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September 18, 2015

London court jails man after Dark Web ricin sting

London court jails man after Dark Web ricin sting

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Mr Justice Saunders today imprisoned a man for eight years at the Old Bailey in London after an FBI sting in which he tried to buy ricin on the Dark Web.

Cquote1.svg Everyone needs to know that the possession of a chemical weapon is extremely serious and long prison sentences will follow Cquote2.svg

—Mr Justice Saunders

Mohammed Ali, 31, from Liverpool, was convicted at trial of attempting to possess a chemical weapon. He told the jury he was “curious” about the Dark Web, which is a largely hidden and difficult to police section of the Internet. Ali said he didn’t realise he had done anything illegal.

Ali was prosecuted under the Chemical Weapons Act 1996 after sending an undercover agent a message reading “Hi, would you be able to make me some ricin and send it to the UK?” He bought 500mg, which has the potential to kill about 1,400, but was sent a dummy package. Counter-terror police in the UK liaised with the FBI.

Illustration of ricin’s chemical structure.
Image: AzaToth.

The powder, which Ali paid for in BitCoin, was actually harmless. Hidden inside a toy car, the package was treated with markers and his face glowed under ultraviolet light, indicating he had handled it. The judge said today there was “real risk” involved.

Ali told his trial he had discovered drugs and guns for sale. Computer analysis showed he had looked up ricin and other poisons; he said he went for ricin simply because it had appeared in Breaking Bad. He also searched for small animals after being advised to test it on a rodent; a to-do list on his computer included “paid ricin guy” and “get pet to murder”.

Mr Justice Saunders said the case called for “a deterrent sentence”, which “will appear harsh to the defendant and his family.” “Everyone needs to know that the possession of a chemical weapon is extremely serious and long prison sentences will follow.”



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October 6, 2013

Wikinews interviews specialists on South Korea military parade

Wikinews interviews specialists on South Korea military parade

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

File photo of South Korean military troops.
Image: US Military.

On Tuesday, South Korea staged a huge military parade to mark its armed forces’ 65th anniversary in a display of long-range missiles considered a direct threat to North Korea. 11,000 troops and 190 different weapons systems were on display in the parade. Wikinews interviewed several specialists about the parade’s possible significance.

Interviewees

Wikinews interviewed:

  • Robert Kelly, Associate Professor of International Relations Pusan National University (PNU) in South Korea
  • Margaret Kosal, Assistant Professor at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia
  • Gari Ledyard, Professor Emeritus of Korean Studies at Columbia University, New York
  • Sue Mi Terry, Senior Research Scholar at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University in New York
  • Young-hae Chi, Instructor in Korean at the University of Oxford, England
  • Seungkwon You, Associate Teaching Professor of Korean Studies at the University of Missouri

Wikinews Q&A

File:Robert Kelly File Photo.JPG

File photo of interviewee Robert Kelly.
Image: Robert Kelly.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png What is your job role?

Kelly: I am a Professor of International Relations at PNU.
Kosal: I am an Assistant Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology, more commonly known as “Georgia Tech.” I also direct the Emerging Technology and Security Program and the Biological and Chemical Nonproliferation and Counterterrorism Program.
Ledyard: I retired from my professorship at Columbia thirteen years ago; since then I’ve had no role. When I was active there since 1964, I taught Korean history and culture, emphasizing the traditional periods of Korea’s earlier history. In those years I wrote a few articles on contemporary political issues but my research has been almost all in Korea’s past.
Terry: I am a Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute.
Chi: I have been teaching Korean studies at Oxford University. I am specialized in international relations of the Far East and particularly North Korean human rights and refugee issues. I worked as an analyst of security issues at the Korea Institute for Defence Analyses in Seoul between 1983 and 1988 authoring a number of policy papers for the South Korean Government.
You: Associate Teaching Professor of Korean Studies teaching Korean Unification, Korean film, Korean society [at the University of Missouri].

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Is the display of cruise missiles and other weapons in a military parade by South Korea in direct response to repeated similar North Korean parades?

Kelly: Yes. I don’t actually think these sorts of demonstrations are proper in a democracy. Liberal states should not really be flashing their hardware in a strutting, provocative way like this. This is the sort of thing Putin would do. But SK’s [South Korea’s] case is rather exceptional. NK [North Korea] tries pretty regularly to bully SK, and as its nuclear and missile programs advance, SK deterrence become ever more important. So parades like this are a way of SK saying ‘don’t mess with us even though you have nukes.’

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye with United States President Barack Obama.
Image: White House.

Kosal: The “display” was multi-functional. It shows the modern, indigenous conventional military capabilities of the South Korean forces. It was also to credibly communicate — literally show to the North — possession of an adequate deterrent force, a force that is both capable and credible. The underlying capacity supports the newly announced bilateral tailored deterrence strategy between South Korea and the United States. The military parade served to transparently show, in a largely passive/non-offensive/non-reactionary way, the capacity to follow through on that strategy that is directed at North Korea’s offensive nuclear weapons, offensive chemical weapons, and offensive biological weapons programs rather than a more general deterrence strategy. There is much more to a tailored deterrence strategy, but that is one part of it. The specific declaratory policy highlights South Korea’s responsibility to “continue to build reliable inter-operable response capabilities and to develop the Korean Air and Missile Defense system.” These are largely passive defense measures to minimize the effects of a North Korean offensive attack and to reduce vulnerability of South Korean forces and civilians. It’s part of the overall strategic defense posture.
While not commonly observed in the US, parades like this are not atypical for East Asia, particularly in conjunction with significant anniversaries. In this case, the parade also marked the 65th anniversary of the Republic of Korea [South Korea] Armed Forces. In addition to the international visibility, it also serves South Korean domestic politics and advances South Korean President Park Geun-hye‘s own strong national security policies.
Ledyard: It could very well be, but I have no knowledge regarding it. It has long been routine for both Koreas to compete in the headlines.
Terry: President Park is trying to make it clear to the North that this time, under her watch, Seoul is now serious about responding to future provocations by the North. South Korea’s display of its missiles is meant to deter the North, to show the North that any provocation in the future would be met with strong retaliation.
Chi: The institution of the military parade has been a regular feature of the Armed Forces’ Day celebration in South Korea. Yet the display of the cruise missiles in the recent parade is designed to achieve specific purposes. One is obviously targeting at the North Korean regime as a warning for possible pre-emptive strikes on their conventional and nuclear missile sites. The other target is South Korean citizens who have been increasingly agitated about the possession of WMDs by its Northern counterpart and want to see some guarantee from their own government. Hence the parade is not only for displaying its military capabilities to its enemies but it is also playing a psychological game with its own people. Yet, Hyunmoo-3c, one of the cruise missiles displayed in the event, signals that the South Korean government’s perspective is no longer limited to the Korean peninsula. Hyunmoo-3c’s range of 1,500 km indicates that the Korean military oversees the entire Northeast Asian region as its strategic theatre. Such a wide strategic thinking is also behind the planned construction of the naval base in Jeju Island.
You: Not direct response. However, this parade has not been done for many years and resumed this year indicating [the] Park government would not tolerate any hostile action by North Korea.

File photo of interviewee Young-hae Chi.
Image: Young-hae Chi.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png South Korea’s President, Park Geun-hye, has warned of a “very grave” threat posed by North Korea. Would a military parade like this be more likely to encourage hostile behaviour?

Kelly: Not really, because NK already engages in so much hostile behavior it is hard to know how much more restraint SK show. My own sense is that SK demonstrates remarkable forbearance in the face of NK threats. If one thinks of how, e.g., the US or Israel would respond to such threats, SK looks downright gentle. So SK needs to signal both that it does not seek escalation, but also that it cannot be bullied. It’s a tough balancing act, and this parade is to send that second message.
Kosal: Not necessarily. North Korean behavior is difficult to predict with any fidelity. The military parade, while it shows potential capacity, is a fundamentally passive (rather than active or reactive) form of behavior. Reinforces a consistent posture by the South Koreans and the US.
Ledyard: There is a sixty-year history of such back-and-forth with an impressive absence of active military conflict. It’s tit for tat, and both sides either maintain the balance or one or the other loses face. It would take much more than a parade for actual conflict to erupt.
Terry: No, not in the long run although this kind of a military parade might provoke temporary, short-term hostile behavior by the North. The North has never been ideological or suicidal. Its chief goal always has been regime survival. It knows if a war were to break out, it will definitively lose to South Korea.
Chi: The South Korean government has been implementing military parades since 1956, and as such it is unlikely to encourage or discourage hostile behaviour.
You: Could be. North Korea already criticized [the] Park government about the recent parade and very bold move by the Park Government in negotiating family reunion and resuming of Diamond Mountains. However, I do not believe that North Korea will take any hostile action since the US Secretary of State, Kerry, is proposing North Korea a peaceful dialogue.

File photo of interviewee Margaret Kosal.
Image: Margaret Kosal.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Does the presence of US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel to this military parade show a further strengthening in the US–South Korea alliance?

