Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Coincidental deaths as the Democratic convention nears

For part of the day, Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones was reported dead. She was then reported to be in critical condition after suffering a burst brain aneurysm while driving her car last night. Her death has now been confirmed by the Hospital where she fought for her life for the past 24 hours. Jones was a Democratic member of Congress from Ohio, the pivotal state in George Bush’s 2004 Electoral College victory. She was one of the few members of congress to vote against the certification of the electoral college results. She also happened to be the co-chair of the Democratic National Committee. Her disappearance from public life five days before the Democratic convention will no doubt make life much more difficult for the party.

On August 14th, Chair of the Arkansas Democratic Party Bill Gwatney was shot and killed by an assailant at his party headquarters in Little Rock. Fifty year old Timothy Dale, who had just lost his job as a shelver at a Target store, walked into the party office, asked to see Gwatney to discuss volunteering for the campaign, pulled out a pistol, and shot him three times in the chest. Dale then led police on a 50 km highway chase before being killed in a shootout.

Arkansas is of course noted as the home of the political machine that generated the Clinton presidency and era. It was recently governed by Republican presidential candidate and McCain VP short-lister Mike Huckabee. Just like the near-death of Tubbs Jones, Gwatney’s tragically violent end will certainly affect the convention. With rumors of a surprise Clinton move growing, many will miss the Arkansas Chair, who, like Tubbs Jones, and in his capacity as a superdelegate, had recently endorsed Senator Obama after supporting Clinton throughout the campaign. The disappearance of both a co-chair of the DNC and the Chair of the Arkansas Democrats within days of the national convention certainly leaves a disorganising gap that will be hard to fill.

After these quite momentous events, the death of 26 year old Congressional Aid Frederick Hutchins on July 29th now seems a distant memory. Hutchins was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head next to his car on a Virginia road. A handgun was found under his body. He was a rising star of Virginia Democratic politics, predicted by his boss, Senator Jim Webb, to have been in Congress within ten years. Coincidentally, Webb was an early front runner for the VP slot on the Obama ticket. Early in July, he emphatically stated that "under no circumstances" would he accept the nomination, and apparently sent the Obama campaign a note to that effect.

At least there haven’t been any small plane crashes. yet.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Iraq and Georgia: Only the names have changed

On July 25th 1990, Saddam Hussein summoned hapless US ambassador April Glaspie to a meeting. He wanted an official opinion on an eventual American reaction to his planned invasion of Kuwait, or as he later put it, his reclaiming of Iraq’s 18th province. Ambassador Glaspie gave him the textbook answers: "We have no opinion on Arab-Arab conflict" and "the issue is not associated with America". She was under direct instructions from GHW Bush and Secretary of State James Baker to seek a warmer relationship with Iraq.
But Saddam’s long-time allies and supporters in the Reagan-Bush Whitehouse did not react so well to his invasion of Kuwait, launched just a few days after the meeting. On September 11th 1990, GHW Bush told an extraordinary joint session of Congress that the new war in Iraq, now known as Gulf War I, was "a rare opportunity to move toward an historic period of cooperation. Out of these troubled times...a New World Order can emerge". By January, a half million coalition troops launched an air and later ground assault to drive the Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. By doing so, they eliminated one of the most powerful and destabilizing military forces in the region, and ensured American dominance in the Gulf for the following two decades. That dominance was recently reaffirmed, and the American presence increased, in Gulf War II.
I very much doubt that Glaspie was Saddam’s only way of getting the Godfather’s blessing for his venture. She was likely the last check, just a way of confirming officially and on the record what the backchannels had been carrying for months, if not for years. The Soviet Union was in an advanced process of decay, and Saddam had just finished soaking up huge losses as the front man in America’s ten year proxy war on Iran. It only made sense that his friends in Washington would now reward him and allow him to recoup some of those losses.
Instead, they double crossed him in a move worthy of the best Noir scenario. They used him one last time to justify their invasion of the Persian Gulf and their grab at China’s and Russia’s oil future.
On August 7th 2008, US aligned Georgian President Saakashvili launched a military operation to regain control of South Ossetia, a more or less autonomous and pro-Russia Georgian province. The Russians, it seems were just waiting for the word Go, and they responded by over-running northern Georgia within two days.
On August 7th 2008, Democratic candidate Senator Barack Obama began his vacation in Hawaii, leaving the stage open to Republican candidate John McCain. Obama has been criticized for his lack of experience in international affairs, and was universally condemned for being on vacation in paradise while an international crisis was unfolding. Following a cue from a popular electoral advertising campaing, McCain asked where Obama was when his 3 AM moment came.
The result, documented today by Bill Schneider on CNN, is an avalanche of new polls, showing Obama in a dead heat with previously distant McCain. The main factor in McCain’s comeback: Foreign policy experience.
It seems the totalitarians on both sides of the Atlantic have an interest in swinging the US election. They are using old MOs: The strategy of tension, by creating an international crisis and conditioning the voters through fear, and the ruthless sacrifice of minor allies, like pawns in a gambit. In both cases, the only winners are those who run the military-industrial complex.