Point of View Columns

War is No Game

In the military, efficiency is based upon training, practicing 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 Trump 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 active 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 is a wonder in an of itself. 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 a 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 and 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 that could turn apocalyptic in a literal nanosecond.

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 all over the world. 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 signs 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 may never know.

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

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Point of View Columns

The Teapublican Road to Perdition

Since January 20, 2009, the Teapublicans in Congress and throughout this country have pursued a constant and consistent strategy of endeavoring to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama. It is the stuff of legend, but it is undeniably true that on the evening of Inauguration Day Senator Mitch McConnell and Congressman John Boehner and other leading Republicans (that had yet to evolve into Teapublicans) met and decided on a strategy that could be summarized as “Just Say No to Obama”. And they have spent the better part of seven years doing just that – and only that.

It is nothing short of remarkable, indeed it is miraculous that the Obama Administration has been able to achieve anything, much less the historic accomplishments that will be remembered long after names like McConnell and Boehner are mere footnotes written in italics in the narrative of American history. Salvation of the automobile industry, a Stimulus Program that helped to rescue the American economy, record job growth, record corporate profits, institutional change in the financial services industry; historic appointments to the Supreme Court and this country’s first national healthcare system are part of the real “change” that Senator Obama promised during his first campaign for president.

The Republican/Teapublican response has been, channeling their inner Nancy Reagan, to just say “no”. And that nihilist response has gone so far as to justify shutting down the government of the United States and coming close to seriously damaging the international credit of this country by taking all of us to the brink of default.

And it should be clear that a great deal of the Teapublican opposition to Barack Obama is not based on some great philosophical divide. President Obama was twice elected President of the United States by margins that dwarf the victory margins of George W. Bush or John F. Kennedy. Obamacare is largely based upon a healthcare plan devised by a Republican think tank. The bailout of the financial industry began with legislation passed during the presidency of George W. Bush.

Nevertheless, there has been a concerted effort to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama. Whether it has been calling him a liar during his speech to Congress (that would be Congressman Joe Wilson, another living breathing footnote to a footnote) or refusing invitations to attend state dinners at the White House, many Teapublicans have refused to accept the reality of an Obama presidency. The question is why?

The answer is a matter of race.

Consider that opposition to the Obama Administration’s support of a nuclear energy limitation agreement with Iran was legitimate. But the unprecedented act of 47 United States Senators sending a letter to Iran’s Ayatollah cannot be explained by a simple matter of policy differences. Those 47 senators simply cannot bring themselves to truly accept the Obama presidency. The question is why?

The answer is a matter of race.

Although Barack Obama’s mother was born in Kansas and there has always been a Hawaiian birth certificate to further confirm his citizenship, the “birther” controversy has surrounding the 44th president has never died. Although Bernie Sanders father was born in Poland, Donald Trump’s mother was born in Scotland and the fathers of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were born in Cuba, no one has ever uttered a word about the birth certificates of these men. The question is why?

The answer is a matter of race.

And now, with the death of Antonin Scalia we hear the Teapublicans claim that President Obama should not be able to even nominate a replacement on the Supreme Court because……………it appears the rationale is that seven years of Barack Obama as president is enough. The call for “letting the people decide” on the choice of the next Supreme Court justice is a straw man, the people never have decided who should sit on the Court.

The people have always decided on who nominates Supreme Court justices, and right now that person is Barack Obama. Sixty five million American citizens elected Barack Obama to a four year term, not a three year term. Why would the Teapublicans seek to nullify sixty five million votes?

The answer is a matter of race.

The danger in the Teapublican strategy, in addition to the corrosive effect of racist behavior, is that in trying to delegitimize the Obama presidency they will delegitimize the presidency itself. Barack Obama’s legacy will be secured in history. The damage that the Teapublicans are doing to the institution of the presidency may turn out to be irreparable. It is very difficult to unbreak an egg.

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Point of View Columns

The Negro Problem and the Letter

Ever since Barack Obama was inaugurated as president, there has been a split screen perspective on his administration. On the one hand the livid, steel-boned opposition of the Teapublicans has been described as normal politics – perhaps a tad more strident, but nothing worse than what Lincoln or both Roosevelts or Clinton faced during their presidencies. But there is another perspective which is a reflex that reflects the vile virus of racism that still afflicts this country.

“There is no negro problem. The problem is whether the American people have loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough, to live up to their own constitution.” – Frederick Douglass

The eloquence of Frederick Douglass in damning slavery and its racist foundation reverberated in real time and has echoed through the ages to this very day. His challenge to the American people to “live up to their own constitution” could have been spoken this week.

