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.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Earmarks 

 
Excerpts from Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand's policy statement on earmarks a.k.a. “pork.”    

“Last year I voted to require earmark sponsors to publicly list their name next to their funding request and to certify they do not have a financial interest in the project. Both reforms were common-sense measures that should have already been in place.  While this is a positive first step, more reform is needed. To address this urgent need, I have chosen to implement more reforms in my own office. I created my own protocols intended to open the process and create much needed transparency.  
 
“First, I list on my congressional Web site’s "Sunlight Report" all the projects I have asked the federal government to fund. Previously, the public only had access to the projects that received funding. I was among the first members of Congress to do so, and over the past year, several more members have implemented a similar procedure.  
 
“Second, I will continue to prioritize my outreach to our local elected officials and advocacy organizations throughout my district so all our communities have access to possible federal investment. Over the past year, I have invited every town and county supervisor to meet with me to directly discuss the needs and priorities of each community. This opens up a previously insiders-only process.  
 
“In addition, I support reforms that allow for greater review by Congress of certain spending projects. For example, I voted to strike federal funding for the ‘Study of the Archives of Andean Knotted-String Records: The Khipu Database Project.’ With gas prices and health-care costs escalating, and our $9 trillion debt costing us $400 billion in interest payments this year alone, this cannot be considered a high priority investment for our nation.  

“This year, Congress reduced the amount of funding for earmarks by nearly 25 percent from 2005, and I support President Bush’s recent proposal to cut the number in half, which increases fiscal discipline, prioritization and restraint. With a reduction in congressional earmarks, I also support the same percentage reduction in presidential earmarks. This year alone, the President has requested billions of dollars for specific targeted spending projects that are buried in his budget (for example, the President’s spending included $6.5 million for research on the fundamental properties of asphalt.)  
 
“Earmarks make up an estimated 0.6 percent of the federal budget. But Congress has a responsibility to ensure every taxpayer dollar is spent properly. Targeted investments of federal resources to certain priority projects - applied for by responsible members of Congress - can be valuable and can reduce the tax burden on local communities. This year, for example, our district has received earmarks for sewer repairs, health-care technology to lower health-care costs and reduce hospital errors, rural broadband access to increase economic development and create jobs, and new water lines to help ensure safe drinking water during the dredging of the Hudson River.  
 
“Each of these projects are long-term investments that can bring jobs, cut health-care costs, or provide an opportunity for local governments to lower property taxes. Since each of these requests originated at the local level, I trust our local elected and community leaders to assist me in making the best judgments on determining the greatest good for the greatest need.”

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Help!

The federal government has stepped in recently with bailouts for the big Wall Street firms like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs, but as usual, they are not interested in helping regular Americans. The present economic crisis will likely have enormous impacts on the average American family. Analysts anticipate that two million American families will lose their homes over the next two years, and 40 million of their neighbors will see their home values decline due to projected foreclosures.

Unfortunately, very few homeowners who cannot pay their mortgages will be able to sell or refinance; loan servicers who could modify loans to make them more affordable just aren’t doing so in sufficient numbers. Unless Congress takes action quickly, these families will lose homeownership, surrounding neighborhoods will lose property value, and the entire economy will suffer.

In the coming weeks, the Senate will take up S. 2636, “The Foreclosure Prevention Act.” This legislation would provide comprehensive remedies to the current foreclosure crisis by providing greater resources for foreclosure counseling, allowing bankruptcy judges to modify loan terms for principal residences, and extending tax-exempt bonds to be used to refinance subprime loans.

In particular, S. 2636 would eliminate an inequity in the bankruptcy code that currently grants protections for vacation homes, yachts and family farms but denies borrowers similar protections for their primary residence. More important, this provision of the bill would help low and moderate income families save their homes, without any cost to the Treasury, and ensure that lenders recover at least what they would in foreclosure.

We must send a message to our Senators and urge them to support S. 2636, “The Foreclosure Prevention Act.”

More information about the Foreclosure Prevention Act and the broader issue of predatory lending, is available on the Center for Responsible Lending’s web site.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Revenge Voting

The New York primary is over, but a friend is still trying to convince me that Hillary is the best choice for president and claims that she will never vote for Obama. I believe it’s time to move on and focus on McCain.

Others seem to be making a serious effort to undermine Hillary Clinton, instead of McCain’s credibility. Should Hillary become the Democratic nominee for president, angry Obama supporters are insisting that they would not vote for her in November.

In Pennsylvania, a statewide poll shows 20 percent of Democrats insist that, if their candidate doesn’t win the Democratic primary nomination, they’re voting for John McCain. If a sufficient number of people assume this disgruntled, revengeful attitude they’ll guarantee at least another four years of our troops dying in Iraq.

This kind of irresponsible behavior has infected Rep. Gillibrand’s reelection bid in New York’s 20th. Congressional District. I found it necessary to respond to an e-mail urging me to attend an end the war protest by telling the promoter that I wouldn’t be attending their antiwar “Die-in” in Delhi. Their plan was to present two ‘shrouds’ with the names written on them in red ink neatly folded like flags to Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand’s district office.  I disapproved of the plan, because it gave the erroneous impression that Gillibrand doesn’t want to get our troops out of Iraq. Gillibrand is in favor of withdrawing our troops, but these antiwar protesters were angry at Gillibrand for not voting to cut funding for the troops in the field. I will continue to attend peace vigils in Delhi, but not if they resort to tactics, which serve to undermine the electability of Democratic candidates.

Nothing will change if Senator McCain becomes the Commander-in- Chief in January, because he’s another imperialistic neo-fascist, who finds nothing wrong with using young Americans as economic cannon fodder.

I’ve been told that: “If, we need clear thinking and practical politics, we probably need passion to.” I consider passion incompatible with clear thinking and practical politics. Anger is an emotional response to a situation, but a reasoned response is eventually more productive.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Bullshit!

In 2005, retired Lt. General William Odom said: “If Bush wants to bring democracy and stability to the Middle East, the only way to achieve that goal is for the our armed forces to get out of Iraq now.”
 
Three years later, General Petraeus acknowledges an overall reduction in violence, which in part was due to a cease-fire by Shiite cleric and militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr. 

However, our military has been making payments to more than 90,000 local Sunnis in Iraq to fight insurgents, who protect their communities from the terrorists.  Actually, they are former Sunni insurgents, who have given their loyalty to our military in return for cash. These, newly formed militias are acting as a counter-force to the predominately Shiite Iraqi security forces. Consequently, we’ve armed both sides of the sectarian divide. 

Recently, Bush claimed the surge is working and we’ve begun bringing some of our troops home. In fact, the troops that are coming home were due to be rotated home anyway.  No additional troops are due to return after July. Therefore, 140,000 American troops will remain in Iraq, which is more than before the surge began. 

Bush would have us believe that Moqtada al-Sadr’s militia and those 90,000 local Sunnis, who our military is paying to fight insurgents are incapable of surviving without the occupation of 140,000 of our troops. 

