Monday, November 30, 2009

Killing At The Canal

One March day in 2007, American soldiers of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd "Dagger" Brigade, after being fired upon, became suspicious of four Iraqis after spotting them near a cache of weapons. The soldiers’ detained the Iraqis, loaded them into the back of a Bradley fighting vehicle, drove them in a convoy with thirteen soldiers to a canal in Baghdad’s West Rasheed neighborhood where three American sergeants killed the four blindfolded and bound Iraqis in the back of the head execution style.

Nine months later, Sergeant Jess Cunningham, one of the soldiers present at the canal killings, only after he was facing military discipline for assaulting Sergeant Michael Leahy, came forward and ratted on his fellow soldiers on what had happened at the canal. Since Sergeant Michael Leahy was one of the three sergeants who committed the canal murders, Cunningham’s motive for betraying the trust of his comrades at arms certainly is not clear. Certainly in light of Sergeant Cunningham and other soldiers in the platoon who all were charged with conspiracy to commit murder, he was the only one who escaped punishment: He was given immunity for testifying against the three sergeants who actually committed the killings; the charges against him were dropped.

The three sergeants in explaining their action explained that in order to give them up to the military command for processing at a detention facility they would need to provide evidence of their involvement in attacking U.S. forces. As First Sergeant John Hatley, one of the three sergeants, said, prisoners are often released by the detention center two to three days after capture because there was not enough evidence to hold them. Adding insult to injury, when these prisoners were released, the same unit that facilitated their capture was responsible to pick them up from the prison and release them. They then would return to the fight and kill more of America's soldiers. They felt the only action they could take to prevent that from happening was to execute them.

The three sergeants, John Hatley, Joseph Mayo, and Michael Leahy, were convicted of premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit premeditated murder.

First Sergeant John Hatley was sentenced to life in prison but the sentence was later reduced to 40 years; Sergeant First Class Joseph Mayo and Sergeant Michael Leah were each sentenced to 20-year terms.

Some Americans have called for leniency. And perhaps their sentencing was too stiff, especially in consideration that the U.S. Army trained them to kill on our behalf, and we are responsible for putting them in that situation in the first place. During the Vietnam War, Second Lieutenant William Calley was convicted of the premeditated murder of twenty two Vietnamese civilians when he was found guilty of ordering the March 16, 1968 My Lai Massacre. As many as 500 villagers were murdered that day and Calley was the only person convicted. He ended up spending 3 1/2 years in house arrest. How does one resolve the question of leniency when there are such very apparent disparities between the punishment of these three sergeants and that of Lieutenant Calley? However, if you read the circumstances of Calley’s murder trial, and house arrest, I believe any reasonable person would conclude that the leniency given Lieutenant Calley was very unacceptable. Nevertheless, were the sentences of Hatley, Mayo, and Leah too harsh in consideration of all known existential facts.

Some of the abbreviated blog comments on the killing at the canal:

They are American Heroes, not murderers;

You can’t understand unless you were there;

You people are stupid, If I were in combat, I would shoot anyone who wasn’t American; The killings in the canal were justified;

The wives say they are good men, they are heroes, and they had no choice but to murder those detainees;

They are an embarrassment to the US Army and the soldiers who serve honorably and ethically;

How many of these types of incidents are going unreported;

The fundamental war crime, that enabled all the rest, is starting an illegal war of aggression, which is what the Iraq war was;

The Army didn’t teach them to murder unarmed prisoners. They chose to do it, and they knew it was wrong when they did it;

I can give them a measure of sympathy and understanding;

These men are patriotic Americans serving in the US Army who executed under their own accord four detainees; Maybe we should call the executioners of American detainees heroes as well;

American soldiers are held to a higher standard than that of their enemies; what happened to these prisoners of war is not what we expect to happen to anyone in war;

So, were the Nazis that executed American soldiers who were prisoners during WWII heroes, as well? These American soldiers did the same thing; it was murder back in WWII, and it is murder now;

As depicted in the Good Soldier, our combat soldiers are trained to kill, but there are rules of engagement that must be followed;

It’s clear now that substantial fractions of Americans are perfectly fine with war crimes as long as they’re committed by Americans; Or more probably, it’s not a war crime -- or torture -- if an American does it;

Worse, they led their own Soldiers to do the same immoral and illegal act. The job of the NCO [non-commissioned officer] is to ensure that his soldiers do not become that which they behold [act the same as the other side]. The NCO is responsible for a soldiers discipline, that they follow the rules of engagement, and responsible for the laws of armed conflict and international humanitarian law are honored. Completely in conflict with what these NCO’s have done.

While I know there are many excellent men and women serving in the United States Armed Forces, and that there are true heroes (a person noted for courageous action above and beyond the call of duty), it does not mean every man or woman who voluntarily chose to serve are heroes, and certainly these men, as the word has been defined, are not.

Whether in war or not, it’s very troubling to me when Americans excuse the execution of anyone for any reason as being acceptable. Additionally, there is something extraordinarily wrong when a significant number of Americans think these three sergeants did nothing wrong by executing prisoners under their charge of safe care.

Part of the problem is that the nature of war has changed with the advent of Asymmetric warfare and counterinsurgency warfare as we are experiencing in Iraq and Afghanistan. This type of engagement is more suitable if performed by para-military or conventional police forces. However, engaging the enemy in the mountains and areas of engagement outside of tribal, urban, and suburban communities, need conventional armed forces for success.

