Mind and Destiny

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard ... I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”- Frederick Douglass

Name:
Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Tough Questions

Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand will be on the House Armed Services Committee and is prepared to ask “tough questions” about a new policy for Iraq. I have a few very “tough” questions for the Armed Services Committee:

1. Bush advisers Condaleeza Rice, Henry Kissinger and our generals are saying that there is no military solution, shouldn’t we be asking: What are the troops doing in Iraq?

2. We have $70 billion in the pipeline, which was appropriated three months ago, which should be used to bring the troops home. Democrats were planning to approve a supplemental of $160 billion, which would allow the war to continue through the end of Bush’s term. However, in November voters put Democrats in power to bring our troops home. Why aren’t Democrats notifying Bush that they will be voting against that $160 billion appropriations bill?

3. Smedley Butler was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor twice for separate acts of outstanding heroism. In his illuminating 1933 speech, Butler said: “War is a racket... I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”
Isn’t Butler’s speech unmistakably applicable to the war in Iraq?

4. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Shelton has said: “The American military is a great hammer but every problem in the world is not necessarily a nail.” How many more years are we going tolerate our troops dying in a situation, which isn’t working? 

5. “How do you ask a man to be the last to die for a mistake”?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Larger Military

We don’t have enough troops for the wars being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is considering permanently increasing the size of the Army and Marine Corps.

In the last five years, 25,000 soldiers have been added, but commanders want to add as many as 50,000 more troops. Army Chief of Staff, General Peter Schoomacker reports: “Optimistically, we could add 6 to 7,000 soldiers per year, but then they must be trained.”

There's 10 to 12 weeks in boot camp, followed by 12 weeks of specialized training in whatever weapons capability one is going to become an expert in. It will cost $13,000 to recruit a single soldier and $1.2 billion a year to pay for salaries and training for every 10,000 troops. It’s impossible to predict what the new tanks, helicopters and humvees might cost.

Apparently, the Bush administration's new policy is to support a larger Army and Marine Corps. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld resisted all appeals to increase the size of our military for the past six years. Perhaps, Bush and Rumsfeld resisted increases in the military because it would have signaled that we weren't doing as well as they had claimed we were doing. Rumsfeld thought that the mission could be accomplished with a smaller, leaner Army, and a smaller, more high-tech Marine Corps.

Some in Congress felt that our over stretched Army and Marines were given a mission, which wasn’t achievable. Democrats in Congress made an effort in recent years to increase the size of our military, but were stonewalled by the Bush regime.

The incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan says that it will not be cheap, but it's needed. Levin believes the most important thing we can do is to move our forces out of Iraq, which will help reduce some of the pressure on our military.

Friday, December 29, 2006

"Gangster for Capitalism"

In 1941, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandise said: “We can have a democratic society, or we can have the concentration of great wealth in the hands of the few. We cannot have both”.

It was a very happy holiday for some Wall Street executives, who are enjoying record bonuses this year. Reportedly, Goldman Sachs' CEO Lloyd Blankfine is getting a bonus of more than $53 million. Blankfine’s bonus broke the record set the week before of a $40 million bonus given to Morgan Stanley's CEO John Mack. It is estimated that Wall Street is dolling out 24 billion this year, which equals the Gross Domestic Product of countries like Qatar and Panama.

Gostavo Dolfino of the Whiterock group runs a recruiting firm that places mid to top level people in the financial industry. He says the average bonus for his clients is between $4 and $7 million. These investment bankers are millionaires already, but Dolfino claims that it’s not excessive and feels that the bonuses are well-deserved.

Many on Wall Street say profits are fueled by a strong market, mergers and acquisitions and growth in places like Asia. Nevertheless, these bonuses call into question whether we want a society in which the very top people make so much more than everybody else.

The attack on 9/11, and the invasion of Iraq were the result of unfettered capitalism’s relationship with the military industrial complex.

I’m again reminded of Major General Smedley Butlers 1933 speech entitled: “War is a Racket”, in which he points out: “I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Bush's Legacy

A new opinion poll reports public support for the war in Iraq has fallen to a new low. Only 31 percent of voters favor the war in Iraq.

Our troops in Iraq have been overextended. We sent them into Iraq with inadequate equipment, and have sent some units back as many as five times. Our military doesn’t have an achievable mission. We have already tried sending more troops into Baghdad to quell the sectarian violence, but things have gotten worse. We must redeploy our troops out of Iraq, because they’ve done everything asked of them.

The mission hasn’t been defined and it's not getting better. When, we leave there'll be some instability, but Iraqis will have to deal with the civil war themselves. Al Qaeda represents only about a thousand enemy combatants and the Iraqis are more than capable of dealing with them on their own.

Our militarily has lost the war in Iraq, because it can no longer be won militarily. Bush’s new defense secretary, Robert Gates claims that failure in Iraq: "would be a calamity." They insist that if our troops were pulled out, it would be considered a military defeat and would be a horrible signal to the rest of the region. Pulling out of Iraq should be seen as a victory for America voters, who have seen enough of the politics of fear.

The Bush regime falsely claimed an al Qaeda connection and weapons of mass destruction. They claimed the goal was to topple Saddam Hussein and spread democracy, but that was never the mission. The reason, we went into Iraq, and not Cuba, was they have oil. Propagandist are again attempting to deceive Americans. We are expected to value the judgment of the same unaccountable political leadership, that got us into Iraq.

Our military can not stop this civil war, because if we ever had an opportunity to stabilize Iraq we’ve missed it. America’s best interests will be served by getting our troops fully redeployed out of Iraq as soon as possible.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Indifference

Some of America’s most honored civilian and military leaders have proven to be derelict in their duty to the troops that are fighting in Iraq. Unfortunately, none have been held accountable for their incompetence and deceit. Nearly 3,000 American families have lost a son, daughter, spouse and close relative or friend to the senseless war in Iraq. Nevertheless, it’s business as usual. Where is the accountability? Where is the rage?

Rep. Charles Rangel proposed that the draft be reinstated. He suggest that politicians would be more reluctant to take our country to war if they understood that their constituents might be called up to fight. There was uniform opposition to Rangel’s proposal and it never provoked even a brief discussion of the responsibilities and obligations of ordinary Americans in a time of war.