Senator McCain claims al Qaeda would regain its lost sanctuaries and foment violence, which could spread beyond Iraq’s borders with serious consequences for the world’s economy. 

We went into Iraq to disarm Saddam, to find WMD, to change regime, to liberate the Iraqi people, to bring democracy to the Middle East, to stop al Qaeda, to protect America, to stop Iran and now we have to stay inorder to help the world’s economy. 

Bullshit!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Revisionist History

The following letter by Dom Colotti was published in the Middletown’s Times Herold-Record. It was entitled: “Enemy would come here,” and contained factual errors, which I’ll point out to the reader.

Mr. Colotti wrote: “For those of you who continue to look for our president’s impeachment, I have questions for you. Where were you when President Truman committed our troops to the Korean civil war, North vs. South? And when we had the war won, he fired MacArthur and made the troops retreat.

“Also, where were you when JFK and LBJ committed our troops to the Vietnam civil war, North vs. South? Again, we had the war won, pushing the enemy up to the northern border. How many of our men and women were killed in these conflicts in which we had no business? Look it up.

“It's obvious to me it only matters to you which political party was involved. Let me also remind you that as our president has said, ‘If we don't get the enemy there, they’ll come here.’ Take your blinders off and think like Americans.”

Yesterday, my response to Dom Colotti’s letter was published in the Times Herold-Record

I wrote that his letter contains several factual errors and that I don’t need to “Look it up,” because I’m a Korean War veteran.

Truman didn’t make our troops retreat, during the Korean War. The Communist Chinese entered the war by swarming across the frozen Yalu River into north Korea. Marines under the command of Chesty Puller were forced to redeploy.

A reporter asked Puller how he felt about the Marines retreating for the first time in history. He replied: “Hell were not retreating. Were just attacking in another direction.” In fact, they were fighting their way south to a seaport to be evacuated. They brought their dead and wounded with them in temperatures that reached 30 degrees below zero.

Truman recalled MacArthur, for the same reason Admiral Fallon recently retired. Our Constitution provides that an elected Commander-in-Chief make policy decision concerning the conduct of the war.

Eisenhower promised that if elected he would bring an end to the Korean War and made good on that promise.

Reportedly, Bush said: “If we don’t get the enemy there, they’ll come here.” Critical thinking might be un-American, but I don’t appreciate fear mongering. Besides, the terrorists don’t have that many rowboats.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

“Stop Loss”

The Army says it’s “stop loss” policy is necessary to sustain a cohesive force and that they use it sparingly. Currently 7,500 active service soldiers are subject to stop loss and the policy has affected more than 100,000 soldiers.

To argue the current stop loss policy violates a contract isn’t going to accomplish a thing, because halting the stop loss policy is a not a judicial judgment. Nothing will change, if Senator McCain becomes the Commander-in- Chief in January, because he’s another neo-fascists, who finds nothing wrong with using young Americans as economic cannon fodder.

Steward McKenzie enlisted in the Army and the consequences of that decision has been devastating. Today, he questions the explanation his recruiter offered about the stop loss policy. McKenzie insists: “He basically made it sound like it’s World War III. He said there’s no chance. Don’t worry about it. Sign right here.”

McKenzie finish his four year contract, but was kept in Iraq, four additional months until a roadside bomb severed a hand and blew off part of his leg. The reality is that once you volunteer to become a “gangster for capitalism,” it’s like joining the mob. It’s very hard to get out.

McKenzie’s anger is nothing compared to the rage that Dalton Trumbo’s character Joe Bonham expresses in “Johnny Got His Gun.” Bonham’s rage jumps out at you from this most powerful anti-war novel, which was taboo for many years.

At 18 year of age, Steward McKenzie wouldn’t have been as gullible, if someone had insisted that he read “Johnny Got His Gun” or “War is a Racket” by Major General Smedley Butler, who is perhaps the most courageous and honest man our military has produced. Unfortunately, many adults fear being labeled un-American, however morality demands that we protect our youth from being brainwashed, into becoming gangsters for corporate war profiteers.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Support the Troops

Camillo “Mac” Bica, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy, who’s focus is in ethics, particularly as it applies to war and warriors. As a veteran recovering from his experiences as a United States Marine Corps officer during the Vietnam War, he founded, and coordinated for five years, the Veterans Self-Help Initiative, a therapeutic community of veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He is a long-time activist for peace and justice, a member of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and a founding member of the Long Island Chapter of Veterans for Peace.

The following are additional excerpts from Dr. Bica’s most recent article: “My personal experiences in war led me to conclude that the morally tragic and legally reprehensible incidents such as have occurred at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Abu Ghraib, Haditha, Fallujah and elsewhere in Iraq and Afghanistan were not the anomalous actions of a few aberrant individuals (I do not blame the troops), but were the direct and inevitable consequence of the Bush administration's incompetence, arrogance and contempt for the Constitution and the dictates of international law and treaties. What threatens the fabric and foundations of our way of life in these dangerous times is not some amorphous, enigmatic horde of bloodthirsty terrorists. Rather, it is the assault upon truth, individual freedom and the values of justice and morality we hold sacred. I am anti the Bush administration.

“It is clear from history that such criminal behavior, arrogance and hypocrisy - the characteristics of a rogue nation - brings no credibility, prestige or standing in the world, only disdain, animosity, hatred and righteous indignation. Nor do acts of aggression bring glory or vindication to those already killed or wounded in battle. Justice and morality, the values I associate with being an American, require that an unjust and immoral war be ended immediately; that the aggressors possess the moral courage to acknowledge their crime; that they make retribution to the victims of their aggression and apologize to the citizens of the aggressed nation and the rest of the world community for their transgression. I am anti rogue nation.

“My respect for the military convinces me that the lives and well-being of our young men and women are not automatically forfeit upon enlistment, relegating them to the status of cannon fodder. Sending inadequately prepared National Guard troops into combat and then failing to provide them with body and vehicle armor is unconscionable and criminally negligent. Repeated combat tours and insufficient time for rest and rehabilitation between deployments increase the likelihood and inevitability of psychological, emotional and moral injury that is devastating and life-altering. Finally, the ‘stop-loss’ provision that prevents our servicemen and women from leaving the military once their term of service has been completed is disingenuous and a violation of contract. I am pro military. I support the troops.”

Monday, March 24, 2008

Against the Occupation

The death toll of American troops killed in Iraq has reached 4,ooo.

Peace activist Carmillo Bica has been accused of being unpatriotic, by those who carried American flags, and asserted their patriotism, love of country and support for the troops. He dismisses the criticism as a failure to understand the reality of war and the moral obligations of citizens in a democracy. He’s confident in his patriotism, love of America and concern for the troops.

Bica served honorably in Vietnam, but when fellow veterans began to denounce him, he considered the possibility that he had gone astray or violate some sacred trust. The following excerpts provide an introspective journey into the mind and motivation of a former Marine turned peace activist.

