Point of View Columns

War is No Game

In the military, efficiency is based upon training, practice and training and practicing. Some of that practice involves simulations of combat and those are called “war games”. However, it is clear to anyone and everyone connected to the military that war is not a game.

That particular wisdom has not seeped into the American bunker also known as the White House. It appears that Trump and his enablers, particularly Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, have concocted an international policy modus operandi that entails threats and faux confrontations, goading and threatening adversaries and then stepping back from the brink of actual confrontation and combat….just in time.

But if anyone seriously thinks that tightrope diplomacy is a good thing in these days and times of instantaneous communications and response, they also think that dancing on airplane runways is a good thing.

What is most disturbing in the recent near-clashes with Iran is that there are people in the Trump administration who think that a war with Iran is a viable option and that it is “winnable”, whatever that means. Even more disturbing is that some of these people are the same people who said that a war with Iraq was “winnable” and that a war in Afghanistan was a viable option.

How these advisors can be credible after a trillion dollars of expense and the loss of life of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan men, women and children. One would think that John Bolton and his running partners – like Mike Pompeo and Liz Cheney – should be banned from ever advising anyone about anything, much less advising the President of the United States on matters involving war and peace.

Mike Pompeo is graduate of West Point and served in the Army for five years. He never went near a combat theater and left the military to pursue and career in business and politics. John Bolton was eligible for the draft during the tail end of the war in Vietnam and joined the National Guard as a way of assuring that he would not have to go into combat. Research does not indicate any military service by Liz Cheney.

So the three loudest voices in favor of military action against Iran have never been in combat, have avoided combat when there was any opportunity to do so (Pompeo could have re-enlisted in participated in Desert Storm, the war in Afghanistan and the 2003 war in Iraq). They are certainly intellectually capable of understanding the human and financial costs of war, but they ignore these costs so as to support a world view and could turn apocalyptic and dystopic.

It almost seems that these pseudo-war hawks look at war as being part of some great global game where they get to play Masters of the Universe. But in fact, they are playing with the lives of Americans and men, women and children all over the world. And if they think for even a brief moment that America is not vulnerable to a counterattack by Iran then they clearly have managed to erase 9/11 from their collective memories.

But Americans in New York and Washington, remember 9/11. Americans who are in veteran’s hospitals suffering from PTSD and countless other injuries and disabilities remember the cost of war. And if these pseudo war hawks think that bombing Iran today and North Korea tomorrow will make America safe they are either stupid or deranged or both.

America and Americans have interests all over the world – therefore we are vulnerable. No American city will be safe in the event of another conflagration along the lines of an Iranian war. No American who travels anywhere in this world will be safe at a time when America is at war with the world.

Trump has shown some sign of baseline intelligence and common sense by calling off a missile strike against Iran – 15 minutes prior to launch. How close did we come to Trump Induced Trauma throughout the world, we don’t know.

But Trump cannot continue to play with fire without America getting burned.

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Point of View Columns

Lies, Lies, All Lies!

Historians will refer to the 2012 Teapublican presidential primaries as “The Era of the Clown Car”. Given that over twenty aspirants for the Teapublican nomination have already declared, are about to declare or who are running without declaring, the 2016 Teapublican primaries may be re-titled “The Era of the Clown Bus”. But make no mistake, among this gaggle of serious contenders along with the jesters and pretenders who are just along for the ride, there is a common theme – lies are better than the truth.

Consider for example, the continuous denial of climate change on this planet and the connection between this looming ecological disaster and the contribution of Americans to this debacle as consumers and producers. Exactly not one of the men (and one woman) who wishes to be the next President of the United States will confirm their understanding of this well proven fact.

Instead, we hear sound bites that seem to be written for them by the media flacks and hacks at Exxon and Koch Industries. With the temperature of the planet rising, with both polar ice caps melting and with thousands of plant and animal species facing extinction as a result, it would seem that denying this reality would be foolish. Yet we have the Teapublicans saying in effect, “don’t believe your lying eyes”.