The U.S. Department of Defense has been trying to enforce rules of prima facie evidence, interrogation, and procedures that normally would be undertaken by police forces. That is a big mistake. United States Armed Forces are not trained to interrogate, gather evidence, or make individual judgments. If an Army combat team receives fire that team then takes certain actions and positions to engage the enemy and return fire – not to make a personal judgment before engaging and returning fire.

A combat soldier or combat team is trained to cause havoc and kill, pure and simple, and nothing more than that.

Investigative correspondent Abbie Boudreau and senior investigative producer Scott Zamost produced a documentary, Killing at the Canal, for CNN. Viewing this documentary will give one greater insight.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Most reports I have read claim nearly two million undocumented immigrant children live in the US today. They are children who were born outside the U.S. but raised in this country and whose parents, for one reason or another, are not documented. Of these, about 65,000 undocumented immigrant students graduate from high school each year without proper documents of citizenship or a green card that would allow them to remain and work legally in the United States. Therefore, when they graduate from high school, without the ability to acquire a visa or green card, their future in this country is at jeopardy: they cannot work, go to college, or drive a car. These highly motivated individuals lived in the United States all or most of their lives and want nothing more than to be recognized as American citizens.

They and their parents have contributed to their community, church, paid their taxes, and other than the illegality of their residence, have obeyed our laws. Many of these students have participated in school clubs and sports teams, and are often working to help support their families.

After years of residency in the United States, why should these parents and their children not be provided with an appropriate path to citizenship? They would not have been allowed to take up residency if it were not for America’s acquiescence and an inability to make up our mind about immigration policy.

Many Americans who read this will say that they are not good citizens; most are here to take advantage of our welfare system; they are criminals, or otherwise here for some other nefarious reason.

I say we have laws, if enforced, to control and prosecute these abuses. And, the immigrants who commit these abuses are not in the majority. If we have laws to prosecute criminality, why are there not laws to protect immigrants who have, other than their illegality because of our complicity, behaved and obeyed our laws?

It’s interesting that the United States allows people with the following status to obtain a Green Card without labor certification and yet will deport young people after we have paid for their education:

Aliens of Extraordinary Ability in Business, Sciences, Arts, Education, or Athletics

Outstanding Professors/Researchers

International Executives/Managers

Exceptional Ability in the Sciences, Arts, Business with a "National Interest Waiver"

Registered Physical Therapists

Registered Professional Nurses

There is a documentary entitled Papers, directed by Anne Galisky of Graham Street Productions, which addresses the story of undocumented youth and the challenges they face as they turn 18.

CNN’s Rick Sanchez in his segment called Conexion interviews Anne Galisky and Walter Lara who is one of the students presented in the movie, Papers.

Enter the DREAM Act (the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act}, a piece of proposed federal legislation, similar to previous proposals introduced in 2001, and then again in 2007, that was reintroduced in the congress on March 26, 2009. The bill would provide certain undocumented immigrant students who graduate from US high schools, who are of good moral character, the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency.

The DREAM Act is not about giving special treatment to immigrant students/benefits that American kids don’t get; it is not a free pass -- in order to benefit from the legislation students must work hard, graduate from high school and attend college or join the military; and, immigrant students are not taking resources away -- it will increase the educational attainment of our youth, thereby increasing the amount of taxes they pay towards safety-net programs such as Social Security and Medicare..

However, it is about the fact that we have already invested in the education of these students. Therefore, we should allow them to reach their full potential and contribute to our society. And it is about equal opportunity: undocumented students work just as hard as their U.S.-born classmates, but they do not have the same opportunities.

These young people were brought to the United States as children; they did not partake in the decision to come here; they had no control over the economic conditions in the countries that forced their parents to come here.

The DREAM Act’s only purpose is to ensure that no undocumented graduating student is denied their dream of having a better life in America if they’re willing to work for it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sarah Palin for President? Really!

Yesterday my son and I were listening to a discussion on CNN regarding Sarah Palin and her new book, Rogue: An American Life. The discussion led to the question, will she make a run for the Presidency in 2012?

I made the remark that I would not vote for her. I said she is not qualified. My son, without hesitation responded, she’s more qualified than Obama!

Although, perhaps, I should have responded, I did not, because my son was stating criteria, such as the length of her term as governor of Alaska, and I really didn’t know if what he was saying was factual or not. Nor did I have any qualifications that I could state factually and defend.

Therefore, for my son and whoever might believe that Sarah Palin is qualified to be President of the United States, I herein state why I believe she is not, and certainly not more than Barack Obama.


From PBS’s Frontline presentation, The Qualities That Bear On Presidential Performance by Fred Greenstein, here are some of the qualities that were deemed essential, and of which I agree:

Effectiveness as a Public Communicator
I personally would say that as far as effective oratory and public communication Barack Obama has my nomination. In every interview, he is well positioned on the issues. I cannot see where there would be any disagreement here, it’s an inarguable assertion.

Sarah Palin has a difficult time with communication effectiveness, as for example in her campaign interviews with the media. She has the charisma, but not sufficient knowledge of the issues to answer the hard questions on economics or foreign policy, and in other areas, as well. This should be an inarguable assertion, as well.

