Monday, October 22, 2007

Poking Friends in the Eye

What is wrong with Nancy Pelosi? Is she trying to take away from George W. Bush the title of Century’s Biggest Foreign Policy Idiot? Are Democrats so invested in American defeat in Iraq that they want to help it alone? Why are they choosing this point in time to poke Turkey in the eye?

By a 27-21 vote last week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee adopted a resolution, which formally identifies the killings of the 1.5 million Armenians in the waning days of World War I as genocide. Turkish officials acknowledge the killings occurred but object to the designation "genocide." Maybe Turkey is a tad touchy on this issue. After all, Turkey did not exit at the time. Nevertheless, they find this resolution offensive. So offensive in fact, that when the Committee passed the resolution, Turkey recalled their ambassador for consultation. The Turks claim the events that occurred nearly 90 years ago was a result of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the resulting civil wars and anarchy, but was not genocide.

The reason this resolution is so ill timed is that Turkey and Kurdish Iraq are on the verge of war. At the end of World War I, when the victors divided up the Ottoman Empire, they forgot to give the Kurds a state. The Kurds were divided between Syria, Turkey and Iraq. For the last 90 years Turkey has been trying to assimilate the Turkish Kurds and make them more Turkish. Like many people without a country, the Turkish Kurds are not very happy. For the last 20 years, Turkey has been fighting a gorilla separatist movement in the south of Turkey. Since the Iraqi war, the guerilla movement has stepped up the war against Turkey. The Kurdistan People’s Party (PKK) has been committing terrorist acts in Turkey and then fleeing to Kurdistan and they have also been lobbing mortars into Turkey from Iraq. Turkey has had enough and the Turkish Parliament has passed a resolution authorizing their military to cross the border into Iraq to fight the PKK.

Kurdistan has been our one success in Iraq. It is relatively prosperous, peaceful and democratic. The mess in Iraq is threatening to spin out of control and engulf the whole region in conflict. We do not want an Al Qaeda strong hold, a client state of Iran, and genocide in Iraq. The result of failure in Iraq could be horrendous. We do not need our ally Turkey going to war with the one part of Iraq that represents success. We need stability.

We need to be a moderating influence and try to get the Kurds and Turks to avoid war. Turkey is our friend; they are part of NATO and seek membership in the European Union. Turkey is a modern, secular, democratic, state with an Islamic population. As Bush said recently, “Congress has more important work to do than antagonizing a democratic ally in the Muslim world, especially one that's providing vital support for our military every day." And, he said "... one thing Congress should not be doing is sorting out the historical record of the Ottoman Empire."

A hand full of reasonable Democrats including Tennessee’s own Representatives John Tanner and Steve Cohen urged House Democratic leadership to stop the resolution. "We believe that this resolution at this time takes away or impedes our ability to bring the most swift rapid resolution of this situation in Iraq to a conclusion that is beneficial to our country," Tanner said. In a letter from Tanner and others to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, they said, the resolutions would "threaten our operations and our troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Also, eight former U.S. secretaries of state, Democrat and Republican, also opposed the resolution: Alexander M. Haig, Jr.; Henry A. Kissinger; George P. Shultz; James A. Baker III; Lawrence S. Eagleburger; Warren Christopher; Madeleine K. Albright; and Colin L. Powell. "Passage of the resolution would harm our foreign policy objectives to promote reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia," said the letter signed by former Secretaries of State. “It would also strain our relations with Turkey, and would endanger our national security interests in the region, including the safety of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan."

It looks like saner heads will prevail and that the resolution will not come to a vote. With George Bush as President and Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House, God help us.

Above quotes from CNN (Speaker Pelosi Hedges)

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Grant to preserve wilderness land near Caney Fork

Staff Writer, The Tennessean, Oct. 22, 2007

Another piece of the wilderness that lies in a corridor between Fall Creek Falls State Park and Scotts Gulf has been protected.

"The rugged, spectacular scenery rivals scenery anywhere in the world," said Kathleen Williams, executive director of the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation, one of the groups that worked to secure the funding.

Agencies and nonprofits today have conserved about 53,000 acres, including a 1,500-acre tract the Middle Tennessee Council of the Boy Scouts recently acquired and Virgin Falls, where the waters appear from an underground cave before tumbling off a bluff. They disappear into another opening at the base of the falls. (To read full article....Grants to Preserve Wilderness)

My Commentary
Many people visit the Great Smoky Mountains, but in Middle Tennessee there is a natural treasure every bit as beautiful. It is unspoiled by the commercial tourist industry that borders the Smokies. Small sleepy towns and well tending farms dot the country side. The mountains of the Cumberland plateau has beautiful scenery, hiking trails, trout fishing streams, babbling brooks, caves, massive stone formations, and hundreds of waterfalls including Fall Creek Falls, the highest waterfall east of the Rockies.

The land has some of the greatest diversity of plants and wildlife species in America. The land is beautiful to explore any time of the year. Taking a Spring hike you may find dozens of variety of wildflowers in bloom. And, if you visit the same trail a week later, some of those flowers will no longer be blooming, but new varieties will have bloomed out. For two months, the same trail can be a different hike each time. In the fall the Cumberlands can take your breath away as you gaze at a hill side and see the ribbons of fall colours. I find that a day trip to the Cumberland restores my soul and wipes away a months worth of daily stress.

This beautiful land is being threatened, however, by the growing population and development and by clear-cutting of timber. An organization that is taking the lead in preserving this treasure is The Tennessee Parks and Greenway Foundation. If it was not for this organization, many of the most beautiful sites in Tennessee would be lost. One reason this organization can be successful when state government cannot, is because they can act faster than the state government to save endangered sites. The wheels of government turn slow. By the time annual budgets are approve, legislation is passed, and studies are done, a threatened site is lost. TPGF can purchase the site and hold it until a state agency can purchase it. Also, TPGF has fewer bureaucratic processes to go through, so they can purchase sites at less cost than if purchased by the state, and since they are not in business to make a profit they can sell the property at a saving to the state of Tennessee.

TPGF operates on a shoe-string budget with low overhead and almost all the money donated to the foundation goes into purchasing endangered sites that have a natural feature worth preserving such as a waterfall or are home to an endangered species. In addition to purchasing property, TPGF saves the land by accepting donation of "construction easements" on property which limits future developments. In addition to the land that eventually goes into state hands in the form of state parks or wilderness areas, many farms will remain as farms or open space due to the owners voluntarily giving away their development rights. TPGF educates property owners on how they can bequest the beauty of the Cumberlands to future generations by placing these development restrictions on their property.

I am glad to see the natural beauty of the Cumberlands being preserved. Piece by piece, much of this beautiful mountain land is being saved. Kathleen Williams, Executive Director of The Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation is my sister. I am proud of her and the noble work she is doing. If you love the beauty of the Cumberlands or support the work of those that are saving our natural heritage you may wish to make a contribution to support this worth while organization.

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