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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Post 9/11 Veterans

After World War II, attending college gave veterans time to readjust to civilian life, and prepared them for careers.

For every dollar spent on the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, seven went back into the economy in the form of increased productivity, consumer spending, and tax revenue.

According to General Wesley Clark, Robert Lopez served 8 years in our military, fighting in Iraq as a tank commander. He was told he’d get his whole education bill paid for when he got out of the service, but like so many others, Lopez has faced the bleak reality of a government that has turned its back on veterans.

Today’s GI Bill covers only part of the costs of college, because tuition costs have increased faster than inflation, and many veterans must take out student loans or forgo education altogether.

The Senate version of the bill, called the “Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act,” was introduced in the Senate by a bipartisan coalition of senators, including Jim Webb (D-Va.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and John Warner (R-Va.), all of whom are veterans and GI Bill beneficiaries. It would bring back the WWII-style standards of providing vets with full tuition, room and board.

Presently, 51 senators have signed on, including 9 Republicans, which has given this GI Bill bipartisan support. However, faced with filibusters, the only way to ensure Senate passage of the GI Bill is to get 60 cosponsors. John McCain insists that he supports our troops, but continues to withhold his support of the bill. McCain needs to sign on and signal other Republican leaders that we should be strongly behind our vets.

Our government owes our troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan the opportunity to receive full educational benefits. Paying for college is one of the best ways to show our gratitude as a nation.

Perhaps, McCain anticipates that if our troops were given the option of going to college, they would decide not to reenlist. In fact, the Korean War GI bill was the reason I didn’t reenlist in the Marine Corps and instead decided to be the first in my family to attend college.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Our Future


“Joy to the world.  All the boys and girls.  Now, Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea. Joy to you and me.”  This tune has been running through my mind, since learning that I’ve become a grandfather of a boy name Cary Leonard O’Leary.

Cary was born in Brussels, Belgium to our daughter-in-law Sandy and our son Sean. Sandy and her 7 pound, 20.5 inch bundle of joy are doing well and we look forward to visiting them in the near future.

Although born in Europe, Cary can be proud of his American heritage, because it goes back to the very beginning of our country.  His great, great, great grandmother was Julia Livingston, a direct decedent of Robert Livingston.  During the Second Continental Congress, Robert Livingston was one of five committee members; the others being Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Roger Sherman, who helped draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

That which our founding fathers expressed has never come to fruition, and hopefully our nation has not seen the apex of its greatness.  I anticipate that Cary will be an advocate for world peace and cherish the self-evident truth that our common humanity is vastly more important than national origin, political party affiliation, class, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

In some respects, our nation has made significant progress.  Today, we have two very viable candidates for president, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama competing to become the Democratic party’s nominee.  At the time of my birth, those milestones of gender and race were considered nearly unobtainable.

Mind and Destiny is a treasured birthday gift from Cary’s parents.  They are critical thinkers and avid readers, who thirst for knowledge.  Undoubtedly, they will pass on the torch of enlightenment to their son.

The challenge for Cary’s generation was pointed out more than a half century ago, when President Dwight Eisenhower said: “If men can develop weapons that are so terrifying as to make the thought of global war include almost a sentence for suicide, you would think that man’s intelligence and his comprehension... would include also his ability to find a peaceful solution.”

Monday, April 28, 2008

Hero ?

On 4/26/08, Joseph P. Brill of Oneonta letter to the editor was published in the Star.

He wrote: “Familiar? U.S. military invades a country on a trumped-up incident: The Gulf of Tonkin attack. This country is the repeated victim of colonial ambition and is now engaged in an internal battle to define its own future. This country posed no threat and had made no threat to the U.S.A. We unleash all-out war; 50,000 U.S. soldiers die, hundreds of thousands of indigenous people die, Americans are lied to about the war’s progress. Numerous books are written, which reveal the stupidity and deception.

“By visiting North Vietnam, Jane Fonda did not aid the enemy. By definition, the North Vietnamese were not our enemy. No threat, no weapons of mass destruction. They were defending their homeland against aggressors. What Fonda did was what we need to be doing; telling the rest of the world that the criminals in the White House are not supported by the citizenry.

“John McCain is not a war hero. A war hero is someone who participates in a war fought to protect one’s country or to protect innocent people from tyranny. The North Vietnamese people were waging a war against puppet governments supported by Western European colonial powers. (Know history or keep your opinions to yourself.)

“McCain flies a combat jet, drops bombs and napalm, killing people who are not our enemies. In self-defense, he is shot down, imprisoned by those he was trying to kill. Did he expect to be given chocolates and a terry robe?

“McCain survives his well-deserved punishment and, due to the benevolence of his captors, returns home. This is not a war hero, just one heck of a lucky guy.

“If you’re looking for villains, direct your sights on the regime in D.C. If you’re looking for heroes, find the people who are busy defending our country against our government.”

****In my opinion Joseph P. Brill’s letter had a major flaw, which was (Know history or keep your opinions to yourself.) We should be encouraging people to share their opinions and not keep them to themselves.

Official history doesn’t correspond to Brill’s opinions, because “Official history consists in believing murderers at their word” - Simone Weil

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Media Distortions

Our mainstream media has been insisting that Barack Obama’s biggest problem in Pennsylvania was that he appeared too passive, and that he didn’t fight for every vote. They're claiming that he’s become detached and smug. The Republican pundits are urging him to change his brand of politics and get tough. They want him to fight for every vote and engage Hillary Clinton by going negative.

That is exactly what Hillary and McCain want Obama to do, but he is sticking to his game plan, which is a new kind of politics of talking about the issues. 

The facts are really quite different than the narrative our mainstream media is presenting to its viewers regarding to Barack Obama’s performance in Pennsylvania. He improved his performance among white men, among voters making less than 50 thousand a year, among voters over 65 and among those Democratic primary voters who described themselves as conservative. He did better among those voters than he had done in previous primaries. 

Although, the mainstream media continues to insist that Reverend Wright’s remarks and Obama’s “bitter” comment about rural voters really hurt him, none of the political pundits can explain why is he doing better among blue collar voters, conservative voters and male white voters, than before those controversies were headlined as important issues?

The story that is being told doesn’t match the facts. Barack Obama may have lost in the suburbs of Bucks and Montgomery Counties in Pennsylvania, but it had been predicted that he would lose those counties by 16 points and he ended up losing them by less than double digits. He improved among the specific constituencies, which were expected to overwhelm him in Pennsylvania. Initially, Hillary Clinton had a commanding lead of 20 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania, but Obama lost the state by only 9.3 percent of the vote. 

Furthermore, the media continues to report that Obama lost in the state of Texas. However, the final count showed that in fact he ended up with more committed delegates than Clinton.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Split by Politics

Yesterday, the following letter to the editor by Kate Ryan of Delhi was published in the the Oneonta Star.

"General Petraeus said we are fighting for 'national interest' and to stop 'sectarian violence.' Two articles about Iraq on AlterNet by Joshua Holland and Raed Jarrer describe the situation differently. They point out that the conflict in Iraq is about oil and democracy and not sectarian differences. The conflict in Iraq is between Iraqi separatists and Iraqi nationalists.

"The separatists are led by al-Maliki, who is backed by Bush. The separatists want to get the Hydro Carbon Law through the Iraqi Parliament. This law would give U.S. and British oil companies control over 70 percent of Iraq's undeveloped oil fields. This would be accomplished by having a weak central government and three semiautonomous regions.

"The nationalists don't want foreign influence in Iraq's affairs and they favor a strong central government. They oppose privatizing Iraq's oil and natural gas reserves. This is the position of Muqtada al-Sadr.

"Holland and Jarrer explain that the Iraqi Cabinet is dominated by separatists who supported the U.S.-led Iraq invasion. However, in the Iraqi Council of Representatives, the nationalists have a majority.

"Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds are in both the Cabinet and the Council of Representatives. There are religious differences, but the main problem is political. As Salel al-Mutlaq, head of the secular National Dialogue Front, said, 'What we're facing in Iraq is a political war in which the U.S. is taking one side.' The side the U.S. is taking is that of al-Maliki and the separatists, as Bush wants the oil. That's why he also wants permanent bases in Iraq.

"Most Iraqis favor a strong central government and don't want U.S. bases. If we believe in democracy, we ought to listen to the will of the Iraqi people and withdraw.

"Check out Holland and Jarrer's articles at www.alternet.org. They're excellent."

Friday, April 25, 2008

Propagandists

The New York Times exposed a secret Pentagon campaign to infiltrate the media with pro-war propaganda.

The scheme reaches all the way to the White House, where top officials recruited dozens of “military analysts” to spread favorable views of the war via every major news channel, without revealing that they were working from Pentagon scripts. Some were also paid lobbyist for major military contractors. Congress should investigate these military “analysts” and their ties to the Bush regime, defense contractors and our national news media.

The more than 75 analysts exposed by the New York Times have become fixtures of war coverage on CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC. The article reveals the many ways the Pentagon fed them pro-war talking points and misinformation. The White House name for these covert propagandists was “message force multipliers.”

The message force multipliers used their access to the media and the White House to secure high-paying jobs as lobbyists and consultants. Then competed for hundreds of billions of dollars in military business generated by the war

Message force multipliers are the reason Americans are unaware that the apparent success in Anbar province is not the positive situation it has been purported to be. Violence has declined as local Sunni sheiks began to cooperate with our forces, but the surge tactic cannot be given full credit. Initially, Saddam Hussein’s Sunnis had welcomed anyone who would help them kill Americans, including al Qaeda. However, the decline in violence started, when the Sunnis recognized their financial plight and became angry with al Qaeda operatives. Our new Sunni friends insist on being paid for their loyalty.

Former Director of the National Security Agency, retired Army Lieutenant General William Odom has too much integrity to be a Pentagon propagandist. On 4/2/08, he testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that he had learned of an estimate cost of $250,000 per day being paid to ensure the cooperation of Sunni sheiks for an area of about 100 square kilometers. Periodically, they threaten to defect unless their fees are increased. Odom insists that; "We do not own the Sunnis. We rent them and they can break the lease at any moment. This deal protects them from the Iraqi government’s forces, which is hardly a sign of political reconciliation."

The concern we hear from McCain regarding a resurgent of al Qaeda if we withdraw is utter nonsense. The Sunnis would quickly destroy al Qaeda if we leave Iraq.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Professor

John Ryan writes a column every month for the Walton Reporter. In his most recent column, John’s imaginary friend ‘the Professor’ offered some insight into the type of nation, we have become. John wrote:

On opening the door to Charlie’s Place, I spotted the Professor sitting alone at the end of the bar, perusing the paper.

"It’s good to see that you’re staying informed," I said, "Where’s Doc?."

"Well," he said, "It appears that our friend’s Beloved has decided that he’s becoming too portly and that he must go on a diet. She says that she wants him to be her hunk, not her chunk. So, he’s changing his lifestyle and initiating a Spartan way-of-life. Right now, I picture him in front of his hearth sipping herbal tea and calibrating his calorie-counter."

I was astounded . "I can’t believe it!" I replied.

"It’s true," said the Professor. "It’s questionable as to how long he’ll be able to maintain this way of life. He said that we will be seeing him from time-to-time as he intends to exempt himself from this rigorous regimen on weekends and holidays which I’m sure will include Cinco de Mayo, Buddha’s Birthday and the Dutch Tulip Festival."

"He’ll last a week," I said.

"In the meantime I sit here with the local daily which doesn’t really offer too much news but, now and then an entertaining tidbit presents itself - not all the laughs are on the comics page. To wit: On Page 1, Mr Stephen Hadley, the president’s National Security Adviser, pooh-poohs any kind of boycott of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Beijing. Our freedom-loving president may attend them even though the Chinese have been busting skulls in Tibet for a period of time. ‘Quiet diplomacy,’ says Mr. Hadley, is a better way to deal with China than ‘frontal confrontation.’ Doesn’t that strike you as amazing? An administration that has initiated two wars, five years of unnecessary bloodshed in Iraq and that is presently sword rattling at Iran now talks of ‘quiet diplomacy.’"

"There’s nothin’ like a nation havin’ a billion people and a nuclear arsenal to make us consider a different approach," said Charlie as he replaced our glasses

"That’s probably why Iran wants a bomb - it’s a good insurance policy," I said. "Notice that we’re not threatening North Korea, the third member of the ‘axis of evil’- it has a couple of them in its closet. You strong arm the ones you can but, with others, it’s ‘quiet diplomacy’ especially when they also control a trillion dollars of your debt."

"And here in a local weekly, there’s a ‘guest editorial’ by a Republican ward heeler, a Mr. Sandy Treadwell. He takes the House of Representatives to task for not passing the president’s surveillance bill. I’m surprised that the newspaper gave its editorial space to a piece that is so self-serving since Mr. Treadwell is running for the House seat now occupied by the Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand. His main complaint is that the House bill is different from the Senate’s and it doesn’t give the president what he wants. ‘Blatant partisanship,’ says Mr. Treadwell, that creates ‘legal hoops’ and ‘political gridlock.’ It appears that Mr. Treadwell thinks that nobody should differ with ‘Beloved Leader.’ However, the House demurred for good reason - the Senate bill would have authorized warrantless wiretapping and left our spying establishment with no judicial restraint or control, a gigantic spying agency at the service and control of the president. Such power to one man is completely unacceptable.

"You know, John, if we ever had questions about how the Nazis came to power in a country as civilized and cultured as Germany, we shouldn’t have any now because the same thing may be happening here. First, there’s a threat - for Germany it was the communists, for us it’s terrorism. Then comes the fear - make the population believe that their lives, property and the very nation are in peril. Then comes the increased concentration of power in one man since the mechanics of democracy are far too clumsy for fighting the threat. Then the denunciation of those who show any reluctance to follow along - they’re undermining the country, giving aid to and abetting the enemy. If you’re not wearing a lapel pin your loyalty is questioned. Secrecy becomes the rule, not for ‘reasons-of-state’ as in the past but for ‘national security’ and the restriction of rights and due process is required to make things more difficult for those who would do us harm. So we end up with a leader with full powers - in Germany it was der Fuhrer, with us it may be the Commander-in-Chief - the one who is going to lead us out of danger and make things right again.

"It’s possible that it could happen here - that we’ll become a nation of secrecy, conformity, conquest and dungeons - and, like the Germans, we may not know it until it’s too late."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Real McCain

John McCain and the Republican Party expect us to forget about the mismanagement of the last seven and a half years. The Republican spin machine is working overtime to distract Americans from getting to know the real McCain.

McCain would have us believe that the economy will improve. However, the American people know that’s not true, because they’re feeling the effects of high gas prices, lost jobs, and a housing crisis. These are the reason voters continually rank the economy as their biggest concern.

Senator McCain is on the record as saying the economy is something he really doesn’t understand as well as he should. That is obvious.

Unemployment is up. Gas and food prices are up. Inflation is on the rise. The housing market is in a slump. Economist are saying we’re in the worst economic mess in decades. Meanwhile, McCain keeps defending his friend Bush, by saying everything is just fine.

The Children’s Defense Fund rated McCain as the worst senator in Congress for children. He voted against the children’s health care bill last year, then defended Bush’s veto of the bill. He’s one of the richest people in a Senate filled with millionaires.

The Associated Press reports McCain and his wife own at least eight homes. He has argued against federal intervention to help Americans, who have faced foreclosure during the housing crisis. This elitist had the audacity to suggest that the solution to the housing crisis is for people facing foreclosure to get a second job and skip their vacations.

