Romney, Huntsman, Gingrich only GOP candidates up to the job…

November 12, 2011

UPDATE ( SUNDAY, 11/13/11):

I like what Ron Paul had to say in the GOP presidential candidate foreign policy debate Saturday night about whether the U.S. should go to war with Iran over its developing or obtaining nuclear weapons. He said no and he said it sounds like the talk that led us into Iraq where we never found any weapons of mass destruction. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich seem hot to go to war there if it seemed necessary (if other pressures do not work).  Paul also said that we should only go to war via the formal declaration method set forth in the Constitution and that once committed we fight, win, and get it over with. I do feel, though that Iran cannot be allowed obtain nuclear weapons capability. A full-out war is probably not practical or necessary there, but a strike might be if all else fails (but of course that might set off some type of war). And now that I have gone this far, I have to acknowledge that in this modern day and age, it may be necessary for the nation to conduct various military operations short of war, but they should be kept to a bare minimum. I updated this post after reading part of the debate transcript — I’ll read it all and post about it later.

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When Barack Obama won the presidency I can recall people, that is ones who supported him, saying, “at last we have an adult in the White House”.

Since it is likely that Obama will lose in 2012, because it is hard to retain the presidency when so many people are in economic difficulty, it is fascinating to think who might be the proper adult to replace him.

After watching snippets of the CBS GOP presidential candidate debate on foreign policy this evening (I missed most of it due to the fact I had just got home off the road and was fixing my dinner), it seems to me the only real adults, or responsible adults, are, and not necessarily in this order: Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, and Newt Gingrich (well, responsible might be a stretch there, but Newt is professorial, kind of like the old sage).

Ron Paul is correct on many things, and seems well meaning, but he also does not seem to realize that not all of us are doctors and can afford his world.

This all has nothing to do with whether I agree with their politics — on some things I do and on some I don’t; I’m just thinking who could reasonably handle the job at the helm of the world’s super power.

Actually Huntsman should be the man. He is astute. He speaks Chinese and seems politically moderate and broad minded. But he apparently just does not fit into the modern Republican Party. Actually a ticket with Romney and Huntsman would be exciting, but I doubt the nation is going to put two Mormons in charge — there’s a question even one can get elected.

Herman Cain, despite his being top in the polling among identified Republicans, is not likely to have a chance in a general election. And foreign policy, which is a vital part of running the world’s super power, is way beyond his depth, he has clearly demonstrated.

Actually on foreign policy I am torn between Paul’s Libertarian view, best described as isolationist, and those who would be ready to nuke Iran so it does not get nukes.

(And I do think that to allow Iran to acquire nukes is suicide for us and the whole world. I doubt that we should, would, or could get into a land war with that nation over the issue, but there must be some way to prevent such a catastrophe.)

History shows that turning our back on problems or pretending they are not our problems leads to things such as Hitler with his Wehrmacht trying to take over half the world and Gen. Tojo and his military the other half.

The electorate, though, right now is probably more concerned about domestic issues, read that “the economy”, “jobs”.

Romney thinks he can use his supposedly proven track record in business to streamline things and get our fiscal house in order. At the same time, he does not come across as a right-wing firebrand who would dismantle every last bit of our economic safety net.

I was distressed when several of the GOP candidates wholeheartedly gave their endorsement to torture.

I would have a hard time voting for anyone who would support torture (unfortunately, the last time around the winning candidate opposed it and then continued the policy supporting it  — okay, I am now clarifying this or correcting this: my instant web research says that Obama has banned water boarding, but there are also stories claiming there are policy loopholes that allow torture to continue in some cases — unclear on this. I also note that I think the term “enhanced interrogation techniques” is nothing more than a euphemism for torture).

It’s probably too bad the whole issue of water boarding and other tortures ever came out in the open in the first place. I mean if it is only done to truly evil people and if there is anything useful produced from it, then who cares? But there is no guarantee that it is or would be limited to truly evil people (and in fact would not be used against the innocent) and it is questionable whether anything useful ever comes out of it — torture me and I may confess to anything and tell you anything you want to hear, but not necessarily the truth. And of course there is the troublesome moral question. And worst of all, once we put ourselves on record as being fine with torture we have no ability to dissuade our enemies from using it on our own people; we are left with no moral high ground to stand on.

