The Daily Demarche
Sunday, May 29, 2005
Their service came not as a burden but as a duty.
As we pause to remember our fallen comrades this Memorial Day, we need to take time to give thought to their families, their friends and to those who love them. We cannot measure the depth of their loss nor can we comprehend the true measure of their sorrow. They served their nation well, standing between the enemy, and us, between good and evil, between freedom and tyranny. Their service came not as a burden but as a duty.

To properly honor them, we must speak of them in real and human terms. They were more than our friends: They were our buddies, And they were closer than family in many ways because we developed a kinship with them that only those who have experienced the realities of war can understand. We honor their memory, but at the same time we mourn them. We are grateful for the privilege of knowing them and having them included in our lives. What is finest about our nation--individual freedom, justice, equality and opportunity -- has been sustained because of them. And for that every American is in their debt.

John Furgess

VFW Commander-in-Chief

In 1918 Moina Michael penned “We Shall Keep the Faith” in response to John McCrae’s “In Flanders Field” (both poems can be found at the end of this post) launching the idea of wearing a poppy on the 30th of May in remembrance of our fallen warriors. While Memorial Day has existed as a federal holiday since only 1966, the practice of honoring America’s war dead dates to at least the Civil War:

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 - 363) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis' birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee

Unfortunately Memorial Day has sadly become just another three day weekend for many Americans- and with our men and women in uniform taking casualties in the field over this long weekend it seems inappropriate to spend the day honoring their fallen comrades eating BBQ and drinking beer. I can remember, as a child, watching the parade and seeing the veterans, and the whole town gathering in Memorial Park for a speech or two and then the reading of the names of any veterans in the community who had passed away over the course of the prior year- their service honored too on that special day. I don’t know if my small hometown still does that, but I do know that shopping sales and the “official” start of the summer beach season are marked by this “holiday” more than anything else. To me, and I am sure to the families of those who have died in battle, this is not a holiday, and was never meant to be one. It is a solemn occasion for remembrance and reflection- our treatment of the day as an excuse to cut loose is not in keeping with the sacrifices made by the men and women the day is dedicated to.

Living and working in Europe, seeing the battle fields where both World Wars raged, and visiting the countries that suffered so much throughout the wars and for decades afterwards makes quite an impact. The rows of white crosses and headstones, reminiscent of Arlington National Cemetery, are powerful artifacts, especially when one pauses to consider that many of these great fields of honor mark but a single battle or engagement. I am saddened by the thought that we are losing touch with the memory of the men and women who have gone forth from the safety of their homes to try to bring freedom freedom, and safety, to others, and to keep the forces of evil from our shores. Our “holiday” needs to be restored to a National Day of Remembrance, now more so than ever. The Memorial Day History group and the VFW agree:

But what may be needed to return the solemn, and even sacred, spirit back to Memorial Day is for a return to its traditional day of observance. Many feel that when Congress made the day into a three-day weekend in with the National Holiday Act of 1971, it made it all the easier for people to be distracted from the spirit and meaning of the day. As the VFW stated in its 2002 Memorial Day address: "Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day."

On January 19, 1999 Senator Inouye introduced bill S 189 to the Senate which proposes to restore the traditional day of observance of Memorial Day back to May 30th instead of "the last Monday in May". On April 19, 1999 Representative Gibbons introduced the bill to the House (H.R. 1474). The bills were referred the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Government Reform.

While I am just as fond of a three day weekend as the next person, I support the idea of moving Memorial Day back to the 30th of May. Sign the petition if it moves you, or click here to find out more about what you can do to make a difference this holiday weekend. If your town has a war memorial, and I am fairly certain all American towns do, please pay it a visit on Monday. Take your kids if you have any, or any kids you can round up from your family, and tell them what the memorial represents. Go ahead and have your BBQ, but please share a moment of silence with your friends and pay homage to those who have died so that others may live. If you have a flag in front of your home, fly it at half-mast until noon.

This day, above all others, is a day for reflection and honor. Let us never forget our fallen sons and daughters-let us never break the faith.

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae, May 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

We Shall Keep the Faith
by Moina Michael, November 1918

Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet - to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.
Friday, May 27, 2005
Packing Out
I have to apologize for the light posting over the past week- we have been prepping to move. One of the joys and banes of the Foreign Service life is moving from country to country- or in the case of this move from continent to continent. Mrs. D and I are leaving the Euro zone and heading for one of the poorest parts of the globe. It will be big change, but we are excited. We leave here soon, and will be on home leave (Congressionally mandated leave spent in the U.S. to renew our ties to America- usually taken every three years) and then we will be in the most foreign of places- D.C.- for about 6 weeks of training and off to the new Post we go. I'll be blogging over the leave time and training, but am not sure with what frequency. Anyone with an idea for a guest post feel free to send it along to me or Smiley!

Since I have not had time for any lengthy posts here is a round up of things that have caught my eye (thank you to our readers who provided tips to many of these):

People throughout the Middle East continue to protest and decry the "abuse" of the Koran which has supposedly occurred in Cuba:

Following claims that the Koran was disrespected at the US Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba, Malaysia, India, and Pakistan were the scene of protests against the US.

In the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, about 300 protestors burnt US and Israeli flags.

Following the Friday Prayer, ralliest leaving the mosques chanted slogans against US and gathered in front of the US Embassy building to listen to the speeches condemning the insult to the Quran.

Among the crowd were banners reading "Stop Islamophobia Mania" and "Go to Hell US".

In India's Kashmir region capital Srinagar, schools and official buildings were closed due to the demonstrations. Women burnt US flags and the copies of the US Constitution during the protests attended by about 50 people.

They burned Old Glory and the Constitution! There is no way we can take that! I want to see mayhem in the sreets of the U.S.- the only thing that will set those insults to rights is the wanton destruction of property and perhaps a score or so of deaths of innocent people! It is time to show the world what America has learned from Islam.

In a more, ahem, loving note- at least someone in Germany understands the basics of capitalism and supply and demand:

Saying times are hard enough without men having to give up sex, a brothel madam in economically hard-hit eastern Germany is offering a 20-percent discount to the unemployed.

To qualify for the discount - which applies to snacks and beverages as well as services rendered - the patrons of the Villa Bijou club in Dresden must produce unemployment registration papers showing they have been out of work for at least two years.

The Brits, on the other hand, have completely lost their minds:

Warning: Long, pointy knives may be hazardous to your health.

The authors of an editorial in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal have called for knife reform. The editorial, "Reducing knife crime: We need to ban the sale of long, pointed kitchen knives," notes that the knives are being used to stab people as well as roasts and the odd tin of Spam.

The French continue to appear poised to block the monstrosity that is the EU constitution, but also insist that everyone else continue the exercise of holding referendums on it:

President Chirac was still insisting last night that renegotiation was out of the question if the French vote "no". British ministers believe that the only way that the French could get eventual approval would be to amend the constitution in a way that would make it unacceptable in Britain.

We do not know if there is going to be a yes or a no but a no would create massive uncertainty about what we are supposed to be voting on, a ministerial source said. M Chirac went on French television last night to deliver a dramatic last-ditch appeal for a yes vote. He urged the French people not to punish his Government.

I love that last line. Jacques, amigo mio, it is not YOUR government, it is the people's. Occasionally they are going to recall that.

Closer to home, when the WaPo calls anything you have said or written "vitriolic" and you are not a Republican, it must be pretty egregious:

IT'S ALWAYS SAD when a solid, trustworthy institution loses its bearings and joins in the partisan fracas that nowadays passes for political discourse. It's particularly sad when the institution is Amnesty International, which for more than 40 years has been a tough, single-minded defender of political prisoners around the world and a scourge of left- and right-wing dictators alike. True, Amnesty continues to keep track of the world's political prisoners, as it has always done, and its reports remain a vital source of human rights information. But lately the organization has tended to save its most vitriolic condemnations not for the world's dictators but for the United States.

That's it for now- back to sorting what goes where when we leave. I hope to have longer piece up over the weekend, maybe Sunday. Remember, guest posts are welcome! Just send me your ideas.

(End of post.)
Monday, May 23, 2005
Five (not so) Easy Pieces

As the nay-sayers, blame-America crowd and general loony left continue to insist that we bring the troops home from, now, there is a dearth of ideas from that direction as to what, exactly, we should leave behind in Iraq. What will our, and the Iraqis, legacy, be now that the madman Hussein is reduced to washing his pants in his skivvies?s it time for is to leave Iraq? What do we owe Iraq and her people at this point in time?