“Perhaps my first realization in this exercise was that I allow at least the possibility that war, under very specific circumstances not easily or often met, may be just, moral and necessary. Therefore, I am not an absolute pacifist and, in the strict sense, I am not antiwar.

“I realized as well that I believe in the Constitution, the rule of law, and support the fundamental purpose and mission of the United Nations, flawed though it may be, ‘to maintain international peace and security and to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace.’ According to the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3314 (XXIX), (international law), the unjustifiable and unwarranted ‘use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of another State,’ is a crime of aggression. Therefore, I am anti aggression and unjust, immoral and unnecessary war.

“Further, I believe in the rights and dignity of all human beings. Rational analysis of the facts has convinced me that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake - unjustifiable and unwarranted - based as it was on false or distorted intelligence, deception and lies. Not even President Bush still believes, if he ever did, that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction or was linked to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. While the Bush administration has offered, after the fact, various other explanations for the war, e.g., removal of a tyrant, democratization, etc., none seem sincere nor constitute justification under international law. Consequently, the invasion of Iraq is aggression. I am anti the Iraq war.

“At this writing, many in our country are celebrating the ‘success’ of the surge and of the ‘new’ military strategy in Iraq. However, military success and improved strategy does not afford a moral and legal basis for continuing, even escalating, the occupation - the aggression against the Iraqi people. How could achieving ‘victory’ in such a scenario, i.e., the triumph of the aggressors over their victims, be legally and morally justified? I am anti the continued occupation of Iraq.”

More of Carmillo Bica’s introspective journey will be published tomorrow.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Spiritual Advisors

Satirist Mark Twain wrote: “O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of guns with the shriek of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire... We ask it in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the source of love.”

The eventual cost of the occupation of Iraq may exceed $3 trillion, but more importantly 4,000 American troops have been killed, nearly 40,000 wounded, and 5 million Iraqis displaced from their homes or killed.

More than 1.2 million desperate Iraqis fled to Syria, since the invasion. Facing starvation, as many as 50,000 women and girls have been forced into prostitution, because this is the only work available. Eighty percent of the girls working as prostitutes in Damascus today are Iraqis, some as young as 13 years of age. Inexpensive Iraqi prostitutes have helped make Syria a popular destination for sex tourists, from Saudi Arabia and other wealthy countries in the Middle East.

Nevertheless, some are upset with Obama’s spiritual advisor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright for saying: “God damn America.  That’s in the Bible for killing innocent people.” I share Rev. Wright’s rage and don’t find his words offensive, because a Supreme Being wouldn’t listen to Mark Twain or Rev. Wright.

Assuming that John McCain and his pious followers have faith that a Supreme Being listens to them, they should be asking: “God have mercy on us.” Hopefully, their plea will spare those opposing the occupation of Iraq from the wrath of divine retribution.

McCain’s spiritual supporter have been largely ignore. McCain called televangelist Rick Parsley his “spiritual guide” when accepting his endorsement. Parsley insisted: “I do not believe our country can truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand our historical conflict with Islam. I know that this statement sounds extreme, but I do not shrink from its implications. The fact is that America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed.”

Furthermore, McCain sought the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee and said that he was “honored” and “proud” to receive Hagee’s support. Pastor Hagee has claimed Katrina was God’s punishment for homosexuality, Jews are to blame for anti-Semitism, and Catholicism is “a cult” and the “Whore of Babylon.”

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sticking it to America

Michigan Senator Carl Levin sent me the following e-mail, which I found very interesting.

“I want to know why the struggling American taxpayer is getting stuck with the bill for rebuilding Iraq.

“After all, the Iraqi government is expected to accrue more than $100 billion in oil revenues during 2007 and 2008. That’s more than double the estimated $47 billion the United States Treasury has paid for reconstruction efforts since 2003.

“The Iraqi government has a large surplus from oil sales. It has perhaps $30 billion in U.S. banks alone. It can and must do more to provide basic necessities, increased security, and a higher quality of life for its citizens.

“American money spent rebuilding Iraq is money we can’t commit to important priorities here at home. Our straining health care system, our crumbling infrastructure, and our struggling manufacturing base could all use serious government investment right now - not to mention reducing the huge budget deficit run up by President George Bush.

“For those reasons and more, I sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office earlier this month asking for a review of Iraqi oil revenues and reconstruction spending. The letter was cosigned by my colleague on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Republican Senator John Warner.

“We want to know just how much money the Iraqi government has actually contributed to reducing the violence and rebuilding the country - and how much they have sitting unused in international banks.

“The American people have paid an enormous price to attempt to secure and to start to rebuild Iraq. It’s long past time for the Iraqi government to use its oil revenues to support these efforts.”

I can’t think of a better reason for getting our troops out of Iraq ASAP.

One day in Iraq costs the American taxpayer $720 million a day. That amount of money would provide 1,274,336 American homes with renewable electricity, or 6,482 families with homes.

Friday, March 21, 2008

“Isn’t It Romantic”

Eisenhower said: “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

Ella Fitzgerald sung the lyrics: “Isn’t It Romantic.”  Now, Bush considers the six and a half year struggle in Afghanistan to be romantic. He expressed this view in a video conference with the military personnel who are fighting there. 

Our Commander-in-Chief stated: “I’m a little envious.  If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed.  It must be exciting for you, in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger.  You are really making history, thanks.” 

A veteran of the Afghan war reaction was: “I didn’t feel like there was anything romantic in not seeing my daughter grow up and watching Afghan children starve to death and explaining repeated deployment extensions to my soldiers.  No, Mr. President, there’s nothing romantic about being sent on an important mission and not being given the tools to accomplish it.” 

The executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Paul Rieckhoff insists: “Serving in a combat zone can be exciting.  It’s dangerous.  It’s terrifying.  Romantic is not the word I would use.  I don’t think anybody whose actually been there would use the word romantic.  That’s the type of language you hear from someone who’s never been in combat. 

“So I think the president is continuing to show how he really doesn’t understand the human component of this war.  A combat veteran understands that people are serving 15 month tours.  We have over 500,000 people who have deployed more than once.  It’s a tremendous toll on our folks.  Romantic is a terrible choice of words.” 

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Fear a Political Tactic

Career counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke served under four presidents beginning as an analyst on nuclear weapons under Reagan and established a record for continuous service in national security policy positions.

Clarke has warned: “For this president, fear is an easier political tactic than compromise. With Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, he is attempting to rattle Congress into hastily expanding his own executive powers at the expense of civil liberties and constitutional protections.

“I spent most of my career in government fighting to protect this country in order to defend these very rights. And I know every member of Congress - whether Democrat or Republican - holds public office in the same pursuit.

“That is why in 2001, I presented this president with a comprehensive analysis regarding the threat from al-Qaeda. It was obvious to me then - and remains a fateful reality now - that this enemy sought to attack our country. Then, the president ignored the warnings and played down the threats. Ironically, it is the fear from these extremely real threats that the president today uses as a wedge in a vast and partisan political game. This is - and has been - a very reckless way to pursue the very ominous dangers our country faces. And once again, during the current debate over FISA, he continues to place political objectives above the practical steps needed to defeat this threat.

