Featuring the works and commentary of Andrew Bruss

Friday, March 25, 2011

Update: More Death in Syria

UPDATE: As of 5:26pm EST, Amnesty International is saying the death toll from today's protests in Syria has reached 55.

CNN is reporting that 14 people have been gunned down by government forces during another protest in the town of Daraa. Bashar al-Assad isn't that much more popular than Gaddafi but due to our current situation in Libya, it's unlikely we'll give Assad the same treatment. However, this isn't going help his grasp on power.

Although we aren't likely to launch missils at his palace, seeing special forces "advisors" guide protests to a more regime-toppling goal isn't exactly unlikely. A few dozen Green Beretts could give these protesters serious teeth.

PS- In the time it's taken me to write this post, CNN has upped the death toll to 15.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dethroned Despots: Is Assad Next?

So far the dictators who’ve fallen in the wake of Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution have all been friends of the West, but that is about to change. While the world keeps itself fixed on NATO’s undefined mission in Libya, things are falling apart in Syria.

In the Southeastern town of Deraa, Syrian soldiers gunned down at least 44 people who were among thousands protesting the Assad regime. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is calling on the Syrian army to “empower a revolution.” On a trip to Israel, Gates said, “I’ve just come from Egypt, where the Egyptian army stood on the sidelines and allowed people to demonstrate and in fact empowered a revolution. The Syrians might take a lesson from that.”

With the exception of Yemen, economic conditions in Syria are worse than any of the other countries impacted by the recent spat of revolutions. Compound that with the incompetence of President Bashar al-Assad and regime change in Syria is in the cards.

In the case of the Assad family, the acorn has fallen far from the tree.  Bashar al-Assad has been ruling Syria with an iron fist since the death of his father, Hafez, in the summer of 2000. In the decade or so since Bashar took over, poor living conditions in Syria have became much worse.

Hafez was a shrewd manipulator who, more than any of Israel’s adversaries, instigated the Six-Day War. As a testament to Hafez’s strategic cunning, he managed to be the last of the three Arab armies to face Israel in that conflict and paid considerably less of a cost than his allies.

But Bashar is not his father. Rather than demonstrate leadership, he has avoided direct negotiations with Israel, which would reap great economic benefits and international acceptance, in order to continue playing second fiddle to the Ayatollah. Syria’s geographic location between Lebanon and Iran makes them the lynchpin in Iran’s policy of arming the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah. But Syria’s inability to break from this Shia crescent of Persian hegemony has already gotten them labeled as an outcast amongst nations. Additionally, their role in the arming of organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas is likely to get them sucked into the next major conflict between Hezbollah and Israel.

Bashar al-Assad saw his North Korean-made nuclear plant bombed by Israel and in no way retaliated. In a region where strength is often demonstrated through anti-Israeli action, Assad demonstrated weakness.

Having exposed his weakness to the world, it makes perfect sense his oppressed subjects would seize upon the zeitgeist of the time and put their lives on the line to eject him from power.

Yemeni Prime Minister Ali Muhammad Mujawar’s continued violence against his people has only hastened his seemingly impending downfall. Although Yemen is an ally in the fight against Al Qaeda, the White House has already signaled they are preparing for a change in power. So if recent events are any indicator, Assad’s violent suppression of peaceful protests will only hasten his ousting.

If Assad goes, so too would easy arms shipments from Iran to Hezbollah. Regardless of who replaces him, it’s hard to imagine anyone less competent than Bashar al-Assad.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Libya: Countdown To Regret

This detailed map was produced by the brilliant minds at STRATFOR
The title says it all folks. A Western coalition commenced military operations against the Libyan regime of Momar Gaddafi yesterday with the stated goal of imposing a no-fly zone, and the obviously intended goal of imposing regime change. Although Operation Odyssey Dawn is being conducted with the hopes of preventing atrocities, this mission has Bad News Bears written all over it.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said that to impose a no-fly zone would require wiping out Gadaffi’s anti-air defenses and that to do so would be tantamount to war. Weeks prior he told cadets at West Point that any future president interested in putting an occupying force on the ground in the Arab world, “needs to have his head examined.” With these facts in mind, in addition to Obama’s repeated statements that A. the United States will only be assisting European and Arab powers, and B. that no American boots will hit the ground, you get the impression this is an operation the administration did not want to be a part of.

