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Many people think the Civil War of 1860-1865 was fought over one issue alone, slavery. Nothing could actually be further from the truth. The War Between the States began because the South demanded States’ rights and were not getting them. The Congress at that time heavily favored the industrialized northern states to the point of demanding that the South sell is cotton and other raw materials only to the factories in the north, rather than to other countries. The Congress also taxed the finished materials that the northern industries produced heavily, making finished products that the South wanted, unaffordable.
The Civil War should not have occurred. If the Northern States and their representatives in Congress had only listened to the problems of the South, and stopped these practices that were almost like the taxation without representation of Great Britain, then the Southern states would not have seceded and the war would not have occurred.
I know for many years, we have been taught that the Civil War was all about the abolition of slavery, but this truly did not become a major issue, with the exception of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, until after the Battle of Antietam in September 1862, when Abraham Lincoln decided to free the slaves in the Confederate States in order to punish those states for continuing the war effort. The war had been in progress for two years by that time. Most southerners did not even own slaves nor did they own plantations. Most of them were small farmers who worked their farms with their families. They were fighting for their rights. They were fighting to maintain their lifestyle and their independence the way they wanted to without the United States Government dictating to them how they should behave.
Why are we frequently taught then, that the Civil War, War of Northern Aggression, War Between the States, or whatever you want to call it, was solely about slavery? That is because the history books are usually written by the winners of a war and this war was won by the Union. However, after following
my family around since I was just a year old to Civil War Living History scenarios in Gettysburg and elsewhere, I have listened to both sides of the story, from those portraying historical figures, both Union and Confederate. Through listening to these people and also reading many different books, including some of the volumes of The Official Records of the Civil War, Death in September, The Insanity of It All, Every Day Life During the Civil War, and many others, I have come to the conclusion that the Civil War was about much more than abolishing the institution of slavery. It was more about preserving the United States and protecting the rights of the individual, the very tenets upon which this country was founded.
I personally think that the people who profess that the Civil War was only fought about slavery have not read their history books. I really am glad that slavery was abolished, but I don’t think it should be glorified as being the sole reason the Civil War was fought. There are so many more issues that people were intensely passionate about at the time. Slavery was one of them, but it was not the primary cause of the war. The primary causes of the war were economics and states’ rights. Slavery was a part of those greater issues, but it was not the reason the Southern States seceded from the Union, nor fought the Civil War. It certainly was a Southern institution that was part of the economic system of the plantations, and because of that, it was part and parcel of the economic reasons that the South formed the Confederacy.
The economic issue was one of taxation and being able to sell cotton and other raw materials where the producers wanted to, rather than where they were forced to, and at under inflated prices. Funny, it sounds very much like the reason we broke from Great Britain to begin with. The South was within their rights, but there should have been another way to solve the problem. If they had been willing to listen to Abraham Lincoln, perhaps the war could have been avoided. Lincoln had a plan to gradually free the slaves without it further hurting the plantation owners. He also had a plan to allow them to sell their products anywhere they wanted to and at a fair price. They did not choose to listen to the President, however, so they formed the Confederacy and the Civil War began.

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Here before us is a Soviet archival document,* a top secret report by a communist apparatchik who had received a delegation of US Senators led by Joseph Biden in 1979. After describing routine arms control discussions, it quotes Biden as telling the Soviets off-record that he did not really care about the persecution of Russian dissidents. He and other Senators might raise human rights issues with their Soviet counterparts, but only to be seen by the public as defenders of human rights, not to have those problems really solved. They would happily take no for an answer.Vadim V. Zagladin, the then deputy head of the International Department of the CPSU Central Committee (the organization formerly known as the Comintern), wrote in the report:

The delegation did not officially raise the issue of human rights during the negotiations. Biden said they did not want ‘to spoil the atmosphere with problems which are bound to cause distrust in our relations.’ However, during the breaks between the sessions the senators passed to us several letters concerning these or those ‘refuseniks’.

Refuseniks were one of the best known groups of oppressed citizens in the USSR at that time: thousands of Jews who were refused exit permissions to emigrate to Israel on various trumped-up pretexts.

Unofficially, Biden and [Senator Richard] Lugar said that, in the end of the day, they were not so much concerned with having a problem of this or that citizen solved as with showing to the American public that they do care for ‘human rights’. They must prove to their voters that they are ‘effective in fulfilling their wishes’. In other words, the collocutors directly admitted that what is happening is a kind of a show, that they absolutely do not care for the fate of most so-called dissidents.

