Saturday, August 30, 2008

John McCain's Dangerous Choice

John McCain's Dangerous Choice

Commentary from William O. Beeman:
This comes from, which has occasionally been seen as over the top in their public pronouncements as they have frequently in recent years allowed ideology and a certain tendency toward ridicule to trump factuality. I rarely forward anything from them. However, this profile of Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin is sober, factually correct, and very important. I hope that you will take it to heart and forward it widely.


Yesterday was John McCain's 72nd birthday. If elected, he'd be the oldest president ever inaugurated. And after months of slamming Barack Obama for "inexperience," here's who John McCain has chosen to be one heartbeat away from the presidency: a right-wing religious conservative with no foreign policy experience, who until recently was mayor of a town of 9,000 people.


Who is Sarah Palin? Here's some basic background:

* She was elected Alaska's governor a little over a year and a half ago. Her previous office was mayor of Wasilla, a small town outside Anchorage. She has no foreign policy experience.1
* Palin is strongly anti-choice, opposing abortion even in the case of rape or incest.2
* She supported right-wing extremist Pat Buchanan for president in 2000. 3
* Palin thinks creationism should be taught in public schools.4
* She's doesn't think humans are the cause of climate change.5
* She's solidly in line with John McCain's "Big Oil first" energy policy. She's pushed hard for more oil drilling and says renewables won't be ready for years. She also sued the Bush administration for listing polar bears as an endangered species—she was worried it would interfere with more oil drilling in Alaska.6
* How closely did John McCain vet this choice? He met Sarah Palin once at a meeting. They spoke a second time, last Sunday, when he called her about being vice-president. Then he offered her the position.7

This is information the American people need to see. Please take a moment to forward this email to your friends and family.

We also asked Alaska MoveOn members what the rest of us should know about their governor. The response was striking. Here's a sample:

She is really just a mayor from a small town outside Anchorage who has been a governor for only 1.5 years, and has ZERO national and international experience. I shudder to think that she could be the person taking that 3AM call on the White House hotline, and the one who could potentially be charged with leading the US in the volatile international scene that exists today. —Rose M., Fairbanks, AK

She is VERY, VERY conservative, and far from perfect. She's a hunter and fisherwoman, but votes against the environment again and again. She ran on ethics reform, but is currently under investigation for several charges involving hiring and firing of state officials. She has NO experience beyond Alaska. —Christine B., Denali Park, AK

As an Alaskan and a feminist, I am beyond words at this announcement. Palin is not a feminist, and she is not the reformer she claims to be. —Karen L., Anchorage, AK

Alaskans, collectively, are just as stunned as the rest of the nation. She is doing well running our State, but is totally inexperienced on the national level, and very much unequipped to run the nation, if it came to that. She is as far right as one can get, which has already been communicated on the news. In our office of thirty employees (dems, republicans, and nonpartisans), not one person feels she is ready for the V.P. position.—Sherry C., Anchorage, AK

She's vehemently anti-choice and doesn't care about protecting our natural resources, even though she has worked as a fisherman. McCain chose her to pick up the Hillary voters, but Palin is no Hillary. —Marina L., Juneau, AK

I think she's far too inexperienced to be in this position. I'm all for a woman in the White House, but not one who hasn't done anything to deserve it. There are far many other women who have worked their way up and have much more experience that would have been better choices. This is a patronizing decision on John McCain's part- and insulting to females everywhere that he would assume he'll get our vote by putting "A Woman" in that position.—Jennifer M., Anchorage, AK

So Governor Palin is a staunch anti-choice religious conservative. She's a global warming denier who shares John McCain's commitment to Big Oil. And she's dramatically inexperienced.

In picking Sarah Palin, John McCain has made the religious right very happy. And he's made a very dangerous decision for our country.

In the next few days, many Americans will be wondering what McCain's vice-presidential choice means. Please pass this information along to your friends and family.


1. "Sarah Palin," Wikipedia, Accessed August 29, 2008

2. "McCain Selects Anti-Choice Sarah Palin as Running Mate," NARAL Pro-Choice America, August 29, 2008

3. "Sarah Palin, Buchananite," The Nation, August 29, 2008

4. "'Creation science' enters the race," Anchorage Daily News, October 27, 2006

5. "Palin buys climate denial PR spin—ignores science," Huffington Post, August 29, 2008

6. "McCain VP Pick Completes Shift to Bush Energy Policy," Sierra Club, August 29, 2008

"Choice of Palin Promises Failed Energy Policies of the Past," League of Conservation Voters, August 29, 2008

"Protecting polar bears gets in way of drilling for oil, says governor," The Times of London, May 23, 2008

7 "McCain met Palin once before yesterday," MSNBC, August 29, 2008

Jim Lobe--Iran Could Reap Benefits of U.S.-Russian Tensions

August 28
Iran Could Reap Benefits of U.S.-Russian Tensions

Analysis by Jim Lobe*

Commentary by William O. Beeman:

The controversy over Russian actions in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia has placed Iran in a stronger position. Certainly Russia is not going to support the idea that an attack against Iran could be launched by the United States or Israel from anywhere in the Caucasus, and Russian cooperation for more sanctions against Iran are also unlikely unless the United States cuts a very serious bargain with Moscow. For example, sacrificing Georgian President Saakashvili for Russian cooperation on tough actions against Iran. In light of this, and their historical experience dealing with Russia for more than 200 years, Iranians area also distrustful of Moscow and its intensions. The long term benefit for Iran may be a relaxation of pressure on its nuclear program, but the short term benefit is that Iran now has an increased market for its natural gas, which it is ready to sell to Europeans. If Moscow gets testy, and the BTC Pipeline remains closed, Europeans will soften on Iranian sanctions. Dick Cheney is traveling to the Caucasus in the next week to make sure that U.S. and Israeli military operations to threaten Iran are still in place, but the world can see that U.S. foreign and military policy in this region is crumbling. Jim Lobe's excellent analysis fills in the details below.