Kelly: It does, but the Secretary’s presence is more for the optics than substance. The US–Korean alliance was substantially strengthened about 4 years ago by the previous SK president. This is just a refresher that looks good on TV.
Kosal: Secretary of Defense Hagel’s presence, along with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, shows the commitment of the United States to support its ally. The United States remains committed to the transfer of operational control (OPCON) to the South Koreans for general defense of South Korea. The US is also strongly committed to limiting proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Their presence reinforces that to the North Koreans as well as to the international community.
Ledyard: It is simple routine in the USA–ROK alliance. South Koreans depend on it and the US takes care to show support.
Terry: Yes, it further showcases the depth of Washington‘s support for South Korea against any provocation from Pyongyang.
Chi: Certainly he is there to add symbolic strength to the alliance which tended to be weakened until recently. Behind his presence is the recent agreement to reconsider the planed transfer of the war-time operation control from the UN/US to the Korean army.
You: US–South Korea alliance is strong but it is a bit more complicated since [the] US is supporting Japan in arming in naval forces to check China, which is a great concern for South Korea and [the] South Korean people. This might cause some issues in US–South Korea alliance.

File photo of interviewee Gari Ledyard.
Image: Gari Ledyard.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png North Korea’s rhetoric vows the repeated bolstering of its nuclear arsenal to what it calls US military threats. Do you think a military parade of this type backed by the US is likely to influence further hostility?

Kelly: No, because NK must be permanently hostile toward the US and SK anyway. NK has no reason to exist as a separate, poorer Korean state, just as the GDR [East Germany] had no post-cold war reason to exist, unless SK and the US can be regularly described as the enemy. So NK doesn’t want a war, but they certainly don’t want a warm peace, as then NK then loses its raison d’etre.
Kosal: No, North Korea and its leadership are responsible for its choices, which are the primary source of instability on the Korean peninsula with potential regional effects.
Ledyard: The “military threats” are more a reflection of North Korea’s fears than any concrete threats. They are more for internal DPRK [North Korea] efforts to keep its own population in tune with government policies.
Terry: No. I think it’s important to remember Pyongyang’s periodic provocations and its pursuit of nuclear arsenal are not reactions or self-defense measures against a threatening Seoul or Washington. Incapable of competing with economically flourishing South Korea, the North relies on bolstering its nuclear arsenal and on military and political brinkmanship to make up ground.
Chi: The two Koreas do the military parade almost routinely. South Korea will have a similar parade again when there is a new government in five years. It is unlikely the kind of parade to influence further hostility.
You: No, this is just symbolic. As a matter of fact, North Korea is very anxious to escape from the current gridlock and [the] US and South Korea do not give them plenty of reasons to go to the negotiating table.

File photo of interviewee Sue Mi Terry.
Image: Sue Mi Terry.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you think it is likely that North and South Korea may at some point in the near future be engaged in direct military action with each other?

Kelly: Minor skirmishes are possible, indeed likely, given the border confusion in the Yellow Sea. But a major conflict is highly unlikely, no matter what bluster comes from NK. The NKs would lose such a war, decisively in fact, and the NK elite would face the hangman in the South afterward. NK is much too far behind to win. So full-scale conflict is very unlikely.
Kosal: I hope not.
Ledyard: No. A year or two ago there was a naval incident that occurred in the West Sea, but both sides separated quickly, although the North shelled an island claimed by both the DPRK and the ROK. Neither side has anything to gain from any such incident.
Terry: The North’s latest tactic — to return to diplomacy after provoking Seoul and Washington earlier this year — does not mean that the North has abandoned its timeworn brinkmanship strategy nor that it has shifted its nuclear policy. The North is likely to pursue more aggressive action down the road, attempting to ratchet up another sense of crisis, if it determines that its current peace ploy is not getting the concessions it seeks from Seoul. But while the North may provoke Seoul again with border skirmishes, or another missile or nuclear test, I think it will avoid direct military action with Seoul that will escalate to an all-out conflict. Again, Pyongyang will not risk outright hostilities that will lead to an all-out war.
Chi: You can never exclude possible exchanges of military actions within a limited range. At the time of North Korean attack on Yeonpyeong Island in November 2011, the South Korean Government made an official pledge to retaliate against any future military actions by North Korea. The government will face grave political consequences if it fails to live up to its own words. There is always a possibility of direct military actions but they will be more or less contained to a local level.
You: No, I would not think so. North Korea is more desperate to engage in a dialogue with South Korea and [the] US but they look for justification to go to the table. However, [the] Park government and US would not be simply welcoming them to the negotiating table. When they negotiate, they would be not generous or lenient to take all the North Korean offers.

A KPAF Ilyushin Il-76MD strategic airlifter in the mid-2000s, in Air Koryo markings.
Image: Regis Sibille.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png This parade has been described as an Anti-North deterrence, do you think this will act as such?

Kelly: Yes. NK is moving more rapidly toward nuclearization and missilization than many had expected. NK pretty clearly has no intention of de-nuclearizing. That is simply not going to happen no matter how many SK and US political figures demand it. So now, SK must show that it can keep up and match, if not outrace, the NKs. This is why there is so much focus now on SK missile and BMD capabilities.
Kosal: Yes.
Ledyard: Again, nearly sixty years of history supports the view that neither side has any interest in actual military conflict.
Terry: To some degree, yes. It’s good to remind the North of Seoul’s capabilities, although as I said before, Kim Jong-un, like his father and grandfather before him, already knows any all-out conflict would result in the destruction of his regime.
Chi: South Korea’s possession of cruise missiles and other advanced technology such as drones had been an open secret. There is nothing new about this parade, hence little deterrence effect added to the existing military posture.
You: No, it would not act as such. Rather, it has domestic purpose to draw [the] South Korean public to concern more about South Korean military and national security in general. For the past decade, [the] South Korean public have been very critical of the role of military in society. Certainly, the Park government wants to rectify it.



Sources

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September 23, 2013

Wikinews interviews specialists on China, Iran, Russia support for al-Assad

Wikinews interviews specialists on China, Iran, Russia support for al-Assad

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Over the past week, diplomatic actions have averted — or, at least delayed — military strikes on Syria by the United States. Wikinews sought input from a range of international experts on the situation; and, the tensions caused by Russia’s support for the al-Assad regime despite its apparent use of chemical weapons.

File:Ghouta chemical attack map.svg

Map of areas affected by chemical weapons in Ghouta, Syria.
Image: FutureTrillionaire.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Tensions in the country increased dramatically, late August when it was reported between 100 and 1,300 people were killed in an alleged chemical attack. Many of those killed appeared to be children, with some of the pictures and video coming out of the country showing — according to witnesses — those who died from apparent suffocation; some foaming at the mouth, others having convulsions.

Amongst Syria’s few remaining allies, Iran, China, and Russia continue to oppose calls for military intervention. In an effort to provide a better-understanding of the reasoning behind their ongoing support, the following people were posed a range of questions.

Interviewees

  • Stephen Blank, Senior Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, D.C.
  • Kerry Brown, Professor of Chinese Politics from the University of Sydney, Australia
  • Farideh Farhi, an Affiliate with the Graduate Faculty of Political Science, and lecturer, at the ̣̣University of Hawai’i, Honolulu
  • Mehran Kamrava, Professor and Director of the Center for International and Regional Studies at Georgetown University in Washington D.C.
  • William Martel, Professor of International Security Studies at Tufts University near Boston, Massachusetts
  • Rana Mitter, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford, England
  • Walter Posch, an Iran expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin, Germany; and,
  • Sam Roggeveen, a fellow of the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, Australia

Wikinews Q&A

Iran, China, and Russia have remained as allies to the al-Assad government despite the alleged use of chemical weapons in Ghouta on August 21, 2013. Wikinews queried the listed subject-matter experts regarding the diplomatic relations between these nations, and the reasoning behind such.

China

File photo of United Nations Security Council Chamber in New York.
Image: Patrick Gruban.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png There are suggestions China wants to maintain its financial ties with Syria as its third largest importer in 2010. Would you agree with this?

  • Brown: I don’t think that is China’s key priority. China has a massive economy, and Syria is a very minor player in this. It has some, but not much, energy from Syria. Its real concerns in the current conflict are for stability, and geopolitical.
  • Farhi: China’s conduct in Syria has been similar to its conduct elsewhere. It has given support to Russia in international forum such as the UNSC [United Nations Security Council] and has acted opportunistically wherever its economic interest could be pursued. But, Syria is really not an area of interest for China. Its actions and support for the Russian position is derived from its general concerns regarding American imperialism and unilateralism.
  • Mitter: China will want, in general, to maintain financial ties with Syria as it does with many countries. China’s general position is that internal politics of countries should not interfere with economic ties.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you think China is talking from experience when it says that foreign countries shouldn’t get involved with Syria’s internal affairs?

File photo of interviewee Sam Roggeveen.
Image: Sam Roggeveen.

