: Yes, I think that's true. And Condoleezza saw her role as national security advisor differently from all of her predecessors in that position who believed they should present the president with all of the possibilities of an issue, whereas she felt it was her job to put Bush's views into effect and tell him what he wanted to hear. Robin Lindley: It seems that Secretary Rice and other advisors isolated Bush and told him what he wanted to hear, and that led to pleasing him rather than ever questioning his decisions. Professor Jean Edward Smith: I think that's true. When Bush took office, he had Colin Powell as Secretary of State, Don Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense, and Paul O'Neill as Secretary of the Treasury. These were very seasoned Washington hands. O'Neill left after two years, Powell after four years, and Rumsfeld after six. Powell was essentially caught off guard, I think. Robin Lindley: What do you see as Bush's role in the decisions on torture or "enhanced interrogation," the rendition of terror suspects, and the prison at Guantanamo? Professor Jean Edward Smith: These were all his decisions. The people in charge brought it to him to decide and he believed this was perfectly correct. After all, if you are God's agent here fighting evil, all of these things are justified. That explains why Bush went to enhanced interrogation procedures and so forth. Also, with Abu Ghraib [Prison], the pictures are terrible, and we all saw them at the time. I don't think many people followed the story after that, but if they had followed the story, they would have found that these actions were taken by the guards at Abu Ghraib only at the instruction of the CIA that wanted the prisoners roughed up before they were interrogated. This wasn't something that the guards did on their own. Robin Lindley: How did Bush view our international agreements and the Geneva Conventions that condemn inhumane treatment such as torture? Professor Jean Edward Smith: He thought they were irrelevant. I go back once again to the fact that he saw his job as fighting evil. And if you see your job as fighting the devil and evil, the Geneva Conventions are irrelevant. I think that was his view of both the Geneva Conventions and the laws against enhanced interrogation. Robin Lindley: He also seemed to regard some sections of the Constitution as irrelevant. You explain his expansive view of the presidency and how he used signing statements on legislation that came before him. Professor Jean Edward Smith: That's very interesting. Bush did not veto any legislation until his fifth year in office. He used signing statements. He would sign the legislations and then, in signing statements, take exception to certain provisions in the legislation, which in effect, meant that the administration was not going to put into effect. It was like a line-item veto, which a president cannot do. I do have some figures. Harry Truman vetoed 250 pieces of legislation. Eisenhower vetoed 181. Bush, in his first five years, didn't veto any and, all together, he vetoed about six--after the whistle was blown on these signing statements. Robin Lindley: So Bush believed that, as president, he had the power to nullify parts of the acts he signed. That certainly flies in the face of the Constitution. Professor Jean Edward Smith: That's exactly right, and that's what the American Bar Association said. Finally, he backed off and stopped doing it and began vetoing measures. Robin Lindley: And, on the act Congress passed prohibiting torture, he added a signing statement that he would follow that act only to the extent he found it constitutional. Professor Jean Edward Smith: That's right. With a veto, the act can go back to Congress to override the veto if they want. But there is no way to override a signing statement. Robin Lindley: You conclude that Bush may not be the worst president in American history, but he made the worst foreign policy decision in our history with the invasion of Iraq. From your book, it seems he may be the worst president in living memory. Professor Jean Edward Smith: I think Herbert Hoover has that pretty well locked up. But I do believe that the decision to invade Iraq is the worst foreign policy decision a president has ever made. The terrorism we face today is directly attributable to the fact that Bush removed Saddam. There was no ISIS under Saddam. Robin Lindley: Bush has left us with what some call "Forever War." Did he have a vision for what victory in Iraq would look like? Professor Jean Edward Smith: He wanted to make a democracy in Iraq. He said on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln he saw a democracy like the United States. It was very naïve, and Bush was very naïve when it came to foreign policy. He traveled abroad very little and he was not conversant with the field, and this was the result. Robin Lindley: Have you heard from Bush or any administration officials since your book came out? Professor Jean Edward Smith: I have not been contacted by any member of the Bush administration since the book was published, and I do not expect to be. It would be interesting to see if the book was for sale in the Bush library in Dallas. I doubt it. Robin Lindley: As one of our most esteemed presidential historians, what is your sense of the 2016 presidential campaign? Professor Jean Edward Smith: The 2016 presidential campaign is unique. At the age of 83, I cannot recall anything similar. I'm surprised that Trump defeated a field of 16 other candidates for the GOP nomination, and I would not write him off for November. He appeals to the great outback, and that may be enough. But I doubt it. Robin Lindley: Is there anything you'd like to add about Bush's legacy or anything you've learned on the road since the book appeared? Professor Jean Edward Smith: I'd like to say that Bush, as an ex-president, has been exemplary. Let me put it this way. When Obama took the oath of office, Bush told friends that he was "free at last." I think, by the seventh and eighth year, he was overwhelmed by the job and was happy to leave. Since leaving office in January 2009, I think he's done a good job as an ex-president. He has not said anything on political issues. He endorsed his brother Jeb three days before the Florida primary, but it was very matter of fact. He has managed to stay out of politics completely, and I think that's remarkable. I think Bush realizes he messed up and is happy to stay out of it. Robin Lindley: Thank you for your insights Professor Smith and congratulations on your exhaustive new biography of President Bush. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

14 сентября, 20:14

Emails show Colin Powell unloading on Clinton, Rumsfeld and Trump

And former Vice President Dick Cheney should 'go away already,' Condoleezza Rice writes back in one leaked document.

14 сентября, 19:09

Colin Powell, the Last Reasonable Man

Hacked emails show the former secretary of state is frustrated with Hillary Clinton, thinks Benghazi was a non-story, is still angry about Iraq, and hates Donald Trump

19 декабря 2015, 19:25

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