Posts Tagged ‘John Kerry’

The Messenger is the Message

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

By Jeffrey Page

Close to 2 million people gathered in Paris on Sunday to condemn the murderous attacks on the staff of Charlie Hebdo and on a kosher supermarket that resulted in the deaths of 17 people. One of those attending the march was David Cameron, the British prime minister. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as there. So was Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi were there as well.

Oh, and Jane D. Hartley was there to represent us. Hartley is the United States ambassador to France, and probably known to as many Frenchmen and women as the French ambassador to the United States is known to Americans. You know; whatsisname, Gérard Araud.

But President Obama couldn’t make it. Nor could Vice President Joe Biden. Nor could Secretary of State John Kerry. Apparently nobody from America could make it, so we sent Jane D. Hartley.

And in doing so, Obama revealed an insensitivity not worthy of a world leader. France, after all, is America’s oldest ally, and you just don’t treat old friends quite as shabbily as Obama has with France and its people.

While President Obama may have been too busy to travel to Paris, his counterpart, François Hollande, took the American disrespect gracefully and, speaking through a spokeswoman, declared that he had not been offended. “President Obama supported France in their common struggle against terrorism,” he said.

As though imitating a Ringling Bros. clown stepping into a bucket, Obama caused further embarrassment to himself by giving some of his sharpest critics a free ride for a couple of news cycles.

–Sending Jane D. Hartley to the Paris march was “beyond crass, even for this administration,” said Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

–“Our president should have been there,” Senator Ted Cruz wrote in Time Magazine.

–Obama is “a failure when it comes to fighting Islamic jihadists,” said Mike Huckabee.

–“Skipping this rally will be remembered as a new low in American diplomacy,” said Rick Perry.

–“There’s a plethora of people they could have sent,” said Senator Marco Rubio.

They’re right.

No one would remember “Ich bin ein Berliner” if John Kennedy had ordered some deputy assistant secretary of state no one ever heard of to deliver it. Nor would anyone recall “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” if it had been uttered by anyone but Ronald Reagan.

Sometimes the messenger is the message.

John Kerry: 21st Century Tool

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

By Michael Kaufman

I’m not sure what to make of John Kerry’s recent comment about the situation in Crimea:  “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext,” the Secretary of State said with a straight face during an interview on the CBS program “Face the Nation.” Later he proclaimed that the United States and “our allies” are prepared to meet “19th century behavior with 21st century tools” if necessary to return Crimea to its rightful place as part of the Ukraine. Kerry doesn’t realize that his empty rhetoric only serves to demonstrate that he himself—considered a 20th century hero by many—has become a 21st century tool.

Kerry didn’t spell out what he meant by “21st century tools” but it is not unreasonable to assume he is talking about the use of drones, a favorite of the Obama Administration because it doesn’t require “American boots on the ground” and that saves American lives, which are of course more precious than other people’s lives. That is the only possible explanation for their continued use in Afghanistan, where for every “enemy combatant” or terrorist killed by drone there are multiple deaths and crippling injuries inflicted on helpless civilians. As has often been pointed out, this tends to upset the locals and may even inspire some to become terrorist sympathizers, or even terrorists, themselves. But not to worry: We have enough drones to take care of them too.

Kerry’s “21st century tool rattling” was not war-like enough for traditional saber rattlers such as John McCain, who called Kerry’s comments “pathetic,” which they are—but not for the reasons cited by McCain. Our country’s leaders have used many a “trumped up pretext” to invade other countries well into the 21st century. It happened a whole lot in the 20th century, which may be why Kerry skipped over it as he made the rounds of TV interviews the other day. That reminds me: In just a few months it will be the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the trumped up pretext used by Lyndon Johnson to escalate the genocidal war in Vietnam, as Kerry surely must recall. And of course there are a few 21st century elephants in the room as well, most notably the non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Kerry has said there is “no comparison” between the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Russia’s actions in Crimea. He’s right: Iraq has never been part of the United States and the lives of Americans living in Iraq at the time were not threatened. Crimea, however, has a long history of being part of Russia and the majority of the population there identifies as Russian. It did not become part of the Ukraine until 1958. And while many non-Russian Ukrainians supported and collaborated with Nazi Germany, the Russians were our allies during World War II and tens of millions died.

Perhaps this is a good time to point out how ill informed we are in this country as compared to say, Germany, because of the shallowness of news coverage by corporate media, reliance on official government versions of events, and the relative paucity of good investigative reporting. This leads to a kind of good guy versus bad guy way of looking at things: We are always the good guys. When there are conflicts elsewhere in the world we support the good guys. And if anyone mentions My Lai or Abu Ghraib or renditions or torture, well those things are only the work of a few bad apples. So here are a few things I learned the other day in a report from Berlin by correspondent Victor Grossman:

Grossman said the two major political parties in Germany have been working for regime change in the Ukraine for years. They hoped to help oust president Viktor Yanukovych and replace him with either imprisoned petroleum oligarch Yulia Timoshenko or former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitchko. Klitchko had the backing of Adenauer Stiftung, a think tank associated with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU). (When Klitchko ran for mayor of Kiev a while back he hired Rudy Giuliani as an advisor….and still lost on points.)

Klitchko’s star faded after public release of a wiretapped conversation between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the U.S. Ambassador in Kiev, during which Nuland colorfully explained that Arseny Yatsenyuk was to be president, not boxer Klitchko or far-right anti-Semite Oleh Yaroslavovych Tyahnybok. “I don’t think ‘Klitsch’ should go into the government,” said Nuland. “I think ‘Yats’ is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. He needs ‘Klitsch’ and Tyahnybok on the outside… talking to them four times a week.” And for good measure she added a few words not likely to endear her to our European friends: “Bleep the E.U.!”

According to Grossman, “A promising attempt by German, French and Polish foreign ministers to reach a compromise with Vladimir Putin, which seemed to be saving the day, and the Ukraine, was quickly met by a new burst of violent blood-letting on Maidan Square, mostly by masked men with fiery projectiles and sharp-shooting guns, which stymied the compromise and forced the corrupt (but democratically elected president) to flee for his life. And so, believe it or not, things worked out just exactly the way Nuland had determined, with “Yats” on top and the others outside.”

A former foreign policy advisor to Dick Cheney, Nuland is married to leading neo-con Robert Kagan whose Project for the New American Century think tank pushed military regime change in Iraq as part of a strategy for global control. Meanwhile Klitchko was not the only one to be embarrassed by release of a wiretap phone call. Timoshenko, who is usually portrayed as a frail martyr after spending time in a Ukrainian prison hospital, was recorded saying, “I’m sorry that I am unable to be there in charge of these processes; they wouldn’t have had a bleeping chance of getting Crimea off me….I would have found a way to finish off those bastards…I hope I can use all my connections and get the whole world to rise up so that not even scorched earth will be left of Russia.” As to Ukraine’s eight million ethnic Russians, Timoshenko said they should be “nuked.” This woman makes Sarah Palin look like Eleanor Roosevelt.

Grossman quotes several former German leaders, including Gerhard Schröder and Helmut Schmidt. The latter said with regard to Putin’s Crimea policy, “I find it completely understandable,” adding that he doubts it violated international law. He called punitive sanctions “stupid nonsense.” Schröder likened the referendum of Crimean Russians and their breakaway from the Ukraine to Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia, which he had supported as Chancellor.

“The problem is not really in Moscow or here with us,” said Günter Verheugen, a former Social Democrat (SPD) party leader and European Commissioner. “The problem is in Kiev, where we now have the first government in the 21st century in which fascists are seated.”

Michael can be reached at