  • Roggeveen: That stance reflects China’s history as a weak, developing country with a host of territorial disputes with its neighbours. Beijing does not want to set international precedents that will allow third parties to interfere with, for example, the Taiwan issue, Tibet, the East China Sea or the South China Sea.
But increasingly, China’s stance will conflict with its growing strength and growing responsibilities on the world stage. China is already the world’s second biggest economy and a major strategic power in the Asia Pacific [region]; and, it will increasingly be expected to take up responsibilities that come with such power. Also, as we saw in the case of Libya — where China sent a fleet of ships and aircraft to evacuate its nationals — China has interests and citizens all over the world, both of which need to be protected.
  • Brown: It [China] has always stood by non interference of other counties in the internal affairs of sovereign states; though, this position has changed over time since it was formulated on the back of China’s experience of colonisation in the early part of the twentieth-century. Its main priority now is to not see the escalation of issues, as was seen in Iraq and Afghanistan; where it runs the risk of being sucked into lengthy conflicts with no real gameplan, and no clear outcome that is relevant to it. It does not see the Syria[n] conflict [as] one where there is a an easy, viable, alternative option waiting to govern the country. And, it is very sceptical about US and others’ claims that they can control this problem.
  • Farhi: Yes, rejection of interference in the internal affairs of other countries — particularly of a military kind — is a principled Chinese position in areas where China doesn’t have an over-riding interest.
  • Mitter: China has been a hardline advocate of strong territorial sovereignty for decades. This is, in part, a product of its own history of being invaded and occupied by other countries.

File photo of interviewee Rana Mitter.
Image: Rana Mitter.


Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png China abstained from a UN Security Council resolution on Libya — do you think they are trying to reprise what happened in Libya in terms of regime change?

  • Roggeveen: China and Russia suspect the ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine, which was used by Western powers to justify the Libya intervention, was a smokescreen for regime change. So, they are wary of seeing something similar happen in Syria. China also prefers not to be on its own in the Security Council; so, if the Russians come down against a Libya-like resolution, [the] chances are that China will join them.
  • Brown: They felt there was clear mission-creep with Libya. What, however, has most emboldened them in opposing action in Syria is the position of Russia; which they have been able to stand behind. Diplomatically they dislike isolation, so this has proved the issue they have taken cover from.
  • Farhi: Libya has set a bad precedent for many countries who supported, or did not object to, NATO action. So, yes, the Libya example is a precedent; but, in any case, the Syrian dynamics are much more complex than Libya and both Russia and China — as well as Iran — genuinely see the attempt to resolve the imbroglio in Syria through military means as truly dangerous. In other words, they see the conduct of Western powers in the past two years as spawning policies that are tactically geared to weaken the Assad regime without a clear sense or strategy regarding what the end game should be. Particularly since at least part of the opposition to Assad has also elicited support from Islamic radicals.
  • Mitter: In general China is reluctant to take decisive action in international society, and [at] the UN. It prefers its partners, such as Russia, to take on confrontational roles while it tries to remain more neutral and passive.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you think a political solution is the only realistic means to resolve the Syrian issue?

File photo of interviewee Kerry Brown.
Image: Kerry Brown.

  • Roggeveen: At the moment, both sides [in Syria] evidently feel they can still obtain their objectives through force. Perhaps one of them will be proved right; or, perhaps there will be a long-term stalemate with Syria split between regime and opposition forces.
One important change is the chemical weapons agreement; which now makes it much more difficult for the US or Israel to intervene militarily. The deal also gives the regime some degree of status as a legal authority with which outside powers must negotiate. That weakens the hand of the opposition; but, it could open a door for an international diplomatic intervention to achieve — firstly — a cease fire. and perhaps then something more substantive.
  • Brown: There is no appetite for the kinds of expensive and very hard interventions [undertaken] in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, in any case, the US and its allies don’t have the money to fund this, and their publics evidently feel no case has been made yet for getting involved. People are weary of the endless arguments in the Middle-East, and feel that they should now be left to deal with their own issues. China, in particular, has tried to maintain as strong a […] network of benign support in the region as possible, while avoiding getting sucked into problems. There is no viable opposition in Syria that would make it easier to justify intervention; and, no easy way of seeing how this tragic civil war is going to be easily ended.
  • Farhi: Syria has become the arena for a proxy war among regional and extra-regional players and yes its civil war will not end until all key players and their external supporters develop a political will to end the conflict. For the conflict to end, the bankers feeding the conflict should agree to stop funding it.
  • Mitter: Yes. But, it will depend on Russia, China, and the US, being able to come up with a compromise solution. That looks [to be] a long way off.

Iran

Free Syrian Army soldiers involved in the civil war.
Image: Voice of America.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png For many years, Syria has been considered Iran’s “closest ally”. What vested interest does the Iranian government have in keeping Bashar al-Assad in power?

  • Kamrava: These interests are primarily strategic, with both countries sharing common interests in relation to Lebanon — particularly the Hezbollah group — and [as] deterrence against Israel[i intervention].
  • Martel: Iran’s interests align very closely with that of Russia in supporting Syria and opposing the United States. Further, during this last week, President Putin offered to help Iran build a second nuclear reactor. The policies of Russia, Iran, and Syria align quite closely; thus leading some — such as myself — to argue that we are seeing the rise of an “authoritarian axis” of states, whose policies are coordinated.
  • Posch: First, Syria was Iran’s only ally against Saddam Hussein and [an] indispensable partner in Lebanon since the early 1980s.

Kurdish supporters of Syria’s Democratic Union Party in Afrin.
Image: Scott Bobb.

Even before the fall of Saddam in 2003, Iran reinterpreted the basically pragmatic cooperation in the field of intelligence and security. Ever since Syria was part of a so called “axis of resistance” consisting of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the sole common strategic denominator of these different actors is hostility against Israel, which is always depicted as an aggressor against whom the Muslims should resist — hence, the [designation as an] “axis of resistance”. Of course, forming an alliance ‘officially against Israel’ serves another purpose too: to take a stand against Saudi Arabia without naming it. Much of the current crisis in Syria has to do with this scheme.
  • Farhi: Syria supported Iran during the Iran–Iraq war; and, that dynamic forged a long-standing relationship between the two countries that includes economic, political, and military cooperation. In more recent years, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah have self-identified as [an] axis of resistance against Israeli–American involvement in the region. Despite this, Iran initially mostly followed the Russian lead in the Syria. However as other regional players — such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as extra-regional players such as the United States — began to see, and articulate the weakening of, the Assad regime as a first step to the weakening of Iran, this enhanced Iran’s threat perception, and gave it [an] incentive for further involvement in support of Assad.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Do you think Iranian support for the Syrian government is a way of standing up against UN sanctions imposed on them, and opposing American imperialism?

  • Kamrava: No. Iranian–Syrian relations are rooted in common strategic interests rather than in assumptions about US imperialism, or the role of the UN sanctions.
  • Martel: Both Iran and Syria share a strategic interest in undermining the influence of the US and the West.
  • Posch: Definitely not. The sanctions track is a different one, checking American “imperialism” — as you call it — is, of course. one aim.
  • Farhi: As has become evident in the past few weeks, the primary interactive dynamic regarding the Syrian imbroglio is being played out mostly in terms of US–Russian rivalry; and, Iran is following the Russian lead.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png The UN has “overwhelmingly” confirmed use of chemical weapons in Syria. Do you think both sides have used chemical weapons?

File photo of interviewee Mehran Kamrava.
Image: Mehran Kamrava.

  • Kamrava: It is undeniable that chemical weapons were used in Syria. But, I have not yet seen conclusive evidence for the responsibility of the use of chemical gas by one side or another. Until valid evidence is made available — proving who used chemical weapons — affixing blame to either the government forces, or to one of the fractious rebel groups, is only a matter of speculation.
  • Martel: I remain skeptical that anyone other than the Syrian government used chemical weapons. It is widely accepted that the Syrian government was behind the use of chemical weapons.
  • Posch: I think the Report is quite clear on that.
  • Farhi: I —as an academic, with no access to on the ground information — am in no position to know whether both sides have used chemical weapons.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Would you agree that part of Iran’s vested interest in Syria remaining under al-Assad is bound to two factors: religion and strategy?

Former President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmedinejad who stepped down earlier this year.
Image: Russian Presidential Press and Information Office.

  • Kamrava: No, I do not agree. Iran’s “vested interest in Syria remaining under al-Assad” is [a] product only of Iran’s strategic calculations.
While foreign policies anywhere may be expressed — and justified — through slogans and ideological rhetoric, they are based on strategic considerations and calculations. Despite common, journalistic misconceptions, religion has not played a role in Iranian foreign policy; whether in relation to Syria or anywhere else.
  • Martel: Iran’s vested interest in Syria is entirely geo-strategic. Iran’s support [for] Syria is designed to undermine US power and influence. For Iran, no policy objective is more important than to possess nuclear weapons. When the U.S. declared a “redline” if Syria “used or moved” chemical weapons, and then backed away from that redline, it is likely that Iran’s leadership drew one principal conclusion:
the US redline on Iran’s nuclear program is in doubt, the US commitment to preventing Iran from possessing nuclear weapons is in doubt,
and that Iran likely will test US resolve.
In strategic terms, doubts about the credibility of the US redline on Iran dwarfs any concerns about Syria’s chemical weapons.
The belief in Iran — that the US may not be willing to prevent Iran from possessing nuclear weapons — could lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. It is difficult to exaggerate just how dangerous a nuclear-armed Iran is for regional and global security.
  • Posch: No, it is strategy, and perhaps ideology. Religion doesn’t play too much [of] a role, even though the conflict has been thoroughly “sectarianised”. This happened a few years back when the Saudis baptised (if that term is appropriate) the “axis of resistance” to “shiite crescent”. The domination of the Syrian Baath Party by members of one sect plays no role in Iran’s security equation. Attempts to convert Syrian Alevites to Mainstream Shiites are initiatives of some individual Ayatollahs. I have already mentioned the strategic aspect, [an] axis of resistance against Israel and Saudi Arabia simultaneously; to this I would add Iranian concern over the Kurdish issue.
  • Farhi: The Assad government is a secular government, and Iran’s relationship with it has nothing to do with religion or religious affinities. The relationship is a complex one — and, as mentioned before — forged as a strategic bond during the Iran–Iraq War, when Saddam’s regime was deemed aggressively expansionist by both regimes.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Iran is home to the world’s most populous Shiite Muslim nation. The Syrian rebels are Sunni. Could this be a Sunni vs. Shiite alignment in the Middle East?