WASHINGTON, Aug 27 (IPS) - Iran could emerge as a big winner, at least in the short term, from the rapidly escalating tensions between the United States and Russia over Moscow's intervention in Georgia, according to analysts here.

Whatever waning chances remained of a U.S. military attack on Iran before President George W. Bush leaves office next January have all but vanished, given the still-uncertain outcome of the Georgia crisis, according to most of these observers.

Similarly, the likelihood that Moscow will cooperate with U.S. and European efforts to impose additional sanctions on Tehran through the U.N. Security Council, where Russia holds a veto, for not complying with the Council's demands to halt its uranium enrichment programme has been sharply reduced.

Not only has Washington's confrontation with its old superpower rival displaced Tehran at the top of the administration's and U.S. media foreign policy agenda, but Tehran's geo-political leverage -- both as a potential partner for the West in containing Russia and as a potential ally of Moscow's in warding off western pressure -- has also risen sharply as an incidental result of the crisis.

"When the U.S. invaded Iraq, it didn't do so to improve Iran's power position in the region, but that was the result," noted Gary Sick, an Iran expert at Columbia University who served on the National Security Council staff of former Presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan. "That wasn't the purpose of the Russian invasion of Georgia either, but it, too, may be the result."

So far, Tehran's response to the Georgia crisis has been measured. Despite calls by some right-wing voices to side with Moscow, according to Farideh Farhi, an Iran expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars here, the government, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has expressed disapproval of the Russian action, particularly its recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia.

"The reason is on grounds of principle -- if Iran is going to start supporting the secession of territories that are unhappy with the central government, then Iran itself has some similar issues with ethnic dissatisfaction," Farhi, who also teaches at the University of Hawaii, told IPS.

In addition, she said, most of Tehran's foreign policy establishment "don't view Russia as a reliable partner. They understand that Russia may support Iran on the nuclear file depending on its own security or policy interests, but Russia has also been quite clever in using Iran as a bargaining chip in terms of its relationship with the United States."

"The Iranians are being very clever here; they're not likely to rush to Russia's defence unless Russia comes to them and ask for their help, and then they can ask for something in return," Farhi added.

The latter may include anything from the accelerated completion of the long-delayed Bushehr nuclear plant, to providing advanced anti-aircraft systems (something that Tehran's ally Syria has already asked Moscow to provide in the wake of Damascus' public support for the Russian intervention), to full membership in the Sino-Russian-sponsored Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a defence group that is coincidentally holding its annual summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, this week.

Teheran's leverage is not just confined to its status, along with Turkey's, as the most powerful nation in a strategically critical neighbourhood inhabited by relatively weak U.S.-backed buffer states like Georgia. During the Cold War and until the 1979 Revolution, after all, Iran served as Washington's most important bulwark against Soviet influence in the Gulf.

It also derives from its being a major oil and gas producer that could also play a much more important role as a transshipment point for Central Asian and Caspian energy resources bound for Europe, whose growing dependence on Russia for its energy supplies looks more risky than ever. This is particularly so in the wake of Moscow's demonstration that it can easily reach -- and disrupt, if it wishes -- the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, the only pipeline that transports oil from the Caspian to the West without transiting either Russia or Iran.

"Oil and gas companies now must factor in a new level of uncertainty," according to Jay Stanley at Kent Moors, an expert on energy finance who writes for 'Caspian Investor'. "...Georgia is now unstable and that increases the risk of transporting hydrocarbons across it."

"If the BTC and Georgia won't be a reliable source of energy, then Iran will absolutely step up to the plate," according to Prof. William Beeman, an Iran expert at the University of Minnesota. "'You want gas? We'll sell you gas' will likely be their position," he added, noting that Switzerland signed a 25-year, 42-billion-dollar gas supply and pipeline deal with Tehran last March over strong U.S. objections. "I think the Swiss are a very good bellwether for the rest of Europe on this."

While Iran has alienated some major European energy companies -- most recently France's Total -- by demanding tough terms, it might "see the present crisis as an opportunity to go back to European colleagues and say, 'Let's take another look at this,"' said Sick. "It gives them some more leverage by going to the West and saying 'You're shooting yourselves in the foot here. When are you going to come to your senses?"'

That argument naturally becomes more compelling as tensions between Russia and the West continue to escalate and could affect internal Bush cabinet-level deliberations on whether to act on a State Department recommendation to seek Iranian approval for opening an interests section in Tehran. Such a move, at the present juncture, would likely be seen as a major move on geo-strategic chessboard. Despite reports earlier this month that Bush had approved the recommendation, the issue appears to be unresolved.

Still, some experts say Iran's advantage could be short-lived. With a Russian veto over new Iran sanctions all but assured, Washington could decide to drop the U.N. route and try to impose a "coalition-of-the-willing" sanctions regime with its allies, according to Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).

Michael Klare, author of "Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy", told IPS he believes that Russia's unilateral resort to military action against Georgia may actually embolden Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, the leader of the administration's hawks who travels next week to Georgia and Azerbaijan.

"The question is whether Bush and Cheney will feel empowered to behave in a more belligerent fashion or not," he said.

*Jim Lobe's blog on U.S. foreign policy, and particularly the neo-conservative influence in the Bush administration, can be read at