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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Bush’s Messes in Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan; Plus NGOWatch, Richard Perle, and more

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FEATURED ARTICLE

Somalia in the Crosshairs
By Najum Mushtaq | February 1, 2007

The Bush administration’s Somalia policy has been consistently dictated by an exaggerated fear of al-Qaida’s strength in Somalia, leading it to equate the indigenous Somali Islamic courts with the global network of terrorism. Read full story.

ALSO NEW THIS WEEK ON RIGHT WEB

Afghanistan: Upping the Ante
By Jim Lobe | February 1, 2007

Despite widespread opposition to the Iraq “surge” plan, few seem to oppose U.S. efforts to increase its troop levels in Afghanistan. Read full story.

Iraq: Who’s the Enemy?
By Jim Lobe | February 1, 2007

January has proved a bewildering month for U.S. forces, under attack from various armed factions whose loyalties are often far from clear. Read full story.

NEW RIGHT WEB PROFILES

NGOWatch
Regarded by some as a “McCarthyite blacklist,” NGOWatch is a joint project between the neoconservative-affiliated American Enterprise Institute and the Federalist Society, a powerful right-wing judicial group.

Richard Perle
The onetime “Prince of Darkness” and current neocon black sheep, Perle has turned into a prince of pessimism when it comes to the war in Iraq.

Iran Policy Committee
This group of retired military brass and rightist policy wonks hopes the president will add regime change in Iran to his call for a “surge” in Iraq.

Richard Allen
The Defense Policy Board member and former national security adviser guesses that Reagan would have done a better job than Bush when it comes to Iraq.

ODDS & ENDS

“Scoop” Jackson Lives

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is the latest recipient of the Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson Distinguished Service Award, which is presented annually by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), a neoconservative-aligned policy center that fosters military-to-military relations between Israel and the United States. The award honors Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, a hardline, pro-Israel Democratic senator from Washington State whose office in the 1970s served as a rallying point for a host of nascent neoconservatives in their efforts to rollback the “appeasement” policies of the post-Vietnam War Democratic Party.

Speaking at the JINSA award dinner on December 5 in Washington, DC, McCain said that the United States has moral and strategic ties with Israel, and that “we will stand with Israel as she fights the same enemy.” McCain said that “American support for Israel should intensify—to include providing needed military equipment and technology.” McCain, who traveled to Israel with Senator Jackson in 1979, joins a long line of hawks from both parties who have received JINSA’s Jackson Award, including Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), Paul Wolfowitz, Curt Weldon, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Dick Cheney, Max Kampelman, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Duncan Hunter.

McCain warned that “Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons clearly poses an unacceptable risk” and noted that Iran is flouting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, he neglected to mention Israel’s own nuclear arsenal and refusal to join the nonproliferation accord.

Freedom’s Just Another Word …

In a January 26 Financial Times op-ed, Anatol Lieven of the New America Foundation takes Freedom House and the U.S. government to task for making an overly facile connection between freedom and elections. He writes: “In recent years … U.S. official and semi-official rhetoric has too often reduced Freedom with a capital ‘F’ chiefly to the right to vote. Even freedom of expression is usually taken to mean little more than unrestricted private media ownership, even if this leads to oligarchic or monopolistic control of the sources of mass information. This attitude has survived what should have been the sobering experience of the elections in Iraq and Afghanistan. Loudly touted at the time as critically important signs of these countries’ progress, two years later they appear to have achieved precisely nothing in terms of the creation of national polities or working states, let alone of peace, progress, and security.”

Lieven notes that in the new “Freedom in the World” country index compiled by Freedom House, “China’s freedom rating today is—grotesquely—barely different from its score in 1972, when China was undergoing the murderous Cultural Revolution.” Lieven contrasts Freedom House’s “simplistic” freedom benchmarks, whose activities are partially funded by the U.S. government, with the broader view offered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1941 “Four Freedoms” speech, in which FDR highlighted America’s international commitment to freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Lieven points out that Roosevelt defined freedom from fear “in terms of the permanent abolition of aggressive war.”

In the Freedom House rating system, Lieven observes, “The United States, of course, invariably gets top marks for political rights and civil liberties. Meanwhile, the ‘Freedom’ ratings of other countries show a marked tendency to move up and down according to the degree of their alliance with the United States and their commitment to a U.S. version of unrestricted capitalism.”

Adds Lieven, “What will create real freedom for people in such countries will not be a simplistic version of ‘democracy’ based on meaningless elections and a pro-U.S. policy, but economic development leading to education and a real sense of individual rights and personal dignity, accompanied by the development of working state institutions.”

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Featured Profiles

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Although overlooked by President Trump for cabinet post, Gingrich has tried to shape affairs in the administration, including by conspiring with government officials to “purge the State Department of staffers they viewed as insufficiently loyal” to the president.


Former Sen Mark Kirk (R-IL) is an advisor for United Against Nuclear Iran. He is an outspoken advocate for aggressive action against Iran and a fierce defender of right-wing Israeli policies.


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From the Wires

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Other than the cynical political interests in Moscow and Tehran, there is no conceivable rationale for wanting Bashar al-Assad to stay in power. But the simple fact is, he has won the war. And while Donald Trump has reveled in positive press coverage of the recent attacks on the country, it is clear that they were little more than a symbolic act.


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The reality is that the Assad regime is winning the Syrian civil war, and this matters far less to U.S. interests than it does to that regime or its allies in Russia and Iran, who see Syria as their strongest and most consistent entrée into the Arab world. Those incontrovertible facts undermine any notion of using U.S. military force as leverage to gain a better deal for the Syrian people.


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An effective rhetorical tool to normalize military build-ups is to characterize spending increases “modernization.”


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The Pentagon has officially announced that that “long war” against terrorism is drawing to a close — even as many counterinsurgency conflicts  rage across the Greater Middle East — and a new long war has begun, a permanent campaign to contain China and Russia in Eurasia.


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Revelations that data-consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used ill-gotten personal information from Facebook for the Trump campaign masks the more scandalous reality that the company is firmly ensconced in the U.S. military-industrial complex. It should come as no surprise then that the scandal has been linked to Erik Prince, co-founder of Blackwater.


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As the United States enters the second spring of the Trump era, it’s creeping ever closer to more war. McMaster and Mattis may have written the National Defense Strategy that over-hyped the threats on this planet, but Bolton and Pompeo will have the opportunity to address these inflated threats in the worst way possible: by force of arms.


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We meet Donald Trump in the media every hour of every day, which blots out much of the rest of the world and much of what’s meaningful in it.  Such largely unexamined, never-ending coverage of his doings represents a triumph of the first order both for him and for an American cult of personality.


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