File photo of interviewee Farideh Farhi.
Image: Farideh Farhi.

  • Kamrava: No. While sectarianism may be the lens through which some of the Syrian rebels see their fight against the government, ultimately the contest is over state power and capitalizing on opportunities created by the Arab uprisings in general; and, the Syrian civil war in particular. Sunni–Shia ‘alignments’ have nothing to do with it.
  • Posch: Usually, the Sunni–Shia divide is something Iranians and Saudis play up in order to put pressure on one another; usually, they were also able to deescalate. Syria, however, is the game-changer — for the simple reason that nobody believes the Saudis would control the post Al-Qaeda Networks in Syria. What Iran fears is an increase of the most-radical Sunni anti-shiism, the so called takfiris, spilling over onto Iranian territory.
  • Farhi: The Sunni governments in the region are working hard to use sectarian tensions as an instrument to fan popular resentments, in the region, towards Shi’ite Iran. But, the rivalry is actually political; and, has to do with the fears rivals have of what they consider — I think wrongly — to be Iran’s hegemonic aspirations in the region.
Sectarianism is an instrument for shaping regional rivalries, and not the source of problems, in the region.

Russia

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, meeting Syrianan president Bashar al-Assad, on a visit to Syria in 2010.
Image: Russian Presidential Press and Information Office.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Russia is one of Syria’s biggest arms suppliers. Do you think this means Russia’s interest lies in economic benefit, as opposed to the humanitarian crisis?

  • Blank: Although Russia sells Syria weapons, Russia’s main interest has nothing to do with humanitarianism or economics.
Rather, its main interests are to force the US to accept Russia as an equal — so that Moscow has an effective veto power over any further American actions of a strategic nature there and elsewhere — and second, to restore Russia’s standing as an indispensable great power in the Middle East without whom nothing strategic can be resolved.
It should be noted that in neither case is Russia actively interested in finding solutions to existing problems. Rather, it seeks to create a bloc of pro-Russian, anti-American states and maintain simmering conflicts at their present level while weakening US power.

File photo of interviewee William Martel.
Image: William Martel.

  • Martel: Russia’s principal interests in Syria are twofold. First, Moscow’s support is geopolitical in design. It is designed precisely to undermine and weaken American influence in the Middle East and globally. The extent to which Russia can undermine American influence directly helps to bolster Russia’s influence. For now, Russia is such a vastly diminished power — both politically, economically, militarily, and technologically — that Russian policymakers are pursuing policies they believe will help to reverse Russia’s strategic decline.
Second, Syria is Russia’s strongest ally in the region, if not the world, while Syria is the home to Russia’s only foreign naval base.
  • Farhi: Syria is Russia’s only solid strategic ally in the Middle East. Syria, in effect, is a Russian client. Russia’s interests lie in maintaining that foothold, and perhaps extending it.
It also has a concern regarding the civil war in Syria spawning what it considers to be extremist Islamist activities, which it has had to contend with within its own borders.

File photo of interviewee Stephen Blank.
Image: Stephen Blank.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Do you believe Russia distrusts US intentions in the region — in the sense of countering the West on regime change?

  • Blank: It is clear that Russia not only does not trust US interests and judgment in the Middle East, it regards Washington as too-ready to use force to unseat regimes it does not like and believes these could lead to wars; more importantly, to the attempt to overthrow the present Russian government. That is critical to understanding Moscow’s staunch support for Assad.
  • Martel: Russia’s policymakers understand that American and Russia interests directly diverge. Russia seeks to undermine US geopolitical influence, and increase its own. It is using its support of the Syrian regime to accomplish that objective. American interests, by contrast, are largely to prevent the spread and use of chemical weapons.
Appallingly, Russia is supporting Syria despite the fact that all evidence points to Syria’s use of chemical weapons.
One would think that American policymakers would be more critical of Russia; which is directly supporting a regime that used poison gas to slaughter its own men, women, and children.
  • Farhi: It is less about trust and more about protection of geopolitical interests and prevention of even more dire consequences if Assad goes. It is true that Russia feels that the United States and NATO went beyond the mandate afforded to them by the UN Security Council in going after regime change in Libya.
However, Russia’s geopolitical, and economic, interests in Syria are much more important; and, the relationship between the two countries [is] much deeper.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png The Russian Government accepts that chemical weapons have been used in Syria. How does it come to claim that the rebels are behind the attacks even though it is widely accepted that the al-Assad government has stocks of weapons?

A BM-14 multiple rocket launcher, similar to the type likely to have launched the M-14 munitions found by UN Inspectors on August 26.
Image: Vlad.

  • Blank: It [Russia] simply intends to defend Assad to the hilt; and is hardly unwilling to lie — especially as its intelligence service is notorious for fabricating mendacious and biased threat assessments, and is not under any form of effective democratic control.
  • Martel: Russia’s claims that Syrian rebels were behind the chemical weapon attacks is, frankly, inexplicable. Worse, Russia’s basic credibility is undermined by such statements.
  • Farhi: Russia claims Syria has presented it [with] evidence that the rebels have used chemical weapons; and Russia, in turn, has given the evidence to the UNSC. It has also called the UN report one-sided and biased. The bottom line is — the claim that the opposition to the Assad regime is at least as culpable in the violence being committed in Syria, opens the path for Russia to continue calling for a political solution [which] brings to the table all parties to the conflict in Syria, including Assad and his supporters; something the multi-voiced opposition has so far refused.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Would you agree that Russia’s vested interest in Syria remaining under al-Assad is bound to two factors: economics and ideology?

  • Blank: As I said above, Russia’s interest in Assad is bound to two geopolitical factors: maintaining the security of its regime; and, equally important, weakening America in the Middle-East — if not globally — and ensuring that Russia’s great power status is thereby ensured.
  • Martel: Russia’s vested interest in protecting Syria’s al-Assad is driven by geopolitics.
To support Assad, is to counter US policy and influence; which is precisely what Putin’s government seeks to accomplish. In many senses, Russia’s support for Syria is entirely secondary to Russia’s strategy of reversing its two-decade long decline in every measure of power. With its weak economy, dependence on petroleum for half of its national income, and increasingly authoritarian government, Russia has relatively little to offer the world — other than to oppose the United States as part of its strategy of reversing its decline.
While Russia’s geopolitical influence clearly increased as a result of its support for Syria, its long-term economic prospects remain quite dim.
  • Farhi: It is economic as well as political.
Syria is a customer of Russian arms and goods; hosting a naval supply base in Tartus. But, as mentioned above, Russia has serious concerns regarding what comes after Assad. For Russia, the current regime is better than chaos or control by Islamists.
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September 8, 2013

Wikinews interviews Scott Lucas, Eyal Zisser, Majid Rafizadeh about risks of US military intervention in Syria

Wikinews interviews Scott Lucas, Eyal Zisser, Majid Rafizadeh about risks of US military intervention in Syria

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The United States President Barack Obama announced last Saturday he was seeking Congressional authorisation for military intervention in Syria.

Looking for more-qualified input, Wikinews interviewed: professor Scott Lucas, an expert in American Studies, from the UK’s University of Birmingham; the President of the International American Council on the Middle East, Majid Rafizadeh; and, professor Eyal Zisser, a Syrian expert, from Tel Aviv University.

Discussing the risks involved with US military intervention in Syria, Wikinews posed a range of questions to these experts on the region’s political climate.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png Is it possible for the US to take military action to deter further use of chemical weapons without getting dragged into the civil war?

  • Prof. Scott Lucas: The US is already involved in the civil war — the question is to what extent.
The US has given political support to the opposition and insurgency since late 2011, and from summer 2012, it has pursued covert support to the opposition fighters.
However, the Obama Administration has been hesitant about overt support for insurgents throughout the conflict, and that has affected co-ordination of covert efforts. In June, the Administration finally said it would provide overt military assistance, but then pulled back and failed to deliver any public aid.
Had it not been for the August, 21 chemical weapons attack, that position would have persisted.
  • Majid Rafizadeh: It depends on the scope of the military operation. If United States conducts limited military operation, as the adminstration argues, and if US only targets some of the Syrian government’s military installments, it is less likely that United States will be drawn into the Syria’s civil war. It would be a political suicide for Syria, Iran or Hezbollah to respond.
On the other hand, if Assad observes that the balance of power is tilting against him inside the country, he might use chemical weapons in the future despite US limited strikes.
  • Prof. Eyal Zisser: Yes, it[sic] the attack is limited. And If the Americans only use missiles. They can cause severe damage, but leave Assad in his palace, and not being dragged into the civil war.