McCain’s solutions are to providing tax cuts for the wealthy, allow oil and gas companies to continue to make huge windfall profits and turn a blind eye to the problems in the home lending market.

We can’t afford four more years of failed Bush economic policies.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Obama’s Pastor

Jon Meacham, co-host of the Compassion Forum asked Barack Obama: “You have spoken about how your former pastor in Chicago, the Jeremiah Wright was critical in helping bring you to Christianity and is like part of your family. Can you tell us how he helped bring you closer to God?”

Obama answered: “I had worked as an organizer on the South Side. The community was in difficult straits and I was bringing churches together to set up job training programs, after-school programs for youth and sought to bring economic development to the community.

“I had been raised in a nonreligious home. My mother was the most spiritual person I know, but was mistrustful of organized religion, in part because of some of her experiences seeing segregation being compatible with organized religion. We went to church very infrequently.

“While doing this organizing, some of the pastors started saying, “You know, you’ve got great ideas, but, if you’re going to organize churches, it might help if you were going to church. And, I thought, that’s not an unreasonable position, so I started visiting some churches. Trinity United Church of Christ was one of the churches, we were trying to get involved in the organization.

“I found them engaged in ministries on HIV/AIDS, prison ministries and a host of other wonderful ministries. Reverend Wright’s sermons spoke directly to the social gospel, the need to act and not just to sit in the pews.

“I found that very attractive and ended up joining the church when I got out of law school. A notion has been subsequently reported that he was, my spiritual adviser or my spiritual mentor. He’s been my pastor.

“That means that, the ministries, which have been built in that church community are very important to me. It also means that there are areas where we’ve disagreed. Obviously, what recently been playing in the media as Reverend Wright’s greatest hits. They are both a distortion of who he is and what the church has been about. It also express some comments that are deeply offensive and are contrary to what I believe. I’ve told him so and have made public statements about that, including one pretty long one in Philadelphia.

“That, doesn’t detract from an incredible church community. I think that all of us who have been part of a faith community know that the church is a body of believers and it brings in the imperfections of us, men and women.

“Pastors are imperfect. Certainly, the membership is imperfect. I, as somebody who is sitting in the pews as a sinner, is imperfect. That, doesn’t detract from, what the church is supposed to be about, which is to worship God and proclaim the good news.”

Monday, April 21, 2008

Opportunity Wasted

President Dwight Eisenhower speculated: “I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of their way and let them have it.”

After 9/11, both the U.S. and Iran were allies against the Taliban. They worked together in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban and rebuild the Afghan government. At the time, James Dobbins was Bush’s special envoy to Afghanistan and met with the Iranians several times a day. The Iranians were cooperating and their objectives were largely the same as ours, since they had been fighting the Taliban long before we were.

In the fall of 2001, during our military campaign in Afghanistan, Iran cooperated on the ground providing vital information and safe passage of humanitarian supplies. Afterward, they worked alongside the U.S. to establish a constitution and the government of Hamid Karzai.

Special envoy Dobbins was surprise to learn that Iran was prepared to participate in a program to assist the creation of a new Afghan national army under U.S. leadership. The Iranians were prepared to house, clothe, equip and train as many as 20,000 recruits as part of a broader American led effort. They proposed that their army would collaborate with American leadership in a joint program to train the national Afghan army.

Another, surprising offer was that the Iranians wanted to expand this dialogue to other issues. They were ready to discuss the Middle East peace process with the Palestinians. James Dobbins passed that information on to Washington, but never got a response.

Both Dobbins and Hillary Mann the Iran and Afghanistan specialist at the National Security Council were amazed, when Bush announced in his State of the Union Address that Iran was part of the axis of evil.

In May of 2003, Iran proposed negotiations. Secretary of State Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice took the proposal to President Bush, but Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney stopped the effort, explaining that “We don’t speak to evil”.

Specifically, Iran proposed cooperating with the US on its nuclear program, stabilizing Iraq and helping with counter-terrorism throughout the Middle East, which implied recognition of Israel. In exchange Iran asked for “security guarantee” and a commitment to disavow all intentions of regime change, along with an abolishment of sanctions, and “recognition of Iran’s legitimate security interests in the region.” Former Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ambassador Kharrazi reported that the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei as well as former President Khatami were active in the drafting of the proposal.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Clash of Civilizations

At the Compassion Forum, co-host C.N.N’s Campbell Brown asked Senator Obama: “You are a Christian, but as a child you had more exposure to Islam than probably most Americans ever will. How did that shape you?”

Obama answered: “Well, I lived in Indonesia for four-and-a-half years when I was a child, but ironically, the first school I went to in Indonesia was a Catholic school. Then, I attended a public school, but the majority of the country was Muslim. The brand of Islam that was being practiced in Indonesia at the time was a very tolerant Islam. The country itself was explicitly secular in its constitution.

“I didn't experience an oppressive state that was trying to impose people's religious beliefs. Christians and people of other faiths lived very comfortably there. Women were working, and not wearing the traditional coverings that we see in the Middle East.

“It taught me, that Islam can be compatible with the modern world. Islam can be a partner with the Christian and Jewish and Hindu and Buddhist faiths in trying to create a better world.

“I am always suspicious of attempts to paint Islam with a broad brush because the overwhelming majority of the people of the Islamic faith are people of good will who are trying to raise their families and live up to their values and ideals and to try to raise their kids as best they can and that's something that I think we always have to remember as opposed to assuming a clash of civilizations that sometimes are overheated rhetoric that politically is talked about.”

****Unfortunately, Republican presidential candidate John McCain wants to promote the concept of a clash of civilizations. He would like to wage another imperialistic, ravenous, and illegal war against Iran for oil. Perhaps the fact that McCain’s mother is a wealthy oil heiress and his father and grandfather were elite members of the warriors class has more to do with his position than Iran being an actual threat.

Please, note that Obama used the term clash of civilizations, but was referring to the concept and not the book:"Clash of Civilizations."

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Poverty

Reverend Jim Wallace is the president of “Sojourners,” a Christian social justice organization. At the Compassion Forum, Rev. Wallace asked Senator Obama: “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed 40 years ago, he wasn’t just speaking about civil rights. He was fighting for economic justice, and was about to launch a poor people’s campaign. Yet, four decades after the anniversary of his death, the poverty rate in America is virtually unchanged and one in six of our children are poor in the richest nation in the world.

“So in the faith community, we are wanting a new commitment around a measurable goal, something like cutting poverty in half in 10 years. Would you commit at this historic compassion forum, to such a goal tonight and if elected, tell us how you’d mobilize the nation, mobilize us to achieve that goal?”

Obama responded: “I absolutely will make that commitment. Understand that when I make that commitment, I do so with great humility because it is a very ambitious goal. We’re going to have to mobilize our society, not just to cut poverty, but to prevent more people from slipping into poverty.

“Every four years we have politicians who come out and make promises and they are not kept. That’s why I wanted to put the caveat on there. I make that commitment with humility because we’ve got a lot of work to do economically in this country to bring about a more just and fair economy. It starts with recognizing incomes for average families have gone down during the most recent economic expansion. That’s never happened before in the history of America since we started recording these statistics, at least since World War II.

“We’ve got to shore up the mortgage market to make sure that we don’t have millions of people who are losing their homes. We’re going to have to change our tax code. For us to provide tax breaks to the wealthiest among us, those who didn’t need them and weren’t even asking for them, at a time when ordinary folks are struggling to fill up a gas tank just to get to a job.

“We’ve got to give them some tax relief, and we’ve got to invest in our infrastructure to create jobs, particularly those who are going to be getting laid off in the construction industry, the housing market goes down.