Foreign Policy magazine asked those questions of five experts, and received five divergent opinions, naturally enough (free registration required to read the full articles). The pieces are by:

-Lawrence F. Kaplan- senior editor at The New Republic and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
-George A. Lopez - senior fellow at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.
-Kenneth R. Himes- chair of the theology department at Boston College.
-Jean Bethke Elshtain- professor of social and political ethics at the University of Chicago·s Divinity School.
-Sohail H. Hashmi - associate professor of international relations at Mount Holyoke College

Kaplan turns the questions on their side and asks how practical it would be for the US to withdraw from Iraq immediately. His answer: not very. To quote:

The result would be a strategic catastrophe. Preventing Iraq from coming apart at the seams means preventing the country from becoming what Afghanistan was until recently—a vacuum filled by terrorist organizations, which is what one National Intelligence Council report suggested Iraq is now fast becoming. Only an Iraqi government that possesses a relative monopoly on the means of violence can prevent this outcome. Alas, Iraq’s security forces are nowhere near their goal of fielding sufficient numbers of police, national guard, and soldiers. In the meantime, then, either the U.S. military will fill the gap or no one will.

The rest of the world has already proven that it is willing to let Iraq go up in flames, to ignore the jihadists and Islamofascists who seek civil war in Iraq so they can look down their elitist, European noses and smugly say “we told you Bush the cowboy was wrong.”

Nevertheless, Lopez argues for a scheduled withdrawal from Iraq- with a deadline of about a year, made public and scrupulously adhered to:

The fear that aggressive withdrawal will signal U.S. weakness misses the point. Iraq’s desire to be rid of the occupiers is clear. A January 2005 Zogby opinion poll found that 82 percent of Sunnis and 69 percent of Shiites favor U.S. withdrawal “either immediately or after an elected government is in place.” Withdrawing in the face of such strong national consensus is not a policy of weakness but one of appropriate deference to the wishes of the Iraqi people. And through its subsequent actions, the United States ultimately will be able to determine how that withdrawal is judged. A continued commitment to economic aid an d to the political choices Iraqis make for themselves will provide ample positive data for history. A U.S. withdrawal would be a victory of good sense over exaggerated fears.

While I fully support the will of the Iraqi people and am loathe to ever imply that a government, any government, knows more than the people it governs, there is no Iraqi government in place. It is that simple. They are working, to be sure, to establish such a government, and should soon have one. Until then it is reprehensible to abandon the people of Iraq to the not so tender mercies of the thugs who are blowing up the people, on a near daily basis.

As Himes says:

Accordingly, the United States and its allies must not depart until basic social institutions are in place or until it is clear that occupying forces are either unwanted or unable to contribute to the creation of those institutions. For those Americans eager for their country to get out of Iraq, it is tempting to argue that the U.S. presence is the cause of the insurgency and that withdrawal is already ethically proper. But that is only half correct: The insurgents will oppose any non-Sunni-dominated government, and the present Iraqi security forces are still unable to maintain order.

Many would argue that our forces are already clearly not wanted there- and they are correct. The powers in the region that oppose democracy, equal rights and the opportunity for the Iraqi people to have a better life do not want our troops there. They want chaos, and a primitive society ruled over by warlords and religious zealots.

Elshtain charts a proper path for the future of the allied forces in Iraq:

The countries responsible for the postwar situation bear a major burden in repairing infrastructural and environmental harm that is the direct result of military operations. Civilian affairs teams should first concentrate on the basic necessities of life—water and electricity, and then schools, hospitals, and other basic institutions of civic order. Repairing the political infrastructure is just as essential to creating a just peace. That means leaving the people in the invaded country, as well as the wider international environment, in better shape than before the intervention. Installing legitimate authority in Iraq is a delicate balancing act.

Iraq was “broken” before we toppled Saddam, but that is no excuse for us to withdraw and leave the country a war-ruptured shambles. We have a responsibility to the Iraqi people and the region at this juncture. Elshtain again:

The occupying powers must also provide defense and security. If a country has been disarmed, the occupying power has taken on responsibility for its security and protection from external and internal enemies. How long this provision will be, and how extensive, will depend on the threats it faces and the speed with which Iraq can rebuild its own defense and internal security capability.

Finally, the occupying powers must react if yet another Saddam-type regime of fear begins to emerge. Even as the United States protected postwar Western Europe—including a new democratic state in West Germany—throughout the Cold War and decades of bipolarity, so the United States must remain tightly tied to a new Iraq.

Iraq clearly still faces threats- perhaps external but violently manifested internally. Can there be any doubt that al-Zaraqwi would establish a rule as heinous as that of Saddam and sons? What then, is the solution? Inevitably we will withdraw from Iraq, at least the preponderance of our forces. Who and what will replace them? In the most compelling of the five pieces Hashmi offers this:

As the United States struggles for the best way to get out of Iraq, the Muslim world should contemplate how to get in.
Muslim troops approved by the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference should replace American, British, and other European forces as interim peacekeepers until Iraqi security forces are properly trained. This force cannot come from countries neighboring Iraq, which might have their own designs on its territory, but it could draw on troops from Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, or Bangladesh.
Muslim leaders have an obligation to avoid the mistakes they committed in the lead-up to the U.S. intervention in Iraq, not just in 2003 but in 1991 as well. They had an obligation to isolate and to remove the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein when he attacked Iran, terrorized his own people, and
invaded Kuwait. Yet for decades, Arab leaders either did nothing or actively supported Saddam. Their action and inaction made U.S. intervention all too easy.

More than making it easy, I would argue that they made it necessary, and are continuing to make it pointless for the U.S. and our allies to think of “getting out” of Iraq. I want our troops home, and I am more than certain that they want to come home. But they are there today because the job was not finished the first time. We failed to uphold our promise to the people of Iraq under the President’s father, and the situation degenerated. Is there anyone out there today who thinks that leaving Iraq tomorrow will result in a better future for the Iraqis, the Middle East or America? I would love for them to tell me how that can come to be.

Until that time we owe it to the people of Iraq and the ME to see the job through. I would welcome, right now, the assistance of the Muslim world in stabilizing the country and hunting down the invading terrorists, but I will not hold my breath waiting for them to arrive. In the meantime we must continue to hunt down and kill those who would slaughter women and children and the men who would become policemen and guardsmen. That was the promise that we made after the first Gulf War, and after Saddam fell. America, my America, keeps its promise. For too long we allowed the forces of darkness free reign, as long as it was in their own yard. We have since learned that what grows in another’s yard will eventually cross the fence, and it can be lethal. The answer is never a better fence- it is always to assist in the destruction of that which is a threat to everyone. Even if some of us refuse to recognize it as a threat.

Sunday, May 22, 2005
Boxers or Briefs? The world wants to know.
When I saw Saddam Hussein on CNN, being checked for lice, I thought I had seen everything. Obviously, I was wrong. I had yet to see the man in his underwear. Now, I have. But this time I am not even going to begin to assume I have seen it all. In a region where the rumor of the desecration of a book can lead to rioting and the loss of life, where women are beaten for showing their ankles in public and where tribalism is the name of the game, these photos could have garnered any conceivable reaction, and many that are inconceivable, I am sure.

In the West, of course, there is only one reaction; sensationalistic glee that the photos were leaked. No one really cares what Saddam looks like in his drawers, but the photos are themselves proof that the President does not have full control over his administration. As a result we will see, I am sure, a “full investigation” into the leak. Read that as a waste of resources that could be better spent elsewhere. Regardless of the outcome of any investigation the anti-Bush folks will find fault.

The reaction of the Iraqi people, by all accounts, has been mixed. A few comments, however, have left me wondering about the state of the body politic in America, as compared to Iraq:

Thirty-five year-old Sattar Jabbar says it is a shameful that these photos were published because Saddam Hussein was president of Iraq once, and it’s a humiliation for the government and the people…

Maithan Shehab Ahmad says he hates Saddam after the 12 years he spent in the military fighting in the Iran-Iraq war. But he says he was disgusted to see the photos.

"Saddam Hussein stole my life from me," he said. "I spent 12 years of my life in the military and he took everything. But that does not mean we accept the humiliation of our president."

I have to wonder: if any embarrassing photos of President Bush made it into the press would the anti-Bush forces in America have the same respect for the office of the President that these two Iraqis seem to have? I doubt it.

While the people of Iraq face daily threats from murderous jihadists (“insurgents” for some inexplicable reason to the NY Times) and attempt to form a new government, we in the West are eating up pictures of the hirsute former dictator. While Americans turned away from long lines of voters, their franchise unpracticed, in order to park in front of the TV in time for whatever drivel is our favorite, the Iraqis turned out in number despite the threat of terror. While college kids and the Hollywood effete equate the President with Hitler, Iraqis still take pride in the office of their leader, despite the monster who was so recently deposed.

There is a lesson to be learned in all of this, but I doubt that anyone really cares. Maybe tomorrow there will be a picture of Saddam brushing his teeth. If not, I think Desperate Housewives is on.
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
A Wanted Poster I'd Like to See (updated 5/18)
It would go something like this:

WANTED: The Newsweek Editorial Board
for 16 counts of wrongful death,
reckless endangerment, incitement to riot,
and slander.

Where is the responsibility and accountability of the press? I'm not talking censorship- I mean good old fashioned integrity.

According to ABC news:
The White House called on Newsweek magazine on Tuesday to help repair damage to the U.S. image in the Muslim world by its false report that U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay desecrated the Koran.

