Point of View Columns

Preview of a Nightmare

Donald Trump provided the American people with a preview of what “make America great” really means when he announced his short list for his first Supreme Court nominee. There were seventeen judges – all were white, 3 were female. There was not an Asian, Latino or African American candidate to be found. Clearly, “making America great” to Donald Trump means making America (more) white. And now, he has provided us another preview of the nightmare that would be the Trump presidency by revealing a couple of potential Vice Presidents – Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich.

The Constitution of the United States is quite clear on the point – the Vice President succeeds the President if the President is unable to serve. Yet, over the past half century, Republicans have shown a combination of ignorance or disregard for the importance of the office of the Vice President given their choices for the person who would be a “heartbeat away from the presidency”. Consider some of the choices that have been made and imagine the unimaginable – if one of these Republican Vice Presidential candidates had become President of the United States:
• Spiro Agnew – Former governor of Maryland – Indicted and convicted of bribery while serving as governor.
• Dan Quayle – United States Senator from Indiana famous for his malapropisms and his incredible inability to even spell the word “potato” correctly
• Dick Cheney – A neocon hawk who famously dodged the draft five times. Became very wealthy as the CEO of Halliburton, a charter member of the military industrial complex.
• Sarah Palin – Former governor of Alaska whose foreign policy credentials included her claim that she could see Russia from her kitchen window. Perhaps the most unqualified person ever nominated for vice president in the modern era.

While Donald Trump is not known as a traditionalist, he is hewing to the G.O.P. tradition of dangerous and/or preposterous vice presidential nominees by seemingly giving serious consideration to Newt Gingrich and Chris Christie. Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House. And Newt Gingrich left that office in disgrace, cast out by members of his own party. Since that career debacle, he has managed to earn a living by offering his opinions, supported by a gossamer foundation of facts and truth, and getting paid for it.

Newt Gingrich proclaimed his adoration of “Anglo-Saxon values” during the Trump inspired “birther” disgrace that targeted President Obama. A true dog whistler, his personal skeleton closet is virtually overflowing and his Vice Presidential candidacy would be an early Christmas gift to Gawker, TMZ, the National Enquirer and every other gossip monger. The vision of a Gingrich presidency could actually be more nightmarish than a Trump presidency.

Trump’s possible choice of Chris Christie would be the consummate narcissistic act on his part. Chris Christie was Trump in politics before Trump got into politics. Christie has been a vulgar bully who seemingly abhors any facts that do not crown him with glory.

Some of those facts include the collapse of Atlantic City while he has been governor (another point of commonality with Trump’s failures in that benighted city, cursed by the presence of both Trump and Christie), his horrific battles with the teachers of the Garden State and his as yet to be resolved involvement in the closing down of the George Washington Bridge seemingly for political revenge. That last item, by the way, has already cost New Jersey taxpayers over $10 million in legal fees, all to protect Chris Christie’s enormous posterior.

Perhaps Donald Trump sees himself when he looks at Chris Christie. Perhaps he believes that Newt Gingrich would actually “make America great again” in the Anglo Saxon tradition that countenanced slavery and genocide.

Or, perhaps Donald Trump is so convinced of his immortality he doesn’t really need a Vice President – he just needs someone to reflect his self-proclaimed glory.

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Point of View Columns

War without End – Amen

As the horror and misery of the attacks in Paris settle into the collective consciousness, certain realities have become clear. First, there is no place on this planet where safety can be assured. Second, the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are new epicenters of terror and global violence; although we forget at our own peril the cauldrons of mayhem in Nigeria, Mexico and the Congo. Third, the destabilization of the planet on which we live is clearly the work of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rice-Wolfowitz cabal.

Revisionist history is both deceptive and revealing of the motives of the deceivers. The neocon retrospective on the first decade of this century would tell us that after the 9/11 Al Qaeda terror attack the United States had no choice but to invade and occupy Afghanistan, albeit without an exit strategy, and even though Afghanistan has righteously earned its name as “The Graveyard of Empires”.