“We’re going to have to invest heavily in clean energy. We can generate $150 billion over 10 years to invest in solar and wind and biodiesel and train people to build windmills and solar panels and make buildings more energy efficient.

“All of these things will strengthen the economy generally. And one last point, health care. People are falling into bankruptcy. They are going without medical care. It is a moral imperative that we make sure that we have a plan in place that provides health care to every single American, which is of high quality and provides for prevention.

“If we do those things, that applies not just to poor people but to working and middle class families all across the country, then we can focus on those who, even when the economy is good and the middle class are doing well, are still impoverished, and that’s a special challenge.

“That involves going at the problem at its roots very early. Investing in early childhood education, working with at-risk parents, and drastically improving our education system, K through 12, by paying our teachers more and demanding more from them. Making sure that we have after-school programs and summer school programs. Many of these can be part of a faith community. People sometimes ask me, what do I think about faith-based initiatives? I want to keep the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives open, but I want to make sure that its mission is clear. It’s not to simply build a particular faith community, the faith-based initiatives should be targeted specifically at the issue of poverty and how to lift people up.

“By partnering with faith communities, I think we can achieve that as long as it’s within the requirements of our Constitution. We make sure that it’s open to everybody. It’s not simply the federal government funding certain groups to be able to evangelize.”

Friday, April 18, 2008

Rowboats

Yesterday, the Binghamton Press-Sun Bulletin published a rebuttal letter of mine, which ridiculed a letter written by William Farrell. My response was limited to 150 words. Therefore, I wrote:

On April 1, William Farrell suggested that waterboarding is necessary “because when al-Qaida comes to your neighborhood or wherever you may be on vacation and kills half your family, you will be the first one to cry, ‘Why didn’t the government protect us?’”

How enlightening. I didn’t realize terrorists had that many rowboats. In fact:

1. Members of Congress, seeking lucrative defense contracts for their districts, have mutually beneficial relationships with defense contractors.

2. Our wars could eventually cost $2.4 trillion through the next decade, because they are being fought on borrowed money with more than 70 percent of the money going to the war in Iraq.

3. Neocons have a 25-year plan to break the bank, so middle-class entitlement programs will be drastically cut or abolished. Americans don’t want privatization of programs that work, such as Social Security and Medicare.

****Yesterday’s post on Mind and Destiny was entitled “Shock the Conscience.” I quoted Senator Obama’s reasoned response to those that believe torture in necessary to keep us safe.

My primary concern with Mr. Farrell’s letter was the fear mongering, which has become the favorite tactic to scare both members of Congress and the American people. The neocons of the Republican party continue to manipulate our emotions with fear, so that they can disregards the law and abuses our inalienable rights bestowed to us by the Constitution.

Our continued occupation of Iraq is making us less safe, but Senator McCain hopes to win an election using fear. The lives lost in Iraq doesn’t seem to matter to the neocons. Nor, do they care that we’re $9.3 trillion in debt, which will cost $400 billion in interest payments this year alone.  They don’t seem to care that Social Security and Medicare could be abolished.

However, those resorting to fear-mongering might pay more attention to the monetary cost of the war, when they realize that our exploding national debt has brought about a devaluation of the dollar, which has resulted in everything costing more.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

“Shock the Conscience”

At C.N.N.’s Compassion Form, the president of “Evangelicals for Human Rights,” Dr. David Gushee asked Senator Obama: “Recently yet another disturbing memo emerged from the Justice Department. This one said that not even interrogation methods that, quote, ‘shock the conscience’ would be considered torture nor would they be considered illegal if they had been authorized by the president. This kind of reasoning shocks the conscience of many millions of Americans and many millions of people of faith here and around the world. Is there justification for policies on the part of our nation that permit physical and mental cruelty toward those who are in our custody?”

Senator Obama answered: “We have to be clear and unequivocal. We do not torture, period. Our government does not torture. That should be our position. That will be my position as president. That includes, by the way, renditions. We don’t farm out torture. We don’t subcontract torture.

“And the reason this is important is not only because torture does not end up yielding good information -- most intelligence officers agree with that. I met with a distinguished group of former generals who have made it their mission to travel around and talk to presidential candidates and to talk in forums about how this degrades the discipline and the ethos of our military.

“It is very hard for us when kids, you know, 19, 20, 21, 22 are in Iraq having to make difficult decisions, life or death decisions every day, and are being asked essentially to restrain themselves and operate within the law. Then to find out that our own government is not abiding by these same laws that we are asking them to defend? That is not acceptable. And so my position is going to be absolutely clear.

“It is also important for our long-term security to send a message to the world that we will lead not just with our military might but we are going to lead with our values and our ideals. That we are not a nation that gives away our civil liberties simply because we’re scared. We’re always at our worst when we’re fearful. One of the things that my religious faith allows me to do, hopefully, is not to operate out of fear. Fear is a bad counsel and I want to operate out of hope and out of faith.”

***It’s important to note that extraordinary rendition is a practice, which allows people to be kidnapped and sent off to countries that specialize in torture. Michael Scheuer author of “Imperial Hubris” and the former head of the bin Laden unit set up the extraordinary rendition program for the Clinton regime. However, Clinton didn’t allow the C.I.A. to torture the suspects, it was out sourced to the Egyptians, thereby technically not violating the Geneva Convention.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Public Square

Only the two Democratic presidential candidates participated in a “Compassion Forum” aired on C.N.N. on 4/13/08, because John McCain declined his invitation. The focus was on the issues of faith and compassion and how a president’s faith can affect us all.

Obama was asked: “There are a lot of Americans who believe the conversation going on here tonight is not necessarily appropriate. They believe that religion has far too much influence in public life. What do you say to that?”

Obama responded: “Well, you know, what I’ve written in the past, what I’ve actually spoke at a Sojourner’s forum two years ago on this precise issue. I think that we have fallen into a false debate.

“On the one hand, there have been elements, many of them in my own party, in the Democratic Party, that believe that any influence of religion whatsoever in the public debate somehow is problematic or violates church and state.

“On the other hand, there have been those primarily in the other party, in the Republican Party, whose view has been that the separation between church and state shouldn’t even be there. I think both extremes are wrong.

“What I believe is that all of us come to the public square with our own values and our ideals and our ethics, what we believe. People of religious faith have the same right to come to that public square with values and ideals that are rooted in their faith.

“They have the right to describe them in religious terms, which has been part of our history. As I said in some of my writings, imagine Dr. King, going in front of the Lincoln Memorial and having to scrub all his religious references, or Abraham Lincoln in the Second Inaugural not being able to refer to God.

“What religious language can often do is allow us to get outside of ourselves and mobilize around a common good.

“On the other hand, what those of us of religious faith have to do in the public square is to translate our language into a universal language that can appeal to everybody. Both Lincoln and King did this and every great leader did it, because we are not just a Christian nation. We are a Jewish nation; we are a Buddhist nation; we are a Muslim nation; Hindu nation; and we are a nation of atheists and nonbelievers.

“It is important for us not to try to kill the debate by saying, ‘Well, God tells me I’m right, and so I’m not going to listen to you.’ Rather, we’ve got to translate whatever it is that we believe into a language that allows for argument, allows for debate, and also allows that we may be wrong.

“The biggest danger, I think, for those of us of religious faith in the public square is a certain self-righteousness, where we start thinking that, ‘Well, you know, I’ve got a direct line to God.’ You know, that is incompatible with democracy.

“You may have a direct line to God. But, the public square is not the place for us to empower ourselves in that way.”

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Commitment to Veterans

Senator John McCain has sidestepped the issue of supporting the GI Bill for the 21st Century. By so doing, he has cast doubt on his commitment to our newest generation of American heroes.