Organizational Capacity and Political Skill
Barack Obama went from being a virtual unknown in 2004 to becoming the 44th President of the United States in 2009. He conducted an extremely well organized and effective campaign, of which he worked hard to achieve.

Sarah Palin is more of a celebrity than she is a politician. She acquired her celebrity position because John McCain’s campaign handlers made her a celebrity. She also achieved her celebrity as a result of the tabloid nature in which her image was exploited, to which many Americans seem to have an obsession. She didn’t arrive at her celebrity as a result of her capacity for hard work or organization, or because of her political skill. And, one must answer the question for themselves, why did the John McCain and his campaign managers choose her. Most reasonably minded people know the answer to that question.

President Obama has a progressive vision for America, one that evolves with prevailing conditions -- a vision that takes into account modernity and globalization and does not support the status quo. He has substantiated that position many times.

Sarah Palin’s mindset is in the same camp as Cheney and Bush in terms of Iraq and Afghanistan, foreign policy, and economics. She is a strict status quo conservative who has no progressive vision for America. She would make a better commentator on Fox News than President of the United States.

Cognitive Style
Barack Obama is a critical thinker and a builder of strategies to accomplish goals. He has a style of listening rather than dictating or talking. He is a consensus builder at heart, ever though he has 535 congressional members who for the most part are not. President Obama has an impressive handle on the issues and can clearly communicate them. He strongly believes, as evidenced by his actions, that it is important for a leader to surround themselves with reliable people from which to draw a variety of views prior to making decisions.

Sarah Palin has not demonstrated an acceptable cognitive style, at least to my satisfaction, so far. Sarah Palin certainly does not seem to be a critical thinker. She has a combative and confrontational demeanor in the style, more or less, of Hannity, Beck, and Limbaugh, when presenting and defending her positions on the issues.

Emotional Intelligence
President Obama has outstanding control over his emotions. He is cool as a cucumber under the most difficult situations and controversy; he exemplifies reticence and dispassion.

From the examples Sarah Palin has shown, she does not seem to have the emotional intelligence necessary to be President of the United States. It is clear that she does not have the ability to control her emotions. When she said, you can describe the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull in a single word: "lipstick," she was self-describing herself as a pit bull, which in slang means: one who behaves in a markedly aggressive or ruthless manner.

Character and Credibility
Barack Obama has gravitas, and he makes outstanding judgments concerning the issues that face America.

Sarah Palin has not demonstrated gravitas or credibility.

These are some of her fallacious remarks:

Ronald Reagan faced an even worse recession than the current one;

Says she couldn't take stimulus money because it required universal building codes;

Obama would experiment with socialism;

Seniors and the disabled will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care;

A provision in the health care reform bill for end-of-life counseling for seniors is not voluntary.

Ms. Palin certainly does not show thoughtful, well-reasoned responses to Interrogation, nor does she give dignified responses, such as her response to the healthcare reform issue.

Sarah Palin thought the interview during the campaign with Katie Couric would be a hockey mom to hockey mom sort of thing. She could not name any regular news or magazine publications that she regularly read. And, citing Alaska’s proximity to Russia as part of her foreign-policy experience clearly showed, if nothing else, how unprepared she was for the interview.

And, the question posed by Katie Couric here certainly should reveal to anyone that Sarah Palin is not Presidential material:

COURIC: Why isn't it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700bn helping middle-class families, who are struggling with healthcare, housing, gas and groceries, allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?
PALIN: That's why I say, I, like every American I'm speaking with, we're ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the tax payers looking to bail out, but ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the healthcare reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping tho— it's got to be all about job creation too, shoring up our economy, and putting it back on the right track, so healthcare reform and reducing taxes and reigning in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as— competitive— scary thing, but one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we've got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.

What did she say that was coherent? It was garbled, inscrutable, and she was simply copycatting the conservative or republican position without any nuance. Unlike President Obama who is skilled in presenting things in a nuanced way as well as with depth of meaning.

This is the most important criterion for a President of the United States. All of the qualities presented here are encompassed under the header of leadership. But, leadership in its essence is the ability to lead people in the pursuit of a common goal or in developing a common purpose, a vision, recognition for a job well done, instilling pride in participatory ownership of the goal or vision, and eliciting sacrifice for the greater good. A good leader must represent authenticity and believability, as well as to provide guidance and direction. Leadership lies in the capacity to act personally, as well as representing their organization or country, in this case the United States of America, by setting the best example through best practices for themselves and their country.

President Obama is such a leader. I really doubt that Sarah Palin could measure up to that.

Someone once said, and I believe it to be true, there is no previous experience that can adequately prepare anyone for the Presidency of the United States, other than the preponderance of their own life’s experience.

Education, Work Experience, and Accomplishments

Barack Obama

Graduated from Columbia University in New York

Received his law degree, graduating magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School

He became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review

Worked as a civil rights lawyer and as a community organizer in New York and Chicago

Lectured in constitutional law at the University of Chicago

He was elected to the Illinois state senate in 1997, where he served as chairman of the Public
Health and Welfare Committee

Third African-American to deliver a keynote address at a Democratic National Convention
when he took the stage at the 2004 convention in Boston, MA.