This revisionist narrative goes on to proclaim the lie that the invasion of Iraq was justified by  “weapons of mass destruction” that were known to be non-existent. Again, we were witness to an invasion reminiscent of Afghanistan, lacking the essential structure of an exit strategy. Only this time, the invasion of Iraq combined with the collapse of the regime of Saddam Hussein and the ongoing American-induced chaos in Afghanistan resulted in the destabilization of an entire region – from Western Asia to the Middle East.

Americans are historically used to meddling and interfering and intervening in the affairs of other countries without consequence. Indeed, America’s European cousins established the model for meddling, interfering and intervening during the five hundred year colonial era, dating from the 1500’s into this century. But now, in this era of globalization, there is a difference.

The big difference, the game changer, if you will, is that now the subjects and victims of meddling, interfering and intervening can indeed create consequences for the American and European fortresses that are no longer fortresses. We live in a globalized and interconnected world where the consequence in one part of the world becomes a part of our lives in the instant of a key stroke or a car bomb.

But it is important to view history through the lens of truth and accuracy so that it is understood that the Bush-Cheney-Rice-Wolfowitz cabal perpetrated a neocon strategy that obliterated the flimsy stabilizers in the Middle East and Western Asia. They seem to have seriously believed that somehow the invasion and toppling of regimes in that part of the world would open the door for the apostles of western democracy and the predatory avatars of One World capitalism. And somehow this epiphany would come to pass under the barrel of a gun accompanied by a rainstorm of barrel bombs and Tomahawk missiles.

The sad, lost souls rising from the rubble of 9/11 and Paris and London and Madrid and Mumbai and Tripoli and Syria are the real consequence of the failed neocon vision of a New World Order. To be clear, without the mindless invasion of Afghanistan and the dark fantasy of the Iraq invasion, we do not have a destabilized Middle East and Western Europe. ISIS would not be lurking around every corner and it is likely that the victims in Paris and London and Madrid and Mumbai and Tripoli and Syria would not be victims at all.

And now, while George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz live in luxurious comfort, the world that they have destabilized careens down a path shrouded in a war without end. There is no consequence for them in this life, but there is a real consequence for the rest of us who live on this planet.

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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

On the Eve of Infamy

With a twist of irony that could come straight from a Robert Ludlum novel, the President of the United States will address the nation on the eve of the twelfth anniversary of 9/11, proposing that this country once more engage in military action even though there is no direct threat to the security of the United States. That Senator Barack Obama was elected because of his commitment to non-military solutions makes the irony even more tragic.

The reasons why “limited military action” in Syria has been proposed by the Obama Administration have been echoed literally around the world. But upon reflection and consideration they still sound like rehashed versions of stories that have been cobbled together to send this country down the path to war and bloodshed and death and destruction in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. And each time the American people are promised that it will be different this time.

The “difference” this time is that the military action will be “limited” and there will be no American “boots on the ground”. But with American bombers and planes flying over Syria and bombing that country is it impossible to imagine American planes being shot down (or just crashing by accident) and surviving American crews being paraded on Syrian television or simply executed? And then how “limited” will the military action be?

Does it require a leap of imagination to envision American naval vessels being attacked by Syrian missiles – or just a motor boat as in the case of the U.S.S. Cole? And then how “limited” will the military action be?

There are hundreds of American embassies and consulates (remember Benghazi) around the world. There are hundreds of thousands of American corporate offices and facilities around the world. There are millions of Americans living and visiting outside of this country at any given moment. With the proposed attack on Syria they all become more inviting targets than they already are. If any of these targets are attacked then how “limited” will the military action be?

And on the eve of yet another anniversary of another day that will live in infamy in this country, is it hysterical overreaction to imagine that the bombing of Syria could inspire a Muslim jihadist or Syrian nationalist to engage in a counterattack that could mimic or surpass 9/11 in horror and death and destruction? And then how “limited” will the military action be?

For President Obama to advocate a unilateral military action by this country with no direct security threat to this country is sadly stunning and horrifically mind boggling. It is almost as if President Obama is channeling his inner Ronald Reagan or his Dick Cheney alter ego.

Taking failed foreign policy advice from the likes of John McCain and Lindsay Graham and John Boehner is not what President Obama was elected to do. Making this country a more dangerous place in which to live is certainly not what any president is elected to do. And yet the Obama Administration continues to pound the bloodstained drums of war.