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act, sponsored by Vietnam Veterans, Senator Jim Webb and Senator Chuck Hagel will restore the promise of a cost-free education to those who serve in the military. The original GI Bill transformed American history, by providing educational benefits for returning soldiers. That GI Bill not only recognized our nation’s moral duty for the enormous sacrifices of our World War II veterans, but it helped create America’s middle class and spurred decades of economic growth for our country. Economists estimate that the original bill returned, as much as, $13 for every dollar we spent. The original GI Bill has become woefully outdated, to the point where the average benefit doesn’t even cover half the cost of an in-state student’s education at a public college.

The Post-9/11 Veterans Act, which has an estimated cost of between $2.5 billion and $4 billion, is common sense legislation. With 51 cosponsors, including nine Republicans, the three other Vietnam War veterans in the Senate and former Secretary of the Navy John Warner, the bill updates what has been called “the best piece of legislation ever passed by Congress.”

The bill faces filibusters and will need 60 cosponsors. As the de facto leader of the Republican party, McCain has resisted signaling other Republicans to sign on to the bill, which would assure its passage. Although, the bill has been around since before McCain started running for president, he claims not to have had time to read the bill and isn’t sure if he could support it. It’s time for McCain to demonstrate leadership and a commitment to veterans.

Monday, April 14, 2008

“The Key Threat”

The following are excerpts are from Senator Carl Levin’s opening statement, before Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing, concerning the situation in Iraq with Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus.

“During my recent trip to Iraq, just before the latest outbreak of violence, a senior U.S. military officer told me that when he asked an Iraqi official, ‘Why is it that we’re using our U.S. dollars to pay your people to clean up your towns instead of you using your funds?’, the Iraqi replied, ‘As long as you are willing to pay for the cleanup, why should we do it?’

“This story crystallizes the fundamental problem of our policy in Iraq. It highlights the need to change our current course in order to shift responsibility from our troops and our taxpayers to the Iraqi government, to force that government to take responsibility for their own future, politically, economically and militarily. Our current open-ended commitment is an invitation to continuing dependency.

“The Bush administration strategy has been built on the assumption that, so long as we continue to provide the Maliki government with plenty of time, military support and financial assistance, they will take responsibility for Iraq’s future. But the major political steps have not yet been taken by the Iraqis, including establishing a framework for controlling and sharing oil revenue, adopting an election law so an October 1 provincial election will take place, and considering amendments to the constitution.

“Even the few small political steps that have been taken by the Iraqis are in jeopardy because of the incompetence and excessively sectarian leadership of Mr. Maliki. Last week, this incompetence was dramatized in the military operation in Basra. Far from being the ‘defining moment’ President Bush described, it was a haphazardly planned operation, carried out apparently without meaningful consultation with the U.S. military or even key Iraqi leaders, while Maliki made unrealistic claims, promises and threats.

“In January of last year, when President Bush announced the surge, he said the Iraqi government planned to take responsibility for security across Iraq by November 2007. The President also pledged to hold the Iraqi government to a number of other political benchmarks which were supposed to be achieved by the end of 2007. But instead of forcefully pressing for political progress, President Bush has failed to hold the Maliki government to their promises, showering them instead with praise that they are ‘bold’ and ‘strong.’ The President has ignored the view of his own military leaders who, according to a State Department report less than five months ago, concluded that ‘the intransigence of Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government is the key threat facing the U.S. effort in Iraq, rather than al-Qaida terrorists, Sunni insurgents or Iranian-backed militias.’”

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Enemy Within

In the draft of his farewell address, Eisenhower warned of the undue influence of the military-industrial-congressional complex. Thus, indicating the essential role Congress plays in the corruption of the military-industrial complex. Unfortunately, Eisenhower decided to strike the word congressional in order to placate members of Congress.

Our Senate used to pride itself on being the greatest deliberative body in the world, but under Republican leadership meaningful debate in the Senate was a rarity. On the eve of the vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq, Senator Robert Byrd asked: “Why is this chamber empty?” Congress abdicated its constitutional responsibility to decide whether our nation would go to war, by authorizing Bush to use force against Iraq.

In “Losing America,” Sen. Robert Byrd reveals that prior to the Iraqi war resolution some senators were almost terrified at the prospect of being labeled “unpatriotic,” if they voted against the resolution. He doubted that some members fully comprehended the magnitude of Bush’s grab for power and that Congress was relinquishing its Constitutional authority and responsibility. Byrd’s concern was that Bush was given a “blank check” for the unrestrained use of military power. Byrd concluded; “Never in his view has America been led by such a dangerous head of state.”

Congressional Republicans have been an obedient, docile and compliant accessory to the executive branch of government. They must cease their hysterical, irrational fear-mongering and defend the Constitution, by aggressively conducting themselves as the independent and coequal branch of government they’re supposed to be.

The role of money in the re-election process, coupled with the diminished role for reasoned debate has produced an atmosphere conducive to institutionalized corruption. Democrats have initiated some positive changes, but they haven’t challenged our corrupt, imperialitic military-industrial congressional complex. Is this because some anticipate lucrative defense contracts for their districts?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

True Patriotism

The burden of war is not being shared by all Americans. Only a small fraction of Americans are affected, while the vast majority go about their lives as usual, oblivious to the sacrifices of our troops and the death and destruction being perpetrated in our name. It is not patriotic, to remain silent when our troops are placed in harm’s way unnecessarily, to kill and be killed. If patriotism has come to mean unquestioning allegiance, such patriotism is inconsistent with human decency. Such patriotism discourages critical thinking and is a failure, both intellectually and morally.

Morality requires that we protect our youth from being deceived into becoming complicit in crimes of aggression for corporate war profiteers. We are obligated to protect our impressionable youth by striving to ban recruiters from our high schools. Our representatives in Congress must rescind the No Child Left Behind Act’s military recruitment provision, which requires schools to provide military recruiters with students’ contact information in order to receive financial assistance.

We must inform those youth, who see the military as their only alternative to unemployment, of additional educational and employment opportunities available to them other than joining the military. We must make clear to all prospective enlistees the realities of military service, the horrors and the futility of war.

Unconscionable treatment of our wounded veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and at Veterans Administration facilities across the country clearly indicates that our returning veterans are not receiving the quality of care they deserve in order to recover from their injuries and experiences in war.

It’s a national disgrace that so many of our sons and daughters have been abandoned, their emotional and psychological injuries untreated. America is no longer respected for its ideals, but we are feared for our brutality. We are no longer admired for our values of justice, but hated for our intolerance. This should make every true American patriot very angry.

Since 2001, on 10 different occasions, John McCain has voted against veteran’s benefits. Where is the outraged regarding his lack of support for those who sacrificed so much for our country?


    

Friday, April 11, 2008

Obama Republicans

Two longtime Republicans are now openly supporting Barack Obama.

Susan Eisenhower the granddaughter, of Dwight Eisenhower considers Obama to be the only candidate who can build a national consensus on the important issues of energy, the aging population and America’s standing in the world. She thinks Obama is the best candidate of those still in the race, because he represents the future. 

Ike’s granddaughter says that Obama has the potential to bring people together, because “he has inspired a whole generation of young people who were completely outside of the political scene.  And he’s already mobilized historic numbers of that age group. The issues we’re facing are going to have direct impact on that generation. I think we’re prepared to look at Barack Obama as a human being, as an American first, before he’s a Democrat or an African-American.  In a sense, he’s all of us.  It offers a real opportunity.”

Former Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, is now an independent. He was the only Republican to vote against giving Bush the authority to invade Iraq.  Chafee insists that the war was built on false premises.  He believed that we needed leadership at the time of the Iraq war resolution and “both Senator Clinton and Senator McCain just didn’t step up and use the good judgment to shift through what was presented, which turned out to be false evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” 

Chafee is still a conservative and therefore cares about, personal liberties, as outlined in the Constitution and in the Bill of Rights.  For him balanced budgets are a conservative issue as well as taking care of our water and air. From Chafee’s conservative point of view how we got in this expensive foreign entanglement is very much a conservative issue. 