In 2004 he was elected to the U.S. Senate and quickly became a major national political figure

He was inaugurated as the 44th — and the United States' first African American — President
on January 20, 2009

Sarah Palin

First female governor of Alaska

Earned a journalism degree from the University of Idaho in 1987

A few stints as a TV sportscaster in Anchorage

Wasilla city council in 1992

Wasilla city's mayor from 1996-2002

In 2002, she made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor

On December 4, 2006, became Alaska's first woman governor, but resigned in the middle of
her first term

From 2003 to 2004 chaired the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. However,
concerned by ethical conflicts involving a commission member who was also republican state
party chairman, she resigned after serving less than a year

Became John McCain's running mate in the U.S. presidential elections of 2008


It seems to me that any logical thinking person would easily see that Barack Obama is significantly more qualified to be President of the United States than Sarah Palin.

Along with Limbaugh, and Fox News’s Hannity and Beck, she certainly is and will continue to be a rebel rouser for, and will represent the values of, the Republican Party. However, at this time she should never be considered for the office of President of the United States of America.

And, for that matter, I don’t see where she, Fox News, or Limbaugh do anything positive to advance the authentic positions of the Republican Party.

(Cartoons are the courtesy of US News and World Report)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Good Soldier

It's hard to imagine watching a more affecting movie than The Good Soldier ... because it may be as affecting a movie as I've ever seen. It took one seemingly simple question—What makes a good soldier?—and reduced the answer to its essence. That being, the ability to kill other human beings. Using the voices of veterans from WWII, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and Iraq, each gave this exact same answer, and they all spoke not only of their guilt and regret, but also of how at some point during their time in the military they needed to kill. Their reasons were different, but the training that gave them the skills and permission was not. I found it both hard to watch and hard to turn away from, and I know I'll never look at the words ‘collateral damage' in the same way again. Really powerful stuff. - Jason Albert of the Onion

No matter how disturbing that may be to many Americans, that truth is the essence to the meaning of being a soldier, and of war.

I don’t believe Americans who rally around the flag in support of war truly understand when a military occupational specialty (MOS) is infantryman or an MOS that requires direct engagement with the enemy that the mission is to kill. They will tell you that they do understand, but they do not have an acute awareness of what it means to be a soldier, its profundity, or consequence, and will quickly dismiss it by saying, killing, oh well, that’s what happens in war. They don’t seem to understand that their government is asking their son or daughter, or another American, to commit murder. Nor do most enlist in the military with that understanding, but that is the essence of the mission. Few have the capability to kill another human being, so, combat training, beyond basic training, is the process of teaching and motivating a soldier precisely how to kill. A well-trained warrior is essential to a disciplined professional army who are skilled at organized killing in order to bring about success in war.

I learned early on that war forms it own culture. The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug, one I ingested for many years. It is peddled by mythmakers -- historians, war correspondents, filmmakers, novelists, and the state -- all of whom endow it with qualities it often does possess: excitement, exoticism, power, chances to rise above our small station in life, and a bizarre and fantastic universe that has a grotesque and dark beauty. It dominates culture, distorts memory, corrupts language, and infects everything around it, even humor, which becomes preoccupied with the grim perversities of smut and death. Fundamental questions about the meaning, or meaninglessness, of our place on the planet are laid bare when we watch those around us sink to the lowest depths. War exposes the capacity for evil that lurks not far below the surface within all of us. And this is why for many war is so hard to discuss once it is over. – War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, Chris Hedges

Therefore, when a soldier returns home from combat, he or she cannot be candid with acquaintances, friends, or family, regarding their experiences. There is not that level of understanding to enable others to understand. Their experiences have left them to living life in a vacuum, and they can only break free and be candid when they are with other combat veterans. It is an experience they will never be able to shake off. As the VFW has reported, many returning combat veterans for the remainder of their life will suffer depression, recurring nightmares, survivor guilt, outbursts of rage (often directed at family members), exaggerated startle responses and anxiety reactions—all of which are classic symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

This is part 1 of 6 parts of the video, Tip of the Spear

When you turn somebody into a well-trained killer, how do you turn off the killer part of their personality [I object to personality; I prefer indoctrination]? Robert W. Butler, Kansas City Star

The answer to that is not to turn them into killers in the first place. As a result of these revelations, there is an ever-increasing emergent need to abolish war, which is long overdue. An exigent respect for all life is desperately needed.

One of abolition’s main problems is that Americans seem to be oblivious to the realities of war. They seem to be unaware of what we are asking our young people to do, and a more importantly sad fact is that an enlistee before he or she makes a commitment essentially does not know what America is asking them to do if they ever should be chosen for a combat role.

What parent would ever want to aspire to have their government turn their son or daughter into a trained, highly disciplined killer? Yet, mothers and fathers do not seem to look at it in that way. To them, serving in the Armed Forces as a soldier is honorable. They are caught up with the hero syndrome, myths and glory of war. For many complex and deliberate governmental, cultural, and societal reasons, Chris Hedges is correct: War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.

Furthermore, the abolition of war is not possible as long as Americans continue to believe the propaganda that war commandants like General Norman Schwarzkopf, of Persian Gulf War fame, are really fatherly, pussy cats, and teddy bears at heart; … that war is necessary, that wars for peace are legitimate, and as long as world governments and the military- industrial-academic complex continue with their support and/or obsessive desire for profit and power will we ever reach that goal.

