Ahmadinejad and Chavez: A Love Feast of Dictators, and Don’t Forget the Hezbollah Appetizers

"Meet me behind the hotel at 11 o'clock, and we'll see what other conniving we can do."

"Meet me behind the hotel at 11 o'clock, and we'll see what other conniving we can do."

Knowing a second language has a lot of benefits, and for far too long, most Americans have stuck their heads in the sand and thought because they know English, they have an advantage and don’t have to learn another language.  However, being fluent in two or more languages opens up so much more of the world.

Personally, I read a number of foreign language sites every day; some are news sites and some focus on some topic or interest that I have.

Usually at night time, I check abc.es, an online news site from Spain.  That way I can see what is happening in the world, usually before sites like cnn.com or msnbc.com pick it up.  Reading the news out of another country also gives a different perspective and often there is news that isn’t even highlighted by the U.S. media.

Such was the case in an article I read last night: Arranca la gira de Lieberman para frenar la expansión de Irán en América Latina, which tells about Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s 10-day visit to Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Colombia.  (Read a similar AP article in English.)

What I didn’t realize before reading the article, but have since corroborated through other sources is how much influence Iran and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, which Iran backs, have in Latin America.  Apparently, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have become BFFs and anyone who has been paying attention knows that both of these guys have found ways to manipulate the systems of their countries in order to stay in power. Hezbollah, for its part, because of connections with Lebanese immigrants to countries like Venezuela, seems to have gotten involved in that old Latin American standby–kidnapping; and not unlike other rebel/narco-terrorist groups (i. e. FARC in Colombia), uses the ransom money extorted from victims’ families as a way of supporting itself.  (Check out this in-depth article for more details.)

Chavez and Ahmadinejad negotiated a number of deals, and it’s not difficult for those who keep up with current events to see what is going on.  Chavez already has his emulators in office in several of the Latin American countries, the latest being Zelaya from Honduras.  And although there are those who are decrying the coup that pushed him out of the country as being un-democratic, what Zelaya was doing was trying to circumvent his own country’s constitution in order to allow himself to stay in office longer, nothing different than what Chavez did a few years back.  These guys don’t really want democracy built upon a long-standing constitution; they want to create their own “democracy”, which in effect validates their dictatorship. 

As for Ahmadinejad, anyone who is not aware of the corruption in the last election in Iran is walking around with blinders on, but what goes for democracy in Iran is only pretense anyway; there is no democracy when a malevolent theocracy is in place.

As citizens of this world, we need to remain informed, as having as much information as we can is a big part of maintaining our freedom and a way to make decisions about who we support or don’t support as leaders in our own countries.  And with the Internet, we also have the ability to access many sources besides our daily print newspaper.  Of course, we must also be able to judge the veracity of these sources and extricate the biases inherent in them.

Lest you think I have some kind of slant here based on religion or otherwise, let me say, “I don’t”.  From my own personal viewpoint, I see that these guys are bad guys, bad guys who want to have power and control over millions of peoples’ lives.  And, yes, the U.S. government doesn’t like these guys either, but in reality, they are not so different from Pinochet or Marcos, whom the Reagan and Thatcher governments supported only 20-some years ago.

A dictator is a dictator is a dictator and they are like noxious weeds in the gardens of this planet.

When It Comes to Gays in the Military, Many “Developing” Countries Are Forward-Thinking, While the U.S. Continues To Discharge Highly Qualified Service Members

Growing up, I always saw my country as the one which was the most inventive, the most progressive, the one with the most forward-looking people. I mean aren’t we the country that put the first men on the moon, the country that fought in wars so other people could live in freedom?

What I see now is a country that has so many people that are not only afraid of being on the cutting-edge in all aspects, whether in science and medicine (think stem cell research), inventions (think new forms of energy), or social progress (think equal rights), but also people who want to live in the past, rather than help move the country forward.

south-americaI’m really amazed when I see what is happening in some “so-called” third-world, or developing, countries when it comes to equal rights, especially in terms of gays in the military. While President Obama has been waffling on his campaign promise to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, President Tabaré Vázquez of the South American country of Uruguay announced that his country would no longer deny entrance into their armed forces to someone who is gay. In a meeting with Vazquez, the President of the neighboring country of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, agreed, saying his country will follow suit because Paraguay does not discriminate in any manner, including on the basis of religion or sexual orientation.

Additionally from South America comes the news of the first same-sex couple to receive spousal benefits through the Armed Forces. Based on the decision of the Constitutional Court (Supreme Court) of Colombia, the gay couple of Fabián Chibcha Romero and Javier Osorio will be able to take advantage of these benefits because one of them is a member of the Public Forces (includes both the military and civil police). After processing their Union Marital de Hecho (which formalizes common law marriages after two years of cohabitation for both heterosexual and homosexual couples), Romero and Osorio sought the spousal benefits and were the first same-sex couple to be granted them based on military membership.

However, here in the U.S. even with the change to a new administration, valuable members of the military are still being drummed out based on their sexuality.

Lt. Dan Choi, discharged Arab Linguist

Lt. Dan Choi, discharged Arab Linguist

Less than two weeks ago, the U.S. Army told Lt. Dan Choi, a member of the New York National Guard, that he would be dismissed for being gay. Choi is a graduate of West Point, and an Arab linguist recently returned from Iraq.

Today, the Service Members Legal Defense Network said the the Pentagon is ready to kick out another highly-skilled, veteran service member for being gay. SLDN says the U.S. Air Force is about to discharge fighter pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Victor J. Fehrenbach, after 18 years of service to his country. Among his long list of accolades is that he was especially selected to fly sorties over the U.S. capital after the 9/ll attacks. (I’m not going to do a “cut and paste”; read more about Fehrenbach’s illustrious career here and watch the eye-opening interview and report from MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show.)

It is really a sad situation that we have in this country when we are ready to kick people who have given so much of themselves for their country out of the military just because of their sexuality. Is this what kind of country we are? One that judges people based on antiquated social mores? Are we a country that would rather let some people’s bigotry get in the way of having able-bodied and well-qualified service members protecting our country?

I don’t get it. Our forefathers came to this land with the idea of making a better life based on the principles of individual freedom and strove to be the best. They and their descendants were creative and worked to invent the best and newest, whatever that might be.

Now we have become a country of too many stick-in-the-muds. They only want to hide themselves in their “moral values” because, in reality, they are scared of the future. How did we ever get so many of these who are so filled with their own self-interest–yes, really these political and religious conservatives are really very selfish people; though, they would claim otherwise–that they cannot see that this country has to be progressive and future-thinking in order to be the country that we used to be.