On the other hand, once we go on such a public record as opposing torture, we lose some of that power to bluff suspects. Police use the bluff all the time.

But it always floors me when I hear people who seem nice and civilized wholeheartedly endorse torture.

I do not.

P.s.

In an update of this post at the top I said that I had read part of the debate transcript. One really has to have either watched the whole thing or read the transcript and not depend upon news stories or blogs (like mine) to get the full sense of the whole thing. And these are not really debates — they are forums and not conducted in a way that gives each candidate equal time to cover each issue — each candidate does not even get to answer each question — time considerations, I imagine, and audience attention span would prohibit that. I think one-on-one traditional debates would be better, but of course in the primary there are several candidates.

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Obama vs. Cheney: as much as they differ they are remarkably the same…

May 21, 2009

I was struck by the fact that although former Vice President Dick Cheney and current President Barack Obama differ widely in their view of the past eight years and the war on terror, they agree on at least one thing, and maybe more.

President Obama said today that the wars we are fighting will not conveniently end with the signing of a peace treaty, that they are open ended (actually I think he said something like they might go on for as much as ten years – but really that means it’s open ended). And the idea that the wars would be open ended was widely proclaimed by George W. Bush and Cheney.

Cheney is sticking to the line that torture of 9/11-related suspects was necessary – although he insists on using the euphemism of “enhanced interrogation techniques”.  And he holds up the fact that we have not suffered any more attacks on our soil as justification. He seems to plead that only if the president were to release more classified material on info we supposedly received by way of torture, he and the Bush administration would be vindicated in their “harsh” techniques. Personally, I doubt any of the material would prove anything one way or the other. But it seems a strange argument to make in that Cheney and his ilk always argue that secrets must be kept. Of course he says that since the fact that we used torture has been released, the other side of the story should be too. And maybe it should – don’t really know.

The big divide seems to be that Cheney believes that a presidential administration does not and should not follow the law when doing what it deems necessary to keep the American people safe. President Obama thinks otherwise. He seems to think we actually weaken our nation when we give up our principles.

Cheney today lashed out at the New York Times for doing stories that he claimed gave away state secrets to the enemy. I’m not sure what secrets he was referring to, but I see the ongoing problem or conflict of the press being the watchdog on government and the real concern in doing so that legitimately classified national security info might be leaked out.

Back during the Nixon presidency the New York Times and I believe the Washington Post published the so-called Pentagon Papers. The Nixon administration unsuccessfully tried to prevent the publications, arguing that national security was being jeopardized. But my recollection was that what came out of those documents was not info the enemy (in Vietnam) did not know, but the fact that our own government was lying to the public about various facts concerning the war, most notably asserting that we were winning when all indications were to the contrary.

And President Obama said today that although he supported transparency in government he would continue to protect legitimate state secrets but would not seek to withhold information for purely political reasons or just to avoid embarrassment of public officials. And that to me seems a better attitude than Cheney’s trust us, we know what we are doing.

Cheney may feel some comfort in the fact that President Obama has had to make some compromises in his campaign assertions concerning national defense, such as deciding not to release more torture photos and re-instating military tribunals, and even, according to Cheney, holding on to the power to use “enhanced interrogation techniques” or torture if need be (on that last one, I think Cheney is correct. I have not completely followed it).

I only heard part of President Obama’s speech (maybe most of it, not sure) and heard all of Cheney’s.

I noticed that Obama took quite a few digs at the Bush/Cheney record over the past eight years, but he also said that he does not favor continuing to rehash the whole thing (even though he was just doing it) and going for prosecutions.

Cheney for his part sounded kind of bitter, but he did give a strident defense of the Bush/Cheney tactics. He seems to continue to conflate Iraq with 9/11 (and somehow no matter what the facts are, I think it forever will be) and he seemed to casually throw out the weapons of mass destruction assertion even though at last word as far as I know, they never existed.

