September 21, 2011

Europe's Communist Past Haunts Euro-Zone

By David Paulin

It’s an overlooked aspect of the euro-zone debt crisis and Greece’s probable default: the hand that former European communists (now top members of the European Parliament) had in creating the euro-zone’s command-and-control economic system, along with the trappings of a common (and dubious) European culture. Now it’s all coming apart — a calamity that’s threatening the viability of the euro-zone and rattling the global economy.

The quest for a united Europe — one with a common currency (the euro) along with a single flag and anthem – was in retrospect a project for dreamers. And as euro-skeptics have said all along, the dreamers were European elites with autocratic tendencies.

So perhaps it’s not surprising to learn that a number of the elites who constructed a utopian political and economic union for Europe have something in common: communism.

This explains, in part, why headstrong Euro elites recklessly expanded the European Union and, in particular, the euro-zone (comprising the 17 states utilizing a common currency in the 27-member European Union). But in their zeal to achieve their dream, the European Union’s idealists failed to recognize a daunting problem: Countries as different as economically disciplined Germany and corruption-riddled and undisciplined Greece shouldn’t share a common currency under the same economic system — a system with one-size-fits-all interest rates and no chance for currency devaluations. (And if Greece still used the drachma – not the euro – a currency devaluation would be a way out of its economic mess. That option would spare ordinary Greeks the suffering caused by harsh and unrealistic austerity measures imposed by unelected eurocrats.)

Britain’s Nigel Farage, a conservative politician, euro-skeptic and delegate to the European Parliament, has on more than one occasion drawn parallels between Europe’s old communist dreamers and European Union dreamers.

Speaking in the European Parliament early last year, Farage drew attention to the number of former communists and their fellow travelers in the European Parliament – and he took them to task for their handling of Greece’s economic troubles, which were then in their early stages. (See the YouTube clip, below.)

Farage, a former metals trader, has made similar comments in the past about Europe’s financially troubled PIGS: Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain. He appears to be one of a handful of members of the European Parliament who has a firm grasp of financial markets and economics.

Declaring that Greece had become less democratic after becoming part of the euro-zone – now “trapped in the economic prison of the euro” — Farage observed: “While 60 years ago an Iron Curtain fell across Europe, today we have the iron fist of the European Commission” imposing its will upon Greece.

Early last year, Farage also delivered a dramatic speech in the European Parliament in which he recounted a tragic-comic story: Europe’s evolution from a continent divided by communism to one divided by the undemocratic political and economic system created by the EU and euro-zone. His comments, lasting just under four minutes, drew howls of protest and jeers. They are worth watching on this YouTube clip.

With respect to Greece’s probable default, Farage told the European Parliament last week that Greece was now a “protectorate,” subject to the EU’s “economic governance.” And just like the Iron Curtain that went down over Europe some 60 years ago, the EU is now divided between North and South, said Farage – all due to the economic calamities brought on by the economic straightjacket created by the euro-zone on countries such as Greece, which EU dreamers – against the advice of pragmatic euro-skeptics – allowed into the euro-zone. “Is it any wonder that Greeks are now burning EU flags and drawing swastikas on them,” he said. (For the YouTube clip, click here.)

In the case of Europe’s old communist past and the euro-zone, history is repeating itself in some respects.

(Originally published at FrontPage Magazine. Also see a related article: "Euroskeptics on Greece: 'We told you so!'")

On Obama's orders, White House chef to prepare pork chops

David Paulin

President Obama is no doubt enjoying lots of delicious sea food in Martha's Vineyard -- lobster, scallops, that sort of thing. But when he's back in Washington, he'll be chowing down a favorite new meal prepared by the White House chef: gourmet-style Iowa pork chops!

Specifically: "cinnamon brined grilled Iowa pork chops."

That's what Obama ordered during his recent visit to Iowa while staying in Davenport at the Hotel Blackhawk. He loved the meaty chops so much that his staff requested the recipe from the hotel's chief, so that the chops could be added to the official West Wing menu.

That's according to an amusing article by veteran newspaper columnist Bill Wundram in the Quad-City Times about how Obama pigged out on the heavenly chops that were 2-inches thick. Wundram tried the chops himself -- all to experience the pleasure of eating like a king.

