15, Number 16
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Bosco the Clown
He's YOUR clown, Mr. Martinelli. He's your pathological liar. He's your guy who appointed a Cali Cartel drug trafficker to head the municipal police. He's your mayor who at first opportunity put his sticky fingers into city coffers in search of improper and inflated travel expenses.
You, Your Excellency, engineered the purported retroactive restoration of the Panamanian citizenship that Bosco Vallarino explicitly renounced, so as to remove a constitutional obstacle to his holding the mayor's office. You were the one who prevailed upon the National Assembly to pass a law to restore the citizenship of a white guy who has the Vallarino surname and whose uncle was president of the legislature, while declining to restore the citizenship of any of the many Panamanian women who married American soldiers, naturalized as US citizens and came back here; or of any the Panamanians who got US residency through work for the US government or service in the US military and then came back here to retire. Until the situation is rectified across the board, it's the Martinelli double standard and not just the Bosco rule.
It might be rightly said that under Panama's constitution it's not up to a president to remove an embarrassing mayor. However, Bosco Vallarino has multiple legal problems, starting with his lie on a cedula application. Any of the pending criminal investigations against Vallarino could result in a sentence throwing him out of office. Any presidential action to delay or derail any of those processes, or to nullify the results of any conviction by way of a pardon or commutation, would be not only unwarranted, but downright silly.
The best way out of this sad situation is to have Roxana Méndez take over as mayor in her own right --- without accepting any instructions or advice from the disgraced Bosco Vallarino. Panama City has serious problems and needs a serious mayor. Right now we don't have one of those.
A US exit strategy for Afghanistan
Was there any good reason for the United States to send troops to Afghanistan in the first place? Of course there was. Its government was harboring people who attacked the United States, on one day in September of 2001 causing a death toll comparable to that of Pearl Harbor, but in this instance not sailors of the US Pacific Fleet but for the most part innocent and unsuspecting non-combatant civilians. The Taliban's complicity in that heinous crime was an act of war if there ever was one.
The United States and its allies failed to capture Osama bin Laden but more or less chased al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan. These forces drove the Taliban out of the major cities and into the hinterland that is most of Afghanistan.
The intervention failed in its attempt to nurture a sustainable government in Kabul, failed to curb Afghanistan's status as a leading producer of opium for the world's illicit heroin business, and most of all, failed to defeat the Taliban. Now the generals in charge of the intervention are asking for half a million troops for an escalated war in which there is no coherent concept of victory and no reasonable estimate of when it would be over.
This is madness, especially if one takes Afghan history into account. Like Vietnam and Ireland, this is one of these countries that stronger powers have found easy to overrun and impossible to subdue. The Soviet Union was hardly the first power to learn that lesson the hard way. The ancient Persians, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, the Turks, Tamerlane and Great Britain all went there and discovered that as well.
So what's a viable US exit strategy for the Afghanistan War?
It would enormously simplify matters if Osama bin Laden were slain in one of those drone attacks on the al-Qaeda hideouts in Pakistan or otherwise. Al-Qaeda is an international jihadi idea more than a specific organization now, and bringing bin Laden to justice would just decapitate the organization. The world will still have to face the various threats posed by armed Muslim fanatics, whether in Somalia, the Philippines, Spain, Peoria or countless other points on the globe. The West will still have to find a way to live in peace and harmony with the planet's billion-strong Muslim community. The decapitation of the al-Qaeda organization is and must remain a key US military goal because it makes the larger tasks much more manageable.
Is it possible for the United States and its allies to leave Afghanistan with the express or tacit understanding that whatever new arrangements are made in that country, it will in particular never again be a refuge for Osama bin Laden and his organization, and in general never again become a base for armed attacks on other countries? That surely has to be the cornerstone of any viable exit strategy.
There would remain human rights and drug trafficking issues, which can not be effectively addressed by military force. As a matter of national honor, the United States should be prepared to admit those who risked everything to support American forces in Afghanistan as another immigrant patch in the US ethnic quilt. As a matter of human decency and long-term influence, the United States should be prepared to grant refugee status to Afghan women and girls fleeing discrimination and worse. As a matter of diplomacy, public health, agricultural assistance and police work, the United States should be prepared to assist any Afghan government, European powers and Afghanistan's Asian neighbors in their efforts to control opium growing.
These are the outlines of an acceptable Afghanistan exit strategy. If we are not yet at that point of departure, we should nevertheless look askance at any suggestions of a much bigger war or of open-ended continued support for the crooked and unpopular Karzai government.
Bear in mind...
I grew up like a neglected weed --- ignorant of liberty, having no experience of it.
I have --- maybe ill-placed --- a foreboding of an America in my children's generation, or my grandchildren's generation, when all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when we're a service and information-processing economy; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest even grasps the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas, or even to knowledgeably question those who do set the agendas; when there is no practice in questioning those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and religiously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in steep decline, unable to distinguish between what's true and what feels good, we slide, almost without noticing, into superstition and darkness.
The beginning of Canadian cultural nationalism was not "Am I really that oppressed?" but "Am I really that boring?"
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2009 by Eric Jackson
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