Time magazine. One big loser in the Russian-Georgian war was Israel

How is it if you stand up to bully like Russia that makes you a loser 😕


It is important that the entire world understands that what is happening in Georgia now will affect the entire world order,” Georgian Cabinet Minister Temur Yakobashvili said last weekend. “It’s not just Georgia’s business, but the entire world’s business.” Such sentiments would have been unremarkable but for the fact that Yakobashvili was expressing himself in fluent Hebrew, telling Israeli Army Radio that “Israel should be proud of its military, which trained Georgian soldiers.”

However, the impression that Israel had helped bolster the Georgian military was one the Israeli Foreign Ministry was anxious to avoid. Last Saturday it reportedly recommended a freeze on the further supply of equipment and expertise to Georgia by Israeli defense contractors. (Israel doesn’t supply foreign militaries directly, but its private contractors must get Defense Ministry approval for such deals.) The Israelis decided to refrain from authorizing new defense contracts, although those currently in effect will be fulfilled. Israel stressed that the contracts are to provide equipment for defensive purposes. But if the Israelis were looking to downplay the significance of military ties, they weren’t helped by comments like Yakobashvili’s — or by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s enthusing at a press conference earlier this week that “the Israeli weapons have been very effective.”

Nor did the Russians fail to notice. “Israel armed the Georgian army,” grumbled General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of staff of the Russian military, at a press conference in Moscow earlier this week. An Israeli paper had, last weekend, quoted an unnamed official warning that Israel needed “to be very careful and sensitive these days. The Russians are selling many arms to Iran and Syria, and there is no need to offer them an excuse to sell even more advanced weapons.” As if on cue, on Wednesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in Moscow hoping to persuade Russia to sell him sophisticated air-defense systems — and reportedly offering the Russian navy the use of one of its Mediterranean ports. Late on Wednesday, the Israeli Foreign Ministry announced that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev had spoken on the phone to clear the air over the Georgia conflict and Russian arms sales to Syria.

The extent of involvement in Georgia by Israeli defense contractors may be overstated, and most of the equipment used by the Georgian military comes from the U.S. and other suppliers. Still, Israeli companies had been sufficiently involved in supplying specialized equipment and advanced tactical training to the Georgian military that the connection — and Russia’s perception of it — created a ripple of anxiety in Israeli government circles. Israeli officials say that, in anticipation of a showdown between Georgia and Russia, Israel began to scale back the involvement of Israeli companies in Georgia as early as the end of 2007. Georgia’s Yakobashvili charged this week that Israel, “at Russia’s behest,” had downgraded military ties with Georgia, a decision he branded a “disgrace.”

Israel’s weapons sales, just like Russia’s, are driven by the commercial interests of domestic arms industries. Israeli military exports to Georgia are driven more by the logic of business than by a strategic choice to back Tbilisi against Moscow — indeed, the Israeli response since the outbreak of hostilities is a reminder that, on balance, even a relatively cool friendship with Russia may be more important to Israel than a close alliance with tiny Georgia. Despite Israel’s pecuniary imperative, Georgia has used these commercial military ties to press closer ties on Israel.

President Saakashvili has noted that both his minister responsible for negotiations over South Ossetia (Yakobashvili) and his Defense Minister, Davit Kezerashvili, had lived in Israel before moving to post-Soviet Georgia. According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the Georgian leader this week enthused that in Tbilisi, “both war and peace are in the hands of Israeli Jews.” Working through the Georgian Defense Ministry (and with the approval of its Israeli counterpart), Israeli companies are reported to have supplied the Georgians with pilotless drones, night-vision equipment, anti-aircraft equipment, shells, rockets and various electronic systems. Even more important than equipment may have been the advanced tactical training and consultancy provided, as private contractors, by retired top Israeli generals such as Yisrael Ziv and Gal Hirsch, the man who commanded Israeli ground forces during their disastrous foray into Lebanon in 2006. (Never one to resist an opportunity to mock his enemies, Hizballah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah quipped in a speech this week, “Gal Hirsch, who was defeated in Lebanon, went to Georgia, and they too lost because of him.”) Not necessarily: Russia applied overwhelming force against the tiny Georgian military, which, according to Israeli assessments, still managed to punch above its weight.

