Showing posts with label Bush. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bush. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why You Need To See American Sniper

"I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity." 
Dwight D. Eisenhower 

Image source: www.sofrep.com

I am struggling to understand the small but vocal backlash against Clint Eastwood’s movie, American Sniper. This movie, like many before it, is based on the real life story of Chris Kyle. He was a Navy Seal credited with the most sniper kills in US history. I have no problem with people disliking the film, or disagreeing with Eastwood’s vision but what bothers me is the unfair politicisation, seeming hypocrisy and the often one-sided arguments of many of these critics.

One critical review I read was written by Peter Maass at The Intercept (“HowClint Eastwood Ignores History in ‘American Sniper’). In this piece he chastises his fellow reviewers from the Los Angeles and New York Times as people “who spend too much time in screening rooms” because in Mr. Maass’s estimation they “are falling over themselves in praise of it.” To begin with I find his criticism rather disingenuous. He is part of the same media establishment that completely abdicated its responsibility in the lead up to the US invasion of Iraq. The American media failed to challenge the veracity of every hasty, unproven claim and the numerous unverified assertions of the Bush administration for months before the invasion. I believe it amounted to the greatest failing of media in modern times.

So it seems ironic when Mr. Maass says “We got Iraq wrong in the real world. It would be nice to get it right at the multiplex,” considering he was part of the establishment that failed to question Cheney and Bush before they invaded a sovereign nation; without provocation, justification or any real or imminent threat to America. It seems convenient for Mr. Mass to again abdicate his responsibility; this time by chastising a Hollywood movie. It would seem that he wants to cleanse his conscience of all the innocent Iraqi blood on American media hands. If Mr. Maass were serious about righting the wrongs of America’s invasion, he would stop picking on soldiers who served their country and Hollywood, and work on persuading the International Court to summon Messrs. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Blair and every other architect of this illegal invasion before a war crimes tribunal.

Before I tackle some of the other criticisms that I have read in other media reviews and people’s Facebook posts, I want to clarify that it is a Hollywood film. It never claims to be a documentary, or a historically and factually accurate account of the Iraq war. Furthermore, the filmmakers have gone out of their way to say that they were not trying to make a war movie, much less present a critique of the mess America made in Iraq. Besides, the last time I checked movies are still made to entertain (and make money) by suspending reality with larger than life characters, salacious storylines and over-the-top dramatisations of actual events; even when they are based on biographies. If you want accuracy, analysis and facts, watch a PBS documentary.

Additionally, I think we can agree that no matter how brilliant a movie, nothing from Hollywood must be upheld for its historical accuracy or a realistic and honest portrayal of real-life events. That would just make for boring film. This is entertainment pure and simple; I doubt people would pay money to watch the very monotony they came to escape. So, for people to suddenly hold this movie to such a high standard would be the equivalent of saying that they get their world news from Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert. Then decide to take these men to task for factual inaccuracies, lack of objectivity, presenting one-sided views and for dramatising and making light of serious events. Ava DuVerney, the director of Selma, after being criticized for historical inaccuracies in her film, pointed out that we will become a very sad and dangerous society if we expect our kids to learn history through our movies.

Another major criticism that people have is that Kyle, as he states in his autobiography, seems to have relished killing and referred to Iraqis as savages. It is likely he enjoyed killing, but Kyle is hardly alone in this. It is said that we must be passionate about what we do to truly excel. So why does it not hold true for soldiers, who are trained killers? I am not saying that every soldier enjoys pulling the trigger and taking a human life, but how can we discount that a small percentage of the men we train to be cold blooded killers will get addicted to and enjoy killing? To this point, I think Kyle’s character in the movie forces us to accept that war is not pretty. It is not politically correct, it is not fair and it is always senseless. The actions taken by soldiers on the battlefield will never fit into neat our little moral codes or Geneva Conventions that make us feel warm and fuzzy in the safety of our homes. War forces good and honourable men to sometimes do both evil and dishonorable things. Soldiers see what human beings were never meant to witness, and war changes everyone. Even those who make it back lose a large part of their humanity. I don’t believe our souls can ever un-see what our eyes have seen. That is the real cost of war, beyond physical injuries. Just like Taya Kyle tells her husband Chris, there are thousands of veterans who came back physically but are yet to make it back emotionally and mentally to their families. This movie does a good job of reminding us of this very real and hidden cost to our soldiers and their families. Have you ever wondered why the largest percentages of homeless are veterans? In, 2013 alone the VA served more than 249,000 Veterans who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless (Source: US Department of Veterans Affairs).

