A Good First Step on Cuba

President Barack Obama has relaxed controls over contact with Cuba. Reports the Washington Post:

The Treasury Department formally lifted nearly all U.S. restrictions on family travel to Cuba on Thursday, along with limits on how much money families can send to relatives on the island.

The department also eased regulations prohibiting U.S. telecommunications and satellite linkages between the United States and Cuba and licensing requirements for visitors engaged in agricultural and medical sales.

President Obama first announced most of the changes in April as part of a general opening that he said would allow Americans to reach out to the Cuban people, and he ordered Cabinet departments to take steps to implement the changes. Since then, the administration has also resumed a regular dialogue with the Cuban government on immigration issues and said it would move toward a resumption of direct mail service between the two countries.

This is a good first step, but only a first step.

The Castro Brothers & Co. are a nasty lot, but the U.S. has been trying for nearly 50 years to starve the regime into submission. The Castros’ dictatorship survived the end of the Soviet Union and Soviet subsidies, and appears to be in no danger of collapsing in the near future.

It’s time to try an alternative approach: eliminating travel, trade, and investment restrictions. The Europeans, Canadians, and Latin Americans are all active in Cuba. When I visited Cuba (legally) a few years ago, I stayed at a Dutch hotel. U.S. sanctions have no impact other than to eliminate any chance for Americans to promote change through dialogue and contact. Liberalizing relations might not be likely to result in democracy. But current policy is an abject failure. Indeed, the embargo actually has aided the regime by allowing it to blame its failure on outsiders.

President Obama ran for president promising “change.” This is one issue where he should deliver on his promise.

Doug Bandow, American Conservative Defense Alliance

This blog post is reprinted from Campaign for Liberty with permission.

From the People (And Sarah Palin!) Who Brought Us the Iraq War

The same neo-conservatives (and some new ones like Sarah Palin(!), plus Amb. Ryan Crocker) who created the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) 12 years ago and subsequently campaigned ceaselessly for the ouster and invasion of Iraq have just called on Pres. Obama to “fully resource” the war in Afghanistan in their new guise as the more modest sounding Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI). It’s remarkable that more liberal interventionists did not sign on to this, as the letter, according to Politico’s Ben Smith, has been circulating for some days, and PNAC had a history of reaching out to their political cousins on the liberal side of the political spectrum, as during the Iraq War when they, like some at Brookings and elsewhere, felt Rumsfeld wasn’t as committed to the war and remaking Iraq as he should have been.

The fact that this list of signatories is so ideologically narrow suggests that the neo-conservative brand is still considered toxic, even to those who agree with them on Afghanistan’s importance. There’s much else to observe and speculate about this document — such as how its focus on Afghanistan may affect FPI’s interest in promoting confrontation with Tehran over the next few months (Iran can make “winning” in Afghanistan much more difficult) — but, for now, you can just read it and note the signatories, especially Palin:
September 7, 2009

Jamie Fly – (202) 360-2802
Executive Director

President Obama Urged to Properly Resource War Effort in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON – A distinguished group of Americans active in the foreign policy debate expressed support today for the U.S. effort in Afghanistan, and called upon President Obama to continue to provide the necessary resources requested by his commanders on the ground to ensure success. In an open letter organized by the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), the group offered its appreciation for the president’s decision earlier this year to deploy 21,000 additional U.S. troops to the country, and urged him to continue to properly resource the war effort. Given increasing public concern about the U.S. commitment in Afghanistan, the letter also suggests that the President make it a priority to explain to the American people why it is important to remain committed to winning in Afghanistan, and why such a victory is feasible.

The letter’s signatories write: “The situation in Afghanistan is grave and deteriorating…Since the announcement of your administration’s new strategy, we have been troubled by calls for a drawdown of American forces in Afghanistan and a growing sense of defeatism about the war. With General McChrystal expected to request additional troops later this month, we urge you to continue on the path you have taken thus far and give our commanders on the ground the forces they need to implement a successful counterinsurgency strategy. There is no middle course. Incrementally committing fewer troops than required would be a grave mistake and may well lead to American defeat. We will not support half-measures that repeat the errors of the past.”

The letter’s signers so far are: Steve Biegun, Max Boot, Debra Burlingame, Eliot A. Cohen, Ryan C. Crocker, Thomas Donnelly, Eric Edelman, William S. Edgerly, Jamie M. Fly, David Frum, Abe Greenwald, John Hannah, Pete Hegseth, Margaret Hoover, Thomas Joscelyn, Frederick W. Kagan, Robert Kagan, William Kristol, Tod Lindberg, Herbert London, Clifford May, Robert C. McFarlane, Joshua Muravchik, Sarah Palin, Keith Pavlischek, Beverly Perlson, Danielle Pletka, John Podhoretz, Stephen Rademaker, Karl Rove, Jennifer Rubin, Randy Scheunemann, Gary Schmitt, Dan Senor, Marc Thiessen, Peter Wehner, Kenneth Weinstein, and Christian Whiton.

