Category Archives: US Presidents

President Obama Visits Tokyo, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Manila — Yabusame, Durian, EDCA, and Lots of Handshakes

– Domani Spero

President Obama is traveling to Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines from April 22 to April 29. Below are some photos from his stops:


The US Embassy Tokyo folks also got a meet and greet with President Obama. We are pleased to hear that no one was strangled with the lanyard of some Top Secret Clearance badge despite all that standing around waiting to see POTUS.  You all did not get up at 3 a.m., did you?

Republic of Korea



Shortly before President Obama arrived in Manila, the United States and the Philippines signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). The agreement is designed to promote among other things, capacity building towards Philippine Army modernization, maritime security, maritime domain awareness and humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

For more of that, see links below:

President Barack Obama stretches to shake the hand of a young girl held aloft during a U.S. Embassy meet and greet at the Sofitel Hotel in Manila, Philippines, April 28, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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Photo of the Day: President Obama Meets Pope Francis

- Domani Spero

Photo via US Embassy The Holy See/FB

Photo via US Embassy The Holy See/FB Click on image to view more photos

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Ambassador Roemer Unveils Obama Platter in New Delhi

According to Fodors, the Bukhara is a restaurant at the Luxury Collection ITC Maurya Hotel in New Delhi, India. Established in 1977, it serves the cuisine of the Northwest Frontier Province, now at the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, is “heavy on meats, marinated and grilled in a tandoor (clay oven)”.

Apparently, after HRC visited the restaurant, the “Hillary Platter” became part of the menu.  The restaurant also has the “Presidential Platter” based on the non-vegetarian dishes ordered by Bill Clinton during his visit, and the “Chelsea Platter” comprising of vegetarian dishes ordered by Chelsea Clinton.

Photo from US Embassy New Delhi/Flickr

On December 7, Ambassador and Mrs. Roemer unveiled the Obama Platter at the ITC Maurya Bukhara. The Obama platter is a good mix of north Indian and Mughlai delicacies like tandoori raan, tandoori salad, murg khurchan, fish tikka, reshmi kebab, sikandari raan and tandoori aloo.  Ambassador Roemer was assisted in the unveiling by Maurya Vice President and General Manager Ranvir Bhandari and Executive Chef Manisha Bhasin.

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Mission Accomplished: Iraq gets a $52.1 billion surplus and all we got was a lousy $13.4 trillion debt

A new Government Accountability Office report says that its analysis of Iraqi government data showed that Iraq generated an estimated cumulative budget surplus of $52.1 billion through the end of 2009.

Since 2003, the United States has reported obligating $642 billion for U.S. military operations in Iraq and provided about $24 billion for training, equipment, and other services for Iraqi security forces.

GAO believes that Congress should consider Iraq’s available financial resources when reviewing the administration’s fiscal year 2011 budget request and any future funding requests for securing and stabilizing Iraq. Also, GAO recommends that the Departments of State and the Treasury work with the Iraqi government to further identify available resources.

There’s more:

According to State and DOD officials, the United States and Iraq have not yet defined their longer-term security relationship. However, the United States and Iraq signed two bilateral agreements in November 2008 that set the stage for Iraq to assume a greater role in providing for its own security and for cooperation between the two countries. The U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement requires the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq by December 31, 2011, and governs their presence in the interim. Within the security agreement, the Iraqi government requests the temporary assistance of U.S. forces to support its efforts to maintain security and stability in Iraq.

According to DOD and State officials, the U.S. and Iraqi governments may amend the security agreement by mutual agreement. Such amendments could include an extension of the withdrawal timetable or an authorization of a residual U.S. force to continue training the Iraqi security forces after 2011.

Excuse me — I had to this  Smiley or I’d be weeping silly here.

