Saturday, December 29, 2007
It might have been Al Qaeda, it might have been Al Qaeda operating in concert with some in the Pakistani government (either those loyal to President Musharraf or the Pakistani secret police, the ISI). It is certainly comfortable to those in Washington to say that it was Al Qaeda. This enables them to continue tying it to their never-ending "Global war on Terror". They try to make the case that it is just one more small same piece of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and other places.
I believe we lost a bit of credibility that we were serious about this kind of terrorism, and this part of the world when Osama bin Laden was able to slip away in Tora Bora (and many believe he has taken up permanent residence inside Pakistan, and that there is NO WAY he could be there without the knowledge of the Pakistani government), and we gutted the Afghanistan mission to move on to the war in Iraq (taking away the rebuilding efforts we promised to the Afghani's, leaving them in the lurch once more (the first time being in the late 80's when the Soviets pulled out, leading the country to 20+ years of murderous civil and tribal warfare).
Now, Afghanistan is heating up again in a big way. Many are saying we need to shift emphasis again from Iraq to Afghanistan, because they feel that since the violence has ebbed in Iraq, that war must be over (or at least things are getting better). Never mind that the reason for the surge was to slow the violence to enable political reconciliation which is NOT taking place (see Myth 9 in the link below).
Juan Coles piece, Top Ten Myths about Iraq 2007 should throw a damper on any of those ideas:
Myth number 8 should be particularly paid attention to by those who say that the surge was the reason for the drop in violence in Iraq:
"8. Myth: The US troop surge stopped the civil war that had been raging between Sunni Arabs and Shiites in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
Fact: The civil war in Baghdad escalated during the US troop escalation. Between January, 2007, and July, 2007, Baghdad went from 65% Shiite to 75% Shiite. UN polling among Iraqi refugees in Syria suggests that 78% are from Baghdad and that nearly a million refugees relocated to Syria from Iraq in 2007 alone. This data suggests that over 700,000 residents of Baghdad have fled this city of 6 million during the US 'surge,' or more than 10 percent of the capital's population. Among the primary effects of the 'surge' has been to turn Baghdad into an overwhelmingly Shiite city and to displace hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from the capital."
The simple fact is that we cannot sustain this "empire" forever.
A friend of mine sent me a Michelle Malkin piece this weekend where she talks about how the surge is the greatest thing, and how it worked, and how all the liberal media don't want to give the President any credit, and how those who oppose the war only do it because they hate America, hate President Bush, and hate our troops.
She goes on to lionize a young Lieutenant that was killed in Iraq. This is how she characterizes his death:
"To MoveOn and Democrat leaders and the anti-surge press, he's just another number. Another "victim." Another pawn."
What bothers me most about her and those who believe the way she does is that if you don't support the war, you somehow hate the troops.
It is always interesting to me that to them "supporting the troops" means leaving them, what appears to be indefinitely to face their fate in Iraq, whether it comes from a sniper, an IED, or the infamous "death by causes other than combat".
As I've asked in this blog ad nauseum where is the Grand Unified Theory of what it means to "win" in Iraq? What does a victory in Iraq look like? When do the troops get to come home? Is that ever part of their plan?
I want them to answer these questions. In the Malkin piece there were no such answers. Of course, there never are. The truth is, I believe they don't want the the war to end. Perpetual war = perpetual power.
At the rate the Iraqi's are going, they may NEVER politically reconcile. How long can we stay there with that not happening?
To Malkin and her Malkin-tents these questions do not matter. The troops will stay in Iraq till they say they can come home and we are damn good and ready to bring them home. And, their families and friends (not to mention the troops) should not question the mission at all. And if they happen to die or get maimed or dismembered, they can say that they sacrificed for the glory of the mission.
And if the traitorous ones complain, they get the "phony soldiers" treatment (giving credit to Keith O.), ala "Radio Comedian Rush Limbaugh".
Meanwhile, what was once the finest Army in the world is being ground down by attrition to a hollower force every day. Meanwhile, a "tsunami" of veterans are coming back seriously broken and maimed in mind, body and spirit, and taxing the system not prepared to deal with what was supposed to have been a "cakewalk". Meanwhile domestic issues like infrastructure, health care and poverty issues are taking a serious beating.
How much more are we going to sacrifice before we wake up?
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Then, later in the blog, I revised my wish to know:
"When do we win? What does winning even mean? Instead of the plowshares thing, the answers to those questions is REALLY what I want for my birthday."
25 days later, the day we Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus the Prince of Peace, to my frustration, those answers are no closer.
I have always found it extremely ironic that some of the ones who should be teaching about Jesus' desire for peace, and his numerous teachings on peace, and his rebuking of his disciples when they wanted to stupidly use violence are those who are the staunchest in keeping perpetual war as the status quo. They are also the staunchest in buying into the worldly power of the US and completely disregarding their purported belief that God is in charge.
Of course THEY will tell you that what we are doing is divinely ordained, and that God is using the US as an instrument to bring his will to the Middle East. And, in a lot of their opinions, George W. Bush has PERSONALLY been talked to by God and shown that this is the proper course of action. They regard as an "Inconvenient Truth" the death, mayhem and destruction caused by multiple wars wrought by the US. Certainly God wants some to die for the greater glory.
And, taking military action against Iran will further the "mission" of glory.
I realize it sounds horrible and deeply twisted, but this is the belief some of them hold. Their leaders hold it, they preach it (and of course "support" it with cherry picked verses from the Bible), and it sounds good to the followers.
And then they think "hey, since those folks over there aren't Christian it doesn't really matter what happens to them - but I sure hope they watch the 700 Club on Arab TV channels that we are broadcasting on and are "saved" before they die. I'd sure feel bad if they weren't".
We are always told by those in charge, that this is a glorious cause, and that we are a "country at war". We need to disabuse ourselves of this notion. We are NOT a country at war. Now, a thin slice of the population repeatedly sent to combat zones and their families and friends are at war, but not the rest of us.
For a reminder of what this is doing to our military, here is a Christmas present from me to you (from the Center for American Progress):
Look at the statistics. To me, they are an early warning. Kind of like when you are driving your car and you have that little hitch or hesitation when it tries to shift gears - that little hitch could always be the indication that your transmission is about to implode.
Here's a little piece about how we support our troops that will warm your heart on this Christmas holiday:
This young man (with two tours of duty in Iraq) came home for the joyous birth of his baby. The baby becomes ill, and the Army claims that they need him more than his family does. Now, because of this, he is "rethinking a career in the military." (along with everyone else who knows him or knows his situation).
I think what bothers me the most about this is that these young men (and women) are being asked to give and give and give and give. The country (or more appropriately our "leadership" in Washington) continues to take and take and take and take. And in between those two poles, there is never a clear articulation as to what the mission is now, or when it will be over and they can say that they've won, or even what they are really fighting for there.
The most accepted version by the fear mongers in Washington and most of the Presidential candidates is "because there are Islamic (or if you wish, the nonsensical, made up, meaningless word Islamofacists) extremists who want to kill us and destroy our freedom and way of life".
That (Islamic extremism) will never end (especially, paradoxically while we are still invading and occupying Muslim countries), and, that is NOT an existential threat to our country. No matter how much the fevered delusion of those who support this idea try to convince you, it is simply not true.
Can they do damage to this country? Of course. Can they "end our way of life"?
Do you think these "sound bite" platitudes are good enough explanation for Gabriel Douglas William's father (and thousands of other fathers) being away from their families in perpetuity and constantly in danger?
I think they (our leaders) have to do better than that. They never have.
Oh, and by the way, only WE can end our way of life. This can happen by curbing freedoms here at home and overextending ourselves abroad.
Wake up on this Christmas day and understand that perpetual war, occupation and killing will NOT lead to the peace that Jesus taught about.
