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Posts Tagged ‘US President Barack Obama’

WikiLeaks and beyond

August 1, 2010 5 comments

You’d have to have been utterly uninformed if you didn’t notice the storm created by WikiLeaks over the past week in connection with the leaking of some 92,000 classified documents pertaining, among others also to the war in Afghanistan, what the United States terms as the war on terror! Almost everyone in the American administration seems to have an opinion on this, while calling for a systematic effort to comb the intelligence community in a desperate attempt to seal the leak, which is feared to have wider and longstanding implications, so much so as threatening the lives of many American people and their allies, while also seriously compromising their interests at home and beyond!

Come to think of it, founder Julian Assange and team, of WikiLeaks, have not been working really hard to obtain this so called tonnage of information, most of which are already in public domain and knowledge, far from the absolutely classified or top secret types anyone would expect. While the media lapped up the story, publicizing it to no ends and thereby creating a sensation that would perhaps be equivalent to a high-profile assassination, experts are yet to be surprised by this episode, which has now come to be recognized as a fiasco, one that has most certainly been a deliberate inside effort, well-timed to achieve a certain set objective, more so, at the connivance of the American administration and the intelligence community itself! Sharing the beliefs of many experts, several officials within the United States government are also of the opinion that the disclosure by WikiLeaks was a well planned process, aided by none other than senior functionaries within the intelligence community of America, at the insistence of, of course, the top brass of the American administration. Wayne Madsen, formerly with the US Navy and the US National Security Agency (NSA), now a popular blogger, investigative journalist, author and columnist, is known to have told a friend that the disclosure by WikiLeaks is a controlled leak process aided and used by the United States Government run entirely through intelligence networks.

Having spent a great deal of time glossing over the WikiLeaks website, in the past few days, I find that the information so mentioned or offered as part of the leak discloses nothing so significant or shocking, and is certainly not something not already known before. The packet deal consists very little apart from America’s knowledge of Pakistan’s ISI and it’s complicity with various outlawed factions in aiding state sponsored terrorism and the likes, nuances pertaining to the war on terror, notes on NATO operations, and field reports that have been systematically fed into a central repository over a period of time for collation and analysis!

It is widely believed that the source behind the WikiLeaks story is PFC Bradley Manning, a former US Army Intelligence Analyst, detained for allegedly “transferring classified data onto his personal computer and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system” and “communicating, transmitting and delivering national defense information to an unauthorized source.” Manning is also believed to have said that diplomatic documents, in his possession, expose “almost criminal political back dealings” and that they explain “how the first world exploits the third, in detail.” Stating that he hoped the release of matter within his possession would lead to “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms,” he reportedly wrote, “everywhere there’s a U.S. post, there’s a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed.” While WikiLeaks has itself condemned actions initiated against Manning, it has so far refused to confirm or deny Manning as having been a source in the recently conducted disclosure, stating that it has a policy not to name it’s sources citing strict measures of confidence! In a twist following the initial refusal to confirm or deny it’s believed source, WikiLeaks founder and presently it’s editor-in-Chief, Julian Assange claimed that neither he nor his organization had any knowledge of the identity of the person who sent them the classified material, stating that the website itself was created in order to hide the source of it’s data from those who receive it.

This is however not the first time that WikiLeaks has come up with matters of disclosures that it claimed will stun the world, exposing the many cover ups being systematically undertaken by government and administrative officials. Ranging from Standard Operating Procedures of Guantanamo Bay to the membership list of the ultra-right wing British National Party, confidential reports of the United Nations, secret Congressional Research Service reports, intercepts pertaining to the 9/11 incident, reports related to dumping of toxic waste materials in Africa, Oil scandals in Peru and several other interesting material, the leaks of documents pertaining to the American war on terror in Afghanistan is among the many such instances, with the exception of it’s sensitivity considering how high this probably came from! These reports, ranging from the period of 2004 until 2009, detail incidents including friendly fire and civilian casualties, as a result of the various operations conducted within Afghanistan. Also, among the documents leaked are reports that American officials in Afghanistan strongly suspected Pakistan’s actions supporting Taliban militants while on the other hand, accepting huge amounts of American aid. Although publicly known, it is believed that these documents could fuel growing doubts within the US Congress about President Obama’s strategy on the war on terror and it’s effectiveness as American death toll continues to rise.

