Roy Moore

I think there is probably something to the accusations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. It’s not clear to me how much of a criminal act it was.  One of the Sunday talk shows made a big point of the fact that the victim was 14, which would make this a lesser offense than if she were younger.  It was probably not a felony, and the statute of limitations has probably run out, although I’m not sure.  In any case, it’s messy unless it’s an outright lie.  

Assuming it’s not a complete lie, one thing concerns me.  Did the Washington Post delay publishing this story until after the primary election?  If it had come out before the election, it would have improved the chances of Moore’s Republican opponent, Luther Strange.  If Strange had been elected, he almost certainly would have beaten his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones.  Now, the story greatly benefits Jones.  It remains to be seen whether it will swing the election in Jones’ favor.  

If Moore is elected despite the story, I suspect that he will be seated in the Senate.  It does not look like he is a criminal, whatever his morals.  Other Senators may treat him as an outcast, but he will be there and will be able to vote.  Under those circumstances he may be even more obstreperous than he would have been before the story.  

Another effect of this story may be to keep many basically good people out of politics.  Almost everyone has some blot on their record, something they did in a weak moment and wish they had not done.  In the old days, some indiscretions were overlooked or hushed up, but that is almost impossible today.  The fact that so many basically good people eliminate themselves from politics is at least partly responsible for the horrible political scene we have now.  We get people who run who don’t care about moral failings, people consumed by a lust for power or publicity, or on the other hand, people who are completely colorless, who have never done anything interesting in their lives.  Neither type produces the best politicians or leaders.  



Letter re Depletion of Foreign Service

As a retired Foreign Service Officer, I want to call to your attention the rapid depletion of the ranks of the State Department Foreign Service under the Trump administration.  Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, the president of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), recently wrote an open letter in the Foreign Service Journal calling attention to the problem.  By Washington standards, the Foreign Service is a small organization.  It is often said that there are fewer Foreign Service officers (about 6,000) than there are members of military bands.  It will be difficult for the Foreign Service to recover from a mass exodus of senior Foreign Service officers.

I was pleased when President Trump named Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State, and to a certain extent I sympathize with his desire to reduce the size of government, but I do not think the small Foreign Service is the place to start drastic cuts. Good senior officers are important to the nation, as well as to the Foreign Service because of the skill and experience they bring from their years of dealing with foreign countries.  When I was a junior officer I was fortunate to work with Ambassador Tom Pickering, who was one reason I decided to stay in the Foreign Service and make it a career.  In Denver we have a senior FSO who has brought us his talent and experience, Ambassador Christopher Hill, the head of the Korbel School at Denver University.

I admit that I retired from the Foreign Service under similar circumstances in the 1990s.  Under President Clinton, the US had promised multi-year funding for two projects I was working on, one in Poland and one involving North Korea.  When Newt Gingrich brought in the House Republican majority, they cut off funding for both projects, despite America’s earlier promises.  I was disappointed and ashamed of being called dishonest by foreign governments.  Thus, I sympathize with the current retirees, but I think the US government should do something to keep a cadre of experienced Foreign Service officers.  Otherwise, the US will suffer genuine losses in its future diplomatic dealings around the world.

I hope that you will do whatever you can to prevent further gutting of the Foreign Service.

Links to Ambassador Stephenson’s letter and to her appearance on the PBS NewsHour are below.


John Oliver on the Confederacy

John Oliver’s in-depth issue this week was the Confederacy on “Last Week Tonight.”  Oliver condemned the Confederacy and everything connected to it because one of the things it fought for was the maintenance of slavery.  According to him, this justified getting rid of all public monuments to, and statues of, anything or anybody connected to the Confederacy.  

If slavery is what condemns a civilization, then clearly the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians must be condemned, and all artifacts, statues, buildings, and other monuments must be removed from public view.  That would mean that the Roman forum, the Acropolis, the Parthenon and the Egyptian pyramids would have to be destroyed, along with the many other Roman ruins spread across Europe and North Africa. By the same reasoning, Oliver, the Democratic Party and other anti-Confederate hate groups must applaud the destruction by ISIS of the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria and the destruction of the Bamiyan cliff buddhas by the Taliban in Afghanistan.  Can you imagine the horror that would ensue if the mayor of Charlottesville were the mayor of Rome, destroying thousands of monuments?  