Friday, December 21, 2007
I still think it's a pretty disturbing story (and one of the things I always want to keep away from is posting sensationalized stuff, and that's why I thought about it for awhile). I also think that we need to be tracking EXACTLY how many active duty people are killing themselves in Afghanistan, Iraq, and at bases back in the US. Then we need to be actively tracking those who've come back and gotten out of the service and committed suicide. We simply need to know in an exact, systematic manner - NOT in an anecdotal manner. The article gives some numbers on suicides, but I wonder how accurate they really are.
In thinking about it, I believe that there is no one in this story who DELIBERATELY woke up and said I think I am going to drive Private Scheuerman to commit suicide. If that was the case, then this would be a case of absolute, extreme evil (this however does not absolve anyone from possible culpability in this Privates' death).
I think what happened here is that the Private was done killing, and the Private was done seeing death and "the system" had to try to make the Private go back. One way "the system" does this is by threats, bullying and intimidation. It works for some, but for others (including this guy), NOTHING you say is going to revert him back to doing what he was doing.
As far as the leadership, their idea is that one less guy in the platoon is one less guy in the platoon, even if he is not a particularly good soldier (and if this guy gets away with it, then ALL of them will try the Psychological dodge - and, what if we gave a war and no one wanted to play? That would be terrible right?)
The Private understood his choices were to die in Iraq or get buggered in prison. He took control of his own destiny at a horrible cost to him and his family.
All along the way, they seemed somewhat convinced that this guy was a malingerer and was trying to beat the system. Now that he's dead, they see that probably wasn't true. He probably was in distress the whole time and needed to be saved.
I find it difficult to be mad at the guys immediately above him. I tried. I really did. I think they tried to make him do what he was supposed to do. I understand the incredible amount of pressure on these guys to try to keep everyone in their charge alive and well. I think that mistakes are going to be made. They are not mental health professionals, and while they are given training in it, I don't think they can always recognize when someone has made up their mind to end their lives.
One of them even shows that he doesn't like being the heavy when he says:
"You have put me into a position where I have to treat you like a troublesome child. I hate being in this position. It makes me be someone I don't like."
I believe THIS person is going to struggle mightily with this particular death.
So the Private is sent to Psychologists. On forms he fills out he says he is going to kill himself. In person, he never mentions it (or at least that's what they said). I always thought that if a person ideates suicide (which he did when he checked the form), you take it seriously. That he did not tell the Psychologist in person doesn't necessarily mean that he had decided not to do it. They come to the conclusion that he is just trying to shirk his duty.
I guess he proved them wrong.
Unlike his immediate superiors, I can find some anger for these "mental health professionals". But, I believe they are playing in a system which probably pressures them to send as many back as they can.
Shortly before he dies, they take away his contact with the outside world by taking away his phone and Internet privileges. His support system. At that point they should have just taken him out and shot him themselves, because they took away the one thing he had left. Hope. Hope that he KNEW someone out there knew he might be in trouble, and someone out there might look into helping him (which his mother was desperately trying to do, and I believe they took away his privileges because his constant "whining" was an embarrassment to them).
I cannot imagine the pain that his parents must have felt when they found that note. Or the panic they must have felt when they stopped hearing from him. But one thing his Dad said to him caught my eye in this story.
His father said:
"I've seen war"
"I told him that a lot of what he was seeing was normal. That we all feel it. That we're all afraid."
I realize he probably said that to just be supportive (with probably no idea of the depth of his son's problems). With no disrespect to his father, I think this is the biggest issue of all. THE THINGS THEY ARE SEEING ARE IN NO WAY NORMAL, AND SHOULD NOT BE SEEN BY YOUNG MEN (OR WOMEN) AT ANY TIME.
To try to pass it off as "normal" is to continue to perpetuate the war as a routinized way of life for this country. For a lot sitting at home comfortable and safe and not seeing death and destruction every day, it is easy for them to bad mouth this young man on talk radio and call him a coward because he didn't want to do his "duty" anymore.
How many more are there out there like this young man. Maybe some of them are coping today, but maybe a week or two weeks from now will not be able to cope anymore. Maybe some will last a year. Maybe some will die tomorrow.
Do we know? More importantly, do we care? Or is this just the price of being in the Global War on Terror to make this country safer. Are these young men and women just written off as "the price we pay" and so sorry for that?
If you fundamentally change who you are as a country, and you destroy a significant slice of the youth of your country in body, mind and spirit, is that really making you safer?
I have always thought not.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
This is a piece about focus groups held with Iraqi's by the US military to find the state of what's going on in Iraq.
Anyway, THIS is what comes out of the focus groups:
"Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of "occupying forces" as the key to national reconciliation."
Hmmmm. That's probably bad news. Right?
If you thought that, being a rational human being, you'd be wrong. It seems that:
"That is good news, according to a military analysis of the results. At the very least, analysts optimistically concluded, the findings indicate that Iraqis hold some "shared beliefs" that may eventually allow them to surmount the divisions that have led to a civil war."
Yes. They definitely have "shared beliefs". They hate us and our occupation of their country.
This is an important piece I believe for Americans to read. The Administration has done a GREAT job of tying less deaths in Iraq to the idea that we are winning the war (kind of a warped, macabre Vietnam era body count in reverse - in Vietnam we knew we were winning because the bodies were piling up. Here we "know" we are winning because the bodies are NOT piling up).
In fact, I read a "Letter to the Editor" in my daily paper on Saturday, scolding us bad Americans for not wanting to stay the course, and that now deaths are going down this "proves" the President was right all along, and we are winning, and we just need to stay a little bit longer and everything will be cool.
Never mind that the Iraqi government couldn't even keep a troop of Boy Scouts together for a two hour meeting much less provide the complex services that governments are supposed to provide (security, infrastructure support, etc).
My question has always been this. What are we still doing in Iraq?
There are a lot of Americans who actually believe that our presence in Iraq is actually preventing terrorist attacks (the "we fight them there so we don't have to fight them here" camp) . As I've pointed out here before, to even think logically about this for one minute will tell you that any group could plan a 9/11 style attack in any city in the world without any regard to happenings in Iraq or Afghanistan. Much of the planning for 9/11 was done in Europe, and the flight training was done in the good old US of A.
There are many that say we are there because if we leave, they will kill each other in an orgy of sectarian violence. That may or may not happen. But how long can we sustain our mission there, keeping them apart and HOPING that some day they'll reconcile? 5 years? 10 years? 50 years?
One of my favorite thinkers has always been Buckminster Fuller. Fuller conceived of this idea of what he called a Geoscope:
According to the above website, the Geoscope would be: "a massive 3-D educational environment, using an array of computers and databases to display real-time and historical data on nearly any world situation."
My feeling over the past few months has been that we need to start thinking about tracking the US Military that way. I (and many others I have culled from) have provided information about growing problems within the US military. Suicide. Drug and Alcohol abuse. Trouble in getting adequate treatment from the VA and other military treatment facilities. Desertion. Mutiny.
Are these widespread issues? Who knows. They get a lot of press, leading some war supporters to say that it's just "the liberal media" (I guess that's me??) trying to keep any good news about Iraq from getting to the American public.
How much longer can the military sustain this mission (including the one in Afghanistan) before it implodes? Will it implode? What will be left if it implodes?
Are these things we are now seeing isolated events, or are they going to keep on trending up? Are these people doing these things just the "weak sisters" who can't hack it, and once they are gone the strong will have survived (kind of like military Darwinism), or is it going to be as many think, a "tsunami" of veterans in the coming years, broken physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.
A lot of people don't even want to ask the questions. I think this comes from fear. Fear of what they may find.
So, it's easier just to sit back and trust the Administration (or the next one or the one after that) that they'll let us know when the war is over, and when we've "won", and forget our troubles and go shopping like the President says (because hey, it's Christmas time).