One of the interesting aspects of the United States Constitution is that even though it was written over 200 years ago, it continues as the governance document for this country because of its initial clarity and its continued capacity for adapting to modern times. On the issue of the role of the President and Congress with respect to foreign policy, Article II of the Constitution states:

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur

This week that 47 members of the United States simply defied the Constitution that they are sworn to uphold by sending a letter to the leadership of Iran that was clearly intended to interfere and subvert the Obama Administration’s negotiations with Iran regarding limiting its nuclear energy usages. Even the most serious student of American history would be hard pressed to locate a similar instance of absolute insult and disrespect by Congress for any President of the United States.

It is reasonable to ask whether these 47 senators and their supporters are so firm in their fear of Iran or so steadfast in their unequivocal and unquestioning support of Israel that they felt it necessary to shatter the centuries old divide between the Presidency and Congress on matters of foreign policy. Was there some imminent danger to which the Obama Administration had turned a blind eye which warranted this shameless conduct?

The answer to all three questions is simply “no”. So why would these senators take such an outrageous action that embarrassed the entire nation in the eyes of the world. Could it be the “negro problem” to which Frederick Douglass referred?

Could it be that the fact that President Obama is black suddenly changes the Constitution, rules of decorum and traditions of probity and respect? How the unprecedented pledge of the Republican opposition in January 2009 to ensure that President Obama would “fail” as president be explained? What other reason can there be for no sanctions being imposed on South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson when he called President Obama a liar during his State of the Union speech to Congress?

Could there be any other explanation other than the “negro problem” for Congress shutting down the federal government and precipitating the lowering of the nation’s credit rating by doing the default death dance with the national budget. And for what other reason would Congress unilaterally invite a foreign head of state to speak for the sole purpose of criticizing the policies of a sitting president?

It would be a waste of time to search for other explanations. The “negro problem” has unhinged the Obama Administration’s opponents to the point that they cannot even feign respect. The “negro problem” has stripped the Teapublicans of their ability to respect the Constitution and it is proper to wonder if this “negro problem” has impaired their ability to think clearly, if at all.

When will the Teapublicans have “loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough, to live up to their own Constitution”?

Inquiring minds need to know.

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Point of View Columns

Deja Vu All Over Again

There is always a possibility that the same stars and planets that aligned for Barack Obama during his near mythical campaign and ascent to the presidency will realign once again as he considers a course of action in Syria. What is more likely is that President Obama and this country will learn  once again that if one does not learn from history one is doomed to repeat it.

The carnage and killing in Syria has turned a once repressive state into a charnel house. The body count climbs almost hourly and there is no lack of horrific scenes for the nightly news – every night. It is understandable and human for men and women of good will to want to “do something”.

But when “something” goes beyond humanitarian aid the gears of war begin to grind and the outcome can never be predicted. As you are reading these words President Obama is considering “limited military action”, and we already know that however “limited” the intent might be the Law of Unintended Consequences rules supreme in theaters of war and conflict.

And, as you are reading these words members of Congress seemed to have roused themselves from obstructionist stupor to demand that President Obama “do something” about the ongoing tragedy in Syria. And it is the source of no little irony that many of these same members of Congress have already gone on record as being willing to shut down the American government so as to deny a national healthcare system for Americans. And yet, these same members of Congress will certainly have no problem allocating what will amount to billions of dollars to finance yet another foreign killing exercise by the American government.

But the chicken hawks and fairweatherhawks and the occasional hawks all seem to think that the United States wields some kind of magic wand that freezes the rest of the planet while the American military displays its technological whiz bang wizardry while blowing up military installations and the occasional unintended civilian. They must think that allies and supporters of Syria like Russia, Hezbollah and Iran will simply stand by, frozen in amber, while the United States and its allies of convenience go about their business of “doing something”.

And what good is history if no one ever learns from it? The war in Vietnam, which resulted in over 50,000 American deaths and perhaps as many as a million Vietnamese dead, began with advisors in a “limited” military action.

The American people were promised that the invasion of Afghanistan was a “limited” military engagement and that was twelve years and thousands of American deaths ago.

The Bush-Cheney cabal, lying through its teeth, claimed the overthrown of Saddam Hussein and the destruction of non-existent weapons of mass destruction would be “quick” and would only take a few months, and that was ten years and thousands of American deaths ago.

The kettle of American pseudohawks that would have this country winging towards yet another war also seem to forget the consequences of any kind of military engagement – retribution. There are too many saber rattlers who seem to think that the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean protect American citizens from citizens of other countries where American bombs and bullets have done their work. They might want to ask the citizens of New York City and Washington who survived the 9/11 attacks about the illusion of American invulnerability.

