Point of View Columns

We Have Been Warned

Anyone who is surprised by the vitriol spewing from The Fountain of Hate That is Trump has not been paying attention to what has been going on in this country. Either that or the surprised individuals have been spending too much time in the smoke bars of Denver and are now totally delusional.

At some point during the past six months, too many people were willing to dismiss the Trump presidential candidacy as a passing diversion or, in the alternative, an entertaining intermission until the real campaign started. However, from the outset, with his attacks on Mexican immigrants, drug dealers, murderers and rapists disguised as mothers with children, Donald Trump made it very clear that he was prepared to wade into the American muck of racism and bigotry in a cesspool that has no bottom, and stay there.

Still, many Americans found his misogyny to be amusing in a frat boy kind of way or, at worst, mildly disturbing. His ad hominem attacks on his Teapublican rivals were seen to be either a sign of his strength, power and rhetorical virility or a mildly offensive use of personal invective.

But all along Trump was laying the groundwork for a way to separate himself from the pack and draw from the Teapublican base that always hated President Obama because he is black, from the right wing of the right wing that lived in fear of the demise of the white man’s America and the rise of a truly multicultural United States of America. Black Americans were not a useful target if only because black Americans are always a target for some. Latinos equal immigrants in the TepubSpeak, and in that regard Trump was not alone in his disdain – just listen to Ben Carson.

But the inexorable rise of ISIS gave Donald Trump the target that he, and only he, could use as a hate magnet. The Muslims of America are a small (3%) part of the population and an identifiable group that has enough tenuous links to the global reign of terror to satisfy the haters. And Trump has decided to become the drum major of hate.

In what seems like a twenty first century version of the Nazi playbook in the 1930’s Trump has vilified this American super minority and connected it to the fear and terror that ISIS, Al Qaeda and daily gun violence has created. And when people are afraid a common enemy is a unifying force. And Trump has decided that hatred and fear Muslims is the brick and mortar that will cement his position as the leading Teapublican presidential candidate.

Keep in mind that when Trump called for a “registry” of all American Muslims the general reaction was passing disdain even as his poll numbers rose. Now he is calling for the death of the families of ISIS operatives as well as the banning of all Muslims from the United States (a shout over the whisper of Jeb Bush calling for the inclusion of only Christian Syrians in this country’s refugee policy).

And now, it is not an exaggeration to compare his proposals to the hate policies of the Third Reich. The irony of Muslims now being the Jews of the 21st century American hate theater rerun of the 20th century German tragedy is painful and sad.

What is worse is that we always knew that Trump was a bigot and a pitiful purveyor of hate. What is even worse is that Trump is not going anywhere. And what is worse than that – Trump could become President of the United States.

And that is when fear will become the oxygen of the America atmosphere.

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Point of View Columns

Revisiting “A Day of Infamy”

As the funerals begin in Paris, and another round of bombings begins in the Middle East, as the blood is washed away from the streets of France and the blood begins to flow again in Syria, it may be useful to read this column, first published on March 19, 2015, although it could have been written yesterday:

March 19, 2003 – A Day of Infamy

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt termed it “A Day of Infamy”, as indeed it was. It also presaged the formal entrance of America into World War II and the eventual death of over 400,000 military personnel. Historians looking back on the 21st century may call March 19, 2003 “A Day of Infamy” as it was the day that the United States wrongfully invaded Iraq, presaging the deaths of millions and the destabilization of virtually the entire planet.

We know now that even before the dust of 9/11 settled, the Bush-Cheney administration was determined to invade Iraq. Even though there was no credible (or even plausible) evidence that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, it soon became a doctrine of American foreign and military policy that the regime of Saddam Hussein would be targeted and destroyed.

The straw man of Weapons of Mass Destruction has been debunked and degraded so that even the most gullible Teapublican zealots choose to avoid a serious discussion of this exercise in mendacity by the Bush-Cheney team. The right wing of the right wing in this country chooses to ignore the cascade of lies and the torrent of misinformation that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003.

The American people, and the world, were told that this military action would bring democracy to Iraq and set the framework for regional peace throughout the Middle East. The Bush-Cheney team even bribed and cajoled members of a faux alliance into supporting this adventure to put a multinational fig leaf on its naked aggression.
The entire world now knows the consequences of this misadventure. By precipitously collapsing the most powerful military force in the Middle East, America destabilized a region that has been a ticking bomb for decades. By dismantling the Iraqi military structure every religious and political faction with a grievance in that country had the opportunity to arm, mobilize and terrorize its perceived opponents, enemies and competitors for power and domination.