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Above the Law

A sacred principles of our democracy is that no one is above the law, but Bush has a different view. He has issued hundreds of “signing statements” indicating what laws he will obey and what laws he can ignore. There is nothing in the Constitution that grants this privilege to a president.

Bush and his enablers in Congress and the Justice Department have made it clear that they think they are above the law. This expansive view of presidential power is an attack on the basic foundation of our democratic system of government, and it's an attack on each and every one of us who believes in the Constitution.

Senator Carl Levin has seen the effect of these so-called “signing statements” firsthand. Earlier this year, he helped write the National Defense Authorization Act and got it passed. Among the provisions, of this important piece of legislation is a stipulation, which forbids the President from building permanent military bases in Iraq. It also establishes an independent commission to investigate the shameful contracting abuses that have occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan on Bush’s watch.

These are the kind of common sense measures that Democrats have been working on in the Senate. They were passed by Congress with strong, bipartisan support. However, in Bush’s era of hyper partisanship, that was not enough. Bush signed the bill into law, but declared that he could ignore the provisions he didn’t like.

These signing statements are just one of the damaging elements of Bush legacy that Congress will have to deal with long after his presidency is over. From Iraq to our sputtering economy to making affordable health care available to all Americans to repairing our standing in the world community, Congress and the next president have their work cut out for them to reverse the course of the last 7 years and move our country forward.

The next President of the United States must faithfully execute all the laws of this country and not just the ones he or she happen to agree with.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Obama’s Six Principles

Senator Obama’s six principles that: “should guide the legal reforms needed to establish a 21st century regulatory system”

First. “the nature of regulation should depend on the degree and extent of the Fed’s exposure. But, at the very least, these new regulations should include liquidity and capital requirements.

“Second, there needs to be general reform of the requirements to which all regulated financial institutions are subjected. Capital requirements should be strengthened, particularly for complex financial instruments like some of the mortgage securities that led to our current crisis. We must develop and rigorously manage liquidity risks. We must investigate ratings agencies and potential conflicts of interest with the people that they are rating. And transparency requirements must demand full disclosure by financial institutions to shareholders and counter parties. As we reform our regulatory system at home, we should work with international arrangements, like the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, the International Accounting Standards Board, and the Financial Stability Forum, to address the same problems abroad. The goal should be to ensure that financial institutions around the world are subject to similar rules of the road, both to make the system more stable and to keep our financial institutions competitive.

“Third, we need to streamline a framework of overlapping and competing regulatory agencies. Reshuffling bureaucracies should not be an end in itself. But the large, complex institutions that dominate the financial landscape don't fit into categories created decades ago. Different institutions compete in multiple markets. Our regulatory system should not pretend otherwise. A streamlined system will provide better oversight and be less costly for regulated institutions.

“Fourth, we need to regulate institutions for what they do, not what they are. Over the last few years, commercial banks and thrift institutions were subject to guidelines on subprime mortgages that did not apply to mortgage brokers and companies. Now, it makes no sense for the Fed to tighten mortgage guidelines for banks when two-thirds of subprime mortgages don’t originate from banks. This regulatory framework has failed to protect homeowners and it is now clear that it made no sense for our financial system. When it comes to protecting the American people, it should make no difference what kind of institution they are dealing with.

“Fifth, we must remain vigilant and crack down on trading activity that crosses the line to market manipulation. On recent days, reports have circulated that some traders may have intentionally spread rumors that Bear Stearns was in financial distress while making market bets against the country. The SEC should investigate and punish this kind of market manipulation and report its conclusions to Congress.

“Sixth, we need a process that identifies systemic risks to the financial system.”

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Answer the Phone!

A free market must have rules in place to make competition fair and honest. Rules don’t stifle the market place, but serves to advance prosperity and liberty.

The trillion dollar war in Iraq, which didn’t need to be fought, has been paid for with deficit spending by borrowing from foreign creditors like China. Furthermore, the policies of the Bush regime threw the economy out of balance by awarding tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans.

Recently, Senator Barack Obama proposed relief for homeowners and an additional $30 billion stimulus package to address the nation’s economic woes.

To reward work and make retirement secure, he’d provide an income tax break of up to $1,000 for a working family and eliminate income taxes altogether for any retiree bringing in less than $50,000 per year.

Obama cautioned that the change we need goes beyond laws and regulation and that we need a shift in the cultures of our financial institutions and our regulatory agencies.

Obama criticized Senator John McCain’s economic plan as something that “amounts to little more than watching this crisis happen. While this is consistent with Senator McCain’s determination to run for George Bush’s third term, it won’t help families who are suffering, and it won’t help lift our economy out of recession.”

A McCain campaign spokesman responded with the following statement: “No amount of rhetoric can hide Senator Obama’s clear record of embracing the liberal tax and spend, big government policies that hit hardworking American families at a time when they’re most vulnerable, and are certain to move America backward.”

In another economic speech, Senator Clinton announced a plan to commit $2.5 billion a year “to help workers train for new jobs and improve their skills for their existing jobs as well.”

Regarding McCain’s proposals, Senator Clinton said: “Sometimes the phone rings at 3 a.m. in the White House and it’s an economic crisis, and we need a president who is ready and willing to answer that call. But Senator McCain’s plan does virtually nothing to ease the credit crisis or the housing crisis. The phone is ringing and he would just let it ring and ring.”

Monday, April 07, 2008

Economic Conscription

According to USA Today, a disproportionate number of deaths of our servicemen and women have come from states with the smallest populations. That papers in-depth analysis of death rates show a death rate in Vermont of 29 per 1 million residents compared to a death rate in California of 11.6 per million residence.

Military deaths from the smaller states are proportionately double or triple those from the larger states for two reasons: economic conscription and patriotism.

Economic conscription or the lack of employment opportunities in civilian life is frequently the compelling reason in rural areas for enlisting in the military.

Basic pay for a private in the Army starts at $1,245.90 a month. Those paychecks aren’t very enticing for young men and women in Los Angeles. But they stretch a lot further in Vermont and an economically depressed area like Delaware County.

Patriotism is a second factor. However, Samuel Johnson has described: “patriotism as the last refuge of scoundrels.” Indeed it seems to be in this case.

Our all-volunteer military traditionally attracts more rural enlistees, and that’s especially true in the National Guard, which now makes up nearly one-fourth of our Iraq servicemen and women.

Only a military draft can even out those inequities. Congress should have fulfill its Constitutional duty to declare war and required a draft to be instituted. A renewed military draft by Congress, strong enough to override a veto, might cause even McCain to think about bringing our troops home from Iraq sooner rather than later.

Rep. Charles Rangel said: “The president, with the support of the country, has decided that military service should be based not on patriotism but on economic need. The economically disadvantaged are our warriors in the Middle East. As long as money is the incentive, only a draft can equalize the potential sacrifices.”

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Rapid Withdrawal

In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on 4/2/08, retired Lt. General William E. Odom insisted rapid withdrawal is the only solution in Iraq. His testimony has been ignored by the media. I’m posting the complete text of his testimony and although it’s lengthy, I urge you to read it carefully and pass it on to others.

“Last year, I rejected the claim that the surge was a new strategy. Rather, I said, it is a new tactic used to achieve the same old strategic aim, political stability. And I foresaw no serious prospects for success. I see no reason to change my judgment now. The surge is prolonging instability, not creating the conditions for unity as the president claims.

“Last year, General Petraeus wisely declined to promise a military solution to this political problem, saying that he could lower the level of violence, allowing a limited time for the Iraqi leaders to strike a political deal. Violence has been temporarily reduced but today there is credible evidence that the political situation is far more fragmented. And currently we see violence surge in Baghdad and Basra. In fact, it has also remained sporadic and significant in several other parts of Iraq over the past year, notwithstanding the notable drop in Baghdad and Anbar Province.

