Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I gotta call BS on this one

The Vice President is certainly giving a blogger like myself a lot of things to write about this week.

This is another stellar interview with Martha Raddatz (boy is SHE getting some notoriety this week as well).


What I have to call BS on is this line:

"The president carries the biggest burden, obviously," Cheney said. "He's the one who has to make the decision to commit young Americans, but we are fortunate to have a group of men and women, the all-volunteer force, who voluntarily put on the uniform and go in harm's way for the rest of us."

I acknowledge that the President's job in doing that must be hard (although he never convinces ME personally that he finds it that hard).

But who is he kidding?

He bears a bigger burden than a 22 or 23 year old Army wife with one or two small children (maybe working a minimum wage job with limited economic prospects) who finds she's suddenly a widow, left to care for small children alone?

He bears a bigger burden than a young child who is of an age of awareness (not a little baby) that loses his Father or Mother?

He bears a bigger burden than a 55 or 60 year old woman who suddenly is faced with caring for a profoundly broken human being for the rest of both of their lives?

He bears a bigger burden than a person who suddenly has one or several of his friends in the field killed or savagely wounded?

Americans are very uncritical of a lot of the things that the Administration says, but this one should be challenged. It simply is nonsense.

The Vice President essentially goes on in the interview and says that this is an "all volunteer force" (even though Ms. Raddatz tries to ask the questions about "stop loss" he essentially waves her off) - he doesn't come right out and say it, but he is saying, quit whining, and do what we tell you for as long as we tell you. You signed the papers, deal with it.

Then, the Vice President says we must "win" in Iraq. As I have pointed out several times, there is never any real indication of what that really means. Not before this interview, and not in this interview.

I think often of World War II veterans (of which I'm proud to say my Dad was one) who also had to "win" before they could go home. But in that case, it was VERY clear what it meant to win. Defeat Germany and defeat Japan (both of which were accomplished in LESS time than we have spent fighting a rag tag band of fighters).

There is no such certainty here. They are just supposedly to continue fighting till someone tells them to stop? Or are we to trust our leaders to make the correct decisions as to when victory comes?

Of course the President has already said we won once with his "mission accomplished" speech, and even before the war this was supposed to be easy. A cakewalk, welcomed as liberators.

They want you to forget all this.

The historical revision now is that, there is no way we could have known, situation on the ground has changed, and that's why we need to still be there, etc. This is nonsense. Have our senses become so dull and uncritical that we can't see through this?

There were those who predicted EXACTLY what was going to happen. Either they (the decisions makers in Washington) didn't really know (or care) what was going to happen - in which case you have to question their ability to govern, and their judgment, or they knew what was going to happen and decided to roll the dice and do it anyway - convinced we were so powerful that the laws of history and empire simply didn't matter.

Either way, it doesn't paint a pretty picture of how we are governed.

TELL US WHAT IT REALLY MEANS TO "WIN" - don't just say "we must win". I refuse to accept that answer any more. I simply CAN NOT.

I want to know what it means. I think we deserve that as a country. We've contributed billions of dollars (with billions more yet to come, and trillions more in debt yet to be paid back), 4000 of our finest kids (unfortunately, with more to come), and a literally unknown number of our kids profoundly broken physically, emotionally and spiritually (unfortunately with more to come).

We all should refuse to accept that answer any more.

Monday, March 24, 2008

4000 or "So" Deaths

It was almost too much to stomach finding out about the grim milestone of 4000 deaths in the Iraq war during the same weekend Christians celebrated the resurrected Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Of course, then the standard journalistic cliche comes into play in all the articles that compared to the timeline and violence of other wars, this one is not too bad (then they list statistics like 58,000 or so killed in Vietnam, etc). I'm sure that the families and friends of those 4000 killed are not necessarily thinking that way. Are we so dull that we really believe that line? That we're getting a good deal because not as many Americans have been killed?

Some time before we all found out this grim statistic, the Vice President in an interview with Martha Raddatz, was asked, essentially if he cared what Americans thought of the war, and the worthiness of Americas participation in it. At the end of her line of questioning, he basically told her "So"? As in, I really don't give a crap what the American people think or say. Then he launched into a diatribe about not paying attention to polls, and, just for good measure he compared the Bush administration to President Lincoln during the civil war.

