Thursday, November 27, 2008

11/26 Horror In Mumbai To Ripple Across World?

The city of Mumbai is India's financial capital. India's New York City.

From Magnifico in his Four at Four at Docudharma today:

The Guardian reports Terrorist gunmen are holed up in Mumbai hotels. "About 10 to 12 gunmen remain holed up with hostages inside two Mumbai hotels and a Jewish centre, a top Indian general said today. Major General RK Huda told New Delhi Television that the rest of the gunmen appeared to have been killed or captured." 125 people have been killed and more than 325 wounded.

Mumbai (Marathi: ?????, Mumba?, IPA:[?mumb?i] (help·info)), formerly Bombay, is the capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra and the financial capital of India. With an estimated population of 20 million, it is one of the most populous cities in the world. Along with the neighbouring suburbs of Navi Mumbai and Thane, it forms, at 19 million, the world's fifth most populous metropolitan area. Mumbai lies on the west coast of India and has a deep natural harbour. Mumbai's port handles over half of India's maritime cargo.

Mumbai is the commercial and entertainment centre of India, generating 5% of India's GDP and accounting for 25% of industrial output, 40% of maritime trade, and 70% of capital transactions to India's economy. Mumbai is one of the world's top ten centres of commerce by global financial flow, home to important financial institutions such as the Reserve Bank of India, the Bombay Stock Exchange, the National Stock Exchange of India and the corporate headquarters of many Indian companies and numerous multinational corporations. The city also houses India's hindi film and television industry, known as Bollywood. Mumbai's business opportunities, as well as its high standard of living, attract migrants from all over India and, in turn, make the city a potpourri of many communities and cultures.

Indian army personnel taking position at Mumbai’s Taj Mahal hotel on Nov. 2
The BBC says this morning:
Commandos are fighting to clear the last gunmen from two luxury hotels in Mumbai, more than 24 hours after a series of attacks across the city.

The Taj Mahal hotel was nearly free of gunmen, officials said, but operations continued at the Oberoi-Trident hotel.

At a third stand-off, at a Jewish centre, seven hostages were freed, a security official said.

Indian PM Manmohan Singh vowed to track down the attackers, who have killed at least 119 people and injured 300.

Gunmen targeted at least seven sites in Mumbai late on Wednesday, opening fire indiscriminately on crowds at a major railway station, the two hotels, the Jewish centre and a cafe frequented by foreigners.
George Friedman's STRATFOR (Strategic Forecasting, Inc.) has produced an early tentative analysis of possible geopolitical repercussions from the attacks in Mumbai.

Let's hope that STRATFOR is not as on the mark with this analysis as they usually are:

A fire in the dome of the Taj Hotel in Mumbai on Nov. 26
Red Alert: Possible Geopolitical Consequences of the Mumbai Attacks (Open Access)
Stratfor, November 27, 2008
NOTE: As Stratfor is a paid subscription site, some of the links in this article may lead to a subscriber wall, while some will be Open Access.

If the Nov. 26 attacks in Mumbai were carried out by Islamist militants as it appears, the Indian government will have little choice, politically speaking, but to blame them on Pakistan. That will in turn spark a crisis between the two nuclear rivals that will draw the United States into the fray.


At this point the situation on the ground in Mumbai remains unclear following the militant attacks of Nov. 26. But in order to understand the geopolitical significance of what is going on, it is necessary to begin looking beyond this event at what will follow. Though the situation is still in motion, the likely consequences of the attack are less murky.

We will begin by assuming that the attackers are Islamist militant groups operating in India, possibly with some level of outside support from Pakistan. We can also see quite clearly that this was a carefully planned, well-executed attack.

Given this, the Indian government has two choices. First, it can simply say that the perpetrators are a domestic group. In that case, it will be held accountable for a failure of enormous proportions in security and law enforcement. It will be charged with being unable to protect the public. On the other hand, it can link the attack to an outside power: Pakistan. In that case it can hold a nation-state responsible for the attack, and can use the crisis atmosphere to strengthen the government’s internal position by invoking nationalism. Politically this is a much preferable outcome for the Indian government, and so it is the most likely course of action. This is not to say that there are no outside powers involved — simply that, regardless of the ground truth, the Indian government will claim there were.