“In these still treacherous times, we can’t afford to have a president who leads by manipulating emotions with fear, flaunting the law, or abusing the very inalienable rights endowed to us by the Constitution. Though 9/11 changed the prism through which we view surveillance and intelligence, it did not in any way change the effectiveness of FISA to allow us to track and monitor our enemies. FISA has and still works as the most valuable mechanism for monitoring our enemies.

“In order to defeat the violent Islamist extremists who do not believe in human rights, we need not give up the civil liberties, constitutional rights and protections that generations of Americans fought to achieve. We do not need to create Big Brother. With the administration’s attempts to erode FISA’s legal standing as the exclusive means by which our government can conduct electronic surveillance of U.S. persons on U.S. soil, this is unfortunately the path the president is taking us down.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Shame on Hillary

Recently, William Roberts of Otego, N.Y. had the following letter to the editor published in the Delaware County Times.

“Hillary Clinton’s ‘Red phone’ TV ad-A gambit used twice before in presidential campaigns is meant as a comment on Barack Obama’s lack of experience in governing. In fact, the ad plays on the fears of US citizens, a ploy that has been a main stay of the Bush administration.

“Terrorism has been prevalent in the world, its true. It’s true too that we should be alert to possible terrorism in our own areas. However, we should not allow the fearmongers among us to keep us in a state of terror while they push agendas that undermine our constitutional principles.

“We need a government that operates under the principles set forth in the constitution. We don’t need a government that rules by fear. Shame on Hillary Clinton for approving an ad that plays on voters fears.”

Tomorrow, I will post a perspective on this subject by career counterterrorism expert, Richard Clarke.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Military Tribunal

The Bush regime is determined to try six Guantanamo detainees in a military tribunal. Thereby, violating our proud traditions of due process for criminal suspects.

This regime has subjected the accused to torture and to six years of pretrial detention without charges being filed. The accused will not be tried before a regular criminal court, but before a tribunal specially created to curtail their rights and impose the death penalty.

Bush has demonstrated contempt for world opinion and our Constitution. The detainees are accused of mass murder, but there is no reason why guilt and punishment cannot be determined in accordance with our established laws and processes. A trial in a civilian court would affirm that we are a nation governed by the rule of law and demonstrate to the world, that we only impose criminal sanctions in accordance with our law.

The Bush regime has created a system, which may allow testimony extracted by torture, and which will deny them the right to a public trial and to have the case determined by a jury.

These are rights we have customarily afforded even the most notorious criminals. Hijackers, terrorists and even Panama’s Noriega, have been tried in our civilian courts. Accused international criminal Slobodan Milosevic was tried in an international tribunal.

Although the death penalty is legal in this country, the Bush regime is proposing to seek it in a proceeding which lacks the protections that the U.S. Supreme Court has held apply to capital cases.

The crimes committed on 9/11 need to be addressed through a process that confirms the greatness of our justice system and the validity of the punishments meted out to the guilty, not by a secret trial.

Monday, March 17, 2008

General Wesley Clark

Gen. Clark has wrote: “If you don’t think John McCain is just as dangerous in the White House as George W. Bush, think again.
  
“McCain will not reverse the foreign policy mistakes of George Bush. He is content to leave us in Iraq, saying it’d be ‘fine by me’ if we were in Iraq for another 100 years; he is rash on using military force with Iran.  He overplays the military card and doesn’t seem to appreciate that the real strength of the nation lies in our economy and in our values.
 
“We can’t just triumph over John McCain in the race for the White House.  We must also defeat every Republican senator who supports Bush and McCain and believes in continuing a war that 64% of the American people are vehemently against.
 
“We must expand our narrow 51-49 Democratic majority so they can either push through the agenda of a Democratic president or act as a firewall against the radical policies of a President John McCain. 
 
“As a military man, I know and respect the use of force. I also know it’s not enough to keep us safe.
 
“But that’s not the way John McCain and his acolytes see it.  Since 9/11, they have taken the very real threat of terrorism and turned it into a rallying cry for military adventurism.  Their paranoia runs so deep that Sen. McCain has now taken to calling Islamic terrorism the ‘greatest evil ever faced’ by the United States.
 
“This nation triumphed over Nazism and Communism once before and I have no doubt that the bin Ladens of the world will eventually rue the day they challenged the United States.  But this constant fear mongering and refusal to change course in Iraq is making it more difficult to defeat our enemies.
 
“American troops have done everything that’s been asked of them and more in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But the Army and Marine Corps are stretched to their breaking point because George Bush has refused to engage in the type of diplomacy that could tamp down hostilities and ease the strain on our military.
 
“And John McCain and any Republican senator who supports his presidential candidacy are offering more of the same. Only a Democrat in the White House next January, will bringing American troops home from Iraq with honor.”
 

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Admiral Fallon

Recently, Admiral William Fallon, the commander of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, was quoted in “Esquire” magazine as saying the war with Iran would be ill advised action and that our military is stretched too thin to take on that mission. 

“Esquire” portrayed Admiral Fallon as the last man standing between the Bush regime and war with Iran. And, as brazenly challenging his commander in chief in opposing war with Iran. The article said of the Admiral: “He is that rarest of creatures in the Bush universe: the good cop on Iran. He might not get away with it for much longer. President Bush is not accustomed to a subordinate who speaks his mind as freely as Fallon does.”

Following April’s publication of the magazine, Fallon announced his retirement, which ended a 41 year military career. He said, “Recent press reports suggesting a disconnect between my views and the president’s policy objectives have become a distraction at a critical time.”

Fallon’s abrupt resignation gave ammunition to the Bush regimes sharpest critics. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said: “I’m concerned the resignation of Admiral Fallon is yet another example that independence and the frank open airing of experts’ views are not welcomed in this administration.”

Other experts, who have spoken their minds and were subsequently ignored are:

Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser for George H. W. Bush, counseled against the occupation of Iraq at the end of the first gulf war. He said, “At the minimum, we’d be an occupier in a hostile land. Our forces would be sniped at by guerrillas, and, once we were there, how would we get out?”

Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld publicly rebuked Army’s Chief of Staff, General Eric Shinseki, after he dared to tell the truth that several hundred thousand troops would be required to secure Iraq. Consequently, our troops are unable to provide security and Iraq has become a terrorist haven.

Senior member of the our intelligence community, Michael Scheuer has decades of experience in national security issues. Scheuer wrote “Imperial Hubris”, which states: “We must recognize that our invasion of Iraq was not preemptive; it was an avarice, premeditated, unprovoked war against a foe who posed no immediate threat but whose defeat did offer economic advantages.”

Marine General Anthony Zinni established his impeccable credentials during nearly forty years of military service. After retirement, he served as Colin Powell’s special envoy to the Middle East, before disagreements over the Iraq war and its probable aftermath caused him to resign.