The Russians were piqued by Israel’s military trade with Georgia even before the latest outbreak of hostilities — Moscow expressed its annoyance over the pilotless drones supplied by an Israeli company to the Georgians, three of which were downed by Russian aircraft over South Ossetia in recent months. Obviously mindful of the need to avoid provoking Russia, Israel declared off-limits certain weapons systems the Georgians had asked for, such as Merkava tanks and advanced anti-aircraft systems. “We have turned down many requests involving arms sales to Georgia, and the ones that have been approved have been duly scrutinized,” a Defense Ministry official told the Israeli daily Yediot Ahoronot amid concerns raised over a possible fallout from the Israeli ties to the Georgian military. The extent of damage to the Israeli-Russia relationship — if indeed there is any — remains to be seen. Despite General Nogovitsyn’s comments, Israeli officials say they have received no formal complaints from Russia over ties with Georgia.

Israel’s strategic priority now is countering the threat it sees in Iran’s nuclear program, and on that front, Russian cooperation is essential. If the Israelis are to achieve their objective of forcing Iran to end uranium enrichment through diplomatic coercion, they will need Russian support for escalating U.N. sanctions — a course of action for which Russia has thus far shown little enthusiasm. And if Israel were to opt for trying to destroy Tehran’s nuclear facilities through a series of air strikes, then the presence of the sophisticated Russian S-300 missile system in Iran would considerably raise the risk to Israeli pilots. Unfortunately for Israel, however, there may be little it can do to shape Moscow’s Iran policy for the simple reason that Israel is not a major factor in Russia’s strategic outlook. Moscow’s actions on Iran are less likely to be determined by Israel supplying a few drones to Georgia than they are to be shaped, for example, by the deployment over extreme Russian objections of U.S. interceptor missiles on Polish soil.

John McCain secretly planning to kill the UN ?

And this is a bad thing ?


Johann Hari: John McCain and his secretive plot to ‘kill the UN’



All too often, it is used as a blue punch-bag for any old complaint about the state of the world

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Does John McCain have a “hidden agenda” to “kill the UN”? That’s what the man who devised McCain’s big set-piece foreign policy proposal says – and he’s delighted it is sailing silently through the presidential election campaign towards success.


This story begins with a Republican presidential candidate who, despite the hype, doesn’t seem to know much about foreign affairs. McCain recently talked at length about problems on the “Iraq/Pakistan border” – the countries are a thousand miles apart. Asked how to deal with Darfur, he mused about “bringing pressure on the government of Somalia”. Uh – it’s Sudan, Senator McCain. And he keeps expressing his desire to build up US relations with Czechoslovakia, a country that hasn’t existed for 15 years.

But McCain does know one thing: he doesn’t like the United Nations. He championed George Bush’s appointment of John Bolton as US ambassador to the UN – precisely because Bolton scorns the UN as “irrelevant” and “a twilight zone”. He even announced “there is no such thing as the United Nations”. It was like appointing Marilyn Manson as ambassador to the Vatican. This is part of a long seam of thinking on the American right: they opposed Franklin D Roosevelt’s spearheading of the United Nations as a fetter on American power, and have never been properly reconciled to it. Republican congresses have refused to authorise US dues to the UN – so there is now a backlog of $2.8bn (£1.5bn) outstanding.

Yet McCain cannot oppose the UN outright – because the American people support it so passionately. Contrary to the yokel-myth, a typical opinion poll – by Global Public Opinion – just found that 64 per cent of Americans think the UN is doing a good job, compared to just 28 per cent who support George Bush. Some 72 per cent of Americans want the UN to play a bigger role.