About FPI

FPI is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and global economic competitiveness. The organization is led by Executive Director Jamie Fly. FPI was founded by Robert Kagan, William Kristol, and Dan Senor. For more information, please visit www.foreignpolicyi.org.

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President:

The situation in Afghanistan is grave and deteriorating. This is in part the legacy of an under resourced war effort that has cost us and the Afghans dearly. The Taliban has retaken important parts of the country, while a flawed U.S. strategy has led American forces into secondary efforts far away from critical areas. However, we remain convinced that the fight against the Taliban is winnable, and it is in the vital national security interest of the United States to win it.

You’ve called Afghanistan an “international security challenge of the highest order, ” and stated that “the safety of people around the world is at stake.” Last month you told a convention of veterans, “Those who attacked America on 9/11 are plotting to do so again. If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting. This is fundamental to the defense of our people.”

We fully agree with those sentiments. We congratulate you on the leadership you demonstrated earlier this year when you decided to deploy approximately 21,000 additional troops and several thousand civilian experts as a part of a serious counterinsurgency campaign. Your appointments of General Stanley McChrystal as top commander and David Rodriguez as second in command in Afghanistan exemplified the seriousness of purpose you spoke about during the campaign. We are heartened to see that the much needed overhaul of our military operations has begun.

Since the announcement of your administration’s new strategy, we have been troubled by calls for a drawdown of American forces in Afghanistan and a growing sense of defeatism about the war. With General McChrystal expected to request additional troops later this month, we urge you to continue on the path you have taken thus far and give our commanders on the ground the forces they need to implement a successful counterinsurgency strategy. There is no middle course. Incrementally committing fewer troops than required would be a grave mistake and may well lead to American defeat. We will not support half-measures that repeat the errors of the past.

This is, as you have said, a war that we cannot afford to lose. Failure to defeat the Taliban would likely lead to a return of al Qaeda to Afghanistan and could result in terrorist attacks on the United States or our allies. An abandonment of Afghanistan would further destabilize the region, and put neighboring Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal at risk. All our efforts to support Islamabad’s fight against the Taliban in Pakistan’s tribal regions will founder if we do not match those achievements on the other side of that country’s porous northwestern border.

As you observed during the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, “You don’t muddle through the central front on terror and you don’t muddle through going after bin Laden. You don’t muddle through stamping out the Taliban.” We completely agree. Having “muddled through” in Afghanistan for years, this is no longer a politically, strategically, or morally sustainable approach.

Mr. President, you have put in place the military leadership and sent the initial resources required to begin bringing this war to a successful conclusion. The military leadership has devised a strategy that will reverse the errors of previous years, free Afghans from the chains of tyranny, and keep America safe. We call on you to fully resource this effort, do everything possible to minimize the risk of failure, and to devote the necessary time to explain, soberly and comprehensively, to the American people the stakes in Afghanistan, the route to success, and the cost of defeat.

With the continued bravery of our troops, and your continued full support for them and their command team, America and our allies can and will prevail in Afghanistan.


Steve Biegun
Max Boot
Debra Burlingame
Eliot A. Cohen
Ryan C. Crocker
Thomas Donnelly
Eric Edelman
William S. Edgerly
Jamie M. Fly
David Frum
Abe Greenwald
John Hannah
Pete Hegseth
Margaret Hoover
Thomas Joscelyn
Frederick W. Kagan
Robert Kagan
William Kristol
Tod Lindberg
Herbert London
Clifford May
Robert C. McFarlane
Joshua Muravchik
Sarah Palin
Keith Pavlischek
Beverly Perlson
Danielle Pletka
John Podhoretz
Stephen Rademaker
Karl Rove
Jennifer Rubin
Randy Scheunemann
Gary Schmitt
Dan Senor
Marc Thiessen
Peter Wehner
Kenneth Weinstein
Christian Whiton

Google News continues to label Antiwar.com as “satire”

UPDATE: Google News says “We should begin to show your original site name “Antiwar.com” within a few days. We appreciate your patience during this process.”

I don’t know why it would take this long.

Unfortuantely, Google News continues to label all Antiwar.com original articles as “satire.”

They informed us on Friday morning that they would cease doing so, but they have either failed to complete the action or changed their minds.

Every week the Miami Herald runs Dave Barry’s column, but they don’t get their whole site labeled this way.

Please contact Google News to ask them to remove us as “satire.”

The End of Freedom Communications? (maybe not)

In 1972, when I was a young political activist working in the antiwar and pro-marijuana movements, I became aware of the Orange County Register. I was working at the campaign office for Prop. 19, the first California marijuana initiative. Word came in that the main newspaper in conservative Orange County had become the first daily paper to endorse our measure. We were amazed.

I found out later that this should have been no surprise. The Register was the flagship paper for Freedom Communications, a libertarian-owned newspaper chain. It had been founded in the early 1930s by R.C. Hoiles, who was to become a leader in the modern libertarian movement.

The Register‘s finest hour came in 1942, when most of the established media were calling for internment of innocent Japanese-Americans. Weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hoiles wrote clearly against the idea of taking away their liberty and property. The Register continued to run editorial after editorial against the internment and against the rollback of civil liberties in the time of war. The paper was the victim of several bomb threats.