Dan Froomkin from HuffPo adds some more details, in case, we suffer from short term memory:

The report makes a direct link between U.S. government spending — including $642 billion on U.S. military operations there and $24 billion for training and equipping the Iraqi security forces — and Iraq’s cumulative surplus of $52.1 billion through the end of 2009.
For comparison purposes, Iraq’s annual gross domestic product is $65.8 billion. Meanwhile, the U.S. national debt has soared from $6.4 trillion to $13.4 trillion since former president George W. Bush invaded Iraq and decided to borrow the money for wars and slash taxes.
Days after the invasion began, Bush-era deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz famously told Congress that Iraq could “really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon.”
The GAO now reports: “Iraq’s large oil reserves offer the government the potential to contribute to the country’s current and future security and stabilization requirements. Oil revenues account for over 50 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and about 90 percent of the government’s revenues.”

Meanwhile, Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning professor at Columbia University, and Harvard public policy expert Linda J. Bilmes, estimate that the true cost of the Iraq war to American taxpayers is more than $3 trillion.

Active links added above. Continue reading Iraq Posting Massive Surplus Thanks To U.S. Taxpayers

In related news, McClatchy is reporting that “The Obama administration, which has asked Congress to approve $2 billion for training and equipping Iraqi military and police in the 2011 fiscal year, said carrying out the GAO recommendation could put Iraq at financial risk and jeopardize U.S. interests in a country where it’s spent, by the report’s calculation, $642 billion in military operations since 2003.”

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JFK: I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute …

50 years ago today and given the recent events in our national history, perhaps even more relevant in our lives now than in the past.  This is the America I still believe in —

Address of Senator John F. Kennedy to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
Rice Hotel, Houston, Texas
September 12, 1960

from the JFK Library

     Reverend Meza, Reverend Reck, I’m grateful for your generous invitation to speak my views.
     While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that we have far more critical issues to face in the 1960 election; the spread of Communist influence, until it now festers 90 miles off the coast of Florida–the humiliating treatment of our President and Vice President by those who no longer respect our power–the hungry children I saw in West Virginia, the old people who cannot pay their doctor bills, the families forced to give up their farms–an America with too many slums, with too few schools, and too late to the moon and outer space.

     These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues–for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barriers.

     But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured–perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again–not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me–but what kind of America I believe in.

     I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute–where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishoners for whom to vote–where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference–and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

     I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish–where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source–where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials–and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

     For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew–or a Quaker–or a Unitarian–or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim- -but tomorrow it may be you–until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.

     Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end–where all men and all churches are treated as equal–where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice–where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind–and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.

     That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe–a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.

     I would not look with favor upon a President working to subvert the first amendment’s guarantees of religious liberty. Nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so–and neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test–even by indirection–for it. If they disagree with that safeguard they should be out openly working to repeal it.

     I want a Chief Executive whose public acts are responsible to all groups and obligated to none–who can attend any ceremony, service or dinner his office may appropriately require of him–and whose fulfillment of his Presidential oath is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation.

     This is the kind of America I believe in–and this is the kind I fought for in the South Pacific, and the kind my brother died for in Europe. No one suggested then that we may have a “divided loyalty,” that we did “not believe in liberty,” or that we belonged to a disloyal group that threatened the “freedoms for which our forefathers died.”

     And in fact this is the kind of America for which our forefathers died–when they fled here to escape religious test oaths that denied office to members of less favored churches–when they fought for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom–and when they fought at the shrine I visited today, the Alamo. For side by side with Bowie and Crockett died McCafferty and Bailey and Carey–but no one knows whether they were Catholic or not. For there was no religious test at the Alamo.

     I ask you tonight to follow in that tradition–to judge me on the basis of my record of 14 years in Congress–on my declared stands against an Ambassador to the Vatican, against unconstitutional aid to parochial schools, and against any boycott of the public schools (which I have attended myself)–instead of judging me on the basis of these pamphlets and publications we all have seen that carefully select quotations out of context from the statements of Catholic church leaders, usually in other countries, frequently in other centuries, and always omitting, of course, the statement of the American Bishops in 1948 which strongly endorsed church-state separation, and which more nearly reflects the views of almost every American Catholic.

