Posts Tagged ‘uk



26
Mar
11

‘i have nothing to say’

Michael Tomasky (The UK Guardian)

23
Mar
11

‘obama’s cautious approach is perfectly sensible’

UK Independent: …Think what would have happened if Washington had taken the lead in declaring a no-fly-zone over Libya without UN agreement or Arab backing. The people now criticising President Obama for dilatoriness would be accusing him of being another Bush. And if he’d refused to have anything to do with the no-fly-zone, commentators in Europe and the Middle East would be saying that it was because, at the end of the day, America doesn’t want democracy in the Arab world, that it prefers the rulers of Bahrain and Yemen to suppress revolt than bow before it….

…Obama’s cautious approach is perfectly sensible. Libya is not America’s dogfight. Thanks in large part to Lockerbie, Washington has never favoured Gaddafi. It is, in US eyes, and rightly, a European problem. It was France and Britain – Sarkozy and Blair – who spent their time sucking up so obscenely to the Libyan dictator, just as Silvio Berlusconi embraced him in a Faustian pact to stop illegal migration from Africa. Washington under President George W Bush certainly welcomed Gaddafi’s dramatic (and largely meaningless) gesture of giving up nuclear ambitions – but they didn’t sell their souls to him in the way we (the British), and the French, did.

Nor can Washington be blamed for being forced into military command of the first phase of the Libyan operation by the simple fact that it is only the US that has the hardware and control systems to do it. French objections to this becoming a Nato exercise are just so much hot air. They can’t do it, nor can the British in alliance with them.

Obama is also right to spell out, as he did this week, a clear separation between the objectives of the UN resolution, which is to protect Libyan civilians, and the objectives of American policy, which is to see the back of the Colonel.

…Once Gaddafi had turned the military tide and was openly threatening, by word as well as deed, to wreak his wrath on the rebels in Benghazi, the world couldn’t stand by and watch a massacre. Memories of Srebrenica and Rwanda are too raw for western politicians to allow it to happen again….

Full article here

21
Mar
11

‘a brilliant diplomatic strategy’

The UK Guardian: If the Obama administration does nothing else, it will always compare favourably with Bush’s for its diplomacy over Libya

The New York Times called it “inconsistent”. The Wall Street Journal questioned whether “any direction” could be divined behind the decision. But in referring to America’s part in the attack on Libyan forces, the mainstream media is blind to what has been a brilliant diplomatic – and domestic – political strategy on the part of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

…Having learned the lessons of Iraq and countless other American boondoggles in the region, President Obama has played his hand deftly to avoid accusations of American imperialism and to project the optics of consensus. Today, as the United States engages once more in the Middle East, it does so with the imprimatur of a United Nations resolution and an impressive coalition of allies – not just George Bush’s “coalition of the willing” – but countries not usually associated with military intervention in the region, including France and the countries of the Arab League.

…President Obama has “played it cool” – refusing to cut short his trip to Latin America and emphasising that American action will be short (if committed). This is a far cry from the sort of chest-thumping bellicosity from the Oval Office we saw under Bush.

There are, of course, domestic politics at play here as well. America is tired of seeing its military in Iraq and Afghanistan, let alone getting involved in a new Middle Eastern conflict. But through diplomatic and strategic manoeuvering, President Obama has ensured that the United States is simply one nation among many engaging in the region, lifting some of the weight of history from the shoulders of the nation.

Full article here

19
Mar
11

‘wise’

President Obama arrives to make a statement authorizing limited military action against Libya, March 19

UK Independent: The Paris summit yesterday of the 10-nation coalition of the willing, including the Arab League, backed by a United Nations resolution authorising the use of force to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, marks a triumph of diplomacy.

Inevitably, it is marred by the besetting fault of such negotiations: it has taken too long for the world community to come to this point …. but that is the price of unity. Far better to have the Arab League call for a no-fly zone and the UN respond than to have the rich Western nations of Nato decide what is good for north Africa.

…Barack Obama made it clear last week that US troops would not be deployed in Libya and the UN resolution specifically excludes “a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory”. President Obama, incidentally, has been criticised in recent weeks for his apparent uncertainty and lack of assertion. We do not join in that criticism. It is wise that the United States should allow European and Arab states to take the lead in the Mediterranean theatre, while supporting the rule of law under the aegis of the UN.