Without a personal stake in the war in Iraq, most Americans are indifferent to its consequences. This widespread indifference enables most Americans to go about their daily lives completely unconcerned about the death and destruction occurring ever day. The vast majority of young Americans don’t want anything to do with the military. Consequently, the burden of fighting has fallen on a small cadre of volunteers who are being sent into the war zone again and again.

There is no acceptance of collective sacrifice in this war, no shared burden of responsibility. The troops in Iraq are fighting, suffering and dying in a war in which there are no clear objectives and no end in sight. The vast majority of Americans are grossly indifferent to the ongoing slaughter being perpetrated in their name. So far over 10,000 men and women have returned home physically and emotionally maimed. This month alone, 100 Americans died pointlessly, while the rest of us went shopping.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Nuclear Nonproliferation

On 12/18/06, Bush reversed a 30-year policy by signing into law, one last bill passed by the outgoing Congress, which allows the sharing of civilian nuclear technology with India. He signed the bill, despite India's refusal to sign the Nuclear nonproliferation Treaty.

The U.S.-India nuclear deal allows India to receive access to civilian nuclear energy and technology. Bush claims: “This cooperation will help the people of India produce more of their energy from clean, safe nuclear power. And that, in turn, will help their economy grow.”

Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts states: “It's a terrible signal for the Bush administration to be sending to Iran, to North Korea, to Pakistan, and to other countries, that it's willing to give India a pass on nuclear nonproliferation issues, while expecting those other countries to abide by them.”

Under the terms of the agreement, India will allow international inspectors to visit 14 civilian nuclear plants. However, nearly a dozen other reactors are not subject to inspection. The deal is strictly for nuclear energy, not nuclear weapons, but critics say it will still allow India to increase production of nuclear bombs.

Joseph Cirincione, Senior Vice President for the Center for American Progress insists. “India has a limited indigenous supply of uranium. But the U.S. is now going to sell them uranium that they could use for power production, freeing up their own resources to make bombs. We estimate that, currently, India makes about six to ten bombs worth of uranium a year. They could triple that, to over 20 to 30 bombs per year.”

Another point of contention is that India has close ties to Iran. The nuclear cooperation agreement places few restrictions on India's exports of civilian nuclear technology. Arms dealers and “defense” contractors are among the biggest lobbyists pushing for this deal. They're hoping to cash in, not just selling nuclear technology to India, but also hoping that this will make India more receptive to buying U.S. warplanes and defense goods. In many ways arms dealers are more despicable than drug dealers.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas 2006

Christmas 2006 by John Ryan

It’s now the season of Advent, a season of waiting, a time of anticipation, awaiting the arrival of him who is to come. The Gospel readings for this period are a study in contrasts - destruction and rebuilding, devastation and renewal, suffering and rejoicing - the old yielding to the new.

So we wait, as we have been waiting for some 2,000 years, for the fulfillment of the prophecies - the renewal, joy, and peace that were to come with the birth of the babe.

There are those who will tell us that this is all high sentiment and wishful thinking, that it has little to do with the reality of life and they present a strong argument to justify their point of view. For what has been achieved in 2,000 years? The child grew up only to suffer, to be abused and to be sent into an early and ignominious grave. Despite his efforts, the world changed little - wars, plagues and famines continue. It’s business as usual. If the Lord intended to bring about a change, He did quite a poor job of it.

But we continue to wait, knowing that the failure is not the Lord’s but is ours, that we still don’t understand the reality of existence that Jesus showed us, that we still put our faith in the things of this world rather than in what can come to be. As a nation we say, "In God We Trust" but we really don’t believe it. Considering where we put our money, it appears that we have more faith in hardware - Abrams tanks, Stealth fighters, Nimitz carriers - all the accourtrements of war with which we hope to find "security." Yet, despite the trillions spent, we still send off our young people to fight and fall in foreign lands, we still live in uncertainty and fear. We should see that such security is a phantom but, still, we continue to squander more and more of our wealth and blood pursuing this will-o’-the-wisp.

I remember in my army days, my regimental chaplain gave me a small, GI-issue prayer book. On it’s cover was printed, "Pro Deo et Pro Patria" (For God and Country). At the time (I was only nineteen), it never occurred to me that there could be a conflict between the two for America was the beacon on the hill, the land good and true. If growing up is losing your illusions, I was an adolescent much longer than I should have been for I supported the folly of peace through guns for far too long.

At one time or another, we all go astray, forgetting what we are called to be. So, each year, Jesus comes to us anew to show us the way, to try to make clear to us once again where real life lies, to offer us another chance to hear the words of understanding.

So we must wait. We must pull away from the tinsel and tumult, the manufactured merriment and wait for his words to grow in our hearts and minds just as the child developed and matured in Mary’s womb, for, as with motherhood, nothing of value comes into being without a period of quiet incubation.

It occurs to me that Jesus’ life can be seen as representative of our life in the world - birth, suffering, and death - leading to the fullness of life. And there must be death before there can be real life, death to our old ways - indifference, self-interest, apathy, self-righteousness. We must put down our weapons and become aware that we are called to be his instruments - to care for the sick, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked. It is in this way that we bring his peace into the world. Otherwise, Jesus’ suffering will continue with each child who starves in Darfur, each man and woman who dies in the streets of Baghdad, each Palestinian and Israeli who perishes in Gaza or Jerusalem. The suffering and destruction will go on until, like Mary, we can say, "Yes" to life, to the way of Jesus, to the way of Peace.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Common Good.

Pastor Rick Warren author of “The Purpose-Driven Life” invited Illinois Democratic Senator Barack Obama to his California mega-church.

Wiley Drake of the Southern Baptist Convention was critical of Warren because of Obama’s support for abortion rights. Drake claims: "You can't work together with people totally opposed to what you are. This kind of conference is just going to lead people astray."

Many conservatives were outraged because they adamantly oppose Obama’s support of abortion, gay rights and embryonic stem cell research. Warren a conservative refused to bow to pressure and summarized the conference as: “You've seen the face of compassionate conservatism and the face of compassionate liberalism. What we have in common is compassion.”