     I do not consider these other quotations binding upon my public acts–why should you? But let me say, with respect to other countries, that I am wholly opposed to the state being used by any religious group, Catholic or Protestant, to compel, prohibit, or persecute the free exercise of any other religion. And I hope that you and I condemn with equal fervor those nations which deny their Presidency to Protestants and those which deny it to Catholics. And rather than cite the misdeeds of those who differ, I would cite the record of the Catholic Church in such nations as Ireland and France–and the independence of such statesmen as Adenauer and De Gaulle.

     But let me stress again that these are my views–for contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters–and the church does not speak for me.

     Whatever issue may come before me as President–on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject–I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

     But if the time should ever come–and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible–when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.

     But I do not intend to apologize for these views to my critics of either Catholic or Protestant faith–nor do I intend to disavow either my views or my church in order to win this election.

     If I should lose on the real issues, I shall return to my seat in the Senate, satisfied that I had tried my best and was fairly judged. But if this election is decided on the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being President on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be the loser, in the eyes of Catholics and non-Catholics around the world, in the eyes of history, and in the eyes of our own people.

     But if, on the other hand, I should win the election, then I shall devote every effort of mind and spirit to fulfilling the oath of the Presidency–practically identical, I might add, to the oath I have taken for 14 years in the Congress. For without reservation, I can “solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution . . . so help me God.

* * *

Related items:
Is This America? Nicholas D. Kristof |NYT
A Harsh Thing I Should Have Said (Martin Peretz Dept) Updated | James Fallows




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First Hot Ship Transfer Between U.S. and Pakistan: USS McInerney Now PNS Alamgir

From Mayport, Florida via the USN

After more than 30 years of honorable service to the fleet, USS McInerney (FFG 8), the longest-serving Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate in the U.S. fleet, officially decommissioned during a ceremony held at Naval Station Mayport Aug. 31.

The ship was then commissioned as PNS Alamgir (F-260) in the Pakistan navy.
As McInerney Sailors manned the rails, the order to secure the watch and haul down the colors was announced. Soon after, the U.S. Sailors departed the ship for the last time and Cmdr. Paul D. Young, McInerney’s commanding officer, transferred command to Capt. Naveed Ashraf of the Pakistan navy.
Alamgir then hoisted their country’s flag and played the Pakistan national anthem. This was the first hot ship transfer between U.S. and Pakistan.

This transfer of vessel occurs right after a ship decommissions and is immediately commissioned under the new flag.

“McInerney has had a long line of firsts in its rich history and this is a very important one that will have lasting impact on our Navy as well as the Pakistan navy,” said Young. “This occasion was heartfelt and I’m going to miss the crew, the ship and everything that came with it.”

After Alamgir undergoes a dry dock and pier side refurbishment, the ship and crew will leave the United States for Pakistan. The ship will improve the Pakistan navy’s ability to safeguard territorial waters. Alamgir could also serve as part of the multinational task force conducting maritime security operations in and around the Strait of Hormuz, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
The Pakistani crew has been training with the U.S. Navy crew between May and August 2010. The crew will continue to receive specialized training on the ship’s engineering, navigation and combat systems while the ship is being refurbished.

McInerney’s advanced systems and technology combined with a highly skilled crew and professional leaders set her apart as one of the most capable ships in the fleet. McInerney was the second ship of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class of guided-missile frigates and was commissioned on Dec. 15, 1979.

The U.S. and Pakistan national anthems are played during the decommissioning ceremony of the guided-missile frigate USS McInerney (FFG 8) at Naval Station Mayport. During the ceremony, McInerney was commissioned into the Pakistan navy as PNS Alamgir (F 260). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Gary Granger Jr./Released)

More photos here.

