Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Mattis seeks to shift US-Vietnam relations

A half-century after the Tet Offensive punctured American hopes of victory in Vietnam, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is visiting the former enemy in search of a different kind of win: incremental progress as partners in a part of the world the Pentagon has identified as vital for the United States to compete with China and Russia.
Mattis, a retired general who entered the Marine Corps during Vietnam but did not serve there, arrived in Indonesia on Monday where he’ll spend two days before visiting Hanoi for talks with senior government and military leaders.
By coincidence, Mattis will be in Vietnam just days before the 50th anniversary of the communist offensive on Jan. 30-31, 1968, when North Vietnam attacked an array of key objectives in the South, including the city of Hue, a former imperial capital and cultural icon on the Perfume River. At the time, Mattis was a senior at Columbia High School in Richland, Washington. The following year he joined the Marine Corps Reserves.
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oped: I am not a big fan of General Mattis read more:

Doctor who aided in locating Bin Laden deteriorating in jail, forgotten

Shakil Afridi has languished in jail for years — since 2011, when the Pakistani doctor used a vaccination scam in an attempt to identify Osama bin Laden’s home, aiding U.S. Navy Seals who tracked and killed the al-Qaida leader.
Americans might wonder how Pakistan could imprison a man who helped track down the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Pakistanis are apt to ask a different question: how could the United States betray its trust and cheapen its sovereignty with a secret nighttime raid that shamed the military and its intelligence agencies?
“The Shakil Afridi saga is the perfect metaphor for U.S-Pakistan relations” — a growing tangle of mistrust and miscommunication that threatens to jeopardize key efforts against terrorism, said Michael Kugelman, Asia program deputy director at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.

The U.S. believes its financial support entitles it to Pakistan’s backing in its efforts to defeat the Taliban — as a candidate, Donald Trump pledged to free Afridi, telling Fox News in April 2016 he would get him out of prison in “two minutes. … Because we give a lot of aid to Pakistan.” But Pakistan is resentful of what it sees as U.S. interference in its affairs.
Mohammed Amir Rana, director of the independent Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies in Islamabad, said the trust deficit between the two countries is an old story that won’t be rewritten until Pakistan and the U.S. revise their expectations of each other, recognize their divergent security concerns and plot an Afghan war strategy, other than the current one which is to both kill and talk to the Taliban.
“Shakil Afridi (is) part of the larger puzzle,” he said.
Afridi hasn’t seen his lawyer since 2012 and his wife and children are his only visitors. For two years his file “disappeared,” delaying a court appeal that still hasn’t proceeded. The courts now say a prosecutor is unavailable, his lawyer,Qamar Nadeem Afridi, told The Associated Press.

“Everyone is afraid to even talk about him, to mention his name,” and not without reason, said Nadeem, who is also Afridi’s cousin.
In Nadeem’s office, the wind whistles through a clumsily covered window shattered by a bullet. On another window, clear tape covers a second bullet hole, both from a shooting incident several years ago in which no suspects have been named. Another of Afridi’s lawyers was gunned down outside his Peshawar home and a Peshawar jail deputy superintendent, who had advocated on Afridi’s behalf, was shot and killed, said Nadeem.
Afridi used a fake hepatitis vaccination program to try to get DNA samples from bin Laden’s family as a means of pinpointing his location. But he has not been charged in connection with the bin Laden operation.
He was accused under tribal law alleging he aided and facilitated militants in the nearby Khyber tribal region, said Nadeem. Even the Taliban scoffed at the charge that was filed to make use of Pakistan’s antiquated tribal system, which allows closed courts, does not require the defendant to be present in court, and limits the number of appeals, he said.

