Archive for the ‘Obama’ Category

Indian Newspaper: Pakistan’s Zardari Has Legitimacy, But No Authority

December 4, 2008

In the wake of the carnage in Mumbai, India is contemplating another round of coercive diplomacy. But the geopolitical winds are unfavourable. In 2002, India was successful in pushing Washington to arm-twist Pakistan. The then ruler Pervez Musharraf learnt a lesson. Today, India has less left behind its push, Islamabad has a greater hold over the US and, in any case, the lights are going out in the White House.

Most Indians believe the Army mobilisation that followed the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) attack on Parliament in 2002 was much sound and fury signifying nothing. It didn’t bring peace on earth. But Islamabad did learn a lesson and paid a price — which should be the goal of any Indian response to Pakistan-based terrorist outrage.

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, Hindustan Times

In this picture released by Pakistan People's Party, then ruling ... 
President Zardari.  No authority?
AP Photo/Pakistan People’s Party

The lesson of 2002: before 9/11, Islamabad could count on the US jumping in during any India-Pakistan terror crisis, point fingers at the two countries’ nuclear weapons and persuade New Delhi not to retaliate. After 9/11, the Bush administration told Pakistan, “If India wants to bloody your nose, they have the right.” US embassy officials rang up Indian journalists to stress that the US was no longer using the word ‘restraint’ when it came to India.

The price of 2002: India, after considering and abandoning the demand for the extradition of 20 terrorists because it feared its own courts would let them go, demanded Pakistan put an end to militant infiltration into Kashmir. New Delhi knew very well this would be a band-aid concession. But it calculated a few months of border quiet would be enough to push through a peaceful and fair Kashmir election. Its success on that front is the main reason the turbulent state has seen relatively low levels of violence since 2002.

Outwardly, it seems like India could play the same game again. Pakistan has denuded its border with India of troops. Most have been transferred to fight recalcitrant militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas. If India waves a big stick, these troops would have to return to the eastern border. Washington is desperate for that not to happen as its Afghan war effort would be crippled. In theory, then, the US would be prepared to press Pakistan to cough up a concession to ensure the troop transfer doesn’t happen. However, the landscape has changed in all three countries. The most telling is that President George W. Bush is down to his last 50 days in office. There is very little desire in the US to cut the ground from under President Asif Ali Zardari’s feet. He is Mr Nice Guy and Mr Best Hope.

Which raises a question: whom exactly is there to arm-twist in Pakistan? As the recent ‘Now he’s coming, now he’s not’ farce over the ISI chief showed, Zardari only thinks he’s President. He has legitimacy, but no authority. Military chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani has authority, but no legitimacy.

General Kayani.  Photo Anjum Naveed/Associated Press

Read the rest:
http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage
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Brain-injured troops face unclear long-term risks

December 4, 2008

Many of the thousands of troops who suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan are at risk of long-term health problems including depression and Alzheimer’s-like dementia, but it’s impossible to predict how high those risks are, researchers say.

About 22 percent of wounded troops have a brain injury, concluded the prestigious Institute of Medicine — and it urged precise steps for studying how these patients fare years later so chances to help aren’t missed.

The Veterans Affairs Department, which requested the report, and the Pentagon already are taking some of the recommended steps. But a report out Thursday highlights the urgency.

By LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer

An Afghan soldier keeps watch at a checkpoint in Kabul in August ...

“I don’t think we really knew how big a hole in scientific knowledge there is about blast-induced brain injuries,” said Dr. George Rutherford of the University of California, San Francisco, the report’s lead researcher.

Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is a signature injury of the Iraq war. Most do not involve penetrating head wounds but damage hidden inside the skull caused by an explosion’s pressure wave. It can range from a mild concussion to severe injury. And because symptoms may not be immediately apparent, troops may not seek care.

“If you have a gunshot wound to some specific part of your brain, I can tell you the consequences,” Rutherford said. But with blast concussions, it’s not even possible to say “if you have six of these, are you six times more likely to have something bad happen to you than if you’ve had one?”

Returning soldiers have reported headaches, dizziness, memory loss, confusion, irritability, insomnia and depression. The military has said most of the TBI-injured troops recover with treatment.

“There’s clearly a whole bunch of people who have mild TBI who have no negative outcomes,” Rutherford agreed.

Related:
PTSD, psychological health and traumatic brain injuries

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081204/ap_on_he_me/med_brain_injury

Pakistan’s Police Losing Terrorism Fight

December 4, 2008

If India’s reaction to the revelation that Pakistan was involved in the Mumbai terrorism didn’t get your attention; this headline might.  Pakistan is roiling from the impact of a widespread terror insurgency, combined with total financial bankruptcy of the nation and internal disputes and rivalries added to decades of unrest with India.  Pakistan’s Army is pinned down in the tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan; trying to wrestle control and influence from the Taliban and al-Qaeda.  And last weekend, in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, rival groups went on a riotous rampage…..