The United States President Barack Obama with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this year.
Image: Pete Souza.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Will military intervention from the US affect long term relations between the United States and Russia?

  • SL: Of course, significant military intervention by Washington will affect relations between the US and Russia, but the long-term effect cannot be predicted.
It is dependent on Russia’s reaction — so far, Moscow has been able to pressure the US into caution, but a decision for intervention by the US might call Russia’s bluff, so to speak, and force some caution by the Russians. Already, Moscow has said it will not join a fight against any US military action.
And, of course, the long-term relationship is dependent on the political and military success of any US intervention.
  • MR: Military intervention, in the classic sense of putting troops on the ground, will definitely affect US-Russian long term political relationships. It might heighten the diplomatic tensions. However, the limited military operation is less likely [to] change US-Russian long term economic, geopolitical, and political relationships.
  • EZ: No. They need each other in many other places of the world. Russia knows that the US is a super power and will not be interested in a real conflict with Washington.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png The British Parliament voted against military intervention in Syria, do you think this has affected their relations with the United States?

  • SL: No — had the Obama Administration been united and decisive for intervention, there might have been some effect. But the Obama Administration’s divisions mean its first priority is getting some coherence in Washington, rather than blaming London.
  • MR: I don’t think so. I believe that [the] UK has been [the] staunchest ally of the United States for decades. One instance of opposing parliamentary vote will not have impact on US-UK relations.
  • EZ: Maybe. But Britain is not an important power any more, so the affect will be only in the symbolic field.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Russia could back Syrian intervention if there was conclusive proof of regime guilt. What sort of evidence would be needed and can this level of assurance be given?

  • SL: This is not a scientific question — we already have extensive evidence establishing the near-certainty of major regime attacks with chemical weapons on 7 towns on August 21.
Putin’s statement was a political move: it ostensibly re-confirmed the Russian opposition to US intervention while giving Moscow a way to step back if the UN inspectors return a damning report.
  • MR: It is difficult, if not impossible, to provide Moscow with the evidence that they are looking for. In order to provide that specific information several criterions should be met. First of all, the soil of the location where the alleged chemical weapons are used, should immediately be examined after the incident. The Syrian government has not allowed immediate access to these places and usually reports come out days after. Second, and more fundamentally, a concrete and observable evidence is needed for Russia showing that Assad’s government has used it as opposed to the rebels.
  • EZ: No the Russians are not after the truth but after their interests even if Assad admits that he used such weapon the Russians will be against any intervention.

Bombed out vehicles in Aleppo during the Syrian civil war.
Image: Voice of America.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Would US military intervention on Syria be a violation of International law?

  • SL: This is a grey area, especially as there will not be an endorsement by the United Nations Security Council. Supporters of the action say it can be justified under the recent doctrine of humanitarian intervention, but that is more a political rather than legal judgement.
  • MR: Legally speaking, it is [in] violation of [the] United Nations Charter. According to [the] UN Charter, use of force is permitted only in case of self-defense or UNSC’s [United Nations Security Council] approval. Neither of these two cases apply for US use of military force against Syria. However, this does not mean that our current international law is devoid of any shortcomings. The International system has some shortcomings because of the structure of the UNSC, where one member can veto a resolution and block actions.
  • EZ: Technically — yes because they did not get an approval from the UN.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png Does the United States seem to be wanting to engage in regime change in Syria as opposed to preventing further chemical attacks?

  • SL: No, the Obama Administration has been uncertain about — and many of its members opposed to — regime change, and that is still the situation. The military, in particular, is opposed to significant, long-term intervention because of its concerns over a fragmented, diverse opposition and what happens if Assad falls.
  • MR: If there was an efficient alternative to Assad, US would have seen the regime change to its political benefits and interests. However, United States does not seem to have articulated any precise agenda towards Syria yet. The policy is more ” Wait and See” policy; observing and reacting as things unfold in Syria and the region.
  • EZ: No Obama does not want it, he finds himself being dragged into a war he has no interest in.
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December 21, 2011

Remaining US troops exit Iraq

Remaining US troops exit Iraq – Wikinews, the free news source

Remaining US troops exit Iraq

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

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The last convoy of US soldiers crosses the border from Iraq into Kuwait, ending the eight-year long Iraq War.
Image: Cpl. Jordan Johnson, US Army.

The last convoy of US soldiers crossed the border from Iraq into Kuwait on Sunday, effectively bringing the controversial eight-year long Iraq War to an end. The final convoy, containing around a hundred US military vehicles with five hundred troops, exited Iraq at 0738 AST (0438 UTC) Sunday.

Private First Class Martin Lamb described the departure as “a good feeling … knowing this is going to be the last mission out of here”. The event was “[p]art of history, you know — we’re the last ones out,” according to Lamb.

The Iraq War, which commenced in 2003 on the pretext of Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction, which later turned out to be false, was responsible for toppling the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and introducing a democratic government within Iraq. In the aftermath of Hussein’s downfall, a violent, religion-based conflict broke out between those of Shia Islam faith and Sunni Islam communities, reaching its peak in 2006. The following year, a large number of US troops were sent into Iraq; the number of sectarian and insurgent attacks subsequently declined.

The Iraq War involved a maximum of over 170,000 US troops, stationed in Iraq at more than 500 bases. Tens of thousands to over 100,000 Iraqi citizens and close to 4,500 US troops were killed as a result of the war. The financial cost of the Iraq War was almost US$1 trillion (767 billion or £638 billion) to the US government.

US presence in Iraq has been reduced to 157 soldiers in charge of military training at their embassy in the capital Baghdad and a minor base of US marines. The US federal government reportedly intended to retain a minor counter-terrorism presence in Iraq, as well as the continuation of military training in the country. However, negotiations between US government representatives and Iraqi officials were unsuccessful, as they failed to reach an agreement on legal matters, such as troop immunity.

In 2008, the Bush administration had committed to withdrawing all US troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, a movement which was announced by his successor and current US president Barack Obama in October 2011. Obama signified the conclusion of the war with Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, earlier this month. In a speech in North Carolina at Fort Bragg, Obama stated that the country US troops were leaving is now “sovereign, stable and self-reliant”.

US and Kuwaiti soldiers close the gate between Kuwait and Iraq, after the last military convoys passed through, signaling the end of the Iraq War.
Image: Cpl. Jordan Johnson, US Army.

Reaction to the US government’s decision has been mixed. According to Voice of America opinion polls in the United States indicate that a majority of Americans believe the war lasted longer than it should have done. Obama himself had opposed the war when he ran for president and vowed to end it. News agencies report Iraqis glad to see the US leave, but concerned for the future.

Arab News reports that Iraqis also have mixed feelings, such as Safa, a 26-year old baker using a pseudonym, who said “I am proud — all Iraqis should be proud, like all those whose country has been freed. The Americans toppled Saddam, but our lives since then have gone backward.” He also said, “The situation will only improve if politicians work on fighting corruption and adopt reforms.”

A 50-year-old mother calling herself Umm Mohammed said, “I don’t think we can ever forgive the Americans for what they did to us, from killings to terrorism. Those people [Americans] think only about themselves, and not about the consequences of their actions.”

Mohammed Abdelamir, 60, said “We must all cooperate and work to improve the economy, the society, and begin rebuilding, and not fight because we are seeing that some politicians have already begun putting a stick in the wheel.”

Other Iraqis who worked for Americans are fearful over their departure, fearing they may be killed. John, a pseudonym for one such Iraqi, said to Al-Jazeera, “It’s a fact to these people, we betrayed our country, anyone who worked with the Americans. They think we don’t even deserve to be Iraqi.”

Mark, another such Iraqi, said “All the people around me know that I was working with the Americans. We feel that we are in danger from anyone who was against the US troops.” John and Mark both worked for Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) in Iraq. Both men have applied for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) which the US government created in 2008 for Iraqis who have worked for US forces.

However, there is an immense backlog for applicants, as over 30,000 await a decision. So far, only 7,000 SIV visas have been issued. John has been waiting for a visa for over a year, Mark has been waiting nine months since applying in March. Mark said, “They said we should wait at least six months, but this is crazy”. And, “For nine months I am jobless, waiting for that visa. I have nothing to do.”



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March 6, 2010

Gordon Brown defends Iraq decision

Gordon Brown defends Iraq decision – Wikinews, the free news source

Gordon Brown defends Iraq decision

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On Friday, the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown defended the decisions he made leading up to and following the British invasion of Iraq in 2003. Brown made his statements while testifying before the Chilcot Inquiry. At the time of the invasion, Brown was the Chancellor of spending for the British Armed Forces.

Brown comments were mainly directed at critics who had alleged that he had limited the spending budget for the war. Brown said that he had told then Prime Minister Tony Blair that he “would not try to rule out any military option on the grounds of cost.” One of the most notable criticisms involved the use of the Snatch Land Rovers, a patrol vehicle used following the invasion. People had complained that the vehicles were vulnerable to road side bombs. Brown, however, alleged that he fulfilled all requests for better vehicles. Regarding the Land Rovers, Brown said that he moved to replace them as soon as he heard complaints.