Interestingly, while the White House, along with senior government bodies in the United States has repeatedly termed this episode as an action constituting the breach of federal law, there has been no talk of any actions against WikiLeaks itself, while only an appeal not to publish any more sensitive material that maybe available in it’s custody! When asked if WikiLeaks could face criminal action, Pentagon officials have simply stated in what appears to be an evasive answer that “historically the leakers have been the ones targeted for criminal prosecution and not those who merely publish the information.” Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said “I don’t know what’s going to happen here. This is a whole new world that we are entering into where an organization without any editorial judgment, beholden to nobody, is soliciting classified information from people all over the world and then publishing it, I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer but people are going to have to make judgments about whether there are legal ramifications for soliciting a criminal act.”

In the aftermath of what is being seen as a sensational episode of disclosure, the US President will face a very tough task of convincing the congress to continue funding the war on terror. These disclosures, which have portrayed the on goings of the war on terror in a finer detail, often highlighting the failure of the administration in containing the many threats associated to the exercise, have come at a very crucial time. Because of undying difficulties on the ground and increasing casualty rates, a raging debate over the continued American presence in Afghanistan has begun much earlier than expected. It is believed that within the administration, more and more officials are turning skeptics and privately questioning the American policy towards the war on terror. Elsewhere within the US Congress, leaders are preparing to hold a vote on a very important bill related to financing the war on terror amidst fears that the leaks could incite opposition on the administration’s policies from even within the Democrats. Also geared to be chaired is a Senate panel aimed to hold a hearing on President Obama’s choice to head the military’s central command, Gen James Mattis, who will oversee military operations in Afghanistan. It is widely believed that the documents, released by WikiLeaks, will make it harder for President Obama as he strives to garner public and Congressional support until the end of the year, when he has scheduled a review of the war effort.

So given all of these complications already present and soon escalating, one wonders why there should have been an administrative level complicity in the disclosures made by WikiLeaks, for there seems to be no valid reason why the administration would endanger it’s own position in front of the American people and the Congress! Logically, there cannot be an answer to this unless it is a well concerted plan of the current US administration aimed to facilitate a withdrawal from Afghanistan! Maybe the government conveniently authorized this leak and aided it at the highest possible levels well aware of the furore it would create and therefore pave way for it’s exit from Afghanistan with the least possible political damage while stating the obvious that the war is intensifying in a manner that even the most efficiently coordinated efforts will pale in the face of escalating terror and continuance in such a situation will only drain American resources, lives and cost! An already edgy and driven Congress will be ‘made to understand’ the facts without ever the need for any elaborate explanations and testifying, all thanks to such a grand scale of leaks! With the international media spending such a considerable amount of time and effort in scrutinizing the war on terror in extensive detail, the task of the administration has lessened even more to a comfortable level of being able to convince the world of how unfruitful the pursuit of freedom or peace in Afghanistan can be! And for the general public, overwhelmed by the frantic pace of reporting by news channels over this so called sensationally humongous leak, I doubt if many would even understand that this mass cache of documents mean anything to the point of being able to be understood.

Therefore, how convenient and cooperative an effort by WikiLeaks and the Government of the United States!

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The Presidential Nobel

October 14, 2009 2 comments

After President Obama was conferred the Nobel peace prize last week, I have received several emails asking my opinion and particularly if I thought that it was necessary for him to be given this prestigious prize. Apart from considering such questions far beyond my capacity to answer or reason, I believe that such an award being conferred on someone such as President Obama has concrete reasons of validity far beyond the wave of change that ensured his election as the American Chief Executive. And this most certainly hasn’t much of Afro-American empathy alone to go with it, I must say, not to mention the seeming soft-placating of the Nobel committee that many see as an act of quickly estimating a player even before the game is over.

For starters, Obama’s commitment to an all inclusive American social structure complimenting world demographics was well known before his election to the Presidential Office, as a community organizer and a civil rights attorney in Chicago. One would, at this point in time, want to recall his efforts, in 1992, involved in registration of a hundred and fifty thousand African-Americans in Illinois, which came to be known as Project Vote and became a highly successful campaign prompting him to be named Crain’s Chicago Business’s 1993 list of “40 under Forty” powers to be! Would one not like to attribute this to a socio-culture gap being bridged in a modern society that has still deep rooted racial instances running inside of it?

As a Senator, he voted in favour of the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, an immigration reform bill introduced by then Senators John McCain and Ted Kennedy, calling for incorporating guest worker programs among other things while focusing on issues such as human trafficking and border control, the economic impact of such happenings having long bickered the United States. Only here, there was an instance of showcasing of humaneness, which the President to-be endorsed through this piece of legislation that he chose to favor! Surely, that does come under the ambit of cooperation between peoples?