Another criticism that has been leveled at the filmmakers is that they chose to show only one side of Kyle’s character, leaving out the evil blood lust and racist overtones that come through in his book. I would argue that this holds true for every movie with a flawed hero, from a Gordon Gekko to Abe Lincoln to MLK to JFK. An essential part of great film making is to get an audience to feel empathy with its hero - to a point where we are able to forgive even their worst trespasses because all men have flaws. This may not be the reality, but it is what all brilliant directors and successful films do. I would even argue that Kyle's killing of a young Iraqi boy, barely ten years old, in the opening moments of the film is a big character flaw that creates a likeability deficit, which the rest of the film needs to work hard to overcome, in order to win back the audience’s empathy for its hero. I have never read his book, but I don’t see Kyle as a hero. I see him as another unfortunate victim of an unnecessary war.

To this point I would also add that movies, video games and other forms of entertainment cannot ever become our yardstick for reality, values, principles, and history or life lessons. Those still need to be taught in our homes and schools, so that when we consume various forms of entertainment we are able to differentiate between good, bad, fiction and reality and never the other way around. I also disagree that the film fails to show the general disillusionment with the Iraq war, and the lack of clarity of mission. In the movie there is a very powerful scene where Kyle meets his brother, who is returning home from Iraq, as Kyle arrives for another tour. His brother’s utter disenchantment and disillusionment with America’s purpose in Iraq is juxtaposed beautifully as it clashes with Kyle’s blind patriotism and unquestioning, brainwashed, jingoistic sense of duty.

Also, I think it is very easy for us to forget how one-sided and “sanitized” the Iraq war reporting was in the American media. It felt more clean and censored than daytime soap operas, so much so that the vast majority of us barely remembered there were men and women dying and being maimed daily. This, as we blissfully continued to drive to the mall and impatiently wait in line at Starbucks, while checking our smartphones for the latest Kardashian gossip. Again this alternate reality is something the movie delves into. We see Bradley Cooper’s character struggle and have a hard time processing this total lack of care and awareness among American people, the same people he had gone to die for.

Veteran care or lack thereof is another ignored aspect of war of which American Sniper raises awareness, in a very powerful way. Benjamin Franklin said that "Wars are not paid for in wartime, the bill comes later." It is this real and ongoing human cost of war we continue to underestimate, that American Sniper delves into masterfully. None of us have to deal with the long-term effect it has on children and family members of servicemen. We all saw Obama declare an end to the war in Iraq, but consider that among those who made it back there are now a million Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans with permanent and life redefining disabilities. They include veterans with lost limbs, traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress (PTSD), depression, hearing loss, breathing disorders, diseases, and other long-term health problems (Source: Cost of War, Brown University). In fact, medical experts say that many of Kyle’s unsubstantiated claims, like punching Jesse Ventura and killing looters during Hurricane Katrina, are consistent with patients with severe PTSD. Let’s not forget that Chris Kyle served four tours; he witnessed the horror of war for close to a decade.

It is easy to politicise and be critical of everything, as we take for granted the very freedoms that the Chris Kyle’s were told they were fighting to protect. The point is not whether you see Chris Kyle as a hero or villain. This movie is worth seeing because it is ultimately an anti-war movie. One that forces us to recognise the human cost of war, through the eyes of a soldier who has an over-simplistic moral code, which actually makes him the ideal soldier. However, even he cannot escape what Eisenhower and Franklin understood - the ugliness and inhumanity of war; scars all veterans and their families bear forever.

If we understand this, then we might understand why everyone who witnesses war first hand says that there are no winners. Even the victors lose. This realization alone will ensure that we begin to hold our leaders more accountable and question any decisions to go to war the next time they try to pull the wool over our eyes and rush in. We must never forget that even though war is sometimes necessary, it should always be the last resort.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Obama’s Global War on Terror

“Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them. Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it.” 
Rabindranath Tagore 

There is much about Obama’s leadership or lack thereof that I remain critical of; by no means am I a fan. In fact, in my eyes he has thus far failed the test of leadership, feeling more like an erudite college professor and less like leader of the Western world. Given his predecessor's shoot from the hip mentality and the unmitigated disasters that followed, it was clear when Obama took office that America’s moral high ground, diplomatic clout and financial muscle were all in shreds. It was not so much that America was no longer a global superpower, but that the world had changed dramatically while America seemed to have moved backwards. America seemed to have lost its way with two messy long wars and the deepest financial crisis since the Great Depression. She felt rudderless, leaderless and isolated on the world stage. By this time it was also clear that the overthrow of Saddam had no relevance in fighting the war on terrorism and had made the world a less safe place. However, one thing Bush was right about is that there was a global war on terrorism; and every nation needed to get involved. But Bush was incapable of leading the world and bringing them on board to fight this common threat, instead choosing to distract and further divide the world with an unnecessary war and with his 'my way or the highway' attitude.

