US General Haig dies


Alexander Haig was President’s Chief of Staff during the Watergate scandal. This video from the USA is called The Watergate Scandal: Timeline and Background.

From Wikipedia:

Alexander Meigs Haig, Jr. (December 2, 1924–February 20, 2010) was a retired United States Army general who served as the United States Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan and White House Chief of Staff under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. In 1973 Haig served as Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, the number-two ranking officer in the Army. Haig served as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, commanding all U.S. and NATO forces in Europe.

Haig, a veteran of the Korean War and Vietnam War, was a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star with oak leaf cluster, and the Purple Heart.

On February 20, 2010 news reports indicated that Haig had died from complications from an infection after being hospitalized since January 28 in critical condition at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

Though, like with other people who die, this obviously is a sad day for the relatives and friends of Alexander Haig, this should not lead to any concessions to the Rightist militarist policies which Haig stood for.

On the contrary, one should hope that now when NATO‘s ex Commander has died, the aggressive and expensive NATO alliance itself will die soon.

Alexander Haig was a trailblazer for a modern reactionary type, the political general, who crosses over from the uniformed military to high political office. Haig played a central role during two critical periods for American imperialism: as Nixon’s White House chief of staff in 1973-74, and Reagan’s secretary of state in 1981-82: here.

Chomsky is trying to rescue crimes from the memory-hole, so we can remember them. In his new book, for example, he explains that Ronald Reagan — the great hero of the American right — was a champion of jihadism: here.

Wigeon and kestrel


Today, to the park to the south east of the city.

Much of the water is still frozen. In a waterhole three male wigeon and one female, one male mallard, and a coot.

In another waterhole a few more of these three species.

Two buzzards circling in the air. A kestrel.

At the grey heron colony, the birds are already building their nests.

In a meadow: scores of grey lag geese, about ten Canada geese, and scores of gadwall ducks.

This is a gadwall video.

A male pheasant in the forest. Snowdrops coming just out of the forest floor.

The canals where we saw so many wigeon a few months ago are frozen. However, a bit further they are open, and there we see big groups of wigeon. Also many coots and a few great cormorants.

A kestrel, hovering. Then, it dives to the ground and catches a prey (a vole??). The kestrel flies to a fence to sit down for its meal.

On our way back, a ring-necked parakeet flying over the city center.

Afghanistan war brings down Dutch government


This is a video of Afghan refugees demonstrating in The Hague, the Netherlands, against the Dutch government’s anti-Afghan refugee and pro-war policies.

From Associated Press:

Dutch govt collapses over Afghan mission

ARTHUR MAX

February 20, 2010 – 5:19PM

The Dutch coalition government collapsed on Saturday over irreconcilable differences on whether to extend the Netherlands’ military mission in Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende announced that the second largest party in his three-party alliance is quitting, in a breakdown of trust in what had always been an uneasy partnership.

Balkenende made no mention of elections as he spoke to reporters after a 16-hour Cabinet meeting in The Hague that ended close to dawn.

However, the resignation of the Labour Party would leave his government with an unworkable majority, and political analysts said early elections appeared inevitable.

Balkenende said his Christian Democratic Alliance would continue in office together with the small Christian Union, and would “make available” Labour’s cabinet seats. But he did not spell out his intentions.

The coalition, elected to a four-year term, marks its third year in office on Monday.

“Where there is no trust, it is difficult to work together. There is no road along which this cabinet to go further,” Balkenende said.

The political outcome also left uncertainty over the fate of the 1600 Dutch soldiers in the southern Afghan province of Oruzgan, where they were deployed in 2006 for a two-year stint that was extended until next August.

Labour demanded that Dutch troops leave Oruzgan as scheduled. Balkenende’s Christian Democratic Alliance wanted to keep a trimmed down military presence in the restive province, where 21 soldiers have been killed.

“A plan was agreed to when our soldiers went to Afghanistan,” said Labour Party leader Wouter Bos. “Our partners in the government didn’t want to stick to that plan, and on the basis of their refusal we have decided to resign from this government.”

NATO recently sent a letter to the government asking if it would consider staying longer at “Kamp Holland”, where many Australians troops were also stationed – a move that the Western alliance normally would do only if it had a clear signal of agreement.

“The future of the mission of our soldiers in Afghanistan will now be in the hands of the new Cabinet,” said Deputy Defence Minister Jack de Vries.

The split came after a buildup of tension over several weeks between Balkenende and Bos, the finance minister, mainly over Afghanistan and the government’s earlier political support for the war in Iraq.

“This is the end of this cabinet,” said Andre Rouvoet, leader of the third coalition party. He said Queen Beatrix, Holland’s ceremonial head of state who will formally accept the resignations of the Labour ministers on Saturday, “will ask the remaining ministers to prepare for elections.”

It was an uncomfortable alliance of convenience from the start, with … Balkenende and Bos exchanging unusually sharp barbs during the 2006 election campaign.

The acrimony surfaced again during a parliamentary debate on Thursday over Afghanistan, with the two government leaders in open discord in the face of concerted attacks by the opposition parties.

Opinion polls suggest the Afghan war is deeply unpopular. Labour, which has been dropping in the polls, appeared determined to take a stand with next month’s scheduled local elections in mind.

Bert Koenders, the Labour minister for overseas development aid, said his party was abiding by the government’s promise when it prolonged the Afghanistan mission last time – that it would be the last extension.

“We are sticking the Cabinet decision of two years ago,” he said.

An election within the next few months could see a further rise in power of the extreme anti-immigrant populist Geert Wilders, whose ranking in the polls rivals Balkenende’s.

Balkenende has been prime minister since 2002, but he resigned twice before because of the country’s fractious political alignments.

See also here.

The Netherlands is to hold a general election on 9 June, following the government’s collapse at the weekend in a row over Afghanistan: here.