In addition to defending his budget decisions, Brown also defended the overall decision to go into Iraq. Brown said that invading was “the right decision” and that it was based on “the right reasons.” He said the international community was justified in its invasion. However, Brown admitted he may have been unknowledgeable about certain aspects of the war, and hinted that the possibility that things could have been done better. Brown mentioned that there were “learnt lessons” from the war. One specific regret he made was that did not apply more pressure towards America regarding their plans for Iraq following the invasion. During the testimony, Brown emphasized the importance of post-invasion planning and reconstruction. Brown also mentioned that he was unaware of doubts that another Cabinet member had about the validity of the evidence that Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction. The member, Robin Cook, later resigned because of his opposition to the war. This is relevant because both the UK and America had claimed that Hussein had had the weapons, and used this as part of their cases for the invasion. It was later revealed that Hussein had never had the weapons.

In addition to the issues regarding his handling of the war, Brown is also in the situation of being up for reelection. The main opponent of Brown, who represents the Labour Party, will be David Cameron, from the Conservative Party. The elections will be held on June 3, 2010.



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January 27, 2010

UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith admits to changing mind over Iraq war

UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith admits to changing mind over Iraq war

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Lord Peter Goldsmith, the Attorney General for England and Wales before and during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, has told the Iraq Inquiry that he changed his mind about the legality of the invasion about one month before military action began.

During his six hour session of questioning, Goldsmith said that he changed his mind about whether a further United Nations resolution was needed to ensure that the invasion was legal. His testimony comes only a day after former foreign office legal advisor Michael Wood told the inquiry that his own advice, that a further resolution was required, was ignored in favour of Goldsmith’s. Goldsmith’s account was under scrutiny because he had consistently said that it would be “safer” if a further resolution were obtained—since it would have put the “matter beyond doubt and nobody could have challenged the legality”—before changing his mind and giving the “green light” only a month before the invasion. He said that he had “good reasons” for “ultimately reach[ing] a different view”, and called his previous advice “too cautious”. He based his support of the war’s legality on a series of UN resolutions dating back to the end of the Gulf War.

Until February 2002, he believed that a new resolution would be required, but he said today that—after discussions with US and UK diplomats—he realised that United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 “revive[d]” the authority of the United Kingdom to use force, as outlined in previous resolutions. One of these was United Nations Security Council Resolution 678, which was passed in November 1990. It authorized “Member States co-operating with the Government of Kuwait … to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area” against Iraq if Saddam Hussein failed to give up his weapons of mass destruction. However, there has been debate about whether “all means necessary” included military force.

Cquote1.svg The prime minister made it clear that he accepted that it was for me to reach a judgement and he had to accept it. Cquote2.svg

—Peter Goldsmith

He admitted that he had told then prime minister Tony Blair, as far back as 2002, that any justification for war other than a UN resolution (such as regime change or self defence) would be invalid. Goldsmith said, “I don’t think it [the advice] was terribly welcome.” However, he added, “The prime minister made it clear that he accepted that it was for me to reach a judgement and he had to accept it.” Goldsmith agreed that he ignored the advice of other legal advisors, including Michael Wood (who spoke before the inquiry yesterday) and Elizabeth Wilmshurst (who resigned in protest days before the invasion), who both said that invading Iraq without a new UN resolution would amount to the “crime of aggression”. Goldsmith claimed to have “paid great attention to what their views were,” but added, “Ultimately I disagreed with the views they took.”

He said that an “unequivocal” opinion was needed before the invasion, and that this was what he gave in March, having been unsure about the war’s legality previously. He denied changing his mind only days before the invasion, as some have claimed, saying that he had advised the government that the war would be legal as far back as February, and that his advice was “consistent”. He also called claims that he was pressured into changing his opinion “nonsense”. He said that he “was ready to answer questions” and intended to debate the issue with the cabinet, but was told that they would read his advice before moving on to different issues. He said that the debate did not in fact take place – he told the inquiry that he believes cabinet ministers considered it to be “a slightly sterile exercise”.

In his testimony, Goldsmith also criticised Jack Straw’s response to Wood’s advice, saying that, while ministers could “challenge” legal advice, Straw “appeared to be rebuking a senior legal adviser for expressing his own legal view” in a recently declassified letter. He was also concerned that the cabinet ignored, or was unaware of, the caveats included in his March advice on the war’s legality, in which he said that “the safest legal course” would be to get a new resolution, despite a “reasonable case” being available based on existing resolutions. His advice warned the government that he was not “confident” that the case based on existing resolutions would stand up in court. Goldsmith also requested the declassification of documents relating to the war’s legal status, which are available to the Iraq inquiry, but not to the public. Sir John Chilcot, the chair of the inquiry, said that Goldsmith’s “frustration is shared.”


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October 12, 2008

Bush deploys military in the US for active duty as federal response force

Bush deploys military in the US for active duty as federal response force

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United States President George W. Bush deployed the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team to a new role on United States soil last Wednesday, training for dealing with national crises. Critics claim that act of the Executive Branch violates the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits military participation in domestic matters.

In 2007, the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act was introduced; it overturned the Posse Comitatus Act by allowing the Commander in Chief to suppress ‘insurrection’ and ‘restore order’. When it was repealed in 2008, Bush stated that he did not respect the later repeal.

The combat team, renamed CCMRF (C-hemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive C-onsequence M-anagement R-esponse F-orces), has been assigned for year-long duty and training at Fort Stewart to prepare them for “civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios” such as security or natural disasters. After a year, a new unit will take its place.

CCMRF will be under the control of the Northern Command (NORTHCOM), and now has the same legal authority as a unit deployed to Iraq under the direct control of the Executive Branch. The unit will have use of engineer and medical units, the Marine Corps Chemical, Biological Initial Reaction Force, and a Navy weather team, as well as members of the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. A spokeswoman for NORTHCOM added that both wheeled and tank vehicles would be available for the CCMRF.

In July the unit was assigned a new commander, Col. Roger Cloutier. “If we go in,” he said proudly of the deployment, “we’re going in to help American citizens on American soil”. CCMRF will be training in both traffic and riot control equipment, and will be the first to use the Army’s new nonlethal package, which is intended for war-zone and not domestic use.

NORTHCOM’s September 30th statement includes a quote attributed to “future operations division chief” Colonel Michael Boatner saying, “This response force will not be called upon to help with law enforcement, civil disturbance or crowd control, but will be used to support lead agencies involved in saving lives, relieving suffering and meeting the needs of communities affected by weapons of mass destruction attacks, accidents or even natural disasters.”

The action has raised concerns for some citizens like journalist Naomi Wolf, an author critical of the Bush administration, who referred to the deployment as a ‘coup’ in a well-circulated viral video and issued Americans a call to action.

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NORTHCOM is a joint command established post-9/11 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities. When Hurricane Katrina damaged Mississippi and Louisiana, several active-duty units were pulled from various posts and mobilized to those areas, but were not assigned to NORTHCOM, but instead individual commands under provisional authorities.

Military officials have not yet responded to a request for comment.

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March 24, 2008

United States military death toll in Iraq reaches 4,000

United States military death toll in Iraq reaches 4,000

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Monday, March 24, 2008

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Mowaffak al-Rubaie

The death of four soldiers Sunday from a roadside improvised explosive device has raised the total of American soldiers to die in Iraq to 4,000. 3,263 have been killed in combat and other hostile action, while 737 have been killed in non-hostile incidents, such as traffic accidents and suicides.

The four soldiers were traveling in their vehicle in southern Baghdad around 10 a.m. local time, when the vehicle was hit by an explosion from the IED. A fifth soldier was wounded. Following standard procedure, the identities of those killed have been withheld pending notification of relatives.

The milestone was reached just days after the fifth anniversary of the start of the war on March 19, 2003 when the United States and the United Kingdom invaded Iraq “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.” However, no weapons of mass destruction have been located yet.

A military spokesman, Navy Lt. Patrick Evans, gave condolences to the family and noted each death is “equally tragic.” Evans also added, “There have been some significant gains. However, this enemy is resilient and will not give up, nor will we. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”

The U.S. military says that in 2007, 901 soldiers and personnel were killed, which made that year the deadliest year for U.S. troops since the beginning of the war.

This occurred on the same day when Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the current Iraqi National Security Advisor said that “This war is well worth fighting,” on CNN’s Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer.

Cquote1.svg This war is well worth fighting. Cquote2.svg

—Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraqi National Security Advisor

“This is global terrorism hitting everywhere and they have chosen Iraq to be a battlefield. And we have to take them on. If we don’t prevail, if we don’t succeed in this war, then we are doomed forever,” al-Rubaie stated. He further added, “I understand and sympathize with the mothers, with the widows, with the children who have lost their beloved ones in this country. But honestly, it is well worth fighting and well worth investing the money and the treasure and the sweat and the tears in Iraq.”

Also on the same day, various separate attacks by Iraqi insurgents caused in total 40 deaths of Iraqi civilians. In Baghdad, mortars or rockets were fired into the high-security “Green Zone.” Meanwhile, a suicide bomber killed six people in Shula, one Baghdad’s Shia neighborhoods. Also, gunmen in seven cars open fired in a mixed neighborhood of Baghdad killing seven people.