I have a proposal. Newsweek can help to begin to repair the damage by producing a special issue detailing all of the U.S. development projects that have been completed in Iraq, Afghanistan and every other Muslim nation in the world. I want to see pictures of every school built, every hospital, charts detailing medical services provided and interviews with people freed from tyranny- just a glimpse of the good news- published in all of the major dialects of those regions. That would be a nice start. If the folks at Newsweek aren't sure what good news is they can refresh their memories at Good News Hound (mug tip to Kevin).

And fire the editors who approved that piece, putting sensationalism over fact and the safety of countless people. That would go a long way too.

Now, I have to go flush my Newsweek renewal notice down the toilet.

Begin Update- click the link below.

This post generated a lot of good comments and e-mail, most of it supportive of the idea, some of it less so, and some of it indicating that there is no use in even trying to repair the damage. What follows is the result if an exchange of e-mails between myself and Australian reader who lived in the U.S. for nearly two decades. He makes several good points, but the most teling to me is the disparity between the treatment of the leader of the group responsible for the Bali bombing, sentenced to 30 months, and the possible death penalty faced by an Austrialian girl for smuggling drugs into Indonesia. As usual with a guest post- we do not edit for content and do not necessarily agree with the post, but we find it interesting and think you might too.

The recent Newsweek debacle has got me thinking about the way the West interacts and behaves in its relations with the Islamic world. More and more it seems to me that the west has got its strategy wrong and we seem to be inadvertently following a policy of appeasement rather than confronting the real core of the issue. The real problem as I see it is that the Islamic world simply despises everything thing about the West, and simple acts of kindness and good actions are seen as a sign of weakness.

Reasonable people should be asking several questions that arise out of the Newsweek debacle. In addition to hanging Newsweek out to dry we should be asking: how is it possible a story which even if true (and it isn't) about throwing a book in a toilet bowl could cause the death of 17 people with hundreds wounded during anti- American riots in Islamic countries? What kind of a culture or religion could cause people to behave in this way? Quite frankly, I find the double standards and hypocrisy emanating from the Islamic world to be shocking in the extreme. Never a day goes by in which a Muslim Government paper is not publishing stories about Jews, plagiarized from Nazi writings.

Not too long ago, on a certain day: September 11, 2001 to be exact, 19 lowlifes professing to act for Allah and Islam crashed planes into buildings in American cities causing the death of 4,000 innocents. I can vividly recall that day, seeing Muslims dancing in the streets- happy this event had occurred. What I can't recall are any lynch mobs going after Muslims in America. I also can't recall influential Muslims anywhere apologising for lowlifes going into a pizza parlours in Israel blowing themselves up along with a score of Israeli kids, hoping to pick up 72 virgins for the effort.

I love the United States, and after living in the US for 18 years before returning home to Australia, I miss and love it even more. But as in Australia, I see our leaders making some terrible mistakes when dealing with Islamic countries. Even though both countries have conservative leaders who are attempting to do the right thing, I believe we are conducting relations with Islamic countries that resemble appeasement. The truth is Muslims don't like us, in fact theyvhate everything about us. Acts of kindness are, more often than not, not seen for what they are- a generosity of spirit to our fellow man- but rather they are interpreted as acts of weakness.

Australian relations with Indonesia are a case in point. The Bali bombing saw 98 decent, young Aussies charred to death. While the ring leader of the group responsible for the bombing (the dirt bag Bashir) will be out of jail in 2 1/2 years, Schapelle Corby, who was allegedly caught smuggling drugs into Bali is facing death by firing squad or life in prison if found guilty. I don't know enough to comment on whether Corby is guilty or innocent, but I do know something is drastically wrong here when a rat responsible for killing approximately 200 people and injuring many more gets a couple of years in the slammer while an Australian woman is facing possible death for drug trafficking.

No matter how much kindness we show Muslims, the assistance after the tsunami being a good example, we will never persuade them to like us.

Joe, in Australia
Monday, May 16, 2005
Creative Writing Season at the State Dept.
Last week I alluded to the fact that the annual employee evaluation review (EER) season is upon us- well, it is officially over (May 15th is the due date for the reports) but in reality will linger on for another week or so as last minute reports filter in. A number of commenters and e-mails asked for a more in depth description of the process, so here it is- all you ever wanted to know about EERs and probably a whole lot more!

EER season is a high stress time of year- the normal workload does not decrease, many folks are planning for their upcoming transfer season, and except for the entry-level staff everyone is busy trying to finish the reports for the people they supervise while making sure that their own report is finished on time as well. The reporting process is governed by the Foreign Affairs Manual, specifically 3 FAH-1 H-2800 and 3 FAM 2800:

3 FAM 2811.2 Objectives
The objectives of the personnel evaluation program are to enhance member efficiency and to provide a just and equitable basis for career tenure, promotions, within-class salary increases, performance pay, assignments, training, separations, and disciplinary action by:

(1) Providing for a periodic written evaluation of each member’s performance and potential;
(2) Assuring that each member participates in the formulation of and understands the work requirements, goals, and priorities established at the beginning of the rating period; and
(3) Establishing a constructive dialogue between supervisors and subordinates to continue throughout the rating period.

The process revolves around two forms, the DS-1829 (six pages) for all Foreign Service Officers and Specialists below the rank of FS-01 and the DS-5055 (five pages) for all Officers and Specialists holding a rank of FS-01 or higher (the Senior Foreign Service). I have so far been unable to find the forms on the Web to provide links- if anyone knows of any please let me know.

The report consists of: the rating statement- prepared (in theory) by the supervisor for employees at or below the rank of 02 and by the rated employee at 01 and above, the review statement- prepared by the next level of management, the dreaded “room for improvement” box and the rated employees final statement, affectionately known as the “suicide box.” Each report has to address issues such as leadership, management, communication skills, intellectual skills, job knowledge and of course EEO.

The process of writing the report is intended to be collaborative and transparent, with the rated employee, the rater (immediate supervisor) and the reviewer (usually next step up the chain of command) working together to produce a report that places the rated employee within the organization and measures his or her performance against the work requirements of the position.

In reality, for all but the most junior of officers and the total screw-ups, the employee writes at least the first draft of his or her own rating statement-it is a simple matter of time and wanting to have the best report possible. Combine this with the unwritten policy of “damn by faint praise” for the screw-ups and it becomes extremely difficult to tell who is actually a standout employee. It is only with slight exaggeration they I say some reports use phrases like “when Dick is not walking on water he is busy turning it into wine.” Smiley wrote a bout visits recently- when the Secretary of State visits your post everyone of any elevated rank ends up with credit for the success of the visit- whether the visit was indeed a success or not. Much like grade inflation in our colleges, relative worth of an employee’s contribution is inflated to help that person stand out among a group of peers who all have basically the same job.

Once the report is done it goes to a review panel, generally three officers or specialist who do not work in the employees section, for proofing. These panels are supposed to look for technical problems- i.e. a signature missing, a box left unchecked, and “inadmissible comments” of which there are many. For the most part these comments are the type of thing that would get the Department sued- “Miss Jones uses her perkiness to sway host country officials” or “Mr. Smith looks like a native of Upper Ickystan and so is able to bond with his interlocutors.” You get the idea. Of course since we all think we are the smartest people in the room, a lot of stylistic editing is done too- panels like to change words from “happy” to “glad” and “that” to “which.” Bear in mind that at least three people have already worked on this report- the employee, the rater and the reviewer, and now three more have seen it too. After review by the panel it goes back to the employee for corrections, then to panel again. If it is o.k. the panel chair signs the report and it goes to Washington.

A colleague has suggested that we do away with the review panels and make the report the work of the three people who have signed it. Let is be submitted to DC warts and all- and let those three be dinged for whatever might be wrong. I think this is a great idea- the panels simply tie up more resources. If three FSOs can’t get it right I don’t see how six make it any better.

The now glossed over report is sent to the Department to go into your personnel file. When an employee is eligible for promotion the file is sent to a board of examiners, who on average will spend eight minutes with each file. Bear in mind that each file will generally have at least three evaluations since the last promotion (most grades have a three year wait for promotion eligibility), and may have many more if you have languished in a grade for a few extra years. It is imperative, than, that each report give the impression of infallibility- you just better hope that your rater and or reviewer are good writers.