Obama has been called an apologist because after he was elected he chose to show a softer and more cerebral side of American foreign policy. Being the only President who has actually lived abroad, perhaps he uniquely understood that the need of the hour was to apologize for America’s many misguided foreign policy endeavors, especially in the Muslim world. However, what he did not seem to grasp is that apologies alone would not rid us of the real evil we are facing. In trying to contrast his legacy from his war-mongering predecessor, he also went too far in the other direction, choosing to lead from the back. He failed to understand that America still needs to lead, and that pushing allies to take the lead is not the same thing. It has taken him a while to understand that you cannot right the wrongs of the past; you can only chart a course for the future that avoids the same failed policies and pitfalls. So instead of a wiser, nobler and morally stronger America he has until now offered an awkward, embarrassed and trepidatious America. Syria is a case in point where, while right to not intervene at the outset and not unilaterally, he should have acted once Assad crossed his own “red line.” America setting an ultimatum and then failing to act sets a very dangerous precedent.

It is the rapid rise of ISIL that has finally woken Obama up to the fact that war, while still a last resort, is going to be necessary. I believe he will not make the same mistakes that Bush did in America’s last global war on terror. Obama understands two things that his predecessor was unable to grasp. First, in the 21st century America is no longer the unequivocal superpower with the economic might it once had, to go it alone, and expect the rest of the world to fall in line based on diplomatic pressure or threats to cut US aid. Today there are many nations who can play benefactor and use their own cheque books to help countries resist US will. Second, he understands that no country can bestow democracy upon another, and especially not through a military invasion. The people of that country must be willing to fight and die for their freedom, much like they did in India, South Africa and will in Tunisia and Egypt in the years to come. All American military intervention can achieve, like it did in Iraq, is to put a temporary Band-Aid on a dangerous power vacuum that it leaves behind. To this end, he is aware that almost all the countries in the Middle East are run by dictators (many supported, armed and propped up by America). These countries have no civil institutions, public infrastructure or independent judiciaries that are the necessary bedrocks of democracy and take generations to build.

Even today Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are the largest financiers (some state funded but mostly by private individuals and religious institutions) and potent breeding ground for terrorists. The fact is that all these countries have brutal and oppressive regimes with no press, religious or personal freedoms. In all three countries, successive US administrations have supported dictators, giving them carte blanche and billions in military aid. So it is not hard to imagine why the average person on the street does not feel thankful to the American people for their generosity – and is it any wonder that they produce the largest number of terrorist recruits? Obama is acutely aware that this type of US intervention, particularly in the Arab and Muslim world, has failed miserably. So instead of choosing to apply the definition of insanity, he decided to stay on the sidelines in Egypt, Syria and most of the other North African internal conflicts. If Obama attacked Syria with the aim of removing Assad (not the same as punishing him for crossing the red line) we would likely have ended up with a messier Iraq, with the same sectarian strife, or at best an American puppet administration which would have been more hated than Assad.

Obama’s strategy to use US military support as a bargaining tool to get rid of Nouri Al-Maliki, and replace him with a unity government in Iraq, was absolutely correct. Whether this new government will succeed or not is hard to say, but it certainly has a much greater chance based purely on the proportional representation it now has from all three sects. More importantly, by doing this Obama took away the most potent recruiting tool ISIS had - discontent Iraqi Sunnis.  Al-Maliki had been systematically removing Sunni’s and replacing them with incompetent cronies in an effort to create a Shiite dominated Iraq. Now, with US air and military support, the new unity government has actually re-enlisted the same disillusioned army men who ran at the first sign of trouble from Sunni dominated Mosul, and a strong Kurd army is fighting to save a unified Iraq and not just defending Kurdish territory.

