Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Kill the Messenger

Other Presidents have lashed out at the press when it suited their purposes. Jack Kennedy famously called and cancelled his subscription to the New York Herald Tribune and was rightly chastised for it by Richard Nixon who later tried to cancel the entire New York Times for publishing the Pentagon Papers. Nixon unleashed the criminal Spiro Agnew on the press and they ended up doing a jig on his political grave. So now the Bush leaguers want to take on the New York Times with righteous indignation about the newspaper revealing yet another secret executive power grab of questionable legality. Taking on the press is fair enough, but there should be one rule. Before you start criticizing a newspaper, you must first have to read it.

The Presidents red-faced tirade about the Times revealing the government's secret sifting through Americans' private bank records, calling it a disgrace that gave aid and comfort to the enemy was transparently rehearsed. Cheney's speech was just plain eerie. Cheney must be wondering who they are going to cast in his role in the movie. Is Donald Pleasance dead? Then Anthony Hopkins it is. "Hello Clarice." What took them two days to work up sufficient rage about the story? The fact that they used the Times like they were Jeff Gannon/Gunterts for hire to plant favorable stories about their rogue schemes, then allow one of their reporters to twist slowly in the wind, and the Times has the gall to turn on them? Every day, someone, somewhere reveals another of this regime's secret dealings and it is frightening.

This photo-op, propaganda saturated administration is like a bad dream that just won't quit. Look at these guys. The speaker is Denny Hastert, the majority leader is Bumbling Bill Frist, the political guru is Karl Rove, and the President is George By-Damn Dubya Bush. They are like the Student Government at a bad community college. The only thing they are capable of doing is choosing the band to play on the Washington mall this fourth of July. I'm certain it won't be the Dixie Chicks. I'd like to see them get Toby Keith, Lee Greenwood, Hank, Jr., and Charlie Daniels too, for a grand old Texas style celebration of xenophobia and ignorance. And nobody better burn a flag, Hoss, even though that jingoistic screed went down in flames in the Senate. Here's a solution to the flag burning amendment. Pass a law that says real American flags must be made of non-flammable material. They did it for children's' pajamas. Then anytime someone burned a flag, you would know it wasn't an "official" flag.

If the carnage in Iraq continues at the current pace, we'll need all the flags we can get to fold up for our servicemen's families. The Senate Republicans scorned the Democrats as cowards and traitors for suggesting a timetable for troop withdrawal, then General Casey announces just such a plan. I'll take my troop withdrawals any way I can get them, but it seems particularly sinister to release a token group of forces from their grinding duties just in time for the fall election. How cruel it must feel to wake up in a war zone knowing that you just missed a politician's required quota of troops to go home. If Cheney turns up with Bin Laden's head on a pike in time for the next presidential election, I won't be surprised. Everything the Bush leaguers do is for political effect.

This is the result of an electorate so distracted and delusional they will elect a President according to reality television rules. Outlast, out wit, out survive. This President came to office with no real vision for the nation, he just hired his Daddy's old administration, and they had a metaphoric hard-on for Saddam Hussein. The Bush Posse seized power after being appointed by the Supreme Court, with no mandate, and proceeded to operate government according to their own narrow ideology. They believe that government functions to reward your friends and punish your enemies, like the Baathist Regime. But for them to use the worst attack ever suffered on this soil to sell the American people a bill of goods including mushroom clouds, enrichment of uranium, and biochemical weapons factories on wheels, is beyond cynical. It is evil.

I still hope for some miracle of diplomacy to bring a political solution to the Iraqi insurgency. The hard figures require a miracle to even begin to reconcile the irreparable damage that the Bush government has done in our name. Beyond the 20,000 American casualties, the journalists kidnapped and killed, the beheadings, and the other atrocities, there is one stark figure that screams out; 50,000 dead Iraqi civilians whose only crime was being born. That's going to take more diplomacy to resolve than Karen Hughes can provide. I want every cabinet officer of this administration to remain hale and healthy. I want President Shemp to mountain bike, jog, and clear some brush. He'll need all his stamina for his trial in the Senate next year. And Daddy's Boys are ripe for an appearance at a war crimes tribunal in the Hague. It would be fitting for "Old Europe" to decide what punishment befits new world liars and warmongers.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Queer Baiting

Let's all go Bill Fristing down memory lane. For the next three weeks, while our democracy is challenged from all sides and both borders, our eminent Senator/Doctor has determined the schedule for topics of debate in the Senate; a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a bill, approved by the ruthlessly ambitious Hillary Clinton, criminalizing flag burning, and the repeal of the estate tax, also known in the Orwellian world of Karl Rove as the "death tax." Does Frist know how to do the bidding of his masters, or what? If this guy thinks he's going to be President, he is even more deluded than I imagined.

