Friday, May 7, 2004

guest blogger: A Rant on Reactions to Iraq

Ok, I am not a typical BLOGGER, but I have a bit of a rant. Last night I had the chance to watch C-span and the coverage of the Rumsfeld associated news. I am not an espoused Democrat or Republican. I still reserve the right to think for myself outside the party lines. I watched both the Democratic and Republican reactions, and admittedly, I had to shy away from the President's reaction as I can no longer stomach what I have come to believe are veiled lies and feigned concern.

I have to admit that I am very concerned by the election year capitalization of issues that I have seen. It is nice that the Democrats and the media have FINALLY awakened to some of the concerns that many of us have expressed since the beginning. However, when I listen to the rhetoric concerning Iraq War issues, I wonder about their sincerity. The Minority leader called for Rumsfeld's impeachment, I wonder why it took so long. I also wished to be able to cast backwards to see how all these currently concerned representatives conducted themselves (not just their voting record) when Bush and his cronies were issuing legislation, executive mandates, and implementing policies while fostering an atmosphere of fear. I remember Senators Byrd and McCain issuing statements of concern and suggesting a need for review, but it seemed that many of the others were conspicuously silent. We need our representatives to be brave BEFORE legislation and policy have been set, not long afterwards when they finally begin to scent blood in the water and a safety in speaking out. It will not help our effort to have a bunch of "violent pulpit pounders" decrying every move and event.

What I would rather hear is a PLAN of what we would do differently. I don't mean the stereotypical election spiel about protecting our troops, encouraging international support, aiding the Iraqi people, etc. This is the same drivel that the current administration spills in their on-going attempt to cover their policies and lies. What worries me is that the current Administration has created a HUGE mess that will need to be faced, and IF we are lucky enough to remove the core group in power, WE will be the ones facing the difficulties. It will be far too easy for the Republi-cons to sit back and watch the situation which they have promulgated drain the life, economy and hope from America while pointing fingers at a new administration for failure to resolve the issue.

I argue that it is essential to spend less time on "feel good" statements of Kerry's Vietnam medals and attempts to suggest sensitivity for the economic classes that he has never been a part of. I would MUCH rather see those 30 seconds used to either refute the bold faced lies that this administration has made their cornerstone or inform us of HOW we will face and change these problems. Let's face it, your average Joe is exposed to their election messages between American Idol, Friends, and COPS reruns. It frightens me that the Republi-cons manage to create an atmosphere of dulled information. They have used their money and press releases to mislead repeatedly; rarely have I seen as public an exposure of these issues. Discussion is only found on CNN late night, in editorials buried in media corners, or on Blogs like this that are read by those of us that were concerned in the first place. The information that has led to my questioning MANY of the policies of the Administration (not just Iraq) has been out there, but we have failed to create a common and accessible public presentation. We have allowed the current Administration to couch these inquiries as un-American. Nazi Propagandist Goebbels suggested that the "Big Lies" are easier to control and hold a mesmerizing sway. We have allowed this administration to utilize this tactic. Goebbels said, "There is no need to argue with the masses, slogans are much more effective. Slogans are like strong drinks to people. The crowd doesn't react like men but like women, who rely on their feelings, rather on their intelligence, if any. " (Please note that the reference to sex was Goebbels, NOT my own.)

The misinformation propaganda regarding weapons of mass destruction, comments like "the employment rate and economy has turned from the disastrous slide" & "we are concerned about immoral liberal ethics", and the current pleas not to harm our soldiers by requesting accountability and fact from our Executives can be clearly disputed by fact, definition, and EFFORT. Take heed from the mouth of history: "We enter parliament in order to supply ourselves, in the arsenal of democracy, with its own weapons.... If democracy is so stupid as to give us free tickets and salaries for this bear’s work, that is its affair.... We do not come as friends, nor even as neutrals. We come as enemies. As the wolf bursts into the flock, so we come." - ATTRIBUTION: Joseph Goebbels (1897–1945), German Nazi leader, minister of propaganda. Der Angriff (Berlin, April 30, 1928). I suggest that we are readily handing these self-same weapons to a group that may, in the long run, be just as damaging. This is the same Admisitration that has been documented stating that they would happily drive the economy, healthcare, and education systems to failure so that they can remake them. This sounds like a bad movie plot, yet these back room commentaries are buried. Again, I know the reaction is to dub me a pessimist and doom-sayer, but believe me, I'd MUCH rather be proven wrong. I would have loved to see the Iraqis all moving quickly toward peace and prosperity once Saddam Hussein was removed.