Below is a pretty good op-ed by Mickey Edwards in the Washington Post. I included Mr. Edwards bio on Wikipedia, lest it is thought that he is some wild-eyed ranting liberal America hater (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mickey_Edwards). Looks to me like this is a guy with SOLID Conservative credentials.


Mr. Edwards points out that "It is the people who should decide whether the nation shall go to war. That is not a radical, or liberal, or unpatriotic idea. It is the very heart of America's constitutional system."

He goes on to say that "In Europe, before America's founding, there were rulers and their subjects. The Founders decided that in the United States there would be not subjects but citizens. Rulers tell their subjects what to do, but citizens tell their government what to do"

He doesn't really go far enough in talking about past history. He should also say that despots and dictators in all times and places took their countries to war and KEPT their countries at war without regard to the opinions or desires of the people. And when pressed on it, they usually tried to make it look like they were actually doing the people's bidding.

As 4000 of our finest young Americans are now dead, we should be always asking questions of our government. As Mr. Edwards points out, essentially THEY work for US. A lot of Americans don't really believe this in their hearts, as we've been kowtowed and beaten down and convinced that the people in Washington are smarter than us, and that they really have our best interests at heart, and that since we don't have the money and the power, we have no say in the matter.

The questions we need to be asking, and more importantly ANSWERING:

Are we really a safer country than we were when the Iraq war started? Are we a BETTER country than when the Iraq war started (in terms of nobility, and bravery and honor, and overall standing and perception in the world)? Would this war REALLY prevent any terrorist attacks on the United States? How much longer are we going to send good men and women to their deaths? How much longer are we going to make a small, thin slice of the population sacrifice?

What does it mean to "win" ? Who gets to decide how long we stay in Iraq? What is the criteria to determine if we've "won"?

Has it really been worth it in terms of blood and treasure? Will it have been worth it if it fundamentally changes who we are as a people, and not in a good way?

These are questions I've asked (and others have certainly asked them as well, much more eloquently than me) over and over without expecting any real answers from our "leadership".

It would be tragic if we were still asking these same questions as the counter rolls to 5000 or 6000 or more wouldn't it?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday Ruminations

Easter Weekend. It's the time when Christians recognize the crucifixion of Jesus and celebrate his resurrection 3 days later.

We talk a lot about Jesus' death on the cross. We talk about how it was for our sins. We talk about how many believe his life, death and resurrection were all foretold in the Old Testament. This is all well and good.

What we don't talk much about is WHY Jesus was crucified.

The simple fact is that Jesus was crucified because he was a revolutionary and a threat to not only the secular power (the occupying Romans), but the the religious authority of his time as well. In the New Testament he constantly berates the religious leaders of his time - even calling them a brood of vipers, and essentially dead within.

He was a revolutionary. The things he said and the deeds he did were extremely counter cultural then, and they are counter cultural now.

By counter-cultural, I mean that Jesus talked about taking care of each other - loving your neighbor as yourself. Denying self. Turning the other cheek. Seeking peace. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc (Matthew 25). Not buying into the worldly power structures, riches and ideas about "strength".

Those things eventually got him killed.

I've always felt that if you were going to design a religion (or make one up as many atheists contend), Christianity with it's message of peace, denying self and humility would NOT be the religion that man would make up.

I often wonder if he (Jesus) came back now for a short visit and visited any 10 churches chosen at random, would he even recognize American Christianity as espousing his radical life and teachings?

I was watching a news clip of the President talking to a group of religious broadcasters (most likely the likes of Pat Robertson, etc) and saying that toppling Saddam Hussein was the right thing then, and is the right thing now, and will always be the right thing. And these religious broadcasters greeted that with wild enthusiastic applause.

It is no secret that a lot of Christians of every variety support the war. A lot of them believe that George W. Bush and the power and might of the US Military is an instrument of God. Some of them believe that these wars may even hasten the return of Christ, and that is why they are so supportive of it.