In the same conversation, Biden asked us to ensure that senators’ appeals on those issues are not left unanswered – even if we just reply that the letter is received but we cannot do anything.

Like most secret documents of the Cold War years, this report still remains classified in Russia’s official archives. However, a copy is available in the Gorbachev Foundation Archive in Moscow, where it was deposited by Mr. Zagladin – who himself works for the Gorbachev Foundation since the collapse of the USSR. Under pressure from the Kremlin, the archive had to limit the access to some of its documentary collections. However, Zagladin’s documents (Inventory 3/1) – including the one quoted above – were still available to researchers a few years ago, and that is how we obtained copies.

Of course, when people’s reputations are at stake, a natural question is: how far can we believe a document written by a communist? Other things being equal, if it is Zagladin’s word against a word of a U.S. Senator, one would surely believe the latter. Hopefully, Sen. Biden and Sen. Lugar will fairly soon provide the public with their own accounts of that episode, and then we will be able to compare.

Yet, we should not forget that these top secret documents were never intended to see the light of the day. They were written not for us, but for a very narrow circle of Zagladin’s communist bosses. Indeed, it was his job to deceive simple mortals; but deceiving the Politburo would be both pointless and dangerous. After reading and analyzing hundreds of suchlike reports by Zagladin, one cannot but conclude that he always portrayed his foreign collocutors as tougher, not softer, than they really were. That was natural, because that was safer for Zagladin himself. It was his job to cultivate foreign contacts, which made him to a degree responsible for their behavior. If he reported that someone was pro-Soviet and then the man turned out to be anti-Soviet, Zagladin would be held responsible. That is why he always preferred to err on the other side.

In any case, diplomacy is not so much about what you mean as how you are understood. If you go to Moscow sincerely determined to fight like a lion for human rights, and then leave the enemy with an impression that you don’t care – this is a monumental failure. It hardly matters what Senators Biden and Lugar actually thought about Soviet human rights abuses in the first place. If they really cared for human rights and meant to pressure the Soviets – so much the worse. Be that as it may, they were understood as the document reads. The message which the enemy received from them was this: we don’t care for those whom you keep torturing and rotting in prisons, but we would appreciate if you help us improve our public image.

There was more to it than simply the betrayal of dissidents; for this involved the question of the Senators’ own independence. Indeed, they should have known that every Soviet official who dealt with high-ranking foreigners would see them not as partners, but as potential targets for recruitment, potential collaborators or fellow-travelers. On such occasions, the Soviets always searched for a way to corrupt you. The worst thing you could do was to show the enemy that you depend on him in any way. For any Western politician, telling the Soviets that his public image depends on their good will was the first step to becoming an agent of influence, de facto if not de jure.

Today, it is a fact rather than a possibility that the next U.S. administration will have to lead the free world in the Second Cold War. Respectively, the staunchest critics of Russia’s authoritarianism from recent years – Senators McCain and Biden – are now at the center stage of the electoral campaign. Yet, fighting and winning this new Cold War will require more than just rhetoric. In order to work out correct strategies and tactics, it is more important than ever to analyze the lessons and mistakes of the first Cold War.

* [Top secret document is printed below]

9-20 April 1979 [?]The memo by Vadim V. Zagladin, deputy head of the International Department of the CPSU Central Committee

ON THE BASIC CONTENTS OF TALKS WITH THE US SENATORS

During the official negotiations with the delegation of US senators led by J. Biden and the unofficial talks with the delegation’s head and some members, our collocutors expressed a number of considerations of certain interest.

1. J. Biden, the head of the delegation, said that the mutual understanding that the SALT-2 treaty should be ratified is, basically, achieved in the Senate Commission for Foreign Affairs. However, four reservations should be formulated. The contents of those reservations have already been reported to us by our embassy in Washington.

While commenting on the contents of those reservations, Biden said they should not worry the Soviet Union because they do not concern the substance of the treaty. The only reservation which, in his opinion, may cause our ‘displeasure’ says that the SALT-2 should not prevent the US from providing the defence capabilities of their allies. In practice, the collocutor said, this is a way to confirm the US’ preparedness to keep supplying European NATO members with modern US weapons, with the exception, naturally, of those types which are covered by the treaty itself.