Interestingly, Obama initially ordered a New York strip steak, but then changed his mind. Or as Wundram relates:

"He had taken a couple of bites of the steak - medium-well - when he spotted an aide licking his chops over pork chops. The president sneaked a bite of the chops and is said to have spoken out:

"I want an order of those."

So how was the $25 plate of two chops?

According to Wundram:

"Just like the order for the president, my chops came on a square white plate. It was more than an order. It was a mountain of food, with those rib bones protruding alongside a 4-inch slab of Iowa cornbread casserole.

"There was enough food on that plate to feed a family of four. The chops were nuzzled in a bacon braised warm cabbage slaw with caramelized onions. This was a breakthrough from the way I usually get my pork chops, from a kitchen stove frying pan.

"I was raving hungry and ready to eat. I couldn't wait to dig into those chops.

"Trust me: They were smackin' good!"

Let's hope that diet scold Michelle doesn't see how that chops are prepared: "marinated 24 hours in a brine of cinnamon, salt and sugar before being grilled and finished off in the oven."

Wundram said he left the table "stuffed to the gills. By mid-afternoon, my lips felt salty, an aftertaste of the best pork chops in town."

Wundram failed to mention what became of that New York strip steak Obama took a bite out of -- but then discarded upon spotting a White House aide devouring pork chops.

Perhaps the New York strip ended up in a doggy bag for "Bo," the Obama family's Portuguese Water Dog.

It's good to be the king.

(Originally published in The American Thinker, August 24, 2011)

September 13, 2011

Euroskeptics on Greece: 'We told you so!'

By David Paulin

Will Greece default?

The question is roiling financial markets in Europe -- and spreading financial jitters around the world. It's also energizing Britain's Euroskeptics and renewing pointed questions about the wisdom of European unification, and specifically about the "eurozone" -- the 17 states of the 27-member European Union that share a common currency -- the euro.

Keeping Greece on the euro means imposing more harsh austerity measures on that country, which got it's first bail-out package in May last year. But tougher austerity measures for Greece are probably untenable because of the tremendous hardship they'll impose upon ordinary Greeks. Even more problematic: Keeping Greece on the euro means eliminating -- virtually overnight -- Greece's endemic corruption that should have disqualified it from joining the EU's eurozone in the first place. (Greece may be the cradle of democracy and inspiration for Western civilization, but in many ways modern-day Greece has more in common with the Balkans than Western and Northern Europe.)

Unfortunately, the EU apparently has no contingency plan for how Greece would return to its own currency, the drachma; this would give it the flexibility to deal with its financial mess (by setting its interest rates or through currency devaluations) -- all with the least amount of pain and social disorder. But that doesn't mean a return to the drachma can't be done -- and it would be the best thing for Greece, say some analysts.

The problems in creating a United States of Europe -- to counterbalance American power in the minds of some European elites, especially the French -- were criticized early on by British Eurosceptics (British spelling), who feared the anti-Democratic values of an EU Parliament; an avalanche of regulations; and a common currency that would be untenable.

Britain's Euroskeptics have much in common with America's "Tea Party" movement. And their most famous member is undoubtedly one man: British politician Nigel Farage -- leader of the UK Independence Party; Member of the European Parliament for South East England; and co-chair of the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group. Known for his wit and colorful oratory, Farage addressed the EU's European Parliament more than a year ago on the economic turmoil and folly of what was happening then, and what would happen in the future. His prophetic remarks about the EU's financial troubles could have been delivered yesterday.

In criticizing a European common currency, Farage has said that countries with structurally different economics -- Germany and Greece, for example -- can't handle a "one-size-fits-all interest rate."

"You can ignore the markets if you want to but in time the markets will not ignore you," he has said. Early on, he predicted the need for bail-outs of troubled eurzone countries.

Referring to financially troubled eurozone countries Greece, Portugal, and Spain, Farage -- more than a year ago -- told the European Parliament: "Just how much do these countries have to suffer in the pursuit of this European dream?" He added: "I wonder how much longer will the Germans go on paying the enormous bill."