That, in turn, will plunge India and Pakistan into the worst crisis they have had since 2002. If the Pakistanis are understood to be responsible for the attack, then the Indians must hold them responsible, and that means they will have to take action in retaliation — otherwise, the Indian government’s domestic credibility will plunge. The shape of the crisis, then, will consist of demands that the Pakistanis take immediate steps to suppress Islamist radicals across the board, but particularly in Kashmir. New Delhi will demand that this action be immediate and public. This demand will come parallel to U.S. demands for the same actions, and threats by incoming U.S. President Barack Obama to force greater cooperation from Pakistan.

If that happens, Pakistan will find itself in a nutcracker. On the one side, the Indians will be threatening action — deliberately vague but menacing — along with the Americans. This will be even more intense if it turns out, as currently seems likely, that Americans and Europeans were being held hostage (or worse) in the two hotels that were attacked. If the attacks are traced to Pakistan, American demands will escalate well in advance of inauguration day.

There is a precedent for this. In 2002 there was an attack on the Indian parliament in Mumbai by Islamist militants linked to Pakistan. A near-nuclear confrontation took place between India and Pakistan, in which the United States brokered a stand-down in return for intensified Pakistani pressure on the Islamists. The crisis helped redefine the Pakistani position on Islamist radicals in Pakistan.

In the current iteration, the demands will be even more intense. The Indians and Americans will have a joint interest in forcing the Pakistani government to act decisively and immediately. The Pakistani government has warned that such pressure could destabilize Pakistan.

The Indians will not be in a position to moderate their position, and the Americans will see the situation as an opportunity to extract major concessions. Thus the crisis will directly intersect U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan.

It is not clear the degree to which the Pakistani government can control the situation. But the Indians will have no choice but to be assertive, and the United States will move along the same line. Whether it is the current government in India that reacts, or one that succeeds doesn’t matter. Either way, India is under enormous pressure to respond. Therefore the events point to a serious crisis not simply between Pakistan and India, but within Pakistan as well, with the government caught between foreign powers and domestic realities. Given the circumstances, massive destabilization is possible — never a good thing with a nuclear power.

This is thinking far ahead of the curve, and is based on an assumption of the truth of something we don’t know for certain yet, which is that the attackers were Muslims and that the Pakistanis will not be able to demonstrate categorically that they weren’t involved.

Since we suspect they were Muslims, and since we doubt the Pakistanis can be categorical and convincing enough to thwart Indian demands, we suspect that we will be deep into a crisis within the next few days, very shortly after the situation on the ground clarifies itself.
Update from Stratfor: India: The Need to React (Open Access)
November 27, 2008 | 0226 GMT
A massive and well-organized attack by militants in Mumbai, India, has left nearly 100 people dead so far, promises to cut deeply into India's foreign investment prospects and threatens to rock India's government. As India responds to the attack, its relationship with Pakistan will be front and center, and the potential for a destabilization of relations between the two geopolitical rivals is high.


It has been seven hours since AK-47-toting gunmen started shooting up five-star hotels in a cosmopolitan district of Mumbai, India. This has now evolved into an attack where the lives of high-value targets, whether they be diplomats or Western corporate executives, are being threatened. With general elections nearing and a global economic crisis in full effect, this is a nightmare situation for India's already weak and fractured government as it attempts to hold onto the Western investment that has fueled the country's growth for more than a decade. For the more immediate future, however, this attack has the potential to spin up into a crisis of geopolitical proportions along the Indo-Pakistani border.

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Iraq, America, SOFA, Popular Resistance, And Real News

In Baghdad as I write this it is early Thursday evening, about 7:00 pm Thursday November 27, 2008. Add 8 hours to current US eastern standard time to calculate Baghdad time.