I am no theologian or religious scholar (or even a religious broadcaster), but I have to wonder. If Jesus did not topple the occupying regime of his time (the Romans), despite repeated begging by his disciples to do so - to be the powerful, kick butt and take names Messiah THEY wanted him to be, and constant misunderstanding of his mission, why on earth would we think that he would approve any kind of violent regime change now?

A lot of people say that on 9/11 everything changed and that's why we need to have these wars. To "protect" ourselves.

God didn't change on 9/11/01. God's message, and Jesus example of his life and ministry was the same on 9/11/o1 as it was on 9/10/01 or 9/12/01, or now. We changed. We became scared (of course our "leadership" helped us along). We decided to trust in bombers and cruise missiles and tanks and infantry and not God. We decided that we were going to wreak vengeance on the rest of the world in a "Clash of Civilizations" or "War on Terror" or "War on Islamofacism" under the guise of "spreading democracy" and "making America safer".

I think every person in America who is Christian needs to ask and answer some questions this Easter Weekend.

These questions need to be asked and answered by each individual - not just spouting something your pastor said, or something you read in a book and calling the questions answered, but by each individual conscience with the guidance of the Spirit.

Do we REALLY understand how radical the entire message of Jesus really is? This includes his teachings on peace and taking care of the poor. Or are we so dulled by a week after week watering down of the message that we don't recognize it's radical nature?

I think these questions are so critical. I think we ignore them at our peril.

I close this with something I've put in this blog before from Luke Chapter 9, verses 52-56.

Jesus is not accepted in a certian village. Verse 54 says "And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?

Verse 55 and 56 say "But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village."

Not to destroy men's lives but to save them. That includes Iraqi's, Palestinians, Africans, Asians, Arabs, Persians, and all other peoples - even the ones our media, government and certain "religious broadcasters" tell us we should hate. Even Americans. That is radical stuff.

Are we helping to save lives? That is another question each individual Christian must grapple with.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

5th Anniversary, Iraq war

As the anniversary of the Iraq war comes upon us, most likely millions of gallons of ink will be spilled in writing about the war. I hesitate to write anything - the world doesn't need one more blog or op-ed or anything. More gifted and talented writers than me are making good cases all over the world.

But, I write anyway. I told someone awhile back that I write this blog to clarify my thought. If someone else happens to read it, all well and good.

There will be those, who still believe the war was the right thing to do who will passionately argue their cause. There will be those who have always thought the war was bad foreign policy horribly executed who will argue their cause. There will be those on both sides who came to their respective positions after the war started.

And, if we are to believe recent reports about press coverage, and Americans knowledge of the current status of the war, most Americans won't care. It will be just one more round of stories in a noisy news cycle.

I think this is the saddest thing. What this apathy does is let the people who are running the war drive the coverage of the war. It lets them tell Americans exactly what they think Americans need to hear. How the war is going swimmingly. How the surge worked and how violence is down in Iraq (which of course lately has changed, but how that is just an anomaly, or a "blip"). How wonderful the lives of Iraqi's are now as compared to when they lived under the evil dictator, the modern day Hitler, Saddam Hussein. How you don't need to worry your pretty little head about it because all of us smart guys in Washington have it all figured out and are taking care of these little details for you. Go shopping, they tell us again - the sagging economy, which of course has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the war, and is not tied to it in any way needs that from you.

After five years, there is always talk about winning the war. Unfortunately also after five years, there is never any specifics as to what that really MEANS.

I also think what we need to really be asking is how this will affect us not NOW, but in 5 years?

Will we have a military that will be able to provide this country with even the most basic protection? Will we have a military that will be able to respond to any contingencies worldwide when the security of this country is ACTUALLY at stake?

Will we have a functioning National Guard that will be able to respond effectively to natural disasters such as Katrina?

Will we ever have an effective military again? Will young Americans want to continue to serve? Will we be able to afford to rebuild our military?

How long can we in good conscience keep sending the same Americans back to the war zone over and over and over and over? How long can we in good conscience keep asking their families to sacrifice?

Will our economy be strong in 5 years? Or will it be in tatters as the massive debt brought on by borrowing to finance the war keeps coming due?

What will our infrastructure be like (including our schools, hospitals, bridges, highways, electrical grid, etc) as we have to make choices between funding the war and taking care of our cities?