Farage's prophetic comments may be see on this YouTube clip, below, during which he also demolished the idea of a "European identity." Or as Henry Kissinger asked in a similar vein: “Who do I call if I want to call Europe?”

And for some more entertainment, enjoy some of Farage's colorful performances in the European Parliament, more than a year ago, as shown on two YouTube clips:

*Click here for Farage attacking the anti-democratic proclivities of EU members and particularly of EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy: Farage derided the unelected Rompuy for getting paid more than President Obama and of having the "appearance of a low-grade bank clerk." Farage was fined 3,000 euros for the insult. He later apologized -- to bank clerks!

*And click here to see Farage suggesting that Van Rompuy, a Belgian politician, ought to be the "pinup boy for the Euroskeptic movement" because of how the EU's best intentions have produced results that undermined Europe's economy.

He added: "It's even more serious than economics because if you rob people of their identity, if you rob them of their democracy, then all they are left with is nationalism and violence. I can only hope and pray that the Euro project is destroyed by the markets before that."

Originally published at The American Thinker.

September 9, 2011

Clinton, Bush, and Osama bin Laden: The WikiLeaks Cables

By David Paulin

In the months leading up to the September 11 terror attacks, the Bush administration had Osama bin Laden on its radar. He was not a household name in America yet, but top administration officials regarded him as a mortal enemy. Secretary of State Colin Powell was among those deeply concerned about Bin Laden's ability to launch or provoke serious terror attacks – and to influence large swaths of the Muslim world, where many admired him and were drawn to his hate-filled anti-Americanism.

Secret diplomatic cables just released by WikiLeaks show that ten years ago, just months before 9/11, top Bush officials were attempting to bring Bin Laden to justice for outrages that included his role in the truck-bombing attacks of U.S. Embassies in the East African cities of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. However, Washington was getting nowhere with the Taliban.

The Bush administration like the Clinton administration was getting stalled, stonewalled, and lied to by the Taliban in response to repeated queries and demands about Bin Laden's whereabouts and the Taliban's pledges to close terror-training camps, according to diplomatic cables classified as “secret.”

The subject line of one secret cable: “Taliban claim Bin Laden out of their territory.” Dated February 19, 1999, it was written by President Clinton's Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, based on information provided by a top Taliban figure, Abdul Hakeem Mujahid, who was considered a “moderate” Taliban.

Sounding upbeat, Talbott wrote: “Mujahid has long indicated his own opposition to UBL and support for better relations between the U.S. and the Taliban. It was clearly gratifying for him to deliver the news that UBL had left tall ban territory. Mujahid was more emotional during this session than in any previous encounter.”

The diplomatic back and forth between Washington and Taliban officials over Bin Laden's whereabouts, up until the eve of 9/11, is eerily similar to Washington's negotiations over the years with North Korea and Iran about their nuclear weapons programs.

Read in the hindsight of 9/11, the cables provide a fascinating and sometimes comic and even depressing glimpse into the minds of officials in the Clinton and Bush administrations as they tried, during the late 90s and early 2001, to find common ground and shared interests with the Taliban – with the aim of neutralizing Bin Laden or bringing him to justice (though not necessarily kill him) and to shut down Bin Laden's terror-training camps in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

During the Clinton years in particular, some diplomatic cables give the sense that State Department officials viewed Taliban leaders as people who would listen to reason; or who could be shamed or pressured into doing the right thing in respect to their famous guest, Osama bin Laden, and his terror-training camps.

It's the only thing to conclude from a secret cable sent by Clinton's Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on February 26, 1998. Its subject line: “Usama bin Laden's statement about jihad against the U.S.”

Albright noted her cable was responding to Bin Laden's recent statement “calling for all Muslims to engage in a holy war against Americans.”

Sent to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, it contained helpful “talking points” for Embassy officials. Per Albright's instructions, they were to convey the following to the Taliban:

*“We find statements of this kind, open invitations to carry out terrorist attacks against innocent people to be outrageous and totally unacceptable.”

*“We have discussed our concerns about Usama bin Laden's inflamatory (sic) remarks and anti-American rhetoric before. We were given assurances that negative actions like this would be curbed.”