Since 9/11, homeland security has taken center stage with all kinds of discussion on what our government and we can do to make America more secure. The most progressive step we can take to achieving homeland security is for us to gain the knowledge necessary to understand, and to provide the leadership of best practices and examples necessary for the world to come to the same realization that the elimination of war is indispensable to achieving security and world peace.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

No War Day

Veteran’s Day is a day America sets aside to honor its veterans. It is a day that we should honor veterans for their dedication and commitment. It is not a day that we should glorify the wars in which many have served. Veteran’s Day is as much a metaphor of our past as it should be a metaphor for our future, war “NEVER AGAIN!”

I am proud of our veterans in that many have selfishly served our country, whether that service is voluntary or not, based on a belief propagated by our government and many Americans that their service was and is necessary to preserve our freedom and our way of life. Their courage, loyalty, and devotion are extraordinary.

I am not proud of our government or Americans who do not respect life and who will send an American into harms way willy-nilly, base its necessity on fabrication, wage war of their own design or imbue Americans with the notion that If we didn’t have a military we would not have a country.

As long as we are under that impression and as long as Americans believe that diplomacy and negotiation are analogous to appeasement, war will remain the only remaining option. With that mindset, the mantra “NEVER AGAIN!” will not ever have any meaning; there will always continue to be veterans and Veterans Day, which is more of a celebration of war than honoring their service.

Andy Rooney on CBS’s 60 Minutes had a good thought. His view, Declare War On War.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

The following is the transcript of what he said:

(CBS) I keep this calendar on my desk, and while I don't look at it very often I notice that this Wednesday is Veterans Day. It's one of ten federal holidays that we have. Well, I'm a veteran and I hate that name.

Considering that we aren't technically at war now, there's an awful lot about war in the news even when it's not something like Veterans Day. I suppose that's because there's so much fighting in the world. There are half a dozen small wars going on right now - some of them in places most of us have never been to or even never heard of before.

Too many young men and women with a whole life ahead of them are getting killed before they have a chance to live it and for what?

Of all the things that men do - historically mostly men - fighting a war to kill other men is the most uncivilized.

Wars have been fought through time and we may think we're more civilized now than people were 100 or 500 years ago but there's no sign that fighting wars is a thing of the past. There's always one going on somewhere.

Eight of my classmates - friends really - in school and college were killed in World War II. I've had 60 years of life that those eight friends never had. We call this a civilization?

More than 5,200 American men and women, kids really - have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. It may be a small number in two small wars but if you're one of those killed or even a father or mother of one, there's nothing small about it.

Why not, instead of commemorating Veterans Day, we establish and work on what we could call a No War Day.

The name doesn't have much of a ring to it but a day like that would be worth celebrating

Obama Needs to Go to Ft. Hood

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro in a recent post on, Obama Needs to Go to Ft. Hood, wrote, This is one of the worst shooting massacres in American history and ironically, it happened at a secure, U.S. Army military installation. -- That's the president's turf and he should be there at the very least as a symbol of hope to those family members who lost loved ones.

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro’s complaint is shallow and unjust. It’s another example of Fox News bias and propensity for fallacious quasi-tabloid journalism.

Shapiro opines that it took six months following President Obama’s inauguration to visit Afghanistan, but it was understandable because the country was not safe. Did you feel it was safe at Fort Hood, Mr. Shapiro, even though the military thought it was unsafe by calling for a lock down of the base? Not until the dust has settled do Presidents visit disaster areas with any response, and never STAT, which apparently in your view a STAT response was the President’s responsibility.

Apparently, Shapiro and those at Fox News have short memories or do not choose to remember the Bush-Katrina catastrophe.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, killing more than 1,800 people, and left the city of New Orleans in a dire situation and destitute for help.

The Washington Monthly wrote, While New Orleans is undergoing a slow motion catastrophe, Bush mugs for the cameras, cuts a cake for John McCain, plays the guitar for Mark Wills, delivers an address about V-J day, and continues with his vacation. When he finally gets around to acknowledging the scope of the unfolding disaster, he delivers only a photo op on Air Force One and a flat, defensive, laundry list speech in the Rose Garden. … Actions have consequences. No one could predict that a hurricane the size of Katrina would hit this year, but the slow federal response when it did happen was no accident. It was the result of four years of deliberate Republican policy and budget choices that favor ideology and partisan loyalty at the expense of operational competence. It's the Bush administration in a nutshell.

It was one of the strongest storms in recorded history and President Bush took his sweet time for any kind of a response, rhetorically or kinetically!

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro wrote in a November 5, 2008 article in the Wall Street Journal, Just as Americans have gained perspective on how challenging Truman's presidency was in the wake of World War II, our country will recognize the hardship President Bush faced these past eight years -- and how extraordinary it was that he accomplished what he did in the wake of the September 11 attacks. … The treatment President Bush has received from this country is nothing less than a disgrace. The attacks launched against him have been cruel and slanderous, proving to the world what little character and resolve we have. The president is not to blame for all these problems. He never lost faith in America or her people, and has tried his hardest to continue leading our nation during a very difficult time.

Mr. Shapiro said that last year regarding, of all people, Bush, and a year later will not give President Obama the same consideration. I guess Shapiro must not think that President Obama has a lot on his plate.

In his piece, Obama Needs to Go to Ft. Hood, Mr. Shapiro said, In the meantime, Obama did order all flags flown at the White House and other federal buildings flown at half-mast, calling it a modest tribute to those [who] were killed and serve in the armed services. Adding, That's putting it mildly.

