Monthly Archives: April 2008

Iranian Conservatives “Win” In Elections

iranian conservatives “won” a large majority in parliament after completion of the second round of voting. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Conservatives won 69% of the votes, reformist garnered 16% and independents obtained about 14%. Of course, it is difficult ascertaining the extent of popularity of Ahmadinejad because so few reform candidates were even allowed to have their name on the ballot due to actions by clerical authorities. The reformers fared poorly in Tehran, but did better than expected in more rural areas of the nation. Only one r eform candidate succeeded in gaining a seat from Tehran, a suprising development, given the strong anti-Ahmadinejad feeling among many young well-educated Iranians.

There is a “Catch-22″ aspect to Iranian elections. Reform candidates are not allowed to run which makes difficult generating enthusiasm among reform components of the population which, in turn, results in low voter turnout and victory for conservative candidates.

The only good news is the increasing division within Ahmadinejad’s conservative party. Many conservatives are disappointed with his failure to curb inflation, to stimulate the economy, high unemployment, and his rhtetoric which only anatagonizes potential support for Iran in the world.

Congress Expands Veteran PTSD Benefits

Congress has decided to expand the meaning of what entails being in “combat” as well as what constitutes being engaged in a combat operation. This means a cook who witnessed the aftermath of a roadside bombing or a medic who was trapped inside a hosptial during a rocket attac, can also qualify for benefits of medical attention. Congressman Hall noted:
“There are cases of people coming home from Iraq with all the classic symptoms(of PTSD) and being denied care.” Rep. Ciro Rodriguez pointed out the first US soldier captured in the Iraq conflict was a mechanic.

Congressman Doug Lamborn, the only Republican member of the subcommitee of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, contested a provision of the proposed Democratic bill which requires the VA to immediately award disability benefits to a seriously wounded service member with obvious injuries such as loss of limb. The VA would begin immediate payment while the veteran waits the official 183 days for the determination of disablity.

The Congress of the United States of American authorized the Iraq war and now must bear the consequences of that decision. War is not pretty. Congressman Lamborn worries about “overcompensating and undercompensating people all over the place,” which is the type of comment one can expect from someone who did not serve in the front lines of Iraq.

US Military Officer Cites The Numbers!

We print a letter to the Stars & Stripes from an American officer in Iraq who reminds us of the importance of numbers.

“A few statistics were missing from your five-year-by-the-numbers piece(March 25)-2.7 mllion Iraqis displaced, 100,00 plus Iraqi civilians dead, 0 weapons of mass destruction, $12 billion by month operating cost. As we look at the ‘surge’ and the relative ‘success’ and our decision to stay here, a cost-benefit analysis look at the numbers needs to be made. You could look at the war as a stock in your retirement portfolio. If the stock’s going down, down, down, with little or no chance of return, do you stay in it or do you dump it? If you asked my broker what the answer was, he’d say, ‘sell.”

Capt. Matthew A. Lassergad
Balad, Iraq

Syria Hedges On Peace Talks With Israel

Syria termed a willingness on the part of Israel tocede the Golan Heights was not sufficint to achieve peace with its northern neighbor. Turkey has offered to oversee negotiations between the two nations, but Syria wants the United States to be directly be inolved in any peace negotiations. Syrian President Bashar Assad made clear he opposes secret negotiations and wants everything to be public. Turkish Prime Minister Ergogan offered to organize the peace process including working on the initial stages of çollaboration between the two enemies. Assad ridiculed the notion his country had been building a secret nuclear plant in the desert where it was in full view for the world to see. He said the facility was a military, not a potential nuclear base.

One of the ongoing problems in the Middle East is attempting to immediately resolve all problems between nations. Perhaps, it is time to work at a slower rate of progress and get something done to prove peace can be negotiated.

British General Defends Basra Military Policies

British General Sir Richard Dannatt sent an open letter to his troops in which he defended the miltary strategy employed in handling the Basra area. There is considerable unrest among British soldiers who now are confined to the Basra airport even as fighting rages inside Basra. “I can not deny that there are many who said that they would rather be at the forefront of the operations(as CGS I think I would be worried if I headed an Army that did not express such views), but those same individuals were all mature enough to understand it is right that the Iraqis are now taking the lead. Indeed, these are exactly the nature of operations that we have been pressing for some months-an Iraq solution to an Iraq problem.”

General Dannatt expressed his view that, while Iraq led operations made numerous mistakes, the overall conclusion is the Iraqi army did accomplish its goals of establishing its presence in Basra. “The Iraqi plan is working and is delivering what we sought.” He indicated the future role of British forces would be to “mentor the Iraqi Security Forces” and to avoid assuming a major role in military operations.

Ironically, many American political leaders are urging a similar policy on the part of American forces, but President Bush insists the Iraqis are not quite ready. Perhaps, if the British model of forcing them to get ready was utilized, the United States Army could begin to envision itself as a mentoring rather than a fighting force.

Zimbabwe Recount Recounts Same Results!

