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The jolting martyrdom of pro-American, pro-democracy Pakistani leader, Benazir Bhutto, at the hands of Islamist killers, proved an inconvenient bump in the road yesterday for Democratic frontrunner, Barack Obama. The jarring news broke just as Obama stood ready to deliver a much-trumpeted speech in Des Moines, in which the candidate, with his usual panache, explained why he was the one true agent of change.

The address was appropriately personal: "I walked away from a job on Wall Street to bring job training to the jobless and after school programs to kids on the streets of Chicago."

The speech was brilliantly eloquent at times: "I chose to run because I believed that the size of these challenges had outgrown the capacity of our broken and divided politics to solve them; because I believed that Americans...were hungry for a new kind of...politics that favored common sense over ideology, straight talk over spin."

"Most of all, I believed in the power of the American people to be the real agents of change...because we are not as divided as our politics suggests; because we are a decent, generous people willing to work hard and sacrifice for future generations; and I was certain...there was no problem we couldn't solve--no destiny we couldn't fulfill."

For the most part, the fresh-faced candidate concentrated on "tried and true" Democratic Party "bread and butter" domestic issues, enumerating a long list of anecdotes to illustrate popular woes that he would repair as president: hard-working Americans displaced by foreign workers, teachers working extra jobs to pay for school supplies, victims of Wal-Mart, sick people who could not afford health care, seniors betrayed by greedy CEOs and the federal government, and much more.

Of course, he also scattered a few anti-Bush foreign policy crumbs:

"I've spoken to veterans who...question the wisdom of our mission in Iraq; the mothers weeping in my arms over the memories of their sons; the disabled or homeless vets who wonder why their service has been forgotten."

"I've spoken to Americans in every corner of the state, patriots all, who wonder why we have allowed our standing in the world to decline so badly, so quickly. They know this has not made us safer."

"They are ashamed of Abu Graib and Guantanamo and warrantless wiretaps and ambiguity on torture."

The solution?

"We can't afford the same politics of fear...that invokes 9/11 as a way to scare up votes instead of a challenge that should unite all Americans to defeat our real enemies."

Why him and not his opponent?

"[Y]ou can't at once argue that you're the master of a broken system in Washington and offer yourself as the person to change it. You can't fall in line behind the conventional thinking on issues as profound as war and offer yourself as the leader who is best prepared to chart a new and better course for America."

Aware of the breaking news on the Asian subcontinent, Obama decided to deliver the above-referenced speech as written with a brief prefatory tribute to Benazir Bhutto.

An aside: the speech appears on Obama's website without the tacked-on preamble.

Frankly, the brief prologue (view here via YouTube) lacked the usual fire we have come to expect from the candidate; he demonstrated no special knowledge or understanding of the situation in Pakistan, as he haltingly pledged support for democracy in Pakistan in general, while taking something of a fallback position and predicting that more information would surface as the day and week progressed.

Perhaps he favors an investigation?

Later senior Obama adviser, David Axelrod, spoke with more certainty when he blamed Hillary for the death of Bhutto.

Axelrod: "She [Hillary] was a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, which we would submit is one of the reasons why we were diverted from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and al Qaeda, who may have been players in this event today."

Huh? How long are we going to blame America for the completely irrational violence of inhumanly compassionless terrorists?

Tell me again: are you really sure these guys are ready for prime time?
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
We live in a dangerous world. We are blessed, indeed, to live in the United States, but Fortress America is not impenetrable. There are malefactors outside our gates who would do us harm. There are, in fact, "evil doers" in our international community, who, if given the chance, would inflict great violence and damage on our happy circumstances.

We stand at a precarious moment in our national history. We must be sober and vigilant in our solemn mission to provide for the common defense and secure the blessings of liberty.

Many have commented in recent weeks concerning the qualifications and experience of leading Democratic Party candidate for president, Barack Obama. Several pundits have reminded us that Obama's recently vocal detractor, Bill Clinton, ironically, ascended to the White House at a similarly young age, forty-six, with a similar lack of seasoning concerning world affairs.

The logical conclusion? Obama will be just fine--just as Clinton was fine.

On the other hand, perhaps we should consider an alternate deduction: we made an incredibly foolish decision in 1992, and we barely dodged a bullet.