So McCain has decided to build up an innocuous-sounding alternative called a “League of Democracies”. It would be an alliance of countries the US labels democratic that can be used to legitimise US military actions. Charles Krauthammer, the conservative journalist who invented the plan, says: “What I like about it is, it’s got a hidden agenda. It looks as if it’s about listening and joining with allies… except the idea here, which McCain can’t say but I can, is to essentially kill the UN. Nobody’s going to walk out of the UN. There’s a lot of emotional attachment to it in the US. How do you kill it? You create a parallel institution.” Gradually – over decades – McCain hopes it would make the UN wither away.

Any response needs to start by admitting the UN has serious imperfections. Its structure is absurdly antiquated, with the permanent members of the Security Council frozen as the winners of the Second World War. The Human Rights Commission became an obscenity, offering places to Sudan and Saudi Arabia. There have been some horrible scandals in the past decade: UN peacekeepers who commit sexual abuse still aren’t properly investigated, and some of them cut corrupt deals with the murderous Congolese militias they were supposed to stop. Even Kofi Annan’s son Kojo has been involved in some dubious dealings.

Those of us who support the UN should be more outraged by these failures than anyone else. But the US government has also committed horrible abuses and been riddled with corruption – and nobody suggests the solution is to abolish it. No: it is to make it live up to its greatest ideals.

In addition to these real flaws, the UN is too often used as a bright blue punch-bag for any old complaint about the state of the world. For example, the UN is routinely blamed for not intervening in Burma, or Zimbabwe, or Georgia – but the UN has no army of its own; it is only as good as its members. Blaming the UN for these failures is like blaming Wembley Stadium when your football team loses a match.

The UN’s positive achievements are almost never mentioned. It was the UN vaccination programme that abolished smallpox – an agonising disease that killed hundreds of millions of people – from the human condition. It was the UN that talked Kennedy and Khrushchev back from the brink when they were poised to incinerate the Earth.

The League would not even live up to its limited pro-democracy billing. If you study McCain’s foreign policy statements, you find that for him “democracy” doesn’t mean a free and openly elected leader. No: it means a leader who supports US demands.

You can see this if you compare McCain’s reactions over the past fortnight to two different separatist movements: in Georgia and Bolivia. When it comes to Georgia, he says it is obscene for South Ossetians to secede from a country they never felt part of, and have never been directly ruled by. He orders the people there to decline the support of the foul Putin regime next door and remain glued to the government of Georgia, against their will, for the sake of keeping the country together. However, when it comes to Bolivia, he actively encourages separatism. The Bush administration – with McCain’s support – has been lavishing cash on separatists in the gas-rich regions of this South American country in the hope that they will declare independence.

Why does McCain think separatism is “evil” in one part of the world, and “necessary” in the other? The answer lies in the ground. In Georgia, the democratic-but-dissident-bashing government lets the US control the oil and gas that pass through. In Bolivia, the impeccably democratic government of Evo Morales wants to control it on their own. Morales is asking US gas companies to pay their fair share, and using the proceeds to lift his own people out of poverty. For that, he is dubbed “authoritarian”.

So there’s McCain’s definition of democracy: if you let us control your resources, you’re a democracy. If you try to control your resources yourself, you’re a dictatorship. Those of us who believe democracy is the most precious political value of all should be repelled to see it reduced to a propaganda term.

On an increasingly multipolar planet that has begun to disastrously heat up, the need for a shared set of rules we can all push our leaders to obey is greater than ever. But how do we make it work? We need to look beyond the cagey centrism of Obama – still too determined by America’s oil addiction, and the capturing of its politics by big money – to genuinely radical ideas.

Albert Einstein thought the UN General Assembly should be directly elected, and in turn appoint the Security Council. This would create an even greater pro-UN momentum all over the world; and its peoples would immediately look to it in any crisis. The vision of a Parliament of Man is obviously distant, but it is a shimmering goal to begin progressing towards. John McCain would slap us back in the opposite direction – towards a Hobbesian chaos regulated only by raw American power

AL Qaeda suffering in the Propaganda war as well as military war

Beginning of the end


Terrorists’ propaganda takes hit in Iraq


By Jim Michaels – USA Today
Posted : Thursday Aug 21, 2008 18:49:14 EDT

WASHINGTON — Military successes in Iraq have nearly crippled al-Qaida’s ability to produce battlefield propaganda, hampering for now its ability to recruit fighters and raise money, the U.S. military and analysts say.