The horrors of the chemical attacks in Syria are sickening and saddening. But the horrors committed by humanity do not justify the United States being the self-appointed Policeman of the Planet. This is especially true when evil doers know where this Policeman of the Planet resides.

The United Nations, the European Union and the Arab League have not organized military action against the Assad regime in Syria. These facts alone make it clear that this is not a battle that the United States should take on unilaterally. What ever happened to multilateral action and strategic alliances?

We are now left with the hope that the United States Congress will listen to the overwhelming opposition to this unnecessary act of war and reject President Obama’s proposed attack on Syria. We will then have to hope that President Obama will then heed the will of Congress or else he will risk the twin consequences of entangling this country into another bloody morass and possible impeachment proceedings from Teapublicans who would love nothing more than to cripple the remainder of his presidency.

The only good thing about this entire crisis is that President Obama, by seeking Congressional approval for this misguided bit of strategy, is resetting the precedent whereby future presidents will not be so quick to unilaterally engage this country militarily without the support of Congress. That is thin gruel in light of the towering dangers that the Obama Administration is courting.

Let us hope that it is not too late for President Obama to change his course.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – February 10, 2012

And now it is time for the Rick Santorum Show. However, is America really ready for the absolute moral code of Santorum’s Brave New World? Meanwhile that sound you hear is the beating of war drums warning of an overhyped and false danger. The only difference between now and ten years ago is one letter of the alphabet – now its Iran instead of Iraq. And sadly, when Ramarley Graham was killed in an encounter with the New York police, too many people only saw tragedy in that he was killed by the police.

Santorum and the Flying Pigs

At the beginning of this year the prospect of Rick Santorum becoming a leading Teapublican presidential candidate ranked right up there with the possibility of pigs flying. And now Rick Santorum soars through the air accompanied by his own personal flying pork escort.

Mr. Santorum seems to be the prime beneficiary of the conjoined ABM (Anybody But Mitt) and ABO (Anybody But Obama) movements. There is no other way to explain the meteoric rise of a failed United States Senator who was cast out of office by the highest percentage of any losing incumbent senator in modern history.

His message of fiscal austerity may be appealing to the right wing of the right wing. That is right up until the time when they find out that annual trillion dollar reductions in the federal budget will result in the loss or diminution of services that are a part of American life – the arts, the senior citizens, the children, the parks and the food supply will bear the brunt of the first tsunami of suffering.

Santorum’s morality message comes straight out of the Inquisition. He seriously tells women who have been raped that a resulting pregnancy should not be terminated and that a child that is the product of that rape is “a gift from God”. Presumably on the Planet Santorum the rape was the gift wrapping.

Santorum goes on to pledge to lead the charge to outlaw all forms of contraception. Don’t laugh at the idea of possession of a condom being a federal crime. Santorum and his supporters are serious.

As we watch Rick Santorum and his flying pig escort fly overhead we should all hustle to get an industrial strength umbrella. That won’t be rain that is falling.

Not Another War!

Historical reports indicate that immediately after the 9/11 attacks Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld started to campaign for a war against Iraq. When Secretary of State Colin Powell correctly pointed out that no ties between Iraq and the 9/11 debacle had been established he was summarily ignored. A year and a half later the United States entered the bloody morass that became the Iraq war over the next decade with close to 5000 dead American soldiers, over 200,000 dead Iraqi citizens and over a trillion dollars of war of unfunded war expenses.

Now, in a macabre version of “Groundhog Day” we are seeing the same scenario roll out again. Instead of fake reports of yellow cake uranium we are learning about Iran’s nuclear capability that has the “potential” to be weaponized. We are told that there are hidden plants, laboratories and factories that are creating a clear and present danger to the United States.

As diplomatic and financial pressure has been brought to bear, American chicken hawks (the ones that never fight but are always eager to send American troops into one military misadventure after another) are fluffing up their feathers to urge this country into yet another disaster. The prospect of a war against Iran is now “on the table” and almost daily we are hearing the same rhetoric that was used in the run up to the Iraq War.

If we do not learn from history we are doomed to repeat it.