Now, I certainly don't have the skills to create something like the Geoscope (although I'll continue to try to pass the word along here in a haphazard way, with an eye toward trying to systematize it somehow).
I know there are a lot of great Vet organizations and others out there who are keeping track of these trends and statistics. They should all be supported in their work, and we should look for ways to network them so we can see the "big picture" and not just the random snapshots that make us wonder if it's a big problem or an isolated one.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
This is an important book.
This book starts off giving a pretty decent history of trauma in our nations past wars, but then towards the end focuses on strictly on Vietnam, and why Vietnam was different in so many ways than previous wars.
Interspersed throughout the chapters (Introduction, 1. From Irritable Heart to Shell Shock, 2. PTSD and Modern Warfare, 3. (Why) Was Vietnam Different, 4. The Collapse of the Armed Forces, 5. Suicide in the Aftermath of Vietnam, Conclusion) are stories from family members of Veteran's of the Vietnam war who have committed suicide. Mothers, Wives, Daughters, etc. One of the stories was that of the author, whose husband killed himself after coming home from war..
One of the things that struck me while reading it is how similar all of the debate was during the Vietnam war, to the debate currently going on during wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and she points this out in the book several times, and speaks about it much in the Conclusion portion of the book) with regard to returning veterans, including the denial by the government that the wars can be blamed in any way for the problems.
A lot of people, especially those who are hard core Bush Administration and Iraq war supporters cannot admit that all of these troubles are happening, even though there is mounting evidence to the contrary:
To these people, of course these are just more examples of the liberal media trying to tarnish the President's reputation, and to keep the good news about Iraq from coming out, and to smear the brave young men and women fighting this war. They also seem to be content to say that those committing suicide are a few bad apples who can't handle the stress (like Rush says, the "Phony Soldiers"), and are not brave, good soldiers who are proud to serve (and possibly die for their country).
In the book, Ms. Coleman details the collapse of the military. In that chapter, there are several examples of cases of mutiny during the Vietnam war by troops who refused to go into battle. A few days ago, this:
How many more cases like this have been unreported or under-reported? After all, again, we don't want to have any bad news coming out of Iraq. These guys did not want to go out on patrol, not because they were afraid for their own safety, but for what they MIGHT do to innocent Iraqi's to avenge their recent losses.
I do not believe this will be an isolated occurrence, and I believe we will see more of this, especially since a very thin slice of the population is being sent back to the war(s) repeatedly. At some point, they will have seen enough war, and will rebel by not wanting to kill or die.
Other things not necessarily focused on by Ms. Coleman, but talked about on this blog over the past several months is the coming Tsunami of homelessness (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21678030/), and an uptick in drug and alcohol abuse and addiction among troops coming back from Iraq (http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/Story?id=3898810).
Now again, a lot of hardcore, die hard war fans will read these things and will conjure up stories and evidence of "liberal media bias" or the "attempt to smear the brave men and women who are fighting this war, by liberal America hating traitors." These are well worn fall back positions that have worked for them, and worked well.
But I think that we are putting ourselves in peril if we hide our heads in the sand and do not ask these questions and do our absolute best to treat the veterans coming home from these wars for ANY thing that may be wrong with them, be it physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual.
My goal has been to synthesize some of these things to show that it might now be a widespread problem (but possibly somewhat manageable), but if left unchecked, it will DEFINITELY be a widespread problem that will not be able to be managed.
Ms. Coleman's book shows that we made some of these dreadful mistakes the first time around after our involvement in Vietnam, and we are, in fact still paying for it heavily today. Twenty years from now, it would be a shame if another Penny Coleman, grieving a husband lost to suicide because of war had to write another book like this.
Monday, December 10, 2007
But, I had some birthday money and could not resist buying Rule Number Two: Lessons I Learned in a Combat Hospital by Dr. Heidi Squier Kraft.
This was a pretty compelling book. It chronicles Dr. Kraft's 7 month tour of duty attending to the mental health needs of Sailors and Marines serving in Iraq.
There are some truly heartbreaking stories (along with some heartwarming stories). Not to give too much away, but about halfway through the book, Dr. Kraft talks about a 19 year old Marine she encounters who has gotten three Purple Hearts in two months. He is ashamed because he feels afraid. Dr. Kraft tells him (and this is the understatement of the century) that there is nothing normal about three Purple Hearts in two months.
It gets some poorer reviews on Amazon.com because it doesn't go into detail on how she treated combat trauma. I disagree somewhat with that assessment - if she got too deep into the techniques, etc, it would quickly become too difficult for the general reader.
What is somewhat interesting to me is that she doesn't seem to speculate too much on what is going to happen to her patients when they return to the US from being in the war (and to be fair to her, I'm sure that she spent time then doing that, that she just didn't mention in the book, and spends time doing that now, especially as the book points out that she is the Deputy Coordinator for the US Navy Combat Stress Control Program).
As I read this book, I kept coming back to a few themes which I've spent time writing about over the past several months.
It is all well and good to honor and talk about the service of these brave young men and women.
But I believe that to just talk about them, and to never connect their fate in Iraq to the current NATURE of this war does them a great disservice. And the current nature of the war is the idea that our soldiers are doing a good job for the most part, but the political reconciliation that is necessary by the Iraqi's is simply not happening in any significant way.
Until the Iraqi's decide that they want to reconcile, and stop killing each other in the name of sectarian strife, and the Iraqi government gets serious about doing the routine, mundane things that governments do (clean their streets of filth, ensure there is electrical power, water and security, etc), our brave men and women are simply patrolling the roads, towns and cities of Iraq in the middle of a civil war.
To say that we need to "win the war" or "not cutting and running" are mindless chants which no one ever really talks about what they SPECIFICALLY mean, and when in that context the war can be over. The war has to end doesn't it (that is a rhetorical question - to hear those who are called "pro-war" this is a "long war" which is virtually unending)?
Remember, this was supposed to be a "cake walk", and we were supposed to win and disengage very quickly. To now say that they couldn't have anticipated the war they are getting now gives me no faith about their understanding of history or the middle east. It is also a slick piece of 1984 (George Orwell) revisionist history.
If you don't believe me about the nature of this war, here are two articles by those who have been on the ground fighting this war (and in the first piece, two of these soldiers are now dead):
This is an article penned by 12 Army Captains:
For their opinions, they have been called traitors, cowards, defeatists, and the like. For a lot of people however, they just don't want to hear what these thinking, brave soldiers have to say. They would rather bury their heads in the sand and just wait for the Administration to tell them that we've won the war (or that it's time for the next war).
Don't hold your breath until that happens. I see blue skin in your future if you do.
In the mean time, while you are holding your breath, read Dr. Kraft's book.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Now of course there are some hard core hangers on who are not ever going to believe this, and to them it falls in the same category as the idea that the WMD's that Saddam had were actually clandestinely shipped out to Syria in the middle of the night, where they still are, waiting to be used in the subways of New York and Washington.
There are others who probably feel that this makes it practically impossible for the administration to start a war with Iran.
My, my, my, the people in this camp (the "there is now not going to be a war" camp) underestimate the craftiness and spin capability of the Bush Administration. They also underestimate the idea that the Israeli's are still out there, and they are not going to buy into this report either.
There still is a possibility that the US or the Israeli's (or a combination of both) could hit the civilian nuclear infrastructure. I believe this would quickly cascade into the war that I have been talking about all along on this blog.
I still believe that war with Iran is just as likely as it was the day before the NIE came out. It will be much more difficult for them to convince us that it is a good and prudent thing to be sure, but, if they can't convince us they'll just do it anyway.