Following his election to the executive office, he began with a pledge to extend a hand of friendship to the Muslim world, which continues to be vehemently despised for supporting the scourge of terrorism, which has in its grip many a nation and people! Turning a hand of friendship and a possibility of working upon a broken relationship, he offered Iran what no American president has in the recent past made good. With a marked departure in the manner in which Iran and its socio-political establishment is viewed, Obama pledged to re-look the American association with Iran, an action which surely requires commendation of a very high order. North Korea has been no different in Obama’s agenda, having been given a high degree of importance aimed at repairing a long faltered association with a thrust of focus on disengaging nuclear weapons.

His administration’s commitment to ensure closure of Guantanamo Bay and the ensuing torture practices there may not have earned him applause from within and outside the American union, but wouldn’t one not seek to view this in the light of a person’s characteristic to condemn inhuman practices such as the infamous waterboarding techniques endorsed and furthered by the previous administration?

Transparency in functioning has also been an area of paramount importance in the current administration. By reducing the amount of secrecy associated with presidential records and effecting changes in procedures and policies to promote disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, Obama has demonstrated his administration’s pledge to dispel ambiguity in the manner in which the current White House operates.

His commitment to reduce production of nuclear weapons and thereafter systematically, through meaningful partnerships, ensure their eradication may appear fictional to many geo-political observers, however, such a commitment could surely help the world rid itself of dangerous precincts in the times to come, would you not agree?

Talking about results, one must understand and take cognizance of the fact that an offer made needs a reciprocal for it to come into being. Such is the case presently when one reviews the American association with the world at large. It is certainly possible that the current administration’s policies and procedures give way for a new beginning as is envisaged by Obama himself. It takes an epoch in the measure of time if one must insist on seeing actions being translated into results, and that by no means is the only qualifier for being recognized for the efforts that have been so diligently made!

And since the Nobel peace prize was accorded to him “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” I would concur that it has been done so, in recognition of the serious efforts that have been made by a man who has committed himself and his administration to realize a vision, which he believes can redefine the manner in which his country interacts with the world – by a measure of change!

Decoding L'Aquila

It seems Obama’s misreported bottomgate affair hogged the limelight more than the proceedings of the G8, which this time too failed to arrive at a much needed consensus on important issues such as climate change. As before, leaders of the group of eight, along with invitees, once again came together to put their thoughts on issues such as nuclear energy, dialogue with emerging countries, achievement of millennium development goals, negotiations on climate change, development of Africa in the areas of education, water, food and agriculture, health and peace support, intellectual property, outreach and expansion.

Not surprisingly the debate on climate change has brought forward no significant or tangible solution, with member nations not focusing on emission cuts and most importantly the Kyoto Protocol. While some question the relevance of the G8 in the face of a modernized global scenario, some others argue that it serves as an important platform for world leaders to wrangle on important issues that concern one another and the world at large. However, that ‘world at large’ is yet to see some tangible results as a measure of outcome from this gathering! Take for instance the posture on climate change which has hardly changed from before. While industrialized nations continue to play footsie with the issue, they have long been pressurizing some invitee nations to adopt a more stringent set of protocols that call for reduced emissions, something that seems more of hypocrisy! One may also ask about the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol, which is refused to be addressed.

Although Africa has been on the agenda for a long time now, there is no reflection of any constructive activity in the ground level. Take for instance the scale of poverty, issues pertaining to health, clean water, basic sanitation requirements and education programs that exist only as plans on paper and remain a distant dream. Mere agreements to sort out these issues by addressing them at forums is not enough. Implementation at various levels is the requirement.

Nations such as Sudan continue to be plagued in civil war with little or no assistance from the outside world. People continue to die at alarming rates and turn into fast statistics that are forgotten in a matter of days. Mere echoes of UN Security council resolutions will not address the problem. Why are nations not looking at establishing a military task force such as the KFor or the ISAF within Sudan, Darfur in particular? Is it the cost factor that is a deterrent or the knowledge of the non-existence of any rich pickings from these poor nations that is putting off the G8 from arriving at a policy of cooperation within themselves to assist impoverished countries, such as mentioned in their agenda?

For once, the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi spoke intellectual when he remarked that the framework of the G8 needs to be modified to include the larger G14! His statement that “we saw that G8 is no longer a suitable format to show a global economic way of doing. Instead, a consolidated G14 representing 80% of the world economy could help create a real dialogue. We want to see if the G14 is the best solution for debates which will bring to us unique results,” echoed the G8’s attitude in taking cognizance of emerging nations such as India and China in the global forum, something that cannot be ignored as was in the past! I would certainly accord a great deal of credit to the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh for having paved the way to such a landmark consensus as is witnessed today, when two years ago in a predecessor G8 summit at Heiligendamm in Germany, he stated the need for India to participate in the get-togethers of the rich as a partner rather than a petitioner.