President Obama’s expression, a modest tribute, means humble in face of what the men and women in the armed services are sacrificing for our country. I guess all things are subject to the eyes of the beholder, especially that of Mr. Shapiro and Fox News. In this case, Mr. Shapiro should have his cataracts operated on; his vision as a result is extremely poor.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mr. Chilcott: … enough is enough for a reasonable man—more is superfluous

In reference to Reader's view: Tell Congress, 'Enough' :

Two antithetical ideological views are making the nationalization argument very contentious. One is the ideology of free market capitalism, a Randian philosophy of objectivism and individualism, while the other the ideology of liberalism, a progressive societal view with concern for equality of rights and amelioration.

Nationalization means deprivatization by putting private ownership into public ownership of the government. However, that is not what government is doing, and we are a long way from that form of government control. Government investment as opposed to government control is not nationalization

Auto and finance industry bailouts are government investments. Healthcare reform is not nationalization, but it is an investment in the well-being of Americans.

For those who are constitutional fundamentalist, the preamble to the Constitution, amongst other enumerations, states the principle of promoting the general welfare. I interpret welfare from its essential meaning: health, happiness, and good fortune; well-being; prosperity. I am certain the framers, in the preamble’s expression general welfare, did not mean government welfare or corporate welfare; it was meant to mean well-being. Since it is not explicit how that would be accomplished, nor whether or not it is the power of the United States or the States to accomplish that goal, even though the principle is explicit in the preamble, the Second Amendment tenet giving powers not delegated therefore may apply. So, in this regard Mr. Chilcott may be correct. Nevertheless, the general welfare principle is in the preamble, albeit contrary to Fox News infamous Judge Napolitano, healthcare legislation is constitutional.

There is only one group of Americans benefiting from defeat of health insurance reform and that is the private healthcare insurance industry.

Anyone who thinks congress should leave the solution to our financial and healthcare predicament in the hands of free market capitalist have their proverbial head in the sand. They are the folks who are significantly responsible for today’s economic and healthcare quagmire.

Those who blame the Obama administration for all of America’s ills, evidently are not cognizant of the fact that six of the last eight years republicans held the congressional majority, and for eight years had a republican president presiding over a failed presidency: President George W Bush approved and condoned a policy of torture, explicitly in violation of the Geneva Convention, putting any American service member captured in a precarious position; violated America’s constitutional principles under the rubric of the Patriots Act; conducted an illegal war in Iraq; marred the international image of the United States, and of every American and member of America’s Armed Forces; conducted a failed foreign relations policy; and oversaw a failing economy.

This rebuttal may be superfluous, as are Mr. Chilcott’s arguments, but evidently it still is necessary. We have Fox News and the Limbaugh’s of the world who continue to express unreasonable views that attract unreasonable men and women. In that light, it’s very hard to be complacent.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Judge Andrew Napolitano on Natural Rights and the Patriot Act

In this part 3 presentation of Judge Andrew Napolitano’s talk on Natural Rights and the Patriot Act, the judge opines that healthcare is not addressed in the U.S. Constitution.

He relates a question asked in a Wall Street Journal article as to whether or not the Congress could under the Constitution regulate healthcare. Obviously, they can’t. Healthcare is not mentioned in the constitution. The framers had hospitals -- the framers had doctors -- the framers got sick -- the framers needed healthcare. It was beyond their wildest imaginings that they would be creating a government that would somehow be able to regulate this kind of human behavior.

Well, the preamble to the Constitution, amongst other enumerations, states the principle of promoting the general welfare. I interpret welfare from its fundamental meaning: health, happiness, and well-being. What other way could anyone interpret the word welfare. Promoting the general welfare was not meant to mean welfare for the few but for all Americans. These constitutional principles were delineated because they were considered by the framers to be natural law or natural rights of which healthcare or the principle of welfare -- health, happiness, and well-being -- be kept as it was envisioned and were not to be violated. Keeping it, however, proportional and having no change from its original intent, and yet adopting it to the complex nature of modernity. To do that in today’s world needs regulation, to keep it in Judge Napolitano’s words, regular.

Of course, the framers had hospitals, doctors, got sick, and the framers needed healthcare. However, it was then called medical care, not healthcare, and physicians only treated the symptoms of disease; healthcare is a modern word that means the prevention, treatment, and management of illness and the preservation of mental and physical well-being through the services offered by the medical and allied health professions. The practice of medicine has gone from what were general practitioners to today where practitioners practice particular medical and surgical specialties. The framers did not have pharmaceuticals, as we know them today. In the epoch of the framers of the Constitution, there was no such thing as healthcare; furthermore, physicians did not need to be licensed. In the eighteenth century, life was not as complex. Then it was an entirely different America.

He goes on to say, Where in the constitution is it authorized that the federal government to regulate healthcare?

Judge Napolitano, in order to clarify what it means to regulate, in analogy uses interstate commerce as an example, which he defines as to keep regular: To keep regular, to make sure there is commerce between the states. Well Judge, how are you to keep regular that which is not regulated. It is a disingenuous statement. Frankly, the man should know better, and I believe he does know better, as to why there is a need to keep things, as he says, regular, to regulate, and to have regulation. What happens if, to use his analogy, interstate commerce is not kept regular as defined by government? Well, it would then be regulated by government legislation. The Judge is a man of the law. Law is a means by which government keeps human action regular, or as it is meant to be as determined by government. Isn’t the Constitution regulation, meant to regulate how we govern ourselves?