An aside: or maybe not; many would argue that the bullet found us eventually. Perhaps, all things considered, we paid a terrible--albeit delayed--collective price for Clinton's callow world view.

Regardless, there is no guarantee that we will dodge a bullet this time around. On the last occasion on which we elevated a neophyte to the White House, we enjoyed a luxuriously indulgent moment of relative peace. Not this time. We currently face a scenario in which our backs are up against the wall.

Can we afford a foreign policy novice in 2008?
Gateway Pundit this morning has a roundup of the increasing restrictions being put into place on the Iranian population. This latest may the the step too far: banning smoking in public places, including water pipes. This ban is a direct affront to one of the chief social centers for Iranian men: the coffee and tea shops. We may now see working men joining with Iranian students in resisting the increasingly oppressive regime.

Maybe these guys can do some music in Farsi and smuggle bootleg copies into Iran.

With a lot of help from my friends at the Council on Foreign Relations, here is a short list of the things that make me uncomfortable regarding Barack Obama:

Military Tribunals and Guantanamo Bay

Obama wants Guantanamo closed and habeas corpus restored for the detainees. He voted against the Military Commissions Act.

Obama: "While we're at it, we're going to close Guantanamo. And we're going to restore habeas corpus. ... We're going to lead by example--by not just word but by deed. That's our vision for the future."

Domestic Intelligence

Obama opposed the nomination of Michael Hayden as DCIA because of his role in the warrantless wiretapping program, which he railed against for avoiding FISA oversight.

War on Terror

Obama is highly critical of the Bush administration's emphasis on "military solutions." As a result of our belligerent actions in Iraq, in his view, the world hates us.

Obama: "The Bush administration responded to the unconventional attacks of 9/11 with conventional thinking of the past, largely viewing problems as state-based and principally amenable to military solutions. It was this tragically misguided view that led us into a war in Iraq that never should have been authorized and never should have been waged. In the wake of Iraq and Abu Ghraib, the world has lost trust in our purposes and our principles."

How do we win?

Obama: "A crucial debate is occurring within Islam. Some believe in a future of peace, tolerance, development, and democratization. Others embrace a rigid and violent intolerance of personal liberty and the world at large. To empower forces of moderation, America must make every effort to export opportunity -- access to education and health care, trade and investment -- and provide the kind of steady support for political reformers and civil society that enabled our victory in the Cold War. Our beliefs rest on hope; the extremists' rest on fear. That is why we can -- and will -- win this struggle."

Come on y'all, can't we all just get along.

Note: the above "how do we win" quote is actually fairly okay with me--but I threw this in for the Okie Gardener, as I guessed it might make him see red.

Cuba Policy

From the CFR: "Obama has called for travel and remittance restrictions on Cuban-Americans to be lifted. In an op-ed in the Miami Herald, Obama also said he would engage in bilateral talks with Cuba to send the message that the United States is willing to normalize relations with Cuba upon evidence of a democratic opening there."

"He has voted twice to cut off TV Marti funding."


Obama wants to talk to Iran, thinks we can prevail upon them to "play a more constructive role in Iraq," and wants us to stop "saber-rattling" in their direction, as threats of war are extremely unhelpful. He has castigated Senator Clinton repeatedly for voting in favor of the resolution that designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.

United Nations

Obama sees the United Nations as vital and necessary and voted against the Bolton nomination.
This article in the New Republic briefly and lucidly explains China's role in facilitating the genocide being conducted by the government of The Sudan. Military equipment, economic aid, preventing action by the United Nations, China is the best friend of the repressive National Islamic Front government. Why? Oil. In China's case it really is blood for oil.

Explain to me again why we treat the Chinese government as somehow legitimate, and have opened our markets to their shoddy and unsafe products.
I think every U.S. state has a motto. Most are not that memorable. My favorite, far and away, is New Hampshire's:


Powerline has some background on this bold declaration.

It comes from a quote by New Hampshire's greatest Revolutionary War hero, Gen. John Stark. Stark reportedly gave a toast in 1809, when poor health led him to decline an invitation to a reunion of veterans of the 1777 Battle of Bennington: "Live free or die; death is not the worst of evils." . . . General Stark had a way with words. Before leading his troops to victory in the battle of Bennington, which set up the decisive defeat of the British at Saratoga, he told his men, "Tonight, the American flag floats over yonder hill, or Molly Stark sleeps a widow!"