…The no-fly zone may seem inadequate to the task of protecting the Libyan people, but, however difficult it may be to accept, it may be that the best we can hope for is that the international community blunts the worst excesses of Gaddafi’s brutality.

Full article here

20
Feb
11

barack & bracknell

BBC: Barack Obama and his wife Michelle will visit the UK on their first official state visit in May. US presidents who have met the Queen have mostly stayed in London, but where else in the UK might the Obamas travel?

The Obamas’ planned visit to the UK in May is their second trip to the country, but the first as official guests of the British Royal Family.

Since the turn of the 20th Century, 11 American presidents have made the trip across the Atlantic. Most have stayed in London, visiting Buckingham Palace, Downing Street and other sights on the diplomatic tourist trail.

….President Obama might consider a trip to Bracknell where his half sister Auma used to live and, it is thought, his step mother Kezia still does. A short train ride from London, the commuter town might not be an obvious choice for a world leader, but Mr Obama has already made a trip to the area. Before he became president he attended his former brother-in-law’s stag do in nearby Wokingham…..

17
Feb
11

coming up …. in may

Just announced – President Obama and Michelle Obama will make a state visit to the UK in May (24-26) at the invitation of the Queen. They’ll stay at Buckingham Palace. More here

01
Feb
11

‘Is obama egypt’s great enabler?’

President Obama walks to the podium to speak about the situation in Egypt, Feb. 1

UK Independent (Mary Dejevsky): …Is President Obama succeeding where Bush and Blair so expensively failed? ….he took a very different approach … As presidential candidate, he campaigned against the Iraq war and expressly rejected the imposition of democracy….democracy, he argued, was still eminently good but had to come from within. Under his leadership, he said, the US would not dictate to other nations how they should organise their lives.

…Mr Obama did not just yank US foreign policy back in the realist direction taken by his Democrat predecessor, Bill Clinton. He combined that shift with an unusual degree of cultural awareness, most conspicuously in the early overtures he made towards the Muslim countries …. One of his first foreign-policy moves was … a wide-ranging speech addressed to Muslims everywhere. He delivered it in Cairo.

….More than a year and half later the choice of Cairo University looks prescient … revisiting the speech, it is immediately clear not only how far he has shifted the US agenda, but how far his commitment to home-grown democracy remains the same … Obama’s language shines out as consistent with everything that protesters across the Arab world are demanding now.

…Maybe Obama’s early overtures planted a seed that is starting to bear fruit across the Muslim world. Maybe it is simply that modern communications, plus the similar politics, economics and demographics across the region, are combining to galvanise discontent. What is evident, though, is that Obama’s words have gone with the grain of these societies in a way that the sermons of Bush and Blair did not.

Any social ferment of this order brings huge uncertainty. And it is embarrassing to watch Western leaders struggling to divest themselves of allies from a bygone age. But if you ask which American leader contributed more to the cause of change in the Muslim world, you might not agree – yet – that it was Barack Obama, but you could surely accept that George Bush set it back.

Read the full article here – it’s excellent, really interesting too on relations with Iran

President Barack Obama holds a Cabinet Meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Feb. 1, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

12
Jan
11

‘blood libel’

I’m reluctant to infest this place any more with mention of that woman from Alaska, but in case you want to read commentary on her bizarre self-pitying ‘address to the nation’ today and her extraordinarily ignorant use of the term ‘blood libel’ here are a few links:

Steven Benen at Washington Monthly – The UK Guardian – Adam Clark Estes at Salon – Greg Sargent at the Washington Post – Ruth Marcus at the Washington Post – Howard Kurtz at The Daily Beast – even the right-wing Washington Examiner has its head in its hands

BBC: It’s not clear if she or her advisors understand why “blood libel” will be regarded as offensive by many American Jews. The term is overwhelmingly associated with a false accusation of despicable crimes committed by Jews against Christian children.

Conservative Jennifer Rubin:

And as Josh Marshall put it at TPM, “Today has been set aside to honor the victims of the Tucson massacre. And Sarah Palin has apparently decided she’s one of them.”