The Senate Commission for Foreign Affairs is going to conclude the consideration of the treaty by the end of September. However, the Senate itself is starting to work on this problem later, possibly on the eve of the Christmas.

2. As for the problem of supplying Western Europe with new types of weapons, including the Pershing missiles etc.;, Biden said that no final decisions had been taken on this issue yet. Those decisions will be taken in December. And a lot there, he emphasised, will depend on the position of the Soviet Union.

During unofficial talks, Biden noted rather cynically that he personally and other members of the US Senate do not very much care about the Europeans’ concerns. The main area of the US citizens’ interest is the security of the US itself. Nevertheless, the feelings of our allies also ‘concern us’, he said. ‘We cannot stop supporting our allies, because if we did that, we would have weakened America’s own security’. Therefore, Biden continued, the Americans will probably have to solve the question of the supplies of the new types of armaments to Western Europe positively in principle. In any case, the majority in the Senate supports that, he said.

Then Biden meaningfully emphasised (and he was actively supported by Senator Prior here) that if the SALT-2 treaty is ratified before December, and if the Soviet Union makes some demonstrative steps in favour of further disarmament progress before the NATO meeting, the European countries probably may refrain from deploying new types of American weapons in Europe, or at least, postpone the decisions taken on this issue.

To our question on what exactly steps are meant here, Prior answered that, for example, the Soviet government might state it is not going to increase the number of SS-20 missiles any further.

3. Something that caught our attention was that this time, in both official and unofficial talks, the senators would raise more questions about the prospects, about the SALT-3, than the SALT-2. Unofficially, Biden said that ‘the question of the future is more significant to the more serious senators – although not to all – than the question of the present treaty. The thing is (he explained) that many in the Senate consider the present treaty as a kind of an intermediate step, a booster for the further reduction of the arms race. Many in the US are very serious about this, believing it is possible to negotiate the reduction of the level of military confrontation with the Soviet Union. However, at the same time, many people are uncertain whether the USSR will agree to further serious steps of that kind.’

Most questions concerned two subjects. Firstly, whether the USSR would agree to a significant reduction of the number of nuclear missiles at the next stage (the senators were particularly interested in heavy missiles in this connection). Secondly, whether the USSR would agree to the explansion of control and the introduction of ‘more effective methods’ (for example, the ‘black boxes’, which were discussed during the negotiations on the prohibition of underground nuclear tests).

It emerged during that talks that, in spite of all huge work we are doing about this, many statements of Comrade L. I. Brezhnev were unknown to the majority of the senators – for example, his statement that the Soviet Union was not going to make the first nuclear strike against anyone. The relevant texts were given to them, along with some other documents of the CPSU and the Soviet government.

4. It should also be noted that, this time, the delegation did not officially raise the issue of human rights during the negotiations. Biden said the did not want ‘to spoil the atmosphere with problems which are bound to cause distrust in our relations.’ However, during the breaks between the sessions the senators passed to us several letters concerning these or those ‘refuseniks’.

Unofficially, Biden and Lugar said that, in the end of the day, they were not so much concerned with having a problem of this or that citizen solved as with showing to the American public that they do care for ‘human rights’. They must prove to their voters that they are ‘effective in fulfilling their wishes’. In other words, the collocutors directly admitted that what is happening is a kind of a show, that they absolutely do not care for the fate of most so-called dissidents.

In the same conversation, Biden asked us to ensure that senators’ appeals on those issues are not left unanswered – even if we just reply that the letter is received but we cannot do anything. According to Biden, letters of this kind – if they are not addressed to the highest representatives of the Soviet state – sometimes remain unanswered.

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Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Saturday accused Democrat Barack Obama of “palling around with terrorists” because of his association with a former 1960s radical, stepping up the campaign’s effort to portray Obama as unacceptable to American voters.Palin’s reference was to Bill Ayers, one of the founders of the group the Weather Underground. Its members took credit for bombings, including nonfatal explosions at the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol, during the tumultuous Vietnam War era four decades ago. Obama, who was a child when the group was active, served on a charity board with Ayers several years ago and has denounced his radical views and activities.

The Republican campaign, falling behind Obama in polls, plans to make attacks on Obama’s character a centerpiece of presidential candidate John McCain’s message with a month remaining before Election Day.

