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.

Standard
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.

Standard
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.

Standard
Point of View Columns

None So Blind

The fact that John Boehner, John McCain and Lindsay Graham think that bombing Syria is a good thing should be all the warning that President Obama needs to know that his proposed military action is absolutely the wrong thing. Instead, in what seems like some improbable horror movie, President Obama continues to slip slide towards a bloody precipice that promises no reward but an outcome that will indelibly stain his legacy as president and while endangering Americans for years to come.

For anyone with an attention span greater than that of a goldfish, it is pretty simple to remember the young Senator Barack Obama voting against the entry of the United States into a war with Iraq. It was this principled – and intelligent – stance that served as one of the foundations of his successful candidacy for president. Indeed, it is not exaggerating to say that if Senator Obama had voted for the war in Iraq he never would have become President Obama.

We now watch the grotesque irony of President Obama going to Sweden (where he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize just four short years ago) to encourage Europeans to join the United States in a military attack on Syria. And just to twist the barb of irony a bit deeper, we should remember that Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize primarily because of he represented the promise of peace and a new direction in international relations.

We listen to the Obama Administration advocate this military disaster waiting to happen and have to wonder when did Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsay Graham and House Speaker John Boehner become foreign policy beacons for this country to follow.

John McCain was soundly rejected by the American people when he ran for president so why is his judgment and advice so meaningful to the Obama Administration?

Lindsay Graham will probably not be reelected in South Carolina, a state that hardly represents the mood of this country. And John Boehner is the leader of a Teapublican majority in Congress that represents less than half of the American people.

With his typical eloquence President Obama has presented the horrific images resulting from the chemical weapons attacks in Syria that were supposed to have been perpetrated by the Assad regime. This latest outrage is, we are told, the trigger for the United States to take military action – not to overthrow Assad – but presumably to punish him.

One has to wonder what was it about the other 80,000 plus deaths in Syria that did not warrant a military response? The use of chemical weapons is horrific but bullets and rocks leave their victims just as dead. And remember that over 250,000 people were killed in Rwanda over a thirty day period, most of the dead being victims of machetes.

The point, of course, if that this world is full of horrific incidents and violent outrages. As you are reading this column someone is probably being killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in South Sudan and who knows where else. Should the United States take on the role of roving Global Marshal punishing evildoers wherever they might be?

Taking the Obama Administration’s proposition to its logical extreme there will always be a reason for the United States to violently intercede in this bellicose world. This notion is already the leading purveyor of weapons in this world. Will the United States also be the leading violent actor on the world stage?

Americans should also be careful to note that the United States has spent more than two decades bombing and killing the people in Arab and Muslim and Middle Eastern nations. This has built up resentment and a thirst for revenge that will only be satisfied with the death and destruction of Americans. The fact that there are no American “boots on the ground” will mean little to the vengeful jihadists and nationalists who will perceive the proposed Syrian bombing campaign as one more example of The Great Satan at work.

The ultimate irony is that the Teapublicans, including Senator Rand Paul, seem to be the only opponents to this Syrian warfare who have found their voice. But one does not have to be an isolationist to realize that the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans do not have the protective power of ancient moats. One does not have to be a Teapublican to understand that when American interests are not directly threatened bombs and missiles are not viable options.

There has been so much that has been good about the Obama Administration. It is truly sad to see this president sucked into the groupthink that has misguided this country into Vietnam, Iraq (twice), Afghanistan and now Syria.

And once the missiles have been launched, once the bombs have been dropped, the consequences will flow inexorably to the shores of this country.

Standard
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.

Standard
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!

Standard
Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – May 10, 2013

Just when you thought that we had reached the limits of crazy, some libertarian group has put downloadable software online which can allow someone to “print” the components of a gun on a 3-D printer. What could go wrong with that? Meantime, doing a reprise of his Angry Old Man routine Senator John McCain is leading the charge of the armchair warriors – again. And finally, Washington NFL team owner Dan Snyder has officially retired the “Racist Troglodyte Lifetime Award” – with apologies to all troglodytes.

Just Click and Shoot

A rightwing libertarian group, Defense Distributed, has made software available online that will permit anyone to download it for free and manufacture the components to an apparently serviceable gun employing a $1000 3D printer.

You will note the use of the word “anyone” which presumably would include terrorists, Klan members, skinheads, insane asylum escapees, gang members and Teapublicans. You will also note that this is an illustration of the gun advocates rant about the right to bear arms taken to its most insane extreme.

There is nothing in the Constitution that prohibits reasonable restrictions on the so-called right to bear arms. There is certainly nothing in The Book of Common Sense that would support allowing anyone in this country to build their own untraceable, undetectable plastic firearms at home.

Yet here we are – in what appears to be the Land of the Crazy and the Home of the Stupid.

Attack of the Armchair Generals

If you have been living in a cave for the past decade you may have missed the fact that the United States has been fighting two unwinnable wars of choice – Iraq and Afghanistan – with a tremendous cost in blood and treasure. And emerging from that cave you might actually think that Senator John McCain might be making sense when he urges President Obama to take military action to bring a halt to the heinous crimes against the Syrian people that are being committed by the Syrian government.

If, however, you have not been in that hypothetical cave you know that the United States simply cannot afford to expend additional blood and treasure on a war that cannot be won – especially since no one can explain what “winning” would be. And not having been cave-bound for this past decade you might want to ask Senator McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham and all the other armchair generals exactly why the United States should plunge into another bottomless and bloody quagmire.

Every time the United States acts as the policeman for the planet Americans die for a cause that cannot stand the test of time.

Krazy Kaveman of the Year

Dan Snyder is wealthy – very wealthy. He is also the owner of the Washington NFL football team. He is not, however, very smart or sensitive.

The Washington football team has been known by the horrific racist epithet “Redskins” for over 80 years and finally, the members of the District of Columbia City Council seem ready to demand that the Washington team change its name. The fact that there is any argument or discussion regarding this issue is stunning indeed.

If there was a team called the New York Niggers or the Chicago Polacks or the California Kikes there would be hell to pay. That sports teams in this country have chosen the victims of genocide to be their mascots is grotesque and an abomination and the practice should never have begun, should have ended long ago and certainly should end right now.

Dan Snyder has stated that the name of the Washington football team will “never, ever” change. And that is why he gets the Racist Troglodyte Lifetime Award with apologies to any troglodytes who are still out there, dragging their knuckles through the mud along with Dan Snyder.

Have a great weekend!

Standard