Thursday, February 28, 2008

joseph Stiglitz and Why

The dollar hit a new low this week against the major currencies. A couple of weeks ago Bloomberg reported that the Taj Mahal wouldn’t accept the US dollar anymore and since then, other Indian tourist sites also no longer accept it. This trend is being repeated in other countries.

This may seem trivial, but ever since I was a child, the mighty dollar was the one currency one always had to have in one's pocket if one traveled. It was ubiquitously accepted by porters, hotels, taxi drivers and restaurants all over the world. That time is over as I hear form former colleagues, that in Afghanistan hotels prefer to be paid in Euros.

This country is in the middle of an economical nightmare with repercussions from the sub-prime meltdown sure to remain with us well into next year. Now, as The Australian reports, a leading economist and Nobel Prize Winner, Joseph Stiglitz, has laid the blame for the nation’s financial woes firmly at the feet of the Bush Administration naming the overrun in costs for the Iraq war as the fundamental cause for the pending recession:

"When the Bush administration went to war in Iraq it obviously didn't focus very much on the cost. Larry Lindsey, the chief economic adviser, said the cost was going to be between $US100billion and $US200 billion - and for that slight moment of quasi-honesty he was fired.
"(Then defence secretary Donald) Rumsfeld responded and said 'baloney', and the number the administration came up with was $US50 to $US60 billion. We have calculated that the cost was more like $US3 trillion. "


Stiglitz went on to say that the figure of $US 3 trillion is conservative and probably understated and that another $US 500 billion would be spent on fighting in Iraq in the coming two years, money that could have been better used

to improve the security and quality of life of Americans and the rest of the world.

To put the thing into perspective, Stiglitz mentioned that the money being spent on the Iraq war each week, was enough to wipe out illiteracy in the whole world and just a few days worth of the Iraq war would be enough to fund health insurance for every American child.

The damage Bush has done to the United States is barely fathomable, but it is certainly greater in an economical sense than the worst terrorist dirty bomb scenario one can think of.

Monday, February 25, 2008

New Look at The Surge

A devastating account from Iraq has been published in this month’s Rolling Stone magazine. Its entitled “The Myth of The Surge” and depicts the present situation in the country as a disastrous time bomb which will backfire badly. The six page article is a bleak but gripping description of Nir Rosen’s attempt to investigate the current situation there. It begins with a walk through Baghdad’s Dora district, once a thriving neighborhood of high end shops and apartment buildings.

This is what "victory" looks like in a once upscale neighborhood of Iraq: Lakes of mud and sewage fill the streets. Mountains of trash stagnate in the pungent liquid. Most of the windows in the sand-colored homes are broken, and the wind blows through them, whistling eerily. ….. Looming over the homes are twelve-foot-high security walls built by the Americans to separate warring factions and confine people to their own neighborhood. Emptied and destroyed by civil war, walled off by President Bush's much-heralded "surge," Dora feels more like a desolate, post-apocalyptic maze of concrete tunnels than a living, inhabited neighborhood. Apart from our footsteps, there is complete silence.

Rosen’s investigations describe how Petraeus’ attempt to bring some order to the chaos of Iraq has meant arming the very Sunnis that used to fight the Americans. Rosen accompanies one such group of Sunnis, members of the so-called ‘Awakening.’ He also witnesses the confused and befuddled attempts by the American troops to cash in on intelligence supplied by ‘The Awakening.’ In this example, Rosen is describing an arrest made by a relatively fresh platoon of US soldiers:

For most of them, this is as close to combat as they have gotten, and they're eager for action.

"Somebody move!" shouts one soldier. "I'm in the mood to hit somebody!"

Another soldier pushes a suspect against the wall. "You know Abu Ghraib?" he taunts.

The Iraqis do not resist — they are accustomed to such treatment. Raids by U.S. forces have become part of the daily routine in Iraq, a systematic form of violence imposed on an entire nation. A foreign military occupation is, by its very nature, a terrifying and brutal thing, and even the most innocuous American patrols inevitably involve terrorizing innocent Iraqi civilians. Every man in a market is rounded up and searched at gunpoint. Soldiers, their faces barely visible behind helmets and goggles, burst into a home late at night, rip the place apart looking for weapons, blindfold and handcuff the men as the children look on, whimpering and traumatized. ......