Palin told a group of donors at a private airport, “Our opponent … is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.” She also said, “This is not a man who sees America as you see America and as I see America.”

Palin, Alaska’s governor, said that donors on a greeting line had encouraged her and McCain to get tougher on Obama. She said an aide then advised her, “Sarah, the gloves are off, the heels are on, go get to them.”

The escalated effort to attack Obama’s character dovetails with TV ads by outside groups questioning Obama’s ties to Ayers, convicted former Obama fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko and Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Ayers is a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He and Obama live in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood and served together on the board of the Woods Fund, a Chicago-based charity that develops community groups to help the poor. Obama left the board in December 2002.

Obama was the first chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a school-reform group of which Ayers was a founder. Ayers also held a meet-the-candidate event at his home for Obama when Obama first ran for office in the mid-1990s.

Palin cited a New York Times story published Saturday that detailed Obama’s relationship with Ayers. In an interview with CBS News earlier in the week, Palin didn’t name any newspapers or magazines that had shaped her view of the world.

Summing up its findings, the Times wrote: “A review of records of the schools project and interviews with a dozen people who know both men, suggest that Mr. Obama, 47, has played down his contacts with Mr. Ayers, 63. But the two men do not appear to have been close. Nor has Mr. Obama ever expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Mr. Ayers, whom he has called ‘somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8.'”

Earlier Saturday, Palin spent 35 minutes at a diner in Greenwood Village where she met with Blue Star Moms, a support group of families whose sons or daughters are serving in the armed forces. Reporters were allowed in the diner for less than five minutes before being ushered out by the campaign.

Palin, whose 19-year-old son, Track, deployed last month as a private with an Army combat team, was overheard at one point commiserating with one of the mothers: “Any time I ask my son how he’s doing, he says, ‘Mom, I’m in the Army now.'”

Taking one question from reporters about competing in battleground states, Palin repeated her wish that the campaign had not pulled out of Michigan, a prominent state in presidential elections where Obama leads by double-digit percentage points in recent polls.

“As I said the other day, I would sure love to get to run to Michigan and make sure that Michigan knows that we haven’t given up there,” she said. “We care much about Michigan and every other state. I wish there were more hours in the day so that we could travel all over this great country and start speaking to more Americans. So, not worried about it but just desiring more time and, you know, to put more effort into each one of these states.”

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In the weeks preceding yesterday’s vice presidential debate, one might have been forgiven for suspecting a vast right-wing conspiracy to lower expectations for Sarah Palin. A platitude-filled interview with Katie Couric, spoofed on “Saturday Night Live” and lamented by unnamed but oft-quoted “top advisers to John McCain,” seemed to underscore the impression that the attractive Alaska governor was all style and no substance – and certainly no match for a Senate heavyweight like Joe Biden.

Palin did nothing to discourage such deflationary talk. For instance, she suggested that she was overmatched by the experienced Biden when she said that she’d been listening to his “speeches since I was in the second grade.” So pronounced did the underselling of Palin become that even the Obama campaign felt compelled to bolster the case for the really “terrific debater” who would “give a great performance next Thursday.”

Alas for the Obama camp, their spin was more precise. Time and again in their Thursday night debate, Palin not only stood her ground against Biden but, on issue after issue, outperformed her Democratic counterpart. This political pit-bull, it turns out, has bark and bite.

It didn’t hurt Palin that Biden seemed determined to rehearse the more dubious charges of the Obama campaign. Several times, Biden suggested that John McCain had pushed for a special tax break for oil companies like Exxon Mobil at the expense of tax relief for the middle class, a charge that first aired in an Obama TV ad earlier this summer. At the time, the non-partisan website PoltiFact.com, maintained by the St. Petersburg Times, demonstrated that it was a serious distortion of McCain’s support for a broad reduction in corporate taxes.

Palin went one better. Not only did she identify by name Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, but she went on to point out, accurately, that Obama himself had voted for the 2005 energy bill that granted tax breaks to oil companies, and contrasted it with her own much-publicized battles with oil companies in Alaska. (Palin was too nice to mention that Obama’s crusading against Exxon hasn’t prevented him from pocketing more than $30,000 from Exxon-Mobil employees.) A minor issue in the context of the wider debate, it nonetheless established straightaway that Palin not only understood the details of policy – something that her recent televised flops had given cause to doubt – but would not be bullied on politics.

