NDN Blog

Cubans hesitant to show reactions over Castro

According to this article from the Miami Herald, Cubans understand the reported health status of Fidel Castro and how complications arose, but are keeping their reactions to themselves. Laura Pollán, the wife of a jailed dissident, was interviewed for the Herald article from Havana and had the following to say:

"In Cuba, lots of people have seen or heard about the news reports, but comments are kept at a whisper. People realize that [Castro] is in bad shape and wonder what will happen when he dies.''

''There is a lot of uncertainty and anxiety but, as of yet, reaction does not go beyond that,'' Pollán said

The only Cuban commentary that comes close to addressing this uncertainty comes from an article in Trabajadores, the Cuban newspaper . The Herald offers this general overview of the article:

The commentary, titled ''In Cuba, there is enough Fidel and revolution for a while,'' says that Washington should not expect any major changes after Castro's death and warns against a military intervention.

Biden pairs with Gelb on Iraq

Senator Joe Biden says there is a "third way" to solving the (insert noun here) in Iraq. With Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, he has proposed the Biden-Gelb plan.

The Biden-Gelb plan would:

  1. Keep Iraq together by giving its major groups breathing room in their own regions. A central government would be left in charge of common interests like defending the borders and distributing oil revenues.
  2. Secure the support of the Sunnis -- who have no oil -- by guaranteeing them a proportionate share of oil revenue.
  3. Increase, not end, reconstruction assistance but insist that the oil-rich Arab Gulf states fund it and tie it to the creation of a massive jobs program and to the protection of minority rights.
  4. Hold an international conference to enlist the support of Iraq's neighbors and create a Contact Group to enforce regional commitments.
  5. Begin the phased redeployment of U.S. forces this year and withdraw most of them by the end of 2007, with a small follow-on force to keep the neighbors honest and to strike any concentration of terrorists.

MoveOn addresses the McCain Doctrine

MoveOn.org is running the ad below on John McCain's views on troop escalation. The voice on the ad says: "John McCain has done more than just embrace George Bush's failed policy in Iraq. It's actually his idea to escalate the war there. It's John McCain's idea to send tens of thousands of more soldiers to Iraq and to keep them there with no timeline for bringing them home. The McCain plan to escalate. Going from bad. To Worse."

(Via Greg from TPMCafe)

Piolin branches out

Tune in your radios, New York. According to an article in The New York Times, Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo, one of the LA deejays who helped bring hundreds of thousands of protestors to pro-immigrant rallies in LA and across the nation, is coming to a radio near you.

Below: a picture of Simon and Joe with Piolín (and his "Democratas Unidos" jersey) in LA.

Obama Running? Part 2

Below is the video of Sen. Barack Obama announcing his decision to form an exploratory committee:

Related news: Simon's quoted in this FT/MSNBC article on Senator Obama's decision, saying:

"This is the most open presidential contest in living memory," said Simon Rosenberg, director of the New Democratic Network, a centrist group. "The fact that we have such a weak White House that will bequeath a troubling legacy to the next president is also driving this early campaign."

For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.

Obama Running?

Sen. Barack Obama will file papers to form a presidential exploratory committee. Be sure to keep updated by visiting his website. As to what's ahead, he says:

For the next several weeks, I am going to talk with people from around the country, listening and learning more about the challenges we face as a nation, the opportunities that lie before us, and the role that a presidential campaign might play in bringing our country together. And on February 10th, at the end of these decisions and in my home state of Illinois, I'll share my plans with my friends, neighbors and fellow Americans.

(Also, Rep. Tom Tancredo filed papers to form his exploratory committee. For more information, check out his website here)

For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.

Bringing Beckham

No disrespect intended, but when it comes to recent headlines there's iraq, the 100 hours agenda, and then there's David Beckham and his move to the States.

Yet out of all the coverage of Becks' whopping deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy, this article from The Times is most interesting as it explains his move in the context of the Hispanic community:

...Beckham’s move to LA is all about business. Galaxy no doubt expects Beckham’s arrival in the city to generate tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship and advertising deals, with every industry from car manufacturing to life insurance seeing the British midfielder as a direct way to increase their presence in the Hispanic market.

As many of you know, NDN recognized the strong relationship between the Hispanic community and the game of soccer early on. From that understanding came our national media campaign - "Mas Que un Partido" - which you can learn more about here or here.

'08 update

Senator Chris Dodd encourages us to participate in his conversation with the American people.

Senator Barack Obama had an op-ed in the Washington Post last week and the speculation on when he will announce his candidacy continues (article from NBC5 in Chicago, via RunObama).

Senator Hillary Clinton is off to Iraq this weekend.

Joe Biden delivered his opening statement at yesterday's hearing on Iraq. View the video here.