Conceivably, politics won't be the most important thing to Evangelicals anymore. It will be more about what they see as their Christian mission. Issues that include poverty, aids in Africa, and concern about the environment have become more important. Warren says his goal is to restore responsibility in people and credibility in churches.

Pastor Warren considers Barack Obama to be an amazing man that has the potential to be the president of the United States. He thinks both conservative Senator Brownback and liberal Senator Obama have good character, and the reason he invited them is that they'll tell the truth. He appreciates that they are men of civility. Warren insists that we need to return to civility, which requires that, I treat you with respect even if I violently disagree with you.

Warren insists: “We need to elect a people, who have the ability to draw people from different sides, even people who disagree with you, and work for the greater good. We should be working for the common good of our society, rather than appealing to a simple base, because base politics is out of date.”

Saturday, December 23, 2006

"A Fool's Errand"

The number of insurgent attacks on our troops keeps rising as chaos grow across Iraq. Bush is considering an increase of 20,000 to 30,000 troops in Baghdad. This plan appears to be at odds with military leaders. 
 
Last month, General John Abizaid the top commander for Iraq dismissed the idea that sectarian violence can be stopped by increasing American troop level. Furthermore, Abizaid testified that he had spoken with every division commander in Iraq and they all agreed with him. Retired Gen. Barry McCaffery said that putting another 20,000 or 30,000 troops, particularly into urban combat in a city of seven million Arabs such as Baghdad, is a “fool’s errand.” 

This summer, when the Bush ordered more soldiers into Baghdad, the Army was strained even further, and the sectarian violence increased. Most military experts say the focus right now should be on beefing up Iraqi security forces, not on letting them off the hook with another increase in American troops. 

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell says that the U.S. Army is “about broken.” Presently, combat logistics missions in Iraq are being carried out with help by U.S. airmen and Navy sailors.  In other words, the Air Force and Navy are being “cannibalized” in some cases to help sustain the war effort.

Military’s equipment is breaking down in Iraq, because it was not designed for desert warfare. Equipment originally designed to be used for a whole year is being overuse in a week.

On top of all of this, a lot of equipment is being destroyed, by increasing hostile attacks. A Pentagon report found there are now more attacks on our military than at any time since the war began.  Attacks average, 93 per day, which is more than double a year ago.

The report found that Iraqi police have been complicit in the sectarian killings, allowing Shiite death squads to roam freely and warning them of our military missions in the area. 

Friday, December 22, 2006

Winter Solstice

The word solstice is from the Latin sol meaning sun, and the word sistere, meaning to stand still. As an optimist, I look forward to this day every winter, because sunrise will occur no later in the morning and sunset will occur a little later every evening. It’s encouraging to know that sixteen hours of daylight is on the way.

William F. Roberts has been writing letters to area newspapers for the past 40 years. His most recently letter in the Oneonta Star provides a historical and social commentary for this time of year.

Mr. Roberts wrote: “If asked why an atheist like myself celebrates ‘Christmas,’ my answer would be the time around the winter solstice has been one of festivities in many cultures for centuries. One could say, today, there are several ‘Christmases.’ The observances thereof blend elements from some of those cultures.

1. Commercial Christmas: The sights and sounds of this Christmas begin assailing our senses while the Thanksgiving turkey is still roasting.

2. Christian Christmas: This is the Christmas of Nativity scenes, special church services and of many avowed ‘Christians’ behaving more like real Christians than they do for most of the year.

3. Santa Claus Christmas: The Santa persona evolved from a gift-bearing folk figure, known variously since as Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Saint Nicholas.

4. Christmas Tree Christmas: Trees, particularly the oak, were objects of reverence by the religious sect known as Druids, extant in parts of Europe, including part of Britain; Wales in particular.

So, I say ‘Merry Christmas!’ whatever the politically correctors say (though, in my Druid mind), it may translate as ‘have a good winter solstice’.”

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Food Safety

Recently, an outbreak of e-coli bacteria made more than 60 people ill and shut down Taco Bells all over the country. Several other outbreaks in recent months have brought calls for tougher regulation of the nation's food supply. It appears that there has been a collapse of the food safety system in America.

Each year, 75 million Americans get sick because of unsafe food. As many as 5,000 of those people die and more than 300,000 are hospitalized. Things have gotten so bad that companies like Taco Bell have taken the very unusual step of asking for government regulation.

Sen. Charles Schumer of N.Y. said: “Unless we overhaul our nation’s tracing and monitoring procedures, the FDA and the other agencies in charge will continue to act like a pack of blind mice.”

Democratic Congresswoman Rosa Delauro of Connecticut is the ranking member of the House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee and co- chair of the Congressional Food Safety Caucus. Rep. Delauro believes that we need to restore the oversight capacity of the federal agencies that deal with food safety. Our government is charged with protecting public health, and they’re no longer doing the job that they’ve been charged to do.

The Food and Drug Administration has about 2,000 inspectors to look at about 80 percent of our total food supply in this country. We’ve been importing more of our food, but only about one percent is inspected. Today, we have 12 different agencies that are looking at food safety. Perhaps lettuce or cheese caused the Taco Bell’s e-coli bacteria problem, but lettuce is regulated by FDA, and cheese by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A year and a half ago, Democrats introduced a Safe Food Act, but Republicans were too busy with flag burning and a ban on gay marriage legislation. Early, next year Rep. Delauro, Senator Schumer and Senator Durbin intend to reintroduce that food safety legislation, which would create a single federal agency responsible for food safety monitoring.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

War is a Racket

Legendary Marine Corps officer Smedley Butler was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor twice for separate acts of outstanding heroism.  The following remarks were extracted from a speech, Butler delivered in 1933.

“War is just a racket.  A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people.  Only a small inside group knows what it is about.  It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.

"The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent.  Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.

"I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. ... I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps.  I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General.  And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers.  In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. ...

"I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914.  I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in.  I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street.  The record of racketeering is long.  I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912.  I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916.  In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

"Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints.  The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Moving Forward

In 1846, Abraham Lincoln wrote: “Allow the president to invade a nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purposes and you allow him to make war at pleasure. Study to see if you can fix any limit to his powers, after you have given him so much.”

