Henry Kissinger: Setting the Record Straight (Part 2)

 

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Summary of Kissinger’s Misdeeds

Some, like New York University history professor Greg Grandin, would say Kissinger’s actions were far from praiseworthy. Here are some of Kissinger’s misdeeds as seen by the Grandin:

1. Prolonged the Vietnam War for five pointless years
2. Illegally bombed Cambodia and Laos
3. Bore responsibility for three genocides in Cambodia, East Timor, and Bangladesh
4. Pumped up Pakistan’s ISI, and encouraged it to use political Islam to destabilize Afghanistan
5. Accelerated needless civil wars in southern Africa that, in the name of supporting white supremacy, left millions dead
6. Supported coups and death squads throughout Latin America

Grandin believes Kissinger’s actions led to the deaths of 3 to 4 million people. Let’s explore two of those bombing campaigns.

Bombing of Cambodia

On March 18, 1969 B-52 bombers began carpet bombing eastern Cambodia. The name of the operation was “Operation Breakfast.” This bombing campaign was the catalyst for Cambodia’s entrance into the Vietnam War. The Nixon administration hid these bombings from Congress.

The Historical Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense estimates 50,000 civilians were killed in Cambodia.

To be clear, we drew Cambodia into the Vietnam War and secretly invaded their country. The bombings were tactically unnecessary. Even worse, Sydney Schanberg, a former New York Times correspondent, argued the bombings helped the Khmer Rouge grow.

Khmer Rouge

The Khmer Rouge was a guerrilla group that came to prominence after a successful coup deposed Prince Norodom Sihanouk in 1970. The prince relied on the Khmer Rouge for support, thereby elevating their standing. The Khmer Rouge initially gained support because they presented themselves as a peaceful group committed to pacifism.

Pol Pot became a leader in the Khmer Rouge. Pot implemented a cruel form of communism. He went about “emptying the cities, abolishing money, private property and religion, and setting up rural collectives.” Pot created communal farms and exposed the populace to fatal work conditions. Almost 2 million people were killed by execution, disease, starvation and overwork under the Khmer Rouge’s brutal rule from 1975 to 1979.

Justification

Kissinger has tried to defend his actions in Cambodia by saying they bombed areas that were largely uninhabited. This is simply not true. The Washington Post puts it this way:

U.S. bombs landed on populated areas of Cambodia, too. As Kissinger himself reports in an endnote in his 2003 book, “The worst error occurred at Neak Luong, when more than a hundred civilians were killed” by a B-52 strike on the banks of the Mekong River on Aug. 6, 1973. Furthermore, an overlay of U.S. bombing coordinates onto historical maps of Cambodia clearly shows that U.S. planes targeted populated areas, again and again and again, as reported by Taylor Owen and Ben Kiernan in an October 2006 article in The Walrus.

Bombing of Laos

North Vietnam created an intricate logistical system through mountainous and jungle terrain in order to man and resupply the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam. The purpose of the National Front was to fight against South Vietnam and the US. The logistical route was called the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

The US carried out 580,000 bombing missions in Laos over nine years in order to destroy the Trail. The bombing campaign was a failure. Another 50,000 people were killed as a result of these bombing campaigns. Even worse, the bombings left 80 million unexploded bombs in the ground of Laos.

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Henry Kissinger: Setting the Record Straight (Part 1)

 

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I’m reading a book on the Israel-Palestine conflict and Henry Kissinger was mentioned. I think it is a good idea to clear the air about Kissinger’s political legacy.

Henry Kissinger is no stranger to difficulty, political or otherwise. He was born in Germany and had to flee the country as a refugee, with his parents, to escape the Nazi regime in 1938. He is probably best known for his actions as Secretary of State in both the Nixon and Ford administrations.

Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for negotiating the end of the Vietnam War. In fact, Kissinger was invited and participated in the first Peace Forum in Oslo put on by the Nobel Institute.

Hillary Clinton considers him a “friend.” She even wrote that she “relied on his counsel” while she was Secretary of State.

Kissinger has offered advice on key appointments, and offered praise to President Trump. The Obama administration gave him the Distinguished Public Service Award.

Who is this man of such high esteem and admiration?

Trump’s Campaign Chairman and Russia

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Paul Manafort was chairman of the Trump campaign from March until August of 2016. Speculation about the extent of Manafort’s ties to Russia is supported by circumstantial evidence.

The Associated Press (AP) added clarity to this hazy picture, Wednesday, when they published a memo between Manafort and Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska. According to USA Today Deripaska is one of the few people Putin “turns to” on a consistent basis. Putin and Deripaska are regular traveling partners as well.

Manafort worked to improve the Russian government’s image in a number of ways according to the AP:

Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics to benefit President Vladimir Putin’s government, even as U.S.-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.

Manafort made this strategy proposal to Deripaska and later signed a $10 million annual contract starting in 2006. This business arrangement continued to at least 2009.

Here what is what Manafort wrote in a memo to Deripaska:

“We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,…. The effort, Manafort wrote, “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.”