It is also about five and half years since George Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, claiming falsely to want to "liberate" Iraq, while beginning the occupation that has resulted in the deaths of more than a million Iraqis and more than four thousand Americans.

Since the invasion Iraqis belonging to all social factions and walks of life have been trying to throw their occupiers out of the country. They may finally, after all these years, be on the verge of doing exactly that.

But at what cost?

Yesterday the Iraqi parliament delayed a vote on the SOFA pact until today, then earlier today passed the agreement, but subject to a national referendum of Iraqis that could very well finally result in the end of the occupation because of the power and persistence of popular resistance.

Yesterday, in US-Iraq: The Big Picture, "Professor Michael Schwartz compare[d] the terms of the US-Iraq security pact - assuming the US will abide by them - with the initial, grandiose neocon plan which would have Iraq as an American colony peppered with US military bases projecting power all over the Middle East. He stresse[d] it's unlikely the Pentagon and US Big Oil will abandon their dreams of Iraq domination."

Operation Iraq Liberation (OIL) would have been an apt codename for Bush's invasion, but under any codename and whatever the lies and justification used, Iraqis have had enough, and the whole criminal adventure has also resulted in the repudiation and collapse of all the grand plans of Bush, the neocons, and PNAC, although it has yet to result in the arrest and trial of George Bush for war crimes. But grand plans or no, the oil men will not quit, and are still determined to control whatever oil resources in Iraq they can.

Neither will Iraqis quit, however, and the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama would do well to remember the power and persistence of popular resistance movements, both in Iraq, and at home, and not make a similar mistake in Afghanistan, and remember that it was not the oil companies who won him election, but popular movement.

The Real News and Michael Schwartz examine Iraq popular movement resistance to the US-Iraq security pact and how instrumental it has been for years in blocking the Bush administration agenda:

Real News: November 27, 2008
Iraq: from SOFA to resistance
Michael Schwartz examines the Sadrists' reaction to the US-Iraq security pact

In the final part of this series, professor Michael Schwartz stresses how Iraqi popular resistance was crucial from the beginning in blocking the Bush administration agenda, and how the Sadrist movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr may decide to fight the occupation beyond the signing of the security pact.

Michael Schwartz is a professor of Sociology and the founding director of the Undergraduate College of Global Studies at Stony Brook University (SUNY). He has written extensively on the war in Iraq for publications including Mother Jones, Asia Times, ZNet and TomDispatch and is the author of War Without End: The Iraq War in Context (Haymarket, 2008).

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

US-Iraq: The Big Picture

Professor Michael Schwartz compares the terms of the US-Iraq security pact - assuming the US will abide by them - with the initial, grandiose neocon plan which would have Iraq as an American colony peppered with US military bases projecting power all over the Middle East. He stresses it's unlikely the Pentagon and US Big Oil will abandon their dreams of Iraq domination.

Michael Schwartz is a professor of Sociology and the founding director of the Undergraduate College of Global Studies at Stony Brook University (SUNY). He has written extensively on the war in Iraq for publications including Mother Jones, Asia Times, ZNet and TomDispatch and is the author of War Without End: The Iraq War in Context (Haymarket, 2008).

Real News: November 26, 2008 - 9 min 27 sec
US-Iraq: The big picture is a neo-con failure

Michael Schwartz examines what's left of the neo-con master-plan and what is Obama's vision.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Coming Home" 2008: Iraq and Afghan Vets Return



YouTube: IAVA "Community of Veterans"

More Importantly, How Are Our Vets Being Treated?

TV has recognized our vets. Well, a soap opera hired one, anyway. Obama may hire one, too: Hawaii's own Major Tammy Duckworth, the Army's female helicopter pilot who lost both legs fighting for her country, might be our next Secretary of Veterans' Affairs. As for the rest of those coming home, it's not a happy time.