The process of evaluating employees is of course necessary. The present method, however, designed to protect the Department and to ensure that no one has their feelings hurt is unworkable. Poor performers are rarely identified as such, and criticism is so rare as to be non-existent. Managers are not asked to rank their employees for promotion, and staff are nor measured against their peers as well as their work requirements. The average person, asked to read ten EERs, would be very hard pressed to identify who was the star of the bunch- and oddly enough a member of the public sits on every promotion panel. Subordinate staff and local hires staff have no input into the rating of their supervisor (the Department is flirting with 360 degree review, but it does not seem likely to happen soon). Unfortunately the current EER process in firmly entrenched. As long as the PC police and the lawyers who fear blowback from calling a spade a spade control the process we will continue to have “screamers” in the upper ranks. Policy wonks who may be economic geniuses will continue to be placed in charge of our missions with disastrous effect on the staff. Potential leaders and excellent managers who labor under supervisors who write poorly, or are on the verge of retirement and just don’t care, will continue to suffer for it. The process needs a good hard look, the sooner the better.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to get to work on building a file for my next EER-we are almost out of wine around here.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Brad Lena responds-
Earlier this week we posted a guest piece by Brad Lena- Unilateral Magnanimity- that generated a spirited round of comments and more than a few e-mails to the author. Brad responds with this post:

Let me begin by thanking all those who took the time to offer their thoughts and engage in spirited commentary. As one can imagine, reactions to my audacious post “Unilateral Magnanimity” have ranged from Brad Lena is the world’s biggest idiot, to those who were intrigued by my tactical suggestion. My response is directed at no particular individual. I must remark, however, that some of the comments exhibited an obtuseness on steroids.

It should be noted by those, especially those suffering from congenital literalism, that not all geopolitical tactics are undertaken with its face value as the sole or even the true objective. In fact, the objective may be to initiate a reaction or series of reactions that will have ramifications at a later date and are advantageous to the initiating government. Not wishing to take unfair advantage of Dr. D’s kind invitation to post on his blog by writing too lengthy of a piece, this underlying motivation was only implied in my original post.

There are some set assumptions underlying my suggested tactic. One is that Kim Jong-Il may be the most predictable player in this scenario. You can probably set your watch by what this guy will do. There will be no on the road to Damascus conversion and he will suddenly make nice. Such delusions were a distinguishing feature of the Clinton State Department. As much as I would like to see the suffering of the North Korean people ameliorated, I doubt it will not come at the hands of US magnanimity.

If Kim Jong-Il’s cooperation is discounted from the beginning, what then is the objective? The focus of the tactic is really the nations of Asia, the UN, NGO’s and post-cold war dynamics. From many quarters comes the assertion that the aforementioned transnational organizations are to adjudicate, mitigate, and regulate international relations. These organizations claim the moral high ground on many issues while routinely criticizing the US for many of its actions especially in an age of unilateral and preemptive military action. If the proposed tactic was initiated and accompanied by US demands that these organizations press North Korea to accommodate a humanitarian gesture it sets the stage for a spectacular failure. And that is an important fact; for this initiative will receive significant media attention as in the whole world is watching. The situation is now this, the humanitarian approach has failed, North Korea refuses to join other communist nations of Asia in a rapprochement with global politics and economics, it still has nuclear weapons and the UN, transnational organizations and the NGO’s are demonstrably impotent and/or inept.

What of Asia? So far they have been getting by on the cheap. South Korea, Japan and now China and India have formidable economies, an insatiable US consumer demand for their goods and services and access to the West’s financial systems. With North Korea now intransigent on all fronts, pressure to act will undoubtedly build. Kim Jong-Il has the potential to upset the trajectory of Asian affluence and influence. The Asian goal is to constrain American influence and military presence in their sphere. North Korea threatens that as well, adding impetus to the need for their action. If Asia fails to act, that too is a useful piece of information for the US.

Some comments considered the tactic an act of appeasement. Appeasement is an admission of weakness. A massive nuclear force targeting North Korea, a dozen or so aircraft carrier battle groups, pre-positioned nuclear submarines, a ground and air force presence in Japan and S. Korea and a military budget second to none, precludes the tactic as an act of appeasement. In fact, it is a provocation using a passive act. A nation that can, at will, either destroy you or provide your people with material goods that are markedly beyond the ability of your governing philosophy to supply is an act of mockery.

Other commentators thought my statement that Kim Jong –Il was ill prepared to confront unilateral magnanimity, silly as he has withstood economic, political, technological isolation and will continue to do so as long as China, his main benefactor, wishes it. My point was that he indeed has plenty of experience in this sort of resistance. He lacks, however, experience, policies and propaganda in resisting the world community badgering him to accept magnanimity for his people. Others thought he would simply steal the goods. He’s welcome to do it with the whole world watching or at least our pin point satellite reconnaissance watching.

Some thought the whole exercise misconceived. Misconceived compared to what? A foreign policy and State Department that trusted Kim Jong-Il to live up to his treaty promises? Or, how about selling cutting edge technology with ready military applications to his main benefactor China? And that’s just the “A” list of misconceived policies. At least unilateral magnanimity is neither delusional nor detrimental. A by-product of the rejection by North Korea is the ensuing debate over who gets the spurned goods. There are places on earth that endure unimaginable suffering that are ignored because they lack destabilizing weapons and/or their resources are meager or difficult to exploit. And so they suffer. Perhaps the world’s attention on them for at least a little while will be helpful.

In employing unilateral magnanimity, even as a doomed policy, the US has engineered a number of useful reevaluations of the extant geopolitical order with relatively little effort or risk to existing geopolitical arrangements. This is a good thing as we already have two “new arrangement” programs underway in Afghanistan and Iraq. A dozen or so super-freighters parked off the coast in international waters makes for a bully pulpit of that is hard to ignore. Everybody in this scenario looks bad except the US. We’ve implored a tyrant to join the rest of Asia in building a prosperous future, shown compassion for his people, demanded transnational organizations be held accountable and enforce their mandate and put pressure on Asia to effectively act in its own interest.

Those put off by my preposterous and idiotic suggestion in the original post would probably go apoplectic over my suggestion to carpet bomb Cuba with pictures of the insides of grocery stores that state “This is how Cubans shop in free societies. How’s shopping under Fidel?” At any rate, they can rest easy, as there’s always the old stand bys; Foreign Affairs Quarterly, Security Council resolutions, economic sanctions, new treaties and of course, war.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
I want my Crash and Bang.
Earlier this week the Government Accounting Office released report GAO-05-642- Overseas Security. This report, which deals with the efforts to protect U.S. government personnel assigned abroad carries the reassuring subtitle of State Department Has Not Fully Implemented Key Measures to Protect U.S. Officials from Terrorist Attacks Outside of Embassies. The report primarily addresses so-called soft targets abroad (homes, schools, routes to work, etc) as opposed to "hardened" targets, such as Embassies and Consulates, but it also reviews what USG staff overseas can be expected to know and do to protect themselves. That is my main concern tonight.

Here is the short version of the report:

U.S. government officials working overseas are at risk from terrorist threats. Since 1968, 32 embassy officials have been attacked-23 fatally-by terrorists outside the embassy. s the State Department continues to improve security at U.S. embassies, terrorist groups are likely to focus on "soft" targets such as homes, schools, and places of worship.

We are recommending that the Secretary of State develop a soft targets strategy; develop counterterrorism training for officials; and fully implement its personal security accountability system for embassy officials. State generally agreed with our recommendations.

Now, I want to start by saying that there is no way the U.S. government can protect every person in its employ twenty-four hours a day at a level equal to what can be expected in a hardened facility. Having said that, their are some valid points in the report. Thirty-two State officials have been attacked with twenty-three killed outside of an embassy in the last thirty-five years. While the report addresses a number of issues one item comes to the fore- we do not receive counter-terrorism training.

State has not fully implemented one of the most important safeguards against terrorist attacks while traveling to and from work- counterterrorism training. Three State-initiated investigations into terrorist attacks against U.S. officials found that, among other things, the officials lacked the necessary hands-on training to help counter the attack. In response, the investigations recommended that State provide hands-on counterterrorism training and implement accountability measures to ensure compliance with personal security procedures. However, State has not fully implemented these recommendations. It does not require counterterrorism training for U.S. officials and their families at high-or critical-threat posts.

I am not talking about commando, Jack Bauer in 24, type training. I am talking about a program that already exists in the Department- it is called the Diplomatic Security Antiterrorism Course (DSAC). This is an elective course if you are going to a "high threat" post (Saudi comes to mind), but even then it is not mandatory. This course covers things such as surveillance detection training, counterterrorism driving (commonly called "Crash and Bang"), and emergency medical training. Add basic weapons training and you have a really good course -not that State will ever advocate for its officers to learn to fire a weapon.

Many of the other agencies that send folks abroad (especially in law enforcement) require this type of training. State, in its perpetual condition of budgetary crunches for training, short staffing and general aversion to anything that appears to be aggressive, leaves this course as an elective. This might be a good time to point out that the Embassies bombed in Africa were NOT high threat posts- it is very unlikely then, that any State personnel at those posts had this training.

Equally disturbing to me is this line from the report:

Moreover, State has not been training its ambassadors, deputy chiefs of mission, and regional security officers on ways to effectively promote the use of the personal security procedures.

If our Ambassadors and DCMs are not lobbying the Department for more security training it is simply not going to happen. Unfortunately that does not seem likely to occur. Political appointee ambassadors are concerned with the political role they play (understandably) and DCMs who want to make Ambassador generally don't rock the boat. Everyone seems to just sort of hunker down and hope nothing bad happens on their watch. The African bombings are history- and the only lesson that seems to have been learned is that we need to turn our Missions into fortresses. The GAO made several excellent recommendations- and I may revisit this report here in the coming days- but this to me is the most relevant:

Mandate counterterrorism training and prioritize which posts, officials, and family members should receive counterterrorism training first; track attendance to determine compliance with this new training requirement; and add a "soft target protection" training module to the ambassadorial, deputy chief of mission, and RSO training to promote the security of U.S. officials and their families outside the embassy.