So while there is no doubt Obama badly fumbled and delayed in leading this fight, now that he is in it, he has also shown a shrewd understanding of the region by getting support of the most important allies he needs to fight this war. The US-led coalition launched with active participation from the militaries of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE and Bahrain, as well as publicly stated support from the governments in Oman, Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon and Qatar. So far the United Kingdom, France, Netherlands and Belgium have also contributed fighter jets and other allies are lining up to offer everything from training to equipment. In contrast, when Bush and Cheney rushed into Iraq there was a sum total of four countries in their collation that had active military involvement. The US with 148,000 and the UK with 45,000 troops provided the lion’s share. Australia contributed 2,000 and Poland 194 soldiers (Source: Wikipedia). Not a single Arab nation sent troops and no other major European or Asian power was involved. In fact, America's oldest allies like France, Germany, and New Zealand were strongly opposed to the Iraq invasion.

This is the fundamental difference in Obama’s global war on terror. Obama understands not only that America must lead this fight, but also that unless America can get the Arab and Muslim world to recognise the threat posed by this cancer and actively participate in it we cannot win this war. The only question that remains is whether Obama will have the resolve to send in US and Arab ground troops that will no doubt be needed to finally defeat this enemy and finish the military aspect of this war.

NOTE:  This article was updated on 9th October, 2014.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bush and Cheney’s Iraq Legacy

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” 
Proverbs 29:18 

Bush and Cheney spent more than $870 billion of our tax dollars to fund their Iraq War; the stated objective of which was to make America safer by toppling an evil dictator with a massive arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, and one who was harboring and providing material support to Al-Qaeda. Of the total spent, about $41 billion was spent on reconstruction and foreign aid, and a staggering $28 billion on local security (source: “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11” prepared by the Congressional Research Service). Also, consider that in addition countless American lives were lost training and equipping the very same Iraqi army that recently ran with its tail tucked between its legs at the first sign of trouble.

If the latest developments in Iraq were not so worrying and potentially dangerous, within an already volatile region, we could laugh at the irony that neither Al-Qaeda nor any other terrorist organisation had operated or been given safe haven inside Iraq under Saddam Hussein’s regime. In fact, it was not until a year and a half after the US invasion that Al-Qaeda officially formed in Iraq. Even so, Bush and Cheney had told us on numerous occasions in the lead-up to their invasion that their primary objective was to break the very dangerous nexus between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda before he gave them access to weapons of mass destruction. The truth is that the sectarian chaos and power vacuum created by the overthrow of Saddam gave Al-Qaeda the perfect breeding ground for recruitment and for establishing their very first base of operations in Iraq. The Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS), the terrorist group that has overrun major cities and now controls large swaths of the country, was formerly known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq. 

“We know that Iraq and Al-Qaeda have had high level contacts that go back a decade…We've learned that Iraq has trained Al-Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gasses."  
-President Bush, Speech in Cincinnati, 7th October, 2002* 

“We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and Al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the 90’s, that it involved training, for example, on BW and CW, that Al-Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on systems that are involved.” 
-Dick Cheney, Meet the Press, 14th September, 2003* 

(*source: United States Congressional Serial Set, Serial No. 14876, Senate Report No 301). 

As for Cheney and Bush’s smoking gun, independent reviews of the millions of documents seized from across Iraq all reached the same conclusion: “The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency had by 2006 translated 34 million pages of documents from Hussein's Iraq and found there was nothing to substantiate a "partnership" between Hussein and Al-Qaeda (source: “Bush's toxic legacy in Iraq” CNN). In fact, the same report stated that there was “no ‘smoking gun’ (i.e. direct connection) and that “the predominant targets of Iraqi state sponsored terror were Iraqi citizens, both inside and outside Iraq.” [source: Institute for Defense Analyses – ‘Iraqi Perspectives Project. Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents’, Volume 1 (Redacted)].

While we can sit here and argue about the justification for the US invasion of Iraq and never agree on it, what cannot be refuted is that the US never established a single credible link between Saddam and Al-Qaeda or produced a shred of evidence that Saddam possessed any weapons of mass destruction; and Al-Qaeda did not exist in Iraq before the invasion. Another dangerous unintended consequence has been that Iran is now the most dominant power in the region with Iraq no longer being able to serve as strong counter-balance. So in sum total, not only did Cheney and Bush’s war make the region less safe than it was in 2003, but it has also spawned a totally new and deadly terrorist organisation called ISIS; one that Al-Qaeda officially broke ties with, for being too brutal.

