Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ category

Those JFK Assassination Conspiracy Theories May Not Be So Crazy After All

October 19, 2009

On November 22, 1963, something happened in Dallas that would haunt the American psyche for generations to come.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was gunned down in a motorcade in the heart of Dallas, Texas by an assassin’s bullet. He was later pronounced dead and was immediately replaced by then Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Lee Harvey Oswald, a former U.S. Marine and apparent defector, was charged with Kennedy’s murder. He was later gunned down by Jack Ruby, a nightclub owner who had shady connections with the Italian mafia. The Warren Commission, a federal investigation panel appointed by President Johnson to look into the assassination, deemed Oswald to be a “lone nut” who acted alone in slaying Kennedy.

These are the established “official” facts. Anything beyond this depends on your predisposition to believe any of the conspiracy theories that have been circulated over the years.

The New York Times recently reported that the CIA is still resistant to releasing documents from the early 1960s that could possibly shed some light on the assassination. If you believe the Warren Commission, Oswald was a “lone nut” who acted alone under no orders. If you believe Oliver Stone, an Oscar winning filmmaker whose controversial 1991 film “JFK” brought almost every major conspiracy theory into the public light, Oswald was anything but a lone wolf out to put his name in the history books.

The JFK assassination has been discussed many times before in the nearly 66 years that have passed since it happened. The image of John Kennedy Jr. saluting his dead father as his body was carried past him will forever be ingrained in our collective memories. It is not hard to view these conspiracy nuts as insensitive paranoid jerks that refuse to bury the past.

However, “conspiracy buffs” will argue that it is the rest of us who need to wake up. If we are so naïve to believe that it is impossible for our own president to be killed by means of conspiracy and deception, then we need to get out more. America may be the most free and democratic nation in the world, but we in no way immune to government/military corruption.

We all know that politicians sell their souls to special interest groups, corporations, and religious organizations in order to get their votes. We all know the military will cover up any scandal if it puts them in a bad light (My Lai massacre, anyone?). We should all be aware that during the Cold War, the CIA was doing things so secret even they probably had no idea what they were doing. None of this should come as a surprise to anyone.

It has been reported that shortly after 9/11, the CIA secretly authorized for top secret assassination teams to travel around the world killing al Qaeda leaders in retaliation for the attacks. This should sound familiar to anyone who knows about the “Wrath of God” operation set up by Mossad to kill Palestinians linked to the Black September terrorist group after the murders of 11 Israelis at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Though the CIA supposedly cancelled the al Qaeda assassination plan before it could begin, it is not a stretch to imagine that this practice is nothing new.

So what does this all mean? That the CIA really did kill Kennedy? And for what reason? Because he refused to support the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, which sought to remove Fidel Castro from power? Or perhaps it’s because he was soft on the Soviets after the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and allowed them to swallow up more nations to Communism. Or maybe because he didn’t want to play ball in Vietnam. All of these theories have been spread around.

To be completely serious and objective, we can never know for sure until all these secretive documents have been released to the public. The government claims they contain top secret information that could jeopardize our national security if they are leaked. Even though the Cold War is long over, apparently our new enemies in the Middle East can catch on and learn something valuable if they got their hands on them.

What we do know for sure is that all options should be put on the table. It’s not unpatriotic to believe that our own government would kill our own Commander in Chief. The 1960s were a rough time in U.S. history. The paranoia of the Cold War during the 1950s had us seeing Communism everywhere, even in our own backyard. We just came off an apocalyptic nuclear showdown with the Soviets that brought us to the brink of mutual assured destruction. And of course, there was the Domino Theory (which some scholars believe to be a fabrication), which believed that if South Vietnam fell to Communism, all of East Asia would soon follow.

We lived in times that were unparalleled before in our nation’s history. The intelligence and military communities actually believed our way of life was being threatened by the Soviet Union and their umbrella states. Kennedy was accused within many circles (mostly unfairly) of being “soft on Communism” and letting the Soviets have their way. This “appeasement” argument believed that it was the lack of resolve against fascism in the 1930s that led to the rise of Adolf Hitler and Imperial Japan.

All of this can possibly lead to many people concluding that Kennedy was killed because either he was too soft on Nikita Khrushchev, or Fidel Castro, or Ho Chi Minh, or all three of them. Whether he was or not is beside the point. What does matter is that many people believed he was not doing enough, and some of those voices came from within the Pentagon, CIA, and the White House.

This should lead any one of us to rethink our view of America and see that we are no different from any other country in the world. We may be bigger and richer than most others, but that does not mean we cannot do some terrible things in our own right. Critiquing our country is not the same as hating it. In fact, criticism means you love your country because you want it to improve and be better.

And we should all want it to be better. This is why it is essential that we learn about the activities of government, corporations, and other organizations/people that make important decisions in our country. This is why the media are so important. We need to keep the powers that be in check. If we do not, who is to say our current president or future presidents could not fall victim to assassination?

Thus, does this mean the CIA must be hiding something incriminating because they refuse to release so many documents? Possibly. Does this mean our country is continuing to be run by secret fascists who want nothing more than U.S. hegemony at all costs? I will not go that far, though there are plenty of people out there who would.

I think it is fair to say that we need to keep an open mind and rethink our definition of patriotism. If patriotism means loving your country no matter what decisions they make, then count me out. If patriotism means loving your country but being allowed to question your fellow countrymen with the desire to make things better, then I can get aboard with that. And all of us should, too.

It is no wonder why so many people today distrust their government. It didn’t start with Iraq, or torture allegations, or the JFK assassination, or Vietnam, or Watergate, or Monica Lewinsky, or Hurricane Katrina, or the Iran-Contra affair, it all started in 1776 when those colonists decided to form their own country free of monarchy, tyranny, and authoritarianism.