Even worse, the Teapublican 2016 game plan seems to call for resorting to revisionist history. The real history of American engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan is never going to be kind to the Bush-Cheney cabal that lied to the American people and then employed a botched non-strategy that has served to destabilize an entire region and endanger the world for years to come.

Rather than face facts, or even evade these realities, the Teapublican passengers on the Clown Bus are falling all over themselves to find new and unique and creative ways to blame the Obama Administration. Somehow, we are supposed to believe that the rise of ISIS and the serial explosions of violence and destruction in Libya and Syria and Yemen and Afghanistan and Iraq are the fault of President Obama even though any sober analysis of the historical facts show that the wanton and thoughtless “regime change” in Iraq and the intellectually challenged non-strategy of the U.S. in Afghanistan are the clear starting points for the conflagrations that plague that region now.

But, on the Teapublican Clown Bus, there is no reason to let facts get in the way. And while it is politically cool to blame the incumbent, we must worry that if the passengers on the Clown Bus keep drinking this neocon Kool-Aid there may come a time when “boots on the ground” starts sounding like a good idea and it will be our sons and daughters wearing those endangered boots.

And there’s more. The latest national economic statistics indicate that there has been an unprecedented five years of economic growth in this country –the unemployment rate in this country when Barack Obama was inaugurated as President of the United States was 7.6% and before the country’s economic death spiral reached bottom the jobless rate was 9.5%. The current unemployment rate is 5.4%, the stock indices are at their highest points ever and corporate profits are in dream land.

Yet the passengers on the Teapublican Clown Bus would have us believe that “things have never been worse” and that the economy of this country is weak. One would think the Teapublicans would be a bit thriftier with their predictions and observations after erroneously predicting the demise of the republic with the passage of the Affordable Care Act and after calling in from illogical outer space that the decline and fall of America would occur should President Obama be re-elected.

But there is no room for truth, logic or, it would appear common sense, in the luggage compartment of the Teapublican Clown Bus. Indeed, the passengers seem ready to take the American people on a Ride to Nowhere.

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Point of View Columns

Amber Light Warning

In the earliest stages of any driver education course students are taught to heed red lights (stop), green lights (go) and amber lights (caution). The current turmoil on this planet has triggered a series of amber lights flashing over Iraq, the Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan and many other locations. The cautious approach to this cascade of crises would seem to be the only reasonable course of action to follow. So why is President Obama being chastised, criticized and castigated for being “too cautious”.

Senator Dianne Feinstein has been a longtime supporter of President Obama, and her comments to the effect that he has been “too cautious” in handling the multiple cauldrons of war and conflict were greeted with much interest. The Teapublicans who represent the permanent critics of Anything Obama pointed to Senator Feinstein’s comments as proof positive that their own criticism is not partisan but reflective of the ineffectiveness of the Obama Administration.

Some further thought on the matter might lead to a different conclusion. After all, there are (too) many American political leaders and commentators who seem to live in some mythical halcyon past when the United States could impose some kind of Pax Americana on the rest of the planet. From the Monroe Doctrine to the Berlin Airlift to the Korean War, there is supposed to have been a time, or so the thinking seems to indicate, when the United States could summon the will to impose peace and send despots scurrying back to their lairs.

Of course the Monroe Doctrine presumed an imperial American perspective on all of the countries in the Americas and one could ask the people of Haiti, Cuba, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic how that has worked out. The Berlin Airlift was absolutely humanitarian in nature and, while it was quite dramatic, the literal and virtual Berlin Wall did not fall for another four decades.

The Korean War is perhaps the best example of what President Obama absolutely should not do. Keep in mind that although the United States led a multilateral military venture against the Chinese and North Koreans, six decades later – a literal lifetime – American troops are still in Korea with no apparent timetable for their eventual departure.

When critics and commentators call for President Obama to “do something” in the multiple potential war zones around the planet they do not seem to think about the consequences, intended and unintended, of such calls for action. Drones and jet planes raining destruction on ISIS may seem to confront this new barbaric and amorphous threat to world peace. But it is that same barbaric and amorphous organization that can terrorize American journalists in the Middle East or morph into terror and danger in London, New York or Paris.