Unemployment in parts of the States has hit double digits. State, County, City and private colleges are cutting back their financial aid and their enrollments. The credit crunch is hitting kids who grew up on plastic especially hard: Can't even afford a Slurpee at the 7-11 now that the VISA-card is canceled. And that dream home the military bonus was supposed to buy? It's a bit beyond the means of most enlisted personnel and lower-ranking officers, even if they could get a mortgage these days. Just getting a loan for a new car might be a problem for many. And let's not talk about the price of gas, "down" to $2.50/gal! Welcome home, soldier!


The nation's financial crunch is taking its' toll. Already majorly stressed-out after repeated deployments to urban, mountain & desert guerrilla wars in hostile nations whose very culture rejects us, our troops are suffering psychological problems in record numbers. Whole combat units have suffered suicides, family killings, and other acts of violence on the home-front. The Department of Defense and Veterans' Affairs have been slow to address the problems, starting out with the usual bureaucratic defense of denial. Hell, they only just recognized the effects of Gulf War Syndrome, after seventeen years. But that's faster than they recognized Agent Orange problems, I guess.

VA Hospitals are not what they once were, or what they were meant to be, after WWII. They means-test and narrowly define "service-connected" medical problems, discouraging vets from seeking treatment. The whole system has been hanging by a thread for decades, eyed for possible conversion to Medicare or Medicaid facilities, or privatization. Some entire States only have one VA Hospital. And there is little or no outreach to the new generation of veterans.

The problem is compounded, ironically, by the advances in battlefield medicine: Wounded soldiers who might never have made it to an aid station are now whisked off to state-of-the-art hospitals in time to save their lives. But many of them are so grievously wounded or mutilated that they will require major rehab and/ or medical attention for the rest of their lives. The system is just not set up for that. Even wounded vets with much less serious problems are finding that the DOD and VA are not able, or not willing to help them out, Stateside. We've all seen the pictures of those run-down military hospitals and barracks for the casualties of war who made it home. Did we care?

Public sentiment is another problem. Sure, every SUV had a "9/11" sign, a yellow ribbon that said "Support Our Troops," and a "BUSH-CHENEY" bumper-sticker. But what is the attitude toward the men and women going off to war, and then bringing it all back home with them? We haven't heard those apocryphal stories of "hippies" spitting on returning soldiers at the airport this time. But we haven't seen a lot of ticker-tape parades on national TV, either, except for sports teams.

Given the fact that this was an all-volunteer effort, drawing largely upon our National Guard and Reserves, with their older personnel, constantly rotated in and out of two war zones, the effect of the war on the larger population has been minimized. At the same time, while none of the rest of us was at risk, we all knew somebody who was at risk. The shipping clerk or his wife. The corner druggist or her husband. The mailman, fireman, policeman or woman we used to see almost every day. The boy next door. The girl you sat next to in school. Women. Lots of women in this one, in combat for the first time, despite the regulations against it. Well, they're back, mostly intact. They look the same, sort of. A little older. A little haggard, maybe. Probably lost a few pounds. Kinda tired around the eyes. Sometimes they just stare off into space. We all do that, sometimes, right? But we did not choose to go to war. And they did.

So what's the difference? Are they angry at us? Are they hurt that we didn't join them, and haven't much recognized them for what they did? Do they find it hard to understand that we don't understand what they did, or what they think they did? To many of them, their actions "in-theater" mattered, to themselves and their comrades, and to many locals over there. They could see the chaos, which we created, coming under control, thanks to their own efforts. They saw the remains of the old Saddam and Taliban regimes, and they knew that there had been major improvements.

After many months inside the military propaganda machine, they might have come to accept the official line on the war's effectiveness and on the Iraqi and Afghan people's gratitude, and on how we succeeded in bringing democracy to the Middle East. All that stuff which the rest of us don't even consider real, for the most part; don't even think about, ever: All of us among whom the returning warriors-triumphant now have to live as shipping clerks and insurance salesmen. How's that working out for them, I wonder?