Of course the Confederates got their moral guidance on slavery from the books of Moses in the Bible.  Abraham, Moses, David and Solomon all had slaves and lived in a society where slavery was an ordinary fact of life.  Abraham had a son, Ishmael, by his family’s female slave Hagar.  Moses freed the Jews from slavery in Egypt, but he wrote the Jewish law authorizing slavery and describing how Jews should treat their own slaves, particularly in Leviticus.  It describes different treatment for Jews enslaved to other Jews, and for non-Jewish slaves.  It seems likely that Solomon’s temple was built with slave labor.  If they were going to be consistent, Oliver and the Democrats should call for the destruction of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  And because Moses and King David had slaves, they should call for the destruction of Michelangelo’s statues of Moses and David.  

Of course any statues or monuments to any famous people of these countries would have to be destroyed — statues of Plato, Aristotle, all Roman emperors, and statues of all Egyptian Pharaohs.  History is unimportant.  Only morality as defined by Oliver is important.  People who lived in societies that condoned slavery were evil, and any image of them must be destroyed according to Oliver and the Democrats.  

They really do have much in common with ISIS and the Taliban, believing that a tangible representation of anything they think is morally repugnant must be destroyed.  They believe that their morals are supreme and unimpeachable and that no other ideas can be allowed to be expressed.  They are not chopping off heads yet, but that may be coming.  HBO is preaching the ideology of ISIS and the Taliban in the US while American troops are fighting against it in Afghanistan and Iraq.  It is sad to see such fundamentalist religious intolerance being preached in the US.  


Kurdish Independence Vote

The results of the vote on Kurdish independence are not yet in, but are almost certainly to be in favor of independence, according to the Washington Post.  While the Kurds have been great allies of the US in Middle East, the creation of a Kurdish state is certain to create problems among the four countries with large Kurdish populations – Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria.  Each of these countries view the creation of a Kurdish state differently, but none of them entirely favorably.  The most strongly opposed is Turkey, which views some Kurdish organizations as terrorists, and for that reason is suspicious of all Kurds.  Iraq has enough problems with ISIS and the Sunni-Shiite split without adding Kurdish independence or autonomy to its inbox.  In Syria the Kurds pursue their own self-interest in creating a Kurdish state, but sometimes this means fighting against the Syrian government and in some cases fighting for it, or at least fighting its enemies.  Assad has many more important problems on his plate than Kurdistan, although Kurdistan would occupy a significant part of Syria, about one-quarter of it.  Iran opposed the vote on Kurdish independence, but it too has not put Kurdish issues at the top of its agenda; the Kurds seem to have a better relationship with the Iranian government than with the governments of the other three countries affected.  The US is also upset by the vote because of the confusion it may create in the region, although the Kurds have been America’s best ally in the fight against ISIS.  

In any case the creation of a new Kurdish state out of portions of four existing nations is almost certainly to be problematic.  The most recent example is the creation of South Sudan, which has led to civil war, famine, and thousands of deaths.  Arguably the creation earlier creation of several nations from the disintegrating Yugoslavia should have been peaceful, but it led to a terrible Balkan war among the new states – Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Montenegro.  The split up of Czechoslovakia into Czech and Slovakia went somewhat more smoothly. The creation of Israel has led to seventy years of violence and unrest in the Middle East.  Given the existing conflict in the Middle East and the countries involved in the creation of Kurdistan, it seems likely that it would be violent.  

Iraq has said that it will not recognize the results of the vote, but the Kurds may not allow the Iraqis to ignore it.  Iraqi Kurdistan is rich in oil; the Kurds will want it, and the Iraqis will not want to give it up.  Turkey will not want to do anything that it perceives as strengthening the hand of Kurdish separatists in Turkey.  This already appears to mean closing the border to shipments of oil, according to the NYT.  