The amount of Web statements and videos attributed to the main al-Qaida group in Iraq fell to 12 in May from more than 200 in May 2007, according to SITE Intelligence Group, an independent organization that tracks terrorist Web activity.

Air Force Col. Scott Maw, a U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, described al-Qaida’s propaganda operations in Iraq as “severely degraded.”

Terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida have proved resourceful in the past and have quickly adapted to setbacks, however.

While publicity material linked to Iraq has been declining, the Taliban in Afghanistan have been increasing their presence on the Web in recent months.

There were more than 100 Taliban statements on terrorist-affiliated forums in May, up from about 24 in May 2007, according to SITE. The Taliban’s propaganda is not as professional as the material produced by al-Qaida in Iraq, which is “more polished and has superior production values,” said Rita Katz, director of SITE.

Insurgents have been careful to film most of their attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces over the years, ensuring they get wide distribution on the Internet. The videos had become a staple on terrorist-affiliated Web sites.

The publicity helps prove to financial contributors that the groups are effective and also aids recruiting.

The decline in al-Qaida publicity in Iraq is largely a reflection of broad successes in disrupting the organization.

The U.S. military also has been able to specifically target al-Qaida’s propaganda cells — in addition to other networks — as U.S. intelligence has improved in recent years.

The cells are responsible for producing videos, statements and training films.

Last month, operations directed against propaganda cells in Iraq resulted in the killing or capture of 11 cell members and the seizure of more than 800 gigabytes of data, Maw said. The data include videos, propaganda fliers, speeches and instruction manuals.

The decline in violence and reduction in publicity material has also moderated the way Iraq is covered on Arab news stations, such as Al-Jazeera, which had been criticized by the Bush administration for its coverage early in the war.

Arab satellite news channels have shifted their coverage away from violence toward more stories on Iraqi politics and other subjects, said Ramez Maluf, a professor at Lebanese American University in Beirut and an expert on Arab news channels.

Iraq’s government is now viewed with more legitimacy in the Arab news media, which has helped broaden the coverage, Maluf said.

“The one thing that is visible is the increasing treatment of Iraq and the Iraqi government as a reality,” Maluf said.

Today Georgia, Tomorrow Ukraine

Black Sea Ports

ACORN demands Pasadina Texas Police stop arresting Illegal “Brown” people



KHOU.com staff report  

PASADENA, Texas — Members of the community group ACORN marched on the Pasadena police station on Thursday, to complain about what they consider police harassment of Hispanics as a means to enforce immigration laws.

The group had hoped to meet with acting Pasadena Police Chief Michael Jackson, but instead had to deliver a list of questions they sought to be answered.

Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now member Jose Valdez accused the police department of pulling over people “because their skin is brown” and alleged that in addition to asking for the drivers’ licenses and proof of insurance of seeking out the drivers’ Social Security numbers. He said the methods were a tactic to enforce federal immigration laws.

Valdez complained too about Mayor Johnny Isbell’s recent order to crack down on drivers who do not have state mandated liability insurance. Earlier this year Isbell pushed through a zero-tolerance policy within Pasadena when drivers are found not to have liability insurance.

The policy leads to an almost automatic impounding of the driver’s car and in some cases arrest.

“Why is Mayor Isbell been enforcing the insurance laws that are in affect for Texas and the fact that they have been targeting Hispanics and they don’t stop as many whites or any other people with a tone of skin other brown,” said Valdez. “It’s costing us money to be able to get our cars back, to be able to get people out of jail for having to pay bail bonds to get them out.”

ACORN was also seeking to have the Pasadena Police Department to accept Mexican consulate identification cards as proper means of ID.

Police department spokesman Vance Mitchell said while the chief was unable to meet with the group; he would answer the questions listed on the two-page letter from ACORN. Mitchell said he was also unaware of any complaints that Pasadena police had been targeting Hispanics or engaging in harassment of people because of their skin color or race.