I was sickened when I heard yesterday's Republican drivel suggesting that Democrats were declaring the war "un-winnable" and suggesting that we (who protested the rationale for the start of the war and the management of the war all along) are handicapping our troops. I would like to point out that the losses that have occurred thus far are direct results of this Administration's policies from the outset. Bring the facts before the people. The Bush faction is beginning to stammer and shuffle their feet as it is. I was thrilled to hear reporters challenge some of these sweeping accusations and misrepresentations. IT IS ABOUT TIME. The preponderance of FACT is the best weapon for Democrats and others that wish to see a change in 2004. Make sure the common man KNOWS that the Diebold machines that they may be asked to use for their votes are controlled by a company that has stated that they are a huge Bush Administration supporter. Make sure they are aware of Bush's lies about Kerry's support of troops. The Bush representatives claim Kerry voted against numerous military improvements and support. What he voted against was what he believed was graft and further erosion of rights that were associated with that one bill - where these military benefits were crafted to dare opposition of the bill. Point out that many of these same leaders were involved in covering up the fact that President Reagan was determined have Alzheimer's and that it was affecting his ability to lead in the final year of his last term. THIS WAS TREASON. We elected Mr. Reagan to be our leader. Through no fault of his own, his ability became diminished, and THESE same men hid this fact from the American people and used a respected leader as a puppet. Iran-Contra was a Republican creation folks ... all those nasty weapons in the hands of the evil terrorists may still have American labels. We trained Bin Laden to fight against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and provided them with weapons. Al-Sadr's uncle and father were slaughtered by Hussien, and yet this previous ally now risks his life to oppose us. It seems we have created a large portion of these problems by working in the shadows. It's time to shine light on these affairs.

One of the most eloquent presentations that I have seen (and perhaps the most damning) was The Daily Show's (Comedy Central ) debate between Gov. George W. the Presidential-hopeful and President George W. It was beautiful to see how the false promises and current actions diverge. This was a thoughtful means of highlighting the now standard pattern of lies, circular reasoning and evasion. A fear of invasion and terrorism cannot be allowed to mask these issues. We had the chance to capitalize on the outpouring of concern and sympathy, and instead, we have bred mistrust and hostility. Let the public CLEARLY see these transgressions in the Bush Administration's own words. I do not suggest that policies should not change to fit a situation, but rather that it should be done honestly rather than sequestering and suppressing evidence. Put more of these comparatives in the public eye. What has disgusted me most about the last 3-4 years has not been the accuasations of graft or mismanagement of our environment, economy, foreign policies, and basic morality, but rather the lack of honest and courageous inquiry. I worry that so many people that I thought were inquisitive and rational peers and leaders were allowing themselves to be manipulated by fear and flag waving. You could not even debate with most of these people without being told you were un-American. They are even MORE polarized now. To have a cartoonist beaten for an editorial cartoon is a sign of serious danger in an America that espouses freedom of speech and extols democratic virtues (which implies differences in opinion). I embrace opinions that differ from my own. However, I am concerned when these opinions seem more the result of sound byte and spin rather than thought and evaluation.

It has taken 3 and 1/2 years for many of our "representatives' to begin publicly questioning the policies and behaviors that should have been challenged from the outset. We cannot promote Democracy and personal freedom in the world by FORCING our viewpoints and by sequestering document after document from public perusal. The fact that this Administration is struggling so hard to sweep each issue under the carpet is reason enough to challenge them. If we are truly in the moral "right" as these people love to claim, then there should be no shame in revealing our activities to the world, and especially to our own people.

The Republi-cons are now admonishing inquisitive Americans (especially Democrats) for complaining about being marginalized patriots. They claim that this is just an election year trick, but I point out that the majority of the Dean campaign and numerous other grass roots organizations were composed of individuals from all walks of life, religious beliefs, and party lines that were, and continue to be, afraid of another 4 years of the current Gestapo-like control that the Bush Administration is attempting to exercise. To have these men claim this is a game while they simultaneously remonstrate us for not "following the game plan" and sticking it out for the long-haul is ludicrous. They repress the sight and recognition of our returning dead. They remonstrate using the Iraq War as a platform while simultaneously and repeatedly climbing the debris field grave of the World Trade Centers to wave the flag. They continue to utilize policies of "Do what I say, but not what I do". It was interesting that one of our Republican representatives, in his rebuttal last night, thought it important to cite that his child is in the Air National Guard and was active in the early 90's. This is meant to seduce us into believing that Congressional leader's youths are involved the Iraq War and therefore they share our concerns. THIS IS A LIE! There is only one member of Congress that I know of who has an immediate family member in armed service directly associated with the Iraq War. The military did its job when war was declared and seized the ground. They defeated the enemy. It is now the Administration's responibility to follow through with establishing peace. This has not happened, and our troops are now mired in what is becoming increasingly larger enemy territory.