The reason why this retrospective is important is due to the fact that revisionist historians and delusional politicians are creating the narrative that the rise of ISIS and the death spiral in Syria and the homicidal outrages in Libya and Egypt and Yemen and Somalia and Afghanistan are somehow related to the “weakness” and “lack of leadership” of the Obama Administration. We are already witnessing what appears to be the Quadrennial Teapublican Clown Dance, where presidential aspirants from this political cohort find multiple combinations of the words “leadership”, “American exceptionalism”, “power”, “strength” and “democracy” to characterize their foreign policy vision.
One quickly notices that words like “restraint”, “intelligence”, “vision” and “consequences” don’t make the cut when Teapublican speechwriters are at work. Other missing words are “casualties”, “collateral damage” and “unexpected consequences”.

What we know with certainty is the misguided and deceit-drenched policies of the Bush-Cheney regime in Iraq resulted in thousands of American deaths and economic damage to this country in excess of a trillion dollars. What we know with certainty is that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died unnecessarily and that the infrastructure and national identity of Iraq have been compromised, if not forever, than at least for a generation. What we do know if that without the March 18, 2003 invasion the malevolence of Al-Qaeda does not become a force in that region and the apocalyptic ISIS is never born and is not threatening the planet as it does now.

It is important to understand that as the Teapublican Clown Dance begins that we do not listen to a replay of the music and lyrics that were first released in March of 2003. We literally cannot afford a repeat of the consequences of the Bush-Cheney misdeeds that were not “mistakes”. These misdeeds were the result of a malevolent and deceitful world view that should be denounced and renounced by anyone and everyone who presumes to run for the presidency of the United States.

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Point of View Columns

March 19, 2003 – A Day of Infamy

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt termed it “A Day of Infamy”, as indeed it was. It also presaged the formal entrance of America into World War II and the eventual death of over 400,000 military personnel. Historians looking back on the 21st century may call March 19, 2003 “A Day of Infamy” as it was the day that the United States wrongfully invaded Iraq, presaging the deaths of millions and the destabilization of virtually the entire planet.

We know now that even before the dust of 9/11 settled, the Bush-Cheney administration was determined to invade Iraq. Even though there was no credible (or even plausible) evidence that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, it soon became a doctrine of American foreign and military policy that the regime of Saddam Hussein would be targeted and destroyed.

The straw man of Weapons of Mass Destruction has been debunked and degraded so that even the most gullible Teapublican zealots choose to avoid a serious discussion of this exercise in mendacity by the Bush-Cheney team. The right wing of the right wing in this country simply chooses to ignore the cascade of lies and the torrent of misinformation that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003.

The American people, and the world, were told that this military action would bring democracy to Iraq and set the framework for regional peace throughout the Middle East. The Bush-Cheney team even bribed and cajoled members of a faux alliance into supporting this adventure to put a multinational fig leaf on its naked aggression.

The entire world now knows the consequences of this misadventure. By precipitously collapsing the most powerful military force in the Middle East, America destabilized a region that has been a ticking bomb for decades. By dismantling the Iraqi military structure every religious and political faction with a grievance in that country had the opportunity to arm, mobilize and terrorize its perceived opponents, enemies and competitors for power and domination.

The reason why this retrospective is important is due to the fact that revisionist historians and delusional politicians are creating the narrative that the rise of ISIS and the death spiral in Syria and the homicidal outrages in Libya and Egypt and Yemen and Somalia and Afghanistan are somehow related to the “weakness” and “lack of leadership” of the Obama Administration. We are already witnessing what appears to be the Quadrennial Teapublican Clown Dance, where presidential aspirants from this political cohort find multiple combinations of the words “leadership”, “American exceptionalism”, “power”, “strength” and “democracy” to characterize their foreign policy vision.

One quickly notices that words like “restraint”, “intelligence”, “vision” and “consequences” don’t make the cut when Teapublican speechwriters are at work. Other missing words are “casualties”, “collateral damage” and “unexpected consequences”.

What we know with certainty is the misguided and deceit-drenched policies of the Bush-Cheney regime in Iraq resulted in thousands of American deaths and economic damage to this country in excess of a trillion dollars. What we know with certainty is that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died unnecessarily and that the infrastructure and national identity of Iraq have been compromised, if not forever, than at least for a generation. What we do know if that without the March 19, 2003 invasion the malevolence of Al-Qaeda does not become a force in that region and the apocalyptic ISIS is never born and is not threatening the planet as it does now.

It is important to understand that as the Teapublican Clown Dance begins that we do not listen to a replay of the music and lyrics that were first released in March of 2003. We literally cannot afford a repeat of the consequences of the Bush-Cheney misdeeds that were not “mistakes”. These misdeeds were the result of a malevolent and deceitful world view that should be denounced and renounced by anyone who presumes to run for the presidency of the United States.

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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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