This is a seriously great article:

Peter Stanford (UK Independent): Sarah Palin was straining to look presidential. With the Stars and Stripes at her side, the former Governor of Alaska read a scripted address in an effort to rebut persistent claims that she was guilty by association over the deaths of six people and the wounding of a further 13, including the Democratic Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, at an Arizona supermarket.

The charges against her – which arose because the unashamedly gun-toting Palin had placed a rifle target over Arizona during the 2010 election to designate that Giffords was a politician she wanted out of the way – were not only unjust and reprehensible, she intoned soberly, but were “a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they [journalists and pundits] purport to condemn”.

Her use of the two words “blood libel” made my jaw drop.

…this was not just another of Palin’s trademark foot-in-mouth broadcast moments, mixing up North and South Korea, failing to name any of the “many” papers she reads daily, or “refudiating” her opponents’ taunts. No, Palin intended to say “blood libel”. The real question is, did she have any idea what the phrase actually meant and therefore of the offence it might – and has – caused?

The generous view is that she was desperately seeking a way to make “false accusation” seem more dramatic and herself a bit more wounded by the scapegoating slurs of her opponents.

….Palin’s grasp of history isn’t any more celebrated than her geography. She once suggested Russia shared a land border with the USA and described Africa as a country. Indeed her ignorance is seen as part of her charm by her supporters. So why would she know that “blood libel” has a very specific and ugly meaning that, even in 2011, remains odious and to be avoided at all costs?

The blood libel myth, widely practised in the Middle Ages, held that Jews kidnapped Christian children, sacrificed them, and then used their blood in unleavened bread at Passover. If it sounds like the sick fantasy of an internet-only horror flick, then many in medieval Europe took it as gospel and, as a consequence, thousands of Jews were killed or driven out of their homes in pogroms.

…Palin’s use of the emotive words stands out from the usual rough-and-tumble of political posturing for other reasons, not least that the anti-Semitic overtones of the phrase she chose to use jars when 30-year-old Gabe Zimmerman, one of those killed by gunman Jared Loughner, was Jewish, as is his boss, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, still in intensive care after a bullet wound to her brain.

…For Palin to present herself as the real victim when six people are dead and 13 in hospital is wrongheaded and self-centred, but that’s politicians for you.

For her to go on to liken her treatment to the profound injustice done to generations of Jews down the ages when in Tuscon a Jewish man is about to be buried, and a Jewish woman is fighting for her life, took my breath away.

The just-another-of-Sarah’s-inept-gaffes excuse is wearing a little thin.

…Sarah Palin is playing with fire. She has been one of the most effective practitioners of the use of words-as-weapons, damning Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms, for instance, as “death laws”. But just as such poisonous oratory can get the crowds cheering, it can also lay you low. Perhaps the real choice that faces Palin now is whether she wants to join the ranks of politicians whose gaffes and casual ignorance of history make them a joke, or step up into the responsible mainstream.

….if there was, as seems likely, even an iota of calculation in what Palin said – whether by her or her speechwriters – then right now she should be bowing her head in shame.

Read the full article here

10
Jan
11

‘an act of political violence in a polarised country’

Gary Younge (UK Guardian): Jared Loughner … was not working alone. True, the rampage apparently emerged from his confused, unstable and troubled mind. But it was also the byproduct of a polarised political culture underpinned by increasingly vitriolic, violent and vituperative rhetoric and symbolism.

….To dismiss these as the voices and actions of the marginal was to miss the point and misunderstand the trend. America is more polarised under Obama than it has been in four decades: the week he was elected gun sales leapt 50% year on year.

…. many of these extreme views and much of this antagonistic tone is explicitly sustained and implicitly condoned by the Republican hierarchy. When a congressman shouts “liar” at Obama during his state of the union speech he receives a huge spike in donations…..

…In few places was the national atmosphere played out more dramatically than in the border state of Arizona. In April Raul Grijalva, in Gabrielle Giffords’s adjacent constituency, faced bomb threats for opposing a new anti-immigration law. In October, his office was daubed with swastikas and white paint….

The connection between this rhetoric and Saturday’s events are not causal but contextual. The shooter was not likely to be acting under direct instructions but in an atmosphere that made such an attack more likely rather than less. Whatever his motives, this was a targetted act of domestic political violence…

…As Giffords struggles for her life and the country mourns its dead some insist it is too soon to draw broader political conclusions from this tragedy. But if those conclusions had been understood sooner, it is possible that such a tragedy might have been prevented.