In a press conference Bush and Prime Minister Blair used “forward” and “moving forward,” two dozen times. This demonstrates that they have no interest in looking back and examining their mismanaged, preemptive, premeditated, avarice and imperialistic war. Moving forward will result in continued occupation of an oil rich Muslim country.

Recent polls found that 70% of Americans want the new Congress to pressure Bush to start bringing the troops home from Iraq within the next six months. Our current political leadership is no longer worthy of respect. This war makes our military mercenaries for oil conglomerates and devalues the lives of our troops. Congress has only two options, either cut off funding or impeachment.

Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich believes that it’s hypocritical for elected officials to say they're against the war, while at the same time voting to fund it. He wants Congress to cut off future funding for the war and force Bush to bring our troops home. Kucinich points out that $70 billion was appropriated in October, which can be used to bring the troops home.

Some cynical Democrats, apparently subscribed to the old political saying: “When you’re opponent’s digging himself into a hole, you don’t ask to borrow his shovel.” That attitude will result in the continued digging of graves for the bodies of brave Americans for two more years.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Abysmal Graduation Rates

Thirty years ago, America could claim a 33 percent of the college students in the world. Today, America has only 14 percent of college students. Other countries are educating their populations, because they recognize that a highly skilled work force helps them competitively.

Our graduation rates are abysmal and very few students are making it through the entire educational process, by completing college. If we're going to maintain our standard of living, we've got to have the skills to compete with a higher quality workforce that is educated and trained.

Marc Tucker, vice chairman and staff director of the “Commission on the Skills for the American Workforce” reports: “We have the highest dropout rate in the industrialized world. In order to get those rates up, there are a lot of things we have to do.”

Recommendations include national examinations to set higher standards for college-bound students, recruiting teachers and paying them $95,000 a year. Currently, the average teacher is making half that amount. That kind of salary would revolutionize teaching and attract many more highly qualified teachers. We have to attract the best teachers in the world, by recruiting teachers from the top third of the young people coming out of high school.

The report recommends creating high performance schools and universal early childhood education for three and four year olds and encourage some students to move on to college courses at sixteen.

Some educators report that our top students are competitive globally with other industrialized countries, but poor students fall off dramatically. We don't do as well as other countries in overcoming the effects of poverty on educational outcomes.

We need to provide a much higher quality of early childhood education to all our children, but especially to the children, who are arriving at kindergarten with half the vocabulary of their better-off counterparts.

We must find a way to equalize a very inequitable funding system in the United States so that the schools that serve the children, who need us most have the resources required to get up to the highest standards in the world, which are the standards they're going need to achieve.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Restore Hope

"I'm for the minimum wage raise because I need the extra money to pay for rising gas prices and other bills. I'm being paid $6.53 an hour, but all I got is a four cents an hour raise in almost two years. I'm a Republican, but I've had enough of being paid too low for working hard like a beaver. My wife and I deserve a better life." -- Mark R., Evansville, Indiana.

The concept is as simple as it is American: a fair wage for an honest day's work. Our economy is built on that promise, but it hasn't been kept for nine years. In that time, the cost of living has soared, our nation's working families have suffered, and the Republican Congress gave itself annual pay raises totaling almost $35,000.

Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Missouri, Nevada and Ohio passed measures on election day to raise their state minimum wage far above the disgraceful $5.15 an hour federal level. Now that Democrats have control of Congress, their top priority is to restore the economic promise of America by raising the federal minimum wage as well.

Even though Democrats are in control of the House and Senate, Republicans will try anything to block this important increase. Eighty-six percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage, and Democrats intend to pass it as soon as possible.

Millions of working Americans are living in poverty today, forced to make impossible choices between buying food or buying prescription drugs. Between paying the rent or paying the heating bill.

It's time to restore the faith that America works for all our people, not just the rich and powerful. It’s time for Congress to reject this economic injustice that divides our people, and weakens our country. It’s time for Congress to be a strong voice for the powerless and restore hope for working families.

To insure faith in America and that economic injustice will not occur again, all pay raises for members of Congress should require a corresponding percentage increase in the minimum wage.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Held Accountable

Until recently, Republican Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon was a Bush supporter. He feels duty-bound to point out that this war has mutated, from taking out a tyrant, ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and establishing democracy, to our military being street cops in a sectarian civil war.

Sen. Smith says: “I’ve concluded that this is a civil war, a fight,between Sunnis and Shiites, over who is the rightful successor to the Prophet Mohammed. This is not our fight and it’s not something we can fix.”

Smith considered it criminal, that in the first World War, day after day, British generals would send thousands of their men running into machine guns and not make adjustments. Today, we are sending our young men and women out in vehicles that cannot withstand blasts from IED’s, without killing them. Smith considers that dumb and dereliction of duty.

In Iraq, Sen. Smith has seen with his own eyes, that we are sending our troops out from the Green Zone, clearing an area and then retreating back to the Green Zone. Smith believes, that when you’re fighting an insurgency, this doesn’t make any sense, because history has proven that to fight and win insurgencies, you have to clear, hold, and then build.

He is not leveling this charge at one person, but say that the American people will and should hold members of Congress accountable. If you have something to say, now is the time to say it. Fight the war intelligently for an objective that's obtainable, or admit our mistake and figure out a way to preserve the lives of our soldiers.

Smith believes that if you conclude that the war is futile and that a year from now, it’s not going to make any difference what our military does, the moral thing to do is to get our men and women out of harm's way. To continue on the same path for another year will allow another 1,000 Americans to die, and it will simply get worse, than it is right now.

Friday, December 15, 2006

America for Sale

Outsourcing of American jobs, insourcing of foreign labor and the new trend by state politicians is selling off American roads. There is a growing controversy over proposals to sell taxpayer owned and paid for assets to foreign interests.

An Australian-Spanish consortium has been quietly snapping up major U.S. highways. In January, the group secured a lease for 99 years of the Chicago skyway for $1.83 billion.

In March, the same company convinced Indiana to lease for 75 years the 157 mile Indiana toll road. Indiana receives $4 billion up front, and the private company promises maintenance upkeep, while pocketing future toll revenue.