John Edwards asks us to tell Congress not to fund escalation. Over the weekend, Edwards is scheduled to be in New York for an address to the Riverside Church in Harlem. (Update: view the video of his address, "Silence is Betrayal," here)

Tom Vilsack weighs in on Iraq on his website and "used his annual Condition of the State speech delivered earlier in the day to urge the Iowa Legislature to approve a resolution opposing Bush's effort to expand the number of troops in Iraq." (From the Sioux City Journal)

Mitt Romney held the most intense call-a-thon I've ever heard of this past Monday. Press were allowed, velvet rope was employed, emphasizing the aesthetics of what Romney called the most "extraordinary advanced technology ever employed in a fundraising effort."

John McCain, who helped determined whether Florida or Ohio got the ball first in Monday's BCS championship game, now faces the reality of the John Edwards-coined "McCain Doctrine."

Rudy Giuliani, in addition to having a nice, sleek website, weighed in on the President's increase in troops.

Jim Gilmore, the former Governor of Virginia, filed papers to form his exploratory committee.

Senator Sam Brownback, who is currently traveling in Iraq, said that he opposes the surge of troops in Iraq.

Senator Chuck Hagel released a strong statement reacting to President Bush's plan for Iraq.

Mike Huckabee was on the Daily Show to promote his book this past Wednesday. On it, he takes a very interesting look at being "pro-life" and touches on one of the reasons why he thinks America is in trouble: a familiar concept he calls "horizontal politics."

Tommy Thompson is doing the most he can to show up in Iowa.

For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.

Finding a Better Way Forward in the Middle East

In anticipation of tonight's speech from the President, Simon just sent out the e-mail below which analyzes and offers NDN commentary on the President's plan for Iraq.


As you assemble your own thoughts about the future of our policy in Iraq and the Middle East, I invite you to use our blog, www.ndnblog.org, as a resource. To access the dozens of essays and commentaries posted in the past few months, you can go to the "National Security" section of the blog or visit our website for a list of the most important posts. Look for new posts each and every day, and please let us know if there are other things we can be doing to help you better understand and participate in this critical debate.

Tonight the President is going to offer a new plan for Iraq that rejects the core recommendations of the thoughtful, bipartisan Iraq Study Group Report, is opposed by his own generals, Democrats, some Republicans in Congress, and the majority of the American people. NDN will oppose the President's plan for escalation and will continue to ask the hard questions about our involvement in Iraq and the Middle East, as we advocate for a better way forward than our current leadership is providing.

I offer up three additional items for your consideration, including a very specific critique of the thinking behind the President's plan:

1. The gravity of the moment we are in, and why the goal of this debate must be to find a not a “new way forward” but a “better way forward.”

The Iraq Study Group Report begins:

In this report, we make a number of recommendations for actions to be taken in Iraq, the United States, and the region. Our most important recommendations call for new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in Iraq and the region, and a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly. We believe that these two recommendations are equally important and reinforce one another. If they are effectively implemented, and if the Iraqi government moves forward with national reconciliation, Iraqis will have an opportunity for a better future, terrorism will be dealt a blow, stability will be enhanced in an important part of the world, and America’s credibility, interests, and values will be protected.

The challenges in Iraq are complex. Violence is increasing in scope and lethality. It is fed by a Sunni Arab insurgency, Shiite militias and death squads, al Qaeda, and widespread criminality. Sectarian conflict is the principal challenge to stability. The Iraqi people have a democratically elected government, yet it is not adequately advancing national reconciliation, providing basic security, or delivering essential services. Pessimism is pervasive.

If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences could be severe. A slide toward chaos could trigger the collapse of Iraq’s government and a humanitarian catastrophe. Neighboring countries could intervene. Sunni-Shia clashes could spread. Al Qaeda could win a propaganda victory and expand its base of operations. The global standing of the United States could be diminished. Americans could become more polarized. (and one could add if a regional Sunni-Shiite war breaks out, oil prices could soar to historic levels).

2. A recent Washington Post story makes it clear that the generals believe more American troops means more violence:

The Bush administration is split over the idea of a surge in troops to Iraq, with White House officials aggressively promoting the concept over the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intense debate.

Sending 15,000 to 30,000 more troops for a mission of possibly six to eight months is one of the central proposals on the table of the White House policy review to reverse the steady deterioration in Iraq. The option is being discussed as an element in a range of bigger packages, the officials said.

But the Joint Chiefs think the White House, after a month of talks, still does not have a defined mission and is latching on to the surge idea in part because of limited alternatives, despite warnings about the potential disadvantages for the military, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House review is not public.

The chiefs have taken a firm stand, the sources say, because they believe the strategy review will be the most important decision on Iraq to be made since the March 2003 invasion.