What will our social net look like as we have to make choices between continually funding the war and taking care of the most vulnerable here at home?

What will be the burden on our communities as the broken veterans who are already here and need specialized care, and the new ones still to be created, since the war is not ending any time soon look like?

Will we have the moral fortitude and decency to take care of our veterans in a way that they deserve to be taken care of? Or will we try to do it the same way we did the war - "on the cheap"?

Will those Americans who have bumper stickers that say "Support the troops" and ribbons on their car replace them as they fade from years and years and years of exposure to the sun? Or will they just crack up and fall off (or be scraped off) from inattention?

And the most important question of all - JUST WHEN WILL THIS WAR BE OVER?

And another important question - WHO GETS TO DECIDE WHEN IT'S OVER?

How long realistically can we sustain this war without it doing permanent, irreparable damage and fundamentally changing who we are as a country?

These are questions I want answers to. I do not believe however, that those answers are forthcoming any time soon.

Friday, March 7, 2008

It's been a long time......

......since I've Rock and Rolled. One of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs.

I've been thinking a lot about the economy, and there doesn't seem to be ANY good news.

Actually, I've been thinking about the economy for quite some time as I've written this blog over the past almost year.

On April 29, 2007, I wrote (in the blog A Superpower?):

"The economy. I think that the economy is a house of cards that could be blown over at any time. The war has been financed not with tax dollars, but with BORROWED money from such countries as China. That we are going to have to pay this back is going to affect our economy for a long time."

On August 14, 2007, I wrote (in the blog Are We Rome?):

"Our economy, while APPEARING strong is a house of cards built on credit and the promise of cheap, plentiful energy, either of which could evaporate at any moment (and as far as credit goes has been heading that way)."

I've also written quite extensively about some of the "hidden costs" of the war, specifically what it's going to cost to properly care for a generation of profoundly broken veterans.

Now it's March 7, 2008 and oil is at around $106 a barrel (so much for cheap energy, although for now, it MIGHT be plentiful - but that could change in a very short period of time), and most Americans are familiar with the credit crunch that is sending not ripples, but shock waves through the economy.

There have been quite a few interesting articles of on the work of the Economist Joseph Stiglitz (many of them predicting the final costs of the wars at somewhere around $5 TRILLION)


Excerpted from this article is the following:

"The spending on Iraq was a hidden cause of the current credit crunch because the US central bank responded to the massive financial drain of the war by flooding the American economy with cheap credit.
"The regulators were looking the other way and money was being lent to anybody this side of a life-support system," he said.
That led to a housing bubble and a consumption boom, and the fallout was plunging the US economy into recession and saddling the next US president with the biggest budget deficit in history, he said."

I'm sure many economists, and certain apologists for the Bush Administration will find that very controversial.

It makes a lot of sense to me though. In my earlier blogs on the economy mentioned above, I noted the "whats" - this gives a plausible explanation for the "whys"

One of the things I've been talking about over the past several days to my friends is the idea of looking at the economy as a whole. The people in Washington count on the idea that Americans are going to look at the economy in somewhat of a fragmented way - almost as if there are "economy boxes" - there's the energy economy box, the health care box, the housing box, the manufacturing box, the war box. It is ALL ONE BOX.

What happens to one sector of the economy affects ALL sectors of the economy.

The other thing is that they are trying to distract Americans by giving these "rebate checks" to "stimulate" the economy. This is kind of like handing a child having a tantrum in a department store a shiny squeaky toy. This is also geared to American's first instinct of the desire for consumption.

One thing you should remember when you are spending that rebate check on the camcorders, televisions, DVD players and other things is that this is not "free money" for you to spend, if you are a taxpayer, this is YOUR MONEY that the government has already taken from you.

The Government is slow to admit we are in a recession or even in a slowdown (similar to when they were slow to admit that we were in a guerrilla war in Iraq with a growing insurgency - we see where that got us). My guess is that this is to try to keep people from panicking.

One of the scenarios I have looked at in past blogs is a cascading collapse and failure of the economy and infrastructure causing uncertainty and chaos the likes of what we saw during Hurricane Katrina on a national level. I hope that it does not come to that.

I think it will get worse, and maybe a LOT worse before it gets better.