As the soldiers storm into nearby homes, the two men who had tipped off the Americans come up to me, thinking I am a military translator. They look bemused. The Americans, they tell me in Arabic, have got the wrong men. The eleven squatting in the courtyard are all Sunnis, not Shiites; some are even members of the Awakening and had helped identify the Mahdi Army suspects.

I try to tell the soldiers they've made a mistake — it looks like the Iraqis had been trying to connect a house to a generator — but the Americans don't listen. All they see are the wires on the ground: To them, that means the Iraqis must have been trying to lay an improvised explosive device. "If an IED is on the ground," one tells me, "we arrest everybody in a 100-meter radius." As the soldiers blindfold and handcuff the eleven Iraqis, the two tipsters look on, puzzled to see U.S. troops arresting their own allies.


The case Rosen makes is that in an effort to stabilize the country, one of the cornerstones of ‘The Surge’ is simply to buy off as many Iraqis as possible. Some estimates put the number of Iraqis under contract to the US army at over half a million men. This has been working in the short term but bodes ill for the future:

With American forces now arming both sides in the civil war, the violence in Iraq has once again started to escalate. In January, some 100 members of the new Sunni militias — whom the Americans have now taken to calling "the Sons of Iraq" — were assassinated in Baghdad and other urban areas.

Rosen’s main contact is a Sunni who openly professes anger at the Shiite policemen manning the roadblocks but he also spends time with Arkan, a member of the Iraqi police force:

"The situation won't get better," he says softly. An officer of the Iraqi National Police, a man charged with bringing peace to his country, he has been reduced to hiding in his van, unable to speak openly in the very neighborhood he patrols. Thanks to the surge, both the Shiites and the Sunnis now have weapons and legitimacy. And what can come of that, Arkan asks, except more fighting?

The article makes a great read and is a testament to the ever deeper hole that the United States is digging itself into in Iraq. The right may scoff at such an article and complain of media bias, but they will do it from the comfort of their living rooms across America, without really knowing and not really wanting to know the truth.

Don Siegelmann, Burning Houses and Censoreship

Many might remember the case of Don Siegelmann, the former Democratic Governor of Alabama who was prosecuted and subsequently jailed on corruption charges in 2006. He had been Governor from 1999 to 2003, when he was defeated by the Republican candidate Bob Riley by a margin of only 3,000 votes, a controversial result as a voting machine malfunction in a single county produced the votes needed to give Riley the election.

In June 2007, a Republican lawyer, Dana Jill Simpson of Rainsville, Alabama, signed a sworn statement that that Karl Rove was preparing to politically neutralize Siegelman with an investigation headed by the U.S. Department of Justice as far back as 2002. According to Simpson's statement, she was on a Republican campaign conference call in 2002 when she heard Bill Canary tell other campaign workers not to worry about Siegelman because Canary's "girls" and "Karl" would make sure the Justice Department pursued the Democrat so he was not a political threat in the future.

In September 2007, Simpson gave sworn testimony to the United States House Committee on the Judiciary regarding this issue including stating that Rove asked Simpson to attempt to take sexually compromising photographs of Siegelmann, which she was not able to do. The fact was, that the White House was directly involved in influencing the political outcomes of gubernatorial elections and showed direct White House involvement in federal prosecutions.

Dana Jill Simpson's house mysteriously caught fire after her congressional deposition.

CBS then started an investigation which was to produce a show on 60 minutes about the Don Siegelmann controversy. Allegedly CBS was told by the White House to back down and its journalists attacked in a widespread campaign on the web. CBS went ahead and finished filming the program. It aired last night but was mysteriously blacked out in parts of Alabama.
The local station blamed CBS and issued a press statement to that effect, but CBS denied having any transmission problems. The show aired flawlessly across the rest of the country. CBS maintains that the problem was with the local station WHNT-TV.