In 2004, Zinni was quoted, by Tom Clancy in “Battle Ready;” a segment entitled “The Obligation to Speak the Truth.” Zinni said that he observed: “true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility; at worst, lying, incompetence, and corruption. False rationales presented as justification; a flawed strategy; lack of planning; the unnecessary alienation of our allies; the underestimation of the task; the unnecessary distraction from real threats, and the unbearable strain dumped on our overstretched military, all of these caused me to speak out.”

For speaking out Zinni was called a traitor and a turncoat by Pentagon officials.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Factual Error

Recently, CNN’s Lou Dobbs claimed that Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid and Senator Ted Kennedy were irresponsible in not dealing with the issue of the security at our borders and our ports three years ago. He insisted that our borders and ports would be secured and we’d be having an intelligent and informed national debate about the reform of immigration law in this country. Dobbs is attempting to rewrite history, by consciously misrepresenting the facts. Has he forgotten that the Democratic party was in the minority three years ago?

Democratic congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts was on the Homeland Security Committee and fought for years for better ports security funding, because the easiest way to smuggle a nuclear weapon into this country is through our ports. Markey wanted overseas ports to electronically scan all containers before they come to our ports, and insisted that once a ship containing a nuclear weapon entered our port it’s to late.

In 2005, he introduced an amendment to improve port security, which mandated 100 percent of the cargo inspection of all ships coming in from overseas. Every Republican on the homeland security committee voted against his amendment, although they knew that 95 percent of the cargo that comes into our ports isn’t inspected. For years, Democrats introduced no less than a dozen amendments that would have increased funding for port security, but every one of them was rejected by the Republican leadership.

Republicans talk tough on homeland security, but their voting record indicates otherwise. By 2006, Democratic Senator Dodd had offered legislation in each of the previous four years, which would have substantially increase our nation’s investment in homeland security, but Republicans voted against every measures that would have increased funding for homeland security.

Five years after 9/11 and weeks before the 2006 election, congressional Republicans began taking an interest in border and port security. The House voted to build 700 miles of fencing along the border with Mexico, but neglected to provide the funding. Instead of oversight, Republicans allow corporations to decide how much security would be provided American citizens. They believe that commerce is more important than national security.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Protection Act

The following is a resolution that was filed in the Buffalo, NY city council, entitled: “Homeowner and Bank Protection Act.”

WHEREAS: The onrushing financial crisis involving home mortgages, debt instruments of all types, and the banking system of the United States threatens to set off an economic collapse worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s; and

WHEREAS: Millions of Americans are faced with foreclosure and loss of their homes over the coming months; and

WHEREAS: The hedge funds which spread this financial collapse among markets worldwide, by dominating speculation in all those markets, are now going bankrupt and demanding government bailout of their securities and derivatives, and the nominal value of the derivatives based on mortgages alone is the size of the combined GDP of the nations of the world; and

WHEREAS: This financial crisis threatens the integrity of both Federal and State chartered banks, as typified by the run on deposits of Countrywide Financial Corporation in California on August 16, which could wipe out the life savings of too many American people and drastically undermine the economic stability of our states and cities; and

WHEREAS: Under similar circumstances in the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt successfully intervened to protect banks and homeowners, addressing Congress with a “declaration of national policy" on April 13, 1933, which stated "that the broad interests of the Nation require that special safeguards should be thrown around home ownership as a guarantee of social and economic stability, and that to protect homeowners from inequitable enforced liquidation in a time of general distress is a proper concern of the Government.”

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED: That the Buffalo Common Council that we call upon Congress to take emergency action to protect homeowners and banks by enacting a Homeowners and Banks Protection Act specifically to: Establish a Federal agency to place Federal and State chartered banks under protection, freezing all existing home mortgages for a period of time, adjusting mortgage values to fair prices, restructuring existing mortgages at appropriate interest rates and writing off speculative debt obligations of mortgage-backed securities, financial derivatives and other forms of Financial pyramid schemes that have brought the banking system to the point of bankruptcy;

2. Declare a moratorium on all home foreclosures for the duration of the Transitional period, allowing families to retain their homes. Monthly payments, the equivalent of "rental payments", shall be made to designated banks, which can use the funds as collateral for normal lending practices, thus recapitalizing the banking system. These affordable monthly payments will be factored into new mortgages, reflecting the orderly deflating of the housing bubble, the establishment of appropriate property valuations and reduced fixed mortgage interest rates. While this may take several years to achieve, in the interim period no homeowner shall be evicted from his or her property, and the Federal and State chartered banks shall be protected so that they can resume their traditional functions, serving local communities and facilitating credit for investment in productive entities; and

3. Authorize Governors of several states to assume the administrative Responsibilities for implementing the program, including the "rental" assessments to designated banks, with the Federal government providing the necessary credits and guarantees to assure the successful transition; and be it further

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That suitable copies of this resolution be delivered to the President of the United States and to each member of the New York State congressional delegation for immediate action.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Foreclosures

According to the Wall Street Journal: “At least 1.3 million mortgages were either seriously delinquent or in foreclosure at the end of the third quarter, according to the Mortgage Banking Industry.”

In Cleveland, Ohio, the mortgage crisis is spreading from urban city centers to the suburbs. Homeowners facing foreclosures across the country are scrambling to save their homes, while political leaders are working to preserve communities.

Cleveland’s Mayor Jeff Lansky reports that people were able to buy a house with as little as $1,000 down, but, since they can no longer make the mortgage payments, they move out in the middle of the night. So many homes have been left vacant that Lansky hired five more police officers and three new building inspectors to patrol neighborhoods.

Cuyahoga County Treasurer, Jim Rokakis said that for years our warning fell on deaf ears because Wall Street was making money by trading Ohio’s risky loans. It brought money from all over the world to America to help finance our real estate market. But greed took over and common sense lost out. Rokakis says mortgages, with no questions ask, were like a drug. Irresponsible borrowers were the users and banks were the pushers, while Wall Street was the major supplier of the money.

Even those with rock solid, 30-year fixed mortgages have ended up with problems, because neighbors with risky mortgages have been abandoning their homes, thereby bringing down the value of entire neighborhood. People are unable to sell their property, which is hurting the tax base and schools.

Baltimore is another city hit hard by the mortgage crisis. During the past four months, home sales in Baltimore plummeted 35 percent and foreclosures have gone through the roof in Maryland. In the city of Baltimore, the problem is especially bad and it’s not restricted to minority neighborhoods.

Representative Elijah Cummings estimates that close to $1 billion in taxes will be lost in the Baltimore city area in the next year, because of depressed housing as a result of foreclosures.

Gov. Martin O’Malley says: “We have seen a 600 percent increase in foreclosures since last year. That means that 7,000 families in Maryland are now facing foreclosure.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Aircraft Contract

Some member’s of Congress are angry about the Air Force outsourcing a $35 billion contract for new aerial refueling tanker aircraft. The Air Force gave the European consortium, who make the Airbus, a $40 billion deal. They passed over American aircraft-maker Boeing and gave the tanker contract to the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) in partnership with Northrop Grumman.