Indiana state representative David Orentlicher was not convinced taxpayers got a good deal. He says: “With a consortium based in Australia and Spain that has investors abroad, their concern is going to be with their investment, not with the welfare of people who live in Indiana, who use that toll road.”

The most recent controversy is over a proposal to sell of Pennsylvania's turnpike to private foreign interests. The Pennsylvania Turnpike stretches 537 miles. This critical piece of northeast infrastructure may soon go on the auction bloc. Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell says his state is considering the option in order to plug a $1.7 billion transportation budget hole.

Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell claims: “All of the money that comes from the sale of the turnpike will be put into a fund, and 100 percent of the interest income generated will be used for transportation.”

Critics question, if a private company can make the highway profitable and maintain the highway, why can't the state governments do the same thing. Our elected leaders shouldn’t be selling off or leasing American assets that belong to the taxpayers, especially when the leading bidders are foreign companies. They're pawning our roads to the highest bidder worldwide in order to continue deficit spending.

These are taxpayer asset paid for by taxpayers, owned by the taxpayers, and should not be sold. Our politicians don’t have the to right to sell something that belongs to taxpayers. They’re selling off our property without our authorization, because in many cases the state governments are not putting the issue up for a referendum vote.

From a fiscal standpoint they're spending future money for generations to come.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Good-bye and Good Luck

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel has joined fellow Vietnam combat veterans John Kerry and Congressman John Murtha in calling for redeployment.

Over a year ago, Rep. Murtha insisted that we needed to redeploy as soon as practicable. Since that time, a thousand brave Americans have been killed. A year ago, about 50 percent of the public supported his position. Today, 60 percent support Murtha’s position and their voices were heard on election day. We must find a way to redeploy the troops and it’s best done sooner than later, because it’s not going to get any better.

The Baker commission says we should change the policy from stay course to redeployment. However, the problem is the commission say it depends on the circumstances on the ground, which is not any different than what Bush has said all along. Essentially, that's the same thing as stay the course. The only solution is to reduce our presence and give the Iraqis the incentive to take over themselves. In the end we're going to have to leave Iraq and public opinion polls show that Iraqis want to take over.

Henry Kissinger came out with a similar plan for Vietnam in the 1960s and four years later, when we finally got all of our troops out, we had lost an additional 20,000 Americans. Nixon began a token withdrawal in June of 1969, but the withdrawal of combat troops wasn’t completed until March of 1973.

The Pentagon claimed we needed to train 300,000 Iraqis, but now, they’re calling for an additional 100,000 trained Iraqis. Americans spoke on election day and it’s time to do what's best for our country.

We created the chaos by invading Iraq and thus became bin Ladens only indispensable ally. We're going to have less terrorism if we redeploy our troops, as quickly as possible. We need to tell them that we have given them an opportunity for democracy and now it’s up to you. Good-bye and Good Luck.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Do Nothing Congress

Congressional Republicans decided that the best thing for them to do approaching a pivotal election was to hunker down, and hope that nobody paid attention. They tried to play it safe, but ended up losing both the Senate and the House.

On 12/8/06, Congress went home after being in session fewer days than any other Congress in our history. Lawmakers could have dealt with critical issues such as illegal immigration, lobbying, Social Security and health care reforms. Instead, this Republican controlled Congress spent a lot of time arguing about gay marriage, flag burning and went into emergency session to pass a bill aimed at saving Terri Schiavo.

Members of Congress worked only 103 days this past year, which is not even half as many days as a full-time worker. Three hundred and seventy-four bills were signed into law, but over a quarter of them were bills to rename federal buildings, like a post office named for actress Ava Gardner. Congressional Republicans were willing to placate their conservative base, but totally unwilling to deal with the tough issues or even debate them.

Congress did make it harder to declare bankruptcy. They increased penalties for indecency in broadcasting to insure no more wardrobe malfunctions. They authorized a 700-mile fence along the border with Mexico, but didn't fund it.

In the past nine years, a Republican controlled Congress gave itself annual pay raises eight time, which totaled almost $35,000, but failed to raise the federal minimum wage. During that time, the cost of living soared, and working families suffered.

Democrats, who will be running Congress next year were able to block a ninth pay increase until the minimum wage is raised. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have raised their minimum wages out of disgust with the do nothing Congress.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Iraq Study Group

It’s been predicted that a chaotic Iraq could provide a still stronger base of operations for terrorists, who seek to act regionally or even globally. Some fear al Qaeda will portray any failure by the United States in Iraq as a significant victory that will be featured prominently as they recruit for their cause in the region and around the world.

Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin insists that this has already happened and that the Iraq Study Group overlooked how much the war in Iraq has drain our capacity to fight the global war on terror.

The Iraq Study Group was composed entirely of people who didn’t have the judgment to oppose the invasion of Iraq in the first place. Now, they don’t have the judgment to realize our continued occupation of Iraq isn’t the way to fight terrorism. The list of those, who testified before the study group contained no one who opposed the invasion in the first place, and virtually no one who’s been calling for a different strategy in the global approach to the war on terrorism. The commission was not composed of a truly representative group of Americans, because no one represents those voters, who believe it’s time for us to set a timetable to bring the troops out of Iraq.

The 79 recommendations were a classic Washington compromise that does nothing to disengage us from Iraq so that we can deal with the issues in Southeast Asia, Afghanistan, and Somalia, which are as important as what is happening in Iraq.

Our focus should be on getting troops out as quickly as possible, but there is nothing in the report that hastens that goal. The bottom line is that we must allocate our resources around the world in the battle against terrorism and this report keeps our resources in Iraq.

We’ve lost 42 young Americans so far this month. How many more years are we going to put up with our troops dying in a situation, which isn’t working? 

Monday, December 11, 2006

"Even Criminal"

Republican Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon had described himself as a silent supporter of the president's policies in Iraq, but now he’s an outspoken opponent.

On 12/7/06, Smith declared: “I welcome any idea now because where we are leaves me feeling much like Churchill, that we are paying the price to sit on the mountain that is little more than a volcano of ingratitude.”

“I remember the pride I felt when the statute of Saddam Hussein came down. I remember the thrill I felt when three times Iraqis risked their own lives to vote democratically in a way that was internationally verifiable as legitimate and important.”