This memo is much more than the anonymous sources the Trump administration decries. We have Manafort from his own pen.

That’s not all. The AP article also says business records show that Manafort planned to open an office in Moscow:

The newly obtained business records link Manafort more directly to Putin’s interests in the region. According to those records and people with direct knowledge of Manafort’s work for Deripaska, Manafort made plans to open an office in Moscow, and at least some of his work in Ukraine was directed by Deripaska, not local political interests there. The Moscow office never opened.

I suspect this is not welcome news for the Trump administration.

Debt, Deficits, and Ceilings

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Our nation is about to engage in another debate about raising the debt ceiling. It will be helpful to review the relevant terms of the debate. I include a link to articles that explain each term in more depth:

National DebtNPR: This term simply refers to the amount of money the federal governments owes.

Federal DeficitPolitiFact: “The deficit is a measure of a single year’s shortfall, the difference between what the government takes in and what it spends.”

Debt CeilingUSA Today: “The debt ceiling is a lot like the limit on your personal credit card. The term “debt ceiling” or debt limit refers to the maximum amount of money the federal government is allowed to borrow.”

Here is a video from the Washington Post explaining these terms.

FBI and NSA Briefing: A Revealing Hearing

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FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers testified before the House Intelligence Committee Monday. Good questions were raised and I want to review them in this blog. Here are some of the most probing questions and answers from the hearing:

1. Is the FBI investigating possible connections between the Russian government and the Trump campaign? : James Comey said in his opening statement: “That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.” The answer is yes, the FBI is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
2. Is there any evidence to confirm Trump’s tweets alleging that Barack Obama wire tapped Trump Towers? Comey said, “I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI.” Comey went further by saying the Justice Department has no evidence to support Trump’s tweets.
3. Did the Russian government interfere with the election in order to help Donald Trump win the presidency? Comey said, “They wanted to hurt our democracy, hurt her and help him.” Comey also said, “Putin hated Secretary Clinton so much that the flip side of that coin was that he had a clear preference for the person running against the person he hated so much.” This answer means the Russian government interfered in order to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump.

Donald Trump was watching and tweeting during the hearing. Trump’s tweets show that he is disconnected from the facts. Trump tweeted , “The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process.” Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., fact checked this tweet by reading it to Comey during the hearing. Comey responded by saying, “We’ve offered no opinion, have no view, have no information on potential impact because it’s never something that we’ve looked at.”

Trump was tweeting in order to deflect attention from the devastating news that his administration is being investigated. Today was a dark day in Trump’s nascent presidency.

Update: Trump Administration may Renegoitate rather than Abolish the Iran Nuclear Deal

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The Trump administration is considering renegotiating the Iran Nuclear Deal rather than scraping it altogether. Here are some of the provisions Trump would like to include:

  1. Allowing the  International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to monitor and inspect military sites.
  2. Eliminate “sunset” provisions that allow restrictions to expire in 10 years
  3. Require the IAEA to disclose more information about the state of Iran’s compliance with the Nuclear Deal
  4. Tighten the rules that allow Iran to import certain technologies

I think Trump should be commended if he can bring these measures to pass.

The Ongoing Saga of Republicare

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POLITICO gained access to an analysis performed by the Trump administration’s Office of Management and Budget. The study reached a grimmer conclusion than the CBO’s report on the effects of Republicare. The analysis predicts a higher number of uninsured than the number given in the CBO report. Here is how POLITICO describes the findings:

White House analysis of the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare shows even steeper coverage losses than the projections by the Congressional Budget Office, according to a document viewed by POLITICO on Monday.

The preliminary analysis from the Office of Management and Budget forecast that 26 million people would lose coverage over the next decade, versus the 24 million CBO estimates….

According to documents viewed by POLITICO, the OMB analysis intended to assess the coverage and spending outcomes of the legislation.

The analysis found that under the American Health Care Act, the coverage losses would include 17 million for Medicaid, 6 million in the individual market and 3 million in employer-based plans.

A total of 54 million individuals would be uninsured in 2026 under the GOP plan, according to this White House analysis. That’s nearly double the number projected under current law.

Again, this is an analysis performed by the Trump administration about a bill that Donald Trump endorses.

The CBO and the Republicare

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The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scored the Republican healthcare bill (Republicare) and things do not look good. The bill will have far worse consequences than some had hoped. The Republican bill will have quick negative effects. There will be 14 million more uninsured by next year. Included in this number is 5 million less people covered by Medicaid.

Some people think Republicare’s elimination of penalties for being uninsured is a good thing. This view is gravely mistaken. The elimination of the penalty is one of the biggest factors contributing to the rise of uninsured.

Another troubling fact is that older people with lower incomes will see a substantial increase in their net premiums.

The news only gets worse; an estimated 52 million people will be uninsured by 2026! This number is particularly troublesome because 28 million would not have insurance if the Republican bill is not passed. To be clear, the Republican bill will make things worse by leaving 24 million more people uninsured than if we leave Obamacare in place. This means the Republican bill will almost double the number of uninsured.

This is a truly terrible bill.

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You can read the CBO report here.