Frist has not only been a failure as an effective representative, he has failed himself as a human being. As a surgeon, Frist took the Hippocratic Oath, "First, Do No Harm." As a Senator, he took the Hypocrite's Oath, "First, do no harm to conservative, wealthy Republicans." Here is a scion from a family who's fortune comes from the broken and derelict health management industry, who gave up a career as a healer to become one of the most mean-spirited, lock-step lackeys in government. He was, and is, a political novice who never held elected office, spending millions in both personal and public dollars to win a Senate seat from a conscientious legislator like Jim Sasser to fuel his misguided fantasy of being President of the United States. It will never happen.

The utter collapse of the "gay marriage amendment" should be an embarrassment for conservatives enlightened enough to tell when they are being used like a strap-on, yet Frist promises to bring the issue back up in a matter of months. It's ironic that this hate screed against homosexuality is called, "energizing your base," but let's be honest. Homosexuality is the tip of the iceberg for this gang of moral absolutists. It is sexuality itself that makes them uneasy. The "faith-based conservatives" are opposed to any sort of sexuality beyond the bonds of matrimony, and even then, the preferred manner is under the covers and in the dark and never in an upright position, lest they be accused of dancing. There is even a lunatic fringe that believe a "homonucleus" exists in every sperm cell. Is it that far of a stretch to imagine an attempt to pass a bill criminalizing Onanism? After all, if a little man lives in each sperm cell, then masturbation must surely lead to serial murder.

And this Doctor, like Mengele, will do anything to further his party's cause, even if it means misdiagnosing a brain dead woman by videotape as a viable member of society. This man of medicine was one of the architects of the pharmaceutical friendly Plan B for Medicare. Yet he doesn't want the Plan B contraceptive to be readily available for women, even though the FDA finds no reason why it should not. Nor does he favor sex education, legal and safe abortion procedures, universal health care, or same sex partnerships, even though the retiring Archbishop of Chicago said he could "live with the concept of civil unions." In this devastating age of AIDS, wouldn't you expect a doctor to see the value of committed relationships to our society regardless of the genders involved? But Frist prefers the "slippery slope" argument that gay and lesbian unions will naturally lead to inter-species unions.

So let's stop playing semantics. Stop persecuting people for the way they were born into this world and we'll reach a compromise. Conservative Christians can call their bonds "marriage," and same gender partnerships can call their bonds "civil unions." It's not the label, but the bonds that matter. Grant the same rights to all and cease this cruel stigmatization of gays and lesbians as evil. The evil is in the persecution. I understand the biblical reference of man not "lying with a man as a woman." Does that mean lesbianism passes muster, or was that covered by something Saint Paul said to the Corinthians?

There are thousands of Holy Scriptures in this world. Hinduism teaches that every soul is bestowed with a spark of life by it's Creator that is the equal to every other soul. By persecuting someone for their transient sexual nature in this corporal realm is a sacrilege against one of the world's major faiths. To intentionally harm anyone is an affront to God. And need we be reminded of the words of two other world religions; "Love Ye One Another," and "Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself." The oldest faiths teach service to all mankind as akin to being service to God. This hysterical tormenting of individuals that mean no harm to you, or your marriage, is evil, plain and simple.

When Frist brings up the "death tax" he isn't talking about you. This is in the interests of families that have amassed great wealth and wish to pass it along to their heirs "en toto," without feeling a need to chop anyone's estate up to feed the needy. This only exacerbates the already disparate chasm between the rich and the poor, and leads to the sort of class society that brought about the French and British Revolutions. Don't be concerned. Frist and friends are ready to trickle down on you. As for Frist's bosses in the Party of Hate, this attempt to create discriminatory law is a violation of that oath that promises to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

I would suggest that Bill Frist forget about politics and return to the nobility of his former profession. I understand that he was an excellent surgeon. What a sin to trade healing men's hearts to hurting men's souls. And as for Frist's pandering to the evangelical Christian wing of the Republican party to curry favor for his intended run for the nation's highest office, he would do better to ask them to pray for his soul. In terms of Eastern religion, he has a lot of bad karma to resolve.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Collateral Damage

"Within minutes of their approach, a mine was tripped, and the men of Bravo Company heard screams. One was killed and four GIs were seriously wounded... Frustration reached a fever pitch...(It) was a confluence of disasters- inexperienced line officers, edgy troops, higher ups who covered up and eventually got off scot-free, inept intelligence..and an endemic, pervasive feeling in the military that wasting 'mere gooks' was of no great consequence."
Myra MacPherson; "Long Time Passing; Vietnam and the Haunted Generation"

All people have a right to be shocked about the emerging story of the murder of Iraqi civilians at Haditha, but for the Vietnam generation it is certainly no surprise. We have been through all this before. The massacre of 400 Vietnamese villagers at My Lai in 1968 came to be the epiphanous moment when we realized that in times of war, the U.S. is not always on the side of democracy and justice and that in dehumanizing conditions, our forces, too, are capable of evil. The similarities between the atrocities at My Lai and those at Haditha are uncanny and differ only in the magnitude and terrain in which the events took place.