Committing American troops to any of these war zones without a clear strategy and an absolute exit plan and timetable is pure madness. And who will commit the lives and limbs of their son or daughter to this global meat grinder under such circumstances? The silence to this question, if asked in the halls of Congress or on the television talk shows would be deafening. And yet the war chatter continues.

President Obama has been criticized for honestly stating that the United States does not have a strategy for dealing with ISIS – as if there would be some useful strategy in a computer file at the Pentagon or the NSA – that could possibly anticipate the bleak and bizarre nature of this new organization that has temporarily claimed the spotlight on the world stage. It would seem that these critics continue to believe in the mythical omnipotence of America.

While myths have their place in culture, they have no place in the very real and dangerous world in which we all live today. It is better for this country to be “too cautious” rather than drink the mythic Kool-Aid and plunge headlong into the bloody maw of multiple wars across this planet – without a plan, without a strategy and without a clear set of goals and objectives.

President Obama was elected to serve the people of the United States and not to propagate myths and legends that do nothing to help us make informed and intelligent decisions in the volatile atmosphere in the fall of 2014.

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Point of View Columns

The Disaster That Won’t Go Away

Just as storm clouds just over the horizon are there for all to see, the prospect of horrific disaster looms over this country as the Obama Administration edges closer to the slippery precipice of military engagement in the Middle East. The irony is that Senator Obama was elected to extricate this country from the misguided policies in Afghanistan and the web of bloody lies that characterized the Iraq war plan. President Obama was reelected in part because he kept his promises on these important matters and resisted the urgings of bellicose Teapublican chickenhawks to take this country into war again.

History tells us that the United States went to war in Afghanistan with no credible exit plan. The U.S. went into Afghanistan with bloodlust fueled by 9/11 and lurched through that country like someone who gets punched in the nose in a dark room and is ready to hit anyone and everyone when the lights go on.

There can be no serious doubt that the United States went to war in Iraq based on lies, misinformation and a misguided desire on the part of the Bush-Cheney cabal to follow the neocon playbook in the Middle East. Thousands of American troops died in Iraq in vain. Tens of thousands of Americans suffered injury and trauma that they will endure for the rest of their lives for no good reason. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died in their own homeland for no cause that anyone can defend or explain.

Now, as Iraq seems ready to plunge into a canyon of death, destruction and self-inflicted wounds – due mainly to the instability brought about by the American invasion – there is a call for the United States to “do something”. And, seemingly in response to the squawks and chirps of Teapublican chickenhawks, President Obama has sent 800 military “advisors” to Iraq. The lessons of Vietnam tell us that “advisors” can become combat troops in the flash of an IED.

And in Syria the tyrannical regime of Bashir Assad has been under attack for over two years. The attacks are coming from Syrians and nameless others who seem to be looking for a good place to fight. There is no doubt that the Assad regime is despicable in so many ways. There is also no doubt that the United States has no nickels in this dime and that its military engagement in Syria can only lead to more death and destruction for Americans – in Syria, and quite likely in the United States.

Yet, President Obama is sending a half billion dollars of military aid to “moderate rebels in Syria – whatever “moderate” might mean in that part of the world. One would hope that someone in the Obama Administration might remember this country providing military aid to freedom loving people in another theater – Afghanistan in the 1980’s. Those freedom loving people were led by Osama bin Laden and we all know how that story ended.

Meanwhile a new group called ISIS respects no borders or boundaries and has declared an Islamic caliphate from North Africa to Afghanistan. In what must seem  like an incredibly turn of events ISIS has been disowned by Al Qaeda as too radical. And somehow the U.S. is supposed to have a military answer for ISIS.

There simply can be no justification for bringing this country to the slippery slope of war in the Middle East – a part of the world that has been tossed and turned by conquests, crusades, colonization and countless wars. The United States cannot make it right even with all the good intentions in the world.

There is no comfort that President Obama or the Teapublican chickenhawks can provide to the inevitable widows and orphans of American troops who must surely die if this strategy is pursued. And the sadly reality it, they do not have to die.