"Vets' Suicide Rate "Stunning""
' Some of America's 25 million veterans face their biggest fight when they return home from the battlefield -- when they take on mental illness. And, a CBS News analysis reveals they lose that battle, and take their own lives, at a clip described by various experts as "stunning" and "alarming," according to Chief Investigative Correspondent Armen Keteyian. One called it a "hidden epidemic." He says no one had ever counted just how many suicides there are nationwide among those who had served in the military -- until now. The five-month CBS News probe, based upon a detailed analysis of data obtained from death records from 2004 and 2005, found that veterans were more than twice as likely to commit suicide in 2005 as non-vets. A recent Veteran Affairs Department estimate says some 5,000 ex-servicemen and women will commit suicide this year, largely as a result of mental health issues, and Keteyian says, "Our numbers are much higher than that, overall." '
"VA Conceals Vet Suicide Figures From CBS To Downplay ‘Epidemic In Suicide’»"
' Yesterday marked the opening day of a class action lawsuit brought by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans against the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), arguing “that failure to provide care is manifesting itself in an epidemic of suicides” among veterans. The VA denies the charges, pointing to increased resources devoted to mental health. Today, CBS News reports that the VA apparently concealed veteran suicide statistics, and fed the news organization faulty data for a story on the issue. The VA told CBS that there were 790 attempted suicides in all of 2007. Yet shortly after, the VA’s head of Mental Health, Dr. Ira Katz, wrote in an e-mail to the VA’s top media adviser that there were “about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among veterans we see in our medical facilities.” Suicide among veterans — even those who seek help from the VA — continues to be a huge problem. Just last week, the VA Medical Center in Dallas, TX, officially closed its psychiatric ward after a fourth veteran this year took his own life. Often veterans cannot get help right away: According to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, “The average wait-time for a disability claim” — including mental health problems — “is 183 days, or about six months.” '
"New Ad Tells Vets They're Not Alone, Offers Social Networking "

' Sometimes one needs to restate the obvious to point out what's right in front of us. Herbert was discussing the launch of a major new ad campaign by the advocacy group, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, that aims to send a message to returning vets: you are not alone. The ad touts an online social networking Website called which not only provides useful information (such as how to navigate the VA), but also gives vets a chance to correspond with each other. Because the site was designed by veterans, attention is paid to aspects of veteran life the general public may not be aware of, such as an excellent portion that deals with homecoming. Put simply, the site got it absolutely right: It’s good to be home. Or is it? '
"Help Is on the Way"
' Returning to civilian life from combat is almost always a hard road to run. Studies have shown that a third or more of G.I.’s returning from the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan — more than 300,000 men and women — have endured mental health difficulties. Many have experienced the agony of deep depression, and alarming numbers have tried or succeeded in committing suicide. A CBS News study found that veterans aged 20 to 24 were two to four times as likely to commit suicide as non-veterans the same age. The advertising campaign, initiated by the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, was designed to increase the number of veterans seeking treatment for their mental health difficulties. Many are embarrassed to speak about their problems or are unaware that help is available, or even that they need help. As Bryan Adams told me, “I didn’t know anything about these symptoms. I didn’t know what post-traumatic stress disorder was.” '
"Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America"
' Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is the nation's first and largest group dedicated to the Troops and Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the civilian supporters of those Troops and Veterans. IAVA is an independent organization and is not affiliated with any groups other than our sister (c)4, IAVA Action Fund. '
"Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans Social Networking Site"
' Join our veterans-only online community to connect with people who know where you're coming from. Share your experiences and help others make the transition to civilian life. Stronger Together. '
[Cross-posted at blog me no blogs by cosanostradamus.]

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Monday, November 24, 2008

The Countdown Clock

Man, those seconds just can't run out fast enough for me. Or any other of my fine fellow bloggers. The remaining denizens of La Casa de Los Gatos don't seem to care as long as they get their 18 hours of shuteye per day, interspersed with fine kibble, treats, toys, pets, catnip, and the daily constitutional exploration of the hillside, but.