As a sign of things to come, Iraq has demanded that Kurdistan surrender its airports.  Iraq asked other countries’ airlines not fly into Kurdistan.  Kurdistan does not have its own airline.

Joint Resolution Attack on White Southerners

I am disappointed to see that you were a cosponsor of S. J. Res. 49 condemning Southern white men as racists.  As a Southern white man, born in Florida and raised in Alabama, I take offense at your racist bigotry.  I am not a “White supremacist” or a “neo-Nazi,” but my great-grandfather, James M. Williams, did fight for the Confederacy in the Civil War.  There is a book about his exploits, “From that Terrible Field.”  The title refers to the Battle of Shiloh, where he fought and where he best friend, George Dixon, was wounded.  My great-grandfather returned to Mobile, Alabama, to command Fort Powell in the Battle of Mobile Bay.  George Dixon went on to command the Confederate submarine Hunley which sank the Housatonic in Charleston harbor.  My great-grandfather named his first son George Dixon Williams in memory of his friend.

In addition to my great-grandfather’s Civil War service, my grandfather served in the Spanish-American War and World War I.  My father served in World War II and the Korean War.  He was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in Korea.  I served in Vietnam in an Army artillery battery along the DMZ and on the Laotian border. The names of two of the men I served with are on the wall of the Vietnam Memorial.  After Vietnam, I served twenty-five years in the Foreign Service of the US Department of State.

I became a confirmed Democrat when I was serving as Science Counselor at the American Embassy in Warsaw, Poland.  One of my main jobs was to oversee a science cooperation agreement between the US and Poland that was to last five years.  Newt Gingrich and the Republicans were elected while I was there, and one of their first actions was to end US funding for the science cooperation after three years, although there was a signed agreement stating that it was to last for five years.  From Poland I went to Rome, where I again handled scientific affairs.  The Republicans refused to fund appropriations to buy oil for North Korea that the US had promised under the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization agreement.  One of my jobs became to ask the European Union, for which Italy then held the rotating presidency, to contribute enough money to KEDO to honor the US agreement, so that the US would not be the first party to violate it.  I was extremely upset that the US would give North Korea a legitimate excuse to restart its nuclear weapons program.  Finally, while I was at a cocktail party celebrating the launch by the US of an Italian communications satellite, an executive of the Italian telephone company came up to me and said, “You Americans must really hate me.”  It turned out that his daughter had been denied a visa to visit Disney World because his company had some connection with the Mexican telephone company that had some connection with the Cuban telephone company that was banned by the Helms-Burton Act.  In the fictional series The Winds of War by Herman Wouk, the Jewish heroine was prevented by the Nazis from leaving Italy for Israel by denying a visa to her child.  The situation I found in Rome was too similar.  I decided that I would retire from the Foreign Service because US foreign policy did not come up to my standards of decency.  I did not make it a political issue; I just retired in disgust.

I voted almost a straight Democratic ticket from then on, for the next twenty years, until the 2016 election. I voted for Bernie Sanders at the last Democratic caucuses.  But that changed with Hillary Clinton’s nomination and her characterization of Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables,” clearly meaning Southern white men like me.   Ironically, I had been the Warsaw embassy officer responsible for organizing President and Hillary Clinton’s visit to the site of the old Warsaw ghetto during Clinton’s visit to Warsaw to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II.

I became disillusioned with the Republican Party for failing to appropriate funds to meet America’s international commitments.  Now I am disillusioned with the Democratic Party for passing hateful, bigoted legislation condemning me as a racist.  You are free to hate me.  There is no law against hate, as long as you do not act on it.  However, politicians are in a position to act on it.  I see this Resolution as a sign that race-based discriminatory legislation is coming.  It is strange that you, Sen. Schumer and Rep. Pelosi would replace Sen. Jesse Helms, Rep. Dan Burton, and their ilk as the new racists in Congress.