Friday, June 13, 2014

The Known Unknown

Just watched the  documentary on Donald Rumsfeld. 'The Known Unknown'.

 As Secretary of Defense in the Bush administration, and in a couple of other existences in American Government, Rumsfeld was instrumental in turning America into the 'world beater' it is to-day.

He began his political career; after a stint in the US Navy, running for congress, in which he served three terms. He was given a portfolio and worked in the Nixon White House.  He was a 'useful' tool for Nixon but he ran afoul John Erlichman who attempted to torpedo him. It almost worked by Rumsfeld was assigned elsewhere and when the Watergate  scuttled Nixon and his 'plumbing department'. Rumsfeld happily dodged that bullet.

Which stood him in good stead as an aide to Gerald Ford. Working as Dick Cheney's boss, Rumsfeld claims to have changed Ford's idea of avoiding Nixon's mistakes by not having a WH staff. He and Cheney threatened to quit unless Ford saw things their way, Ford saw things their way.

When Ford lost the election to Carter, Rumsfeld spent some time in private enterprise as CEO of Searle Pharmaceuticals where he 'turned the company around by downsizing 60 percent of the workforce, raising profits and getting a 'boss of the year' award. He also positioned the company for a lucrative sale to Monsanto. He also worked for General instruments and Gilead sciences before making a return to politics as Secretary of Defense.

He had hoped to run on the ticket with Ronald Reagan but was 'delighted' to 'make way' for George Bush senior, and that Reagan had opted not to run with the ex-president as his running mate. Reagan  would use Rumsfeld to meet privately with Saddam Hussein - offering a handshake the Rumsfeld now describes as "iconic" -  and not enough help to have Saddam beat the Iranians. He was sent because he had no direct political connection but it was thought his prestige as a former SecDef would impress the locals. It did, they lost. And I'd say it started Saddam a-thinking as to what America really could do when needed. Hence Kuwait.

Even though he was carving out a career in free enterprise, generally by paring costs to the bone and negotiating successful buy-outs, Rumsfeld was never far from the halls of real power.  The Clinton years were lean but the prospect of another Bush White House was just the kind of thing the Chicago-school believers, Ayn Rand mifflins and Neocon pattern-bombers were slaverin' about. Bushco won and Rummy and pals got busy. Dick Cheney had 'surged' ahead  of his onetime boss into the navigator's seat as Vice President - he would put his mark on that office. Rummy was picked for Sec Def and the Pentagon - with its cadre of Neocon 'warfighters' became his bailiwick.

In the documentary he guesses at the hundreds of thousands of  'memos; he generated. Obviously at some point - after the invention of a portable recording device, Rummy became very adept at hearing himself talk. Talk, and word and language, it seems, took on a fetish-like quality for him. Constantly looking up definitions and relaying them to others with his 'slant'  you might almost swear he had his retirement fund invested in dictionaries.  

The war years were good ones for him. he claims to have gone to war with the minimum he thought would 'do the job'. So when the job started to head south and eventually became the 'quagmire' he said he didn't do, things started to turn rocky with the neocons.  They got him first. By resigning in protest at 'how the war was being run' and then blaming Rummy for the quagmire from the safety of new jobs in right wing think tanks. That bruised him.  Abu Gharib polished him off.

The publication of the notorious photos had the same effect on America's war effort in Iraq as the Tet offensive did in VietNam. For all the embedding and trumpets at sunset on the media, the mall-trotters got a look up -  'close and personal' - at something that made them doubt that things they were told were right at all. Saddam's WMD's never showed up and the premise for the war had to be changed from 'self defense of civilization'  to, well, probably a good idea anyway. As things continued to not go well Rummy developed the markings of a scapegoat for beleaguered administration - he resigned (for the third time) and Bushco took him up on his offer.  He was out, the new team was in.

So rummy got to watch the denouement of his adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq from the  corporate box and I'm sure he's glad he got out before more shi*t stuck to him. Mercifully the 'A' team didn't win, either. But he probably already knew that.

Rummy come across in the documentary as the personable, happy smiling guy he no doubt comes across as. But his is the smile of the Great White - if they do that  - the purpose is to distract you from the fact that he's constantly looking for an advantage, seeking the edge.   He strike  me as somebody who gets mad, but then  gets even too. He strikes me as a psychopath."