The growing Syrian Ballistic missile threat to Israel


Shaping Up The Super SCUDs Of Syria

August 21, 2008: Syria has been testing its ballistic missile inventory lately, with over a dozen missiles fired in the last few months. Israel has made no secret of the fact that, in a future war with Syria, they estimate that there would be as many as 3,300 Israeli casualties (including up to 200 dead). That’s if Syria just used its long range missiles armed with conventional warheads (high explosives or cluster bombs). If the Syrians used chemical warheads, Israeli casualties could be as high as 16,000. Over 200,000 Israelis would be left homeless, and it’s believed about a 100,000 would seek to leave the country.

Syria has underground storage and launch facilities for its arsenal of over a thousand SCUD missiles. Armed with half ton high explosive and cluster bomb warheads, the missiles have ranges of 500-700 kilometers. Syria also has some 90 older Russian Frog-7 missiles (70 kilometer range, half ton warhead) and 210 more modern Russian SS-21 missiles (120 kilometer range, half ton warhead) operating with mobile launchers. There are also 60 mobile SCUD launchers. The Syrians have a large network of camouflaged launching sites for the mobile launchers. Iran and North Korea have helped Syria build underground SCUD manufacturing and maintenance facilities. The Syrian missiles are meant to hit Israeli airfields, missile launching sites and nuclear weapons sites, as well as population centers. Syria hopes to do enough damage with a missile strike to cripple Israeli combat capability.

Israel has long been aware of the Syrian capabilities and any war with Syria would probably result in some interesting attacks on the Syrian missile network. The SCUD is a liquid fuel missile and takes half an hour or more to fuel and ready for launch. So underground facilities are a major defensive measure against an alert and astute opponent like Israel. Syria has some solid fueled SS-21 missiles (and is shopping for more) these only have a range of 120 kilometers.

It is feared that the recent Syrian tests are partly training exercises to see how ready the missile launcher crews are. Some of the tests may have tested new guidance systems, perhaps using GPS or Russian Glonass to attain high accuracy. Syria has been working more closely with Russian military suppliers lately, and has been a client state of Iran for over two decades.

The Baghdad diarist returns


Remember Scott Thomas Beauchamp, that soldier who wrote candidly about the dehumanizing effects of the war for The New Republic while pursuing a passionate affair with the TNR intern fact-checking his pieces until the conservablogosphere began campaigning to get him shitcanned? Former TNR staffer Spencer “Attackerman” Ackerman tracked him down in Germany for a fascinating profile in next month’s Radar. The story contains a lot of chilling details about Beauchamp’s experiences at war, like mass graves and running over dogs in Bradley Fighting Vehicles and how a mob of soldiers in a mess hall mock a woman whose face has been gruesomely disfigured by an improvised explosive device, but probably the most nauseating passage describes what it was like for the 24-year-old Army private to be the target of evildoers and insurgents and such while simultaneously being the target of an internet struggle session: “I began to make mistakes. Once I nearly forgot my eye protection before a mission. I was thinking about bloggers as much as I was thinking about my buddies,” he tells the magazine. “That scared me.” Tell us about it.

In the end TNR retracted Beauchamp’s columns in a hand-wringy 7,000-word piece called Fog Of War describing in painstaking (and also, gratuitous) detail their efforts to corroborate Beauchamp’s claims of which Beauchamp’s fact-checker-turned-wife Elspeth Reeve says: “That piece says, ‘Pity me. I’m a victim of these two crazy kids.'” (She no longer works for them, duh!) (But Beauchamp is still in the Army!)

The big takeaway of the piece is that Beauchamp is an eminently decent, credible young who made a few mistakes — the infamous “mess hall incident” happened in Kuwait, for instance, not Iraq — in the execution of some of this war’s most truly courageous journalism, only to get thrown under the bus (Bradley!) that rightfully ran over the careers of young TNR fabricator Stephen Glass and young TNR plagiarist Ruth Shalit. Because: conservatives are evil people with no interest in truth and TNR editor Frank Foer is fundamentally a pussy.