I have always felt like the decision to go to war in Iraq was a done deal on 9/12/01. Back in May 2007, I posted this very significant exchange from 2006 on this blog:
The rhetoric coming from the Administration is eerily familiar. Iran still MIGHT develop a nuclear weapon (or even the CAPABILITY) in the future, because they did it before. So, to counter that, we MIGHT have to take action to keep them from MAYBE getting the CAPABILITY to produce a nuclear weapon. This MIGHT even include military action - we certainly cannot rule that out.
But, I believe the most significant piece of information comes from National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley where he says that "U.S. policy toward Iran has not changed because of the new report."
To me, this is pretty significant. Because, frankly, US policy toward Iran is advocating and agitating toward regime change. That is the ultimate goal. If the "policy" hasn't changed, that means that regime change is still the goal. The concern for the weapons, like concern for weapons in Iraq are just a trigger mechanism.
Do I believe that Iran has clean hands and are innocent as doves? No. Certainly not. But it at least seems that the dynamics have shifted here in a very permanent way.
I believe, as do many others, that it is time to talk to the Iranians. The ironic thing is that we claimed that we NEVER trusted the Soviets. During the cold war we never really stopped talking to them. This was not seen as weakness or unmanliness - it was seen as prudent, to keep horrible misunderstandings between the two nations from starting World War III.
Iran is a regional player like it or not.
I think it is prudent again now to talk to the Iranians. I don't expect this Administration to initiate those talks. My hope is that if we make it through the next year or so without plastering 1500 target points in Iran with cluster bombs that the next administration has the wisdom to at least open the door.
We don't have to give away the farm, but we should at least be willing to talk.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Also tomorrow is the first day of advent (the period to contemplate and prepare for the celebration of the birth of Christ).
Anyway, we are Saturday Mass people, so I got to hear the readings tonight.
One of the readings from Isaiah (from Isaiah 2) is one of my favorites, and THIS is what I want for my birthday:
"They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again".
I know, I know. What the heck kind of liberal, loony, peacenik, Utopian thinking is THAT. There's a WAR on, don't you know that? Of course, we (the US) would be willing to do that (beat our plowshares into swords, etc) IF all those other bad folks in the world would stop what they were doing. We are innocent don't you realize that? We were just minding our own business. We didn't choose these wars, these wars chose us.
Don't you understand that 9/11 "changed everything"?
Yes, there are actually TWO wars going on. One in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan (there are actually several more wars going on including action in Pakistan, Somalia, and other places - the two discussed here are the ones where are soldiers are pretty active). Neither of them are going to be over any time in the future.
I have asked this question over and over and over again. When do we know if we "won" in Iraq? There doesn't seem to be any answers to that question, except to continue to chant the mantra that we can't cut and run and we have to let the troops win.
And, when you ask your pro-war friends what winning means, you are told that you should be supporting the troops and your President, and to ask questions like that in a time of war borders on (and in fact may actually be) treason. Never mind that more and more, even the soldiers involved in the wars are publicly asking those questions.
When is it going to be over? Apparently, according to President Bush who recently signed some security "agreements" with the Iraqi government, never.
It is interesting that to them (our pro-war friends) "supporting the troops" means leaving them to their fates in Iraq and Afghanistan, and never questioning whether leaving them there in that environment is even good foreign policy. We certainly know that it is NOT good for THEIR health either from a physical standpoint or from an emotional and spiritual standpoint.
We were told that we "won" in Afghanistan, but now were finding out that it is more dangerous for our soldiers in Afghanistan than in Iraq.
The breaking point is coming. Look at the lessons of what happened to the military after Vietnam, then, in my opinion, multiply that by ten or twenty. That is what we are going to be living with for the next several years.
Do we have one more rebuild of our forces in us after the massive collapse that is going to occur? Or, are we going to be so depleted in treasure and talent after these wars (this breakdown doesn't even include the scheming by the neocons to start additional wars in Iran and now Pakistan to "secure the nukes" from Islamofacists) that we'll have no choice but to "study war no more."
When do we win? What does winning even mean? Instead of the plowshares thing, the answers to those questions is REALLY what I want for my birthday.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
His four points were:
1. Asking a troop just back from Iraq to fill out another form is not the same as screening them for PTSD.
2. Mental health issues are family issues.
3. National Guardsmen and Reservists are facing a special set of issues, and their concerns need to get heard.
4. Troops need more time to access to care.
This reminded me of a Newsweek piece I read several weeks back called Forgotten Heroes (http://www.newsweek.com/id/36601).
The article opens with the tale of Jonathan Schulze, a Marine Corps Iraq War Veteran (the article is fairly long and goes on to profile several more veterans and their struggles with "the system").
Schulze goes several months before he decides to get help from the VA. He is told that he can try group therapy. To me, this seems to be a variation on Point 1 from Paul's article - instead of filling out a form, he would be dumped into a group. So. now that the guy is in group therapy, he has been "evaluated". Never mind that he'll probably quit group therapy shortly after.
This may be a slightly better solution than nothing at all, but it doesn't seem to me too much better. Let's see. This guy has worked literally MONTHS to isolate himself. Now, you want to put him in a group where he knows no one (and trusts no one), and expect him to flourish? Maybe for some it might work. Maybe later in this guys recovery it might work.
The pain finally gets to be too much for him, and he checks himself in. He is asked if he feels suicidal. When he tells them yes, the intake person (who is probably a good person, but is working in a bad system, and is probably overworked and overwhelmed) keeps typing, then calls someone. The call reveals that no one is available to see him.
Again, as I mentioned in the previous blog, what is the point of asking if the person is suicidal if nothing is going to be done immediately?
The next day he finds out he is NUMBER 26 on a list. Several more weeks go by with Schulze calling and getting repeatedly pushed off. Finally, it seems, he loses hope, he gets drunk and hangs himself with an electrical cord.
At the end, Schulze is another tragic "statistic". Not a combat death. But to his family and friends, the pain is just as real as if he was killed in Iraq or Afghanistan.
I don't want to be too flippant here, but let's say that your car has a problem. Would you ever tolerate being told by your garage that you were number 26 on a list, then have to call back several times over the next few weeks to try to get it repaired? I don't think anyone would tolerate those circumstances and would find a different place to get their car worked on. So why, when we are dealing with matters of life and death, are we operating this way?
Unfortunately (except for groups that are trying to help like Give an Hour mentioned several times here in this blog: http://www.giveanhour.org/) unlike the case of getting your car fixed, THEY REALLY DON'T HAVE ANYWHERE ELSE TO GO.
Is Jonathan Schulze's case an anomaly or is it the rule. If it's the rule, are we making progress to make it not the rule?
I remember that Bob Dole and Donna Shalala were put on a blue ribbon commission to try to look at some of these problems (and Bill Lind has said that blue ribbon commissions were just kabuki to convince the rubes back home that something was actually happening, when in reality nothing was happening). I have seen sparse coverage on this subject.
Is that because they (the people who get to decide what gets put on the air) don't think we'll be interested, or is it that not much has been done?
We certainly have short memories don't we?
Friday, November 23, 2007
I have written a lot on the Iraq war and the damage I believe it has done to this country.
I have written a lot on the possibility, that crazy as it seems, that we may be plunged into ANOTHER war in the middle east with Iran.
I have written a lot on what I believe to be issues such as the fact that our economy seems to be strong on the surface, but beneath is a shaky house of cards, the idea that our infrastructure is falling apart in a lot of places, and the question that a lot of others are asking: Are we like that late Roman Empire?
I have even written on Atheism and belief in God.
Lately though, I have been sort of a one-topic guy. And that is the topic of taking care of our veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan (and possibly soon Iran).Today, I read a great piece by Paul Rieckhoff , who is the Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (he is also the author of Chasing Ghosts: Failures and Facades in Iraq: A Soldier's Perspective, which is a GREAT book).
