Sunday, April 30, 2006

Progress in the War on Terror

For a long time, I have thought President Bush engages in willful ignorance and wishful thinking when he insists, over and over, that the U.S. is "making progress in the war on terror," "advancing freedom across the Middle East," and gaining ground at winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis as they struggle to create a stable society from the ruined infrastructure "his" soldiers are occupying.

Non-military Americans are regularly encouraged to pretend nothing out of the ordinary is going on: "Go to work. Go on vacation. Go shopping," we're told. We should try pretending another lifestyle. We should try going a day or so without water, electricity and gas. Pretend that a few of our husbands and wives and children and parents and aunts and uncles and cousins have been killed by bombs. We should imagine that every plane passing overhead may be about to drop another bomb, and every car passing on the street outside may be filled with explosives and a suicide bomber. Americans with a family member in Iraq already live in this state of terrible grief and fear for their loved ones. Thousands of traumatized veterans are struggling with PTSD, lost limbs and brain damage.

Now, however, learning that the U.S. is finally admitting that the Iraq war is responsible for a quadrupling of terror attacks and admitting by explicit denial that Iraq is now a safe haven for terrorists to learn terror skills for use around the globe, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2157116,00.html, I begin to suspect that when Bush talks about "progress," that's exactly what he means.

He wants more and more violence, more and more dead people lying in the streets of Baghdad and Manhattan, Madrid, London. More death, more fear, more war, means more power and more money for him and his friends. They are making "progress in the war on terror." They are making more terror, and soon more war. The same article also notes that the Pentagon would like to reduce the number of Americans KIA (killed in action) to the "politically sustainable" figure of one per day. I guess one devastated family and community per day is what Bush means by sustainability.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Art Power

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Long War

Someone with military credentials writing a much more detailed critique of the "long war" approach to foreign policy, committing still-to-be-born babies to fight and die in the amorphous struggle against "evil terrorists."

I have a growing conviction that "they" don't hate "us" for our "freedom." Those who hate us may well hate us for the hollow-ness of our democracy.

Poll after poll shows Americans to be relatively decent people with little interest in conquest and a strong interest in fairness, cleaning up the planet's air, water and soil, and making space for ordinary people to live relatively dignified lives wherever the happen to be born.

Poll after poll shows our growing anger and frustration with the executive and legislative branches of our government. And yet we are emotionally tethered to the roller-coaster of propaganda: "Oil prices up - inflation to follow! Consumer confidence rebounds - economy strong! Housing starts up! No, down! Iraqi troops trained and in control! Iraqi troops committing atrocities! Terror alert on yellow! No, orange! No, wait, red!" Orwell said it all, so prophetically and so precisely.

We are, so far, unable to control our reactivity, focus our attention and energies, and change the disastrous course of things, and by failing to reclaim our People-Power, we are betraying the ideal of freedom that so many people look to with such hope. Robbing them of hope, they turn to despair, and then to hate...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Monday, April 17, 2006


I hope that Bush decides to resign soon, what with poll numbers at 32% approval, http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/latestnews/index.php?id=6624, and the imminent installation of a new terrorist dictator in charge of the hellish child-killing cauldron that is Iraq, http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0424-32.htm, and Bush's crazy plans to drop a pre-emptive nuke on Iran, and people pawning their power drills to pay for gas for their cars, http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/latestnews/index.php?id=6623.

Recently, I read or heard somewhere - maybe Seymour Hersh on Democracy Now - that Bush's plan to bomb Iran is based on the notion that Muslims are driven by shame, while Western Christians are driven by guilt. The idea is that bombing Ahmadinejad will make the Iranians ashamed of their leader, and by extension, themselves, so they'll revolt and choose a new leader.

But as the new book by Stephen Kinzer, Overthrow, points out, more than a century of such American meddling in the democratic development of other nations has shown a pattern of intense reaction. People who might otherwise be moving gradually toward more open, more tolerant societies are suddenly united in their hatred of an outside force when the U.S. military comes calling to protect American corporate interests from leaders attempting to nationalize resources, impose labor standards, or enact environmental protections. And in the throes of nationalism, those populations wind up installing terribly repressive tyrants much more inimical to U.S. interests than the people overthrown.

What does it mean - this Islam v. Christianity, shame v. guilt battle of bombs, driven by tortured souls? Sometimes, I think the pervasive suicidality of Western consumer culture is going to bring on the final Big Bang, and close the whole show in precisely the way it began. http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0424-31.htm

But at other times, I think we are on the cusp of something really new under the sun, brought on by universal exhaustion with bloodletting and hatred, and that this is the very, very darkness before an unprecedentedly bright dawn.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Thom Hartmann

Scheer, Vidal, Permanent War Economy

In Gore Vidal’s introduction to Robert Scheer’s new book “Playing President,” Vidal writes of the World War II era: “It was through war and a militarized economy that we became prosperous with full employment.”

This is part and parcel of the vision problem. It's not enough to stop the Iraq War and bring the troops home, or short circuit the imminent invasion of Iran. It's not enough because the entire U.S. economy is permeated by war and built around a framework of war: without war, the economy collapses, which is, in turn, why the end of the Cold War couldn't precede an actual drawdown of military expenditures.

What gives some hope is the precariousness of the edifice. It reminds me of some of the essays in scholarly right-wing journals like the National Review: huge, towering edifices of big words and grand ideas balanced, in the end, on tiny little toothpick assumptions that can be blown out with one deep breath.

Being so utterly dependent on destruction abroad for "prosperity" at home - as George Orwell described so clearly in 1984 - just sets us up for a similar collapse, and come the collapse, from the rubble, we pacifists had better have a better idea about how to build something on stronger foundations, and more flexible.