To be sure, that is the angle one would expect from Spencer “Attackerman” Ackerman who has not exactly been grinding his axe against the magazine that fired him in private. To be also sure, Beauchamp did a lot of caving under all the fact-checking pressure. (He was assigned backbreaking labor in 120-degree heat and Ackerman tells us he was hospitalized for a viral infection and the Army put a gag order on him but in any case, he disappeared.)

But motives aside the piece rings true. Because it most certainly has gotten to the point where internet skirmishes are as pointlessly vicious and traumatizing as real ones. I am not being melodramatic! You read that Times Magazine story about the internet trolls who wouldn’t stop making fun of that poor sweet-faced 13-year-old kid who had already killed himself. (Also, if I am not mistaken you are reading Gawker!) Why would it surprise you that over in Iraq this same generation kicks around the corpses of Iraqi children or whatever? That is the cruel radiance of what is, friends, and laying it bare is the only purpose journalists can possibly serve.

But there’s a dramatic disconnect — has been for awhile, but it’s widening — between the guys who run lofty cash-strapped journalism outlets and the actual world they profess to strive to portray. For years those guys have lived in the world of prestige and peer esteem and talking points and ASME applications and panel discussions and correspondents dinners. But once there was a time when they didn’t have that whole scene going on all day long on Bloggingheads and Memeorandum.

As long as this disconnect deepens amidst this backdrop of tightening news budgets, a nagging insecurity about the future of journalism combined with a hardening certainty among its younger generation of practitioners that success within it requires above all else a commitment to one’s personal “brand”…well, guys like Frank Foer are going to take chances on hot young “voices.” And those voices will invariably get silenced by mobs of angry haters in protracted, embarrassing sagas ending in tortured lamentations that “those young folks, all they care about is their personal brands!” but in the end only serve to expose how little anyone really gives a shit about the truth at this point.

Shimon Perez “Dont place Russian Missiles in Syria”

And yes they are surface to surface missiles not anti missile system


Israel Expresses Concerns Over Possible Russia-Syria Arms Deal

18 minutes ago

(RTTNews) - Israel's President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Thursday expressed concerns over a possible Russia-Syria arms deal, saying it would destabilize the Middle East.

Earlier, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had offered to let Russia deploy surface-to-surface Iskander missiles in its territory to counter the US missile shield program in Eastern Europe.

Israel's Prime Minister Shimon Peres expressed concerns over the possibility of Russia deploying missiles in Syria and warned that such a move would destabilize not only the Middle East, but the entire world as well.

"Weapons of mass destruction are less dangerous without a means for launching them, but once a launching system is developed, the situation will be terrible," Israel's Army Radio quoted Peres as saying.

Meanwhile Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also expressed her concerns about the possibility of a Russia-Syria arms deal, saying that it would destabilize the entire Middle East.

"It is a mutual interest of Russia, of Israel and of the pragmatic leaders and states in the region not to send long-range missiles to Syria," she said, pointing out Syria's alleged links with Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Their remarks came after Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier on Thursday that Moscow is prepared to supply Syria with defensive weapons that would "not disturb the strategic balance in the region."

First Presidentual Debate set at Ole Miss involves Foreign policy


McCain, Obama to debate foreign policy at Ole Miss on Sept. 26

In what could turn into a duel of “told you so” and “did not…did too,” the first presidential debate, hosted by the University of Mississippi in Oxford on Sept. 26, will focus on foreign policy and national security.

That represents an unexpected change from the domestic-issue theme the Commission on Presidential Debates had promised Ole Miss, which will hold the debate at the Gertrude C. Ford Center.

The switch comes as a result of negotiations between presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama (D-IL) and presumptive Republican nominee John McCain (R-AZ), both U.S. Senators. Their campaign staffs reached an agreement on the format of the debates and released a statement Thursday morning.

Public television news anchor Jim Lehrer will moderate the debate.

The second presidential debate, being held at Belmont University in Nashville on Oct. 7, will follow a Town Hall format with no set theme. Tom Brokaw of NBC News will moderate.