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Brothers Mushtaq and Ishaq Ali left the police force a month ago, terrified of dying as their colleagues had — beheaded by militants on a rutted village road before a shocked crowd.

They went straight to the local Urdu-language newspaper to announce their resignation. They were too poor to pay for a personal ad, so the editor of The Daily Moon, Rasheed Iqbal, published a news story instead. He has run dozens like it.

“They just want to get the word out to the Taliban that they are not with the police anymore so they won’t kill them,” said Iqbal. “They know that no one can protect them, and especially not their fellow policemen.”

Pakistani police officers launch an operation against criminals ... 
Pakistani police officers launch an operation against criminals in Karachi’s troubled area of Lyari, Pakistan, on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008. Criminals and police exchanged fire during the action that killed one person and injured three, local police said.(AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

Outgunned and out-financed, police in volatile northwestern Pakistan are fighting a losing battle against insurgents, dozens of interviews by The Associated Press show. They are dying in large numbers, and many survivors are leaving the force.

Kathy Gannon, Associated Press Writer

The number of terrorist attacks against police has gone up from 113 in 2005 to 1,820 last year, according to National Police Bureau. The death toll for policemen in that time has increased from nine to 575. In the northwestern area alone, 127 policemen have died so far this year in suicide bombings and assassinations, and another 260 have been wounded.

The crisis means the police cannot do the nuts-and-bolts work needed to stave off an insurgency fueled by the Taliban and al-Qaida. While the military can pound mountain hideouts, analysts and local officials say it is the police who should hunt down insurgents, win over the people, and restore order.

A Pakistani police officers seen outside the heavily guarded ...
A Pakistani police officers seen outside the heavily guarded Badaber police station at outskirt of Peshawar, Pakistan, Tuesday Nov 4, 2008. Police officers left the police force a month ago, terrified of dying as their colleagues had — beheaded by militants on a rutted village road before a shocked crowd.(AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

“The only way to save Pakistan is to think of extremism and insurgency in North West Frontier Province as a law enforcement issue,” said Hassan Abbas, a South Asia expert at Harvard University’s Belfer Center Project for Science. “Rather than buying more F-16s, Pakistan should invest in modernizing its police.”

In the Swat Valley, militants have turned a once-idyllic mountain getaway into a nightmare of bombings and beheadings despite a six-month military operation to root them out. About 300 policemen have fled the force already.

On a recent evening in Mardan, Akhtar Ali Shah had just slipped out of his deputy police inspector’s uniform to head home. In an escort vehicle, a half-dozen of his guards had inched outside the giant white gates of the police station for a routine security check.

The bomb exploded minutes later. Through a cloud of dust and dirt, Shah saw five of his six guards lying dead near the blood-smeared gate. The head of the suicide bomber rested nearby.

“We are the ones who are getting killed by the terrorists that we are facing,” Shah said later.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081204/ap_on_re_as/as_pakistan_police_under_fire

Open Microphone Insult? Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell: Obama Cabinet Pick Has “No Life”

December 4, 2008

A note to all politicians: if you’re speaking next to a microphone, be careful what you say. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell may wish he thought about that while he was having a conversation near the lectern at the National Governors Conference in Philadelphia Tuesday.

AOL

In video obtained by CNN, Rendell was discussing Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano — President-elect Barack Obama’s choice to lead the Homeland Security Department — and said she has excellent qualifications for the job since she “has no family.”

Ed Rendell
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“Janet’s perfect for that job. Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19-20 hours a day to it,” said Rendell, whose comments were picked up by the open mic.
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Rendell apologized for the comments Wednesday and said, “What I meant is that Janet is a person who works 24/7, just like me.” But in a commentary the night….

Read the rest  (Plus see the video and hear the Gov’s remark):

Russia’s Medvedev says he’s Upbeat About America With President Obama

December 4, 2008

President Dmitry Medvedev said he hopes Russia’s relations with the United States improve after President-elect Barack Obama takes office, according to an interview released Thursday.

Moscow’s relations with Washington have been strained by disputes over U.S. missile defense plans and Russia’s war with Georgia in August.

But Medvedev dismissed suggestions that the chill could lead to a new Cold War, and said he expects the new U.S. administration “to take constructive, reasonable stance, to show willingness to compromise on the most difficult issues.”

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev,left, and Prime Minister Vladimir ...
When journalists see photographs like this from Russia they often ask, “Who is the school master?”  Russian President Dmitry Medvedev,left, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin seen at their meeting in the Gorki residence outside Moscow, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008.(AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Vladimir Rodionov, Presidential Press Service)

“What we have recently heard from Washington makes me feel moderately optimistic,” he said, without elaborating, in an interview with Indian Broadcasting Corporation Doordarshan that was posted on the Kremlin Web site Thursday.