And it occurs to me that even though I think going into Iraq was a wrong move, I could easily make a case for why we should have gone in. But my case would not be based on any false connection between Iraq and 9/11, but more on the fact that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was violating the no fly zone and weapons inspection agreements and was funding terrorism against Israel. I’m not sure I would agree with my own arguments there, but it would have been a more valid set of reasons than the ever-changing ones we have been given over the years.

Strangely enough in all the rancor between opposing factions on the so-called war on terror, I don’t see much going on now that differs from what Bush/Cheney would have done or a President McCain.

We continue to be in Iraq and we press on (perhaps now a little more vigorously) in Afghanistan.

President Obama has come out in his public statements solidly against interrogation techniques such as waterboarding. That is a difference. But if he has nonetheless retained the power to order it (something I need to check out), then there may not be so much of a difference after all.

I’m sure if I examined transcripts of both speeches given today I would come up with even more things to blog about, but those were the things that jumped out at me from my live view.

UPDATE:

Contrary to what some in my household think, I do not spend all my time on this blog or even researching for it, so I do not yet have an answer to the question of what exactly Cheney was referring to when he said the president has retained the right to use enhanced interrogation (torture) techniques. It kind of rang true, but I was not sure. I did read a Feb. 2, 2009-dated piece on the web from Times Online that said Obama issued an executive order to the effect that the CIA could continue to use rendition, which is shipping detainees to nations where anything goes. I’ll keep working on this as I get time. Any help would be appreciated.

ADD 1:

Still keeping my eyes and ears open. I just heard Chris Matthews on his Hardball show (MSNBC) ask top presidential advisor David Axelrod, in reference to Cheney’s assertion, whether Obama retained the torture option. He asked Axelrod the question directly two times and two times did not receive a direct answer. The only thing Axelrod said that came close to an answer was:

“The president is going to do whatever he needs to do to keep this country safe” (that was part of his response the second time he was asked). 

I know there is a better and more direct answer somewhere. I just have not found it.


There was a conspiracy to torture, but prosecution could dismantle our system…

April 26, 2009

(Note: In my last post I hinted I might quit blogging – fat chance, unless my laptop konks out.)

When prosecuting wrong doers do you go after the wrongdoers or the lawyers who gave them “bad advice?”

That seemed to be the question on a couple of Sunday morning news/talk/opinion shows I just watched.

But I’ll cut to the chase here. From the investigative news accounts I have taken in so far it seems abundantly clear that what happened is that former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney and others directly or indirectly (a wink and a nod) solicited bad advice from legal counsel to justify what anyone without consulting a lawyer would know was wrong (under the Geneva convention and any sense of morality), that is to torture people.

They told the lawyers what they wanted the lawyers to repeat back to them. The lawyers just had to figure out the right legal justifications and terminology.

So who’s wrong. Well both sides of course. It was a conspiracy.

In my opinionated mind they are all guilty of something akin to the war crimes for which we prosecuted military and governmental leaders of Germany and Japan after World War II.

(We hanged some of them.)

I think the resulting scope of the Bush/Cheney violations or the resulting torture activities is probably much smaller than that of the Axis powers in World War II.

And the problem is that if our government now was to go after Bush and Cheney it might mean the total break down of our system. How could we have a system in which, say, the president of the United States has to fear that in the future he could be prosecuted for a policy decision? And I think that is the question that our current president, Barack Obama, is wrestling with.

While I think that Bush and Cheney knew full well that what they did was wrong, they also rationalized it, perhaps through tortured logic (pun intended, even though it’s not so funny) that it was for the security of the nation (but if you waterboard someone hundreds of times, as has been reported, does that not tend to prove it doesn’t work?. And in my mind, even if it did, it was wrong).

Certainly if Bush and Cheney has perpetrated torture and killings and other war crimes on the scale of Adolf Hitler or Gen. Tojo then there would be no question as to their guilt and need to be prosecuted. But I don’t think it quite matches.

Adding to the cover for our two bad boys is the fact that much of what they were doing and how they were doing it was reported early on. The American public in general seemed to acquiesce.

The most shameful part of all of this is that the only people who were ever jailed and/or otherwise severely punished were some enlisted people in the military.