And, indeed, she wasn’t. Take foreign policy. As the reigning chairman and longtime member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden was thought to have a clear advantage on the subject. It was just one of the assumptions demolished in the course of the debate. When Biden tried to defend Obama’s record on the Iraq war, Palin countered with some inconvenient praise, noting that Biden had earlier “opposed the move [Obama] made to try to cut off funding for the troops and I respect you for that.”

Going on the attack, Palin then asked how Biden could defend Obama’s position “especially with your son in the National Guard.” The reference to Beau Biden, a captain in Delaware’s National Guard, was particularly clever, coming as it did from Biden’s very own political playbook: During the primaries last August, Biden had scorned his Democratic opponents for voting against funding for the troops “to make a political point,” memorably adding that “there’s no political point worth my son’s life.” He couldn’t have imagined then how the line would come back to haunt him.

To shift the topic, Biden reached for a standard Democratic talking point. Iraq, he insisted, was a distraction from the real war on terror. Palin again gave no ground. Democrats’ claims to the contrary notwithstanding, she countered, Iraq is indeed a central front in the war on terror. “And as for who coined that central war on terror being in Iraq, it was General Petraeus and al Qaeda,” said Palin, amusingly pointing out that this was the “only thing that they’re ever going to agree on.” Against Palin’s pointed outline of the stakes in Iraq, Biden’s promise to withdraw troops in adherence with a political timeline seemed especially out of touch. And although Palin did not raise the point directly, viewers were left to wonder: How would President Obama make good on his promises to defeat al-Qaeda when he and his running mate refuse to recognize Iraq as a key battleground in the war on terror?

Palin proved even more adept in pricking the Democratic ticket’s pretensions to bi-partisanship. When Biden suggested that an Obama presidency would end polarization in Washington, Palin noted that Obama cast some 96 percent of his votes “solely along party line.” As Biden strained to play the loyal surrogate, Palin not only called attention to McCain’s record of breaking with his own party, but proudly boasted that he “never asked me to check my opinions at the door.”

Biden had hardly burnished his bi-partisan credentials when he revealed that his great insight as a senator was to recognize that judicial nominees should not be evaluated on their service record or qualifications but on the basis of their political ideology, citing as a putative achievement his successful 1987 campaign to defeat the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork. Those who recall Biden’s role in misrepresenting the record of Judge Bork – a Yale law professor and a member of the prestigious Court of Appeals whose great failing was to be a judicial conservative – might wonder how it supports his pledge to usher in an era of post-partisanship.

The discrepancy was not lost on Palin. In one of her most effective lines of the evening, she rebuffed Biden’s partisan attempts to tie McCain to the Bush administration by observing that “for a ticket that wants to talk about change and looking into the future, there’s just too much finger-pointing backwards to ever make us believe that that’s where you’re going.” As with so many other times in the debate, Biden had no compelling answer.

Nor could the Washington veteran match Palin’s engaging presence, which ultimately turned the debate in her favor. Charming, gracious, and politically fluent, she deftly inserted populist references to “Main Streeters like me” and even forced a crack in Biden’s steely façade when she premised a rejoinder with a ringing, “Say it ain’t so, Joe!”

Biden, by contrast, was stiff and hectoring, with his recurrent admonition – “Let me say that again” – calling to mind all the pompousness of the entrenched political class. One almost expected the Senator to address himself in the third person, which in fact he did, when he assured his interviewer, Gwen Ifill, that “no one in the United States Senate has been a better friend to Israel than Joe Biden.” That is debatable. More certain is that Joe Biden has had better debates.

Presidential campaigns rarely hinge on political debates, and yesterday’s duel is unlikely to reverse this history. It does, however, confirm a point that until yesterday seemed increasingly uncertain. If John McCain loses the election, it won’t be because of Sarah Palin.

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The burgeoning alliance between Russia and Venezuela has just gone nuclear. On Sunday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that he had accepted an offer from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to help Venezuela develop nuclear energy – “for peaceful ends of course.” The Russian nuclear power construction company Atomstroyexport, which is currently building Iran’s new plant, will coordinate the project.

Nuclear cooperation is only the most recent – and, arguably, the most alarming – testament to the ties between Venezuela and its Russian patron. For example, later this year Russia and Venezuela are planning to hold joint military exercises, a deployment that represents the largest Russian naval maneuver in the Caribbean since the Cold War. On top of that, Chavez has purchased Russian anti-aircraft systems worth over $4.5 billion, and has been promised a $1 billion dollar “loan” from Russia as part of a “military cooperation program.”