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Point of View Columns

The Last Person to Talk

The mission of the Teapublicans has been to diminish the Obama presidency and to dismantle each and every aspect of his legacy. One aspect of his legacy has been his steady extraction of this country from the bloody muck and mire of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One war (Afghanistan) was conducted without an exit strategy. The other (Iraq) was a war based on lies and a mindless neocon strategy that was doomed at birth. Everyone associated with the origin and implementation of these mindless atrocities owes it to America the planet to just be quiet and wallow in their shame in an undisclosed location.

Now it appears that the damage done to America and the planet is not enough for some miscreants disguised as pundits, experts and know it alls. Instead we are forced to witness Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Judith Miller and other authors of the twenty-first century American nightmare weigh in on yet another unfolding tragedy in Iraq. Incredibly, they have the nerve and temerity to shamelessly criticize President Obama because the broken egg called Iraq can never be put together again.

Remember that we are talking about Dick Cheney, who absolutely engineered the lie about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This would be the same Dick Cheney who was a world class draft dodger in his youth, claiming that there were other ways in which he could better serve his country – although to this day no one knows what that service might have been. This is the same Dick Cheney who claimed that American troops would be welcomed as liberators in Iraq – before over 4000 of them were killed and tens of thousands were maimed and damaged for life.

Somehow this Dick Cheney is actually given the platform of the Wall Street Journal to spew more lies in defense of the damnable policy and legacy of death, destruction and defeat for which he is primarily and personally responsible. There is simply nothing of value, substance or merit that arose from the American invasion of Iraq. By destabilizing a fragile sector of the planet, the Bush-Cheney Gang has given a foothold for unimaginable sectarian violence that threatens to spill over to every corner of Earth.

President Obama has pursued a prudent, reasonable and intelligent policy in getting American troops out of Iraq. That this policy has been imperfect should come as no surprise given the botched butchering of any semblance of order by Dick Cheney, playing Geppetto to George Bush’s Pinocchio.

What is insulting, grotesque and shameless is that the high profile spear carrier chicken hawks have the audacity to suggest that there is some kind of military action that President Obama should pursue, or should have pursued, that would have kept Sunnis and Shiites from continuing their blood feud which goes back……….centuries. What is insulting, grotesque and shameless is that these Teapublican chicken hawks would infer, suggest or hint at another round of military intervention in Iraq.

What is even worse is that virtually none of these Teapublican chicken hawk impostors, (starting with Dick Cheney) have ever served a moment in military combat. Yet they cannot wait to send another American son or daughter to certain death or damage for a cause that defies logic, explanation or justification.

The pillorying and bullying of President Obama will continue until January 2017 – and probably beyond. Part of this goes with the territory of him being President of the United States. Part of this probably goes with the territory of him being the first black President of the United States.

But it is beyond ragged white lines of political warfare to send more American men and women into the bloody maw of combat in Iraq to prove an uprovable point – that somehow and some way George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were right.

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Point of View Columns

Damned If He Does

The recent release of the last American POW in the Iraq-Afghanistan War era should have been a cause for relief, if not celebration. The fact that this release was accomplished through the exchange of five prisoners from Guantanamo, some of whom have been imprisoned for almost a decade and a half, seemed reasonable as well as a hopeful step in the direction of closing the American Gulag. Predictably, the opponents of President Obama have a problem with all of this.

The release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl pursuant to a prisoner exchange should have been one more entry in what is hopefully the last chapter of this country’s exit from the bloodbath that has been the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. The war in Afghanistan was a poorly planned misadventure by the Bush-Cheney team – a misadventure that morphed into a quagmire, consuming thousands of American casualties and billions of American dollars. The war in Iraq was hatched from misinformation and the wet dreams of neoconservative chicken hawks who feel no shame, regret or remorse in sending Americans to their death for no good reason.

Sgt. Bergdahl being the last American POW from these twin military disasters is a reminder of how disastrous foreign policy mistakes can be. It should also be one more reason for everyone to hit the Pause button prior to calling for America to “do something” in Libya, Syria, Ukraine or Nigeria. “Something” costs lives. “Something” costs money. “Something” can create chaos out of confusion. Many times “something” is not the answer and not doing “something” is not a sign of weakness as so many of the critics of President Obama would have us believe.