Washington’s Democratic Senator Patty Murray insists the EADS contract will cost 44,000 American jobs and $40 billion of our taxpayer money. She said: “I believe in enforcing trade agreements. First of all, we’ve filed an outstanding trade disagreement with the World Trade Organization against Airbus, because of unfair subsidies. We’ve filed a trade violation against them and the Air Force gives them $40 billion contract.

“When are we going to stop outsourcing our military capability and realize we’re putting our own security in another country’s hands. If we lose our capability, our workers with the know-how, our ability to bring a plane off line, it’s not just going to have consequences for a year or two. Once we lose that infrastructure, it’s gone forever.”

The aircraft is considered to be the crown jewel of American technology and we’re giving it away to the Europeans. The Airbus-built refueling tanker would be assembled in Alabama after the tail, fuselage, and wings were built in Europe by a company which is subsidized by European governments. The assembly of the aircraft would provide 2,000 jobs in Alabama, but 44,000 jobs would be supported, had the contract gone to Boeing.

Jim McNerney, the CEO of Boeing aircraft, decided to formally protest and stand up for his company. Boeing has officially filed a protest concerning the Air Force awarding a lucrative contract the same time we are suing European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company before the World Trade Organization for unfair trade subsidies.

The Boeing CEO has asked for an investigation by the Government Accountability Office. “We have fundamental concerns with the Air Force’s evaluation.” Boeing called the EADS tanker, “higher risk, higher cost airplane that's less suitable for the mission.”

Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington, is a member of the Commerce Committee. She says the decision to outsource the Air Force contract to a foreign company has serious implications for our national security as well as our economy. Senator Cantwell has asked the Government Accountability Office to consider all of the implications of this deal.

Senator Cantwell asks: “Why did they go with this plane particularly when there might be important national security issues to keeping and maintaining a skilled U.S. work force? How did they pick this larger plane that’s less fuel efficient when oil is over $100 barrel? I think that’s what Congress wants to hear the answers to those questions.”

Tom Buffenbarger, the president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers is baffled that we would allow a procurement officer in the Air Force to give away $40 billion of our taxpayer money to a company headquartered in Toulouse, France. This represents the transfer of American technology and jobs to foreign nations under the guise of an economic deal. It’s the military industrial complex at its worst.

The military-industrial complex was about to be discussed on CNN’s Lou Dobbs. Buffenbarger said: “Remember President Eisenhower warned us about this, and now we’re seeing it.” Dobbs quickly interrupted Buffenbarger and changed the subject. It appeared that Dobbs didn’t want his viewers to be informed that 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.”

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Criminally Negligent

Chalmers Johnson the author of “Nemesis”, wrote that our Defense Department budget receives only superficial scrutiny because members of Congress, seeking lucrative defense contracts for their districts, have mutually beneficial relationships with defense contractors and the Pentagon.

Eighteen months ago, an investigation raised questions about the Army’s claim that our troops have the best body armor in the world. Independent ballistics testing compared the Army’s body armor with a body armor called Dragon Skin.

Jim McGee, a retired Marine colonel designed the Army’s current body armor called Interceptor a decade ago. McGee, who has no financial stake in Dragon Skin insists: “Dragon Skin is the best out there, hands down.  It’s better than the Interceptor. It is state of the art. In some cases, it’s two steps ahead of anything that I have ever have seen, because it has more stopping power and more coverage.” Dragon Skin’s disks interconnect like medieval chain mail, can wrap most of a soldier’s torso, providing a greater area of maximum protection. Blackwater mercenaries have receiver Dragon Skin vests, but not our troops.

In response to increasingly deadly IED attacks in Iraq in 2005, a Marine Corps Major General sent an urgent request to the Pentagon to send more Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles. The request form was dated February 17, 2005. The request was for more than 1,000 of the heavily armored vehicles and marked the request urgent, needed ASAP. His superiors didn’t think the threat was that dire.

Subsequently, the Marine Corps called for an investigation into charges of gross mismanagement of the program to send those mine resistant vehicles to Iraq to protect our troops. A Marine Corps technology expert said delays in that program led to the “unnecessary deaths of hundreds of Marines in Iraq,” that could have otherwise been prevented.

That civilian technology expert was ordered to stop work on his report, which alleged “gross mismanagement” of the “program to quickly field Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles.”

A Marine Corps spokesperson said: “It’s gotten beyond its initial purpose.” That explanation sparked a scathing rebuke from the technology expert Franz Gayle, who wrote in his January report: “This culture has been criminally negligent in a way that has led directly to the unnecessary loss of hundreds of American and innocent Iraqi lives and countless serious injuries.

Monday, March 10, 2008

WAR

On 3/8/08, the Oneonta Star published the following letter by Richard Averett of Otego, New York.

“War is the lowest form of behavior humans can engage in; it is the opposite of civilized.

“In my lifetime, America has fought wars in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and twice in Iraq. We have deposed democratically elected leaders in Iran, Chile and Haiti. With the possible exception of Afghanistan, every war America has engaged in since World War II was not because we were attacked, but because it was perceived that our "strategic" (economic) interests were threatened.

“Our foreign policy has evolved to become an insidious, coercive force around the globe. We covet the assets of weaker nations and use the World Bank and IMF to gain an economic stranglehold on their natural resources, such as oil.

“Leaders who oppose us are overthrown or liquidated, even if elected, and replaced by brutal dictators who will give in to the demands of America's insatiable corporate machine. Instead of money going to serve the needs of a nation's poor, it flows into the coffers of American corporations. We have (or had) the highest standard of living on the planet as a direct result of this. We paid for it on 9/11, but failed to learn anything from that day.

“The war in Iraq has weakened America militarily, economically, morally and spiritually. Our economy is again in shambles, as each Republican president since Reagan has left it. The war in Iraq will drag on for years, because Iraqi oil is far more valuable than the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis or the millions displaced, their shattered country, stability in the region or the lives of brave Americans who sacrifice so much for the benefit of American corporations. Is it really one's "patriotic duty" to enable and serve the interests of such a dysfunctional government, or corporate America?”

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Unverifiable Accusations

In his letter, Ryan Bauman complained about several “Unverifiable Accusations,” in my letter to the editor. The part about 2 million Iraqi refugees being displaced was incomplete.

On 2/27/08, Jack Cafferty said on CNN’s Situation Room: “there weren’t four million Iraqi refugees in Iraq until George Bush invaded Iraq...” There are two million internally displaced people in Iraq, but another two million refugees have gone to other countries.

According to a survey compiled in Iraq by two major relief agencies, eight million Iraqis have no water, sanitation, food or shelter. An estimate of more than 1.2 million violent deaths in Iraq was confirmed six months ago, in a poll by the British polling firm Opinion Research Business. This is consistent with the study conducted by doctors and scientists from the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health a year earlier. Their study was published in the Lancet, Britain’s leading medical journal. It estimated 601,000 people killed due to violence as of July 2006; but if updated on the basis of deaths since the study, the estimate would be more than a million. These estimates do not include those who have died because of public health problems created by the war.