Further, to compare the healthcare reform proposals that would include the so-called public option to be as unconstitutional as the Patriot Act is simply specious, unreasonable, irresponsible, and dishonest. The Patriot Act is clearly unconstitutional. President Bush, his administration, and congress knew, or certainly should have known, that it was unconstitutional, but passed the legislation anyway. It does not say very much of our country for that to have happened. It clearly violates the civil liberties that Americans have always held dear. Healthcare is a civil liberty all Americans should share.

Evidently, Judge Napolitano is an originalist. I, here, also find disagreement with him.

The Constitution of the United States, adopted on September 17, 1787, is the document that delineates our nation’s guiding principles and the rights guaranteed to all U.S. citizens. It should not be violated; however, it is a living document. It needs to evolve and change over time as conditions change, and as our knowledge and technology evolve.

If the Constitution from its beginning had been intended to be a static document, it would not have been amended twenty-seven times, and there would not have been the first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights, adopted December 15, 1791, even if it was intended at the time to be a part of the bill at some later time. It was four years after the Constitution that the Bill of Rights was adopted. In addition, there would not be a need for a Supreme Court. The Constitution would simply be the carved in stone law of the land.

Particular to my view on the constitutionality of healthcare regulation is my analogy of it to the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution is the part of the Bill of Rights that protects a right to keep and bear arms. The text of the Second Amendment states, A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

It is particularly disturbing to me that many in congress, as well as many Americans, view that it is a citizen’s right to bear arms, but it is not a citizen’s right to affordable, reliable, and accessible healthcare. That which in the preamble to the Constitution of the United States affirms that in order to form a more perfect union, America needs to promote the general welfare.

What do you suppose would happen if today’s private sector arms dealers were non-restrictive, laissez-faire, free-market capitalist. For them to operate without any restrictions or regulation whatsoever. What kind of a country would this be without some form of regulation on firearms? In the eighteenth century, it was never envisioned that there would be the number of firearms, availability, variety, or lethality of today’s weaponry. Citizens of the eighteenth century were able to band together and were capable of defending themselves, their communities, and their nation against a tyrannical government(s) armed forces or police force(s). In that Zeitgeist life was considerably non-restrictive and libertarian. For the most part, their armaments, with the exception of artillery and naval forces, were equal to any government-armed force. However, today, to own a weapon that would be effective against any government(s) armed force(s) is absurd.

It is true. There have been many abuses with regulation, mostly due to the drive for profit, an unacceptable quest of profit by the public and by the private sector. Nevertheless, what would healthcare look like today if our nation continued without regulation of the industry (a term, by the way, even though it is used in relation to healthcare, I don’t like to use because of the implication of profit)? In particular, absence of the licensing/certification of physicians, hospitals, and all of the other allied, affiliated, and supporting medical services.

It would be grand, but utopian, to live in a country without restrictions, without law or regulation, and completely libertarian. It would equally be even grander, and extremely beneficial, if we could evolve into a nation and world free of dependency, restrictions, regulations, and other hindrances placed on us, not only by government but by private enterprise as well, that are endemic in a money-based, capitalistic free-market system. I am acutely aware that there are not many who will believe it, but over time, we can evolve to that place. That is not a utopian dream!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Could Afghanistan Become Obama’s Vietnam?

A recent documentary and book by Daniel Ellsberg, a Defense
Department analyst in the Nixon Administration turned Vietnam era whistle-blower, who is most famous for revealing what is known as the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and Washington Post has written a new book, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers. As a consequence of the book, Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, co-produced and directed a documentary, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, based on the escapades of Daniel Ellsberg.

Daniel Ellsberg CSpan-video interview

Martin Knelman, entertainment columnist for, asked Dr. Ellsberg -- Why now? After all, the Pentagon Papers saga has all the ingredients of a great documentary, and it benefits hugely from Ellsberg's own charismatic personality as he narrates the story. But surely the film could have been made long ago.

Dr. Ellsberg responded by saying, … a more important one [among many reasons] is the striking correspondence between what happened in Vietnam back then and what is happening with Afghanistan right now. Ellsberg says that he has no doubt there are other people in high places sitting on the kind of explosive information about Afghanistan that was leaked about Vietnam.

Low and behold, along comes Matthew P. Hoh’s resignation, Political Officer in the Foreign Service and Senior Civilian Representative for the US Government in Zabul Province, Afghanistan, and a former Marine captain with combat experience in Iraq, who said in his letter of resignation: Our support for this kind of government, coupled with a misunderstanding of the insurgency’s true nature, reminds me horribly of our involvement with South Vietnam; an unpopular and corrupt government we backed at the expense of our Nation’s own internal peace, against an insurgency whose nationalism we arrogantly and ignorantly mistook as a rival to our own Cold War ideology.

As Dr. Ellsberg has posited, is it possible that other people in high places are sitting on the kind of explosive information about Afghanistan as was leaked about Vietnam? Why has Obama seemingly put off a decision on Afghanistan? (although I do agree it should not be a hasty decision, and President Obama should obtain all the facts and alternatives before making a decision, it, never-the-less, does seem clear to me he is sitting on it for some unknown reason) Why was Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's assessment of the war in Afghanistan prematurely leaked (for most all leaks are purposeful) by the Department of Defense? Could there be a house of cards that may be ready to tumble?