More on the Pakistan transfer from wikipedia:
In September 2008 the US Congress approved selling the frigate to Pakistan with a delivery date of August 2010.[5] Citing the Foreign Assistance Act and the Arms Export Control Act, Pakistan is considered a “major non-NATO ally”, able to receive older unneeded US military equipment. Additionally, the 32-year old frigate will be given a US$65 million refurbishment including anti-submarine capability paid for with foreign military aid provided by the U.S. to friendly countries.[6][7] reported last year that once transferred to Pakistan, the ship will join Combined Task Force 151, the multinational force aimed at fighting piracy in the troubled waters of the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean.  It also added that over the past 10 years, the US Navy has transferred 23 ships, including minesweepers, patrol craft and tugboats to other countries, including Greece, Turkey, Egypt and India.

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Now they’re telling us — Bush’s ‘legacy of waste’ in Iraq, the baghdafication of Kabul and lessons not learned from Iraq

Via the LA Times:

The $53-billion reconstruction effort is not without its successes. But poor planning, violence and a failure to consult Iraqis derailed many projects, which may offer lessons in Afghanistan.

The shell of a prison that will never be used rises from the desert on the edge of this dusty town north of Baghdad, a hulking monument to the wasted promise of America’s massive, $53-billion reconstruction effort in Iraq. Construction began in May 2004 at a time when U.S. money was pouring into the country. It quickly ran into huge cost overruns. Violence erupted in the area, and a manager was shot dead in his office. The Iraqi government said it didn’t want or need the prison. In 2007 the project was abandoned, but only after $40 million of U.S. taxpayer money had been spent.
A recent audit cites the example of an unfinished slaughterhouse in Basra — price tag $5.6 million — that was undertaken without securing a supply of water to wash away the blood.
The $32.5-million cost of a sewage treatment facility for the war-ravaged city of Fallouja, begun in 2005 by the U.S. military, has mushroomed to $104 million, and will now reach only 4,300 homes instead of the 24,500 originally envisioned, if it ever reaches any homes at all. Although the treatment plant is almost complete, the contract did not include a pipeline to connect the plant to the town.
The 94-bed Children’s Hospital in Basra, launched with much fanfare by then-First Lady Laura Bush in 2004, was originally pegged for completion in 2005 at a cost of $37 million. It remains unfinished, and the cost has spiraled to $171 million, $110 million of which was provided by U.S. taxpayers.

Read more here:

I supposed that’s what happen when you break something and is in a hurry to reconstruct what you broke — you end up with what SIGIR says — “cost-plus contracts, high contractor overhead expenses, excessive contractor award fees, and unacceptable program and project delays all contributed to a significant waste of taxpayers’ dollars.” 

SIGIR also says “This question underscores an overarching hard lesson from Iraq: Beware of pursuing
large-scale reconstruction programs while significant conflict continues.”

Please repeat: “Beware of pursuing large-scale reconstruction programs while significant conflict continues.”

‘Xcuse me — are we not doing exactly the same thing in Afghanistan — the baghdafication of the US Embassy in Kabul, including surges in military, civilian, reconstruction projects and money poured down the drain like there’s no limit to the taxpayer’s credit card?


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Second Ex-US President Wins Release of AmCit in North Korea

Who will go to Pyongyang next time another American gets in trouble?

The Carter Center released the following statement earlier today:

ATLANTA….Former President Jimmy Carter announced that he is leaving Pyongyang, North Korea, this morning accompanied by Mr. Aijalon Mahli Gomes.  Mr. Gomes was imprisoned in January of this year and later sentenced to eight years of hard labor with a fine of about $600,000 for the crime of illegal entry into North Korea. At the request of President Carter, and for humanitarian purposes, Mr. Gomes was granted amnesty by the Chairman of the National Defense Commission, Kim Jong-Il.

It is expected that Mr. Gomes will be returned to Boston, Mass., early Friday afternoon, to be reunited with his mother and other members of his family.

This was a private mission of The Carter Center, and was neither requested nor sponsored by the U.S. Government.  Also participating were Dr. John Hardman, CEO of The Carter Center, John Moores, former Board of Trustees chairman, son Jeffrey Carter, and staff aide Nancy Konigsmark.