The methods used to estimate Iraqi deaths are the same as those used in Darfur, which is widely accepted in the media. The measurements used to estimate these violent deaths were based on random sampling of the population rather than a complete count of the dead. If you don’t believe in random sampling, the next time your doctor orders a blood test, tell him that he needs to take all of your blood.

The term “gangster for capitalism” was used by Smedley Butler a Marine officer, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor twice for separate acts of outstanding heroism.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Now, That’s Disgusting

In his letter of 2/28/08, Ryan Bauman informed us that he considers the quote: “gangsters for capitalism” disgusting. That phrase was used by Smedley Butler a Marine officer, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor twice for separate acts of outstanding heroism.

Furthermore, Major General Smedley Butler had the audacity to reveal: “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.

“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.”

Bush’s deceit leading to the invasion of Iraq perverted the meaning of patriotism. Bush enabled our corrupt military-industrial complex to make outrageous profits for multinational corporations. Corporate greed and war profiteering have made endless war a corporate imperative.

Those that have sacrificed their lives in Iraq died in vain, because of an avarice military-industrial complex. As former Senator Mike Gravel said: “There’s only one thing worse than a soldier dying in vain. It’s more soldiers dying in vain.” I acknowledged the sacrifices my uncles made in the Pacific during WW II, by proudly enlisting in the Marine Corps during the Korean War. Old Glory has come to represent an imperialistic nation precisely like Germany and Japan of the early 1940’s. Now, that’s disgusting!

Tomorrow, I’ll post a response to rest of Ryan Bauman’s allegations of unverifiable accusations.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Soldiers Aren’t Gangsters

On 2/28/08, Ryan Bauman provided the following response to yesterday’s post.

“I am going to get straight to the point ... "Unverifiable accusations of behavior? ‘I count three in a recent letter from James ‘Jim’ O’Leary in Delhi. I'll get to the most unverifiable in a second. Let the anger build, please. One million dead, 2 million displaced, James? What, did you set up a turnstile at the Iraqi border? Go to all the morgues and start counting? Thanks for rounding it off; though, it does add effect. While this is no argument to the fact people have died in Iraq and people have been displaced, I do think your numbers are a bit ‘unverifiable.’ I understand this is an opinion section so please don't cloud it with unverified alleged facts.

“My real disgust is with your "gangsters of capitalism" blast. The job of the brave men and women of our armed forces is not to make policy. The armed forces is an all-volunteer force that proudly protects your freedoms. Without them, James, your letter would be written in some mix of German, Japanese and English. The men and women of the armed forces serve not for the policies of a mixed-up government but so that people such as yourself can take propaganda you have read on the Internet put it into a letter. You object to the war, good! No one likes to see people die, but to call the young men and women who gave their lives serving this great country ‘gangsters’ is weak and cowardly.

“Next time you see Old Glory flying above, you bow your head and think not about any war but, about the men and women whose blood made those stripes red.”

Tomorrow, I’ll post a rebuttal to Ryan Bauman’s “real disgust.”

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Time to speak out

On 2/22/08, the Oneonta Star published one of my more controversial letters.

"Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day."- Theodore Roosevelt.

We must recognize that the primary responsibility of our corporate sector isn't to the flag, nor to the country, but to its wealthiest shareholders. Bush commandeered our military and it's being used by our imperialistic military industrial complex to ensure outrageous profits for multinational corporations. Profiteering and corporate loyalty have replaced patriotism.

Our occupation of Iraq will go down as one of the most shameful episodes in American history. In addition to killing 1 million Iraqis and displacing 2 million more, we have demoralized our own military by turning soldiers into "gangsters for capitalism," in this avarice war.

It's time to put an end to the misery being inflicted in our name. It's time to publicly confront Bush and his obedient congressional Republicans with the politically inconvenient truth. To remain silent is morally treasonable to the American public.

Bush invaded Iraq for oil and created permanent military bases to ensure that the occupation will continue for generations. The claim by most congressional Republicans that we're fighting in Iraq for idealistic reasons, such as spreading democracy, opposing tyranny and securing our safety is a convenient lie.

Clinton, Schumer and Rep. Gillibrand find it politically inconvenient to publicly acknowledge that the Iraq war is about oil. It's time for congressional Democrats to be morally responsible and stop being a compliant enabler for an imperialistic military industrial complex.

Politicians claim the left wing of the Democratic Party has no place to go on Election Day. Perhaps, the left wing of the party will stay home.

Tomorrow, I’ll post a very angry response to this letter.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Three Trillion Dollars

According to Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz the Iraq war has contributed to our economic slowdown and is impeding an economic recovery.

In their new book “The Three Trillion Dollar War,” Stiglitz and co-author Linda Bilmes insists that our government continues to underestimate the cost of the war. Initially, the war in Iraq was billed as paying for itself through increased Iraqi oil exports, but has already cost our treasury $845 billion.

Stiglitz said: “It used to be thought that wars were good for the economy. No economist really believes that anymore.” Stiglitz and Bilmes report that an ultraconservative estimate of the true cost of the Iraq War is at least $3 trillion. A trillion dollars could have hired 15 million additional public school teachers for a year or provided 43 million students with four-year scholarships to public universities.

The direct costs exclude interest on the debt raised to fund the war, healthcare costs for veterans coming home, and replacing the destroyed hardware and degraded operational capacity caused by the war.

Asked if the war has contributed to the present slowdown in the economy, Stiglitz responded: “Very much so. To offset that depressing effect, the Fed has flooded the economy with liquidity and the regulators looked the other way when very imprudent lending was going up. We were living on borrowed money and borrowed time and eventually a day of reckoning had to come, and it has now come.”

Linda Bilmes, a former assistant secretary and chief financial officer for our Customs Department claims the war also limited options for $168 billion stimulus package recently signed into law. She said: “Actually the country could have used a larger fiscal stimulus but there is no cash to accommodate it.”

Stiglitz and Bilmes discovered an under reporting of casualty figures by the Pentagon. The official Pentagon figure of nearly 30,000 wounded in action does not account for 40,000 service members who have required medical attention for non-combat injuries or illness.

According to American Friends Service Committee, eighty-four new elementary schools could be build with the $720 million cost of one day in Iraq.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Senator Levin

Michigan Senator, Carl Levin points out: “Late last year in meetings with senior Saudi government officials, Congressional staffers raised concerns about the case of the Saudi rape victim who faced six months in prison and two hundred lashes because she spoke out publicly.

“The Saudi officials responded by simply saying, ‘Guantanamo’ and ‘Abu Ghraib’. As if to say, ‘Who are you to lecture us about due process and human rights?’

“When the President of the United States says we are not bound by the Geneva Conventions, allowing for ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques to be carried out by Americans, it is intolerable for many reasons: it is morally wrong and it violates our basic values; it produces unreliable information and may cause prisoners to resist cooperation; it violates domestic and international law; and it jeopardizes our own troops if they are captured.