At regular interagency meetings and in briefing President Bush last week, the Pentagon has warned that any short-term mission may only set up the United States for bigger problems when it ends. The service chiefs have warned that a short-term mission could give an enormous edge to virtually all the armed factions in Iraq -- including al-Qaeda's foreign fighters, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias -- without giving an enduring boost to the U.S military mission or to the Iraqi army, the officials said.

The Pentagon has cautioned that a modest surge could lead to more attacks by al-Qaeda, provide more targets for Sunni insurgents and fuel the jihadist appeal for more foreign fighters to flock to Iraq to attack U.S. troops, the officials said.

The informal but well-armed Shiite militias, the Joint Chiefs have also warned, may simply melt back into society during a U.S. surge and wait until the troops are withdrawn -- then reemerge and retake the streets of Baghdad and other cities.

Even the announcement of a time frame and mission -- such as for six months to try to secure volatile Baghdad -- could play to armed factions by allowing them to game out the new U.S. strategy, the chiefs have warned the White House.

The idea of a much larger military deployment for a longer mission is virtually off the table, at least so far, mainly for logistics reasons, say officials familiar with the debate. Any deployment of 40,000 to 50,000 would force the Pentagon to redeploy troops who were scheduled to go home.

3. From two recent essays of mine on the blog:

“The new American operational commander in Iraq said Sunday that even with the additional American troops likely to be deployed in Baghdad under President Bush’s new war strategy it might take another “two or three years” for American and Iraqi forces to gain the upper hand in the war.

This week the President lays out his "new way forward" for Iraq. Having rejected the two main recommendations of the Iraq Study Group report - an enhanced regional diplomatic track, and a gradual reduction of US forces in Iraq - the President is now left to argue for essentially more of what he has been doing for the last three years. Yes, there will be the appearance of change. We will have "benchmarks," fig leaf economic initiatives, Maliki saying all the right things, vague promises of reconciliation and of course more troops. But at the core of a new strategy is a prayer, a big and significant prayer, a prayer that things will get better because now we really want them to.

As this story in the Times shows the core of the new strategy is that somehow these new American troops will quiet the sectarian conflict driving the latest round of deterioration. I for one do not believe that a sustainable peace in Iraq is possible without the involvement of other interested regional parties like Iran and Saudi Arabia. Going it alone, with as we have these past 3 years, without the help of the UN, our global allies, other regional actors, has failed. If the President really wanted to move Iraq forward, he would have changed the fundamental political dynamic inside the country, and shown that the goal of stabilizing Iraq was an international priority, not just an American one. On the ground our troops aren't seen as peacekeepers, but as occupiers, as combatants, and that core dynamic if anything will be accentuated by the President's new plan. Which is why the Joint Chiefs have made it clear to the White House that they believe more troops means an escalation of violence, the very opposite of what the President will say to us later this week. “


“When the President makes his grand announcement about a "new way forward" in Iraq early next year, it is going to be critical that we judge him not on whether it is a new strategy, but whether it is a better one, one that can plausibly achieve its objectives. For example, what exactly are the troops going to do in Iraq when they get there? And if this is still a war, as the President describes, who is the enemy and how we will our troops engage and defeat them? Is the enemy the Iranian-backed Shiite militias? The Saudi-backed Sunni insurgents? Al Qaeda itself, a small but growing presence in the West? Maliki's government, partners with the Shiite militias? The Saudis, who say they will intervene militarily if the Sunni Arabs continue to be targeted by Shiite militias? And if the troops are going in as peacekeepers and not warriors, shouldn't we say that, and admit this is a failed occupation and not a war?

As has been said by many, there is no longer a military solution to our troubles in the Middle East. By rejecting the core recommendation of the ISG Report, an enhanced diplomatic track intent on making progress on the political and economic problems of the region, the Administration almost certainly guaranteed that whatever path they followed would be new but not better.”


Iraq’s Escape Is Soccer, but Soccer Can’t Escape War

The New York Times has a great article this morning on the impact of the War on Iraqi soccer. As you may or may not know, the recent success of the Iraqi National team in the Asian Games (played in Doha, Qatar) had an amazing, yet often dangerous effect on the Iraqi citizens. The article goes into more detail:

During each match involving the Iraqi squad, work ground to a halt across Iraq as people gathered around televisions. Each victory was celebrated with sustained gunfire that etched the sky with the red streaks of tracer bullets. On Dec. 12, the day Iraq beat the heavily favored South Koreans in the semifinals, at least five people in Baghdad were taken to the hospital with wounds from stray bullets, the police said.

Such celebration and exuberance, however, has been somewhat silenced by the War. Security concerns including stray bullets during practices have twice postponed the start of the premier league's season, causing players and fans to become distraught.

(On a soccer-related note, check out the NDN Political Fund's media campaign that was centered around the World Cup.)

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