Friday, September 30, 2011

Al-Awlaki killing: Can President Obama, Admiral Mullen, Leon Panetta and General Petraeus be charged with murder?

There was much celebration in Washing DC and the rest of US today on the killing of Al-Awlaki and probably rightly so, for he was a terrorist and planned and encouraged attacks on innocent civilians.

However, he was a US citizen and the cowboy behavior that US has adopted in Iraq and Afghanistan of midnight raids and cold blooded executions of supposed enemies, does not hold water in the US. The Administration, the Pentagon and CIA do not have the legal right to execute an American citizen who is suspected of acts of terror.

There is a legal process and there are courts for it. Will Al-Awalaki's father or any other US citizen stand up in a court of law in the US and demand that President Obama, Admiral Mullem, Leon Panetta and General Petraeus be charged with murder for not following the legal process?

It could make for quite a legal situation!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

U.S. has lost the war in Afghanistan because of its own failings, scapegoating Pakistan is an easy way out.

Ten years on, U.S. is failing miserably in Afghanistan. Not because it does not have the resources, the manpower or finances (well finances they no longer have), but because of its arrogance and lack of direction.

From day one it played in the hands of minority Northern Alliance, against majority Pashtuns. This was a disastrous policy and it has taken U.S. nine years to reluctantly begin to realize the folly.

According to former CIA officials Osama bin Laden was within sight and earshot and could have been finished off at Tora Bora, but he was deliberately allowed to escape, perhaps Iraq war was already on the agenda for the bunch of war criminals led by George W. Bush. The Afghan war could have ended within six months and the trillions of dollars that have been wasted over ten years bankrupting the U.S. could have been saved. Why does the Congress not investigate this, rather than waste time on meaningless partisan bickering?

However despicable the Taliban's domestic policy and attitude towards women, they did not attack the United States. By making them its enemy, U.S. took on a well armed group that does not fear for life. U.S. was advised time and again to negotiate with Taliban to bring the war to an end. But with its military might, how could a super power like U.S. negotiate with a bunch of rag tag warriors? This is exactly how the Vietnam war was lost and this is how the Afghan is now being lost.

It has taken U.S. ten years to start a dialogue but only with Taliban of choice. This is too little too late. Had a proper dialogue been undertaken nine, eight, seven or even five years ago, Taliban may have been ready to talk peace. Now they know that U.S. is beat and ready to quit, they may not be keen on a dialogue.

To blame Pakistan for the attack on U.S. Embassy in Kabul is preposterous. U.S. still cannot see reality in the face and to heap the blame on Pakistan is an easy way out. However, it is time for U.S. to admit its failure and utilize Pakistan's help to start a meaningful and a conclusive dialogue with all Afghan factions so as to hand over Afghanistan to Afghans, sooner rather than later.

Ten years of U.S. war has ravaged that miserable country. The alleged war crimes committed by U.S. forces and contractors at Bagram prison are probably far worse than Abu Ghuraib, only this time a lid has been kept on them so information has not leaked out. Hopefully one day, the U.S. military generals and policy makers will be hauled before the International Criminal Court to face their come uppance.

Monday, September 19, 2011

U.N. Veto on Palestinian State could have far reaching consequences for the U.S.

When Ramzih bin-Al Shibh, the number four Al-Qaeda leader was captured from Karachi in September 2002, he openly admitted to plotting the 9/11 attacks and said, these attacks were a revenge on the U.S. for decades of Palestinian suffering and for its unconditional support to Israel. These revelations were contained in CBC's Fifth Estate documentary aired recently.

This week, the Palestinian Authority is moving the U.N. for recognition as a State. Palestinians have the support of almost all countries of the world except Israel and U.S. U.S. is threatening to use its veto in the Security Council. If U.S. were to carry out its threat and veto the proposal, it will be a sad day for the world and it could also have far reaching consequences for the United States.

The Israel and Palestinians negotiations have been stalled for some time now. Obama Administration has been frustrated by the intransigent stand of Netanyahu Government. Repeated requests to halt new settlements have been met with Israeli disdain. Vice President Biden was literally slapped in the face when he had to turn back as soon as his plane landed in Israel, because Netanyahu announced new settlements while he was in the air.

President Obama has tried to get the negotiations under way. He even appointed an experienced and able interlocutor in Senator Mitchell to kick start the peace process, but Israel thwarted it at every step. Senator Mitchell, who helped negotiate a peace deal between the warring factions in Ireland has given up this job for not getting anywhere. Israel's complaint against the Senator - he is too fair.

Is the U.S. really going to use the veto? If it does, it will be the worse show of diplomacy by a mighty country. In their quest for statehood, Palestinians have the support of entire world. Is U.S. willing to go against the entire world and come to Israel's help even though it has failed to persuade Netanyahu to come to a fair and reasonable peace settlement?

One hopes better sense will prevail and U.S. will play the role of a world leader that it is and refrain from using the veto.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Reflecting Absence

The memorial created for 9/11 victims at ground zero is a painful reminder of the mindless death and destruction of human beings. Nearly 3,000 of them, who for no reason or fault of their own became victims of a mindless and senseless terrorist attack.