Degrees of Death?

A little more than two weeks ago Ramarley Graham, a nineteen year old African American man from the Bronx was killed in an encounter with the police. The circumstances of his death are still under investigation but it is clear that he fled from the police, was chased into his house and was shot and killed during the ensuing struggle.

Understandably members of his family and is community, saddened by this most personal of tragedies, have expressed their grief and outrage at their loss. What is not so easy to understand is the hundreds of politicians, community leaders and residents who have been willing to march in the streets, demonstrate and demand “justice” for Mr. Graham.

It is not so easy to understand because this weekend more young black men will be killed by young black men than by all of the police in the United States. This weekend scores of young black men will be murdered, maimed and paralyzed and the Ku Klux Klan, Posse Comitatus and the Tea Party will have had nothing to do with it. The perpetrators will almost certainly be scores of young black men. It is not so easy to understand because the Ramarley Graham demonstrators stand silent in the face of the deluge of so-called “black on black” crime with the exception of a fleeting candlelight vigil.

A wrongful killing by the police is unacceptable and should be protested. A wrongful killing by a young black man is also hateful and wrong and should be protested. A death is a death.

Have a great weekend!

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Point of View Columns

The Answer is No

At the end of last week President Obama announced that all American military personnel will leave Iraq by the end of this year. This news was greeted with expressions of relief and thanksgiving by most Americans, particularly members of the military and their families.

The war in Iraq has lasted nine years and was started under false pretenses (remember the nonexistent “weapons of mass destruction?) and blanketed with a web of lies (remember the fake relationship between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 terrorists?). This godforsaken and misbegotten military adventure by George Bush, Dick Cheney and their neo-con enablers consumed close to a trillion dollars, over 4000 American lives and damaged/wounded/injured over 30,000 men and women. Untold hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives and their country will be recovering from the catastrophe of the war for decades.

In the “Weekend Edition” of Point of View I predicted that Republicans would immediately criticize and attack President Obama’s decision on finally ending the war on Iraq. The fact that he is following through on an exit plan that was put in place by George Bush is beside the point. The G.O.Tea Party is against anything done by anyone named Obama. Period.

This tactic of political nihilism has been consistent and degrades any sense of true discourse or exchange of rational ideas in this country. When Osama bin Laden was killed on the direct orders of President Obama, the eternally discredited Dick Cheney and the perpetually mistaken Condoleezza Rice proclaimed this executive action to be the direct result of the policies of the Bush Administration even though President Bush failed to pull the trigger when bin Laden could have been killed in Afghanistan in late 2001 and essentially gave up on capturing him for the balance of his administration.

The truly historic Arab Spring which has continued through the summer and fall neither was nor orchestrated by President Obama but his responses have turned out to be pitch perfect. Most analysts give the reason for the seismic changes in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt and Syria as being the result of indigenous movement and it was clearly important for the United States to be supportive but not to the extent that the Arab Spring ended up with a “Made In USA” label. The Obama Administration has been able to manage that balancing act to date.

Predictably, such noted foreign policy experts as Mitt Romney, John McCain and Michele Bachmann had been demanding direct U.S. intervention since early this year. It is now clear that such a policy would have been a blood-soaked mistake that could have made the Iraq misadventure look like a weekend excursion. Yet the G.O.Tea Party shamelessly peddles its message of ‘No” as if a negative is an answer to the problems of this country.

It is clear that the basic plank in the G.O.Tea Party political platform will be to remove Barack Obama as President of the United States. There are no unifying principles, there are no enlightening visions and certainly there is no decipherable philosophy. Their strategy is “drill, baby drill”. Drill into the American public and exploit the reservoirs of irrational hate and mindless distrust that have characterized too much of the opposition to President Obama.

It is that strategy which empowers the criticism of the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq even when it is accomplished pursuant to the timetable and plan of George Bush. It makes it possible for the Republicans to ignore the relief experienced by the millions of men and women who have served in the military and their families – men and women who have been asked to die and suffer grievously fighting a war that never needed to be fought.