“But now all of those memories seem much like ashes to me. I believe the president is guilty of trying to win a short war and not understanding fully the nature of the ancient hatreds of the Middle East.”

“I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs, day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal.”

On the same day, Democratic Senator Russ Feingold an opponent to the war from day one, said that the only way to prevent the grotesque troop losses that are occurring, insure military readiness, and prevent greater damage to our national security, is to start bringing them home now. Feingold claims that our security is being hurt every day by focusing excessively on Iraq and not on the world threat that we face from al Qaeda and its affiliates. 

Feingold insists: “Democrats need to step up to the plate and say, ‘Look, we need a real timetable to bring the troops out.’ The American people spoke in the election and they want our troops out of Iraq.  Democrats and Republicans have to get serious about this right now.”

Sunday, December 10, 2006

"Simply a Racket"

Legendary Marine Corps officer Major General Smedley Butler was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor twice for separate acts of outstanding heroism.

In a 1933 speech, Butler admitted: “Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.”

Butler’s words elicit memories of "The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Tennyson. “Their's not to make reply, Their's not to reason why, Their's but to do and die...”

My mental faculties seemed to have remained in suspended animation for more than a decade after being discharged from the Marine Corps. The Vietnam quagmire enabled me to begin thinking critically about the office of Commander-in-Chief. Some veterans fail to reason why or make reply regarding a Commander-in-Chief for the rest of their lives. They obediently follow our national leader without question, especially if it involves the use of military force.

A positive development that might come from the quagmire in Iraq is that veterans will be enlightened by the beginning of Butler’s 1933 speech, in which, he asserted: “Only a small inside group knows what war is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses... I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.”

Our homes were not attacked on 9/11. Only symbols of corporate greed and the military industrial complex that does it's bidding were attacked. Obviously, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were not empty and 3,000 innocent Americans were killed. If the primary goal of the 9/11 terrorists was to kill as many Americans as possible a better target would have been a packed Yankee Stadium, where they could have easily killed 30,000 innocent people.

The victims of 9/11 were collateral damage as far those terrorist were concerned. Fortunately, the experience of collateral damage has been rare for Americans, but it hasn’t been rare for our enemies. The loss of innocent life in the bombings of Dresden,Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Hanoi were considered collateral damage by Americans.

We’ve provided our enemies the gruesome experience of collateral damage many times, but on 9/11, we learned what it feels like. Americans can’t seem to understand that we are hated for what we’ve done and not for what we believe.

A former senior member of the U. S. intelligence community, Michael Scheuer wrote "Imperial Hubris", while with the CIA. Scheuer warned: “One of the greatest dangers for Americans in deciding how to confront the threat from al Qaeda lies in continuing to believe... Muslims hate us for what we think, rather than for what we do. We repeatedly hear: ‘because they hate freedom’ from senior U.S. leaders. Such a conclusion is potentially fatal nonsense.”

Muslim around the world understand that the term “our strategic interest” is a code word for gaining control of their oil. Iran is seeking nuclear weapons because they fear their oil reserves are next on the agenda for our military industrial complex. Our continued occupation of Iraq provides al Qaeda with the greatest recruitment propaganda imaginable.

“Thus do I counsel you, my friends: distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful!”- Friedrich Nietsche

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Interventionist Policies

William P. McMillen, the Capital District chairman Libertarian Party of New York, recently had the following letter published in the Albany Times Union.

“Now that the Bush administration's Iraq policy has been repudiated by the
voters and that policy has been abandoned by many members of Congress from both parties, the debate begins as to how to proceed to (a) extricate ourselves from the mess of an interventionist and imperialistic foreign policy and the folly of nation building, or (b) create a continuing presence designed to achieve a stabilization of sorts and that is of a long enough duration that we can successfully "cut and run" and claim 'victory' at the same time.

The anti-war voters, and those candidates who ran and were elected on this issue, should not allow their victory to be hijacked. The war is wrong. Even if it were possible to achieve something genuinely resembling victory, that will not make it right. The United States invaded a country that was not a threat to us; the American public was lied to by the administration; indeed, they lied to themselves and each other. In the process of protecting those lies and in the most grandiose of power grabs, civil liberties and governmental checks and balances have been abandoned.

Continuation of this immoral Bush war is not worth another American casualty. True, Iraqis are dying, and we as a nation share a portion of the blame. Yes, we broke it. However, the bull in the china shop, true to its genetic makeup, is still a bull, and the first order of business should be to remove our troops as quickly and safely as can be accomplished.”

I agrees with Mr. McMillen’s letter and favors the immediate removal of our troops from Iraq. Unfortunately, some Democrats believe it would be strategically advantageous not to call for the removal of our troops. They fear that Republican will claim that a withdrawal from Iraq was a defeat engineered by Democrats. Will young Americans continue to die, because cynical politicians on both sides are only thinking about their own careers?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Same Sex Marriage

Mary Cheney, the vice president's gay daughter is pregnant and anticipating the birth of a child. Gay rights advocates had criticized Mary Cheney for not speaking out in support of same-sex marriage, when Bush favored a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

This past spring, in a new book, Mary Cheney publicly broke ranks with the Bush administration by stating: “basically writing discrimination into the Constitution of the United States is fundamentally wrong.”

Last November, Cheney supported a campaign fighting a same-sex marriage ban in the state of Virginia, where she lives with her partner. That ban places strict limits on parental rights for gay couples was approved by voters. Consequently, Mary's long time partner will have no legal relationship with this child.

Canada, Netherlands and Belgium allows same-sex marriage. Vermont passed a civil union law requiring that the state grant same-sex couples the same rights and privileges accorded to married couples under the law. To be eligible, for these benefits both members of the domestic partnership have to meet certain requirements such as being unmarried and living together for a specific period of time.

Laws granting benefits to married couples include family law, taxation, probate, government benefits, real estate, and criminal law. If recognition is given to same-sex marriages and other unions or partnerships, many hundreds of rights and responsibilities would be extended to cover them. The issue involves hundreds of benefits, such as tax advantages, inheritance rights, health insurance, health care decisions, and rights to support.