Paul's piece points up four great points:
1. Asking a troop just back from Iraq to fill out another form is not the same as screening them for PTSD.
2. Mental health issues are family issues.
3. National Guardsmen and Reservists are facing a special set of issues, and their concerns need to get heard.
4. Troops need more time to access to care.
With regard to point one, several weeks ago, I read about a soldier who killed himself (he got drunk and hung himself with an electrical cord). He went to the hospital, and was asked if he was suicidal. When he said yes, they said, essentially they couldn't see him anyway. What is the point of asking if he is suicidal if you cannot do anything about it?
Paul's point is great - filling out a form is not solving a problem. We should all know this from our dealings with any number of organizations. How many of us like filling out forms for routine, mundane things such as car repair or other services? We know they are blowing us off by making us do it, and that's why we get angry. Imagine now the feelings with critical issues of life and death.
With regard to point two, this should be obvious as hell, but it's really not. The US does not have a strong sense of "community" anymore. We tend to isolate ourselves from each other.
I have posted this organization called Give an Hour (http://www.giveanhour.org) here before, but it needs to be repeated again, and again, and again and again.
I believe that this organization (Give an Hour), along with Paul's organization and others are trying to build the networks to solve these problems. I think the VA and other Military Treatment Networks are going to need all the help they can get.
If I'm becoming a one issue guy, it's an issue that's well worth it.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
A few days later, quite predictably, the Republicans demanded that the report be retracted (send it over to Winston Smith at the Ministry of Truth (this is a reference to George Orwell's 1984)), and that none of the numbers could be substantiated or connected to the Iraq war.
The report focuses on a few things, most notably that the "hidden costs" of the war come through things like higher prices for oil (from mid $30 range at the start of the war, to lapping the shores of Lake $100 now), the cost of caring for disabled veterans (I have written about this subject some in this blog), and massive interest on the debt paid - essentially, the Bush Administration has turned our country into a sub-prime lender to such wonderful "bankers" as China.
The Republicans certainly cannot say that these things are lies (unlike the "intelligence" that got us into the war). I think what got them most upset is that this is a great example of synthesis. Putting it all together into one article and laying it out there. No longer do the American people have to grasp at strands from the news and try to form them into a coherent whole to see the mess we are really in. THEN, attaching a $20 to possibly $40K price tag on EACH AMERICAN FAMILY.
This should really open our eyes, and make us angry as hell. But, the fact that Marie Osmond's son is in rehab seems to be more important to us. I haven't really seen anything more on this story.
Meanwhile, the President tells us that we can't "afford" health care for our poorest and most vulnerable children.
A lot of these things about the war have been hidden quite nicely from the American people. We are NOT a country at war as a lot of pundits (especially conservative pundits) like to say. The people patrolling Iraq and their families are certainly involved in an ugly, brutal, destructive war, but at home we are as detached as a country can be from the war. This was made easier also by hiring mercenaries (modern day Hessians) to fill in for those who might have had to become soldiers and go to the war zone.
All of these things are going to fundamentally change the way we live. We will look back and ask ourselves repeatedly in future years, "was it worth it"? If you fundamentally change the soul and psyche of your nation, and not in a good way, was it worth it?
What is our return on investment for the invasion of Iraq? Security? Even General Petraeus could not say that our country was safer when pressed specifically by Senator Warner.
I think the hidden cost that is going to be most painful and costly is treating the Veterans who are coming back, profoundly broken in body, spirit and soul. There is right now no end in sight to this carnage assembly line either - at least not for the next few years - and to hear the Democrats talk, not even then.
We cannot let them fade into obscurity, or homelessness, or alcohol and drug addiction, or madness.
It will in fact be very costly IF we do the honorable thing and do it right. We cannot do it on the cheap like we tried to prosecute this war.
They (the Democrats) can congratulate themselves for this report, but the fact of the matter is, they are every bit as much to blame for our foreign policy debacle and our budgetary woes.
If we don't do the best that we can, and treat the Veterans and their families right, we can forever hang our heads in shame.
Friday, November 9, 2007
The article was saying that the homeless even included veterans of our current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The article said:
"Some advocates say such an early presence of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at shelters does not bode well for the future. It took roughly a decade for the lives of Vietnam veterans to unravel to the point that they started showing up among the homeless. Advocates worry that intense and repeated deployments leave newer veterans particularly vulnerable
“We’re going to be having a tsunami of them eventually because the mental health toll from this war is enormous,” said Daniel Tooth, director of veterans affairs for Lancaster County, Pa."
I asked a few friends (some who work with Veterans) to give their opinions as to why this has happened so fast. In addition to the reasons above (intense, repeated deployments), the idea was given that Reservists coming back have been having trouble getting their jobs back (or have lost their businesses from repeated deployments), and haven't been getting much help from the government they've spent the last several years serving in a dangerous war zone.
You don't have a job, you lose your home, your wife and family leave you, this sequence of events could take down even the strongest of people.
Several days ago, I wrote a blog called Change or Die in which I reviewed a book with the same title. I said that treating these vets was going to be a huge issue, and that there was someone out there who would be the Dr. Dean Ornish or Dr. Mimi Silbert of this crisis (they were two unconventional change agents profiled in the book). This person (or persons) will probably be someone who is doing it differently, against the conventional wisdom.
A few days later, I read an encouraging profile in the Washington Post about an organization called Give an Hour. According to their website (http://www.giveanhour.org/cms/index.php), they are:
"currently establishing a national network of mental health professionals and reaching out to our first target population, the U.S. troops and families affected by the current military conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq."
This is only a band aid and stopgap at best. I'm sure those in the military treatment communities probably don't like this one bit. But, it proves that there are people out there who are working on this problem, and are looking for creative solutions rather than just throwing the hands up and saying, well, the VA is full, or there is no military treatment facility in my area, so there is no hope.
According to Change or Die, the first step to lasting change is:
1. Relate. You form a new, emotional relationship with a person or community that inspires and sustains hope (the other two are: 2. Repeat. The new relationship helps you learn, practice, and master the new habits and skills that you'll need. 3. Reframe. The new relationship helps you learn new ways of thinking about your situation and your life).
Hope, and a shot to live a normal life. Isn't that something that someone who has served our country valiantly deserves?
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
"A majority of likely voters – 52% – would support a U.S. military strike to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon, and 53% believe it is likely that the U.S. will be involved in a military strike against Iran before the next presidential election, a new Zogby America telephone poll shows."
Of course, the Administration would have you to believe that they want to work this out by "vigorous diplomacy". Are there any Americans who still believe that they (the Administration) want to try to work this out by diplomacy?
To me, these numbers are not surprising. The Administration constantly says that we are "a nation at war". We aren't a nation at war. We are a nation that keeps sending back essentially the same 1% of the population repeatedly and without regard to their long term health to the war zones. Those people are in fact in a war. The people who love them and worry about them every day are in fact in a war. The rest of us? No way. This one percent shouldering the burden, plus a healthy dose of Hessian's (mercenaries such as those working for Blackwater) and massive amounts of borrowed money (so we don't feel the pain of war in the pocketbook) make it so the war is not at all apparent to the general public.
In essence, this poll means that they support what the Administration is going to do without even giving so much as a passing thought to the consequences - and there are very REAL consequences - these are not original thoughts on my part. These have been spread all over on sites such as www.lewrockwell.com and www.antiwar.com - go there and read about it for yourself. They report YOU decide as Fox News likes to lie about.
Our economy, as I have said before several times in this blog is built on the idea that energy will always be cheap, and energy will always be plentiful.
Oil is already at $90 a barrel. Do you think, as the supply shrinks due to conflagration in the middle east that the price is going to remain static? There may be a time coming where Americans cannot get gasoline no matter how much they are willing to pay. Do you think that there will be no retribution world wide against Americans - including those Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, right on the borders of Iran?
