Thursday, April 9, 2015


In a radio interview earlier this week, Dick Cheney had the nerve to assert that Barack Obama was, in his opinion, the worst president the US has ever had. Dick Cheney, the man who as vice president in the George W Bush administration, orchestrated turning our nation's legitimate response to 9-11 by fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan into an unrelated, unnecessary war against Iraq, which has ended up destabilizing not only that nation but the entire Middle East. Dick Cheney, the man who claims to have no regrets for manipulating the US into a middle East disaster costing untold trillions of dollars, many thousands of our soldiers lives, and hundreds of thousands of middle eastern lives, triggering the development of new, even more violent terrorist groups, with resulting conflicts still mushrooming in size, range, and lethality. Dick Cheney, the man whose Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby, was convicted and sentenced to time in prison for exposing a CIA agent in his attempt to punish a US Ambassador who had the forthrightness to expose that the administration's attempts to find reasons to attack Iraq were based on faulty, contrived evidence.  Dick Cheney, the man who as a leading neocon was given tremendous power over determining the course of the nation's foreign policy in the early years of  the W Bush administration, and whose Secretary of State during those years, Colin Powell, later resigned and apologized for the tragic errors that were made under that watch.  Dick Cheney, the man who spent his last years as our nation's vice president in virtual hiding, no longer in the inner loop, once the failure of the policies he had so fervently proposed and initiated became overwhelmingly obvious. The same Dick Cheney is still on the scene, making statements on Fox News, and there are apparently some people who still listen to him, and may even take his judgments seriously. Few people would claim that Obama's presidency has been notably successful. Whatever one feels about Obama's intentions as president, his accomplishments are unfortunately more outnumbered by his disappointments and unresolved issues and problems.  But the worst?  Cheney need look no further back than the administration he was a part of to find a more worthy recipient of that charge. Ignored the warning signs prior to 9-11, turned the nation's reaction to that assault into a region-wide disaster from which the entire Middle East, and we, as the precipitating power which spread the conflict, are still trying to recover and reestablish a degree of order. No, it is not Obama who deserves the accusation, but it is not surprising that failure is paramount of Cheney's mind. Every time he looks at the mirror in the morning, he is looking straight into the sad eyes of one who has every reason to fear no one is more deserving of the charge "worst" than he.

Monday, April 6, 2015


While the reign of neocons controlling US foreign policy during the Bush-Cheney Administration was thoroughly discredited in the last decade, when the failure of their endeavor to attack Iraq, install a pro-western government, defeat al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, and further spread "democracy" throughout the Middle East became painfully evident, in recent years they have been quietly resurrecting themselves to have an influential voice exerting power within and upon our government.  Congressional Republicans consider ways to torpedo the efforts of Obama, together with five major European allies, to work with Iran on a treaty limiting their development of a nuclear energy program and preventing military weapons-grade applications. Neocon spokesmen like John Bolton suggest that a preemptive bombing strike on possible nuclear sites is a feasible option, and a vast majority of Republican senators and congressmen apparently agree with Netanyahu that diplomacy should not even be attempted, just let tensions build until military action is the only option. That the Iranian people elected a more moderate leader, Rouhani, in their last election, and that he seems more willing to negotiate on  some issues than previous leadership, and is even showing  signs of cooperating with us in fighting ISIS in Iraq, means nothing to those who are fixated on having it their way, so why bother to talk, just let the fighting begin. The neocon mantra has loud voices in the Senate, in John McCain and Lindsey Graham, in frequent rants on needing more forces in Afghanistan, more advisors on the ground in Iraq, reintroducing our own combat troops again undoubtedly necessary, more must be done in Syria, Yemen, Africa, etc.

 With our unrivaled sheer military power, neocons apparently feel that the entire region, if not the world, is ours to influence and control as we wish, if we only had the nerve to exercise our military might, and our manpower, to the fullest. An arrogant fantasy, to be sure, and disproven by the history of our 21st century efforts in the Middle East thus far, but still powerfully expressed in the halls of Congress, the op-ed pages throughout the US, and the think tanks housed with right-wing academicians. A recent op-ed piece coming out of the Koch-funded Cato Institute, for example, criticized some of our Middle Eastern  allies for meddling in our endeavors in the region, faulting them for not single-mindedly assisting us in achieving our objectives.  Quite an assumption, our agenda should be their agenda! And who is doing the meddling?  Our regional allies are the full-time residents. Neocons have little recognition of the fact that other independent nations may have their own agendas, differing perhaps markedly from ours, with the differences preferably being grist for the diplomatic mill, not initial grounds for war.  But the Neocon movement, kick-started as a governmental influence by the Project for a New American Century, founded by William Kristol and Robert Kagan in 1997, felt that the US has not only the right but also the responsibility to impose its own will, its sense of what is best, elsewhere throughout the world. Cheney, as vice president, was a fervent advocate, manipulated the attack on Iraq and  overthrow of Hussein, and virtually controlled the nation's foreign policy during the first 5 years of George W Bush's presidency.  With the failure of the neocons assault on our nation's Middle East endeavors, Cheney's influence diminished, and the Project for a New American Century closed its doors in 2007.  Neocons, however, are still sadly very much on the scene, having come out of the closet they retreated to temporarily, and are again exerting their dangerous influence.

In addition to the Middle East, where Obama has been trying to negotiate a difficult path between holding to his initial commitment, to gradually withdraw from full military engagement in that troubled region, and managing the political pressure from war hawks, the defense establishment, and residual neocons to maintain and even increase our military investment, the Ukraine last year developed into another area beset with major power conflict in which neocons in our government  played a leading role. The Eastern European Affairs region of the State Department has been led by Victoria Nuland, with wife of Robert Kagan and one with neocon instincts close to her heart. Any reset with Russia that Obama may have contemplated never really got off the ground, NATO was closed to Russian involvement, even when they were open to cooperation on some issues, missile placements remained near Russian borders, and the creep of NATO-joining nations continued to encroach towards Russia's borders. Nuland played a significant role in encouraging the Maidan revolution in Kiev last year, which overthrew a democratically-elected Russian-leaning leader of Ukraine, and with the new leaders considering cementing closer ties to the EU and to NATO than had been conceived when the Soviet Union collapsed and Ukraine became an independent, neutrally-aligned nation, a Russian reaction was assured and conflict involving Crimea and the eastern, Russian-speaking regions ensued.  Ukraine was known to be an unstable nation, involvement by our neocons insured that the sectional conflict would turn into a potentially dangerous major power conflict.  Our European allies are trying to negotiate a diplomatic solution to the warfare, while our government, interestingly, is not involved in the discussions. What a neocon is doing in our State Department handling that key Eastern European region perhaps only Obama can answer.  Nuland has, however, closely worked with Hillary Clinton on foreign policy issues when she was Secretary of State, and of course advises John Kerry.  So the voices of neocons seem to be ever present, in spite of their checkered past. Time to raise the warning flag, unless we are prepared to continue the New American Century of Conflict.