While I am not at all sure that those punished people were entirely without culpability, giving to the circumstances, that is to say, knowing now that apparently orders from the top came down directly and indirectly to torture prisoners (detainees), I personally believe it would be right that those enlisted personnel be fully pardoned and their ranks reinstated.

Whether there can ever be any prosecutions, I don’t know. But if there are to be, they should be at the higher levels. But then we’re back to Bush and Cheney and the whole idea of prosecuting ex presidents and vice presidents, something that again I think would tear apart our system of government.

The tragedy of our for the most part senseless and every-changing war policies in the Middle East and our economic fiasco brought on by imprudent use of credit point to a moral breakdown that took place in our society. We may be pulling ourselves out of that.

I don’t know, maybe an official statement owning up to the fact that we used poor judgment but will do better in the future is enough.

P.s.

Whatever leverage the U.S. may have had against other nations or enemies torturing our own citizens has been severely eroded.


Do what you’re told Private, but remember, you did not get the order from me; Condi’s cool with waterboarding…

April 22, 2009

Really, from the beginning didn’t we all know that the poor seemingly lame-brained little girl from I think it was West Virginia, former Army Specialist Lynndie England, seen in those photos molesting (torturing) prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq was just being used as a convenient scapegoat?

(Actually, of course, I don’t know what her mental capacity is. I just think she was a small-town girl trying to make her way in a cruel world in which even when you do what you’re told it often works against you.)

It seemed plain to me. Even if you’ve never been in the military you have to have seen that what she was doing was surely sanctioned by higher ups and you had to see by the silly expression on her face that she was probably not the brightest bulb in the lamp.

I was in the Army once upon a time. The first thing you learn is that you are often told to do things in which superiors let you know that while they expect you to do it, if the you-know-what hits the fan they will deny they ever told you to do it. But that does not let you off the hook, you still are expected to do as you are told. Fortunately for me those orders were for minor non-controversial things, such as stealing cleaning supplies from other platoons or companies, but the mind-set is formed early on in basic training.

And while I think more higher ups should have been punished over Abu Ghraib, one of the saddest chapters in the tragedy that is the Iraq War, I was suspicious when they tried to pin it all on former Army Reserve Brigadier Gen. Janis Karpinski, demoting her to colonel before her retirement.

She feels somewhat vindicated now that a U.S. Senate report has been released that reportedly says orders for harsh treatment of prisoners came down from the Bush administration. She claims she knew nothing about what was going on at Abu Ghraib. I don’t know if that is so good for her. Maybe she should have known. But she says that when she found out she asked to be able to assure the Iraqi people that the matter was being investigated and that such would not happen again. She said she was told by a superior to keep her mouth shut.

But here’s my question: Where were the officers when all the reported and photo-documented abuse was taking place? And doesn’t anyone realize that it is highly unlikely that any widespread abuse would have taken place without orders from above? And if the higher ups did not know what was going on then they are all guilty of dereliction of duty.

It is a major injustice to only punish the underlings. In fact if they were doing what they were told that might mitigate their crimes, although I believe at Nurnberg it was decided simply “following orders” is not a good defense.

England is no longer in prison, but she was demoted to private and dishonorably discharged from the Army. Her boyfriend, Specialist Charles Graner, was also demoted and is serving a 10-year prison sentence and will be dishonorably discharged. Several enlisted people were dishonorably discharged and various officers did receive disciplinary actions.

But again the highest price was paid by the underlings.

All evidence suggests the orders to maltreat and torture came down from at least as high as former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. And according to the Senate report, then national security advisor Condoleeza Rice gave her verbal okay to water boarding torture back in 2002. Of course we know President George W. Bush apparently had no problem with what was going on, especially while it was still secret.

And judging from a comment I got on a recent blog, and talk radio, I would say a lot of folks don’t seem to care that much, other than the fact it may be somewhat uncomfortable and embarassing for the U.S.

Of course eventually those higher ups will meet a higher authority. Meanwhile they can prepare their answers.

(And if you condone it yourself, good luck when you meet your maker.)

P.s.

I agree with what I heard Col. Karpinski say on TV about the torture our personnel have inflicted on prisoners (sometimes called detainees):

“…people around the world did hold the United States of America to a higher standard…”

I for one wish we would have kept up that higher standard.