Full article here

09
Jan
11

“it’s just very sad that anyone would shoot anyone”

The Guardian (UK): Paul Wellman laid his handwritten sign among the collection of candles, flowers and messages keeping vigil outside congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’s office. Then he stepped back and surveyed the scene.

To the right, another sign said: “Hate speech = murder”. But Wellman went further with his angry declaration in large black letters on white cardboard: “Blame Palin. Blame the Tea Party”.

The 60-something former miner did not wait to explain why. “They’re trying to say that a lone nut was responsible for this, but Sarah Palin and the Tea Party might as well have put the gun in his hand. They are the ones who painted Giffords as some kind of traitor,” he said.

Wellman did not take much notice of the small woman with the camera watching him from the edge of the car park. After he moved off, she stepped forward.

“There have been a number of these,” she said grabbing his sign and declining to give her name. “It’s wrong. Why make it about politics?” Then she carried off Wellman’s sign to dump it….

…Some see the accused killer, Jared Loughner, as a deranged individual acting on his own. Giffords’s father was among the first to point a finger elsewhere. As he rushed to his daughter’s hospital bed, 75-year-old Spencer Giffords was asked if she had any enemies. He wept and replied: “Yeah, the whole Tea Party.”

….Republicans rushed to denounce the attack. Tea Partiers, recognising that their movement might be badly tainted, quickly portrayed the shooting as the work of a lone, unhinged misfit.

But the local sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, said he suspected that the growing vitriol, hate and anger against the government, and the widening rhetoric of armed resistance in the political discourse, played a role in the shootings. The National Jewish Democratic Council said: “Many have contributed to the building levels of vitriol in our political discourse.”

The congresswoman, the first Jewish woman elected from Arizona, was a target for Tea Party rage after she voted in favour of what Palin denounced as the president’s “socialist” healthcare reforms and opposed what many described as racist new anti-immigration laws in Arizona.

The windows of her office were stoned or shot out, and Tea Party protests were regularly held at which Giffords was denounced as a traitor to the constitution and the country.

Like other members of Congress who supported healthcare reform, Giffords faced vitriolic attacks at town hall meetings by what she would call the “crazies”. Across the country, Tea Partiers accused their elected representatives of betraying America, of being Nazis or communists for supporting Obama’s attempt to ensure that everyone has access to healthcare. With the rhetoric came the regular allusions to armed resistance.

…During last year’s elections, Giffords was among Democrats targeted on Palin’s Facebook page through the crosshairs of a rifle … she was also the target of a campaign advert by her Tea Party-backed Republican opponent, Jesse Kelly … “Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly,” it said. Kelly appeared on his own website in camouflage gear, holding a gun to promote the event.

Probably unintentionally, Loughner also killed another hate figure when he opened fire at the shopping centre. John Roll was a federal judge who drew scorn and vitriol for ruling in favour of illegal immigrants in a lawsuit against an Arizona rancher in 2009. The police at the time said extremists made serious threats to kill Roll and his family, in part spurred by local talk radio hosts. US marshals put the judge and his wife under round-the-clock protection for a time.

…Dupnik said he saw a link between vicious anti-government rhetoric and the shootings ..…Not all of Giffords’s supporters agreed. As Natalie Kujawa – a Democrat who voted for Giffords – laid flowers outside the congresswoman’s office, she said that only one man was to blame for the tragedy.

“It was a mentally unstable person. It’s terrible but I think if everyone can take the higher road and conduct themselves with a little bit of grace. There’s a lot of people who are angry and I don’t think that’s going to do any of us any good.”

Kujawa laid her flowers near a sign that read: “Don’t make this about politics. Republicans and Democrats deplore this kind of hatred and violence.”

None of that mattered to a young nine-year-old boy called Sammy who arrived at the memorial carrying flowers with his father. He was there, he said, because the young girl who died, Christina-Taylor Green, had been the same age as him. Sammy said he didn’t know what to call the circumstances of her death. “It’s just very sad that anyone would shoot anyone,” he said.

Read the full article here




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