Congress passed the Federal Defense of Marriage Act declaring that a marriage is a union between a man and a woman and that no state shall be required to give effect to a same-sex union. The Federal Defense Marriage Act prevents homosexuals from gaining marriage recognition in a state other than the state conferring legality. The only state that permits same-sex marriages is Massachusetts.

Our failure to recognize same-sex marriages is primarily a religious issue. It is important to distinguish between religious concepts and the law governing civil marriage especially in a democracy such as ours. For this reason it’s argued that the rights of gay and lesbian citizens can be protected without altering the traditional institution of marriage.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Fight Team Fight!

Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn claim that we can still win in Iraq, if we deploy another 50,000 American troops to get the job done. The fact is that it’s impossible to find 50,000 troops to send in for the amount of time it would require.

The deputy chief of staff of the Army has recently said that we have no strategic reserve. We have no ability to find those troops to send in there for an extended period of time. We can’t sustain that kind of a deployment and it’s unrealistic to even make those kind of comments.

The Commandant of the Marine Corps, James Conway warns that the war in Iraq and a Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan is putting a critical strain on Marine units. Some are headed back for their fourth tour of duty in Iraq. Marines on active duty serve seven-month combat tours. They're supposed to get 14 months to recover, but the unrelenting violence in Iraq has prevented planned troop withdrawals.

Americans have a tendency to look at our imperialistic wars as a football game, which must be won. It’s time to do what's best for our troops. We made a mistake by getting involved in Iraq, when there was no al Qaeda connection and no weapons of mass destruction. The occupation has been mishandled at every turn, but we are expected to again believe the hawks as we did in Vietnam.

The “domino theory” turned out to be wrong. The Vietnam War cost 58,000 Americans their lives. Those countries that the hawks insisted had be to save ended up becoming non-communist governments and market economies as a result of internal social, historical and economic forces, without our military intervention.

For us to stay, when it's getting worse every day is irresponsible and we need to give the Iraqis the opportunity and incentive to determine their own destiny. The invasion of Iraq was an enormous mistake and our continued presence, according to our own generals and our best experts, is making the situation worse.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hate and Evil

A local businessman placed a full page political ad in our County Shopper, which in part insists, that Bush supporters must never let their opinion be swayed by Jim O’Leary. Furthermore, he claimed that I hate Bush and view all Republicans as evil fat cats ready to pillage this nation.

Some may hate Bush, but we should pity him, because he’s delusional. Hate is like a powerful acid, which does more harm to the container, than that upon which it is spewed.

Neither should we consider all Republicans evil, because judgments regarding, who is evil are best left up to God. Nevertheless, we should vigorously express our disapprove of corporate fat cats, who with the support of our military industrial complex have pillaged this nation for much of the last century.

Legendary Marine Corps officer Major General Smedley Butler was awarded the Medal of Honor twice for separate acts of outstanding heroism. In a 1933 speech, Butler asserted: “Only a small inside group knows what war is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses... I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights.”

On 9/11, our homes were not attacked. Only, symbols of corporate greed and the military industrial complex were attacked. In 1961, President Eisenhower warned: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

Newly elected Virginia Senator Jim Webb is a highly decorated Marine Corps veteran, who served as Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy. Webb left the Republican party, because of his concern for the working people of this country. During his campaign, Webb expressed concern about the incredible transfer of great wealth to an elite few. Presently, we are at historically high levels of corporate profits as a percentage of our national wealth, but at the same time wages and salaries are at an all-time low. Webb believes that equality is the cornerstone of our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Middle East Mess

The Middle East is much worse off than it was when Bush took office six years ago. In retrospect removing Saddam Hussein was a victory for Iran, because his regime had kept the pro-Iranian Shiite majority repressed. Instead of freedom, Iraq has disintegrated into a Sunni-Shiite civil war that threatens to spread instability throughout the region.

Long before 9/11, the Bush regime was planning an imperialistic invasion of Iraq. After 9/11, Bush was able to convinced Congress that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons. Bush propagandist were again able to convince some that ousting Saddam would turn Iraq into a democracy that would become the model for the rest of the Arab world. Saddam didn’t have nuclear weapons and there wasn’t an al Qaeda connection. Iraq turned out to be more disposed to civil war than democracy.

Israelis and Palestinians have again descended into violent conflicts. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators ceased trying to work out an ambitious end of conflict agreement after Clinton left office in January 2001. Bush backed Sharon, who proceeded to expand Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, and the conflict became bloodier. Arafat died and after a democratic election, his Palestinian party was ousted from power by the fundamentalist party Hamas, who refuses to recognize Israel. Rocket attacks from Gaza have highlighted the limits of what Israel can achieve through its plans to unilaterally redraw its borders.

In Lebanon, the national unity agreement that ended almost two decades of civil war in 1990 has been unraveling. Iran's Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, withstood Israel's month long onslaught last summer and is poised to topple the Lebanese government. Bush’s hard-line policies have made Israel and Lebanon less safe.

The Iranians reelected moderate President Mohammed Khatami, who had reached out to the U.S. and called for a "dialogue of civilizations." However, Bush refused to extend the olive branch offered by Clinton and declared Iran part of an "axis of evil." Khatami left office under fire for the failure of his conciliatory approach and Iran's Islamic revolution was rejuvenated. Khatami was replaced by hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who proceeded to promote Iran's nuclear ambitions. Bush continues his tough talk against Iran, and in so doing expands Iran's influence in Iraq.

Moderate Muslims have been alienated by Bush’s promise to wage a "crusade" against al-Qaeda after 9/11. Thus, equating his war on terrorism to earlier Christian invasion of the Middle East that remains etched in the collective memory of Muslims. Bush's military campaign against Iraq has undermined the political position of moderate pro-American Arabs, such as Egyptian President Mubarak and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Kerry's Question

John Kerry claims the politicians in Iraq are using the American presence as an excuse, to avoid taking responsibility for their country, and that we need to set a date for them to assume their responsibility. In the absence of a date, they have an excuse to simply continue to procrastinate as long as they want. Young American soldier are being killed because Iraqi politicians are unwilling to compromise and take responsibility for their own country.