 Robert McNamara did the same kind of thing years after his work on VietNam.  When he did that, an older wiser man looking back on some serious mistakes he seemed to be  seeking some reconciliation and even redemption. He admitted to some errors. Rummy doesn't 'do errors'. The best he could do was call Abu Gharib ' sickening'. Sickening perverted guards doing 'sexo', but the fact that thousands of Iraqis were warehoused there to 'get the treatment' didn't bother him a whit.  If only he didn't have to hear, or see that stuff.

"The good lord only knows" but I don't think Rummy has a conscience.

Otherwise he couldn't life with himself.

Where Did it Go Gyorgi? Where did it go?

Just like that, hey! presto - the Ukraine is a non-topic for the world's media. After weeks of popping-up as key word on Google news, generating a pond of ink in papers and time in media 'analysis', it's gone! Piff-paff-poof passed-away! Like it never happened.

But why? Not much, apparently, has changed in Ukraine, except the new president. The 'interim' government still sits. 'Yats' is still the Prime Minister and  'Turchy' is still the 'Trotsky' of the new Ukraine  (What do you call what would have been 'the commissar of the armies' back in the day?). The army still surrounds Slavyansk and the indiscriminate shelling of that place goes on. Lugansk remains in the hands of 'separatists'  as do other places and installations. The separatists seem to have no intentions of turning themselves over to Poroshenko's justice and mercy. The people of the region, under fire, still seem to think that asylum lies east and not west. It could be the 'nationalists' - who also haven't gone away,  and seem to be showing-up more and more, well-equipped for battle, are causing that.  Sort of like the frontier negotiations in early North America with indian allies ... watching, and testing 'the edge' ... on scalping knife and tomahawk.

So why has the Ukraine gone away?  Well, actually it hasn't. Russian sources, and some European ones, continue to report on the gas negotiations and mention the 'war' situation. Kyiv Post continues to post its on-line teasers (you have to subscribe to get the whole story) about the wonderfulness that is Ukraine - good for tourists - and the 'badness' lying off to the east. Poroshenko has his 'pen in his hand' to sign on to the 'Euromarket' but they're having some procedural difficulty. All is 'good for the end of the month' - unless that war is still on. Not much of this shows up at first click, you have to do  a search.

So it looks like the west is killing the story, so the 'sheeple' don't get bored, or overly concerned, as the Ukrainian 'army' makes the 'big push'.

In news to-day the Ukrainian government was accusing Russian tanks of "crossing the border" - 3 of them, to be exact - videoed some 40 miles from the border - they were captured from the government forces ( oops Kyiv forgot to mention that) last week. The Russians had a motion coming before the Security Council and were accusing the Ukraine of firing 'indiscriminate' weapons into Slavyansk. Gas negotiations had stalled.

And what had knocked Ukraine off the boards  - well not much: Bowie Bergdahl was one; Boko Haram and their schoolgirls has been off and on; thinking about a future 'president' Hilary distracted America, as did the stealing of Kasey Kasem. Until the  (on-going but again largely-ignored for the past six months) 'situation' in Iraq took a noticeable turn for the worse yesterday, there was nothing much doing.

But since the bad news from Iraq, why Ukraine has reappeared as well. Bad news loves company, or maybe this will be a long awaited 'success' story.

I wouldn't be wagering the grocery money.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Hail to the Chief

Poroshenko, the 'Candy-Man' ,was anointed head of novo-Ukraine yesterday before the crowned heads - or rather elected officials -  of the EU and the 'free' world.

His keynote speech, heralded to-day in some circles, as a masterpiece of  "telling it like it is", or "standing-up to terror",  certainly doesn't give much hope for peace in Ukraine.

Coming off a media-inspired 'euphoric moment' because he actually crossed eyes with Putin at the beaches of Normandy luncheon and was welcomed by into the pantheon of "global leadership", Porochenko said nothing he hadn't said before - other than that another set of 'peace discussions' were in the offing. What he emphasized, however, seems important,  for it's unlikely to be 'bullshit'  as part of an inauguration speech, right?

 The first important thing is Crimea - Ukrainian,  past, present and future. That is a 'main aim' for his Presidency - getting Putin to give it back. He claims to have pointed that out to Putin, in France, if he didn't tell him anything else. I'd bet the Crimeans wouldn't need to be consulted, or care either.

Along with Crimea goes all the 'territorial integrity' of that blessed land. So the Poles won't be getting theirs back either.  Not without a fight.

And that brings up the notion of the 'existential threat' to Ukraine from its many surrounding 'enemies'.  (You've heard that song before?) Ukraine, according to ex-interim president (and current generalissimo and war spokesperson) 'Turchy' - is fighting "for the world" folks. Yeppers, those orange-ribbon dudes and dudettes are a global threat - to you and I!  So that's why we need to send money to  help Ukrainia 'liquidate' them for us.