Me, I can't bear waking up to a headline such as this:

Bush 'very pleased' with Iraq war outcome: Report
Is there anything that bothers this pathetic, revolting little man? Does he think for even one minute of the nearly 5,000 coffins in which the remains of his fellow-citizens lie moldering? The tears of their parents? Their spouses and children? The suffering their families and friends endure, having lost a loved one? The estimated 50,000 or so lying in their own piss in military hospitals or suffering quietly at home? Missing a limb or an organ, struggling to get along on disability payments, homeless? Doomed to a lifetime of fighting the mental and emotional impact of what has been seen and lived through?

And what of the Iraqis who have died by the hundreds of thousands? Does he ever think about, see, respond to, the sight of a pool of blood blackening in the desert sun? Filled with the limbs, separated from their erstwhile owners, of children, housewives, cab-drivers, innocent bystanders, stallholders in the marketplace where the latest atrocity occurred? A little more than two years ago, a Lancet study estimated the number of Iraqi dead at 655,000. UNHCR estimates 4.7 million refugees, both inside and outside Iraq, most in dire need of food, shelter, medical aid.

Does the monster-in-chief ever contemplate the children who have seen their parents blown up before their eyes, the fathers who have no jobs but still must feed their children, the mother whose child burned and stuck to her body when our troops opened fire on her car?

Because, in addition to that first heart-wracking headline, in fact, almost immediately below it, I notice this:
Baghdad blasts kill 19

The Green Zone blast splashed blood and seared flesh across the grey concrete barriers at the entrance, according to an AFP correspondent.
Meanwhile, the rotten thing that wears the mantle of this country's leader announced today that he
believes the Iraq war was a success and is "very pleased" with what is happening there.

[He added] ..."remarkable" progress had been made in Iraq since the late dictator [Saddam Hussein] was toppled in 2003.

"People have been able to take their troops out of Iraq because Iraq is becoming successful. I'm very pleased with what is taking place there now," he said, adding there still is "a lot of work" to be done.

"We are bringing troops home because of the success in Iraq. But Iraq is not yet completely safe.

"So there will be a US presence for a while there at the request of the Iraqi government," he said.

"The United States is willing to continue to help. Most countries there within a very broad coalition have come home but we want to help this government," he said without further elaborating.
Of course, without further elaborating. Either he's lying through his teeth or he, as usual, doesn't have the first fucking clue what he's talking about. He doesn't elaborate on his statements because someone, some very malevolent wretch in the bowels of this misadministration, writes these deliberately disingenuous things for him to say, and he parrots them as his "handlers" tell him to. He has nothing to say about the armless, the legless, the blind and insane, those proud wounded heroes of his money-burning war that is crashing and burning our economy around our ears. Jesus, what a fucking blind, limited, self-satisfied pig he is. A thousand, no, a million curses on his empty head.

Crossposted over at ThePoliticalCat

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Top 6 reasons why keeping Robert Gates is the wrong choice

The media has been abuzz with reports that one of Barack Obama’s first major gestures of bipartisanship could be keeping Defense Secretary Robert Gates in his position for a year or two to help with the transition in dealing with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. President-elect Obama’s willingness to listen to opposing viewpoints and reach across the aisle is refreshing after eight years of George W. Bush’s “you’re either with us or against us” mentality. Both Democrats and Republicans have been praising the possible pick, citing that he’s no Donald Rumsfeld, and has “never been a registered Republican.”

While Robert Gates is clearly intelligent and is, in fact, no Donald Rumsfeld, Obama’s campaign promise wasn’t “slightly less offensive than the status quo.” Barack Obama campaigned on a drastically different approach to US foreign policy, one that is desperately needed to improve US security and our reputation in the word.

To understand why, click below to see my top six reasons why Gates is not the man to carry out Obama’s foreign policy vision:

1.    He failed Obama’s primary foreign policy test. Throughout the presidential campaign, Barack Obama stood out from other front-runners as the one who had the foresight to see that the war in Iraq was a mistake. He built his foreign policy resume around the idea that superior judgment is a key qualification, and those who supported the unnecessary and tragic war in Iraq lack that judgment. Gates failed that test.