According to the statement: “Campaign-appointed debate negotiators House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said they were pleased to have reached an early agreement to provide the American people with the opportunity to see and hear the candidates debate the critical issues facing the country.”

The campaigns claim it is “the earliest agreement on presidential debates reached in any general election in recent history,” but for Ole Miss the switch comes late in their preparations for the debate.

The Commission on Presidential Debates long ago instructed Ole Miss that the first debate would focus on domestic issues, and university has planned forums and events based on domestic issues.

Andy Mullins, executive assistant to the chancellor and the university’s point man on the debates, said the change is a huge surprise. He said the first he heard about any proposed switch came when he got a call at 7:45 a.m. on Thursday, while moving his daughter into her dorm room.

“We aren’t planning on changing any of our events,” Mullins said.

For example, on Aug. 28, Dr. Dan Jones, immediate past president of the American Heart Association and vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the medical school at the UM Medical Center, is discussing health care in America in his lecture, “Health Care Disparities in the American Health Care System.”

The change in formats will mean the first debate, which usually draws the largest audience but may not this year because it is being held on a Friday, will likely be dominated by discussions of Iraq, Afghanistan and proper responses to the Russia-Georgia conflict.

Expect McCain to trumpet his support of the so-called “surge” in troops in Iraq, and Obama to volley back by pointing out the Bush Administration and the Iraqis are now agreeing to the timetables he has called for since 2007 in order to adjust the focus to securing Afghanistan.

Obama and McCain will almost certainly spar over who was right or wrong in pushing for the 2003 invasion of Iraq in order to establish a democracy in the Middle East (McCain) or opposing it because of misgivings over intelligence and a potential quagmire and thouands of deaths for U.S. troops (Obama).

McCain has also signaled he would urge a more confrontational U.S. response to Russia for its military actions in Georgia; Obama and a Sen. Joe Biden, considered one of the front-runners for the imminent vice-presidential pick, have urged $1 billion in aid to rebuild Georgia and support its democratic institutions.

Russia “The whole 1968 Prague invasion was really overblown western Propaganda”


World remembers Prague Spring

Forty years ago Russian tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia to kill the country’s liberal reforms. The leaders of the small central European country were trying to create what they called ‘socialism with a human face’. Military intervention by the USSR and other countries of the Warsaw Pact put a stop to the changes.

Today in Prague there are no tanks and virtually no reminder of the dramatic events that took place here in 1968.

On August 21 1968 troops from five Warsaw Pact countries entered Czechoslovakia, an action that has stuck in people’s memories over the years. Miloslav Vlcek, speaker of the Czech Chamber of Deputies, says people do not remember it was not only about August 21.

“We forget it was the reforms of ‘the Prague Spring’ that led to this. Today we must not put all the blame on Russia – it did apologise for the Soviet Union’s deeds. But take other countries of the Warsaw pact who were also involved – we have good relations with them today,” says Vlcek.

Creating ‘socialism with a human face’ was in people’s hearts and minds. The Soviet Union trusted Alexander Dubchek, the new leader of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, to build any kind of socialism – as long as it did not hamper the interests of the Warsaw Pact treaty.

Marat Kuznetsov, a former Russian diplomat in Czechoslovakia, who worked in the Soviet Embassy in Prague back in 1968, says the Warsaw Pact bringing troops into Czechoslovakia should be put into the geopolitical context of the time.

“It was at the height of the Cold war, not just a confrontation of two socio-political systems but also of two political blocks: NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The military parity was fragile and unstable – but the whole world depended on it.”
In the summer of 1968 western media suggested that as a result of reforms Czechoslovakia would become a knife in the back of the Warsaw Pact countries. According to Kuznetsov peace in Europe was at stake and it could have been shattered by this geopolitical shift.

Those events are a part of history now. A recent opinion poll for the Czech newspaper “Lidove Noviny” revealed that 70% of the country’s youth knew little about the Prague Spring.

“We are already two generations away from those events. For the people who witnessed them, they’re alive. But today’s generation simply can’t understand them,” says Czech MP Tomas Hasil.