For those who constantly suggest that people who look to the experiences of Vietnam are cowardly doomsayers, I have this to say: the most educated decisions are those based in history, not those promulgated by emotion, fantasies, and false bravado. Since Bush declared a "War on Terror", I have stated that we were heading down this road. It was not the result of lives lost to bombers and emotion. It does not take a military strategist or think-tank super genius to foresee that a "War" against an elusive and undefined enemy will only result in immense loss of life, great opportunity for misdirection, and ultimately failure or abandonment. Our "War on Drugs" has met similar success. Even with the best of intentions, every time an innocent civilian is injured (whether physically (torture or warfare) or just by the loss of freedoms and livelihood), you create a greater environment for terrorists. Najaf is once such example. Al-Sadr may or may not be a bully and criminal. I suggest that the fact that people are flocking to him as a leader is because when they evaluate their own livelihood, safety, and freedom, they are deciding to choose to risk death and violence in increasing numbers to change their current state. This means they are more afraid of OUR troops and OUR policies than of allying themselves with vandals, murderers, and thieves. I was called a doomsayer BEFORE the Iraqi War was declared and recently turned violent. I pointed at our experiences from Vietnam. The Gulf Of Tonkin is not far different from the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" travesty. For months, I have been the Cassandra of our Troy. I have been called foolish, pessimistic, and in some cases, un-patriotic. We are now losing troops daily in increasing numbers from guerilla tactics. We are preparing to commit MORE troops (even considering reinstituting a draft) and money to this venture AND we have significantly weakened our OWN safety by committing most of our military assets to overseas wars that have had questionable and much debated policies and goals. The messages of Vietnam: 1) Goals need to be clearly defined. 2) Civil rights and liberties that Americans espouse in their own county need to be assured to others that wish them. 3) The ease of bombing campaigns may defy the difficulty of repairations. 4) The U.S. military, while a powerful presence cannot and should NEVER be put forth as an occupying force to insure "freedom". It should only act within its own borders unless part or a TRUE international coalition. 5) It is during these times when American accountability and policy needs to be MORE visible, more clearly understood, and definitively communicated through the chains of command. It was the "shadow" wars, hidden documents and agendas, and ever-changing "rules" of Vietnam that echo to warn our leaders today. How is the Vietnamization policy that we adopted to attempt to withdraw from an increasingly untenable situation any different from our planned June shift of power?

I would also point out that as a person who is ACTIVELY volunteering in 2 organizations that directly support our troops, I have NO intention of abandoning those men & women overseas. In fact, I am insulted by the persons who have little or no contact, make no contribution to their aid, and sit back to insult others with differing opinions. I DO want to see them returned home safely. If there is any way to accomplish it, I would also like to give them a clear sense that their mission ended as one of compassion and humanitarian work rather than one of muddled political policy and reasoning where objectives seem more motivated by profit and intrigue than alleviation of human suffering. There is great dissent among our troops already. They want to know why they are there, how long they will remain away from home, and what is being done to protect them while they protect others. Before we blindly accept the Republican propaganda, take a moment and research military pay scales and benefits. This Adminsitration has been in power for three and a half years and no longer has the luxury of blaming past Administrations. Benefits continue to be slashed. Big businesses continue to be supported in all questionable practices and court cases allowing them to move jobs overseas, diminish competition, and destroy small business. Where are the benefits to the working man and support of the troops in the field? The essential non-profit aid based organizations skirt bankruptcy and are losing increasingly greater federal funding. States are struggling near bankruptcy to meet all of the Executive mandates that are being issued and left un-funded. Ask your local Homeland Security representatives and disaster response organizations if they are receiving the funding they need to meet all the parameters that have been handed to them. When was the last time that Haliburton, Enron, Comcast, etc. donated singificant funds and materials to our troops or to those agencies? That's where this Adminsitration throws its funds, they are the one that greatly benefitted from the tax breaks that were supposed to rescue our economy. One would think that buying body armor and donating Bradley fighting vehicles might be of interest to the corporations that have investments and employees in Iraq. In the first Gulf War, we fought to protect another sovereign nation with a true international coalition. I supported that war. IF Saddam Hussein had done this again, actively attacked the U.S., or if the United Nations and many of its key constituents participated, I would have supported this one.