The outlines have already taken shape. Economies of the future will be smaller scale and much more local, and so will decision-making, because transportation will be much more expensive. See, for example, the writings of Hazel Henderson. http://www.hazelhenderson.com/

Most importantly, the principle underlying political and economic decisions will be the principle of sustainability - taking no more out of the resource pool than necessary, processing food and shelter resources minimally, and disposing only clean, non-toxic processed materials. Our guides, however little we deserve their wisdom, will be the indigenous tribes of the past and present, who learned to live in balance over centuries of practice. http://www.ic.org/pnp/cdir/1995/30morris.php

Rabbi Michael Lerner - Religion on the Left

Many of us on the left have been hammering away at this theme for years. See Dennis Kucinich, for example, who ran a deeply spiritual campaign in 2004 and continues to put forth a vision of the future founded on moral precepts taught by Jesus and echoed in religions all across the globe.

From a recent Kucinich e-mail:

"Being a Democrat can no longer entail a laundry list of slightly less harmful policies than our opponents. The vision of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy as enunciated in the Book of Matthew must be returned to Congress. As you know, Fear Ends, Hope Begins was the theme of my campaign for the Democratic nomination for President in 2004. I continue to call not just for new policies, but a renewed vision of a politics of trust and compassion based on our most basic values of caring for one another.

Who ever imagined that we would live in an America where the "merciful" would be called soft on crime? Where those who "mourn" would be called whiners and where the "meek" would be told that arrogance is a virtue? Who ever imagined that the sacred role of "peacemaker" as described by Matthew in the Beatitudes would be recast as a traitor? The inversion of truth and the perversion of our basic values must be challenged.

The path for our renewal based on these sacred values is clear. Living Wages, Advocacy of Universal Health Care, a new WPA jobs program funded from military waste, Universal Pre-Kindergarten, tuition-free college, protection of Social Security and all pensions, the green energy of wind, solar, hydrogen, peaceful exploration of space, participation in the Kyoto Climate Change Treaty, and the International Criminal Court are part of a vision of the America that can be, if we are willing to take a stand. My call for a Department of Peace and Nonviolence has been attacked in a way that ironically proves its necessity..."

Despite Kucinich, the Progressive Caucus and others with a vision and an agenda strong enough to enter the ring with the Republican slash and burn vision, there is a huge disconnect (even on the left, which hammers away at corporate-owned media monopolies) between the grassroots and the media.

I think it's another manifestation of the strange results of modern medical care and longevity. There is no way for fresh voices to claim our places in the debate, because the entrenched who have already been there 20-25 years plan to stay there for the next 20-25 years. At least The Nation is printing religious essays now; three years ago, they returned my essays with curt notes about how such themes weren't appropriate for their needs at the current time.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Parallel Universe - April 12, 2006

From time to time, I like to rewrite news stories, imagining how I'd like the news to read. This is one such; for the original article, click on the "Parallel Universe" link. (It's so surreal and stupid that, as Seymour Hersh put it on Democracy Now today, President Bush and President Ahmadinejad are playing chicken in this nuclear standoff. It's not a replay of the Cold War: the U.S. has no economic leverage over Iran because of its oil production and our oil consumption.)

Praising Iran's successful signing of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as a boon to the international community, Secretary of State Conodoleezza Rice said Wednesday the U.N. Security Council must consider "strong steps" to induce Washington to follow suit.

Rice also telephoned Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to ask him to reinforce demands that the United States begin unilateral disarmament and abandon plans for the development of new tactical nuclear weapons, when he holds talks in Tehran on Friday.

While Rice took a strong line, she did not call for an emergency meeting of the Council, nor did she call for a pre-emptive attack on Washington or economic sanctions, saying the U.N. should consider action after receiving an IAEA report by April 28. She did not elaborate on what measures she would support, but economic and political incentives, including international assistance with the development of clean energy resources, are under consideration.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, announcing on Tuesday that his country had crossed the line into nonproliferation, said Iran's objectives were peaceful. Iran is said by many analysts to have no interest in adding to the world’s burden of weapons of mass destruction, and also possesses a rich historical tradition in mathematics and philosophy, rendering brinksmanship a cultural taboo.

Rice confirmed suggestions that Western European culture is also firmly rooted in traditions respectful of individual rights and human dignity, including Christianity.

She said the world believes the United States has the capacity and the technology that lead to disarmament. "The Security Counil will need to take into consideration this move by Iran," she said. "It will be time when it reconvenes on this case for strong steps to make certain that we maintain the credibility of the international community, by holding America to the same standards we hold Iran and other Muslim nations."

"This is not a question of America's right to civil nuclear power," she said while greeting President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Moasogo of Equatorial Guinea. "This is a question of the world’s right to get off the course of mutually-assured destruction, as many people believed we could at the end of the Cold War. The world does not believe that Iran, America, or any country, should have the desire, capability or technology to produce toxic substances that kill through bombing raids, with fallout, or over millennia of slow radiation release."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Tuesday, "Defiant statements and actions only further isolate the Bush regime from the rest of the world. I will insist that henceforth, Mr. Bush and I make no more defiant statement and actions."

"This Bush Administration is a regime that needs to be building confidence with the international community," McClellan said. "Instead, we’re moving in the wrong direction. We are a regime that has a long history of hiding our nuclear activities from the international community, and refusing to comply with our international obligations."

At the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said he would not engage in "fantasy land" speculation about a possible U.S. commitment to nonproliferation, though he said the administration was concerned about Tehran looking better than Washington in the eyes of the international community.

"The United States of America is on a diplomatic track, and plans to lead by example, not by intimidation or force," Rumsfeld said.