Daniel Larison

Merkel Running for Bundeskanzler: Why Is the CDU Happy?

Germany’s conservative opposition on Monday nominated Angela Merkel, a Protestant minister’s daughter from the formerly communist east, as its challenger to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, giving her the chance to become the country’s first female leader.

Merkel, 50, emerged as favorite to challenge Schroeder after the chancellor called for national elections to be advanced by a year following a shattering state election defeat for his party a week ago.

Merkel, who was greeted by tumultuous applause at the conservatives’ Berlin headquarters, pledged to make her priority tackling Germany’s 12 percent jobless rate — and moved to rebut government charges that she would govern as a “market radical.”

“At the center of my thinking and action will stand ways of creating work for people in Germany,” she said. “We need an agenda for work.”

Merkel also has spoken out Schroeder’s strident criticism of U.S. policy on Iraq and says good relations with Washington should be a “fundamental element” in German policy. ~Yahoo News

I haven’t been keeping tabs as closely on the European political scene as I used to (at some point it occurred to me that it was a complete waste of time), but I have learned enough about Ms. Merkel over the past few years to know that a Union government with her at the head would be an embarrassment to Germany and the CDU. Unlike many of the Catholics in her party, who seem to be the last to retain some sense of the Christian identity and convictions that have long since vanished from Christian Democracy everywhere, Ms. Merkel thought it wise to thumb her nose at Vatican statements against the Iraq war and openly embrace the poisonous policies of Mr. Bush. That she remains proud of this and believes it will serve her well in the election only underscores how politically dense this woman is.

The last thing a German government more docile vis-a-vis Washington needs is such an obvious, cloying puppet of American interests. Merkel will taint the CDU with the corruption of supporting hegemony that has so damaged Blair, Aznar and Berlusconi, and it is only the appalling economic management of the SPD that will keep the CDU from being ousted on account of it. You can attribute her foolish encouragement of seriously considering Turkish entry to the same need to follow Washington’s lead. She says this even after Stoiber and the party took an unusually hard line against easing immigration restrictions in the last Bundestag. For a country with 12% unemployment, Turkish entry would be uniquely disadvantageous.

She has gained this chance at running for chancellor much the same way Bob Dole obtained the presidential nomination: it is “her turn,” and the party is going to give it to her on the assumption that even Angela Merkel cannot screw up a victory as secure as defeating the wounded and battered Gerhard Schroeder. This tells me the CDU is far too overconfident and will fight the election badly. The Union may still win, but will have a mandate to reign and not to rule.

Schroeder and the SPD were on the ropes at the last election as well, and all signs pointed to his certain defeat. However, thanks to Iraq and the flooding of 2002 (and Schroeder’s associated “I feel your pain” routine) Schroeder survived and stumbled along, even if his party has been routed in every state and local election (even in Hamburg!) over the past two years. This may be Schroeder’s time to fall, but Bavarian premier Stoiber would have been an all together more competent head of government. In fact, look at any of the opposition leaders besides Merkel and you will find more politically savvy individuals.

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The Continued Souring of the “Tulip” Revolution

Dinara Asanbaeva, academic supervisor at a political science academy sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said the arrangement also made her doubt both men’s commitment to democracy.

“These leaders are just trying to divide up the benefits of the revolution between themselves,” she said. “It’s a change of the political elite but not of the political system.”

People are also concerned because Bakiyev will inherit a constitution — retooled by Akayev in the ’90s — that gives the president sweeping powers over parliament and makes impeachment all but impossible.

There are plans to reform the constitution by referendum in September, and Bakiyev has pledged to support such moves if he is elected. But under the current constitution, Kyrgyzstan’s 5 million citizens would have few legal options if Bakiyev were to go back on his word.

“I’m afraid that with all the power he will have after the elections, it will be very difficult for him to resist,” Asanbaeva said. “Every human being is weak, and Mr. Bakiyev has a past in [Akayev's] government. The only reason he was in opposition was because of personal differences with Akayev, not out of principle.” ~The Washington Post

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Finally, Some Official U.S. Criticism of Uzbekistan

U.S. senators said yesterday that the Uzbek government’s harsh response to an uprising will affect relations with Washington, adding their voices to calls for the Central Asian nation’s leadership to allow an international investigation into the bloodshed.

The visit by Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John E. Sununu of New Hampshire increased U.S. pressure on Uzbekistan to drop its resistance to an international probe amid widely varying death tolls from the violence.

The former Soviet republic is a U.S. ally in the war on terror and hosts an American military base for operations in neighboring Afghanistan.

“Without an international investigation, it will be very difficult to move forward and have the relationship that we would like to have,” Mr. Graham said at a press conference. ~The Washington Times

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Winning Hearts and Minds

US troops outraged Iraq’s new government yesterday by arresting one of the country’s foremost Sunni leaders only to release him later and call the whole episode a mistake.

Firing stun grenades, American soldiers burst into the home of Mohsen Abdul-Hamid, head of the largest Sunni Arab political party, shortly after dawn. They forced a hood over his head and dragged him away along with his three sons.