“More disturbing, Prime Minister Maliki has initiated military action and then dragged in US forces to help his own troops destroy his Shiite competitors. This is a political setback, not a political solution. Such is the result of the surge tactic.

“No less disturbing has been the steady violence in the Mosul area, and the tensions in Kirkuk between Kurds, Arabs, and Turkomen. A showdown over control of the oil fields there surely awaits us. And the idea that some kind of a federal solution can cut this Gordian knot strikes me as a wild fantasy, wholly out of touch with Kurdish realities.

“Also disturbing is Turkey’s military incursion to destroy Kurdish PKK groups in the border region. That confronted the US government with a choice: either to support its NATO ally, or to make good on its commitment to Kurdish leaders to insure their security. It chose the former, and that makes it clear to the Kurds that the United States will sacrifice their security to its larger interests in Turkey.

“Turning to the apparent success in Anbar province and a few other Sunni areas, this is not the positive situation it is purported to be. Certainly violence has declined as local Sunni sheiks have begun to cooperate with US forces. But the surge tactic cannot be given full credit. The decline started earlier on Sunni initiative. What are their motives? First, anger at al Qaeda operatives and second, their financial plight. Their break with al Qaeda should give us little comfort. The Sunnis welcomed anyone who would help them kill Americans, including al Qaeda. The concern we hear the president and his aides express about a residual base left for al Qaeda if we withdraw is utter nonsense. The Sunnis will soon destroy al Qaeda if we leave Iraq.

“The Kurds do not allow them in their region, and the Shiites, like the Iranians, detest al Qaeda. To understand why, one need only take note of the al Qaeda public diplomacy campaign over the past year or so on internet blogs. They implore the United States to bomb and invade Iran and destroy this apostate Shiite regime. As an aside, it gives me pause to learn that our vice president and some members of the Senate are aligned with al Qaeda on spreading the war to Iran.

“Let me emphasize that our new Sunni friends insist on being paid for their loyalty. I have heard, for example, a rough estimate that the cost in one area of about 100 square kilometers is $250,000 per day. And periodically they threaten to defect unless their fees are increased. You might want to find out the total costs for these deals forecasted for the next several years, because they are not small and they do not promise to end. Remember, we do not own these people. We merely rent them. And they can break the lease at any moment. At the same time, this deal protects them to some degree from the government’s troops and police, hardly a sign of political reconciliation.

“Now let us consider the implications of the proliferating deals with the Sunni strongmen. They are far from unified among themselves. Some remain with al Qaeda. Many who break and join our forces are beholden to no one. Thus the decline in violence reflects a dispersion of power to dozens of local strong men who distrust the government and occasionally fight among themselves. Thus the basic military situation is far worse because of the proliferation of armed groups under local military chiefs who follow a proliferating number of political bosses.

“This can hardly be called greater military stability, much less progress toward political consolidation, and to call it fragility that needs more time to become success is to ignore its implications. At the same time, Prime Minister Maliki’s military actions in Basra and Baghdad, indicate even wider political and military fragmentation. We are witnessing is more accurately described as the road to the Balkanization of Iraq, that is, political fragmentation. We are being asked by the president to believe that this shift of so much power and finance to so many local chieftains is the road to political centralization. He describes the process as building the state from the bottom up.

“I challenge you to press the administration’s witnesses this week to explain this absurdity. Ask them to name a single historical case where power has been aggregated successfully from local strong men to a central government except through bloody violence leading to a single winner, most often a dictator. That is the history of feudal Europe’s transformation to the age of absolute monarchy. It is the story of the American colonization of the west and our Civil War. It took England 800 years to subdue clan rule on what is now the English-Scottish border. And it is the source of violence in Bosnia and Kosovo. How can our leaders celebrate this diffusion of power as effective state building? More accurately described, it has placed the United States astride several civil wars. And it allows all sides to consolidate, rearm, and refill their financial coffers at the US expense.

“To sum up, we face a deteriorating political situation with an over extended army. When the administration’s witnesses appear before you, you should make them clarify how long the army and marines can sustain this band-aid strategy. The only sensible strategy is to withdraw rapidly but in good order. Only that step can break the paralysis now gripping US strategy in the region.

“The next step is to choose a new aim, regional stability, not a meaningless victory in Iraq. And progress toward that goal requires revising our policy toward Iran. If the president merely renounced his threat of regime change by force, that could prompt Iran to lessen its support to Taliban groups in Afghanistan. Iran detests the Taliban and supports them only because they will kill more Americans in Afghanistan as retaliation in event of a US attack on Iran. Iran’s policy toward Iraq would also have to change radically as we withdraw. It cannot want instability there. Iraqi Shiites are Arabs, and they know that Persians look down on them. Cooperation between them has its limits.

“No quick reconciliation between the US and Iran is likely, but US steps to make Iran feel more secure make it far more conceivable than a policy calculated to increase its insecurity. The president’s policy has reinforced Iran’s determination to acquire nuclear weapons, the very thing he purports to be trying to prevent.

“Withdrawal from Iraq does not mean withdrawal from the region. It must include a realignment and reassertion of US forces and diplomacy that give us a better chance to achieve our aim. A number of reasons are given for not withdrawing soon and completely. I have refuted them repeatedly before but they have more lives than a cat. Let try again me explain why they don’t make sense.

“First, it is insisted that we must leave behind military training element with no combat forces to secure them. This makes no sense at all. The idea that US military trainers left alone in Iraq can be safe and effective is flatly rejected by several NCOs and junior officers I have heard describe their personal experiences. Moreover, training foreign forces before they have a consolidated political authority to command their loyalty is a windmill tilt. Finally, Iraq is not short on military skills.

“Second, it is insisted that chaos will follow our withdrawal. We heard that argument as the “domino theory” in Vietnam. Even so, the path to political stability will be bloody regardless of whether we withdraw or not. The idea that the United States has a moral responsibility to prevent this ignores that reality. We are certainly to blame for it, but we do not have the physical means to prevent it. American leaders who insist that it is in our power to do so are misleading both the public and themselves if they believe it. The real moral question is whether to risk the lives of more Americans. Unlike preventing chaos, we have the physical means to stop sending more troops where many will be killed or wounded. That is the moral responsibility to our country which no American leaders seems willing to assume.

“Third, nay sayers insist that our withdrawal will create regional instability. This confuses cause with effect. Our forces in Iraq and our threat to change Iran’s regime are making the region unstable. Those who link instability with a US withdrawal have it exactly backwards. Our ostrich strategy of keeping our heads buried in the sands of Iraq has done nothing but advance our enemies’ interest. I implore you to reject these fallacious excuses for prolonging the commitment of US forces to war in Iraq.”

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Harsh Reality

In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” pointed out; “In a democracy, people get the government they deserve.”

Some find my reasoning disheartening, immoral and without passion. Anger and frustration are emotional reactions to the occupation of Iraq, but practical politics and a reasoned response will eventually be more productive. I consider my positions of supporting the Democratic candidates for President and Congress pragmatic, rational and politically savvy.

Angry voters are susceptible to being mislead by those in the media, who blame our politicians. In fact, those politicians represent the judgement of “we the people,” and it’s the informed or uninformed opinions of the people, which determine the direction of our nation. Consequently, we get the government we deserve.

I believe the most significant remark made by a candidate for president was made by former Democratic Senator Mike Gravel, when he said: “There’s only one thing worse than a soldier dying in vain. It’s more soldiers dying in vain.”

Gravel is hoping to be selected as the Libertarian Party’s candidate for President at their convention in May. He insists that there’s no way Democrats are going to get us out of Iraq, but that he will get America out of Iraq.

