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.

Standard
Point of View Columns

Lies, Lies, All Lies!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standard
Point of View Columns

Amber Light Warning

In the earliest stages of any drivers 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 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 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. 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 myth 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 are not based on truth and that do nothing to help us make informed and intelligent decisions in the volatile atmosphere in the fall of 2014.

Standard
Point of View Columns

The Disaster That Won’t Go Away

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 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 explain.

Now, as Iraq seems 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 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. 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 for 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.

Standard
Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – June 28, 2014

Seeming to respond to the Teapublican chicken hawks beating the drums of war, President Obama has announced that he will send $500 million of military aid to Syrian rebels. What could go wrong? Meanwhile, in Mississippi we had the opportunity to watch Teapublicans flip the script with Senator Thad Cochran trying to get black people to vote. And finally, House Speaker John Boehner has announced that he plans to sue President Obama for not upholding the laws of this country. Is this a flimsy and transparent prelude to impeachment?

The Bloody and Slippery Slope

President Obama now wants to inject a half billion dollars of weapons and military assistance into the churning and bloody swamp of sectarian violence known as Syria. He has stated that this aid will go to “moderate” rebels, whatever that is supposed to mean.

This is a movie that we have seen before. Then it was called assistance to the “freedom loving people” of Afghanistan who turned out to be the Taliban, al Qaeda and………..Osama bin Laden.

There are several outcomes and none of them good. The “moderate” rebels may turn out to be not so “moderate” and use their gift of weapons against Americans and American interests the next time some yahoo minister in America burns a Koran.

The “moderate” rebels may turn out to be stand-ins for al Qaeda and ISIS and the gift of arms will go directly to sworn enemies of the United States.

Or, the “moderate” rebels may turn out to be not such great fighters and will simply surrender their weapons or lose them in battle – weapons that will then be used against the United States.

Or, the targets of the “moderate” rebels will decide to attack the United States soldiers, personnel and interests wherever they can find them.

This move by the President seems to be a sign that the pressure from the Teapublican chicken hawks is finally getting to him, and that he feels it is necessary to “do something” in Syria. But this is wrong in conception, wrong in execution and fraught with fatal circumstances for this country. Senator Obama was elected to do better than this. President Obama was re-elected to do better than this.

Nothing good can possibly come from this move.

Mississippi Scam

Mississippi has always been the place where the dreams of black people go to die. During the horror of American racial slavery, Mississippi and Louisiana were the worst places for black people.

Since Emancipation, black people have been routinely and institutionally terrorized. The history of black people seeking to vote is written with the blood of martyrs.

This past week, the irony of Teapublican Senator Thad Cochran seeking the vote of black Mississippi citizens in order to eke out a primary win was ghastly and instructive. It is ghastly because Senator Cochran is a blatant hypocrite in seeking the vote of the black people of Mississippi. His record indicates absolutely nothing that the black people in Mississippi should support – except that he was slightly less racist than his opponent who accepted campaign donations from the Ku Klux Klan.

The instructive aspect of this horror show is that the black people of Mississippi have more power than they have exercised. With 37% of the registered voters in that misbegotten state being black, there is tremendous potential for change, reformation and progress.

Perhaps Thad Cochran’s chicanery can serve as a wakeup call for the black people of Mississippi.

Sneak Preview

House Speaker John Boehner has determined in his wisdom that he should further waste taxpayer dollars by suing President Obama for not faithfully carrying out the laws of the United States. His real, and thinly veiled, cause of action is that President Obama is not doing what Speaker Boehner and the Teapublicans want him to do.

Even though Barack Obama has won two national elections by significant margins, the Teapublicans will stop at nothing in their efforts to delegitimize this lawfully elected President of the United States.

Is this the prelude to an impeachment strategy in 2015? What do you think?

Stay strong and be great!

Standard
Point of View Columns

Playing with Fire (Part II)

It appears that, for the moment, the Obama Administration has avoided the potential twin disasters of involving this country in yet another war-not-war in the Arab-Muslim world while simultaneously being repudiated by a majority of the people who voted for President Obama in 2012. In a scene straight out of “The Perils of Pauline”, none other than Vladimir Putin stepped in and put forward a proposal to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. Fortunately, the Obama Administration put a leash on its military dog and agreed to stand down.

We will now witness a series of diplomatic and political maneuverings that may or may not result in the destruction of Syria’s weapons of mass destruction. In the meantime we cautiously hope that President Obama will not come to the conclusion that he has to declare another “red line” as justification for this country committing unilateral acts of war.

While we can slowly exhale as this country grudgingly retreats from the brink of yet another war without end, we should take a moment to determine how this dilemma came about. We have been told that somehow, after the death of over 100,000 Syrians, the use of chemical weapons finally made this multi-year massacre too horrible. The fact that the United Nations had not as yet come to this conclusion was brushed aside with talk of the “moral imperative” that makes this country “exceptional”.

It is always dangerous to believe in any person or any country being infallible. It is also dangerous for the President of the United States to seriously believe that the unilateral use of military force is justifiable even when the security of this country is not directly (or indirectly threatened). And it is definitely dangerous for us to believe that we won’t find this country slip sliding to another blood soaked precipice under this president or a future president, unless and until the people of this country start to rethink this whole business of “exceptionalism”.