So why would the President of the United States launch 110 cruise missiles at a target he didn’t want to bomb? The most ironic part of these recent events is how much the French have pressured the U.S. into military action (you read that correctly). French President Nicholas Sarkozy has been the most vocal, gung-ho critic of Gaddafi since the month-long uprising started and was the first to put his nation's fighter aircraft in Libyan skies attacking ground targets.

With NATO allies involved in the operation, and the UN calling the no-fly zone legal, there would be no way for Obama to keep U.S. military assets out of the game without being called a pussy. With 2012 in mind, unfortunately, Obama’s political future depends on getting the United States into the first military conflict of his administration that he couldn’t blame on George W. Bush.

So the United States wasn’t happy about getting involved with Libyan regime change, but why does that mean it will end poorly? Because history is repeating itself: From Saddam to the Taliban, toppling regimes has proven easy; It’s dealing with their insurgent remains that has cost trillions in treasure and thousands of lives.

Nobody knows what Gaddafi is capable of, or what will happen once he leaves.

We are also in an unofficial state of war with a regime whose opposition consists of rebels without an established identity and the U.S. has a track record of supporting opposition groups (like Al Quada) that have come back to bite us in the ass.

The biggest problem this operation faces is the logistical plausibility that it could cause more civilian deaths than Gaddafi would have on his own. Afghanis and Pakistani’s could testify that our “smart” bombs can be pretty inaccurate and hundreds of civilian casualties prove them right. The more cruise missiles we launch, the more likely we fuck up and hit a school. Gaddafi’s brutality deserves punishment, but if left to his own devices, it was looking like he would have crushed the rebellion within a week or two. Now the length of this conflict has been extended indefinitely. Whether we’re talking Gaddafi loyalists, Libyan citizens, French pilots, or Western Special Forces operatives, the longer this conflict goes on, the higher the body count will be.

The goals of this operation have never been clear, and at no point have Western or Arab leaders said when the no-fly zone will be lifted and ambiguous warfare is something that should scare the shit out of everyone. As the Andrew Bruss of andrewbruss.com, I won’t weigh in on whether or not I think the decision to go to war is right or wrong, but I think it’s clear this is a decision men like Obama and Sarkozy will come to regret.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

State Dept. Spokesman Fired for Humanitarian Concerns

At least the resident of this cell gets a blanket...

Note to self: If you are the public spokesman for the State Department, don’t criticize the Department of Defense. State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley spoke out about the treatment of Wikileaks suspect Private Brad Manning who is being held in solitary confinement twenty-three hours a day and forced to sleep in the nude without a pillow or blanket. Manning is alleged to have leaked troves of classified documents to Wikileaks. 

Crowley spoke to a small group at MIT when he let his concerns be known. When asked about the army’s treatment of Manning, Crowley said the Private’s treatment was “ridicules, counterproductive, and stupid. “ Crowley added he still thinks Manning is “in the right place” behind bars.

Although Crowley officially resigned, the editorial staff at andrewbruss.com is left wondering if this is the decision making of President Obama or Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  In Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars, the Jimi Hendrix of journalism documents how former National Security Advisor Jim Jones failed to protect the young President from having Mullen and Gates tag team him into an Afghan troop surge.  Mullen and Gates are the offended parties in this situation and it isn’t unrealistic to assume their displeasure led to Crowley getting canned.

Breaking from ranks and criticizing administration policy regarding any high profile issue is generally considered unprofessional and contrary to his duties as the mouthpiece for Hillary Clinton’s State Department. But given the concern coming from such a high level official, the logic behind Manning’s living conditions deserves more scrutiny now than ever.

No blanket is one thing, but no underpants? Deprivation of freedom does not necessitate the deprivation of dignity. Give the kid some clean drawers!  

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

NPR Saboteur Hired By Fox News

How anyone thought O'Keefe was actually a pimp is beyond me.
Following a sting that (illegally?) recorded a former National Public Radio VP talking trash about the Tea Party, the weasel who lied his friends' way into the VP's his office has been hired by Fox News.

Ron Schiller, Former Senior Vice President for Fundraising, was caught on tape saying the Tea Party was “racist” and "scary.” The operation was orchestrated by Professional Jerk-Off James O’Keefe, the same ethically flawed hack who posed as a pimp to tool on the Association of Community Organizations for Reform (ACORN).

O’Keefe had some friends pose as Muslims and meet with Schiller in an attempt to get him to embarrass himself the same way ACORN did. They said they were with the Muslim Brotherhood and wanted to donate $5 million to NPR, but first felt like getting the former VP to disclose his personal feelings about the Tea Party. NPR has said Schiller was already in the process of leaving, but today, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller (no relation) resigned amid controversy.