Nevertheless, seemingly rational men and women are discussing military options in Syria as if the Syrians have no way of counterattacking. Whether it is recent Syrian cyber-attacks (newsflash: Syrians know how to use computers and the internet) or disgruntled jihadists from wherever who are tired of Americans attacking Arab and Muslim countries – every American bullet, missile or bomb fired in Syria has the potential of wreaking untold havoc in the United States.

It is hoped that President Obama will not fall into the trap that his enemies have set for him. Having attacked his legitimacy, his citizenship and his loyalty to the United States, these same enemies are now baiting him into taking military action that can only have disastrous consequences for Americans, as well as Syrians. That liberals and progressives who do not want to be seen as “weak” are joining in the unholy chorus only makes it worse.

After all the analysis and debate the conclusion has to be that American military action in Syria is a mistake. It is that simple.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – August 23, 2013

During the past week we saw the CIA admit that it participated in the overthrow of the democratically elected president of Iran in —- 1953(!!!!). Meanwhile “Lee Daniels’ ‘The Butler’” is setting box office records which is fine as long as no one thinks that they are getting the full story of black people in the White House. And finally, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington is being celebrated on August 24th, what a difference a half century can make.

It’s About Time

The CIA recently announced something that it has denied for years. It turns out that in 1953 the United States did participate in the overthrow of the democratically elected government and its Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh and replaced him with the Shah. This subversion of democratic principles was done at the instance of U.S. and British oil companies who thought that the elected president might have socialist leanings and nationalize the oil industry.

The Shah turned out to be a repressive and brutal dictator who was also completely subservient to American dictates. The overthrow of Prime Minister Mosaddegh is one of those things that Iranians resent even though it took place sixty years ago.

That may seem like a long time to hold a grudge until you ask some of our friends in Mississippi and Alabama how they feel about the Civil War that ended almost 150 years ago.

Did the Butler Really Do it?

From the reviews that are out it appears that “Lee Daniels’ ‘The Butler’” is the fictionalized story of the life of a real African American butler who worked for eight presidents in the White House. In the movie, the black butler becomes more than a servant; he becomes an offline advisor providing useful insights and suggestions sotto voce.

While some may be growing tired of the seemingly endless stream of Hollywood movies that depict black people serving white people – see “Driving Miss Daisy”, “The Help”, etc., it might be useful to point out that there is a movie about black people in the White House that has yet to be made.

For example – E. Frederic Morrow was the first black advisor the President of the United States. He actually did advise President Eisenhower in the aftermath of the Brown v. Board of Education case and he played a pivotal role in the decision making process that sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas.

So it may be that there is no need to fictionalize the importance of black people in the White House. The story is already there, waiting to be told.

Another March on Washington

The fiftieth anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington will be commemorated on August 24th. Hundreds of thousands of people are certain to gather and remember an important moment in American history.

The thing is…..in 1963 we were marching for some very important things like basic civil rights, voting rights. The goals of the 2013 March on Washington are more difficult to articulate after righteous memorial.

Something to think about.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

 

 

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – July 5, 2013

There have been plenty of Teapublicans assuming their natural naysaying negative posture who have been claiming that sequestration hasn’t been “that bad”. Of course if they left their right wing fantasy world for a few moments a dose of reality would lead them to a very different conclusion. Meanwhile the implosion of the presidency in Egypt and the continued carnage in Syria has heightened calls for President Obama to “do something”. Fortunately President Obama knows the cost of “something”. And finally, within days of the Supreme Court’s damnable Voting Rights Act decision there was great haste to drive an electoral wedge into this country’s racial divide.

Sequestration Secret?

The July 5, 2013 editorial of the New York Daily News mocks President Obama’s earlier claims that sequestration would have a calamitous effect on the American people. It seems that since this country has not ground to a halt there is proof in the wisdom of sequestration.

The only problem with the News editorial board and its fellow travelers is that they are not telling the truth. In point of fact the entire federal government has been shifting monies to keep various programs functional. But national parks are closing or operating on reduced hours. Children are already being denied spaces in Head Start programs that will begin in September. And we should never forget the shameful delays in treatment and services that are being suffered by veterans every day.

The spectacular air traffic delays occasioned by sequestration were addressed by Congress because members of Congress felt the pain. But the News editors and members of Congress don’t feel the pain of federal furloughs and the consequent impact on small businesses in the communities where the furloughed workers live.

It seems like some people are living in a dream land that is a nightmare for everyone else.

Middle East Mystery?

The implosion Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi’s government has led to predictable questions about the future of Egypt and its impact on a Middle East region that is already in turmoil. Civilian slaughter continues in Syria, Iraq wobbles on the brink of chaos and Iran and Israel continue their Texas Death Match choreography.