Who is WHNT-TV? The Raw Story tells us:

WHNT in Huntsville Alabama was purchased by Oak Hill Capital Partners from the New York Times Company early last year. Oak Hill is owned by the Bass brothers, Bush fundraisers at the "Pioneer" level – raising over $100,000 for the Bush-Cheney campaigns in both 2000 and 2004. Lee Bass is perhaps the best known member of the Bass family for his role in George W. Bush’s failed energy venture called Spectrum 7 and later for his bailing out of Harken Energy.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Back To The Light

This Year's Academy Award for Best Documentary went to Taxi To The Dark Side by Alex Gibney. The film presents an in-depth look at the torture practices of the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, focusing on an innocent taxi driver named Dilawar. Dilawar was beaten to death by American soldiers while being held in extrajudicial detention at the Bagram Air Base.

In receiving his Oscar, Alex Gibney said:

"This is dedicated to two people who are no longer with us, Dilawar, the young Afghan taxi driver, and my father, a navy interrogator who urged me to make this film because of his fury about what was being done to the rule of law. Let's hope we can turn this country around, move away from the dark side and back to the light."

Thank you Mr. Gibney for doing your part to do just that.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

From Pond Scum to Raw Sewage

Bill O’Reilly is pond scum. I think most people can agree on that. But even pond scum apparently can sink to new lows. The man who embarrassed himself after claiming to be surprised that “there was no difference in a restaurant being run by blacks” has now targeted Michelle Obama as Media Matters reports:

"I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels"

A lynching party? Please, where’s the right with it’s artificial morals calling for O’Reilly’s dismissal? I’m talking about the same right that attacked Kelly Tilghman when she made a gaffe regarding Tiger Woods. Only the difference is striking and it’s huge.

So if it turns out – because this is what Bill O’Reilly is saying – if it turns out that Michelle Obama really did not have respect for her country prior to her speech the other night, Mr. Falafel-Viagra wants to lynch her.

The guy is so out of bounds it isn’t funny but I’m sure the right, in their ever increasing capability to deny everything will find a way to exonerate instead of excoriate the guy. Yes, yesterday pond scum turned into raw sewage. A chemical miracle.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

An Era Ends

Fidel Castro has resigned as Cuba’s President after fifty years, making him the world’s longest ruling Head of State except for a couple of monarchies. It will signal a change in Cuban politics and a change in Cuban-American relations.

Castro has been a thorn in America’s side for decades. The United States’ embargo and sanctions which were imposed on Cuba crippled Cuba’s ability to create any form of functioning economy up until recent years when Europeans have funneled money for hotel and leisure resort projects to the island.

In contrast to the way many Americans who have never been to Cuba think, Cubans are not of the general opinion that Castro is a criminal, a dictator and most Cubans certainly do not hate him. During my two visits there in the 90’s, I witnessed that many Cubans were not only proud to be Cuban but proud that they, along with Castro, were resisting the intense pressure from the United States. Cubans loved ‘their old man.’ They told me stories about the Bay of Pigs and how they had beaten the United States.

The Raw Story reports:
"He will continue to be my commander in chief, he will continue to be my president," said Miriam, a 50-year-old boat worker waiting for the bus to Havana port. "But I'm not sad because he isn't leaving, and after 49 years he is finally resting a bit."


The sanctions had disastrous effects on the Cuban economy and the United States put pressure on its allies also not to accept Cuban goods. It’s a childish policy which only hurt the Cuban people, the same people America was purportedly trying to help. Despite that, Cuba had excellent schools, colleges and universities as well as excellent doctors and an amazing and of course free health system – if you ignore the fact that they were constantly short on medications.


We should consider what Cuba could have become had the sanctions not been imposed. Contrary to East Germany, which failed miserably as a socialist state, Cuba actually functioned very well mainly because many of its farmers remained autonomous. But the Cuban people, though poor, can now snub their noses at a long list of American Presidents from Kennedy to Bush, but especially to Bill Clinton, who allowed the embargo to be codified into law in 1992 as an attempt “to bring democracy to the Cuban people.”

It’s maybe time to consider that countries should really be allowed to choose for themselves when and how they change their governments. This story was one of the underdog that plainly beat the superpower.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

"It Was Wrong"

Those three words will resonate for a while throughout the United Kingdom, maybe throughout Europe, the West, maybe the world. “It was wrong” is how John Williams, former Foreign Office aide on Blair’s team and alleged author of the ‘sexed up dossier,’ refers to the contents of the well publicized memo that pretended that Saddam Hussein could launch a WMD strike in 45 minutes.