Some folks in the media have had the audacity to call O’Keefe a journalist but here are a few things every journalist is taught freshman year of college: you are never to impersonate or misrepresent yourself; it is a federal offense to record audio of someone without their knowing, and you never lie to sources. Anyone who has earned a D- or better in Journalism 101 will tell you that you report the story but always avoid being part of the story. O'Keefe has been quoted as saying, "I'm not just reporting on something. I'm becoming something I'm reporting on."

In another instance, O'Keefe was arrested for trying to manipulate the phone lines of a U.S. Senator.

O’Keefe is not a journalist and the fact that he’s joining the ranks of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck at Fox News only verifies this. Good journalism often requires being a persistent pain in the ass of whoever your investigation is targeting. Lord knows I’ve made my fair share of enemies reporting over the years. But O’Keefe is an attention whore at best and a criminal at worst.

James O’Keefe is to journalism as Chris Hanson is to crime fighting: a dishonest joke.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Palin's Parents: "We Sleep With Guns."

Photo Credit: Andrew Bruss

Sarah Palin’s parents sleep with guns. Seriously. Sally Heath, mother of the gubernatorial dropout, told the BBC she fears her daughter’s safety and her father Chuck was quoted as saying, “We sleep with guns.”

Apparently their greatest fear came from a man the FBI recently arrested after making death threats and sending the Mama Grizzly photocopies of receipts he received for gun purchases.

Palin’s fears are well founded because truth be told, the security she pays for out of pocket really sucks.

I attended a Tea Party event on the Boston Common last spring as a member of the press. Although I was not registered with any publication, literally showed up last minute, and did not provide any form of identification, I was allowed into the photo pit, positioned between Palin and the crowd, with a backpack that was not searched.

I pride myself on professionalism and would never bring any sort of contraband into an event that would give attendees or security staff any reason to worry. However, this nut cake that was arrested for threatening Palin could have easily lied about being in the media and weaseled his way to the foot of the stage Palin was speaking from. Unverified, backpack-strapped members of the “lamestream media” were closer to the failed VP nominee than her security was.

At the time of the event, I remember thinking, “I might expect this type of lax security from the government but private sector security? You guys can do better.” Maybe Palin’s parents aren’t so crazy for sleeping with guns.

CORRECTION: Although their fears for their daughter’s safety are valid, it is, in fact, fucking crazy for anyone to sleep with guns. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Iran's Overthrow "Will Be The Bloodiest."

Republicans really hate this guy
George Soros, the billionaire who narrowly escaped the holocaust as a child, has gone on record saying the uprisings throughout the Middle East are about oil revenues. More importantly, Soros predicts that the Iranian Republic will be overthrown in the “bloodiest of revolutions.”

In an interview with the BBC, Soros said the revolts in Libya were partly the result of “revolution against a corruption” fed by the oil revenues Gadhafi and his family have spent on themselves.

"Transparency and even more importantly accountability in the use of natural resources is what you need for people living in those countries to get the benefit of those national resources. Libya produced enormous wealth which Gaddafi took as his own and now the people rebelled against it."

Although putting military support behind the anti-Gadhafi protesters runs a risk of depriving them of “their moment” or giving the Arab world fear of another American invasion of an oil-rich country, Soros feels we should be supporting protesters: "What is happening today in the Middle East is very similar to what happened in the former Soviet Union in 1989-91. But then it was a regime hostile to the West that was destroyed by the revolution," he said. Now it is regimes supported by the West, so the West has to regain the allegiance of the people in those countries by actually supporting the transition to democracy. It's very important that Europe and the US should be in front of the revolution rather than behind it because if they are behind it, they are going to lose the allegiance of the new regimes that are emerging and if they are properly supported they will be democratic regimes and it will be a tremendous improvement."

Given our historical support of violent fascists like Mubarak, it’s fair to assume the new Egyptian government will be less welcoming than its predecessor. However, our sometimes violent opposition to the likes of the Ayatollah and Col. Gadhafi could stand to make us some friends in a very inhospitable part of the world.

Sarah Conner once said, “The future is unwritten.” That fictional survivalist has never been closer to the mark. What we can count on is the Arab world of 2010 being unrecognizable in 2012.

Iranians aren’t Arabs. They’re Persians. The above still applies…