In the economic realm, too, the Kremlin and Caracas are closer than ever. In July, Russian energy giants LUKoil and Gazprom announced plans to invest up to $30 billion in Venezuela’s oil-rich Orinoco basin, a deal that Chavez hailed as “a colossus being born.” Moreover, trade between Russia and Venezuela more than doubled between 2006 and 2007.

The two countries have made no secret of their strategic partnership. Chavez boasts that he has developed a “profound friendship” with Putin. Returning the compliment, Putin declared that Russia and Venezuela are developing “our ties in all spheres,” with “new possibilities in energy, high-tech, machine construction and chemicals” and “cooperation in [the] military and technical spheres.”

Fueling this cooperation is a shared antagonism toward the United States. Both Chavez and Putin have described the relationship as “multi-polar” – a term that describes their opposition to “U.S. global domination.” For instance, Putin declared that, “Latin America has become an important chain-link in creating a multipolar world, and we will pay more attention to this vector.” More recently, Chavez was one of the few world leaders to echo the Kremlin propaganda line that the United States was to blame for Russia’s recent invasion of South Ossetia – a clear sign that Venezuela had come under Russia’s sphere of influence.

For Russia, the advantages of having a prominent anti-American ally are obvious. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was forced to prop up teetering fellow communist governments. In contrast, modern Russia, no longer constrained by communist ideology, is “free to shift [its] focus to creating wholesale chaos in Latin America,” according to a Stratfor analysis. “Where once massive state subsidies were necessary for creating a threat on the U.S. periphery, now Russia (which, for the moment, has the cash to spare) need only send a few extra shipments of light arms to spark a little extra destabilization in a region already rife with strife. For the Russians, a billion dollars to empower a country already working to undermine U.S. influence is money well spent. And if the influx of arms destabilizes Venezuela itself? Well, Venezuela is a major oil supplier to the United States. Either way it goes, Russia wins.”

More broadly, Russia’s alliances in the Caribbean help it “get payback for U.S. policies in Europe,” says Ray Walser, a Senior Policy Analyst for Latin America for the Heritage Foundation. Walser points out that Putin is especially angered by American support for Georgia, and its new missile defense deal with Poland.

At the same time, Walser notes that courting Venezuela carries its own risks. “The nuclear side of the relationship remains very uncertain.” Walser observes that oil rich Venezuela is an unlikely location for a nuclear power plant, which has “the potential to become a white elephant.” If the Russians and Venezuelans are actually planning to develop nuclear weapons, that would violate the 1969 Treaty of Tlateloco. Otherwise known as the “Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean,” it has been ratified by all 33 nations in the region. A violation of the treaty, Walser says, “would really get the U.S. angry.” In that case, Walser says, the political consequences for Russia would be serious. Russia risks further isolation from the U.S. and the rest of the world, while “for Chavez, invoking the Russians may not sit will with either the Venezuelan people or Venezuela’s neighbors, who have enjoyed relatively low defense costs.”

Perhaps mindful of such perils, Russia isn’t placing all its eggs into a Venezuelan basket. Nicaragua’s military has been promised Russian replacement helicopters and missiles, while Cuba gets “a new space-based communication station and new aerial espionage capacities.” Together, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba form a strategic Caribbean triangle of anti-American nations and vital sea-lanes that Russia is eager to control. According to Investors Business Daily, “America imports 60% of its energy from overseas, and 64% of that must cross the Caribbean to reach Gulf refineries, ports and pipelines. Another portion must cross the Panama Canal. Russian communications operations, submarines and naval ships hanging around with little to do are a problem, even if a shot is never fired.”

With its military commitments in the Middle East, America will be hard-pressed to patrol the Caribbean at the same time. Instead, says Ray Walser, Washington should “work to expose Venezuelan misdeeds such as narcotics trafficking and support of FARC” terrorists. America’s political leadership, meanwhile, must keep a close watch on Russia’s campaign to reignite the Cold War, one Latin American country at a time. Russia is already helping Iran build “its first nuclear power plant in the southern port of Bushehr” — and now appears to be betting that a many-headed nuclear hydra will be simply too much for the West to handle.