Meanwhile, 13 Iraqi soldiers were killed at an army base by a suicide truck bomber and another four were killed by a roadside bomb in Tuz Khurmato.

The death toll of Iraqi civilians is estimated to be around 80,000 to 150,000 or more. However, the true death toll is unknown as the United States military does not keep records of civilian deaths.



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February 6, 2008

Wikinews interviews U.S. Libertarian presidential candidate Wayne Allyn Root

Wikinews interviews U.S. Libertarian presidential candidate Wayne Allyn Root

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

2008 United States Presidential Election
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Wikinews held an exclusive interview with Wayne Allyn Root, one of the candidates for the Libertarian Party nomination for the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

Root is the founder and chairman of Winning Edge International Inc., a sports handicapping company based in Las Vegas, Nevada. In addition, he is an author and a television producer, as well as an on-screen personality both as host and guest on several talk shows.

Root, a long-time Republican, declared his candidacy for the Libertarian Party on May 4, 2007.

He says he is concerned about the qualities of many who run for president, and fears that they do not know the needs of American citizens. He also says that they cater to big businesses instead of small ones.

He has goals of limiting the federal government and believes that the US went into Iraq for wrong reasons. A strong supporter of the War on Terror, he feels that it was mishandled. He has conservative values and came from a blue collar family in New York. He graduated from Columbia University with fellow presidential hopeful Barack Obama in 1983.

Root believes that America is in trouble and hopes to change that if elected.

Interview

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: Why do you want to run for president? How would you help your fellow Americans if elected?

Mr. Root: I decided to run for President of the United States because the same people keep running (and being elected) who have screwed everything up in the first place! Every recent President or Presidential candidate falls into one of these same categories: lifelong government bureaucrat or politician (people who have never started a business, funded a business, created jobs, paid health insurance for employees, paid millions in taxes, fought through government regulations, or added millions of dollars to the American economy)…or lawyer (same lack of qualifications…but worse- they make their living by suing the people and companies that create jobs)…or big businessman (out of touch millionaires or billionaires like George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, Ross Perot)…or spoiled brats who have never experienced pain, failure or adversity like the rest of us. I break that mold. I’m a small businessman (I built a company with 35 employees) and self-made son of a butcher. The entire U.S. economy is fueled by small business. Small businesses now create the majority of jobs in the USA. Small business creates the jobs, pays the taxes, pays the health insurance, makes the U.S. economy go and grow.
Politicians are always far behind the curve. They fawn over big business, big unions, huge corporations, like GE, Microsoft, Exxon or Halliburton. They ignore a small businessman like me with 35 employees. I can’t afford lobbyists or huge campaign contributions. So we’re left out of the national political dialogue. But guess what? Put all of America’s small businessmen together and we’re far more important than GE or Microsoft or Exxon or Halliburton. America is a nation of small business owners (and the tens of millions of people that we employ). Small business owners are the heroes of the American economy- we are the risk takers and daring innovators and business leaders. We risk our own money on our own ideas, putting everything we own on the line. We are the CEO’s and Generals of our own small worlds- we have no Board of Directors, Ivy League lawyers, layers of big shot executives, or highly-paid lobbyists and consultants to assist us. We make decisions all by ourselves on pure gut instinct- and either hit a homerun or strikeout. We’re the last of the rugged individualists. We are like the Wright Brothers or Lewis & Clark. Small businessmen are the courageous explorers who tamed the Wild West on sheer guts, instincts and chutzpah. We are what America is all about.
I’m proud to be the FIRST small businessman running for President. Who better to lead a country of small business owners, small investors, entrepreneurs, independent contractors (commissioned salespeople) and the people they employ? Who better than a small businessman to cut the size of government? I’ve lived my whole adult life on my wits, gut instincts and a small budget. What a perfect business experience as a model to run the U.S. government. Far better to put a small businessman in charge who has always made do with less money…than some out-of-touch, spoiled-brat, big business CEO, used to spending billions of dollars and delegating authority to a staff of thousands. If you agree that it’s time for a big change- I’m your guy. I’m the guy George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin were thinking of when they founded America and created the greatest document ever-the U.S. constitution. I’m a part-time politician who also runs his own small business. I’m the quintessential Citizen Legislator.
As far as how I’d help my fellow Americans, my answer is simple. Get the government out of their lives and out of their business as much as possible. Cut government, cut the bureaucracy, cut the entitlements, and dramatically reduce the tax burden. Get government out of the way and allow small business and small investors to lead the way- to grow, prosper, flourish and thrive. You’ll see the greatest economic explosion in world economic history.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: You were a Republican until not too long ago. Why the sudden switch to the Libertarian Party?

Mr. Root: I didn’t leave the Republican Party- the GOP left me. The first problem with the GOP is that they talk a great game- smaller government, lower taxes, less spending, reduced bureaucracy. It sounds great. But it’s only talk. They only use that talk to get elected. It’s just a sales job. However, Republicans are at least slightly better than the Democrats when it comes to fiscal policy. At least Republicans want to cut taxes. But they have no interest in cutting government. They love earmarks, giveaways and spending as much as their Democrat brothers. I call the 2 parties big and bigger, dumb and dumber! Both parties want to make government bigger so they control more power, more money, more spoils to handout to their voters. It’s outright bribery- and it’s disgraceful.
The second reason for my switch is that I’m a fiscal conservative in the mode of Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and Ron Paul. But when it comes to social issues, I’m a pure Libertarian. Unfortunately the GOP has morphed into Big Brother when it comes to social issues and personal freedoms. They have decided it’s okay to use big government to force religion and morality on the American people. I couldn’t disagree more strongly.
Third, while I believe the war on terror is real and I strongly support it, I believe Bush and the GOP have completely screwed it up. The Dept of Homeland Security is just a new bungling bureaucracy. Making me take off my shoes and getting rid of my toothpaste won’t prevent terrorism. Neither will hiring hundreds of thousands of new government employees- most of whom could never find a good job in the private sector. The people that work for Homeland Security are for the most part bungling idiots. So is the Bush administration. They are so busy fighting the wrong war in Iraq, that as a recent study proved, we are completely unprepared, in case of national emergency or terrorist attack here at home. Very little of our weaknesses and vulnerabilities to terrorism have been dealt with- our port security is lax, cargo on airplanes goes virtually unchecked, and seven long years after 9/11 we have only 50 FBI agents out of 10,000 who speak Arabic. How could that be possible? Worse, we’ve used the war on terror to justify taking away our own civil liberties in America. Winning the war against terrorism is not a victory if we give up freedom in our own country to achieve it.
And finally, the war on terror should be fought NOT by invading entire countries, but through the use of specially trained rapid-strike teams and special forces taking out terrorist leaders wherever they may be hiding. Spending a trillion dollars on occupying Iraq was a costly mistake. It’s been a disaster in terms of money wasted, lives lost and instability at home. The military forces of the United States are stretched to the brink. The National Guard has been plundered- it is now virtually useless to defend our homeland. I’ve come to realize that Bush and this entire administration are incompetent “Keystone Cops.” I believe in the war on terror- but not the way it’s being run right now.
Fourth, I’m a spiritual person. I love God. I believe in the power of prayer. I’ve seen the studies that prove the healing power of prayer. I’ve seen the studies that prove religious people are happier and healthier. So I pray every day. My kids start and end every day with prayer. I believe that America has been blessed by God. But God and religion are personal issues made by each individual. I don’t want politics to be used as a tool by religious people to stuff religion down our throats. I would fight to the death to protect your right to be religious, to practice any religion of your choice…or to practice no religion at all. I’m a great believer in personal freedom. Your choices are your choices- and none of the government’s business.
I happen to not smoke, drink or do drugs of any kind- EVER. That’s my choice of lifestyle. On the other hand, I love to gamble. I’m a risk taker- whether it’s betting on a business idea, a stock, a million dollar real estate investment, or the Dallas Cowboys. That’s my chosen form of entertainment. It’s none of your business- and it’s certainly none of the government’s damn business. I would never try to force my choice of lifestyle or my definition of morality upon anyone else. Today’s GOP disagrees. They are a big government party playing Big Brother. They spend their time like the busybody old lady peeking out the window to spy on her neighbors. Today’s GOP wants to define morality, legislate it and throw people in jail who disagree. I find this disgusting and offensive. It’s just plain wrong. It’s anything but conservative. It’s the Nanny State. I want to lead the battle to stop it- forever. What Americans do in their homes, in their bedrooms, on their computers, watch on their TV sets is none of the government’s damn business. The job of government is to protect us from others, NOT to protect us from ourselves. And the job of government is certainly not to criminalize moral behavior. That’s why our ancestors left England and fought a revolution. We didn’t want the King of England telling us what to do, what religion to worship, or to tax us heavily without representation. But all of that is happening today. It’s our own government taxing us to death, wiretapping our phone calls and emails without warrants, and putting Americans in jail for minor offenses, choices of morality and victimless crimes.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: There are thousands reading this right now, many of which may not have decided who they are going to vote for. What could you say to encourage them to give you their vote?