It does not take a lot of brain racking to understand and conclude rightly that evolved partnerships are the key to success especially on a regional front which seems expanding and holding significance more than ever! Bilateral trade, cultural ties, combating terrorism, educational and outreach programs, disease control and a lot more can be significantly and systematically addressed in a much efficient manner with an expanded framework as in the case of the G14, which has rightly been envisioned and supported.

Fresh perspectives from developing nations with regards to plaguing problems can bring to the table a great deal of change, inclusive at that. However, one needs to wait and watch how the proceedings of this meeting of the G8 are to be implemented to attain measurable outcomes rather than being fizzled out as existent only on paper!

And maybe the press too can be a lot more mature to highlight issues and call for increased cooperation rather than misreport the roving eyes of a head of state!

Two to Tango – Russia & America

President Obama’s first visit to Russia as Commander-in-Chief of the United States is very significant. There’s a lot of mending of fences to do and a relook at strengthening bilateral relations that needs to be done on a serious footing. That apart, the two countries need to underscore the need to work together very closely in areas such as combating terror, which is a growing threat to many nations and their people. Their first meeting ahead of the G20 summit in London, held earlier this year, will certainly help them bond well and one hopes for it to be that way considering the extensive areas of cooperation their nations need to engage in.

The Bush administration viewed its Russian counterparts as hawkish and chose to remain wary in their interactions with Moscow, an action that fueled a number of cold war type instances that may have come to be, thankfully not, given the maturity with with each side has handled the other in particular.

The American pull-out from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty of 1972 is not so distant in the past to be forgotten, but even fresh is the Russo-Georgian conflict which was dragged into the purview of the NATO of which Georgia is a member nation. The summer of 2007 also saw some tense moments with the United States announcing plans of building an anti-ballistic missile system in Poland and a radar architecture in the Czech Republic, both nations being former Warsaw Pact members. While United States cited this as a protectionist measure from any nuclear attack that may originate from the soils of Iran or North Korea, Russia rebutted the explanation and tested a long range intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-24 and backed it up with a serious view that it could position its missiles towards Poland and the Czech Republic in the event of an American go-ahead of the stated plan.

Although President Putin’s warnings that American actions could turn Europe into a “powder keg” did not come true, for good reasons, a war of words between both heavyweights ensued with each side choosing to articulate its right of stand in the backdrop of a tense situation that could have lead to some deadlock among them signalling the beginning of a new arms race and power play, the least of which the world wanted at the time.

Vladimir Putin’s Iranian visit aimed at discussions of Russia’s aid to Iran’s nuclear power program in the backdrop of an American call for military action against Iran which Russia firmly opposed, prompted Bush to state a direct message to Putin that “if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.” A sharp witted Putin retorted comparing American plans to put up a missile defense system near Russia’s border as analogous to when the Soviet Union deployed missiles in Cuba, prompting the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Just as the missile defence plans were getting each nation into a tirade of words with each other, Russia intervened in Georgia, when Georgia invaded South Ossetia. It did not help that senior Georgian officials acknowledged to have started the war in the region which prompted a certain Russian response. Georgia being part of NATO was viewed as a significant standpoint in the now faltering Russo-American relationship. While NATO members howled at one of their member nations being attacked, Russia staved away any attempt to stall the invasion by an external force and firmly drew the Georgian misadventure to a close within a remarkably short period of time.

More recently the joint naval exercises between Russia and Venezuela have fumed the White House and the State Department owing to their regard of the latter as a nation not aligned with the interests of the United States. The recently concluded missile tests by North Korea has brought the United States and Russia together in their condemnation of the act which both view as a cause for any nuclear engagement that may take place.

With all this as part of a turbulent background, both leaders clearly have to do a lot to work their way towards warming one another in arriving at a consensus regarding many issues that form part of their cooperation agenda. For starters, their views on North Korea are encouraging, but this is just the beginning. There is a simmering Pakistan aided by the United States in the War on Terror, an exercise that seems to be headed nowhere with no clear agenda in place. Iran continues to be a serious issue which still needs a lot of sitting-down-to-talk! The issue of jointly eliminating pirates in Somali waters is also in the backdrop and requires ongoing commitment and participation from both sides.

On the economic front, a lot needs to be done to arrive at an agreement in many spheres aimed at staving off the effects of the global recession which has affected the world at large. General Motors which last year setup a plant in St. Petersburg is now in hot water back at home. Its is believed that American investment has been growing at a rate of fifty percent a year and two-way trade between Russia and the United States now exceeds $26 billion, and two-way investment is approaching $20 billion, all of which is good news.