Things have been far from perfect since then, but it is the intrinsic human desire for freedom that will carry us well into the next century and beyond.


Is It Time to Finally Pull the Plug on Afghanistan?

October 8, 2009
U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal is only one of several voices President Obama is listening to.
U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal is only one of several voices President Obama is listening to.

Does anyone really understand what is happening in Afghanistan anymore? With President Obama in the midst of deciding what to do with this challenging, upsetting, and mind-numbing 8-year-old war, the American public should think hard about what this war has meant to us.

We invaded Afghanistan in December of 2001 in retaliation for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Everyone knows this. We were not there for oil, to stop nuclear proliferation, or to topple an unpopular dictator. We were there for reasons of vengeance, pure and simple.

Of course, America justified the invasion by saying we were there to liberate the Afghan people from the Taliban regime; a group of Islamic fundamentalists who oppressed women, murdered anyone who did not adhere to their strict doctrine, and prevented any economic, political, or social progress from blooming. These people were bad news. And of course, it did not help that they harbored al Qaeda, the terrorist network who killed nearly 3,000 Americans one fateful September morning.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has publicly advocated for President Obama to send additional troops to stamp out the insurgency once and for all. Usually a military general does not publicly announce such opinions, but that is beside the point. That is one voice that our president is hearing. Other voices are calling for him to pull out of Afghanistan completely. What makes this perspective unusual is its bipartisanship nature. Critics both on the right and the left think America should do this. When you have a mixture of conservatives and liberals agreeing on a major political issue, that means something significant.

Then again, there are plenty of voices in the media who believe Obama should stay the course and hope the Afghan government can get their act together. The August 20th presidential election in Afghanistan was wrought with allegations of fraud. President Hamid Karzai won a disputed election that international critics are decrying. Allegedly, government forces arrested anti-Karzai protesters, beat supporters of Karzai’s main opponent (the aptly named Abdullah Abdullah), stuffed ballots, and generally intimidated anyone who stood in his way of winning reelection.

Do any of these tactics sound familiar? Oh yeah, they sound like tactics the Taliban would use had they been into pseudo-democracy. It sounds like despotism has not completely left Afghanistan, even after 8 years of war. This proves that some things never change.

But this should not come as a surprise to anyone. If you know anything about Afghanistan’s history, there has not been a stable government in power there in quite a while. From the Soviet occupation of the 1980s to the current U.S.-led occupation, foreign powers have come in and tried to install their rule on the Afghan people. And all of these efforts have failed. Will this spell doom for the United States and NATO? One can only hope not.

McChrystal might be right in wanting to send more troops. Candidate Obama promised to send nearly 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in order to stamp out the Taliban, bring the last remnants of al Qaeda to justice, and make sure that Central Asian country is never again a breeding ground for terrorism (or is it “man-made disasters?”). All of these are ambitious goals; but are they achievable?

Critics of George W. Bush (and God knows there are plenty of them out there) argue he did not do enough to secure Afghanistan from chaos after the initial invasion. There is a lot of credibility to that argument. Bush seemed too bent on invading Iraq than he did on finishing the job in the country where the 9/11 attacks were conceived and planned. It seems reasonable to believe that Bush should have poured all his military efforts to secure Afghanistan, prevent Pakistan from becoming a hide-out place for al Qaeda, and encourage the international community to assist in nation-building.

But all that seems like a distant memory. The international community is rightfully hesitant to getting involved in Afghanistan because of all the instability that is going on over there. How are they to know that their money, effort, and manpower will not go to waste within 10 or so years? No one can know for sure. Just look at Somalia. How much money has the U.N. invested in that tiny African country? I don’t know for sure, but it’s more than what they are getting in return.

I am shifting my position on Afghanistan. I will continue to keep an open mind, but it might be time to pull the plug there. U.S. military casualties are soaring at record heights. More servicemen and women are being killed there than Iraq. Historians are calling Afghanistan a doomed mission, in line with Vietnam. The parallels between those two wars are striking. And of course, look at recent history. If the Soviets could not impose their will there, why can we?

But maybe imposing our freedom loving, secular democratic will is not possible. Afghanistan’s long and troubling history makes it almost impossible for real positive change to occur there anytime in the near future. The same goes with Iraq and Kosovo. Kosovo might be an independent country now, but they are far from secure. Trouble is brewing in that spot of the world as well.

President Obama says he wants clear, attainable, and achievable objectives spelled out before he makes a final decision. That is a smart move on his part. With millions of lives at stake, you do not want to rush into anything that you might regret later. Our military is exhausted from fighting two long bloody wars. If we’re going to expand the war in Afghanistan, we better have a clear strategy.

Obama is smart and I am sure he will make a smart decision. But then again, President Kennedy’s team was comprised of the Best and the Brightest, and look at what they did in Southeast Asia. So this means even the smartest people in the world can still make foolish decisions.

But then again, to be perfectly honest, maybe there is no clear cut best solution to fixing this mess. Maybe only time will tell. Perhaps this is one of those decisions where we have to make an executive decision, carry it out, and pray it goes well. It’s like being a quarterback in a football game: you just throw the ball and hope somebody catches it; preferably someone on your own team, of course.

So to answer the original question, does anyone really understand the ground situation in Afghanistan? It is quite possible even the Afghan government, as corrupt as they are, have no clue what will happen five years from now. Maybe that is why they are using so much violence to keep power. If they lose it, they could lose their country. Or maybe they are no better than the Taliban, who still hold significant power in neighboring Pakistan.

These are reasons why I am glad that I am not in a position to have to make these decisions. And I think I speak for plenty of other people as well.