*“You should convey to bin Laden and his supporters in Afghanistan that this advocacy of violence is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

*“These kinds of statements by Bin Laden also reflect poorly on the Taliban, as he enjoys your hospitality.”

How might the Taliban have reacted to the talking points in Albright's February 26 cable? It should have been obvious to her and anybody who knew what they were doing, and had already done. In Kabul, for instance, they demonstrated their Islamo-facist credentials in February, 1998 -- just like Germany's Nazis had demonstrated their thug credentials in November, 1938, with Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), the nationwide attacks on Jewish homes, business, and synagogues. The Taliban's religious police, for their part, were clearing women from Kabul's streets and beating them up for failing to wear head-to-toe chadors, a violation of Sharia law. Months later, the Taliban turned Kabul soccer stadium into an execution ground, shooting untold numbers of men and women in the heads or stoning them to death for petty crimes and adultery. And despite international protests, they later destroyed colossal Buddhist statues carved into a mountain, considering them idolatrous and offensive to Islam.

This is who the Taliban were. Not surprisingly, Albright's talking points failed to persuade them to clean up their act regarding Bin Laden and the terror camps. Albright was flummoxed. And so she ratcheted up the diplomatic pressure by enlisting the help of a formidable alley: the Europe Union. In a secret cable dated March 27, 1998, Albright contacted U.S. Embassies in the European Union – and in her “action message” directed U.S. envoys to invite E.U. states to join Washington in condemning the Taliban; she hoped the diplomatic pile on would persuade the Taliban to close their terror camps and withdraw their support for Osama bin Laden. The cable's subject line: “Approach to EU on Taleban support for Usama bin Laden.”

Albright wrote: “The U.S. is concerned by the so-called fatwa recently issued by terrorist patron Usama bin Laden that calls on all Muslims to kill Americans. We have raised this issue with the Taleban both in Kabul and in New York. We are confident that EU member states share this concern. We believe that there is merit in the Taleban realizing that this concern is not limited to the U.S.” (“Taleban” is an alternative spelling to the more commonly used “Taliban.”)

Albright warned: “The Taleban must share responsibility for Usama bin Laden's terrorist actions and inflammatory statements as long as he remains a guest in Qandahar.” (Qandahar is the Persian spelling of "Kandahar," the more commonly seen Pashto version.)

How might the Taliban and Bin Laden have reacted to Albright's diplomatic efforts? In all likelihood, her talking points achieved the opposite of what she'd intended – providing evidence to Bin Laden and the Taliban that America was a “weak horse”; or as Bin Laden had famously declared: “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse."

Interestingly, just six months after Albright's first "talking points" cable, she got an answer of sorts – the U.S. Embassy bombings in East Africa in which Bin Laden had a hand. Hundreds died and thousands were wounded; 12 Americans were among the dead. In retaliation for the suicide bombings, President Clinton thereupon established his own credentials as a “weak horse” – ineffectual cruise missile strikes against targets in Afghanistan and Sudan. In the minds of the Taliban and Bin Laden (and their cheerleaders in the Middle East), the cruise missiles strikes offered more evidence that they had nothing to fear from the pitiful American giant.

Months before September 11, 2001, the Bush administration was itself utilizing fruitless diplomatic channels to bring Osama bin Laden to justice – and a U.S. courtroom. By then, the terror master was on the FBI's “Ten Most Wanted” list. And his Taliban hosts were feeling the sting of a force that surely struck fear into their hearts – the United Nations Security Council. At the Clinton administration's urging, it had authorized financial sanctions on the Taliban; demanded they stop allowing territory under their control to be used for terrorist training; and ordered that they turn over Osama bin Laden to “appropriate authorities.”

Appropriate authorities? It was an ambiguous phrase, of course, one apparently exploited by the Taliban to yet again give Washington the run-around, buy time, and protect Bin Laden. This was underscored by a secret cable dated April 7, 2001 – five months before 9/11 – and sent by Secretary of State Colin Powell as an “action request” to U.S. Ambassador Elizabeth McKune in Doha, Qatar. The subject line: “Taliban Proposal for bin Laden Islamic Tribunal.”