The harsh reality is that Gravel has zero chance of becoming the Commander-in-Chief and issuing the command to withdraw troops. I admire Mike Gravel and Ron Paul and agree completely with their position on the occupation of Iraq. Unfortunately, that is not where a majority of the American voters are at this time.

Hopefully, informed voters will coalesce behind Democratic candidates, who tried to get us out of Iraq. And, who come closest to their views on a multitude of other issues facing our nation.

The most hawkish representatives in government are some times elected by good citizens who do not vote.

Friday, April 04, 2008

A National Priority

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, is a member of the Senate Budget Committee. The following are excerpts from his position paper entiled: “Changing Our National Priorities.”

“There are at least three major trends in American society that must be addressed when the Senate debates the federal budget. First, the United States has the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major nation in the industrialized world, and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider. Second, it is a national disgrace that we have, by far, the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth. More than 18 percent of our kids live in poverty. Third, year after year, we have had record-breaking deficits and our national debt will soon be $10 trillion. That is a grossly unfair burden to leave to our kids and grandchildren. It also is economically unsustainable.

“According to the latest available statistics from the Internal Revenue Service, the top 1 percent of Americans earned significantly more income in 2005 than the bottom 50 percent.  In addition, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently reported that the wealthiest 1 percent saw total income rise by $180,000 in 2005.  That is more than the average middle-class family makes in three years.  The CBO also found that the total share of after-tax income going to the top 1 percent hit the highest level on record, while the middle class and working families received the smallest share of after-tax income on record.

“Meanwhile, while the rich have become much richer, nearly 5 million Americans have slipped out of the middle class and into poverty over the past seven years, including over 1 million of our children.

“Restoring the top income tax bracket for people making more than $1 million to what it was in 2000 would increase revenue by $32.5 billion over the next three years, according to the Joint Tax Committee, including $10.8 billion next year alone.

“Instead of giving $32.5 billion in tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, my amendment would, over the next three years, provide:

“$10 billion for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to help provide special education for about 7 million children with disabilities and, in the process, relieve pressure on local property taxpayers.

“$5 billion for Head Start -- a program which has been cut by more than 11 percent since 2002.  Today, less than half of all eligible children are enrolled in Head Start. 

“$4 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant.  Today, due to inadequate funding, only about one in seven eligible children are able to receive federal child care assistance.  Already, 250,000 fewer children receive child care assistance today than in 2000. 

“$3 billion for school construction.  According to the most recent estimates, schools across the country have a $100 billion backlog in badly needed school repairs.  Investing $3 billion is a small, but important step to help repair crumbling schools across the country and, in the process, create tens of thousands of jobs for painters, carpenters, electricians, and construction workers.

“$4 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program so that low-income families with children, seniors on fixed incomes, and persons with disabilities will be able to stay warm in the winter. After adjusting for energy prices and inflation, the heating assistance program has been cut by 34.5 percent or $1.3 billion compared to 2002. 

“$3 billion for food stamps, so that we can begin to reduce the growing number of children and adults living with food insecurity.

“$3 billion to reduce the deficit.” 

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Alarming Facts

According to a BBC/ABC poll 79% of Iraqis are opposed to the presence of our forces in their country. This is the third poll and each consecutive poll shows an increase in disapproval of American forces.

About 70% of Iraqis believe the “surge” of extra troops over the past six months has worsened the security situation.

In 2006, the our forces dropped an average of almost 4 bombs per week in Iraq. In 2007, about 28 bombs per weeks.

The Pentagon has lost track of about 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols given to Iraqi security forces in 2004 and 2005, according to a governmental report.

There are 25,000 Iraqis are currently held in US prisons without charges. The number of detainees has greatly increased during the months of the “surge” and the number is expected to double through 2008. Some detainees are as young as 11 years old. It’s estimated that there are 100 Iraqi orphaned children imprisoned and in US custody. There are another 60,000 Iraqis detained in Iraqi prisons, including 700 orphaned children.

During the surge, the rate of Iraqis fleeing their homes has quadrupled. The Iraqi Red Crescent Society released these finding this November, in an analysis of displacement rates inside and outside the country since the surge began in February. An estimated 2.3 million Iraqis were forced to flee their homes, becoming either refugees or internally displaced persons. Most were residents of Baghdad, where the highest concentration of US surge troops served. Over 83% of those refugees were women and children under 12 years of age.

In May of 2003, Iran made a proposal for negotiations with the United States. Secretary of State Powell, his deputy Richard Armitage, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice took the proposal to President Bush, but Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney stopped the effort, explaining that “We don’t speak to evil”.

Specifically, Iran proposed cooperating with the US on its nuclear program, stabilizating Iraq and helping with counter-terrorism throughout the Middle East, and implied recognition of Israel. In exchange Iran asked for “security guarantee” and a commitment to disavow all intentions of regime change, along with an abolishment of sanctions, and “recognition of Iran’s legitimate security interests in the region.” Former Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ambassador Kharrazi reported that the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei as well as former President Khatami were active in the drafting of the proposal.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Warriors

A daily newspaper in Middletown published one of my many letters to the editor. See post of 3/27/08 entitled “Revisionist History”

I had written: 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.

Regarding the letter, I received a telephone call from an angry former Marine Master Sergeant. He’d called to inform me that at the time, the Chinese entered the Korean War, he was with the Marine Division to the west of the one commanded by Chesty Puller. I admitted that my statement was incomplete and acknowledged that, it would have been more accurate to have written: The Marine Division under the command of Chesty Puller.

He was still very agitated and I suspect that the primary source of his anger was the closing paragraph of my letter, which stated: 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.

He proudly proclaimed that his family were all “warriors,” and that his son a Captain in the Marine Corps would soon be going back for a third tour in Iraq. Then, this father made a statement, which astounded me.

He said: “If he gets killed, so be it. We’re a warrior family." And continued: “I love war. All wars are good.”

I asked; Were the imperialistic invasions Germany carried out in Europe during WW II good wars?

He responded: “I’m German. They were mislead by Hitler.”

I pursued the issue by asking: Do you think that it’s possible that Americans could be misled?

Obviously, he wasn’t prepared for that question and changed the subject to “those people that want to take our guns away.” He ended the phone conversation and unfortunately that end our therapy session.

My wife was listening to my comments and was surprised that I had handled it so calmly. I had been a counselor and felt a great deal of compassion for this man. Instead of responding to his belligerence, I had unconsciously switched to being his counselor.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April Fools

On the 5th anniversary of the Iraq invasion, nearly 4,000 of our troops had been killed and most Americans didn’t know.

A Pew poll found that only twenty-eight percent of those surveyed knew that approximately 4,000 of our service members had died in Iraq. Almost half thought the death toll was 3,000 or less, and twenty -three percent thought it higher. Last August, more than half of those surveyed knew how many Americans had died in Iraq.

The poll found public awareness of what’s going on in Iraq had dropped as the news media paid less attention to the war. For example: during the last week in January, thirty-six percent of people surveyed said the story they were following most closely was the political campaign. Fourteen percent said it was the stock market. Twelve percent said it was the death of actor Heath Ledger. And only six percent said the story they were following most closely was the war in Iraq.

Since, there isn't a draft most American aren’t paying attention to what’s going on in Iraq. Therefore, they aren’t outraged by the lost of more than 4,012 young American or the almost 30,000 of our troops who have been seriously wounded, or the more than 1 million Iraqis that have died, or that we are spending $720 million a day in Iraq.

The cost in lives doesn’t seem to matter to most Americans. Nor, do they care that we’re $9.3 trillion in debt, which will cost $400 billion in interest payments this year alone.  They might pay more attention to the monetary cost of the war, were they aware that our exploding national debt has brought about a devaluation of the dollar, which has resulted in everything costing more.

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”-Pogo