The Zanu-PF party of President Robert Mugabe once again failed to obtain a majority in Parliament even after the Election Commission made a fervent effort to overthrow its loss in the parliamentary election results. The Electoral Commission said results were unchanged in 18 of the 23 seats where recounts had taken place. The Zanu-PF needs to overturn results in at least 9 districts if it is to attain a majority in Parliament but its effort has failed. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said they may even get around to finally releasing results of the presidential election, only after a “verification and collation” process occurs with agents of the presidential candidates. The only clear aspect of the Electoral Commission statement is that no final result will be provided until Robert Mugabe says one should be offered.

In the meantime, violence and brutality continues against supporters of the victorious Movement for Democratic Change whose candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai clearly won a majority of votes. Mugabe appears unwilling to give in on this point and is using the beating and imprisoning of hundreds of MDC followers as a means of using force to secure another election. Hopefully, for Mugabe, the next time round, will be a more controlled election in which the ballots are counted prior to voting in order to ensure victory.

Is Chna Serious About Dalai Lama Talks?

A few days ago, the Chinese government expressed a desire to engage in serious discussions with representatives of the Dalai Lama regarding recent events in Tibet as well as its future. But, the state-controlled press continues to heap scorn on the Buddhist leader’s clique as the cause of violence in Tibet last month. “The Dalai clique has always been masters at games with words and the ideas that they have tossed about truly make the head spin,” blasted the People’s Daily. The leading government newspaper warned, “questions of sovereignty are beyond debate and splitting China is sure to fail.” It heaped praise on ethnic Chnese demonstrators who have defended Tibet policies and attacked the world’s media for insulting their nation. “Those who follow national unity are national heroes and those who split the nation are criminals to history.”

The Dalai Lama has made clear his intent is to establish a relationship with China in which local Tibet customs and traditions are respected. He has avoided seeking independence from China knowing full well going in that direction leads nowhere but to failure. The issue is whether or not the Chinese government is willing to engage in meaningful dialogue or is it simply holding talks in order to deflect pressure on the Olympic Games and its opening ceremonies?

Price Of America’s Love Affair With Drugs-Violence!

There are numerous unintended consequences with the love affair between Americans and illict drugs, hundreds of thousands in prison and open warfare near the Mexican-American border. The decision of the United States to declare illegal the use and sale of drugs has created huge drug empires throughout central and South America. During the past three years violence continues to escalate in the border area near the border of the United States and Mexico. Gun battles are becoming the day’s norm as rival drug gangs challenge one another for power. This past week, fifteen Mexican drug-gang members were killed in a gun battle within sight of the United States.

Rival factions of the local Aellano Felix drug cartel in Tijuana on the Miexico-California border fought each other with rifles and machine guns in the early morning hours as local police stood by since they lacked the weapon power of criminals in order to halt the battle. The corpses of fifteen bodies were surrounded by hundreds of bullet casings and many of the faces of the dead had actually been destroyed due to the viciousness of the fighting.

The decision to make drugs illegal is destroying many areas of Latin America. It is a failed effort and the American tragedy is its inability to awaken from the nightmare with drugs and create a new environment in which drug use is handled as a medical issue, not a criminal one.

April Showers In Afghanistan Rain Taliban Bullets

It is close to seven years since American forces led an invasion of Afghanistan that threw out Taliban leadership, but President Karzai’s attempt to preside over a ceremony resulted in attacks by suspected Taliban militants which forced him to flee for his life. The president was at a pageants that marked the sixteenth anniversary of ejecting a Soviet-backed Afghani regime only to have the rocket and automatic weapon explosion of gunfire kill one and wound 19 of the dignitaries who attended the ceremony. Hundreds fled the scene in chaos as shots rang out in the air.

For days prior to the event, Kabul had been ringed by checkpoints and security forces searched vehicles in order to avoid the scene which did ensue. The area where the attack took place was ringed with tanks and security forces, but Taliban militants were still able to carry out their plans. One rocket even penetrated a mosque where Karzai was sitting in prayer.

At some point, there is need for a re-evaluation of current military strategies which obviously are not achieving their goals. Karzai has complained of the lack of diplomatic success in reaching out to Taliban militants, is this a strategy that might be explored?

Japan Buys Into Testing Myth

This past week about 2.32 millioin sixth graders and third-year middle school students in Japan took part in the education ministry’s nationwide scholastic testing process. The ministry insists the object of the tests were to grasp the scholastic ability of individual children in order that teachers might be able to assist children in their learning. There is no question these nationwide tests will fuel excessive and unnecessay competition betweeen schools and parents. Since all children participate in the tests, individual school results will soon be noted and demands made to “raise standards” in schools whose students did not attain high enough scores. Of course, the education ministry promised not to use school test results in order to compare schools, but if the United States is a model, that is forlorn dream.

Even now, materials are being pumped out by education companies which promise to aid schools in raising test scores and by the next year, teachers will halt teaching in order to devote valuable time to making certain their students pass the tests with high scores. The wheels of commerce will be entering the classroom and the original desire to aid “individual children” will be lost in the frenzy to obtain more yens.