Meanwhile CBS News reports that the State Department has issued a travel warning for North Korea after former President Carter cleared the country’s airspace and has a message for Americans: Just because President Jimmy Carter was able to enter and exit North Korea doesn’t mean you should start planning your vacation in Pyongyang.

You can read the new travel warning dated August 27, 2010 here.

We remember, of course, that Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States won the release of American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, opened a diplomatic channel to North Korea’s reclusive government and dined with the North’s ailing leader, Kim Jong-il in 2009.

Now, President Carter has now successfully returned with Mr. Gomes.

For those still contemplating a vacation in North Korea despite the new travel warning, here is something to think about — only two remaining ex-POTUS (President of the United States) have yet to rescue an American in trouble in North Korea  — 41st  (George H. W. Bush) and 43rd (George W. Bush).

You might think really, really, hard before you wander off into the hermit kingdom.

We should note that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the formal name of North Korea was designated by George W. (43rd) a member of the “axis of evil in 2002. In 2008, he removed North Korea off the off the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

We thought we’d mention that but don’t let that give you any vacation ideas.

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In George W. Bush’s War of Choice — Iraq by the Numbers

The following numbers reprinted from the Stars and Stripes:

  • U.S. troops killed: 4,414
  • U.S. troops wounded in action: 31,897
  • Number of U.S. troop amputees: 1,135
  • Iraqi civilian deaths: 113,166
  • War’s operating cost: $747.6 billion
  • Per American: $2,435
  • Per Iraqi: $25,828
  • Estimate of the total cost of the war: $3 trillion
  • Cost of maintaining 50,000 troops from now to end of 2011: $12.75 billion
  • Cost of medical care and disability compensation for Iraq war veterans over their lifetimes: $500 billion+.

Also check out The Long Goodbye | Stars and Stripes

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Revisiting the Powell Doctrine

Some of the central figures in the Bush Admini...Image via Wikipedia

Alexander Wolf, a PhD candidate at the University of the Armed Forces, Munich, and a research assistant at the Academy for Politics and Current Affairs had a piece in the Winter issue of Strategic Studies Quarterly: U.S. Interventions Abroad: A Renaissance of the Powell Doctrine?. In his piece he suggests that “By chronicling the doctrinal premises of US intervention policy during the “interwar years” (1990–2001)1 and the administration of George W. Bush (2001–2008), it will demonstrate that the “smart power” approach of the Obama administration suggests continuity over radical change.” Wolf writes that “despite a liberal humanitarian orientation that in principle should look favorably on intervention, Washington will consider employing its military forces—when necessary, unilaterally and preemptively—only to protect vital US interests and only when confronted by immediate security threats.”

He then brought up the Powell Doctrine (shelved for years over the Bush Doctrine), which “offers a promising framework for military intervention” and why it should be considered in connection with Washington’s interest-based policy approach. With the President scheduled to deliver the much anticipated “way-forward” in Afghanistan, I think it would be interesting to revisit the Powell Doctrine. The following excerpted from Mr. Wolf’s paper:

[T]he Powell Doctrine begins with the interest-based decision to intervene and formulates an operational catalogue of criteria for the “proper” execution of military intervention. Accordingly, the military should only be put to use when:

(1) The national interest requires it;

(2) The number of troops employed corresponds with the mission they are to execute;

(3) The mission is clearly defined, both politically and militarily;

(4) The size, composition, and disposition of the troops is constantly being reevaluated;

(5) The operation has the support of both the Congress and the American people; and

(6) There is a clear exit strategy.

He further writes that “the operational criteria to be fulfilled according to the Powell Doctrine are meant to set up barriers to the ill-considered commitment of military forces in poorly planned operations and to help prevent “mission creep,” the unplanned escalation of a conflict.” He cited as primary example of a military intervention carried out in accordance with the Powell Doctrine, the US-led Operation Desert Storm, conducted under UN auspices for the liberation of Kuwait in 1991.”

Related Item:
Alexander Wolf | U.S. Interventions Abroad: A Renaissance of the Powell Doctrine?
Strategic Studies Quarterly | Winter 2009

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