Climate Change: The Evidence

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The evidence for climate change according to NASA is the following:

1. Sea Level Rise: Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century.
2. Global Temperature Rise: All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880. Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 15 of the 16 warmest years on record occurring since 2001. The year 2015 was the first time the global average temperatures were 1 degree Celsius or more above the 1880-1899 average. Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, surface temperatures continue to increase.
3. Warming Oceans: The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969.
4. Shrinking Ice Sheets: The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost 150 to 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005.
5. Declining Arctic Sea Ice: Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades.
6. Glacial Retreat: Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa.
7. Extreme Events: The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.
8. Ocean Acidification: Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent. This increase is the result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hence more being absorbed into the oceans. The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year.
9. Decreased Snow Cover: Satellite observations reveal that the amount of spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased over the past five decades and that the snow is melting earlier.

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The evidence for anthropogenic climate change according to the Union of Concerned Scientists is:

  1. There are human fingerprints on carbon overload. When humans burn coal, oil and gas (fossil fuels) to generate electricity or drive our cars, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, where it traps heat. A carbon molecule that comes from fossil fuels and deforestation is “lighter” than the combined signal of those from other sources. As scientists measure the “weight” of carbon in the atmosphere over time they see a clear increase in the lighter molecules from fossil fuel and deforestation sources that correspond closely to the known trend in emissions.
  2. Natural changes alone can’t explain the temperature changes we’ve seen. For a computer model to accurately project the future climate, scientists must first ensure that it accurately reproduces observed temperature changes.  When the models include only recorded natural climate drivers—such as the sun’s intensity—the models cannot accurately reproduce the observed warming of the past half century. When human-induced climate drivers are also included in the models, then they accurately capture recent temperature increases in the atmosphere and in the oceans.When all the natural and human-induced climate drivers are compared to one another, the dramatic accumulation of carbon from human sources is by far the largest climate change driver over the past half century.
  3. Lower-level atmosphere—which contains the carbon load—is expanding. The boundary between the lower atmosphere (troposphere) and the higher atmosphere (stratosphere) has shifted upward in recent decades. This boundary has likely changed because heat-trapping gases accumulate in the lower atmosphere and that atmospheric layer expands as it heats up (much like warming the air in a balloon). And because less heat is escaping into the higher atmosphere, it is likely cooling. This differential would not occur if the sun was the sole climate driver, as solar changes would warm both atmospheric layers, and certainly would not have warmed one while cooling the other.

This is not an exhaustive list of the evidence for either contention, I only present these in order to start the conversation.

I’m looking for arguments against these lines of evidence. Anyone?

The Yemen Raid (Part 2)

Here is the tribute to the life of Ryan Owens given by the Military Times:

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Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens
Died January 29, 2017 Serving During U.S. Central Command operations
________________________________________
Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens
Died Jan. 29, 2017 Supporting U.S. Central Command operations
36, of Peoria, Illinois; assigned to a special warfare unit based on the U.S. East Coast; died of wounds sustained in a raid against al-Qaida.
________________________________________
The Department of Defense today has identified Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens as the first American war casualty of the President Donald Trump era.

Owens, 36, of Peoria, Ill., died Jan.29 of wounds received during a raid conducted in Yemen. Three other service members were wounded in the raid.

Nava Special Warfare Command confirmed Owens was assigned to an “East Coast-based Special Warfare unit.” While multiple news outlets are reporting the unit as Seal Team Six, the Navy would not confirm.

An estimated 14 al-Qaida terrorists were killed during the raid, according to a release by the U.S. Central Command.

“Americans are saddened this morning with news that a life of a heroic service member has been taken in our fight against the evil of radical Islamic terrorism,” Trump said in a White House press release on Jan. 29. “My deepest thoughts and humblest prayers are with the family of this fallen service member.

A fifth service member was injured when “a U.S. military aircraft assisting in the operation experienced a hard landing at a nearby location,” according to the CENTCOM release.

That aircraft was unable to fly after the landing and was intentionally destroyed.

Owens enlisted in the Navy in Aug. 24, 1998. After initially training as a cryptologic technician (communications), he served his initial tour of duty at the Office of Naval Intelligence in Suitland, Maryland, before attending basic and advanced SEAL training in Coronado, California, completing training in December 2002.

His first tour as a SEAL was at a West Coast unit, followed by three consecutive East Coast unit tours. He was on his fifth team tour when he was killed. He’d been with that unit just over two years.

He was selected for chief petty officer in 2009.

Along with his SEAL Trident and Basic Parachutist wings, he is qualified to wear the following awards:

Navy/Marine Corps Medal
Bronze Star w/Combat “V” (2 awards)
Bronze Star
Joint Service Commendation Medal w/Combat “V” (2 awards)
Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal (2 awards)
Joint Service Achievement Medal
Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal (3 awards)
Combat Action Ribbon
Joint Meritorious Unit Award (2 awards)
Good Conduct Medal (6 awards)
Presidential Unit Citation (3 awards)
National Defense Service Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (8 awards)

Was the mission a success given the facts of this mission?