More recently, as the rest of the media piled on to the false claims of the Bush Administration over Iraq, the Register ran many editorials against attacking Iraq. They have continued to support withdrawal from both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Former Register editor John Seiler writes today at LewRockwell.com on the history of Freedom Communications. It is definitely worth reading.

Here is a report on the effects of the bankruptcy from Alan Bock, longtime writer and editor at the Orange County Register and longtime columnist for Antiwar.com.

I am gratified at the number of people who have inquired about the Orange County Register, where I work, and about my personal fate, in the wake of the Register’s parent company, Freedom Communications, filing for bankruptcy under Chapter 11. Whether it was inaccurate or half-accurate news reports or people listening with only half an ear, some people got the impression that we were on the verge of ceasing to publish. Happily, that’s not true.

The Register, unlike many large newspapers, has never gone into the red and is still profitable, though less so than in the company’s and industry’s salad days. Freedom Communications expects a profit of around $50 million this year as well. Trouble is, that’s not enough to service the debt.

The debt arises from the resolution of a family feud among the heirs of R.C. Hoiles, who founded the company and died in 1970 at age 90. The descendants of one of his three children felt they were being squeezed out of significant decision-making and demanded either that the company go public or that they be bought out. Freedom brought in two investment bankers to raise the money to buy out those who wanted it, giving them an equity stake in the company. While they were at it they borrowed a lot more money from a consortium of banks to recapitalize. This was 2004, in the midst of the housing boom, when newspapers were still ridiculously profitable.

We hit the Perfect Storm and then the recession, and profit margins declined precipitously. So the company negotiated with the banks to go into Chapter 11. It’s a "prepackaged" deal; though a bankruptcy court will have to approve the details, in essence the banks reduced the debt from $770 million to $335 million in exchange for ownership of the company (the remaining family members retain 2%).

As Register publisher Terry Horne explained in a series of employee meetings on Tuesday, the banks can’t get the $435 million they’ve foregone with more layoffs and cost-cutting, of which we’ve already had a lot. Their interest, not only to keep payments on the $335 million flowing but to have a prayer of recouping the other money, is for Freedom and the Register to grow to the point that they become attractive items to sell. Right now nobody wants to buy newspapers or TV stations except (maybe) for pennies on the dollar (see San Diego Union-Tribune). If the recession ends and the Freedom newspapers recover and find a way to monetize their Web presence better, there’s a chance – not a guarantee but a chance – that the banks can sell us for enough to recover the money they’ve foregone in Chapter 11.

The upshot is that the Register and other papers will keep publishing for the foreseeable future, while working to improve our Web presence (if you want to help you can click on http://www.ocregister.com/opinion and click around the page for a while fairly often). There’s been no call to change the libertarian character of the editorial pages, not do we expect one. Changing the editorial philosophy is unlikely to improve the bottom line and just might hurt it. Our presumption – we haven’t met our new owners or the board members they’ll appoint and probably won’t for 6 months or so – is that they’re more interested in money than ideology. So we’ll continue to speak out against war and statism as long as possible, which looks like a fairly long time indeed.

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Shocked, Shocked! The Pentagon Is Profiling Journalists!

Published originally @TAC

I am glad that Stars and Stripes has nailed the story about the Pentagon profiling journos headed overseas for embed duty, not only because it is only fair that we know how our taxpayer dollars are being spent in so-called military “strategic communications” and that the Fourth Estate knows exactly where it stands with the military establishment, but that it was Stars and Stripes, virtually inoculated from any rightwing sniping about ‘flyover’ and ‘driveby media’, that has been bird-dogging this latest example of government manipulation of the news in wartime.

Simmering for over a week, the story is starting to sprout earnest legs, but given a few more hours and days, will likely slide off into familiar media narcissism, as more reporters begin demanding their profiles and posting them online. Given the hyper-competition in the foreign policy reporting space, one can easily imagine one scribe scrambling over the other with contempt for the Pentagon out of one side of his face, using the other to call attention to his overseas bonefides. Not all are that egotistical, of course, and seeing your life’s work clinically analyzed like a FBI background check has to be quite disquieting. Nevertheless, some may want to think twice before broadcasting their profile: the Pentagon may like you and that could be kind of icky, especially when you’re trying to pay it cool.

The thing that gets me is none of this is really a surprise. The Rendon Group didn’t come out of a hole in the desert, it helped start the war. In fact its propaganda and message management work for the government goes back decades. Meanwhile, the military has put all sorts of restrictions on its official embeds and that’s why we have independent reporters who risk life and limb to get the story. The military hired a covert PR firm to plant “good news” in Iraqi papers — why wouldn’t it want to keep tabs and try to manage journalists it couldn’t outright buy or silence?

It’s amazing, as I see the first signs of this profiling story on major television news networks, I recall how none of them — save PBS — would touch the explosive Message Force Multipliers story of 2008. Because it involved the corporate broadcast media participating in the Pentagon/Bush Administration-led Spin of the Century, they acted as though it never even happened. Now that they are the victims, it is a different story?