That motto is an in-your-face assertion of liberty in the face of tyranny; the essence of Revolutionary republicanism in four words.

Some other great state mottos:

SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS (Thus Always to Tyrants, i.e., Death to Tyrants) Virginia
QUI TRANSTULIT SUSTINET (He Who Transplanted Sustains) Connecticut

Powerline has this picture of Tehran University students, demonstrating against the regime and on behalf of imprisoned fellow students, with a sign reading LIVE FREE OR DIE.

Once more we face threat from tyrants. This time from those who would impose Islam. LIVE FREE OR DIE.

All cultures are equally valid and must be respected and affirmed. No culture is superior to another culture. To suggest otherwise is intolerance and bigotry, and will not be tolerated. Here in the United States we should create a multicultural society in which all groups may practice their own culture freely.

(pause for a brain gargle rinse and spit after writing the above)

So, pc multiculturalists, you want a U.S. where all groups are free to express their cultures. Are you ready for hangings of accused gays in Detroit and Jersey City? Are you willing to live in any country in the world and raise your children there? Say, Iran?

Consider this story from Iran on the execution of a man accused of same-sex sex. From Gateway Pundit.

So how come ActUp is not in the streets protesting radical Islam?

And, this story from The Times Online (UK) about a Muslim imam's daughter in Britain who converted to Christianity and now lives in fear of her life under British police protection. The threat to her life comes from her own family. Link from JihadWatch.

I don't think Islam understand the concept of multiculturalism.
Story here on Gateway Pundit. There is a downside to Civil Service job security. And to getting news from headlines.

Bottom line: we don't know any more hard intelligence data than we did in 2005 when it was concluded the Iranians were working on the bomb. The authors of the 2007 report, who concluded that the Iranians are not working on the bomb, are trying to read the mind of the mullahs, and probably not doing a very good job.
From Peter Baker and Robin Wright in the Washington Post, Tuesday, December 4, 2007 (Page A01):

A Blow to Bush's Tehran Policy

"President Bush got the world's attention this fall when he warned that a nuclear-armed Iran might lead to World War III. But his stark warning came at least a month or two after he had first been told about fresh indications that Iran had actually halted its nuclear weapons program.

"The new intelligence report [National Intelligence Estimate] released yesterday not only undercut the administration's alarming rhetoric over Iran's nuclear ambitions but could also throttle Bush's effort to ratchet up international sanctions and take off the table the possibility of preemptive military action before the end of his presidency."

What does all this mean?

1. Let me borrow a phrase from myself: Nobody Knows Anything. I use that as my mantra and caveat in handicapping the upcoming presidential primaries. But my record for picking winners in Iowa and New Hampshire over the last twenty years is much more impressive than the intelligence community's demonstrated ability to give us reliable information concerning weapons of mass destruction in the hands of our enemies. This particular NIE and four dollars will buy you a tasty cup of coffee in your local Starbucks.

2. Assuming the report is right, however, and the Iranians put the quietus on their program in 2003, is there anything significant about that moment in history? I think so. The Iranians were properly intimidated by American military prowess and resolve. The sentiment of the hour: "Oh sh-t! This SOB is crazy." If the report is right, it is extremely instructive concerning the efficacy of George Bush's foreign policy in 2003.

3. Assuming the report is right, the Iranians were working on a nuclear weapons program up until 2003. This means they might decide to resume the program at any time.

4. Assuming the report is right, and the Iranians halted the weapons version of their nuclear program as a result of US intimidation in 2003, it is reasonable to assume that they are a lot less fearful of the United States today. With the clock running down on Bush, and the nation divided, I am extremely reluctant to celebrate this report as an "end to the threat." I am with the Israeli's on this one. We need to be vigilant.

5. As for Peter Baker's speculation that military action is off the table, I agree. But I have said that for more than a year. Military action is off the table because of the Iraq situation. In fact, this report gives the Bush administration some cover to do nothing militarily concerning Iran--a choice for which they had no other realistic option.
From TIME magazine:

A new tool to evaluate governments' humanitarian spending can help countries get aid out more efficiently to those who need it, say former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Spain-based non-profit DARA. Their Humanitarian Response Index (HRI), launched Thursday in London, ranks Sweden as the world leader in humanitarian aid. Norway comes second, followed by Denmark, the Netherlands and the European Commission. The U.S. scores a lowly 16th out of 23. (See the full rankings below).