The fact that Sgt. Bergdahl was exchanged for five Afghan prisoners who have been held in  Guantanamo is a reminder that there is still a hell hole of torture, cruelty and violations of basic human decency that is owned and managed by the United States of America. Whatever the justification might have been for using Guantanamo as a holding pen for suspects in the war on terror (and why does the United States even have a military presence in Cuba?), there can be no justification for holding these prisoners without due process and resolution.

Meanwhile, we are faced with the specter of American soldiers force-feeding Guantanamo prisoners in the name of …………….Freedom? Liberty? The American Way? There is no way that Guantanamo, a prisoner of war camp in an undeclared war, can be rationalized. And every day that this relic of past American colonialism and present day American barbarism exists, it gives a lie to all of the glorious and magnificent aspirations of this country.

The existence of Guantanamo and its defenders are really telling us that this country has a very long way to go before it even begins to approach the ideals that it claims are the reason why the United States of America is supposed to be exceptional.

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Point of View Columns

The Harder They Fall

Recent events in Ukraine have resulted in predictable, though bizarre, reaction in the United States. Suddenly people who couldn’t spell “Ukraine” if you spotted them a “k” and a “U” are clamoring for President Obama to take bold action. American politicians who couldn’t find Crimea on a map with the aid of Google maps now make the argument that American interests are at stake because of the invasion tactics employed by Russia.

The rest of the world must find the United States to be increasingly odd in its world view. Because it is the United States that has invaded Iraq and Afghanistan because it believed that its national interests called for such action. And, going back just a little further in time it was the United States that invaded Grenada and Panama for the same reasons of self-interest and continues to beleaguer the Republic of Cuba because its sociopolitical structure is not to the liking of a very loud and exceedingly vocal minority in this country.

Of course that is just relatively recent U.S. history. A further review of this country’s invasions and incursions include the occupation of Haiti and the annexation of Texas along with the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Iran at the behest of oil interests. The point is, the United States is the historical invading pot that should have difficulty calling any other invading kettle black.

The reality of the Planet Earth is that countries take actions to protect and preserve what they perceive as their national interests. Russia has taken actions in the Ukraine that certainly have a plausible connection to that country’s perceived national interests however inconvenient that particular truth might be. And, as noted, the United States is one of the last countries on earth that should criticize another country that utilizes military action to protect and preserve those national interests.

But, never letting reality getting in the way of an opportunity to attack President Barack Obama, the Teapublicans are now claiming that Russian President Vladimir Putin felt emboldened to invade Ukraine because of some undefined weakness that President Obama has shown. These same Teapublicans conveniently forget that President Putin also felt emboldened to invade Georgia when Republican President George W. Bush resided in the White House. Perhaps Mr. Putin doesn’t really care what the United States thinks when he acts on behalf of his country.

Nevertheless, we are being showered with by the Teapublican noise machine with the usual suspects, chicken hawk Senator Lindsay Graham, twice failed presidential candidate Senator John McCain and hasbeen wannabe celebrity Sarah Palin claiming that President Obama is not demonstrating “leadership”. Their thought process must embrace the notion that the only leadership that counts is leading a country into war even as President Obama has been leading this country away from war and perilous military actions.

Another failed presidential candidate, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, has contended that President Obama hasn’t shown “leadership” because he takes too long to think and consider various options and that he consults with his advisors to excess. He favorably compares Vladimir Putin as a “leader” because he makes up his mind quickly and acts.

One would think that after the disasters of Afghanistan and Iraq the one thing that the American people want, and the one thing that this country needs, is a leader who thinks about the consequences of acting before acting. If it were up to the Teapublican chicken hawks the United States would be mired in wars in Libya, Syria, Ukraine and North Korea right now. And if it were up to these same Teapublican chicken hawks more Americans would be killed and maimed, more of this country’s wealth would be squandered and the security of this planet would be all the worse for these actions.

History will show that by being a thoughtful and deliberative president, Barack Obama has been a good steward of the White House. Although it is doubtful that the Teapublicans who have already determined that All Things Obama Are Bad will ever come to that realization.

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