The new President seems to be infected with that paranoia.

Job one, however, seems to be a need to 'redevelop' Ukraine's military industrial complex which, somehow, has fallen on hard times. Never mind that Ukraine, when it declared its independence, was home to some of Russia's largest, most modern and best weapons design and manufacturing installations. To  this day Ukraine maintains the Russian ballistic missile fleet and supplies weapons and ammunition around the world. But the 'complex' has been used as somebody's cash cow and now can't supply, nor equip, the forces needed to put down an essentially civilian insurrection.

Building all those weapons for the new 'punker-pan divisions' will put the Ukraine back to work! And back on easy street.

He'll have no truck with terror!  But he's all 'up' for  peace and doesn't even want any "revenge" (probably a mis-translation). Unless you're a 'bad guy' - like the guys 'running' the eastern regions who don't live in Europe or a five star hotel - the 'evil doers' who have "blood on their hands"  (presumably excluding the 'good guys' of Privaty Sektor and the phalangist militias who've been unofficially 'bleeding' lots of 'bad guys'). They won't be at any table he's at! They'll be 'at the wall'.

But what will Poroschenko do if those who do show up to 'talk', tell him he needs to stop the 'crap', like those who have already done that, twice, to 'Yats and Turchy'?

New boss - new 'discussions' - better invitation list?

Poroschenko is going to have to 'truck' with the gunmen ...  if he wants peace. What he really wants, however, is NATO to come fix things.

After the show was over it was outside to review the troops and what could easily have been an assassination attempt.  I'm pretty sure that notion passed through Poro's thick skull as he had to have noticed the young guardsman (video below) lower his bayonet (that sharp, 'pig-sticker' thingy on the end of his 'gun' to the uninitiated)  into his field of vision. Poroshenko, to his credit, 'sailed by' like the ship of state he now truly is. But I'll bet, had he had Akademi back-up, that kid would have been 'neutralized' on-camera,  and a splendid national moment thoroughly messed-up.

Next time, I bet, he will -  it was, security-wise, just too close a call.

Honor guard. Oops!

Friday, June 06, 2014

D-Day + 25 550

The world, it seems, is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy by the Allied forces in 1944.  Some of the few remaining participants gather again to recollect that momentous day. And with them gather the 'global leaders' who either maintain the 'peace and  freedom' that invasion was meant to secure, or try to remove it, again. The validity of that  statement depends on one's perspective. This year, as in other years, it has absolutely nothing to do with the festering sore that remains the middle east. This year it has everything to do with the Ukraine, and more specifically the 'unwanted' guest, Vladimir Putin - world-pariah and President of the Russian Federation.

And what did Putin do to incur the wrath of civilization? Well not much at all. Other than upsetting a fairly well-designed American apple-cart. He messed with the 'democratization of the Ukraine'.

But holy moly bat-wanger wasn't the Ukraine already a democracy?

Well technically, since 1992, it has been - or at least it hasn't been a Soviet Socialist Republic - even though it had 'democracy' of a sort, then, as well. Problem is, that wasn't the right sort, and  neither, apparently, has the kind they've had since. It hasn't been made more perfect, like it should. You see friends, what's been wrong is that Ukrainians have insisted on electing themselves a series of 'kleptocracies' - democratic elections  of crooks who steal the country blind to  'get ahead'.

Now in some Ukrainians - particularly the oligarch class of Ukrainians - (Russians and a few other ex-soviets as well) that 'go-getting entrepreneurial spirit' is praised and rewarded with Cypriot bank accounts, lavish holiday homes in Spain and English football teams.  But what happened in practice is that Ukraine has  been "stolen into bankruptcy" and requires a massive bail-out, which, because it wasn't 'attached', wasn't necessarily coming from the west without an elaborate system of jumpin' through hoops. The Bank  of Ireland had offered to float a $15 billion dollar bond issue but wasn't guaranteeing more that a 10%  return to Kiev. That's when Putin reared his close-clipped head.

Putin, fresh from a world-class 'eclat' at Sochi,  was offering the necessary $15 billion but it came with strings attached. Those strings were a closer alignment to the newly-developed Russian-Asian trade bloc Putin was trying to set up between the former elements of the USSR. That orientation offended a number of Ukrainians who had been pushing for a 'pivot west' for EU and NATO membership. And it offended America.