If charged with treason — which Pakistani authorities say he committed — Afridi would have the right to public hearings and numerous appeals all the way to the Supreme Court, where the details of the bin Laden raid could be laid bare, something neither the civilian nor military establishments want, his lawyer said.
Tensions have grown between Pakistan and the U.S. since Trump’s New Year’s Day tweet in which he accused Pakistan of taking $33 billion in aid and giving only “deceit and lies” in return while harboring Afghan insurgents who attack American soldiers in neighboring Afghanistan. Days later, the U.S. suspended military aid to Pakistan, which could amount to $2 billion.
Infuriated by Trump’s tweet, Pakistan accused Washington of making it a scapegoat for its failure to bring peace to Afghanistan.
The Wilson Center’s Kugelman advocated a “scaled-down relationship” between the two countries. He said both sides need to agree to disagree on some issues and instead focus on those areas where they can agree to cooperate against terror groups that both regard as threats, including the Islamic State group and al-Qaida.

Pakistan and the Taliban sanctuaries it provides are a big part of the insurgents’ success in Afghanistan, but it’s only one of many factors, Kugelman said.
“It’s foolish to suggest that if the Pakistani sanctuaries were eliminated, the insurgency would magically go away and the U.S. would be able to prevail in Afghanistan,” he said. “The Taliban has persevered because the U.S. still struggles to fight wars against non-state actors, and because the Afghan government has remained a weak and corrupt entity that has failed to convince a critical mass of Afghans that it’s a better alternative to the Taliban.”
Afridi spends his days alone, isolated from a general prison population filled with militants who have vowed to kill him for his role in locating bin Laden, said Nadeem. Still, Nadeem said authorities are treating Afridi well and he is in good health, according to those who have seen him.
There was a no indication whether U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells brought Afridi’s case up in recent meetings in Pakistan. But in a statement, the U.S. State Department told the AP that Afridi has not been forgotten.

“We believe Dr. Afridi has been unjustly imprisoned and have clearly communicated our position to Pakistan on Dr. Afridi’s case, both in public and in private,” it said.
In the past, Pakistan has compared Afridi’s dilemma with demands for the release of Afia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman who is in U.S. custody convicted of trying to kill an American soldier in Afghanistan.
“To America, she (Siddiqui) is a terrorist,” said Kugelman. “To Pakistan, she is a wrongfully imprisoned innocent.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Songbird McCain Rips POTUS Again, This Time Over His New…
by: Andrew West 

There is little doubt in the minds of true conservatives that John McCain has far surpassed his recommended mileage as a U.S. Senator.

The oil changes and air filters are no longer bringing the elderly Senator back to operating condition, and his bald tires aren’t giving the republican party the grip they need to climb Capitol Hill in the current, icy cold weather that the democrats have impaired us with.

And please understand, this is no knock on McCain’s current health concerns.  That is beneath this writer’s tact threshold.  This vehicle analogy is simply about his unwillingness to update to Conservative Populist 2.0 software.
Now, as Donald Trump continues his work in rebalancing the scales of fair and accurate news coverage, McCain is once again bristling in the general direction of the Oval Office, claiming that Trump’s attacks on the press are dangerous precedents that would-be dictators are studiously taking notes on.

Said the aging legislator:

“‘He [Trump] has threatened to continue his attempt to discredit the free press by bestowing “fake news awards” upon reporters and news outlets whose coverage he disagrees with,’ McCain writes. ‘Whether Trump knows it or not, these efforts are being closely watched by foreign leaders who are already using his words as cover as they silence and shutter one of the key pillars of democracy.'”
And, not to leave us with merely one clip to be repeated ad nauseam in the mainstream media’s retelling of the “heroic” dissent of John McCain, the U.S. veteran and lawmaker continued.
“‘Trump’s attempts to undermine the free press also make it more difficult to hold repressive governments accountable,’ McCain continued. ‘For decades, dissidents and human rights advocates have relied on independent investigations into government corruption to further their fight for freedom. But constant cries of ‘fake news’ undercut this type of reporting and strip activists of one of their most powerful tools of dissent.'”

We get it John, you still remember all of the key words that your pal Hillary Clinton used to discredit the President.  Good on you.
This sort of RINO resistance is nothing new, unfortunately, as President Trump continues to battle the press and his own Congress to push his populist agenda forward.  This has led to an undeniable feeling of Trump and the American People versus The Status Quo – a reality that flip-flopping career politicians such as McCain are terrified of.