The Independent goes on to say that Williams explains that publication of the dossier will show that Tony Blair and his team were set on proving that Hussein was a threat and that the facts were twisted to fit the mindset.

"The argument was that here was someone who had been known to possess illegal weapons. We regarded him as a threat." He added: "The document will show the mindset that everyone had. It was wrong and we know that now."

But the damage had been done and Tony Blair, ever ready to throw himself behind the miracle of George W. Bush – the only fully functioning president entirely without a brain – made sure that the evidence was skewed so that military action was unavoidable.

“It was wrong,” is a sentence that carries with it the lives of many British soldiers. Having been wrong carries with it the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. It allowed the Bush Administration to set another brick in their wall of lies. It was a cornerstone of the Iraq war.

Williams says they were wrong, but what he infers is that they were deliberately wrong. The dossier was intended to spread fear into the populations of the West to allow its leaders to wage war. So many, so many fell for the fear-mongering and so many still do. It reinforces the idiom: ‘question everything’ and above all, question your government because its motives are not necessarily in your best interests.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Who Needs Forests?

Interested in seeing where a man’s interests lie? Look where he’s spending his cash. G.W. Bush’s latest budget is tight because lots and lots of money has to go to…..Iraq. Why? Because Iraq is ‘important.’ Where will the man get all this cash that goes to Iraq from? Well, he can’t raise taxes – that would be a no-no. He also can’t take it from his defense buddies and nor can he cut back the billions and billions in subsidies to the oil conglomerates because the poor, record profit conglomerates need the cash to pay the over-inflated bonuses of their fat cat bosses. The Raw Story reports that Bush is set on slashing the Forestry Service budget.

“Well look over here,” said Bush. “The forestry commission has a ton of cash - $4.43 billion to be exct. What the heck – I mean, what the blazes does a forest need cash for?” He exclaimed, scratching his head. “I know, let’s slash the forestry budget.”

“But s-sir..” stammered an aide. “Forestry fires destroyed $2.2 billion dollars worth of property and killed 10 people.”

“Ahh people shmeeple!” Said Bush. We’ll allocate more of the cash to fighting fires but reduce the budget overall.”

“Where should we divert the money from to increase the firefighting budget?” Asked the aide nervously.

“Let’s see…” said Bush, reading very, very slowly. “What’s this word here? Pree-venn-shun? Why’s there so much money allocated for that? We’ll just take it from there.”

“but sir-“ started the aide.

“No buts, son. We’ll reduce the budget for prevention. No butts – get it – no cigarette butts. Get it – cos they like – START the fires. Heh heh.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Justice Slime Bag

It’s hard to believe that a Supreme Court Justice can have such a poor understanding of his own country’s Constitution that he professes that the 8th amendment doesn’t apply to foreigners. Actually, what am I saying? Justice Scalia, Dick Cheney’s hunting buddy and probably Darth Vader’s ugly aborted twin is the pinnacle of Neoconservatism and by whom has the Constitution of the United States been completely forgotten, ignored, trashed and otherwise trampled over other than by the Neocons?

In a recent BBC Interview, Antonin Scum-Bag Scalia actually argues that torture may be legal! I’ll repeat that just to make sure we got it: Justice Scalia, a Supreme Court Judge, says that it may be legal to torture someone. Then please, can someone, somewhere, explain to me why we in the West have railed for years about other countries doing it and have invoked something called ‘Human Rights?’ I mean, what rights do humans have if it is permissible to torture them?

The first line of the German Constitution reads: “Die W├╝rde des Menschen ist unantastbar.”

A human being’s dignity is untouchable.

It is one of the most powerful lines of prose I have ever read and was written into the new German Constitution following WW II and as a result of the horrors that the Nazi regime inflicted on people. Untouchable. Not: untouchable except when you are drowning them. Not untouchable except when you are forcing them to wear women’s underwear on their heads and to make naked human pyramids although they haven’t done a thing to deserve it. Just ‘untouchable.’