As Powell explained: “There have been reports from various sources that during the Taliban delegation visit to Qatar, the Taliban and Qataris may discuss a tribunal of Muslim scholars to try Usama bin Laden in Qatar. Reportedly, under this formula, if the U.S. offered sufficient evidence at the trial, then UBL could conceivably face a sentence by the Islamic tribunal. If the tribunal does not find him guilty, then UBL would presumably be considered by many to be exonerated.”

Powell's cable nevertheless stressed that Washington opposed an “Islamic trial” for Bin Laden -- and so McKune should convey this to the Taliban if the issue came up. “Without studying the details of any such proposal, we seriously question whether a third country trial would meet the requirements the Security Council has laid down,” Powell wrote.

“As you know, Bin Laden is under indictment in the U.S., and our position is that we want him for trial in the U.S. If the Taleban have a serious proposal, they should present it to the U.S..”

Know Your Enemy

If some U.S. officials miscalculated regarding Bin Laden, perhaps it was because they were naïve; or perhaps because they simply didn't know their enemy. Nearly eight months after Albright's first talking points cable, a secret cable dated October 13, 1998, was transmitted from the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: It contained a detailed biography of Osama Bin Laden. Signed by U.S. Ambassador Wyche Fowler Jr., it was distributed to a number of U.S. Embassies and officials as well as to military and intelligence officials: CIA, NSA, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. Its subject line: “Saudi Arabia: Usama bin Ladin” (sic).

What did Bin Laden want? As the cable explained: "Bin Ladin's (sic) immediate stated objective is the expulsion of U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia, the Arabian peninsula, and all Muslim countries.” It's a goal that, interestingly, explains the timing of the U.S. Embassy suicide bombings in East Africa. They occurred on the eighth anniversary of American troops arriving in Saudi Arabia.

The cable continued: “Beyond that goal, in March 1997, Bin Ladin (sic) told a Pakistani journalist that 'Muslims need a leader who can unite them and establish a government which follows the rule of the caliphs. The rule of the caliphs will begin from Afghanistan. It will adopt interest-free banking. The rule of Allah will be established. We are against communism but we are also against capitalism. The concentration of wealth in just a few hands is unislamic (sic).'" Interestingly, this neatly sums up why radical Islamists get along so well with members of the international left.

As for Bin Laden's objective of expelling American infidels from the Arabian peninsula, there is an irony here. The Americans were military personnel, enforcing the United Nations-mandated no-fly zone in Iraq under the terms of the case-fire with Saddam Hussein; and so in one sense, 9/11 was blow back from the first Gulf War.

Fowler's cable also touched on the issue of Bin Laden's popularity among many Muslims, stating: "According to Jamal Khashoggi, an Islamic movement specialist for "Al Hayat" newspaper, many people consider Ysama bin Ladin (sic) as the 'Che Guevara' of the Arab world. He said that some hope that Usama will die in battle so that people will not have to suffer the 'humiliation' of seeing him transported in handcuffs to the U.S.”

How ironic that President Obama, in authorizing Navy Seals to kill Bin Laden rather than capturing him, ended up giving many Muslims their fondest wish. But ultimately, killing Bin Laden was preferable to taking him to Guantanamo (unacceptable to Obama's far-left political base) and putting him on trial in New York City, a trial that would have been a political circus and mockery of a criminal-justice system that's unsuited for trying terrorists captured on foreign battlefields.

The Obama administration now has another terror master on its radar -- or to be precise, in its cross-hairs. Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born al-Qaeda commander, lecturer, and former Imam, is thought to be hiding out in Yemen, from where his parents immigrated to America. He has inspired a number of terrorists and would-be terrorists, including the Fort Hood shooter, Christmas day bomber, and Times Square bomber. At least three of the 9/11 hijackers attended his sermons at a mosque in the Washington, D.C. area.

The Obama administration, however, has no interest in bringing him to an American courtroom. It has issued an order to kill him, one that withstood a legal challenge brought by an ACLU lawyer in behalf of al-Awlaki's father.

America has come a long way since its pre-9/11 days – acquired an understanding of how decent men and women must, regrettably, sometimes function in brutish parts of the world: the real world.

It's one of the legacies of 9/11.