Senator Kerry believes that any soldier, who desires to serve his country by putting on the uniform and doing what the commander-in-chief asks of them is a patriot and that their sacrifice is best honored by giving them the kind of policy that is successful. The current policy in Iraq is putting our military at risk needlessly and helping Iraqi politicians avoid negotiating an end to the sectarian violence.

Our military is the most capable volunteer force in history and we owe them a policy that is achievable. The only way to do that is not through a military solution, but through political diplomacy.

Bush claims that it’s al Qaeda, who is responsible for the violence that's taking place. That is hogwash, because our own military intelligence has stated that al Qaeda makes up only 3% of those doing the killing. Prime Minister Maliki said the reason the violence is taking place is because Iraqi politicians are breeding violence by fighting each other rather than negotiating their differences.

Long ago, Secretary Rumsfeld said we're not going to leave our troops in the middle of a civil war. Condaleeza Rice, Henry Kissinger and our own generals are telling us, that there is no military solution. John Kerry suggests: “We have to ask the question, then what are all the troops doing there?”

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Biden Plan

Senator Joe Biden the ranking Democrat on Senate Foreign Relations Committee has a plan to give regional control to the three major groups in Iraq, the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. Biden believes the people of Iraq would support the idea of a confederacy which offers a lot of autonomy to these three separate groups. 

Under the existing constitution of Iraq any three of their 18 states can get together and form a region. The people in a region have control over the local laws, just like we do in our states. Each region would have a police force, like our state police and the central government would be in Baghdad, a federal city like Washington D.C. The central government would allocate resources and have responsibility for securing Iraq’s borders, with a national army. The Sunnis region would receive a share the oil revenues, which are in the Shiite and Kurdish regions. This is the basis for Iraq being able to stay together as a loosely federated republic. 

Bush said: “We‘re not leaving so long as I‘m president.” Bush appears to be committed to Iraq’s Prime Minister Maliki. Biden doesn’t consider Maliki a unifying figure, and believes that he has done nothing to get the Sunnis to buy into a democratic government. Unless, the Sunnis buy into the new government there’s no chance of avoiding increasing sectarian violence. 

Maliki won’t deal with Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi militia, because Sadr has 32 seats in the parliament and he’s beholding to him. Maliki like most of Shiites, believe that their interest lies with Iran and they are not ready to make the concessions needed to have a unified country. 

The Iraqi vote on the constitution demonstrated that 92 percent of all the people voted for a sectarian candidate. That is not unity, but Bush continues to pretend that it’s not the problem. Bush doesn’t have a plan to keep Iraq together or to get our troops home. 

Unless we have a radical change in policy, and a political solution, we’ll have created a larger Iran. Before we invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein had Iran hemmed in on the west and the Taliban hemmed in Iran on the east. We did Iran a great favor by invading Iraq, because we’ve end up with a Shiite dominated government, which isn’t prepared to make any political concession to have a united Iraq. 

Saturday, December 02, 2006

All for Naught

Anthony Cordesman is a former intelligence analyst with the State and Defense Department, who specialized in Middle East issues. Several years ago, he predicted that Bush will refuse to give up on his effort to turn Iraq into a docile client state. Cordesman's "Inexcusable Failure" cautioned: “all the training in the world will be for naught, if the Iraqi National Guard and Police are corrupt, or view their government as a puppet regime of American imperialist.”

Senator Biden’s plan for dealing with violence in Iraq is to split the country into the three autonomous regions. Iraq would still have a national army, but would split up the oil revenues so that each of the sectarian groups would be satisfied with what they’ve got. Presumably, this type of political solution would be a way to end the sectarian bloodshed. Since, the Sunni section of the country doesn’t have any oil, and the plan requires that the Kurds and Shiites be willing to share their oil revenues. This isn’t going to happen. The Shiites and Sunnis are locked in a self sustaining cycle of death and revenge. 

The plan for withdrawing our troops might have been effective, before the sectarian killing got out of control. Biden’s plan sounded reasonable a year ago, but it’s too late for a political solution and we are going to see many more years of bloodshed. 

Recently, Brig General Custer said that Iraq has become a revenge society. The killing in Iraq has its own dynamic, and our military, Iran and Syria are marginal players at best.  The Baker and Hamilton study group can make their recommends and the new Democratic-controlled Congress can hold hearings and provide rigid oversight, but our military will not be out of Iraq until this Commander-in-Chief is out of office.

Bush has said: “God told me to strike al Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike Saddam...” It doesn’t matter to Bush that his mismanagement of the war has cost the Republican party control of Congress. He and his righteous followers are on a mission from God.

Friday, December 01, 2006

"Messianic Certainty"

“If being a liberal means being open-minded, respectful of others and their beliefs and willing to admit that others may have a better solution to a problem, then I am a liberal and proud to be one.”- former conservative Republican, Orlo Burch

At one time, American politicians held open debates about ideas. To suggest that a candidate running for office was on their way to hell, because they supported a woman's right to choose was unheard of.

Disagreements were vigorous, but no one claimed to have the whole truth, and they didn’t demonize their opponents, but tried to work on what was best for America. Those that claim scripture provides all the answers have already made up their mind, which makes evidence irrelevant and argument a waste of time. Consequently, they govern by assertion and attack.

The problem with a righteous approach, which Senator Barack Obama refers to as “messianic certainty” is, that it discourages reason and end up with bad results, in a reality-based world. In his book, “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream”, Senator Obama describes an episode of messianic certainty, which he witnessed. He wrote: “The President’s eyes became fixed; his voice took on the agitated, rapid tone of someone neither accustomed to nor welcoming interruption; his easy affability was replaced by an almost messianic certainty.”

This approach to problems has characterized how many Republicans have operated over the last six years. Historically, Americans are not ideological, because better outcomes are achieved when we operate on the basis of common sense and pragmatism. Our country faces a looming deficit, the war in Iraq, and global warming. Until the recent election results, Republicans have refused to consider the opinions of Democrats. Perhaps, we can now find common ground.

Bush’s narrow approach doesn’t include taking advice or considering dissenting views, which might make for better proposals. This is something that those that have been in power for too long tend to fall victim to. The reason Republicans did poorly in the midterm election is that their complete the mission ideology and insisting on victory doesn’t work.

“Victory matters not to the dead, nor to the living who mourn.” - Norman Greenfeld