It is also the strategy of “No” and eternal negativity which permits a “serious” candidate like Rodeo Rick Perry to state this week that there has been no definitive resolution regarding the birthplace of President Obama. As a presidential candidate Governor Perry is free to criticize the policies and actions of the Obama Administration, although it would be helpful if he would share an original and intelligent thought or two with the public.

For Rodeo Rick Perry to drill down to the well of (very) thinly-disguised racism in questioning whether Barack Obama is a “real American” is despicable and symbolizes everything that is wrong about the campaign(s) against the president. It degrades the entire political process and makes it almost impossible for any rational exchange to take place regarding the serious issues of the day.

Clearly the G.O.Tea Party is against anything done by anyone named Obama. The fact that it may be something desired by Americans or good for this country is irrelevant on the Planet Tea Party. When it comes to Barack Obama the answer is “No”.

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Point of View Columns

The Death of Osama bin Laden

We can be sure that when he woke up this past Sunday, Osama bin Laden probably did not know that he had less than 24 hours to live. Of course, only the denizens of death row know the appointed time of their departure, but he had to know that he had been living on borrowed time ever since 9/11.

When President Obama announced that U.S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden on Sunday evening, the news was met with spontaneous demonstrations of joy and rejoicing throughout the country. The villain who had successfully plotted the deaths of thousands of Americans had received justice and everyone likes it when the good guys win every once in awhile.

I am hopeful that the death of Bin Laden and the manner in which he was killed will also occasion some thought and reflection after the celebration. We have to remember that during the ten years after the 9/11 debacle in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington billions of dollars and thousands and lives have been wasted on missteps and misinformation.

American troops went into Afghanistan with no clear mission other than to avenge 9/11 and in the process Bin Laden and many of his cohorts slithered away. And a decade later over 100,000 American troops are mired in the muck of a war in Afghanistan trying to do subdue or pacify a country and a people that have defied the best efforts of Alexander the Great, the Scythians, the British Empire and the Soviet Union.

During the past decade billions of dollars and thousands of lives were lost in Iraq pursuing the Great Lie of weapons of mass destruction foisted upon America and the world by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Colin Powell. In the process of losing blood and treasure and capturing Saddam Hussein, a despot who seemed to prefer pornography to plots against the United States, Osama bin Laden continued to inspire plots against this country and its people.

With the death of Bin Laden it is time to revisit the policies that gave him a decade of borrowed time while wasting American lives and treasure. These policies assumed that traditional war strategies would work against an enemy that has no country, no standing army and no permanent base or location.

Bin Laden is not dead because of the 150,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. He is dead because a strike team of less than 30 operatives killed him in Pakistan in less than forty minutes. There is a lesson to be learned from this.

Trying to attack Al Qaeda and its affiliates with huge commitments of troops and weapons is akin to trying to kill a mosquito with a shotgun. It is possible that the mosquito will eventually get hit but that strategy is guaranteed to cause untold collateral damage.

More focused and more surgical missions – missions with a purpose – make sense. More troops stationed in morass after morass does not make sense. And the death of Osama bin Laden gives President Obama an opportunity to flip the script.

President Obama can take this occasion to order a complete review and revision of U.S. military policy with the goal of withdrawing almost all military personnel from Afghanistan and Iraq. Remaining military operatives would be engaged in covert and discrete missions that have the clear purpose of capturing or killing individuals who are responsible for planning or committing acts of terrorism aimed at the United States.

The death of Bin Laden offers the perfect opportunity to quit the morass and walk on the solid ground of common sense. And the reward for returning to a sustainable reality will be saved lives, a healing economy and the first steps towards some sense of real national security.

Finally, it is interesting to note that on April 29th, at the time that the White House was releasing President Obama’s birth certificate to quell the braying of Lilliputians like Trump and Palin, President Obama was giving the final order to kill Osama bin Laden. Clearly he can walk and chew gum at the same time.

The events of the past few days offer a pure and clear contrast. There is President Obama focused on critical global and domestic issues, from the killing of Osama bin Laden to ordering federal aid to tornado victims in Alabama. And then there is Doubting Donald, the hustling huckster, working himself into frenzy over birth certificates and college transcripts, as if anything he might say was of any value or import.

The death of Osama bin Laden accomplished a lot.

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