Historically speaking there are certainly “exceptional” aspects pertaining to the establishment of representative government, however flawed that government was at the outset, even to this day. But there is nothing particularly exceptional about countenancing the slavery of black Americans.

And there is nothing noteworthy about a governmental policy of genocide committed against Native Americans or denying suffrage to women for over a century or a legalized apartheid system that succeeded slavery and whose vestiges remain to this day. And there is certainly nothing “exceptional” about a country that acknowledges incredible economic and quality of life disparities as the “American Way”.

This country is made up of many good people who desire a just and fair society – however that may be defined. But the people of this country have an “exceptional” capacity for believing that unilateral American military action makes sense to the rest of the world. And Americans have the further “exceptional” capacity for believing that any retaliation is unjust, unwarranted and deserving of further retaliation. Of course, this is exactly how wars have been started since the beginning of time.

The United States of America should not be branded as either the Policeman of the Planet or the Global Bully. There is no reason for this country to undertake the Sisyphean task of ridding this world of cruelty and injustice by itself. Aside from the fact that it is virtually impossible to tell the “good guys” from the “bad guys” in Syria or elsewhere, there are also legions of lobbyists and professional persuaders who will advance one cause or another based upon fees that are paid for their services.

Engaging in a bit of alternative history one wonders on whose side these United States would intervene in a war between its ally England and the colonist terrorists of America? And who would these United States support in a protracted civil war between the Confederacy that was committed to self-determination and the economically and militarily superior Union? Perhaps a negotiated settlement would have been preferable?

The point is, of course, that the world is complicated. Its problems are vexing. And solutions rarely come out of the barrel of a gun or at the tip of a Tomahawk missile.

We can hope that President Obama, and future presidents, have learned a lesson as this country has hopefully averted another potentially bloody disaster.

Standard
Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – September 13, 2013

Michael Bloomberg has had a memorable twelve years as mayor of New York City. He is making his last few months really memorable, but for all the wrong reasons. Meanwhile the war cries over Syria have distracted national attention from the very real danger of the Teapublicans shutting down the federal government and collapsing the economy for good measure. And speaking of Syria, some people seem to be really disappointed that the United States cannot find a pretense for bombing Syria right now.

Bloomberg Didn’t Build That Either

The New York City mayoral administration of Michael Bloomberg has been notable for its embrace of art, innovation, bicycle lanes and efforts to markedly improve the health of New Yorkers. It has also been notable for some real serious errors in judgment, the Stop and Frisk program being one of them.

It will be up to historians to judge Mayor Bloomberg’s overall performance. But he isn’t doing himself any favors when he goes on and on about how much billionaires do for the poor people of New York City. He has expressed such barely concealed contempt for poor people that he makes it seem that rich people paying taxes is some kind of charitable donation for which the poor, and everyone else, should be grateful.

Mayor Bloomberg seems to have forgotten U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes quote, “Taxes is the price that we pay for a civilized society”.

Mayor Bloomberg also seems to have forgotten that long before he was a multibillionaire he was the beneficiary of taxpayer funded public education in his home state of Massachusetts. And as a student at Johns Hopkins University and Harvard he was the beneficiary of the gifts of wealthy donors who make sure that no student ever pays the full cost of their education.

Mayor Bloomberg speaks about how the poor in New York should be grateful that they are not poor in a third world country. He might want to also express gratitude that he is not wealthy in a third world country where he would be the target of pirates, kidnappers and revolutionaries.

Indeed, Mayor Bloomberg and the entire host of American billionaires would never have been become richer than Midas were they not able to take advantage of various taxpayer funded resources such as roads, bridges, electrical systems and an educated and skilled workforce.

Perhaps one day, after he has left New York’s City Hall, Michael Bloomberg will realize that he didn’t build the Bloomberg Empire by himself or on his own.

Dancing on the Edge

Because of the pounding of the war drums along the Potomac, one could be forgiven for not noticing that the Teapublicans are continuing to force march this country to the precipice of a government shutdown which will also have the effect of collapsing an already shaky economy.

The Teapublicans in the House of Representatives have already voted to abolish the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, over 35 times. Despite the fact that a bill abolishing Obamacare will never see the light of day in the Senate and that President Obama would most assuredly veto the hallmark of his presidency, the Teapublicans keep banging their already battered heads against this ideological wall.

Now they are threatening to shut down the federal government at the end of September unless Obamacare is defunded. How providing healthcare coverage for the people of this country is a cause for legislative battle is a mystery all but the Teapublican leadership.

In the meantime we can only watch out for more Teapublican inspired storm clouds on the horizon.

Serious About Syria

Even as President Obama was about to urge Congress and the American people to support a military strike against Syria, Russia and Syria (and France) came up with a plan that would remove chemical weapons from the possession of the Syrian government.

This plan had the effect of halting all talk of an immediate military strike and not surprisingly the right wing of the right wing has sounded like it is disappointed that this country has not started yet another potential war.

I guess they are just going to have to endure the burden of this country avoiding war.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

Standard