Full story.

Can you spot the problem with this story, especially the headline? America does not contribute most of its humanitarian aid through the U.S. government. U.S. citizens contribute through a variety of private agencies, many of them Christian.

This essay puts things in better perpective.

Some excerpts:

The European claims about stingy American foreign aid are easy to dispense with, because they ignore the enormous private gifts that characterize American generosity (such as donations following the tsunami), and therefore greatly understate true American humanitarian assistance. The U.S. Agency for International Development notes that official U.S. development assistance, at about $10 billion, is roughly 0.1 percent of GDP, but this amount is accompanied annually by about $50 billion in aid from private sources, including foundations, religious congregations, voluntary organizations, universities, corporations, and individuals (in the form of remittances to friends and family). All told, American overseas aid—mostly private, not public—comes to about 0.5 percent of GDP (approximately $200 per American). And this does not even count more controversial aid sources, such as military aid and private investment abroad by American businesses.

What world elites tend to ignore is that America has a thriving private sector, including religious organizations, through which most aid money is given, and through which most voluntary work is done.
Slavery is not a thing of the past. Around the world, including in the USA, slavery continues. When teaching US History leading up to the Civil War, my college students usually have the attitude of "how could those people not see slavery was wrong?", and assume they would have been abolitionists. The room gets really quiet when I challenge them with the facts on modern slavery and ask them if they are in the modern abolition movement.

From The 2007 U.S. State Department Report on Human Trafficking:

The Scope and Nature of Modern-Day Slavery

The common denominator of trafficking scenarios is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit a person for profit. A victim can be subjected to labor exploitation, sexual exploitation, or both. Labor exploitation includes slavery, forced labor, and debt bondage. Sexual exploitation typically includes abuse within the commercial sex industry. In other cases, victims are exploited in private homes by individuals who often demand sex as well as work. The use of force or coercion can be direct and violent or psychological.

A wide range of estimates exists on the scope and magnitude of modern-day slavery. The International Labor Organization (ILO )-the United Nations agency charged with addressing labor standards, employment, and social protection issues-estimates there are 12.3 million people in forced labor, bonded labor, forced child labor, and sexual servitude at any given time; other estimates range from 4 million to 27 million.

Annually, according to U.S. Government-sponsored research completed in 2006, approximately 800,000 people are trafficked across national borders, which does not include millions trafficked within their own countries. Approximately 80 percent of transnational victims are women and girls and up to 50 percent are minors. The majority of transnational victims are females trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation. These numbers do not include millions of female and male victims around the world who are trafficked within their own national borders-the majority for forced or bonded labor.

Human traffickers prey on the vulnerable. Their targets are often children and young women, and their ploys are creative and ruthless, designed to trick, coerce, and win the confidence of potential victims. Very often these ruses involve promises of a better life through marriage, employment, or educational opportunities.

The nationalities of trafficked people are as diverse as the world's cultures. Some leave developing countries, seeking to improve their lives through low-skilled jobs in more prosperous countries. Others fall victim to forced or bonded labor in their own countries. Women eager for a better future are susceptible to promises of jobs abroad as babysitters, housekeepers, waitresses, or models--jobs that traffickers turn into the nightmare of prostitution without exit. Some families give children to adults, often relatives, who promise education and opportunity, but sell the children into exploitative situations instead.

Some sources of information for modern abolitionists:

Anti-Slavery International here.

For all the criticism I have made of the mainline Presbyterian Church (PC-USA), they are becoming aware of this issue.

The Christian relief group, WorldVision is active on this issue, especially with child slavery.

This documentary, Lives for Sale, should be shown in every possible venue.

The U.S. State Department's 2007 Human Trafficking Report has been released.

The Report lists countries by groups termed Tiers based on their efforts against, or lack of efforts, to eliminate slavery. Tier 3 are the worst countries.

Tier 3

The Tier 2 Watch List is made of of countries that are currently of interest to the U.S. regarding slavery. It is like being on probation. In future reports they may move up to Tier 2, or down to Tier 3.

Tier 2 Watch List

Keep these countries in mind as you Christmas shop.

Previous Bosque Boys posts on modern Slavery:
Slavery Today
Islam and Slavery
North Korea's Human Slavery Traffic