Caviar, wine and curry later, both leaders must aim significantly at laying the framework to improving two-way cooperation that will foster good relations with each other, paving way for partnerships like never before. That in place, Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea football club and governor of Chukotka, can focus on making rich pickings off his £80m investments in the world’s largest drilling exercise aimed at creating a tunnel between Russia and the United States, a Tsarist vision lying unattended to since the early 20th century! It makes better sense not to build a real bridge between the two nations as desired by the current Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Nuclear politics and North Korea

June 23, 2009 2 comments

North Korea’s impending ICBM launch towards Hawaii scheduled to happen early in July is keeping more than the United States on toes! This communist nation, emboldened by the success of two successful weapons tests, has been making bold overtures and issuing warnings of a nuclear strike in the region. It claims that the United States has based several nuclear strike capable missiles in neighbouring South Korea in an attempt to threaten its existence, a claim that is yet to be verified!

Increasing isolated by the international community and losing grip over its already teetering financial state, North Korea must realize the importance to deviate from its current nuclear posture and concentrate more on the economic and social situation that currently prevails in the country, something that needs to be addressed very urgently.

Having pulled out of  the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003, North Korea put to operational track, its two reactor plants located at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center aimed at producing weapons grade plutonium. However due to outdated Russian technology and several other constraints, production was significantly low and could not aid in building what North Korea wanted as a full fledged, long range nuclear weapon.

And then came into light the Abdul Qadeer Khan proliferation network, which according to US intelligence admittedly gave huge amounts of technological knowledge and support to the red brigade, a claim that was reinforced following an admission by the the Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharaf, which stated that Khan had indeed provided centrifuges and their designs to North Korea.

Now, at the backdrop of two successive nuclear tests, US President Barack Obama has described the North Korean action as a threat to international peace, which is mature communication unlike the terming of it as a part of the axis of evil by his predecessor George Bush! Following his condemnation of the tests which he called were a blatant defiance of the United Nations Security Council, he said “The danger posed by North Korea’s threatening activities warrants action by the international community. We have been and will continue working with our allies and partners in the six-party talks as well as other members of the UN Security Council in the days ahead.”

Despite international pressure to abandon the nuclear weapons program, Pyongyang continues to embark upon the project citing that it is under threat from South Korea and its allies, which includes the United States. A statement that followed the May 29th tests, which reads “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea successfully conducted one more underground nuclear test on May 25 as part of the measures to bolster up its nuclear deterrent for self-defence in every way as requested by its scientists and technicians. The current nuclear test was safely conducted on a new higher level in terms of its explosive power and technology of its control and the results of the test helped satisfactorily settle the scientific and technological problems arising in further increasing the power of nuclear weapons and steadily developing nuclear technology”, indicates Pyongyang’s belief that it needs to add a nuclear force to its stable of weapons in order to neutralize a threat that it sees originating from the United States.

Currently, as the deadline for the launch of a new missile is around the corner, President Obama’s call for peace, saying “there is another path available to North Korea, a path that leads to peace and economic opportunity for North Korea” is an offer to Pyongyang to return to the talking table, which it must do, for nuclear engagement is certainly not a viable humanitarian option!

American Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s statement that “we are in a good position should it become necessary to protect American territory” comes as a measure of American confidence in defending the United States in the event of a missile launch toward Hawaii. However, the problem lies in not just defending but also effectively containing the crisis which could outline to the world as to how the US administration counters a national security threat and also pulls it off with diplomatic effort rather than by force!

There are several challenges that will be faced by this young administration in this process, the most significant of all being, the need to deter North Korea from carrying out the threat that it so emphatically claims to do! In the event that the launch takes place, the United States needs to work in close coordination with the United Nations to determine the kind of consequences that Pyongyang would need to face for such an action. This action should not be aimed at the civilian population who continiue to struggle in poverty. The United States also needs to reshape its policy, based on talks and exertion of diplomatic pressure, rather than apply the same old and spent formula that past governments have been applying on Pyongyang! Most importantly, America needs to reiterate its commitment to the process of achieving a nuclear free zone in the region and help promote a healthier relationship between the neighbours by creating a conducive arena for bilateral talks aimed at stamping out many deadlocks that have risen in the past and stayed on!

About two hours and fifty seven minutes ago, Pyongyang issued warning statements asking ships to avoid parts of its eastern waters beginning 25th June, for a period of 16 days, citing that it is in the process of conducting a military drill. Now this worries me a lot! Warnings of such nature in the past have indicated heavy military activity as was seen recently during two subsequent events,  the test launch of a short range missile and the nuclear test that followed!

I’m wondering if the 4rth of July celebrations across the United States are going to witness what might come to be known as a North Korean display of fireworks?