Issues from the Ayatolla to Wall Street…

September 20, 2008

(Copyright 2008)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

So I’m sitting in my doctor’s office waiting room reading a National Geographic article on Iran. It reminds me that Iranians are not Arabs (not that there is anything wrong with Arabs, per se), but that they are Persian.

It also reminds me that the Iranian students didn’t just take our hostages back in 1979 for no reason at all. The Shaw of Iran was a tyrant and we helped install him on his thrown back in 1953 because he was anti-communist.

Anyway, it’s an old story. We have spent a lot of time meddling in the affairs of other countries when we should be minding our own business.

I remember at the time of the Iranian Hostage Crisis I was working on a small newspaper in central Arizona (when I drove out into the countryside, I almost felt I was in Iran) and there was local fair and it had I think a target practice booth or maybe a dunking booth, anyway, the slogan was “put a hola in the Ayatollah.”

Well I don’t care for ayatollahs either. In fact all religious zealots, regardless of faith, scare me.

And I really don’t care for that nut case that is the president of Iran today (which is still run by ayatollahs).

But back to the late 70s and the hostage crisis. The collective mood was to hate Iran and it remains today, even though we are told in various reports that the Iranian people as a whole do not have an animosity toward the United States. The National Geographic article I read said that for the most part, the people, although mostly Islamic in religion, are not all that fanatical or even devout about it. They’re not always wild about their government either. But I guess the government has the guns (see that’s why the Second Amendment is so important).

While I think we should keep a close eye on Iran’s nuclear project and eventually we might have to do what is necessary or let the Israelis do it, I don’t think we ought to be openly bad mouthing Iran and I don’t think we ought to be itching to go to war with that country.

How it came to be that some nations are entitled to have nuclear weapons (the ultimate weapons of mass destruction) is curious. I guess it is because we make the rules. I am nervous that a nation with a president such as what’s his name of Iran could have nuclear weapons and realize something must be done, but it is a curious thing. Pakistan, our supposed ally, has nuclear weapons and poses a threat to us because of the instability there and because we are making military incursions into Pakistan as part of our fight with the forces of evil (Taliban, al Qaeda, whatever it is being called this week, in Afghanistan). Strangely, the Pakistani government had given us tacit approval of those incursions before, but now that it’s getting to be on a larger scale and more obvious, and now that the Pakistani government is getting heat from within, it has publicly banned us from entering their territory, even though our enemies use it as a safe haven. I think we are ignoring them (as probably we should, since they don’t seem to be helping us — if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem).

And now our own military is telling us we can’t win in Afghanistan by simply killing people. What are we to do – declare victory and go home? Well we might just be able to do that in Iraq. In fact I watched a Fox TV (so called) news report the other day that seemed to matter of factly remark that we have won the war in Iraq. Now I know my local paper does not carry much national and world news these days, but I missed that headline. I also read a Time online article in which the author said of the war in Afghanistan that we are “chasing a ghost” (of Osama bin Laden).

….I’m as loyal a Bush basher as any, but when you read you find things out, maybe things you already suspected, but things nonetheless. Reading book reviews in the Economist magazine, I find that President Clinton’s administration reportedly used torture and rendition techniques in the global fight on terrorists too, maybe just not as actively as the Bush administration. One book also claims that Vice President Al Gore advised a dubious Clinton to go ahead with rendition. Gore is quoted as having said: “That’s a no-brainer. Of course it’s a violation of international law, that’s why it’s a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.” I don’t think Dick Cheney would argue with that. I believe that was out of a book entitled: “Law and the Long War: The Future of Justice in the Age of Terror,” by Benjamin Wittes. Another book reviewed on the subject was “The Dark Side: Inside the Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals,” by Jane Mayer.

I want to read those books, but I am definitely against torture, and no one really needs to define torture, well except maybe a judge, because we instinctively know what it is. I grew up under the naive notion that Americans did not do that. And I don’t think we have to a large extent, but we are apparently not innocent. Most of us know, I think, though, that our government does deal in covert operations and we kind of accept that. One problem is: covert operations have to stay covert, otherwise they probably do us more harm than good. Also, torture as a technique in gaining information has to be questionable. Nearly all of us would say anything our captors and tormentors wanted us to say to get them to stop torturing us. Even John McCain broke under torture, I understand, giving a confession, but later regained his determination to resist and I nor anyone else, I presume, would blame him for that.