"War changes men's natures. The barbarities of war are seldom committed by abnormal men. The tragedy of war is these barbarous acts are committed by normal men in abnormal situations."
Soldiers' Defense Attorney; "Breaker Morant"

The apologists for the Bush government have been arguing vociferously that we should not confuse Iraq with Vietnam, when in fact, Iraq is becoming exactly like Vietnam except the blood is absorbed by the desert rather than the jungle. The U.S. forces, whose mission in Iraq is now unclear, are fighting an enemy without uniform that sets land mines by night and blends back into the population by day. We are supporting a fragile government without popular support and our soldiers are unable to tell friend from foe because of the indigenous nature of the insurgency. The official cover-up of My Lai lasted a year; Haditha lasted seven months. This incident, and the others under investigation, are bound to happen when you demonize the enemy and devalue the lives under your subjugation.

"You had the whole chain of command trying to keep My Lai quiet. In any war where you lose so much, soldiers will want revenge. Anytime you have a losing situation, you've got a potential My Lai. That is when it is up to the commander to set the tone, to halt it."
General Eugene "Mike" Lynch, who fought in WWII, was an aide to General Matthew Ridgeway in Korea, and served in Vietnam.
Ibid. MacPherson

Donald Rumsfeld might have foreseen this since he was a Navy pilot. But the rest of the lot; Cheney, Rove, Rice, and especially Bush, have known not war, nor protest, nor conscientious objection or personal loss. Yet they pursue an ideological and political war with other people's children and misuse those same courageous forces for their own ends. Bush rightly claims that the individuals who participated in this atrocity will be punished, but the lessons of Vietnam tell us that responsibility goes beyond the soldier who's finger was on the trigger. The only man convicted for the My Lai massacre was Lt. William "Rusty" Calley, who served about half of his seven year sentence confined to his own quarters until a chorus of hawks and conservatives persuaded a pardon out of Richard Nixon. This investigation needs to go straight up the chain of command and place the culpability with the people who put our young men and women in this untenable position.

So, how should one feel upon hearing that this type of terrible event has happened again? After humiliation that this was done in my name, I feel sadness. I am saddened for the innocent Iraqi people who were killed and their families left to grieve them. I am saddened that our excellent troops working in impossible conditions will be tarred with the despicable acts of cruelty of a few. I am saddened for the Reservists and Guardsmen who joined the military to earn money for college or for their families, and are now on their second and third tours because our Commander in Chief doesn't have the luxury of a military draft. And I am sad for this country , involved in a war with seemingly no end, led by inexperienced and intractable "yes men" for geopolitical purposes. Surely pressure must now be applied to bring this horror to an end, because the saddest thing of all is that it never had to happen.

I have mentioned Robert McNamara's book, "In Retrospect; The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam," before. It was published in 1995. Rumsfeld, the neocons, and co-members of the Project for the New American Century were so certain in their militaristic theories that they did not even ask the advice of Bush the Smarter. So why should they consider consulting with the architect of our nation's most tragic foreign misadventure? Perhaps because McNamara, unlike Rumsfeld, assumes responsibility for his mistakes and urges others to learn from them. With Rummy, "stuff happens."

McNamara enumerates several "Lessons of Vietnam" that were the "major causes for our disaster." Some of the cogent ones are, "We misjudged then, as we have since, the geopolitical intentions of our adversaries, and we exaggerated the dangers to the United States of their actions."; "We viewed the people and their leaders in terms of our own experience. We saw in them a thirst for, and a determination to fight for, freedom and democracy. We totally misjudged the political forces within the country."; "We failed then, as we have since, to recognize the limitations of modern, high-technology military equipment...We failed as well to adapt our military tactics to the task of winning the hearts and minds of people from a totally different culture."; "We did not realize that our leaders are not omniscient. Where our own security is not directly at stake, our judgment of what is in another people's or country's best interests should be put to the test in open discussions in international forums. We do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our own image or as we choose."; and most prescient, "We did not hold to the principle that U.S. military action, other than in response to direct threats to our own security, should be carried out only in conjunction with multinational forces fully supported by the international community." In conclusion, McNamara stated that in future "limited" wars, that "our leaders, and our people, must be prepared to cut our losses and withdraw if it appears our limited objectives cannot be achieved at acceptable risks and costs."

The risks and costs of this war are now beyond unacceptable. Only real investigations into the selling of this war can make clear how we got to this terrible place. And these investigations can only come about by individual and personal determination to create a change in the political dynamic of the United States. If we attempt to punish a handful of soldiers while the administration and higher-ups in the military washes theirs, we will miss this lesson as well, and can expect a My Lai or a Haditha again and again.

"We should strive to do things in (Ghandi's) spirit. Not to use violence in fighting for our cause, but by non-participation in anything you believe is evil."
Albert Einstein