2.    He opposes a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq. Unfortunately, Gates is not the only person close to Obama who supported the initial invasion in Iraq.  What sets Gates apart, however, is that he still opposes the withdrawal plan that was a centerpiece of President-elect Obama’s campaign. Gates even claimed in 2007 that a resolution opposing Bush’s surge “certainly emboldens the enemy.” It takes a vivid imagination to see Gates actively implementing—and strongly defending—Obama’s plan to end the war in Iraq. Some have even gone so far as to speculate that Obama’s tendency toward picking Gates indicates that he may be willing to bend on this plan, which would be a tragic mistake we can't afford to make.

3.    He wants to modernize our nuclear arsenal and create a new generation of nuclear weapons. In October, Gates gave a speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and painted a picture of an uncertain world where nuclear weapons will continue to be a centerpiece of US security strategy.  He aggressively pushed for development of the Reliable Replacement Warhead, an Orwellian-named program that actually amounts to a new generation of nuclear weapons. This is despite that fact that Congress has slashed the funding for this program two years in a row based on arguments that it’s unnecessary and sends a dangerous message to the international community. Like Cold Warriors Henry Kissinger, William Perry, George Shultz and Sam Nunn, Obama has embraced a vision of eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide, and he needs a Defense Secretary who is on board with that vision.

4.    He has a history of politicizing intelligence. Yet another tough test learned through the invasion of Iraq was the danger of manipulating intelligence to serve political ends. When Gates was first nominated as Defense Secretary in 2006, 24-year CIA veteran Melvin Goodman testified that Gates had helped manipulate intelligence to serve the Reagan administration’s hawkish position on the Soviet Union, even linking them to a papal assassination plot.  In an interview with Mother Jones Magazine, Goodman stated, “For me, basically, the test of character is what you do when no one's looking. I don't think Bob Gates can be trusted when no one's looking.”

5.    He advocated bombing Nicaragua during the Iran-Contra scandal. In a December 14, 1984 memo to then-CIA director William Casey, Robert Gates advocated military strike on targets in Nicaragua, a country with a democratically elected government whose leftist tendencies were untenable to the conservatives in Washington. The bombing never happened, as Gates’ proposals were too extreme—for an administration that was secretly selling arms to Iran to fund the contra war in Nicaragua.  Enough said.

6.    Continuity is not what we need. One of the major arguments used by proponents of the Gates pick is the need for continuity, given the precarious situation in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I once attended a training on running electoral campaigns that noted that every campaign is either about continuity or change.  We know where Obama stood on that issue. We need a clean break from the Bush administration and the foreign policy mindset that got us into the mess we are currently in. Getting rid of Gates doesn’t change the fact that the military command and other key positions will stay the same.  Obama will need someone at the top who supports his agenda for change so he can manage a transition not just to a new administration, but to a new security strategy.

Like millions of other people, I personally volunteered and donated to help elect Obama, and I am still excited by his victory.  My disagreements with him don’t change the fact that I’m thrilled about the possibilities of a reasonably progressive, intelligent, compassionate president who has offered a drastically different vision for how the US relates with the world. While we need to offer him support to accomplish this ambitious agenda, we also have an obligation to speak out when he’s going in the wrong direction.  In fact, that’s what he wants us to do. In his victory speech, Obama said “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.”  He is actively courting feedback from the American public on his transition team website. One of the many positive outcomes of Barack Obama’s campaign was a more engaged citizenry, one that should continue to be engaged throughout his administration.  This is our opportunity to tell him that we supported his new foreign policy vision, and will continue to support it, but he needs the people at the top who are the right leaders to implement that change.

Click here to e-mail President-elect Obama’s transition team and tell them you oppose Robert Gates as Defense Secretary in 2009.

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