Someone really needs to bang that phrase into the heads of Bush, Cheney, Scalia and the rest of the bizarro, uneducated, incompetent, ignorant as a pig’s bottom and generally uncivilized neoconservative pack.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Addressing a Syndrome

It’s frightening and very disconcerting to read. I’m talking about Democrats who say they support Obama and who say they’ll vote for McCain if Hillary Clinton gets the nomination. I’m baffled – and then again I’m not. This country somehow, by hook or by crook, managed to get the same criminal bozo elected to the Presidency twice in a row.

I was stunned when Bush was elected the first time. Well, OK, he wasn’t – his Supreme Court buddies and Katherine strip-the-minorities-of-their-vote zombie-ninja-bride Harris stole the election for him along with his golfing pals at Diebold. But in the 2004 election, Bush actually got what would seem like the popular vote. I didn’t understand how that could happen…

But now I see Democrats lining up to thwart a Clinton Presidency if Obama doesn’t get nominated. Wake up people! John McCain is the hundred-years-war man. He’s the “bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” guy. He’s the antithesis of the person who might have a chance to repair the cracks and fissures that have developed not only within this country, but between this country and the rest of the world.

Hillary Clinton would be a polarizing figure. Hillary Clinton would be attacked by Republicans. She is not as enticingly innocent as Obama. But is that a reason to abandon the chance of steering this country back on course? Is that a reason to take away the hope of universal health care? Does it make sense to throw away the opportunity of raising America's credibility and stature in the world?

McCain will certainly do neither the first, nor can he offer the second and is certain to do the opposite of the last. McCain is determined to live up to the expectations of the Neocons. By voting McCain, one might as well give the present presidential cretin a third term and be done with it. At least we can laugh at his continuous stream of pronunciation errors.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

You Don't Have to Destroy a Country For That

How angry would it make you to know that despite your best efforts and uncompromised testimony someone destroyed your home believing you to be hiding contraband. How angry would you be if they did it to your whole town? What about your whole country?

The Daily Star reports that Saad Tawfiq, one of Saddam’s known leading scientists, told the CIA in no uncertain terms as early as 2002 that Saddam Hussein no longer had any WMDs or WMD programs.

Via his sister, who was approached by the CIA, Tawfiq replied to twenty questions about Iraq’s weapons systems and capabilities.

'There is nothing. Tell them there is nothing, absolutely nothing. They have left us with nothing,'" Tawfiq said. "She was taking notes. There were 20 major questions, and to all of them the answer was: 'No, no, no ...' I kept swearing on the grave of my mother."

But the CIA chose to ignore Saad and instead go with the evidence provided by an unemployed taxi driver who was code named curveball. On his testimony, Colin Powell went before the United Nations and gave the world the show the Neocons wanted.

Tawfiq saw the Colin Powell extravaganza.

"When I saw Colin Powell, I started crying - immediately. I knew I had tried and lost," Tawfiq told AFP five years later in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

The CIA said that Saad Tawfiq’s reports were not ignored but were contradicted, so that there was a chance that he was not telling the truth. So the Bush administration was told in no uncertain terms by a leading Iraqi scientist that Saddam’s WMDs had all been destroyed and yet they decided nonetheless to invade Iraq. I don’t find that acceptable even if there was a chance that some programs had not been stopped. As Saad Tawfiq himself says:

"You don't have to destroy a country for that."



It’s so clear that Bush and his Administration are simply war criminals and on this day, this super Tuesday, I can only hope that this country will be given a chance to right the wrongs of the past Neocon regime in the upcoming election.

The Turning Tide?

I've been pretty certain so far, that Hillary Clinton will become the Democratic nominee and that she will then be elected President by the people of the United States. I personally wouldn't have any qualms about that except that she would be about as polarizing as Bush was. But my feeling was simply that there was a wider base that would support her.

My observations of the current election, bar the news come from a very, very small part of the country. In two relatively well off precincts in Oakland and Berkeley, I had in the past weeks noticed that about 25% of the houses had Clinton signs in the front yards, about 5% Kucinich signs, about 5% signs for Edwards and about 15% had Obama signs.

Yesterday, returning to both those areas - in the line of work and not as a scientific attempt at polling - I noticed that about 40% of the houses had signs that read: 'Obama for President.'I'm pretty sure that the number of houses with signs for Clinton had diminished but certainly, every other house almost had a sign supporting Barack Obama.