Conveniently, the Republicans are now trying to blame Obama for the mess Cheney and Bush are responsible for creating. If one were to examine the facts, we should start with the much maligned Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). It is the document which dictated the timing for full US military withdrawal from Iraq. SOFA was negotiated and signed by George W. Bush in 2008 and not Barrack Obama, as many Republicans will have us believe. Bush agreed to all of Nouri al-Maliki demands, which included getting all US forces out of Iraq by December 31, 2011, and leaving no permanent military presence or bases in the country. Turns out that Bush’s ‘liberating’ forces were so unpopular that no Iraqi leader was willing to risk having them stay on with “… several rounds of upcoming elections and an intensely strong popular Iraqi hostility to the U.S. occupation under any name.” (source: ‘Bush's finest moment on Iraq: SOFA, not the surge’ – Foreign Policy). Republicans are now blaming him for not trying hard enough to re-negotiate the terms Bush agreed to; the same Republicans who - at the time it was signed - were proclaiming victory in Iraq.

The truth is that Iraq has been and remains a big mess ever since the illegal US invasion, which left both a major power vacuum in the center and a government without civil institutions or strong leadership. Another lie that Republicans are good at spreading has to do with General Petraeus’ surge; which was responsible for preventing the total disintegration of Iraq, and cleaning up Rumsfeld and Cheney’s unmitigated disaster and a lack of plan for Iraq, post invasion. Listening to Republicans, one would believe that it was the additional boots on the ground that led to the success of the surge. This is totally untrue, as Petraeus himself has repeatedly made clear. The cornerstone of Petraeus’ success and surge strategy was based on facilitating peace between the Sunni and Shia factions, which in turn led to a disarming of the powerful Shiite militia. It was this peace he helped broker that was also responsible for removing Al-Qaeda’s key weapon: fanning sectarian flames in Iraq. In addition, Petraeus forced the government to focus on developing local institutions, employment programs and on improving the daily life of Iraqi citizens. The final part of his strategy involved a dramatic surge in the boots on the ground, deployed to the most troubled parts of the country in order to dramatically enhance the presence and perception of security. So it is totally disingenuous to say that if Obama had tried harder to find a way to re-negotiate Bush’s SOFA, which never included immunity from prosecution for troops, and left behind a few hundred US troops, that this would have prevented the rise of ISIS in Iraq.

There are many things I am critical of when it comes to Barack Obama’s leadership, but his stance on Iraq it absolutely right. Obama understands what Bush and Cheney never will: that democracy is a grass roots movement that must be started by the people, who must also be willing to fight and die for their freedom. It is always bloody and it is always messy, and the hard work always begins once the freedom has been won. It takes a few generations for democratic values and institutions to take root; the country needs to build civil institutions, infrastructure, write laws, agree on a constitution, etc. Where there are long-running sectarian divides, blood will be spilled before wounds can be healed and a country unite. Inevitably, the early leaders are also corrupt and tyrannical, from having grown up without the benefit of ever experiencing liberty or democratic freedoms themselves. The current crisis is not something that has happened overnight;. it is a direct result of the sectarian Pandora’s Box opened by the illegal US invasion. One that left no power structure in the center and a weak and divided nation that is open to manipulation by its various Sunni and Shiite neighbours that include Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran.

This crisis also has a lot to do with Nouri al-Maliki wanting to consolidate his corrupt hold on power by creating a Shiite-dominated government and country. He has been slowly and systematically replacing the competent army generals, commanders and police officers (trained by the US), as well as other government officials and filling these posts with incompetent Shiite cronies who would never threaten him. He has made no effort to form a unity government that is inclusive of the Sunni minority or the Kurds, which was central to how Petraeus won the peace. Instead, Al-Maliki has helped re-ignite the old sectarian divides, and as a result allowed ISIS to slowly and systematically re-build their presence and base in Iraq by recruiting from within an excluded and disenfranchised Sunni community. 