From people whose opinions I value, they say we are headed for another Vietnam. Particularly if we intensify the war by sending more troops, and militarily take on Pakistan as we did with Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam War.

Andrew J. Bacevich, a West Point graduate who served in Vietnam, whose son was killed in action in Iraq, and who is at present professor of international relations at Boston University, gave strong Senate testimony on Afghanistan, comparing it with Vietnam as the Long War. In quoting Gen. Bruce Palmer from his book, The Twenty-Five Year War, he said: With respect to Vietnam, our leaders should have known that the American people would not stand still for a protracted war of an indeterminate nature with no foreseeable end to the U.S. commitment. To Die For a Mystique: The lessons our leaders didn’t learn from the Vietnam War

Scott Ritter, former chief United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, said writing in a post for titled, McChrystal Doesn’t Get It—Does Obama?: Clearly Gen. Stanley McChrystal is not the man for this task. He should be replaced by someone within the ranks of the U.S. military who shares Obama’s vision of peace, and with it the need to redefine the mission in South Asia. The legitimate requirements of American national security will not be satisfied by any massive military commitment to the region. Hopefully, President Obama will recognize this fact and get out. That would be a sign of greatness, and present to the American people and the rest of the world a leader worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Although at first thought I thought the change in command in Afghanistan as positive, I have since had some reservations. I have a level of mistrust in Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal. I have a concern that he is not being honest in his COMISAF Initial Assessment when he has seemingly emphasized a New Strategy: Focus on the Population, which, if President Obama decides to stay in Afghanistan must be our focus as opposed to a military objective. McChrystal is at heart a warrior. His basic instinct is to kill. That was his mission as Commander, Joint Special Operations Command. His involvement in the Pat Tillman friendly fire incident investigation and cover-up was not honorable.

So, Could Afghanistan Become Obama’s Vietnam?

I believe it certainly will if we continue with our current military mindset in Afghanistan. As Dennis Kucinich has said:

It is not simply combat troops that present a problem, but our entire military presence is counterproductive to our security. Sending additional military personnel indicates that we are deepening our military involvement in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is a nation of independent tribes that is rife with corruption. Nation building cannot come from the barrel of a gun. Instead the United States should work with Afghanistan’s neighbors to help provide regional security to allow the Afghan people to rebuild their nation. It is time that Congress takes control of this war by eliminating its funding and bringing our troops home.

If the Obama administration is determined to ‘win the war' in Afghanistan, then we should be prepared for another Vietnam. An unending military commitment is unacceptable to the American people and it should be unacceptable to Congress. If the Obama administration refuses
to bring this war to an end, then Congress should use the power of the purse, granted by the Constitution, to end the war and bring our troops home. Many objective analyses indicate that the U.S. should withdraw from Afghanistan. If the Obama administration can't do it, then Congress must.

Terrorism, international and national, is a systemic, existential threat. It is now as it has always been. Terrorism is as old as prostitution. The world will never be able to completely prevent it, at least within our current knowledge, but it can be marginalized. The only way to successfully combat terrorism is with corporative, well funded and trained multinational police forces.

Further reading:
A War of Necessity Turns Out Not So Necessary
General Stanley A. McChrystal's call for a new Afghanistan strategy
McChrystal’s War
Stanley McChrystal’s Long War

The Comments of Torgny Jansson

Torgny Jansson has made two very good comments on my posts ‘Dismantling America‘ and ‘Capitalism: A Love Story.’

(Torgny’s website: Esoteric Astrology )

I therefore decided to bring them front and center, to make them a part of the main post on my blog.

Torgny said regarding "Dismantling America":

This tactic reminds me of the strategy developed by Lee Atwater. What matters is to win, ‘the end justifies the means.’ What is true does not matter, it is about destroying your political opponent. Ethics is not important, only winning. The aim is not to serve the nation, it is to destroy the character of the political opponent. It is by spreading the message of fear and hate, and by negative campaigning also make the followers of the political opponent lose faith. This tactic may win the election, but what kind of society will it create? A society of fear, mistrust and where truth does not matter.

In the end of his life Atwater apologized for what he had done, but it was a little bit too late. Shortly before his death he wrote; ‘I was wrong to follow the meanness of Conservatism. I should have been trying to help people instead of take advantage of them. I don’t hate anyone anymore.’

As Torgny pointed out, in a February 1991 article for Life Magazine, Lee Atwater wrote:

My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The '80s were about acquiring — acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn't I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn't I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don't know who will lead us through the '90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.

And regarding ‘Capitalism: A Love Story,’ Torgny wrote:

I think that the idea of a small government that will not interfere with the world of business is an illusion. If the decisions are no longer made by the people who are choosen by democratic elections, who will then make the important decisions? We will instead have a strong government run by big business, with secret meetings and who owns and controls media.

The idea that no regulations of business would transfer the power to the individual I find as unrealistic as the utopia of many socialists that all power to the government would mean that ‘the people’ are making the decisions.

‘The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism - ownership of government by an individual, by a group,’ Franklin D. Roosevelt

Torgny’s two comments are at the essence of those two blog posts.