An American  'investment' of $5 billion in 'democracy' got the Kievans and a few others out on the streets, starting in November, in an attempt to sway, at first, and then overthrow the administration of President Yanukovich. When the protest turned violent and after a number of people had been killed in Kiev, Yanukovich took flight and 'abandoned' his government. An interim group was self-ratified and took over.

One of their first actions  was  to pass legislation to enshrine Ukrainian as the only 'official' language in a country more than half populated by Russian speakers. The 'russian-ukrainians' in Crimea , who had already tried separating from Ukraine 4 years ago, 'took the bit between their teeth', blockaded Ukrainian military and government posts and declared their regional government the only legitimate one for them. They held a referendum on  separation, got a resounding 'yes' vote, declared independence and asked  to join the Russian Federation.

Putin was delighted.  Crimea is Russian again.

Of course that didn't delight everybody else, some claimed that Putin had actually "invaded" Crimea, held that referendum at gunpoint and then 'annexed' the place.  But the 'coup',  if there was a coup, was  far less bloody and destructive than the 'wilding' in Kyiv.  Ukraine, however, still wants its Crimea back ... or $90 billion in reparations.

At the same time, more or less,  the 'east' went sour.

One of the new 'interim' government's first actions was to deploy the Ukrainian 'nationalist militia' groups and the better units of the army to 'danger points' - Odessa in the West, the Crimean border, obviously, and the larger deployment into the eastern regions of the country. The ostensible reason for all  this was the loudly-bruited "imminent threat" of a Russian invasion of the Ukraine. When regional government,  loyal to Yanukovich, collapsed,  disorders followed in eastern cities between 'russians' (some  bussed-in from russia)  and 'western' Ukrainians (bussed-in from Kyiv,  Lviv etc)  for pro-Ukraine demonstrations.  Oligarchs were appointed to govern three of the regions. Disorders continued to spread and the Ukrainian forces were faced-down by local civilians - often surrendering weapons and equipment at civilian checkpoints. Armed groups removed the vestiges of Ukrainian control in a number of places in the east,  and set up local administrations on the Crimean model. One notable spot was the town of Slavyansk, which is located over salt mines that are used as one of the largest arms storage depots on earth. 

The response on the interim government was to call for a 'mobilization' (of the Maidan patriots into a National Guard)  and declare "war" on what they now termed  armed ''terrorists" in the east. The eastern army was immediately reinforced with 'ad hoc' NG units sent to spurious 'training camps' in the east -  as well as a deployment of heavy equipment. This has continued with deployment of a 'Special Forces' unit and, lately, 'volunteer militia units' - usually affiliated with one of the ultra-nationalist groups tasked with 'defending the motherland'. Last week tank units were being moved into  the two apparently "besieged"  'hotspots' around Slavyansk and Luhansk.

Surprisingly, none of this seems to be going well at all - with government forces receiving some sharp knocks and an apparent disconnect between regular forces and the 'auxiliaries' who seem to get the 'easy jobs' - shooting-up civilians rather than facing-down their opposite numbers.  It could be that a NG unit was responsible for a 'massacre' of 17 soldiers blamed on the 'terrorists'. The government gunships that shot-up the unit, after the attack, certainly didn't help and might well have killed some survivors. Just this week the 'rebels', now largely told-off as being 'interlopers' from Russia, seized a border crossing and security station just outside Luhansk, while separatists in the city did the same to two government outposts after a UAF strike fighter rocketed the city's administration center.

The government forces blockading Slavyansk continue to settle for bombarding the outlying areas rather than launching the 'final assault' they've been promising for a month. Maybe when the tanks arrive.

So, then, what all this got to do with D Day? While one part of the world focuses on Putin's purported 'evildoing' as, somehow, antithetical to the events of 70 years back, they aren't comparing the two 'invasions' at all. Although Putin's was smaller, infinitely less notable and actually as the result of an 'invitation' by the locals,  it wasn't as 'right' as the one that started the liberation of Europe. To hear it, he's 'enslaved' the Crimea and damaged the Ukraine for no good reason, his 'invasion' not at all like the one that took the Allies to France.

I'm inclined to think that Poroshenko, president-elect of the 'new' Ukraine, at D Day, is a real affront to  the spirit of that time. He represents a dimension of the Ukraine that sided with the Nazis to kill Russians (and Poles and Jews) to make a 'better', free -er Ukraine. That same evil spirit is being visited on the innocents, again, to-day. That, to-day, it is wrapped in 'democracy' and involves money,  is no reason it should be tolerated any more than it was on June 6th all those years ago.