“As General Petraeus, the commander of all our forces in Iraq, has said, ‘Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary.’

“Beyond all of those strong arguments, the specter of torture distracts from the virtue of our stand against terrorists, and it detracts from America’s image around the world.

“General Petraeus also said, ‘What sets us apart from our enemies in this fight, however, is how we behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and respect.’

“Last week, the Senate voted 51-45 on a bill to end the CIA’s so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’

“The Intelligence Authorization Conference Report, which I supported, included a provision that would require all government agencies, including the CIA, to comply with the Army Field Manual on Interrogations, which is consistent with our obligations under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, in the treatment and interrogation of detainees.

“Unfortunately, we are already hearing that the President may veto this bill. We need the understanding and goodwill of people from other nations for our own security, and winning back our moral standing around the world will not happen if we continue to tolerate torture.”

Monday, March 03, 2008

Saudi Arabia

Former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca endorsed Bush in 2000, but not in 2004. In his book, “Where Have All the Leaders Gone?” Iacocca wrote: “Oil is behind the war in Iraq. Oil is the reason we give fundamentalists, terrorists breeding theocracy in Saudi Arabia a pass. Almost every important Bush administration official has a connection to the oil industry.”

Iacocca points out that if our goal is to spread democracy throughout the Middle East, why don’t we do Bush’s friends a favor and call for a regime change in Saudi Arabia? Why don’t we bring them democracy? If it’s good enough for Iraq, it’s good enough for Saudi Arabia.”

Recently, the world’s worst dictators were chosen and ranked on their human rights abuses, level of suffering that their leadership has caused and the amount of absolute power they wield. The sources of the information include our State Department, Human Rights watch, Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah is ranked fourth. Under Abdullah young teens can be put to death and defendents tortured. Women are more oppressed than in any other country. They can’t even seek medical care without a male guardian’s permission.

Our military industrial complex has sold King Abhullah’s regime more than $ 15 billion in arms in the last decade. Fifteen of the 9/11, hijackers were Saudis and researchers at West Point report that the largest number of al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq come from Saudi Arabia.

Since taking office, Bush has doubled the federal debt to more than $5 trillion. According to US Treasury figures, foreign investors have purchased close to 100% of that debt. Most of that money has been borrowed from the Saudis, the Chinese and Japanese.

Abdullah gets this financial power by pumping it out of our pockets at more than a $100 a barrel. The high price of oil is, actually a tax levied by Bush, but collected by the oil industry and King Abdullah to fund our multi-trillion dollar governmental and private debt-load.

On 1/16/08, economist Paddy Chayefsky wrote in the film The Network: “The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back. … It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity…. There are no nations, there are no peoples. There is only one vast and immense, interwoven, multi-national dominion of petro-dollars. … There is no America. There is no ‘democracy.’ The world is a business, one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work.”

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Robert Olcutt

Robert Olcutt’s letter was published in Middletown’s Times Herold-Record: “With no draft forcing Americans to serve, it is no surprise that most young people feel that someone else should defend our country.

“Congress and the president voted to go to war in Iraq. We won the war in three days and then the police action started and we got bogged down. Maybe nobody could have foreseen that, but once you have rendered a nation helpless, you can’t just walk away.

“Americans have not suffered since the World War II effort to support the war and save Europe from the enemy onslaught. Many countries are still very grateful for our help in those times.

“As a nation, we should think long and hard before getting involved, but once the government gets into a war, we should do everything in our power to achieve success.

“War is hell and innocent people get killed. If Americans don’t have the guts to see it through and politicians say anything to get votes even if it is wrong, we should stay out of world affairs until the terrorist knocks on our door again. These evil people will never be satisfied until they can impose their will on all of us.”

My response to those remarks:

Robert J. Olcott’s letter stated “These evil people will never be satisfied until they can impose their will on all of us.” Might we considered the possibility, that our present leadership are the evil people that will never be satisfied until they can impose their will upon the oil rich nations of the world.

Today, many young people view the invasion of Iraq as illegal. They’re aware of the deceit leading up to the invasion, which enabled our imperialistic military industrial complex to guarantee outrageous profits for multinational corporations. Apparently, war profiteering and corporate loyalty have replaced patriotism.

Richard Clarke served four presidents and established a record for continuous service in national security policy positions. His career began as an analyst on nuclear weapons under Reagan. In his book, “Against All Enemies”, Clarke points out: “We invaded and occupied an oil rich Arab country that posed no threat to us...We delivered to al Qaeda the greatest recruitment propaganda imaginable.”

Many experts agree that our attempts to achieve “success” in Iraq have made our country less safe.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Difficult Choices

On Hardball, Chris Matthews asked Senator Claire McCaskill: “What has Senator Obama accomplished as a colleague of yours in the U.S. Senate?”

She pointed out that Obama had work with Senator Lugar to secure loose nuclear weapons, around the world, and with Republican Senator Coburn, to open up the records of spending of government to the people on the Internet. He was the first senator to go after the wounded warriors disgrace at the Walter Reed Hospital and got most of his initial legislation passed into law within a matter of months. Although, Senator McCain has a good record in terms of earmarks, he was not able to accomplish the kind of reform or transparency that Senator Obama accomplish in a very short period of time after he arrived in the Senate.

The Wisconsin post-election analysis, showed that men were overwhelmingly for Obama. Although, it’s a sensitive point in American life, Senator McCaskill was willing to talk about the gender issue and how it relates to this election.

Senator McCaskill insists that the Democratic primary is hard for women, because: “We all care very much about gender equality, and so it’s easy to kind of gravitate over to gender preference.  Obviously, what’s important is for everyone, regardless of whether they’re a woman or a man, to decide who’s going to set the right tone in this country right now? Who is going to be able to work across the parties and find some common ground?

“And, you know, divisiveness has been an issue.  It’s been an issue in Washington.  Ideological splits have not produced good results for the American people.  And, so, I think that a lot of women are looking at this election.  And even though there is a significant guilt—I have significant guilt.  Hillary Clinton is a strong, smart woman.  She would be a terrific president.

“But I feel very strongly that it is important that we focus on who is the best leader for our country right now.  And that is why I am enthusiastically trying to help Barack Obama... I have got a lot of my supporters and friends that are disappointed in me, that feel like I owe a blind loyalty to Senator Clinton, because she is capable and strong, and would be a good president. I think that is why this gender issue is such a point in this election. And, frankly, I feel for a lot of my African-American friends who have endorsed Hillary Clinton, because I think they’re getting some of the same guilt. 

“But what is really neat about this election, which is so exciting is that there isn’t anything John McCain or Senator Clinton can do, to stop it, is the groundswell of new enthusiasm from people who have never participated before.

“And it is those people that are carrying the day.  And I think that any attempt to characterize Barack Obama, as an empty suit or as simply rhetoric, is missing entirely the point of what is going on in our country this year.”