And what about the homeland? Do you really believe that Iran won't practice Asymmetric war against us once it starts to go south? How do IED's on Main Street USA sound to you?
How soon we forget. They said the same tired things before we went to Iraq. They wanted to try diplomacy (but their patience wasn't limitless), and after what they thought was a suitable time, the war started.
They were wrong about Iraq, and they are wrong now. Why on earth, knowing what we know about their terrible intelligence pre-Iraq war would we believe them now? I'm reminded of that Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler movie 50 First Dates, where Drew Barrymore gets amnesia during the night, every night. She simply cannot remember Adam Sandler the next day.
I read a piece the other day in which the author said that 5 to 20 people forcefully speaking out could stop the coming war against Iran. Who are those people? Why aren't they speaking out? NOW is the time. I personally don't believe those people exist. I also don't think they would make a difference. Our leaders are going to do what they want to do. We are going to stumble blindly, madly into another war.
We have lived fairly luckily for a long time in that none of our recent foreign adventures have cost us in the way that history cost the Roman Empire or other empires. I believe realistically that this event could be the event that could change that.
52% of my fellow Americans think an attack is a good idea. I don't even know why I'm bothering trying to write about this. I believe fervently that the future of the United States is dim if we rush recklessly into this war.
I hope that those folks are smarter than me, and I'm just paranoid.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
I just finished reading a great book called Change or Die by Alan Deutschman.
This is a book where the author studies the major macro problems of our time on a case-study micro basis.
The main case studies of the book are the work of Dr. Dean Ornish with heart patients (macro problem health care), Dr. Mimi Silbert of the Delancey Street Foundation which turns criminals into productive members of society (macro problem prisons, crime, rehabilitation) and the case of the Nummi Automotive plant in Fremont California - a supposedly unmanageable plant taken over and managed by Toyota (macro problem competitiveness, malaise in the economy, supposedly unmotivated American workforce).
He also has some bonus case studies where he studies Gore-Tex company, a Probation Officer in Iowa who uses some different techniques in his work and one called "Changing the Schools, Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP)" (macro problem - the education system).
The author's three keys to change are:
1. Relate. You form a new, emotional relationship with a person or community that inspires and sustains hope.
2. Repeat. The new relationship helps you learn, practice, and master the new habits and skills that you'll need.
3. Reframe. The new relationship helps you learn new ways of thinking about your situation and your life. (Change or Die, pgs 14-15)
The author also weaves in 9 "Psych Concepts" of Change through each of the case studies.
These 9 "Psych Concepts" are:
Frames (how we view the world), Denial and other Psychological Self-defenses, Short-term Wins, The Power of Community and Culture, Acting as if, Recasting a Life's Story, Walk the Walk, The Brain is Plastic, The "Solution" Might Be the Problem (Change or Die, pg xi).
Anyone who is familiar with change scenarios will recognize some of these, others may be new.
As I was reading this book, I read an article on the efficacy of different treatment strategies for PTSD in Iraq war veterans, and how it is believed that a lot of the treatments don't seem to be very effective, especially in the long term. As a country, we own this problem. The people who led us into a war planned for a quick, painless, low casualty war. What they got was a war that had a lot of casualties involving the brain (both physical through TBI - or Traumatic Brain Injury, and not physical, PTSD and other psychological problems).
I think this will be a significant issue in the years to come, especially as we try to make these veterans productive members of society. I believe that there is, somewhere out there, the Dr. Dean Ornish, or a Dr. Mimi Silbert of this particular problem (taking care of these vets). They will be people who are working outside of the "system" and what "works".
When they come along, I only hope that we have the brains to listen to them, instead of saying, "no, that will never work, we've always done it THIS way" (and never mind that THIS way doesn't work at all - it is the SAFE method).
Honorable mention of a recent read is Napoleon's Egypt, Invading the Middle East by Juan Cole. Be prepared to have the hair on the back of your neck stand up when you find some of the parallels of the French experience in Egypt and ours in Iraq (also good is Professor Coles blog www.juancole.com)
Friday, October 26, 2007
The first question is does it really take an "expert" to know that this will be the case? I think a high schooler with a good grasp of world events (if there is such a thing) could have made this prediction. If this is the work of so-called "experts", how stupid and ill informed have we become?
This line below suggests that the supposed "experts" haven't really been paying attention to the Bush Administration and their penchant to take action without regard to history or geopolitical realities over the past six years:
"A U. S. military strike against Iran would have dire consequences in petroleum markets, say a variety of oil industry experts, many of whom think the prospect of pandemonium in those markets makes U.S. military action unlikely despite escalating economic sanctions imposed by the Bush administration."
U. S. military action unlikely. That is rich.
In the last post, I had mentioned sayings by the President on WWIII (a supposed rhetorical flourish), and comments by the Vice President warning of extreme consequences to Iran. Now within the article above is this little gem from the Secretary of State:
"Yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that Bush is "committed to a diplomatic course on Iran," but she added that U.S. patience is "not limitless, and allies need to know that."
All of the key players are telling you it's going to happen. The only matter is when. When it does happen, they can say, "we built our case, we got "approval" from Congress, we have "tried" diplomacy and sanctions and they haven't "worked". Now the only option is military action.
Then, this piece of doublespeak that George Orwell would truly be proud of. The headline is "Iran Sanctions Are Meant to Prevent War, Bush Aides Say".
A gem from this article is:
"Both publicly and privately, White House and other administration officials have expressed frustration over the talk of war, emphasizing that Bush remains convinced that his strategy of nonmilitary pressure can work. They described yesterday's actions as essential to that approach."
I think what is most frustrating is that this time, there are people who are actually making the connections in the signs to a run up to war this time, and the signs to a run up to war with Iraq. And in asking those questions, they are turning on the lights, and hopefully making people think, and ask the questions for themselves.
The truth of the matter is that all this has nothing to do with Iran having nuclear weapons and everything to do with regime change. Same as Iraq.
Are we so far gone that we can't put all this together to know that the two current ongoing wars are unmitigated disasters and quagmires, and one more war might be the knockout punch to this country? This knockout punch will come in the form of the toppling of our economy (which I have mentioned before is based totally on the premise that energy will always be cheap and plentiful). It could also come in blowback to our military forces in close proximity to Iran.
Certainly, only a very few courageous representatives in Congress are asking the questions (even though in their votes on Iran, they may have given the Administration "permission" to attack Iran if it ever comes down to it), very few in the mainstream media (mostly the questions are being asked on sites like www.lewrockwell.com and www.antiwar.com - which of course the Administration, Fox News, et al will say aren't "real" media outlets).
Now we remember from high school reading Nineteen Eighty Four that the parties motto was: "War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength."
War is peace. Sounds about right.
Is there anything that can stop this madness?
Monday, October 22, 2007
Maybe it's not that they don't care (or maybe they don't realize how close we really are), but they are resigned to the fact that the Administration is going to make war when they want, and on who they want without any regard to Congress (and Congress certainly didn't help by giving them a blank check by designating the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization - I bet Dick Cheney cackled with glee like a mad man when he found that out), or any regard to the desires of the American people.
The President intimated that we were on the brink of WWIII (oh, right, sorry, that was just a "rhetorical flourish"). Then, in the speech below, the Vice President said there would be "serious consequences" if the Iranians continue on this course (reminds me of the movie A Few Good Men where there is the exchange with Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson about "Grave Danger" and then he says "Is there any other kind")
The thing Americans seem to forget is that THIS IS NOT RHETORIC with the Vice President. He said what he meant before we went into Iraq, and he's saying what he's meaning now. These aren't idle threats or saber rattling.
They are carefully and meticulously building a case, then at some point they will say "we tried diplomacy and it didn't work" so now we have to take action.