I appreciate that there's nothing accurate about this and it by no means reflects the entire country, but maybe it does signify a reversal as more people turn to the hope that real change will come. On this day, 'Super Tuesday', it will be certainly very interesting to see the vote distribution. There are so many factors involved with so many ghosts riding this wave - how many women will vote for Hillary because she's a woman and how many women will do exactly the opposite? Internalized oppression leads to strange choices and the same can be said for Barack. It is almost impossible to really predict how people will vote. D, an African female friend wanted to vote for Edwards! She will probably be voting for Obama she said. Either way, when the votes are cast, these primaries and the coming election will be electrifying. For the first time in the history of this country, either a woman or an African American will be the Democratic nominee.

I am convinced that one of those two will be the next President of the United States and that in itself and of itself, will be an incredible victory over prejudice and chauvenism and will mark a new era in this country.

Having read many posts here about the candidates, I've come to appreciate that Clinton, who will most certainly alienate the right despite being pretty conservative, may not be the best choice for America, but maybe, truly, the one person who can bring this country together again is indeed Barack Obama.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Road Map to Oblivion

Jimmy Carter should probably be best remembered for his historic role in 1979, in creating the unthinkable; in producing a miracle: peace between Israel and Egypt. It was a spectacular diplomatic coup which earned him the Nobel Prize for peace and deservedly so. Fourteen years later, after fourteen years of Republicans in the White House that is, after fourteen years of unrest in the Middle East, William J. Clinton stunned the world by achieving what no one could possibly imagine: a handshake between Yassir Aarafat and Yitzak Rabin. It was a historic moment and was the first sign that peace between the Israelis and Palestinians was possible in some form.

Ten years later, George W. Bush unveiled his ‘Road Map to Peace’ in the Middle East. Since then, the Middle East has been plunged into new dark ages. It’s like watching a bad film.

- Lebanon’s tenuous peace after years of civil war began to break down. Rafik Hariri was assassinated.
- The Darfur bloodshed began.
- Iraq was invaded causing four million Iraqis to flee their country and seek homes elsewhere.
- A new cold war began with Iran
- A war was prosecuted between Israel and Hezbollah
- The Palestinians have split into two factions and talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis have broken down completely.

Not much of a road map – more of a recipe for disaster. The situation in Israel has become extremely dire. With the rest of the world focused on the American elections, the devolving situation in Afghanistan and the continuing disaster in Iraq, few people have time to cast a glance towards the so-called “Holy Land.”

A quick scan of Ynews.net reveals these two disturbing articles:

Residents of the West Bank village of Azun, near Qalqilya, discovered on Friday morning that someone had hung leaflets outside their houses and on their mosques, warning them to stop hurling stones at IDF forces, or else the soldiers would fire at them and close down their businesses.


As it turns out, the leaflets were hung by a soldier acting on his own accord. However few there doubt that the threat would have been carried out.

The next piece of news was regarding the protest march which took place yesterday:

Thousands of people took part Friday in a protest march in the Arab city of Sakhnin in northern Israel following Attorney General Menachem Mazuz's decision not to indict the police officers involved in the October 2000 riots, which left 13 Israeli Arabs dead.

The police officers should have been indicted – there was at the time a clear violation of rules and an excessive use of force. This was a unanimous feeling amongst the independent observers at the time. The West, which severely criticized Chavez and his government for opening fire on demonstrators, has been extremely quiet about this incident.

The Kuwait News Agency issued this report:

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Feb 1 (KUNA) -- Israel Defense Forces (IDF) shot and wounded five Palestinian mourners during a funeral in Beit Amer, north Al-Khalil, or Hebron, south the West Bank, Friday.

These three incidents have to be taken within the context of the Gaza lockdown which has left dozens dead and thousands without food, water or electricity. The recent breach of the Gaza wall into Egypt has alleviated much of the pressure within Gaza but is of course not a solution. Not unless, that is, someone actually wants the Palestinians driven out of there. Having turned it into one of the most inhospitable places to live, not entirely unaided by a thoroughly corrupt Palestinian sub-government and George Bush’s passive stance with regards to the region, Israel is on the way to destroying the foundation of what once was a promising peace process.