Those of us serving abroad need at least the basic skills to protect ourselves, our families and our colleagues. Would an employee with basic counter-terrorism skills have been able to help prevent the African embassy attacks? We'll never know- but I am certain that without any training we are all at even greater risk.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Unilateral Magnanimity
Occasionally we receive e-mails that are too good to resist sharing, and we invite the author to do a guest piece, or re-publish something he or she has posted elsewhere. This is one of those e-mails that evolved into a guest piece. The text below is un-edited by The Daily Demarche. - Dr. D

[As promised the oil bit below has also been updated today]

“War is not an independent phenomenon, but the continuation of politics by different means. “ – Clausewitz

For the purposes of considering policy options regarding North Korea, it is the second half of Clausewitz’s quote, “… the continuation of politics by different means” that will be explored. With political options decidedly constrained, some think war with Kim Jong-Il's North Korea inevitable. Secretary Rice has taken to sternly warning the North Koreans as to the scope and depth of American military resources. Various political prods and threats have yielded bitter fruit. Continued belligerence on the part of the North Korean government, as well as the reshuffling of the geopolitical/economic deck in Asia makes for furrowed brows in an administration whose attention and resources are engaged elsewhere. Frankly, war with North Korea is a fool’s errand. It serves neither the interests of Asia or the United States. It may be time to inject this situation with a radical policy innovation. Let us begin by identifying the general objective; the destabilization, modification or the end of the rogue regime of Kim Jong-Il. Let us also acknowledge that his extant nuclear capabilities threaten North Korea’s Asian neighbors much more than they do the continental US. Nonetheless, war in Asia would dampen the enthusiasm of Asian nations for financing the debt of a profligate America. The ensuing refugee/humanitarian crisis would compound the economic fallout. It’s a grim scenario all the way around. The North Koreans know it and exploit it. It makes little sense to play into their only strength. The one thing this failed and paranoid dictatorship can do is buy/build weapons and raise armies. The one thing they cannot do is feed their people or provide them with the material wherewithal for an adequate living standard. In contrast, the United States can do both. In fact, it’s being reported that its military budget will soon equal the rest of the world’s expenditures combined. The US can also buy or manufacture more of everything than just about anybody else. The latter suggests a potential tactic that is aggressive, non-lethal and is indeed the continuation of policy by different means.

“To win a hundred victories in a hundred battles is not the highest excellence; the highest excellence is to subdue the enemy’s army without fighting at all.” - SUN-TZU

The strategy of Kim Jong-Il is simple; stay in power. Sun-Tzu said that when planning the attack “the best military policy is to attack strategies.” He also said, “the worst is to assault walled cities.” Attacking North Korea is the walled city option. Assaulting the Kim’s strategy is worth some consideration. As it clearly could not prevail in an outright military confrontation with the US, the cornerstone of the North Korean policy is the deterrent effect afforded it by the global recognition that war in Asia is not desirable. Furthermore, it can claim, with some justification that the only way it could protect itself from the US was to acquire nuclear weapons.

As mentioned, this it not to threaten the US but to unsettle its Asian neighbors enough to counsel constraint to the US. The North Korean Communists have had a half a century to instill a high level of paranoia in the populace regarding the US. In attacking them we will legitimize the government and probably unleash North Korean nationalism. As hard as it is for us to imagine North Koreans being nationalistic about such a failed and miserable state, it is not a justification to discount the possibility. If, under these conditions, attacking North Korea is the walled city option, what then would be the preferred policy? Attack the strategy of North Korea. If adopted, this tactic requires not only assaulting Kim Jong-Il with something he is not prepared to confront, it also requires changing the calculus employed by nations and transnational organizations in “managing” the “crisis” in which his strategy rests, in other words, the diplomatic status-quo. An argument could be made that cold war political calculations and the accompanying diplomatic machinations have become so predictable and transparent that everybody and his brother can game the system. NGO’s recognize this and are attempting to exploit this diplomatic exhaustion in service to the imagined post-sovereign utopia. If the status-quo is exhausted, what then would be the policy initiative that would circumvent or perturb the existing geopolitical dynamic? It is the aggressive use of magnanimity.

“One change always leaves the way open for the establishment of others.” -Niccolo Machiavelli

The US can literally bury North Korea under an avalanche of manufactured goods and agricultural products. Does anyone doubt that the US could not fill a dozen super cargo ships with say a million or two each of blankets, eyeglasses, shoes, doses of aspirin, tooth paste and brushes, basic antibiotics, shirts, pants, jackets, hats, gloves, dresses, skirts sweaters, pens, pencils, paper, watches, books, pots, pans, bottled water and mountains of grain, etc.? Unleashing the productivity, ingenuity and wealth of a free people against the regime of Kim Jong-Il is a tactic he is ill-prepared to confront. Imagine President Bush, on behalf of the American people and in solidarity with the long suffering and actually starving people of North Korea, makes this mass of goods and foodstuffs a gift to ameliorate the deprivation of the North Korean populace and to give evidence of what is available outside of North Korea. There is precedent for such an initiative; the marshalling of resources and logistics by the US in response to the devastation of the recent Tsunami. Our relief efforts graphically projected American resources and might in the form of magnanimity. The impact of this act on the region instigated, in some cases, a certain reexamination of the region’s engagement with America which had previously been one of suspicion if not hostility. In some instances it has led to a higher level of communication and cooperation.

“You will not find it difficult to prove that battles, campaigns, and even wars have been won or lost primarily because of logistics.” - General Dwight D. Eisenhower

If aggressive magnanimity is employed, what are the logistical issues? In the case of war, it is both expensive, cumbersome and in the modern area is held subject to the cooperation of other nations. Not so with aggressive magnanimity. The preponderance of existing commercial logistical networks and infrastructures dwarfs anything the military could possibly replicate. The volume of goods and agricultural products that are shipped around the US on a daily basis makes the domestic logistical issue mute. Ocean transport may be somewhat more complicated but again, commercial shipping is an everyday event, massive military transport is not. Considering the staggering expenses of the Iraq war, the capital outlays for aggressive magnanimity are miniscule in comparison. Commercial enterprises are in the business of cheap. Not so weaponry. The manufacturers for all the goods previous mentioned could bid for the contract to fulfill the orders. As these goods are everyday commodities and the competition fierce, costs are contained. Since the government is already propping up the prices for agricultural products due to over capacity, theoretically a bargain could be struck to likewise deliver low cost. The political benefits of these federal outlays are that they support the common business environment. By nature, military expenditures are confined to a few highly specialized producers. The efficiencies of the market place make the acquisition/logistic phase manageable. But, what are the obstacles of implementation and the accompanying political tsunami?

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." -Sir Winston Churchill

The geopolitical ramifications represent the area of greatest dynamism. This strategy, as one can imagine, upsets most of the apple carts. North Korea has two options, neither desirable. If the gesture is spurned, it allows the US question the legitimacy of a government that so spurns the interests of its own people and sets up the “we tried” argument if the military option is eventually exercised. If the gesture is accepted, the regime in addition to the distribution problems, must explain to a wondering populace where this material abundance came from. Questions among the populace and perhaps the military will undoubtedly arise even if whispered. Furthermore, the spectacle of the UN, EU and various NGO’s protestations and moral outrage over America’s “unilateral” magnanimity allows the US to say “we’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t.” Actually, a fierce US demand that all these entities engage the North Koreans on this issue is a required component. The US should also demand that the UN manage the distribution process. The end result is the positioning these entities in circumstance that, in the past, they could pontificate about while avoiding action. It places their moral authority, effectiveness and competence on the line.

"There are but two powers in the world, the sword and the mind. In the long run the sword is always beaten by the mind." - Napoleon Bonaparte

What if the policy fails? Give the goods to the UN. Let them distribute it to whatever nation is in most need. What if North Korea accepts and then returns to intransigence? The heat is substantially turned up on North Korea’s Asian neighbors to act, leaving the US free to hold its own council for the time being. While to some, maybe most, this initiative is a fantastical flight of imagination and naiveté. Perhaps, but the one indisputable fact is that the geopolitical shake up continues unabated with ensuing confusion and crisis. There is an old saying; perhaps it was Confucius that said there is opportunity in crisis. In any case, this initiative requires no blood, little sweat and tears and modest expense in comparison the attack the walled city option. With apologies to Barry Goldwater, the aggressive use of magnanimity in the promotion of liberty is no vice.

Brad Lena is a freelance writer living in Asheville, North Carolina. He can be reached at
Monday, May 09, 2005
The Diplomacy of Energy- Updated 10 May!
Click the link below the original post to read the update!