Mohsen Abdul-Hamid is widely considered to be a moderate
A number of Sunni politicians and religious leaders have been accused of links to Iraq’s insurgency – but never Mr Abdul-Hamid.

A Sunni Kurd, he is widely considered a moderate and played a leading role in bringing Sunni Arabs who boycotted January’s elections back into the political process.

He was freed 10 hours later, but the US military offered no explanation for his detention and stopped short of apologising.

“It was determined that he was detained by mistake and should be released,” US central command said in a statement. “Coalition forces regret any inconvenience and acknowledge Mr Hamid’s co-operation in resolving this matter.” ~The Daily Telegraph

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Cheney: Insurgency in Last Throes

Insurgents determined to flout an Iraqi-led security offensive in Baghdad put on a bloody show of defiance with a dual suicide attack which left up to 30 people dead and more than 100 injured.

The attacks, carried out in the predominantly Shia town of Hillah, south of Baghdad, came on the second day of Operation Lightning, the biggest security sweep in the capital since the war ended in 2003. ~The Independent

The chief of police in Basra admitted yesterday that he had effectively lost control of three-quarters of his officers and that sectarian militias had infiltrated the force and were using their posts to assassinate opponents.

Speaking to the Guardian, General Hassan al-Sade said half of his 13,750-strong force was secretly working for political parties in Iraq’s second city and that some officers were involved in ambushes.

Other officers were politically neutral but had no interest in policing and did not follow his orders, he told the Guardian.

“I trust 25% of my force, no more.”

The claim jarred with Basra’s reputation as an oasis of stability and security and underlined the burgeoning influence of Shia militias in southern Iraq. ~The Guardian

The insurgency in Iraq is “in the last throes,” Vice President Dick Cheney says, and he predicts that the fighting will end before the Bush administration leaves office.

In a wide-ranging interview Monday on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” Cheney cited the recent push by Iraqi forces to crack down on insurgent activity in Baghdad and reports that the most-wanted terrorist leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had been wounded.

The vice president said he expected the war would end during President Bush’s second term, which ends in 2009.

“I think we may well have some kind of presence there over a period of time,” Cheney said. “The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.” ~CNN

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The American People: Against the Iraq war and Apathetic

There is a strange disconnect in America at the moment, with the press partly to blame but in the position to do something about it, or at least explain it. You may be surprised to learn that nearly 6 in 10 Americans feel the Iraq war is “not worth it,” according to a recent Gallup poll. Exactly 50% feel that President Bush “deliberately misled” them on the issue of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and virtually the same number call the war an out-and-out “mistake.” More than 56% now say the war is going badly for the United States. Gallup also recently found that 46% of those polled say we should start withdrawing troops.

Yet there are few marches in the streets (or anywhere else), and even fewer editorials in major newspapers calling for a phased pullout or setting a deadline for withdrawal. But that’s not my main concern here. No matter where you stand on the Iraq war, you’ve got to wonder: What’s going on here at home? Yet few in the press have set out to explore this gap between what appears to be wide public anger and apathy: the enormous number of Americans who support our troops while, at least indirectly, devaluing their service by claiming this is a war not worth fighting.

For months, E&P Online has tracked various Gallup polls on this subject, and watched the numbers rise and fall. After the Iraqi elections in January, public opinion briefly shifted in a more positive direction, but that was quickly reversed with a return of wide violence and a rising American death toll this spring. Yet despite all the front-page coverage and punditry in the papers, it still seems that the war, and any deep feelings about it, are stuck in slow motion, or in quicksand.

That’s why every week when we consult Gallup, I’m always surprised to find the growing public doubts about the war. Most of the time, in our work and play, you’d hardly know a war was going on. There is more opposition to this war than there was in 1968 with regard to Vietnam, yet far less public and editorial protest. That 57% of Americans say the war is “not worth it” is haunting: such clarity, and such acceptance. ~Greg Mitchell, Editor and Publisher

This mystery of this disconnect can be resolved fairly quickly. Even after last week’s failed vote calling for a withdrawal plan, discontent in Congress remains the province of the ‘backbenchers’ in both parties, and no one of any prominence in the congressional leadership has dared to utter the word withdrawal. Without a signal from media and political elites, the public will remain docile and quiescent, even if it is furious. Such is the state of American self-government, as it is inevitably the lot of any mass political order to be guided by and be dependent on its demagogues.
Read More…

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Rosen and Weissman to Be Indicted Under Espionage Act

The U.S. Justice Department is expected to file indictments against two former senior American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) staffers – Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman – and, according to sources familiar with the affair, the charges will be subsumed under the Espionage Act.

A Virginia grand jury is now examining the evidence in the case, which involved receipt of classified defense information from Larry Franklin, a Pentagon official, and its transfer to the representative of a foreign country, Naor Gilon, of the Israeli embassy in Washington.

Sources involved in the case confirmed that the Espionage Act is on the agenda. However, there is also the possibility that the Justice Department is raising the intention to use that law with the purpose of reaching a plea bargain concerning a lesser offense, albeit one that is still covered by anti-espionage legislation in the U.S.

Presumably, if indeed such an indictment is filed against two former top-level AIPAC staff members, then Gilon’s name will come up, even though he is not a suspect. Israeli officials say he was never questioned in the affair. Gilon heads the political department at the embassy.