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The Friends of Sabeel in North America, which professes to be the “voice” of Palestinian Christians, is raising cash for the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). Sadly for apologists of the Palestinian cause, the European Union axed its funding for ICAHD because of “pressure brought to bear by right-wing Israeli neo-cons who have campaigned obsessively against our funding while threatening publicly to close us down.” Or at least that version comes from ICAHD’s Jeff Halper, as he described his group’s dire straits without Euro cash.

Halper, an anthropology professor and American by birth, was a 1960’s-era student radical in the U.S. until he relocated to Israel, where his radicalism simply shifted focus against the Israeli Government. He founded ICAHD in 1997.

In 2005-2006, the European Union Partnership for Peace Programme gave nearly a half million Euros to ICAHD for an education program called “Re-Framing: Providing a Coherent Paradigm of Peace to the Israeli Public.” Ostensibly, this EU funding funnel “supports local and international civil society initiatives that promote peace, tolerance and non violence in the Middle East.” But most of the cash seems to flow towards groups like ICAHD that simply repeat the standard anti-Israel narrative.

Friends of Sabeel did not explain why the European Union cut off ICAHD’s funds. But apparently it was because of Halper’s role in the “Free Gaza Flotilla,” in which “peace” activists broke the blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza by sailing in from Cyprus. Upon returning to Israel, Halper was arrested and incarcerated overnight. Apparently even the normally tolerant European Union was unimpressed.

Last year, when it apparently was more flush with funds, ICAHD published a full-page ad in The New York Times with the headline: “Who Will Stop this Bulldozer from Destroying the Chance for Peace?” Included was a large photo of a Palestinian woman holding up her arms in the face of a presumably onrushing Israeli bulldozer. Naturally, ICAHD portrays the Israeli house demolitions as merely a nasty ploy to force Palestinians off their land. That destroyed homes usually housed terrorists, tunnels, or arms caches goes unmentioned, of course.

Despite this indifference to Palestinian terrorism, ICAHD professes to oppose all “forms of violence” between Israelis and Palestinians. It insists that a “lasting peace” depends on full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, but not necessarily any change in attitudes by Palestinians. ICAHD specially focuses on Israel’s “ongoing policies of Palestinian home demolitions, relentless development of large settlements, and building of the ‘Separation Barrier’ deep into the West Bank area.” The group is also distressed by America’s “uncritical political support” for Israel and Israel’s chronic “violations of basic human rights.”

So ICAHD’s allies at Friends of Sabeel in North America are appealing to anti-Israel religious activists in the U.S. to help contribute $30,000 towards ICAHD. Friends of Sabeel is the American branch of Jerusalem-based Sabeel, which is a think-tank for Palestinian Liberation Theology. The American Sabeel helps to organize U.S. church officials who believe that Israel is the primary villain in the Middle East. In recent years, Sabeel has advocated that U.S. churches divest their pension funds from firms doing business with Israel, but that campaign has largely collapsed, having been rejected even by liberal denominations. Board members of Friends of Sabeel in North America include former Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning, radical Catholic eco-feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether, and Christian Century magazine contributing editor James Wall.

Friends of Sabeel forwarded to its own supporters Jeff Halper’s urgent appeal for American dollars to replace the lost Euros. “So we now face a real crisis,” Halper glowered. “That said, those who want us ‘gone’ make a mistake in assuming that we will close if our funding is withdrawn.” Halper promised to keep his office open and work on a voluntary basis, with two staffers to help him. He thanked his American supporters for having provided an “important supplement” to the now cut off European Union funding, which had helped launch the “Constructing Peace Campaign.”

ICAHD launched the “Constructing Peace Campaign” last year to rebuild demolished Palestinian homes, so as to spotlight Israel’s supposedly senseless destruction. As a sort of pro-Palestinian Habitat for Humanity, the peace campaign also hosts an annual two-week summer camp, in which international volunteers help rebuild Palestinian houses as a “symbolic gesture of peace and opposition to the Occupation.” In between the construction work, the volunteers take field trips to observe what Halper calls Israel’s “Matrix of Control,” including the Wall, the “massive check points,” and “one of the many refugee camps created in 1948.”

All of this important anti-Israel work must continue, of course. So Halper defiantly concluded his appeal to American supporters: “I promise you, no matter what, ICAHD will not be silenced.”