So while there is no question that the Bush and Cheney invasion is single-handedly responsible for creating the massive void that will leave a weak Iraq in turmoil for many decades to come, it is equally true that the only path out is for Iraqis to figure out how to get along, by pursuing the true tenets of democracy; which are reconciliation and inclusiveness. No amount of US intervention on the ground or from the air can help fix this fundamental problem; and I doubt US taxpayers have the appetite for yet another misguided and fruitless effort at nation building. So even though America created this mess, only Iraq has the ability to fix it. Until Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds come together and realise that their real enemies are the terrorists, the world will have to wait and remain a much less safe place. This is Bush's and Cheney’s Iraq legacy.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Crimea & Punishment: US Influence in Decline

"If we can't persuade nations with comparable values of the merits of our cause, we'd better reexamine our reasoning."
Robert S. McNamara

John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, recently visited Kiev, the besieged Ukraine capital. From there he accused Russia “of making up reasons for intervention in Ukraine, saying that ‘not a single piece of credible evidence supports any one of these claims*."  Kerry went on to further refute Russia’s justification for amassing troops in Crimea based on their assertion that “Russian-speaking citizens (were) under siege…*" (*Source: CNNArticle).

At face value I would be inclined to agree with Mr. Kerry. The people of Kiev marched in protest of their elected government led by Russian strongman Victor Yanukovich to overthrow him. It is true he was democratically elected (even though there were numerous anomalies and allegations of voter fraud and vote rigging). For our purposes let’s assume he was democratically elected. So while we can argue that his government’s demise was un-democratic in that it did not transpire at the ballot box, what cannot be argued is the fact that Mr. Yanukovich completely lost the confidence of his own ministers, cabinet and party. In the end he had no credibility, and therefore no legitimacy, left to govern the people of Ukraine. It was just a matter of time before he would have had to submit his resignation and hold new elections, which is why he fled.

What surprises me most about the current crisis in Crimea is not the recent turn of events but that nobody in NATO, the European Union, MI-5, State Department, CIA, NSA or the White House saw this coming. In my estimation, Putin was always going to take all necessary means to protect his substantial trade and geopolitical investments in Ukraine. We were all aware that Mr. Yanukovich was the Kremlin’s man in Kiev. Russia has historical ties to the region starting in the 18th century. Nikita Khrushchev gifted Crimea to Ukraine in 1954, but they still share the same language and many Ukrainians work in Russia today. Most importantly Russia has billions of dollars invested there. “Take Crimea, for instance. More than half of its 2 million people are Russian, and Russia still maintains a naval base there.” (Source: NPR Article). Did the Western powers seriously expect Putin to walk away or agree to settle this matter with meetings, phone calls and group hugs? Mr. Putin is ex KGB and a man who has long portrayed a tough guy image. We have all seen the pictures of him wrestling a bear and riding a horse shirtless. He is not going to go silently into the night when there is a direct challenge to his authority and influence within his geopolitical sphere and right on Russia’s doorstep.

Putin claims that he was asked by Mr. Yanukovich to send troops to protect the Russian speaking populations in the East and in Crimea; it is a pretty thin argument. Even without a law degree one can see that there is no legal justification for Russia’s action. Let’s for a moment forget Putin’s claims for amassing troops in Crimea and go back to 2005 to another invasion of a sovereign country. Now consider John Kerry’s statement accusing Russia and substitute Ukraine for Iraq - of making up reasons for intervention in (Iraq), and that ‘not a single piece of credible evidence supports any one of these claims;" funny how his statement still applies to the Iraq invasion. To this day there is not proof of Iraqi links to Al-Qaeda, nor any evidence they supported, funded or harbored any terrorist organizations. We all know that there was never any credible evidence presented (only anecdotal from exiles and dissidents; which were written off by German intelligence who provided them to US and UK) of a stockpile of deadly chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. There was never any imminent threat to the United States of America or the world at large, as we were repeatedly told by Cheney, Bush and Blair. No matter how you feel about the Iraq invasion there can be no dispute that there was no legal justification for it within International Law. Perhaps this is why the US was able to convince only one of the more than one hundred and ninety countries in the world of its need to invade a sovereign nation.

There is no question that Mr. Putin has no moral right or legal justification to invade the Ukraine. The problem is that after the invasion of Iraq, the United States lost its moral authority to stop Russia or any other country from doing the same. It is a simple matter of International law; if the US can break it at will, then why not another country? Bush and Cheney set a very dangerous precedent, that too at a time when US economic dominance is in decline. Mr. Putin is well aware of this fact and has taken a calculated but smart risk. He knows the US can no longer take the high ground or afford another war. While the European Union can take the high ground, they are averse to war. However, since Russia supplies almost a quarter of their oil and natural gas, Putin knows that the EU is highly unlikely to do anything too damaging in terms of sanctions or economic reprimands. Perhaps, now Bush and Cheney can add this to the already high cost of their Iraq war.