Mr. Root: Barack Obama (my college classmate Columbia University Class of ’83) talks nonstop about change. So do Hillary and McCain. None of them are agents of change. They are longtime politicians (and lawyers). They are the problem- not the solution. Barack was just named as the single most liberal member of the entire U.S. Senate. That’s based on facts- his voting record. Is that the change we want? That’s not change- that’s the same old “soak the rich,” “redistribute the wealth,” “spend like a drunken sailor,” and “spend trillions on a failing war on poverty” philosophy of big government, out-of-touch, bleeding heart liberals like Ted Kennedy, George McGovern, Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis. Is this what America calls change? While China and Russia turn unabashedly capitalistic, do we want to move towards Socialism?
McCain is another big government conservative. He’s been collecting government checks in D.C. for 25 years. Hillary wants Universal Healthcare- so we can bankrupt America and throw Americans in jail for trying to choose the doctor of their choice. Scary. That’s what happens in UK and Canada- if you’re sick you wait in line for weeks or months to see a doctor- who is forced upon you by the government. You don’t like that doctor-too bad. He’s an incompetent doctor- too bad. You’re out of luck. You need a hip replaced right away? Too bad- you’ll have to sit in a wheelchair for 18 months until it’s your turn. Anyone want that system?
Who wants to vote for “the same old, same old.” The D.C. insiders are the ones who have ruined things. Our country is in trouble. It’s time for a dramatic change; a non-violent revolution. Who better to lead that revolution than a son of a butcher. I say “THROW THE BUMS OUT.” A perfect example is found in the final 3 contenders for the major party Presidential nominations- Clinton, Obama, and McCain are people that have been agents of big government their whole lives. Always collecting government checks. Always voting against tax cuts (even though it’s our money in the first place). Always feeding off taxpayers. Always bribing the voters to stay in office- thereby increasing government spending and running up a huge deficit. But here’s the worst thing of all- all 3 are sitting U.S. Senators. They collect a 6-figure income from the taxpayers. Being a Senator is a full-time job, isn’t it? But these 3 are spending every waking hour campaigning for President. How are they earning their $175,000 U.S. Senate salaries? They’re not even present to vote on important bills. They are cheating the citizens of New York, Illinois and Arizona. It’s, in my opinion, fraud to run for higher office while collecting a check for another political office. The rules should be changed- if you want to run for President, you have to step down from your present office. Why should taxpayers pay the cost for absent politicians who ignore the job for which they are being paid?
If what I’m saying strikes a chord- it’s time to vote for a complete outsider. A rebel with a pitchfork and musket. A citizen legislator. A small businessman, S.O.B. (son of a butcher) and Las Vegas oddsmaker. I am the perfect “OUT OF THE BOX” candidate. Some people are scared of Vegas. Religious people think it has a negative connotation. You know what the difference is between Las Vegas and Washington D.C.? In Vegas the drunks gamble with their own money! It’s time to shake things up in Washington. Put the rebel and maverick small businessman from Las Vegas in charge. I could certainly do a better job than the fools, hypocrites and greedy thieves that have run this country for the past 50 years.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: How would you handle the situation in Iraq?

Mr. Root: There are no good or simple answers for Iraq. It’s a tough situation. We shouldn’t be there. It was the wrong war. We won Afghanistan- then we made a big mistake by adding Iraq to the equation. Now we’re losing ground in Afghanistan too. We should have stayed focused on the only true enemy- the Taliban, Al Queda and the terrorists. We should have won big in Afghaistan and then gone after the remaining terrorists- not Saddam. He was just a distraction. An evil, cruel, murdering dictator who bragged of having weapons of mass destruction- so it’s good he’s gone. But nonetheless Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time. Now we’ve spent a trillion dollars and lost thousands of lives on a big mistake. But we’re there. I believe it would e a mistake to turn tail and run. I agreed with the recommendation of the Generals on the ground- to build up a troop surge. We did and it’s been a great success. The enemy is on the run. I’m proud that even though I didn’t support the war, I supported the surge. We were correct. It worked. Now let’s use the success to declare victory and get out as soon as possible. That won’t be tomorrow, but it can realistically be 12 to 18 months from now. Let’s give the Iraqi government time to build up its own security, police and military- and then “get the hell out of Dodge.” That’s the best answer I can come up with for a difficult, disastrous and complicated problem with no easy way out. I think my support of the surge was reasonable, fair and commonsense. My compromise solution above is reasonable, fair and based on commonsense. It’s about the best choice we have right now.
But there are some important lessons to be learned here. All is not lost. A tragedy becomes a positive if you can learn from your mistakes. I call it “The Black Box Theory.” What good could come f a plane crash where 100 passengers die? Actually, a lot of good. If we recover the “black box” and study it, we can learn from the tragedy and prevent millions of future deaths. Those 100 victims suddenly become heroes. They didn’t die in vain. Their deaths will save many others in the future. We can turn Iraq into a “black box.” I’ve learned that “Nation Building” is a failure. We can’t force Democracy down the throats of other countries. We should mind our own business. Most importantly, we can’t afford to be the world’s policeman.
Further, I’ve learned we spend far too much time, effort and money interfering in the business and politics of others. Ron Paul is a bit extreme and he scares a lot of Americans by demanding a complete end to foreign aid and American military bases all over the world. But he’s certainly brought up a good point that should lead to a serious discussion. I believe he’s on the right track. We need to look at what we’re spending and what we’re accomplishing. I think it’s time to cut foreign aid dramatically. I think it’s time to eliminate many U.S. military bases around the world. It’s time to let Japan, South Korea and Western Europe defend themselves. It’s not our job to pay to protect the entire world. And it’s time to cut the waste out of defense spending and the Pentagon- just as we should do with all government spending. If it’s okay to criticize entitlements and welfare waste, why is it not okay to seek out waste in the defense budget too? If we can call for an end to welfare, I think we should end corporate welfare and national defense welfare too. I think it’s obvious that defense contractors and security firms are ripping off he American taxpayer. Why is that acceptable? Because we’re at war? Because Haliburton and Blackwater are close friends with the Bush Administration? Theft is theft. Waste is waste. It doesn’t matter if those ripping off the taxpayer wear pinstripe suits or military uniforms. I will root out waste EVERYWHERE.
Perhaps most importantly, I don’t think it makes sense to fight for freedom and civil rights in Iraq, while we take away freedom and civil liberties in our own country. No war is worth fighting if it results in reduced freedom and liberties for our own citizens. Those are the lessons I’ve learned from Iraq.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: Do you believe that it is really possible for you to win the 2008 election, being a third party candidate and all?

Mr. Root: First of all, YES, it is possible. I’ll report the findings of two recent polls. The first poll reported that a majority of Americans would consider voting for a third party candidate. The American people are getting screwed by the 2-party system, and they know it. They are desperately looking for a reason to vote for a credible alternative. The second poll found that a large swath of Americans describe themselves as “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” otherwise known as Libertarian. So there is hope. One of my heroes Ronald Reagan took 16 years to be elected President. I’m starting a 16 year campaign to win the Presidency and reduce the size, scope and power of government. It’ll be a battle- but who better to win hat battle than a guy named W.A.R. Ron Paul (Republican candidate) is 72 years old right now. I’ll still be younger than Ron Paul a quarter of a century from now! I’ve got time on my side.
By the way, third party politics is far from hopeless. I have personal experience proving that third party politics can produce victory.
I started my political career in 1964 at the age of 3, handing out campaign literature for Barry Goldwater, in my father’s arms outside a supermarket in Mt. Vernon, NY. My father was a butcher and small business owner (he owned a 2 man butcher shop). My father was one of the people who answered a newspaper ad in the early 1960’s to start a new political party- The Conservative Party of NY State. By 1971 they had elected a third party United States Senator named James Buckley. By 1980 they helped little known Al D’Amato defeat powerful incumbent U.S. Senator Jacob Javits. They were also instrumental in supporting a much-maligned B-movie actor who later became President (Ronald Reagan). Not bad for a blue collar Jewish butcher from Brownsville, Brooklyn. I’m a political leader in my father’s image. I’m a strong fiscal conservative who stands for fiscal discipline, smaller government, reduced government spending, reduced taxes, reduced entitlements, reduced powers for the federal government, elimination of the IRS, elimination of entire government cabinet departments (like the Dept of Education), and more personal responsibility and rights for the individual.
But I’m not your “classic conservative.” I’m a social Libertarian. I will end the Nanny State. It’s none of government’s business what I do with my body or my computer in the privacy of my home. I believe issues like abortion, gay marriage, online gambling, right to die, medicinal marijuana are all up to the states. Leave people alone. As long as you’re not violating my rights, I believe you can do whatever you want without government interference. I want Big Brother out of our lives. A true conservative could not possibly believe in Big Brother telling us how to live our lives. I am a true conservative. Barry Goldwater and my father would be proud.
Will I win the Presidency in 2008? Highly unlikely, but not impossible. Ladbrokes of UK, the largest legal oddsmaker in the world, has set the odds- they make me a prohibitive favorite to attract he most votes in Libertarian Party history. That will be a nice start. I fully expect this to lead to victory in 2012, 2016 or 2020. The battle has just begun! ROOT for Liberty. ROOT for Freedom. ROOT for America.



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