Medvedev and Obama spoke by telephone last month, but the details of the conversation were not released.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081204/ap_on_re_eu/eu_
russia_us;_ylt=Ag2VravpuxE68McMAS2GMOms0NUE

Could Mumbai Terrorism Occur In America?

December 3, 2008

Like the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in America, the Mumbai terrorist assault last week began with a hijacking. Islamic militants seized a private fishing boat at sea rather than commercial jetliners, according to U.S. counterterrorism officials. But the attackers displayed the same deadly ability to coordinate a complex operation against multiple targets as did their predecessors on Sept. 11.

By David Ignatius
The Washington Post
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The terrorists were from a Pakistani group called Lashkar-i-Taiba, which has loose links with al-Qaeda, U.S officials believe. The attackers began by boarding the boat in the Arabian Sea and killing the captain. They then piloted the boat toward the Mumbai harbor. As they neared the coast on Wednesday, Nov. 26, they launched several rubber lifeboats for the final amphibious assault.

The attack was meticulously planned: The raiders dispersed to several targets across the crowded city that had been studied by advance reconnaissance teams. They maintained communications silence on the way in, U.S. officials believe. And most important, they carried with them enough guns, ammunition and supplies for a long battle inside India’s largest city.

Then the mayhem began: The terrorists stormed their targets — three luxury hotels, a Jewish cultural center, a railway station — turning the nearby streets into a free-fire zone. It took about 10 hours for Indian anti-terrorism commandos to arrive at the besieged hotels, and it was almost three days before all the attackers had been captured or killed.

The Mumbai attacks were a ghastly reminder of the threat still posed by al-Qaeda and related terrorist groups. The militants have the training, the logistical support and, most of all, the determination to pull off spectacular attacks. They read their enemies’ tactical vulnerabilities well — understanding in this case that urban police forces have trouble combating moving bands of shooters. And they appeared to have had a cleverly divisive strategic goal — of reanimating tension between India and Pakistan just as the two were beginning to make common cause against terrorism.

For Americans watching the carnage, the obvious question was: Could it happen here? U.S. officials say the answer, unfortunately, is yes. And then comes a second question: If America is hit with another Sept. 11-style terrorist assault, how should the country react?

The Department of Homeland Security has been worried for more than a year about the danger of seaborne attacks. With an estimated 17 million small vessels plying the thousands of miles of U.S. coastline, the vulnerability is obvious. The DHS announced a “small-vessel security strategy” in April to focus on ports and coastal waterways, and it has held four regional small-vessel “security summits” this year, in Buzzards Bay, Mass., Long Beach, Calif., Orlando and Cleveland. A fifth such gathering is planned for Houston next month.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/20
08/12/02/AR2008120202722.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Many Nations Sign Cluster Bomb Ban; U.S. and Russia Refrain

December 3, 2008

The United States and Russia were absent Wednesday as representatives from countries from around the world gathered to sign a treaty banning the use of cluster bombs.

CNN
Some 111 countries were due to adopt the Convention on Cluster Munitions at an all-day signing ceremony in Oslo, Norway.

But four of the biggest cluster bomb makers — Russia, China, Israel and the United States, which claims the devices are a vital part of its defense strategy, stayed away.

Cluster Munition Coalition activists behind the agreement expressed disappointment at the absence of the big four, but insisted it wouldn’t undermine the treaty as it passes into international law.

“Obviously it’s very disappointing that those countries aren’t here, but at the same time, the strong message that this treaty sends will make it very clear to those countries that these are unacceptable weapons and inappropriate in future conflicts,” CMC Co-Chair Richard Moyes told CNN from Oslo.

French troops examine cluster bombs collected after the Lebanon conflict of 2006.

Above: French troops examine cluster bombs collected after the Lebanon conflict of 2006.

“The treaty and the stigma that it builds will make it practically and politically much more difficult for them to use these weapons again in the future,” Moyes added about the absent countries.

Read the rest:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/europe/12/03/cluster.
bomb.ban/index.html?section=cnn_latest

Mumbai: In India, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Pressures Pakistan

December 3, 2008

As the United States tried to calm tensions between India and Pakistan on Wednesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pressured Pakistan to cooperate fully in the effort to track down those responsible for the bloody attacks in Mumbai last week.
But, at a news conference in New Delhi, she declined to blame Al Qaeda unequivocally for the assault which claimed more than 170 lives and was blamed by India on militants in Pakistan.In a two-pronged diplomatic effort, Ms. Rice landed in New Delhi to meet Indian leaders on Wednesday while Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew to Islamabad to talk to Pakistani officials.

Ms. Rice said Pakistan had assured her that it would cooperate with India in its search for those responsible for the slaughter in Mumbai. But she stopped short of commenting on whether Pakistan would turn over fugitives as India demands.