According to the sources, the grand jury will submit indictments against Rosen, the former head of foreign policy for the lobbying organization, and against Weissman, who was responsible for the Iranian brief in AIPAC. The grand jury is expected to hand down its indictment against Franklin this week. He is suspected of handing over the classified information. That indictment is expected to be similar to the criminal complaint already filed by the FBI. ~Haaretz

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Vive la France! Non a la constitution de l’UE!

France has resoundingly rejected the proposed European Union constitution, plunging the EU into crisis and French politics into confusion.

The result of the referendum was a massive 56 per cent for the “no”, against 44 per cent for the “yes”, according to Dominique de Villepin, the Interior Minister. An unusually high turnout of 70 per cent of the 42 million voters had briefly raised hopes that the great legion of “undecided” might still tip the outcome to the “yes”.

But the results confirmed the predictions of opinion polls that a majority of French voters would repudiate all mainstream parties and plunge the EU into one of the deepest crises in its history. The French “no” is likely to encourage a Dutch “no” on Wednesday.

Rejection by a large, founding member state at the heart of Europe will, in effect, kill the proposed constitution stone dead. This would, at the least, force the enlarged 25-nation union to stumble on with institutions and rules designed for the original club of six. But last night in their initial reactions, EU leaders urged the continuation of the treaty’s ratification process. ~The Independent

Raffarin’s ministry has been an unmitigated failure from beginning to end. It began shortly after M. Chirac’s dubious, Stalinesque non-mandate of 80% in the presidential elections, trundled along stupidly through three years of mismanagement and domestic political weakness, the only highlight of which was M. Sarkozy’s law-and-order approach, and finished with a colossal failure that will leave Supermenteur‘s legacy in the wastebin. I pity M. de Villepin if he is called upon to pilot this ruined government. He is an unusually intelligent man, as far as anyone can say this of a professional administrator, and would not willingly subject himself to the political damage of taking over at this point. But he also suffers from the perennial flaw of being Chirac’s loyal follower, so he will likely become PM if only to deny Sarkozy an opportunity of causing trouble in the party.

The European constitution has been, by all rights, an irremediable disaster for Brussels. European political identity has been put to the test and been found to be hugely unpopular in those very lands where it was supposed to be strongest. There will be no more browbeating new and recent entrants with lectures on being “good Europeans” who must accept the constitution without protest. The French have made sure of that.

The EU has been the belated victim of the Cold War in one way: the Soviet bloc prevented rapid, pan-European expansion of a common market early on when all the devastated countries of Europe would have been more prone to leap at the chance. During the last 15 years, while the eastern Europeans have been discovering the highs and lows of independence and quasi-self-government, we have seen expansion proceed too slowly for all member states to be integrated to a point where they might have had many more common interests in ratifying a political union (not that this would have been a good idea, of course, but it would have been more likely). Attribute slow expansion to the sclerotic bureaucracy of the EU itself and the now long-established institutional privileges of earlier members. As long as the EU was a redistributive subsidy system, older members would have little incentive to accommodate newcomers. Our federal project and rapid expansion of states in the Union did not suffer from these absurdities because the incorporation of new states was not premised on the new members getting anything except full representation in Congress. Had redistributive socialist theories prevailed in early America, our larger, wealthier states would also have had no interest in forging a “more perfect Union.”

The Irish fought the Nice treaty as long and hard as they did because they would have been losing real political clout in the decision-making process of the Union. Had it been possible for more countries been incorporated early on, the impracticality of the liberum veto-like power of each country to block changes would have become apparent very quickly. The French ‘non’ is simply the latest in a long line of signals that the older member states both treasure what sovereignty they possess and enjoy the benefits system as it stands, and no measure of babbling about European unity will overcome these tangible goods.

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In Eternal Memory: Memorial Day

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication “To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead” (Source: Duke University’s Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920). While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860′s tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 – 363) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis’ birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee. ~U.S. Memorial Day.org

My great uncle, Luther B. Plumer III, known to his friends and family simply as Lou, fell at Iwo Jima sixty years ago. He had volunteered for the Marines immediately after Peal Harbor. My family and I honour his memory and sacrifice even today. May his memory be eternal.

We honour all those who have died in the wars of this country, including the over 1,600 Americans who have fallen in the present, unfortunate conflict, regardless of whether those wars were just. Soldiers are performing their duty honourably when they go to war. Let us hope and pray that no more such honourable men need perish in any other fruitless conflicts.

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Council for National Interest Foundation Takes on AIPAC

Today’s New York Times (print edition) has a full-page advertisement on page 5 from the Council for the National Interest Foundation headlined:

AIPAC’s Agenda is Not America’s

The ad is well-done and makes excellent points, including: ISRAEL, STOP SPYING ON AMERICA! I cannot remember an explicit anti-AIPAC ad ever running in a mainstream paper.

The ad is signed by two former Congressmen, Paul Findley (R-Illinois), Paul “Pete” McCloskey (R-California), and former Senator James Abourezk (D-South Dakota). ~Eric Garris, Antiwar.com

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