It is absolutely amazing how closely this parallels the run up to the war in Iraq. For instance, the Vice President is sure that the Iranians are pursuing these weapons. He said the same thing about the Iraqi's pre-war (of course a lot of Conservatives believe the fiction that those weapons somehow disappeared into Syria - hey, maybe that's what the Israeli's were hitting last month? The missing WMD's?)
Well, they were wrong about Iraq - of course in their twisted logic, they were not wrong - true Saddam didn't actually have any weapons (except of course the ones that are now in Syria), but, you know he had the CAPABILITY to make the weapons. Even the capability was enough, and the VP said on several occasions (I have the quotes on this blog) that even if he knew then what he knew now, he'd STILL have done it (invaded Iraq).
WHY ON EARTH WOULD WE EVER TRUST ANYTHING THEY HAD TO SAY AGAIN???? Are there actually Americans who still believe the Administration?????
Let's project forward to when the attack happens. It will have to be a massive sustained campaign to make a difference. Dropping a few bombs on a few targets will do nothing to dissuade the Iranians from doing anything, and after it's over, they'll just go right back to whatever they are allegedly doing. So, the real issue, in my opinion is NOT about weapons at all, but about attempting regime change.
A lot of Neocons have this fantasy (much like we'd be welcomed as liberators in Iraq with wine and flowers), that if we attack Iran, the dissidents will rise up against the government. Right. What usually happens when your country is attacked? Usually, no matter what your political affiliation, when YOUR country is attacked by foreign forces you are going to usually rally to your country. This, incidentally is what's going on in Iraq too.
The economy will be a shambles. Remember, our economy is TOTALLY based on the idea of cheap, plentiful energy. That will change very quickly. If you can even get oil, it will be very expensive. But hey, what does the VP care? He won't have to wait in line (or endure the violence because of the scarcity), or scramble around for a few gallons of gas just to get to work. He gets chauffeured around, and someone buys all of his gas (actually, you do).
The scariest thing is what might happen to the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bill Lind (and everyone should read Bill Lind at www.d-n-i.net, he is simply writing the best, most coherent analysis on the war, and has been for quite some time) has said that we could actually lose the ENTIRE Army in Iraq because of an inability to fight our way out through Shiite country. Shiites who are going to be plenty upset when you topple the government in Iran.
It is interesting how both Afghanistan and Iraq say all the time how the Iranians are a positive force in the region. You know that has to drive the Administration NUTS.
Is there anyone who can stop this war? Is there anything that can be said to stop it? I really believe literally that only God can stop it. And, according to the President, John Hagee and some of the other Left Behind believing characters, God is on our side, loves us more than all the worlds other peoples, and talks to the President and tells him what to do.
These are certainly scary times for rational thinking people.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Never mind that they didn't care that there was no way to pay for the Iraq war (nor is there yet, except by borrowing massive amounts of money from the Chinese, and mortgaging our financial future). Never mind that billions of dollars have disappeared into Iraq with zero accountability, and continue to do so.
Anyway, I thought that was the most repulsive thing I had seen. Until I viewed the Westboro "Baptist" Church website today. I found out that these repulsive characters were coming to my hometown, and a friend sent me their website. Their link itself is derogatory - I'm not putting it on my blog. If one is interested, one can google it.
They have listed on their main page, what they call their "Love Crusades". The first one on the list is a memorial for a PFC from Spalding Nebraska at Saint Michael's Catholic Pigpen (nice touch) that happened today. When you click on the link, it is a PDF document that actually says "Thank God for IED's".
This is one of the most repulsive, disgusting, horrible things I've ever seen. Picketing at the funerals of soldiers. This is despicable. The REAL Christian thing to do would be to ask that soldiers family if they needed anything, or if anything needed to be done, because didn't Jesus say that we should love our neighbors as ourselves?
They are going to picket recently deceased Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis' funeral tomorrow, and the PDF link on her document says that she is "already in hell". Interesting. Then they cherry pick some bible verses to "support" their case. I can do that too.
Matthew 7 verses 1 and 2 say JUDGE NOT (my emphasis), that YE be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
I cannot say that these people are going to hell. I can't judge like that. Only God can judge like that. All I can do is call attention to this perverse, sick, twisted, evil version of "Christianity".
This type of thing gives Christians really trying to do the right thing, and live their lives as a witness a bad reputation. Those who are looking from the outside in, would be more likely to say, why on earth would I want to be a Christian if all they do is hate like that?
Their contention (Westboro Baptist) is that we are losing in Iraq because God turned against us because we have tolerated homosexuals.
No, we are losing in Iraq because we invaded and tried to occupy a country that didn't need to be invaded and occupied with too few troops, non-existent post war planning, incredible arrogance and hubris, and a complete lack of understanding of the people and culture. Homosexuals have absolutely NOTHING to do with it.
If you want to be angry at someone, be angry at President Bush. Vice President Cheney. Donald Rumsfeld. Paul "Wildly off the Mark" Wolfowitz.
And, while you are stewing over that, remember that they want to attack ANOTHER country (Iran). This will give these lovable folks (Westboro Baptist) more opportunities to protest the funerals when the bodies start coming home from the Iran campaign (including lots of casualties from blowback in Iraq and Afghanistan).
Monday, October 8, 2007
"The Iraq war is a great model and example of complexity. Most Americans do not want to understand this, and have thrown their faith in with President Bush and the Surge.
The Surge may make a difference in a neighborhood here or there, but there is so much more going on.
At the top of the list is the Iraqi government. Until this body is able to administrate the "state" that is Iraq, nothing is going to change. A government has to do those routine, mundane things that a government does: provide security, laws, infrastructure, etc."
Today, I read this article (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21186176/) about the Iraqi's pulling back from reconciliation and talking about some different goals. The article talks about:
"Instead of reconciliation, they now stress alternative and perhaps more attainable goals: streamlining the government bureaucracy, placing experienced technocrats in positions of authority and improving the dismal record of providing basic services."
Since the main reason for the surge was to supposedly make the violence stop long enough for political reconciliation to occur, one has to come to the conclusion that the surge did not do what it was supposed to.
Certain media outlets keep trying to say that no "good news" is coming from Iraq. Good news to them may be something like schools being opened, or that less people were killed last month (even though they think the reduced numbers are proof that the surge is "working", that doesn't help the soldiers who WERE killed last month (or their families), or the Iraqis killed last month or their families).
But here is the sad truth. Our soldiers can ply the streets of Iraq for 1000 more years, and if the Iraqi's don't get it together and do these things, it simply will make no difference. And, we're running out of troops to ply those streets (and money too).
So, we need to keep asking the hard questions. Why on earth are we still in Iraq at the levels that we are? If are troops are not getting any closer to making Iraq into a functioning country (and reconciliation is nowhere in sight), what are our troops doing there?
General Petraeus, when asked by Senator Warner, if the Iraq war made this country safer tried first to answer with some Orwellian Doublespeak (he felt it was the best course of action, blah, blah, blah, blah). Senator Warner to his credit, simply would not let him get away with this, and asked him point blank again. He confessed that he didn't know, and hadn't given it much thought.
Obviously, if the guy in charge of our forces in Iraq doesn't know, and hasn't given it much thought, the questions really aren't being seriously asked. I don't know why (other than the probability that very few people saw that exchange) this doesn't anger the hell out of us and scare the hell out of us at the same time!!!!
And the most important questions of all: What are our intentions toward Iran (that is somewhat of a rhetorical question - despite howling protests to the contrary, I believe that our governments intention toward Iran is war)? How can we, as Americans stop our government from attacking Iran?
Is there any way that this can be stopped? There are a lot of pieces out there that predict what will happen in a war with Iran. None of them are pretty. Bill Lind has said repeatedly that because of the dynamics in Iraq (having to escape through Shiite country, and Iraq bordering Iran) and Afghanistan, we could literally lose whole Armies in those countries - defeats like this are incomprehensible (right now) to Americans.