Allow me to apologize in advance for what might be a week of light posting- the Foreign Service annual evaluation cycle peaks this week and everyone in the FS is going nuts with the evalutaion process on top of the normal work. Writing an EER (the eval doc) is a lot less fun than writing this blog- and then there are the second level reviews and the proofing of all those reports. Long story short- I am tired. As Smiley might say, please turn on the violin music and pass me an Appletini.

Luckily plenty of other good bloggers are pounding away at the keyboard-and I am going to pick up some threads they have started. The first is a series of posts at Big Cat Chronicles on oil, the future, and U.S. oil dependency. I am going to examine the followign posts on that blog and then tie them in as best I can to the practice of diplomacy. Here are the posts for background reading:

1. Are we running out of oil?
2. Oil reserves -- why we should care about the Middle East
3. Proven versus probable oil reserves -- impacts on reported reserves

I hope to return to this topic tonight but in case I get bogged down in EERs here is a loose outline of my ideas:

I will examine U.S. policy towards foreign oil producers in the Middle East, Latin America and Eurasia. I am intersted in the amount of aid and development we have poured into the regions in addition to the number of dollars invested. What are the politics of those regions and how do they compare to our stated foreign policy goals? What alternatives might exist to our current policies, and why are we not pursuing them?

I invite all of our readers to send us e-mail related to this topic, or to offer your opinions in the comments section. Don't be shy- tell us what you think. Should we just take the oil in Iraq and call it "Oil for Freedom"? Should we divert some of the foreign aid dollars we spend towards research on alternative energy? How about trade water to Mexico for oil?

I am going to try to address all of this and more over the next few days- it might be in dribs and drabs, though, so any contributions you can make to help keep me and Smiley going will be greatfully appreciated.

(Update begins after this marker.)

Yesterday I posted a piece referring to the Big Cat Chronicles recent oil trilogy (see above). Roaring Tiger opened with the question: Are we running out of oil? Tiger’s answer: it depends on who you talk to. While that is a true enough answer in the short term, in the not so long term the answer is simply YES. Oil is a non-renewable resource (not withstanding a recent comment), and we will eventually run out. Will we run out in the next decade or two? Of course not. But in the next five, or seven? In that range the possibility becomes much more real- Tiger cites a U.S. geological study that gives the most recent estimate as the year 2056 when global reserves are depleted.

Granted Tiger also cites and discredits several older studies that predicted the end of oil various times over the last century plus. He also speaks to the technological advances that have enabled us to suck ever more black gold from the earth. It is here that I find a flaw- if we are increasingly better able to procure more oil have we not also refined our techniques to estimate how much oil remains? Four decades worth or seven, however, is irrelevant. We are indeed running out. We are addicted to oil- and worse yet, we are addicted to foreign oil. The U.S. is the single largest consumer of oil on the planet, and the bulk of the oil we use is imported.

Consider the sources of oil available to us. Let’s start with OPEC- The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. We can, for the time being at least, ignore the fact that OPEC exists to fix prices. Let’s examine the membership, in order of import as ranked by gross production:

-Saudi Arabia
-United Arab Emirates

How many friends do you count on that list? Me neither. Let’s take a brief recount: Saudi Arabia- we saved their bacon (figuratively) from Saddam. They repaid us with September 11th. Iraq- see Saddam Hussein and continued attacks. Iran- the Embassy there is no longer on my bid lists, as you may recall. Kuwait- inoffensive, but not much of a booster. Venezuela- President Chavez, you are judged by the company you keep. UAE- one good golf tournament a year does not an ally make. Libya- do you trust Quaddafi? Qatar- financiers of al Jazeera. Do I even have to address the last three? We are, as a nation, simply too dependent on foreign oil.

Not a single one of the OPEC countries can be called (with a straight face) a free society. Iraq is on its way, but we have been doing business with them for many, many years. The UN “Oil for Food” scandal, as much as I love to pick at it, would not have occurred if we were not bent on having oil from the Saddam regime.

So where does this leave us? Currently it appears as if we are staring down a dead end. Alternative fuels are not taken seriously, at least in the U.S. I am no tree-hugging electro-car driving Ed Begly type- I am a realist. I know that producing energy always has a cost. Our dependence on foreign oil, however, puts us at risk. Not political risk as the price at the pump goes up (that too of course) but real risk. We need oil- and we need it too badly.

I plan to continue this thread throughout the week, thanks for all the great comments so far- keep ‘em coming!
What were the French Doing on VE Day?
Massacring Algerians. I wonder how the MSM missed this yesterday, the entire article is pasted in below:

Algerians mark 1945 massacre by French forces
SETIF, Algeria, May 8 (AFP) - Thousands of Algerians marched in the eastern town of Setif on Sunday to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the massacre of thousands of pro-independence demonstrators by French forces there.

The cortege followed the same route that the ill-fated protesters took on May 8, 1945, calling for an end to French rule in Algeria. That same day, across the Mediterranean, Europe feted the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.

French forces quickly stepped in to crack down on the Setif demonstration, leaving 45,000 people dead, according to Algerian historians. Western researchers put the death toll at between 15,000 and 20,000.

"We wanted to pay tribute to the martyrs of May 8, 1945, by taking the same route," said Abdelhamid Salakdji, local representative of the May 8 Foundation, created in a bid to force France to admit its responsibility for the killings.

"We want to send a message to (French President) Jacques Chirac. Germany asked for France's forgiveness. Why doesn't France do the same thing in Algeria?" Salakdji asked.

In France, hundreds of Algerian and Moroccan immigrants demonstrated in Paris to mark the anniversary, holding signs that read "Chirac is killing hope in Africa" and "May 8, 1945: day of celebration, day of mourning".

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier earlier called on Paris and Algiers to work to overcome the most painful chapters in their shared history.

"To build a common future, we need to look together at the past, in order to overcome the chapters most painful for our two peoples," Barnier said in an interview published Sunday in the Algerian daily El Watan.

Barnier also said researchers from both countries, who now have access to most of the archives from the period when Algeria was a French territory, are trying to clear up the disputed history.

Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika also marked the anniversary with a call for an objective historical review of the events.

But he added in a statement that the Algerian people were still waiting for France to take "more definite action" in recognizing its responsibility for the tragedy in Setif.

Unfortunately the Algerians will be waiting a long, long, time. Much longer than say, the French had to wait for the allied forces to liberate their "open city." Everytime I think my respect for France in the WWII era could not sink any lower, it slips another notch. And that is saying nothing of my opnion of France today.

Thanks to Ron for the e-mail tip.

(End of post.)
Sunday, May 08, 2005
VE Day
Sixty years ago today the greatest generation (to borrow a phrase) defeated the Nazis in Europe. They did not "liberate Germany" from the Nazis- they crushed Hitler's forces and devastated the nation that brought him to power, supplied him with men and materiel, and participated in, tolerated and encouraged his attempt to wipe Jewery from the face of Europe.

If you are looking for something to read on the web today why not delve into the history of WWII. You'll find plenty of interesting sites to visit at The Best Of History Web Sites.

To all the men and women of all the allied nations- thank you. Your sacrifices will never be forgotten.

(End of post.)
Thursday, May 05, 2005
More bad news for Germany
In a recent post we mentioned the 20% unemployment rate in Berlin, and the fact that the capital is bankrupt. Well, it is about to get worse. IBM did not meet its profit expectations and as a result will be cutting jobs- in Europe:

IBM's operations in Germany, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom will bear the brunt of the layoffs. IBM says that the diminished economic growth and the low level of employee attrition for the past few years is what is forcing it to do layoffs at this time.


But IBM's problems in Europe, which it has not discussed, apparently go deeper than one quarter. The fact that the U.S. dollar is so weak has helped IBM Europe post decent growth in sales and profits in dollars, but at constant currency (mostly in pounds and euros), growth has been a lot less than IBM would like. So IBM is restructuring to get more people selling and fewer people managing--or, at the very least, fewer people managing.


No one who wants IBM service in one European country is going to make a fuss if that service is derived from another country these days. IBM no longer manufacturers computers or creates software in every country, either. Neither does any other IT vendor.

IBM will also be laying off workers in the U.S., and I do not want to give the impression that I am celebrating the loss of employment for anyone, anywhere. Frankly, however, the EU is in a bit of a spot economically, and Germany is practically the poster boy for fiscal issues.

Of course they blame it on the U.S. Check out this union piece that Davids Medienkritik recently posted on:

The article's introductory paragraph (in blue) reads: "Blackstone, KKR, Investcorp - finance investors from America are slaughtering German companies. They buy the companies, only to sell them a bit later for profit. The American investors don't show any consideration for people, regions or traditions. Like flies they suck the money out of companies, then swarm out, repeating the same pattern. People are the ones who suffer."