Trying to rescue ICAHD, the Friends of Sabeel in North America have pledged to raise at least $30,000. The fundraising includes inviting Halper to the U.S. for a fall tour, during which he will presumably address sympathetic church groups. “We, along with Jeff, promise you that ICAHD will not be silenced,” the board members of Friends of Sabeel earnestly promised. “Together, we will continue to be a loud and persistent voice for justice.”

Potential American religious supporters of Sabeel and ICAHD will have to ponder whether a group too radically anti-Israel even for European Union support should merit dollars from among U.S. churches.

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Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — the Izod Ayatollah — has come back to New York to address the UN General Assembly. If the United Nations today bore even the remotest resemblance to the international peacekeeping body it was founded to be, the line to denounce him would snake around the block, and Ahmadinejad would be arrested as soon as he set foot in New York. In fact, the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem has called for just that: it is preparing a petition for the UN Secretary-General, calling for the Iranian Thug-in-Chief’s arrest and indictment on charges of inciting genocide against Israel.

But the visiting Iranian president can’t be arrested: he’s “legitimized” by Iran’s UN membership, and the UN Treaty prevents his detention.

And, of course, in the run-up to Ahmadinejad’s visit, the hard Left is planning to honor him. The perpetually-outraged women of Code Pink are planning a protest — against George W. Bush, of course. The UN General Assembly’s new president, leftist priest and old Sandinista Miguel d’Escoto, will clink glasses with Ahmadinejad at a dinner in his honor hosted by five American liberal Christian organizations, the Mennonite Central Committee, the Quaker United Nations Office, the World Council of Churches, Religions for Peace and the American Friends Service Committee.

Hillary Clinton and a coalition of Jewish groups demonstrated the tenacity of partisan politics even in the face of the prospect of nuclear genocide from Iran: first Clinton declined to attend a rally protesting Ahmadinejad’s UN appearance when she found out Sarah Palin would be there, and then the Jewish groups hosting the rally disinvited Palin.

Our national unity in the face of the threat from Iran must have the mullahs quaking.

In light of his many belligerent statements, frequently demonstrating genocidal intent, it is appalling that the UN would once again allow Ahmadinejad a platform, and shameful that d’Escoto and the rest would welcome him rather than denouncing him. Ahmadinejad has boasted that “the annihilation of the Zionist regime will come.” During Israel’s incursion against Hizballah in Lebanon in 2006, he declared, “The Islamic umma [community] will not allow its historic enemy [Israel] to live in its heartland.” Israel’s end is near, he said: “There is no doubt that the new wave [of attacks] in Palestine will soon wipe off this disgraceful blot [Israel] from the face of the Islamic world.” He has declared that “the Zionist regime is counterfeit and illegitimate and cannot survive.”

His genocidal statements have gone beyond Israel. At the “World Without Zionism” conference held in Tehran in October 2005, as the crowd chanted “death to Israel, death to America, death to England,” the Iranian President again recalled Khomeini’s words: “Once, his eminency Imam [Ruhollah] Khomeini stated that the illegal regime of the Pahlavis must go, and it happened. Then he said the Soviet empire would disappear, and it happened. He also said that this evil man Saddam [Hussein] must be punished, and we see that he is under trial in his country. His eminency also said that the occupation regime of Qods [Jerusalem, or Israel] must be wiped off from the map of the world, and with the help of the Almighty, we shall soon experience a world without America and Zionism, notwithstanding those who doubt.”

Ahmadinejad has threatened Iran’s foes with nuclear action: “Today, the Iranian people is the owner of nuclear technology. Those who want to talk with our people should know what people they are talking to. If some believe they can keep talking to the Iranian people in the language of threats and aggressiveness, they should know that they are making a bitter mistake. If they have not realized this by now, they soon will, but then it will be too late. Then they will realize that they are facing a vigilant, proud people.”

Last July, he crowed that “the big powers are going down. They have come to the end of their power, and the world is on the verge of entering a new, promising era.”

The “new, promising era” that Ahmadinejad envisions features a dominant Iran and a beaten, subservient America, as he himself explained in August 2006: “If you want to have good relations with the Iranian people in the future, you should acknowledge the right and the might of the Iranian people, and you should bow and surrender to the might of the Iranian people. If you do not accept this, the Iranian people will force you to bow and surrender.”

It doesn’t look as if force will be needed. The UN General Assembly is lining up now to do just that.

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