But the sad fact is that they've happened to other empires who have believed that they were indestructible and unbeatable. 200 years from now, are they going to read about us the same way that we read about the Romans?
Sunday, September 23, 2007
If you cite Jesus' teachings on peace (which are multiple in the New Testament), and turning the other cheek, resisting violence, you usually now get a couple of likely responses.
One is that you are somehow espousing "liberal" Christian values (not REAL American Christian values).
Another is that that may have been OK for "the old times" (i.e. first century Palestine) where times weren't as difficult - you know that 9/11 changed "everything".
Still another is that these are "sentimental" thoughts, and are not based in any kind of "reality".
Another along similar lines is that those are only meant as SUGGESTIONS to try to strive for, but being imperfect, sinful people, we are not able to attain that level. So, then we have to try to come up with a workable solution for war (thus coming up with the Just War Theory).
The US war in Iraq, in the opinion of a lot of Christians (including me) does not at all meet even one criteria for the Just War Theory (a. the damage inflicted by the aggressor to the nation or community of nations would be lasting, serious and certain; b. all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical and ineffective; c. all serious conditions for success must be present; d. the use of arms must not involve more serious evils and disorders than those to be eliminated - this is an excerpt from Life in Christ, A Catechism for Adult Catholics by Father Gerard Weber and James Killgallon).
And, to apply it to the situation in Iran (and the talk that is happening of an imminent attack), I think is just as problematic.
You get a good idea of Jesus teaching in Luke chapter 9 (51-56 - if it sounds far fetched, and you don't believe it, look it up for yourself) where his disciples James and John are essentially asking Jesus if they can fire bomb a dissident village (sounds familiar doesn't it? You are either with us or against us, we need to use pre-emptive war to do it to them before they can do it to us, etc).
Jesus tells them "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is NOT COME TO DESTROY MEN'S LIVES (emphasis mine), but to save them."
Then, they went to another village. His disciples throughout his life and ministry always bought into the idea of a Messiah of raw power and strength, and they were waiting for Jesus to manifest those characteristics. Further, they wanted him to overthrow the occupying force at that time in their lives (the Romans).
Jesus did not "effect regime change" of the Romans then. Why? Instead, he submitted himself to them, "let" them prosecute him and kill him (all the while saying that if he wanted to, he could have destroyed them).
A lot of folks say, well, this is like World War II in the late 1930's. Saddam, Iran's President, Syria's President, Osama are like Hitler, and need to be stopped so "it" doesn't happen again. The truth of the matter is that all of those guys are like giggling school girls compared to Hitler.
And, for the foreseeable future, they will remain as such.
That is not to say that there are not times when it IS appropriate to protect ourselves. But it seems that in all of these recent wars we have ONLY considered OUR safety, and not the safety or concerns of the rest of the world. That is a result of arrogance and hubris (and an unreasonable amount of fear stoked by a opportunity seeking Administration, and a compliant media (both the main stream media and alternative conservative media - i.e. Fox, Rush, Glenn Beck, Coulter, etc, or what should be referred to as "The Axis of Evil"), and the idea that Americans are somehow "special" (and that specialness means that God loves us more) and every one else is not somehow "special".
If you are a Christian, you either believe God is in charge (and not needing any "help" from us), or you don't (and believe that God needs the "help" from us in the way of military intervention).
May not change any staunch minds, but it is at least something to consider.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
I believe that all the Marines except him have had the charges dropped in the killings in Haditha.
I believe that eventually, the same will happen for him. All the pro-war folks who say these guys are "innocent" will gloat and say that democracy has triumphed, and will demand apologies for the trial proceedings these Marines had to go through, and the defamation of their character.
That doesn't change the fact that 24 people are dead, some of them women and children. If that does not disturb you fellow American ("pro-life" Christian?), then I really have to wonder about you. These were people with hopes, dreams, ideas. These were people who loved, and people loved them. Everyone associated with them (family members, friends, business associates) are now MORE likely to become a part of the resistance toward the occupation of their country by foreign invaders.
Of course most Americans don't think of Iraqi's like that because to most Americans, they are the "enemy" (and most Americans don't want to think in terms of non-Americans as having the same hopes dreams and family lives as themselves)
The first five people killed were in a car. They were dragged out of the car, and according to Wuterich, they wouldn't do what they were supposed to do (i.e. docilely submit to the occupying force). He said, they (the Iraqi's) know what the deal is, and they weren't doing it. Eventually, supposedly they were fleeing, so they were killed. In the end, according to reports, they were just a bunch of guys in a car.
Can we see how ironic this is? We are supposedly there to be "spreading Democracy", and we are dragging people out of cars and shooting them.
Then, the patrol began taking rifle fire. Without seeing any indication of where the rifle fire was coming from, they set upon a row of houses, because, according to Wuterich that was the only possible place the fire could be coming from. This is where the bulk of the killings occurred. According to Wuterich's OWN WORDS on 60 minutes (not some liberal anti-war zealot, or some liberal news commentator), they opened the door and tossed grenades in to the room, NOT KNOWING WHO OR WHAT was in there.
I don't necessarily believe that the Marines killed these people in a pre-meditated manner and ruthlessly in "cold blood". To contemplate that they did that is a horrible thing. It tears at my soul to believe it would be possible (although I admit that it MIGHT be). These are guys who up till a few years ago had no more important things to worry about than drinking beer on a Friday night, playing football, and trying to hit on the honeys.
Being at the pointy end of the empire, facing down a hostile population, chafing under a foreign occupation, these things are going to continue to happen. I can't even imagine the fear, and the wondering of if you are going to survive from one day to the next, and survive long enough to get home to see your loved ones - this is why I find it hard to condemn them.
I recently completed reading Dr. William Polk's fabulous book Understanding Iraq (http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Iraq-History-American-Occupation/dp/0060764694/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/002-0234220-5583264?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1189380466&sr=1-1).
In the book, he asks the question that with all of these things happening, including Abu Grahib, do Iraqi's see a QUALITATIVE difference in their lives under Saddam, and their lives under an occupying force saying they are here to spread democracy?
Certainly, infrastructure wise (i.e. electricity, sewage, clean water), they are not even back to pre-war levels after almost 5 years of war - and oh, by the way, WE are the ones who laid waste to their infrastructure.
Can Americans not see how ironic it is that we are supposedly spreading Democracy while doing the kinds of things we are doing in Iraq?
The "surge" was supposed to quell violence long enough for political reconciliation to take place. The jury is way out if the violence has been reduced. Clearly though, political reconciliation is NOT happening. The Iraqi's view their government as a joke - a US puppet. This is why they cannot get any unity or any reconciliation, especially from minority Sunni's.
Until the high level political stuff clicks, unfortunately despite some heroic work by our long suffering troops, not many of their efforts will amount to much. The two things are totally disconnected - the US presence on the ground, and the high level political happenings. Are their efforts making the lives in certain pockets of the country of Iraq better? There is no question that is probably true.
Does it matter in the grand scheme of things? Probably not.
I was pretty angry watching the 60 minutes piece. I had a hard time feeling much anger towards Sgt Wuterich though.
The people who should be on trial for recklessly plunging the US into an unwinnable war - the President and the Vice President (both of whom avoided active military service during their generation's war in Vietnam - Cheney saying that he had "other priorities" - we should NEVER forget that the persons sending our young men and women into harms way didn't think enough of their country to do the same) are sitting safely in their residences Washington DC.
And, the general consensus is that despite all of the bad news coming out of Iraq at how badly the war is going, and how it is reducing our military (and our nation's financial health) by the day, a lot of people feel that they are getting ready to engage ANOTHER country in a military action - Iran. How long can these "cowboys" be allowed to get away with this stuff?
There is no one who has the courage to stop them.