Some observers of this ball of confusion are calling for President Obama to “do something”. Thankfully, up to this point President Obama has been very restrained in crafting this country’s response perhaps keeping in mind that when the United States has done “something” in the Middle East the results have not been salutary.

The United States did “something” in Iran in 1953 overthrowing a democratically elected president and that “something” has engendered ill will in that country and throughout the region for over half a century. This country did “something” in Iraq in 2003 and pushed that country in a maelstrom of blood and destruction while sacrificing the blood and treasure of this country needlessly.

And it should be noted that if this country does “something” else in the Middle East there is a good chance that the consequences will be felt not only in that region but here in the United States as well.

SCOTUS Fallout

The ink was barely dry on damnationworthy the Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act before scores of state and county governments issued various  proposals that would have the effect of suppressing voter participation, especially among minorities. This could not have been a surprise to anyone with a pulse.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had already termed the VRA an instrument of “racial entitlement”. And while the SCOTUS majority contended that there was no longer a need for the protections afforded by the VRA they made this contention with the full knowledge of the voter suppression tactics employed in the 2012 presidential election.

The shame of the SCOTUS VRA decision is extravagant in that it not only condones racist practices, it actually encourages them.

And the worst is yet to come.

Have a great weekend and stay strong!

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Point of View Columns

Word Power

If nothing else, the right wing of the right wing of the Team Teapublican is consistent. It has sought to obstruct, delay and dismember every initiative of the Obama Administration, from the appointment of judges and ambassadors to holding this country hostage to their warped budgetary vision, the Teapublican terrorists never miss an opportunity to travel the path of negative disruption, no matter what the cost to the people of this country. And now, like a spoiled child with yet another new toy, the Teapublicans have discovered the word “scandal”.

For the past few weeks the hoots and catcalls directed at the Obama Administration from the right wing of the right wing have reached an impossibly higher and more hysterical pitch. Such masterminds like Sessions, Rubio, Issa and McConnell clearly come from the school of communication which teaches that the louder that pseudo facts are shouted the more believable they are. In other words, volume equals credibility.

By seizing upon the word “scandal”, the Teapublicans clearly believe that they can bluff the American people into a lemming-like charge over the cliff of reality. The fact that the result of their endgame would be a government that would be even more dysfunctional doesn’t seem to be a concern.

To most Americans, the word “scandal” dredges up images of the Watergate era when President Nixon engaged in a series of disreputable and probably criminal activities including an attempt to use the entire Justice Department apparatus to cover up wrongful acts. Another Republican “scandal” was the Reagan Administration’s cobbling together an arms sleight of hand device that routed arms through Iran to Contras in Nicaragua even though such a scheme was specifically prohibited by Congress.

Richard Nixon was eventually impeached and resigned in disgrace. Even though Ronald Reagan maintained his ignorance of the entire Iran-Contra scheme, even his most ardent supporters will acknowledge this seamy and sleazy move as the low point of his administration.

These presidential “scandals” were seen in the light of day as outright efforts by the White House to ignore the law and to avoid its consequences. These “scandals” most certainly jeopardized the credibility of government and provided a moveable feast for conspiracy theorists across the country.

Now the Teapublicans want to apply the “scandal” tag to the Benghazi episode of last fall. It should be noted that there was an attack on the American consulate in that Libyan city and that communications were understandably unclear and confused as buildings burned and Americans died.

With hindsight being 20/20 it is still not a certainty as to what the proper outcome would have been in conveying information about a terrorist attack that was taking place in real time while the CIA and other government agencies sought to steer attention away from the activities in which they were engaged. But this tragic event is a “scandal” only in the Never Never Land inhabited by the Teapublicans.

The Teapublicans have also seized upon the extra scrutiny by the IRS when it came to tax exempt applications by avid and sometimes rabid Teapublican groups. When deep breaths are taken by all involved, the facts are that the right wing of the right wing has regularly abused 501©(4) tax exemptions in order to pursue blatantly political agendas, agendas specifically prohibited by the IRS rules and regulations.

Once those facts are taken into account it makes all the sense in the world to make sure that the applications by so-called “social welfare” organizations are not stalking horses for multimillion dollar political action regiments secretly funded by the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson and other members of the Billionaires Boys Club who have sworn eternal enmity towards President Obama. In this case the Teapublicans sound like the habitual bank robbers who complain that security guards are watching them too closely every time they walk into a bank.

The right wing of the right wing is doing its damnedest to throw more sand into the gears of government and employ paralysis and well as sequestration strangulation of the government. And we have to wonder, why is the progressive wing of the Congress so silent as these transparently obstructionists tactics are pursued.

It is time for the lambs to stop being so silent.

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