As if to add insult to injury, U.S. troops will soon be departing Germany in large numbers as our overseas presence is restructured. Germany, no fan of the war in Irag, will nevertheless miss our men and women, and more importantly, their dollars. Once more I turn to David- the best blooger out there on all matters German and his post "But What About My Job, Mr. Warmonger, Sir?…":

The staff of ver.di, Germany’s largest service-sector union and the largest independent, individual trade union in the world, is worried. Its leaders now realize that there won’t be enough warmongers around to adequately support members’ Socialist way-of-life. They rightfully “fear” that the planned withdrawal of tens of thousands of US military personnel and their dependents from Germany will result in thousands of lost union jobs, particularly in areas surrounding affected bases and installations.

“But…warmongers?” You ask. Well sure, that is exactly how ver.di’s chairman, union kingpin Frank Bsirske, described the American government and military just last year.


This apparent contradiction highlights the fact that there is indeed something more important to Germany’s leftist dominated unions than exploiting anti-American sentiment for political gain. That something is ensuring that union members be able to suck at the teat of the Socialist welfare state into the indefinite future. And if that means accepting money and jobs from members of the US military, people the unions have repeatedly derided and demonized as warmongers from a heartless capitalist society, well, then Frank Bsirske and ver.di are entirely prepared to do just that.

Germany, and the rest of the "Old EU" are going to have to come to grips with their relationship to the United States, and soon. Economic woes, the rise of NAZI-ism and and the threat of Islamofascism in the western world will force their hand sooner or later. I just hope that there is enough of the "Old Europe" left to justify our saving it.


(End of post)

Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Don't speak French? Thank Mexico.
Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo. It is not, as you may think, Mexican Independence Day, nor is it the Birthday of Corona. It is the celebration of the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla in which a rag tag Mexican force defeated the French. Since much of the world revels in American ignorancy of other nation's history we offer this lesson for you to share over margaritas with your friends:

In late 1861 Napoleon III of France sent his troops to Mexico, supposedly to collect debts owed by a previous Mexican government which Mexican President Benito Juárez had agreed to pay, but only in installments over time. Napoleon III's troops took the port city of Veracruz on December 8, 1861. It soon became apparent, however, that their actual goal was not the collection of debts, but rather the control of Mexico.

The pass leading to Puebla was protected by Fort Loreto and Fort Guadalupe. Zaragoza had defensive trenches dug across the road and linking the forts.

The Mexicans were aided by the weather – rainy season downpours had made the ground muddy, slowing the movement of the French artillery.

General Lorencez was at first contemptuous of the Mexican troops, assuming they would quickly flee from heavy fighting. He therefore directed his first charge directly at the Mexican center. The Mexicans held their ground and drove the French back.

The French regrouped and launched two more charges, both of which were similarly defeated.

The Mexicans then counter-attacked, including a force of
Zacapoaxtla and Xochiapulco Indians, many armed only with machetes, who nonetheless succeeded in overrunning part of the French lines. Porfirio Díaz (later to be President of Mexico) led a well disciplined company of Mexican cavalry which flanked the French.

The French then pulled back some distance as dark fell. General Lorencez waited two days for a Mexican counter-offensive, but Zaragoza did not wish to attack the French in open country where he would lose his defensive advantage. Unwilling to risk another attack on the Mexican position, Lorencez then withdrew his forces back to Orizaba.

What does this have to do with French? You might recall that the U.S. was engaged in the Civil War at the time, and France was eager to halt American expansionism. The French saw aid to the Confederate states as a perfect way to limit the future growth of America- and Mexico was the perfect route into the South.

When a few thousand farmers and semi-professional soldiers defeated one of the premier military powers in the world at Puebla the course of history was altered. Is it hyperbole to say that the Mexicans who defeated the French in 1862 did as much as President Lincoln to preserve the Union? Maybe. But keep in mind, they didn't do it for us- they did it for themselves. That is what nations, and patriots, do. We may have problems with Mexico today over immigration and water rights, but during the darkest days in American history a small group of Mexicans, out numbered and out gunned, did the impossible- and just may have provided the buffer that America needed to survive, and become what she is today.

Just some food for thought as you join in the festivities.

(End of post)
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Shahab-4? Never heard of it...
There can really be no doubt about it- the EU continues to actively undermine the security of the world. Earlier this month the EU set off a firestorm when it announced that a long standing ban on weapons sales to China could end soon.:

The idea of such sales "raise fundamental questions about whether defense industrial cooperation with Europe is becoming a national security liability for our country," said GOP Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, chairman of the House International Relations Committee.

This cheerful bit of news came after China announced details of it's new anti-secession law which "enshrines into law China's determination to use "non-peaceful means" as a last resort to prevent Taiwan from establishing formal independence. "

But hey, the Euro economy is in the tank, and China is a big, rich market. Besides, the United States will ride in to save the day again, after all we always have as far as Europe is concerned. Of course of all the EU economies Germany's is really not doing so well:

For all its tolerance and cosmopolitanism, Berlin is broke. Its citizens are poor, and it has an unemployment rate of more than 20 percent, far higher than any major city in western Germany.

So what is a technologically advanced but penniless country to do? Why, sell equipment that may be used to manufacture long range ballistic missiles to Iran, of course.

The export of a German special-purpose crane to Teheran is turning into a political headache for the German government. Officials are scrambling to stop a ship carrying a high-tech crane they believe Iran's leaders want to use in a missile production program that has raised deep concern in Israel, the US and Europe. They may be too late.


As soon as the Hual Africa, which is registered in the Bahamas, left Hamburg, it dawned on customs officials that the Iranian company is on a black list held by the federal authorities. Mizan Machine is believed to be a camouflage company for the Iranian weapons program and to have already procured several weapons components. The equipment never should have left Germany.

According to the article cited above the crane was purchased in August and not shipped until April- but "as soon as" the ship left Hamburg they realized their mistake. Oops. Deutsche-Welle has an even better take on the sale:

Iran on Sunday dismissed a report that it bought equipment from Germany for its ballistic missile program, and complained that European restrictions were damaging trade with the Islamic republic. "This is an unfounded theory," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters. "It's not very clear how crane equipment can be used in Shahab 3 and 4 production."

Iran has recently upgraded the Shahab-3 ballistic missile, believed to be based on a North Korean design, to have a range of at least 2,000 kilometers (about 1,200 miles). Iran has, however, denied working on a Shahab-4 -- even though Asefi referred to one.

Since Iran is not producing a new long range missile and of course does not need this crane to do so, and there is no way they are working weapons grade nuclear material, what is the big deal over a little sale between friends of an item that could possibly be used to produce a theoretical nuclear missile? I am sure that the Germans had a thought process similar to this before selling the crane to the Mullahs.

Our European "allies" care not a whit for keeping terrorism at bay, stopping Communist China from re-taking Taiwan by force (let alone Japan) or threats to Israel- they are only concerned with proving that the EU is the equal of the US, and are willing to risk everything to do so. Even the Belgians are getting into the act- check out this post at the Export Control Blog about the sale of an isostatic press (possible uses include the compacting of nuclear material) to, you guessed it, Iran. So while an Iranian ministry spokesman refers to a weapons platform that his country has denied exists and German customs officials sheepishly scuff their toes in the dust the only real power left in the world is forced to make decisions that the rest of the world will most likely find fault with.

Should Iran indeed develop a nuclear weapon, what will it mean to Europe? Probably nothing- until the Iranians sell one and it ends up in some European capital. But that is unlikely to happen, and the EU knows it, because the much despised Uncle Sam is ever vigilant- more so than ever with "friends" like the EU on our side.
Monday, May 02, 2005
The Medium is (Still) the Message

Frequent readers know that we like to discuss Public Diplomacy (PD) on this blog- the State Department version of psy-ops, if you will- the battle for hearts and minds. In a nutshell I am not convinced that our current approach to PD is working. At a minimum the information that our government offers to the world is drowned out in the roar of cultural noise that Hollywood and various television and recording studios put out. At worst our efforts do more harm than good.

Not long ago I came across a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report called Interagency Coordination Efforts Hampered by the Lack of a National Communication Strategy. While the title leaves little to the imagination, the following paragraphs sum up the 40 plus page report nicely:

The absence of a national strategy complicates the task of conveying consistent messages and thus achieving mutually reinforcing benefits. The absence of a strategy also increases the risk of making communication mistakes and diminishing the overall efficiency and effectiveness of government wide public diplomacy efforts. As suggested in the Defense Science Board’s latest report on strategic communications, this strategy should originate at the White House level. The report notes that a unifying vision of strategic communications starts with presidential direction and that only White House leadership, with support from cabinet secretaries and Congress, can bring about needed changes. The report suggests that transforming U.S. government communications efforts is critical to protecting U.S. national security interests and must match the strength of commitment made to traditional diplomacy, defense, intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security.


Coordination of public diplomacy activities is hampered by the lack of a national communication strategy. An initial effort, the creation of the Strategic Communications Policy Coordinating Committee in 2002, did not result in an overall strategy. The Office of Global Communications has been charged by the President with facilitating White House and interagency strategic planning and coordination efforts; however, a recent study and several officials at affected agencies indicated that the Office of Global Communications has not facilitated the coordination of agency efforts by providing needed strategic direction. In addition, the office has not developed a national communication strategy. As a consequence, agencies have developed their own roles and missions and coordinated their activities on an ad hoc basis.