Some who lost their loved ones have moved on and made peace within themselves, but many others watched the memorial aptly named 'Reflecting Absence' in pain and sadness. Some kissed the brass name plates of their lost ones, others made stencil copies of the names to keep as mementos. What must be most painful for the families is that only 291 bodies were recovered and not a shred of remains was found for the other 2,500 who perished. No watches. no rings, no teeth, no DNA to prove their death and yet, the families had to accept that their loved ones were lost forever.

The political speeches somehow felt out of place. Instead of easing the pain of affected families, politicians seemed to be making futile speeches. It may have been more respectful, had there been no politician speech at all.

On this somber occasion, one could not help but also feel pain and sorrow for the families of 150,000 Iraqis killed by a mindless and senseless war, launched in the name of 'War on Terror'. A war that was totally unnecessary, illegal and criminal. There were no speeches, nor any memorial built for the 150,000 who lost their lives in Iraq.

We all know now and many knew all along that Iraq had nothing to do with attacks of 9/11. But it is quite clear that George W. Bush and his gang of extreme right wing ne-cons came prepared to launch a war on Iraq regardless of whether 9/11 had happened or not.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague does not have the courage of conviction to haul them over on charges of crimes against humanity as ICCC only goes after minor third world dictators. Hopefully, one day the American families, who have suffered the consequences of this war, will haul them before a court of law in U.S. and ask them, why was it necessary for them to lose more than 5,000 sons and daughters to this war and 25,000 to have been maimed forever?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Will the U.S. economic downdrift bring Canadian economy down?

United States is politically deadlocked. No matter what President Obama proposes to the joint session of Congress on Thursday, most Republicans are not likely to back him.

The Tea Party segment of Republicans in the House (a significant number) is working on one item agenda only - get rid of Obama. The have made their disdain known openly for an African American President, calling him Hitler, anti American, the Other Guy and several such unfortunate names. They are hell bent on this, even if it destroys the U.S. economy, which was quite obvious during the recent debt negotiations.

This gridlock is damaging U.S. economic recovery. A large number of jobs that should have been created after the 2008/9 recession ended, have not been created. The unemployment picture is depressing as 14 million employable workers are not employed. Unemployment amongst teenagers runs at 25.4%, African Americans 16.7%, Hispanics 11.3% and whites at 8%. Many economists agree that current unemployment rate of 9.1% will come down to around 8.9% by end of year and to a low 8% in 2012, but that still leaves many million unemployed.

U.S. is Canada's largest trading partner and any serious impact on U.S.economy or buying power of its citizens will eventually filter through to the Canadian economy. While Canada's economy is still going through a slow recovery, it has been spared from a substantial impact, primarily because Canada's financial system proved to be the best in the world at a time a major financial crisis. But, if the U.S. economy continues a down drift, Canadian economy could stagnate.

It is important to insulate Canadian economy from such an eventuality. Alternative markets have to be found for its products in order to diversify exports and reduce dependence on U.S. Fortunately, Canada is a resource rich country and developing economies are in need of resources. Rising exports to China have helped offset some of the impact of declining U.S. orders.

The Canadian softwood lumber industry, which has been in a running battle with the U.S. Government and some of their intransigent politicians for years, has taken a leap forward by going to China, building houses and showing Chinese construction companies how they can build houses faster and cheaper by using lumber instead of concrete. This has resulted in creating demand for Canadian lumber in China, so much so that Canada is now exporting almost as much (if not more)lumber to China than the U.S. Other Canadian industries need to learn from this experience and explore markets around the world. The oil industry also needs to diversify its exports. An oil pipeline from Alberta to an off shore oil terminal on the Pacific Coast would make it considerably easier to export oil to China and other countries.

One good thing that has happened in this financial crisis is that Harper Government has grown up. From a reluctant, lukewarm attitude towards China in earlier years, now a more confident majority Harper Government has made progress. After a highly visible and successful visit by John Baird, Canadian Foreign Minister, Prime Minister will soon be off to China to increase trade opportunities. His recent visit to Brazil and other South American countries will also have positive impact on Canadian companies wanting to venture into those markets.

One market that Canada has not made major inroads into is India. This enormous market is very different than any other. India is not yet ready for large quantities of softwood lumber, not probably for another 10 years. Its infrastructure is abysmal and Canada could help plan and build roads on a fast track basis all over India. India is also in need of building small houses to replace slums and shanties. Canadian companies specializing in pre-fab construction could possibly set up factories in India to produce these in large quantities, so the Government and private sector, start replacing shanties on an emergency footing. There are probably countless other opportunities, for which the Indian market needs to be studied thoroughly and patiently, rewards will follow.

Canadian economy need not go down with the U.S. economy as long as it finds alternative markets and Canadian Corporations open their horizons to exploring new markets. The structure of Canadian Corporate Board also needs to be diversified to leverage enormous international talent available within Canada. The U.S. economy will ultimately recover and that could only give the Canadian economy a further boost.