But what good is torture? If it is information one is after, there is no guarantee that the product of torture is going to be accurate. If it is a confession one is after, any confession made under duress is on its face worthless and meaningless.

…I never thought that I would see the day when free market capitalist Republicans would preside over a government that would essentially take over the market place in order to avert financial catastrophe. But apparently from what I am reading, administration officials went to Capitol Hill late Thursday evening and laid the cards on the table. Either the federal government (the taxpayers) steps in and assumes upwards of one trillion dollars in debt or everything goes down the drain – and maybe not just for us, but the whole world, this being the global economy and all.

I think if that is true, that pretty much ruins the case for those who espouse free, unregulated markets – yes I know most of those folks would have the caveat that even in free markets things have to be done legally. But that is just the problem. When you don’t watch things folks will cheat or stretch the rules in some kind of rationalization or do it just to keep up with the competition. When everyone else is doing something, you either go along or get left behind.

It seems as if there was a collective loss of morals in the market place.

(And if lenders can be bailed out en masse, why not the borrowers?)

If I have my history right, I think we settled for more extensive market regulation back in the Great Depression. Then when we got far away from it, and, say back in the 80s, we kind of lost our fear of disaster and started cutting things loose. The Savings and Loan scandal should have been a signal, but apparently if it was it was unheeded.

With the massive debt absorption program currently in the works by our government, it may have averted another Great Depression. I don’t know.

We don’t want to lose our free market economy (free, but with rules), but we don’t want to get carried away with looking the other way again either.

Neither Barack Obama nor John McCain’s hands are clean in the financial crisis. Both of them have had connections with the very players that have helped push us this close to the abyss. But then again, how could you be in the government and be running for president without having dealings with these people?

In short, I have to believe that Obama would be more representative of my interests because he is of the party that has for decades sought to represent the public as a whole (for the most part), while McCain is of the party that always seems to have the attitude that government’s role is keeping records, keeping a military for our defense (and these days for an offense), and providing whatever business needs because what is good for business is good for all of us. But the income disparity is so great in this nation that it seems obvious that even when business is flying high, we may not all being doing well. And this country is supposed to be for all of us.

And when the Wall Street Journal publishes an editorial calling you “un-presidential” and “inaccurate”, that can’t be good, especially if you’re the Republican presidential candidate. McCain had called for the firing of the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, making some serious charges.

The editorial read in part: “…John McCain has made it clear this week he doesn’t understand what’s happening on Wall Street any better than Barack Obama does…”

And for anyone who has worried that Obama seems a little too cool and collected for his own good at times, the Wall Street Journal had this line in its editorial castigating McCain: “In a crisis, voters want steady, calm leadership, not easy misleading answers that do nothing to help…” I doubt the WSJ plans to endorse Obama, though (or? Maybe).

So, apparently, since the economy is probably the most important issue, who do you vote for? Didn’t I ask this before? Where is Harold Stassen when we need him? Or maybe Ross Perot. He could look under the hood and see what’s wrong (I’m kidding, okay?).

And as I watch Sarah Palin, who could be a heart beat away from the presidency, give boiler plate far right speeches or ad lib and give jumbled and confusing answers (the other day she was talking about coal and oil and molecules and, really I don’t know) and cynically sticks to assertions that have been proven lies many times over, I shake my head and say to myself, “has it really come to this? I thought George W. Bush was bad.” Well he was and is, but Palin’s only hope or our only hope would be if she ever assumes the presidency that someone might be there to advise her who actually has a clue. I may be wrong about Palin (I don’t think so), please tell me I am!

P.S. And file this under, I did not know that: voters in Virginia will start early voting for president this week and voters in some 36 states will also be offered early voting. As much as a third of the voters are expected to have cast their votes before the Nov. 4 election. I don’t know the details of this and this is the first time I ever heard of such a thing this early. Read it on Time online (referred to story by CNN online).