We should all be concerned that the soldiers who committed torture (or as Rumsfeld would re-define, "abuse”) have thus far only been rebuked for their actions. Whether they were engaging in these acts under orders, by misdirection and misunderstanding, or in cooperation with civilian organizations, these people have committed CRIMES. It should not matter whether there is a strict byline in the Geneva Convention or an Executive Directive against such actions and whether the soldiers in question were given a copy. I've never read the Geneva Convention, and it seems pretty basic to me that torture is wrong and that assassination is a tool of cowards, not diplomats. I don't blame Bush or Rumsfeld for the initial occurrence until I see proof that this was performed with their DIRECT knowledge and policy. I do however hold them responsible for not treating this event as a crime from the time it was first discovered. If my neighbor was seized in America and tortured to determine why he'd committed a felony or murder it would be considered as heinous as the original act. If you picked up a rifle to defend your home and beliefs and were subsequently imprisoned indefinitely without any right to representation or defense, I suspect you'd take issue as well. This Administration has attempted to deny these people the right to International Red Cross review. How can we ask our enemies to treat our current and future prisoners with any respect?

We will NEVER foster the ideals of freedom that I once thought were also American ideals as long as we make exceptions to allow for savagery, violence, or oppression to keep ourselves safe. Think about it: Saddam Hussein loved his freedom, lifestyle and wealth. He fought to keep it in any way necessary, and I suspect that he believes he was perfectly justified in protecting his way of life. Our current Administration builds the same arguments. To protect our safety, we will wreak vengence and enforce "freedom" in the world. I suspect that the rest of the world, who hear our news releases stating that we will "go the distance" and "do whatever it takes" to root out "evil" in the world, feel that it is a preamble to madness. We are utilizing our fears to justify nation-building and imperialism, a policy that Governor George W. Bush stated was the worst possible idea. Personally, I wouldn't feel any better about having Swedes occupying my town to teach us more about balancing our budget and maintaining neutrality whether it was believed to be for my own good or not.

Evil has always been a matter of perspective. What do you think the Native Americans of the past (and a few suppressed currently) thought of our nation's desire to build a "free nation" while crushing them into oblivion? It is time that we take the higher road. It will hurt. It leaves good people vulnerable to those who would do harm. It is difficult when a person is innocent until PROVEN guilty, but until this Administration, I thought this was a common American ideal. As a Christian, I am repulsed by my peers who seek venegence rather than justice and who use the cross as a weapon for justifying their behavior. The Jesus that I learned about never gathered his disciples into an army and thirsted for bloodshed. He never preached that they should seize the lands and property of his neighbors to hold in trust for them until they learned to be Christians. We should lead by example by illustrating the utmost respect for the freedoms that our forefathers crafted so careful and extending those rights to our enemies. This also means that we must be MUCH more cautious in involving Christian ethics in politics and military. It should be noted that the lines in our Pledge and the In God We Trust slogans that many are clasping as basic tenets were added by conservative Christian groups in the early 20th century. Our forefathers had a great deal of experience with religious intolerance. They CHOSE to remove their own beliefs to make sure that this land was welcome to all. I shudder each time I hear good people screaming about these issues and threatening other beliefs. As a Christian, I believe enough in my own faith and relationship with God. I will let others trust to theirs by whatever name they use. I would stand against any religion that attempted to usurp these liberties. When I hear President Bush declaring that his policy was directed by God, it causes me to shudder. I have always admired men that use their faith for personal strength, but point out that those who use it as a shield for their actions have proven time and again to be dangerous to many lives. Bin Laden is but one example. I continue to hope that our system of checks & balances will prevent Presidnet Bush from becoming another.

It may mean finally releasing the pain of 9-11-01. It happened. It was not the first or probably the last time that innocent people will die for someone's misguided actions or beliefs. In Rwanda, thousands were annhilated while America and the world stood still. We have grieved, we have supported those who remain and suffered the greatest losses, and I hoped we had grown and learned that we needed not only to be more vigilant, but more ACTIVE as a participant, not a bully in international concerns. Might does NOT make right, and as a nation that broke from an Empire over 200 years ago, we should remain cognizant of this. Instead, it seems we have become vigilantes, who after being mugged, prowl the alleys and subways looking to root out all crime and wrong-doing. We are just as quick to judge an enemy, more innocents die, and many learn to fear our rabid justice while typically the original true culprits run free.

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