She said President Asif Ali Zardari “has told me he will follow leads wherever they go” but she made clear that Washington expected him to do so wholeheartedly.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/04/world/asia/04india.html?_r=1&hp

Georgians Stand Up, Say No To Obama: Chambliss Reelected

December 3, 2008

“When he wants to raise your taxes, when he wants to tinker with the Second Amendment, when he wants to make proposals with respect to health care that is going to take your choice of choosing your doctor away form you, then I’m going to be the 41st senator to stand up and say no.”

Those were some of the words from reelected Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia last night following the vote count.

“Tonight, the voters of Georgia have spoken,” he told supporters. “I accept the decision that has been made.”

Saxby Chambiss promised to be a firewall against the Democrats in Washington.

Saxby Chambliss

“You have delivered a message that a balance in government in Washington is necessary and that’s not only what the people of Georgia want, it’s what the people of America want,” Chambliss told 500 cheering supporters at a victory rally in Cobb County.

Read more and see video:
 http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/12/02/
georgia.senate/index.html?eref=rss_topstories

Read the Associated Press report:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081203/ap_on_el_se/georgia_senate

Obama’s Many “Number One” Priorities

December 3, 2008

Remember this simple catchphrase for priorities: “It’s the economy, stupid”?

Many think that should be the watchword for the new President Barack Obama.  But a confusing and dangerous miasma of foreign policy challenges lurks and lurches ahead. Without carefully applied wisdom, the United States could make matters worse on a wide range of international fronts and issues…

President-elect Barack Obama waits to get on his plane with ... 
President-elect Obama with his two Blackberris and some light reading.
(Jeff Haynes/Reuters)

Yesterday, two think tanks said the U.S. should move away from Iraq and work like the devil on the nuclear covetous Mr. Ahmadinejad and Iran.

The Brookings Institution and the Council on Foreign Relations said it is time to make peace in the Middle east as a “top priority.”  For the past six years under President George W. Bush, U.S. foreign policy in the region has been dominated by Iraq, said Martin Indyk, director of the Saban Center at Brookings, and Richard Haass, president of the Council.

Now the two agree the real problem is Iran.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives at the U.N. ... 
Nuclear aspirant: Mr. Ahmadinejad of Iran

One difficulty with this line of thinking is that, depending on the day, the think tank report one considers, and the newspaper headline, America faces stadium full of “top priorities.”

In Russia, Medvedev and Putin believe they should be tops on the Obama agenda.  Mr. Medvedev even threatened to deploy nuclear armed missiles in Eastern Europe unles and until the U.S. backed off of its missile defense ambitions with Poland and the Czech Republic.

And the Medvedev/Putin thrust cannot be overlooked: the two had no qualms about invading Georgia to get the attention of the U.S. and NATO: and it worked.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visits a ballistic missile ...
Russia’s Medvedev, in front of a startegic Russian missile, said his missile advances will overwhelm U.S. defensive measures in the next few years.
AFP/Pool/File/Dmitry Astakhov

Terrorism could be the number one priority.  Just yesterday the U.S. Director of National Security said in essence that the Pakistani Islamist radical militant group  Lashkar-e-Taiba  blew up Mubai, India, last week, killing nearly 200.

On the same day, yesterday, a group of wise men said the U.S. can expect to face a biological or chemical attack.

Is another 9-11 in America’s future?  And are we ready to defend or respond?

Pakistan itself might lay claim to Mr. Obama’s top priority.  Bankrupt, last weekend rioters ripped through the nations largest city, the Pakistani Army was pinned down by terrorists in the tribal areas, and the nuclear-armed government was under fire from all domestic and international sides over Mumbai.

A Pakistani newspaper wondered yesterday if the Army was about to break with the elected government of mr. Zardari and his Minister Mr. Gilani.

Then there are a few small matters with China, North Korea and you name it.

Oh and there are just a few domestic realities and campaign promises that need our next president’s attention: OPEC and oil, drill or not to drill, schools and education, tax relief, jobs and unemployment,health care, AIDS and the list goes on.

You won’t convince me for a second that the modern miracle of multi-tasking and several Blackberries will resolve this poisonous soup.

America needs to take a deep breath and close its eyes: too much Obama-mania could cause one not to think.

Mr. Obama, the United States, all Americans and all Western allies are in for some very hard work, sacrifices of an unknown nature, and difficult decisions.

Here’s a simple truth: The age of simplicity is over.

*****

From Wikipedia:

It’s the economy, stupid” was a phrase in American politics widely used during Bill Clinton‘s successful 1992 presidential campaign against George H.W. Bush. For a time, Bush was considered unbeatable because of foreign policy developments such as the end of the Cold War and the Persian Gulf war. The phrase, coined by Clinton campaign strategist James Carville, refers to the notion that Clinton was a better choice because Bush had not adequately addressed the economy, which had recently undergone a recession.