Now I for one am not terribly comforted by the idea that we are coordinating our efforts to reach out to the Muslim world on an ad hoc basis. I was therefore more than pleasantly surprised to find an article called Hearts, Minds and Dollars on the US News and World Report site:

After repeated missteps since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government has embarked on a campaign of political warfare unmatched since the height of the Cold War. From military psychological-operations teams and CIA covert operatives to openly funded media and think tanks, Washington is plowing tens of millions of dollars into a campaign to influence not only Muslim societies but Islam itself. The previously undisclosed effort was identified in the course of a four-month U.S. News investigation, based on more than 100 interviews and a review of a dozen internal reports and memorandums. Although U.S. officials say they are wary of being drawn into a theological battle, many have concluded that America can no longer sit on the sidelines as radicals and moderates fight over the future of a politicized religion with over a billion followers. The result has been an extraordinary--and growing--effort to influence what officials describe as an Islamic reformation.

Eric at Total Information Awareness addressed this issue last week, and while we are almost diametrically opposed politically his piece is worth reading. Eric, and the author of the report among others, has questioned the idea of the United States government “interfering” in Islam. Eric warns of the possibility of a nasty backlash, and of course that is a very real threat. Then again we have already been lashed repeatedly by militant Islamists- the list of attacks is as familiar to most Americans as the proverbial backs of their hands. US News takes a different approach- the very constitutionality of the matter:

Federal aid is going to restore mosques, save ancient Korans, even build Islamic schools. This broad engagement with Islam has raised questions about whether the funding is legal, given the constitutional line between church and state.

I find this argument somewhat specious- I am no Constitutional scholar, but it seems to me that the split between Church and State, and indeed all matters Constitutional apply only in America. By the line of reasoning espoused above we should have no relationship, or at least offer no support, to any nation that has tied religion into its government. While I am sure that the Left would gladly exclude Israel, should we never again pursue relations with Iran? Or how about Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Denmark, El Salvador, Finland, Greece, Holy See, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Samoa, United Kingdom or Vanuatu- all of which have declared some form of Christianity as their state religion?

We clearly cannot turn away from the Muslim world for fear of backlash or projected concern over Church and State. The Islamic world has been telling us since noon on September 11th 2001 that their religion has been hijacked. It is time for them to step up and prove it, and if it takes US dollars to create the space in which they can un-hijack their religion than we owe it to ourselves to try.

In 2003 The Advisory Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World presented their report to the Congress. The 81 page report opens with this:

At a critical time in our nation’s history, the apparatus of public diplomacy has proven inadequate, especially in the Arab and Muslim world.

The fault lies not with the dedicated men and women at the State Department and elsewhere who practice public diplomacy on America’s behalf around the world, but with a system that has become outmoded, lacking both strategic direction and resources. The good news is that Congress and the Executive Branch understand the urgency and are ready to meet the challenge.

The solutions that we advocate match these times, when we are engaged in a major, long-term struggle against the forces of extremism, whether secular or religious. We call for a dramatic transformation in public diplomacy; in the way the U.S. communicates its values and policies to enhance our national security. That transformation requires an immediate end to the absurd and dangerous under funding of public diplomacy in a time of peril, when our enemies have succeeded in spreading viciously inaccurate claims about our intentions and our actions.

Our adversaries’ success in the struggle of ideas is all the more stunning because American values are so widely shared. As one of our Iranian interlocutors put it, “Who has anything against life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?” We were also told that if America does not define itself, the extremists will do it for us.

That is an interesting question which has been posed by this un-named Iranian. Obviously there are many who do oppose those very ideals. We, America, are unlikely to change their minds. We can, however, provide the tools that their country men and co-religionists who do share our ideals need to persuade them. That is our only hope in winning the battle of ideas. As the US News piece correctly points out, this is a never ending struggle- we need to get over our timidity when it comes to religion and use every tool at our disposal. We have allowed the extremists, both domestic and foreign, to define us for too long. It is time for all of the agencies charged with communicating the idea of America to the world to be on the same page. In this struggle of ideologies ad-hoc is simply not going to cut it.

Sunday, May 01, 2005
Government Reports Do Not Fight Terrorism
The Department of State prepares an annual report formerly known as “Patterns of Global Terrorism", now called the “Country Reports on Terrorism” which is aimed at tracking incidences of terrorism around the world. The report has existed for nearly twenty years, but in the post 9-11 world it has taken on an increased importance. Last year’s report gained notoriety when the Department revealed that the number of attacks disclosed had been greatly undervalued- some 18 acts of terrorism had been omitted and the number of people killed was re-listed to 625 from 307.

This year the Department has decided that the report will not include numbers; instead the numbers will come from the new National Counterterrorism Center. It is estimated that the numbers will be up sharply this year- 651 attacks that left 1,907 dead. The numbers, taken without context do not bode well for the effort to defeat terrorists, and it has been alleged that it is for this very reason that State does not want to include the numbers in the report.

Opinions vary over this point- the President has claimed that taking the battle to the terrorists has resulted in more activity on their part, some claim that changes in the methodologies used to gather the data have resulted in a more inclusive data set, and still others argue that the report never had any real value to begin with:

Dennis Pluchinsky, a former State Department terrorism analyst, agreed that the numbers are far less useful than they might seem in assessing efforts to combat terrorism. "They talk about the war on terror and the increase of international incidents taking place, but they don't weigh the statistics -- 9/11 and someone throwing a Molotov cocktail is treated as the same thing," he said.

That to me is the most pertinent question- does this report serve any purpose what so ever? The 2003 report offers the following definition of terrorism:

No one definition of terrorism has gained universal acceptance. For the purposes of this report, however, we have chosen the definition of terrorism contained in Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(d). That statute contains the following definitions:

The term terrorism means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.

The term international terrorism means terrorism involving citizens or the territory of more than one country.

The term terrorist group means any group practicing, or that has significant subgroups that practice, international terrorism.

This is a fairly straight forward definition- and also incredibly wide open. As Pluchinsky noted above, it leaves no possibility to differentiate between one terrorist and another. Chechen “freedom fighters” who murder school children in Russia are rightly counted as terrorists- but we are not engaged in battle with them. Our enemy is not terrorism writ large. It is al Qaeda, and the groups that support it. We are engaged in a battle against men and women who seek the very end of America- and the death of you, me and everyone we know. Meanwhile politicians and editorialists argue over what should be counted and what should be omitted- i.e. the downing of an airplane with two Israeli passengers is terrorism and another with only Russian passengers is not- and our premier report on terrorism includes the following passage:

Adverse mention in this report of individual members of any political, social, ethnic, religious, or national group is not meant to imply that all members of that group are terrorists. Indeed, terrorists represent a small minority of dedicated, often fanatical, individuals in most such groups. It is those small groups -- and their actions -- that are the subject of this report.

I fail to see how this report which attempts to track every terrorist event around the world and panders to the PC elements of society is making us safer in any way. This report might as well have been drafted by the UN. Let me state that whatever the numbers are for the time period covered by this report, they should be released. If sampling methods changed and caused an apparent spike in attacks that should be clarified. Then we need to know what the numbers mean in terms of the safety of Americans at home and abroad. That is really all it boils down to.

I don’t really care if the Basque are acting up, or if someone in Quebec is fomenting Francophone Canadian secession. I want to know that our counter terrorism efforts are reducing threats against my family and friends. Is that callous? It may well be- and once we can rest assured that we have done our best to protect ourselves I’ll gladly look to help an ally.

In the meantime, as the President said over the weekend- we are taking the fight to our enemy. We are causing real damage and have kept them from striking America- for the time being. All of those caught up in this report and trying to decide what political games are being played (as well as those who are playing them) need focus only on one thing:

If the number of attacks is more than zero, and the number of dead and wounded is more than zero, than it is too many.

That’s it, really. We must focus our precious resources on that simple fact. We’ve produced this report for nearly 20 years. It does not seem to be deterring the enemy.

dé·marche 1) A course of action; a maneuver. 2) A diplomatic representation or protest 3) A statement or protest addressed by citizens to public authorities.


Proud to be counted among the members of the State Department Republican Underground, we are Foreign Service Officers and Specialists (and a few expats) who tend to be conservative. We believe that America is being misrepresented abroad by our mass media, and that the same mass media is in turn failing to report what the world thinks about us, and why. This site is dedicated to combing the news around the world, providing the stories and giving our interpretation, or "spin" if you prefer. Send me a good news story: dr.demarche AT

A blog by members of the State Department Republican Underground- conservative Foreign Service Officers serving overseas commenting on foreign policy and global reactions to America.
Send us mail: Dr.Demarche (or) Smiley.George AT

Recent Posts

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VE Day
More bad news for Germany
Don't speak French? Thank Mexico.
Shahab-4? Never heard of it...
The Medium is (Still) the Message
Government Reports Do Not Fight Terrorism


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