Double Standard on 'Victory Laps?' ... Hard Times in France ... Harder Times for the Greeks ... Whither the Eurozone? ... Russians Threaten to Get Jiggy with It ... Romney Camp Aiming at Wrong Target ...
Back in 2003, as the dust was starting to settle around the fallen statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, the President of the United States decided to crow about how successful we were, and announce that "major combat operations" had ended.
So an appropriate venue was set, the USS Abraham Lincoln, and the aircraft carrier was moved about so that it had the correct backdrop and lighting. When everything was ready, the President flew out to the ship.
The rest, as they say, is history. George W. Bush, Republican of Texas, wasted hardly a waking hour after that storied 'Mission Accomplished' speech to crow about Iraq, coupling it with 9/11 so many times that to this day there are a few people who think Iraq had something to do with that event.
(They didn't. Thought I'd remind you.)
Added to that was the failed meme of "Democrats stink at national defense," and you have pretty much the whole GOP strategy since 9/11/01, up to and including Dick Cheney's implication that if we didn't vote GOP in 2004, we'd all die in terrorist attacks.
Now, a year ago this past week, Navy SEALS were airlifted in to the Pakistani town of Abbotabad, where they surprised and killed Osama bin Laden. That's right; he got deaded, and tossed into the sea after he was positively identified.
That was on President Obama's watch. He gave the order to send in the SEALS, aware of the risks if the team were ambushed or - worse - taken prisoner. Pakistan is our ally, after all; true, a weak tea of an ally, but an ally nonetheless.
Last week, Obama took to the hustings and reminded people that he had ordered the hit on bin Laden. He didn't strut out onto the flight deck of an aircraft carrier decked out in a flight suit like he had been one of the pilots over Iraq. There was no 'Mission Accomplished' banner, and so far there's been no conflation of Osama's death with the recently-concluded war in Iraq.
Yet the chattering classes criticized Obama for "taking a victory lap," even going so far as to try and swift boat him. It hasn't worked yet, as Obama's been careful to point out that the SEALS did the work, but as President he was the one who ordered the hit.
Oh, yeah - about that "Democrats are soft on defense" meme?
On Obama's watch:
1. He ordered the hit on the Somali pirates who had hijacked the Maersk Alabama.
2. He finished the debacle in Iraq and brought the combat troops home.
3. He sent more troops into Afghanistan.
4. He ordered more drone strikes (a LOT more) than his predecessor.
5. He ordered bombings and drone strikes in Libya.
6. He ordered the hit on bin Laden.
7. He set a timetable to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan.
Voting is taking place throughout Europe today and part of last week. In the United Kingdom, it was local council elections, where the ruling Conservative Party lost seats and Labour started to claw its way back from its general election losses by gaining strength locally. The major bone of contention is the austerity regime on the economy, which has lead to flatter growth and to Britain sliding into a 'double-dip' recession.
In France, it's a two-way race for President, with incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy fighting for his political life against Socialist Francois Hollande. Hollande was leading in the polls going in, but there were signs of the race tightening up. The major bone of contention is the austerity regime on the economy, which has raised unemployment and has been dragging down the French economy.
Now, I'm not an economist, but history shows us that when there's a recession the central government has to step in and increase spending, because the private sector is either afraid or hasn't got the resources to keep the economy moving. Yes, this increases the deficit, but as the Republicans will tell you, "Deficits don't matter." Without that spur to the economy, you're not going to see much growth. Britain's seeing that now.
Another country seeing that now is Greece, which is holding parliamentary elections today. The population is pissed off at the austerity measures that have savaged the nation's credit and ripped holes in the social safety net, and they want to punish the two major political parties, both Right and Left. Particularly disheartening in this election is the prospect of the Golden Dawn Party gaining seats in Parliament.
Why? Golden Dawn is a Nazi party - not merely an ultra-right party, but an honest-to-Cthulhu Nazi Party (they even use the Hitlergruss as a salute, if you can believe it). Their book store sells Greek-language copies of Mein Kampf, they despise foreigners and those Eurozone countries that forced the austerity measures on them. Like Germany, for example (and extra Irony points).
There is a possibility that the Eurozone might start to fragment. It might indeed do exactly that, with a strong effect on our own economy as Europe is one of our biggest trading partners. Having no real central economy or economic policy is proving to be the weakness of the Zone.
Back in the Administration That Must Not Be Named, we set up an agreement with two new NATO members, Poland and the Czech Republic, to build antimissile radars and establish a defensive missile system. The stated reason for this was to knock down any Iranian ICBM launched at Europe.
This was total codswallop on its face, as the best missile Iran has can only reach Tel Aviv or Ankara, while Russia is but a loud shout away from these installations. The Russians know who it's aimed at, and so do we.
The neoconservatives, of course, love it to bits - they've got their Cold War back! They can talk about those dirty Commies with verve and panache, and without the embarrassment of having to have Allen West do his Johnny Iselin impression.
The Russians, however, have decided to lay their cards on the table. Their Defense Minister and the Chief of their General Staff went public with a rather bald threat: Build these installations, and at the first sign of a crisis between Russia and the West, they'll take those installations the fuck out. Which means bombing Poland, which will piss off the Poles (although they should be used to the idea).
But in the middle of this kerfuffle, what are the GOP and their presumptive nominee Mr. Inevitable doing?
Not much apart from screeching blue murder at the affair of Mr. Cheng Guangcheng, a blind lawyer who is a Chinese dissident. Cheng somehow got out of his house and - although blind - managed to evade the cops and end up at the US Embassy. Right now there's a diplomatic solution in the works that would allow the man to go to the US to study, which enables both sides to save face.
A tempest in the chamber pot, but one the GOP seems hell-bent on pressing while ignoring all the other weirdness going on.