Posts Tagged ‘Democrats’

Hollow Victory

November 7, 2009

According to the Republicans, the United States is once again at the crossroads of losing another critical war because of feckless Democrats. Only this time it’s Afghanistan.

John Mearsheimer, FP, November 2, 2009

The conventional wisdom among most Republicans is that while the United States had serious difficulty in Vietnam during the early years, by the early 1970s things were turning around, and victory was on the verge. Unfortunately, the craven Democrats in Congress bowed to widespread anti-war sentiment and forced the Ford administration to end almost all support to South Vietnam, allowing the North Vietnamese to win the war in 1975. In the GOP version of the story, this decision was a disastrous mistake.

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Afghanistan looking more like Vietnam

September 3, 2009

Robert Scheer, SF Gate, September 3, 2009

True, he doesn’t seem a bit like Lyndon Johnson, but the way he’s headed on Afghanistan, Barack Obama is threatened with a quagmire that could bog down his presidency. LBJ also had a progressive agenda in mind, beginning with his war on poverty, but it was soon overwhelmed by the cost and divisiveness engendered by a meaningless, and seemingly endless, war in Vietnam.

Meaningless is the right term for the Afghanistan war, too, because our bloody attempt to conquer this foreign land has nothing to do with its stated purpose of enhancing our national security. Just as the government of Vietnam was never a puppet of communist China or the Soviet Union, the Taliban is not a surrogate for al Qaeda. Involved in both instances was an American intrusion into a civil war whose passions and parameters we never fully have grasped and will always fail to control militarily.

The Vietnamese communists were not an extension of an inevitably hostile, unified international communist enemy, as evidenced by the fact that communist Vietnam and communist China are both our close trading partners today. Nor should the Taliban be considered simply an extension of a Mideast-based al Qaeda movement, whose operatives the United States recruited in the first place to go to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets.

Those recruits included Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9-11 attack, and financier Osama bin Laden, who met in Afghanistan as part of a force that Ronald Reagan glorified as “freedom fighters.” As blowback from that bizarre, mismanaged CIA intervention, the Taliban came to power and formed a temporary alliance with the better-financed foreign Arab fighters still on the scene.

There is no serious evidence that the Taliban instigated the 9-11 attacks or even knew about them in advance. Taliban members were not agents of al Qaeda; on the contrary, the only three governments that financed and diplomatically recognized the Taliban – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan – all were targets of bin Laden’s group.

To insist that the Taliban be vanquished militarily as a prerequisite for thwarting al Qaeda is a denial of the international fluidity of that terrorist movement. Al Qaeda, according to U.S. intelligence sources, has operated effectively in countries as disparate as Somalia, Indonesia, England and Pakistan, to name just a few. What is required to stymie such a movement is effective police and intelligence work, as opposed to deploying vast conventional military forces in the hope of finding, or creating, a conventional war to win. This last wan hope is what the effort in Afghanistan – in the last two months at its most costly point in terms of American deaths – is all about: marshaling enormous firepower to fight shadows.

The Taliban is a traditional guerrilla force that can easily elude conventional armies. Once again the generals on the ground are insisting that a desperate situation can be turned around if only more troops are committed, as Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal did in a report leaked this week. Even with U.S. forces being increased to 68,000 as part of an 110,000-strong allied army, the general states, “The situation in Afghanistan is serious.” In the same sentence, however, he goes on to say that “success is achievable.”

Fortunately, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is given to some somber doubts on this point, arguing that the size of the U.S. force breeds its own discontents: “I have expressed some concerns in the past about the size of the American footprint, the size of the foreign military footprint in Afghanistan,” he said. “And, clearly, I want to address those issues. And we will have to look at the availability of forces, we’ll have to look at costs.”

I write the word fortunately because just such wisdom on the part of Robert McNamara, another defense secretary, during the buildup to Vietnam would have led him to oppose rather than abet what he ruefully admitted decades after the fact was a disastrous waste of life and treasure: 59,000 Americans dead, along with 3.4 million Indochinese, mostly innocent civilians.

I was reporting from Vietnam when that buildup began, and then as now there was an optimism not supported by the facts on the ground. Then as now there were references to elections and supporting local politicians to win the hearts and minds of people we were bombing. Then as now the local leaders on our side turned out to be hopelessly corrupt, a condition easily exploited by those we term the enemy.

Those who favor an escalation of the Afghanistan war ought to own up to its likely costs. If 110,000 troops have failed, will we need the half million committed at one point to Vietnam, which had a far less intractable terrain? And can you have that increase in forces without reinstituting the draft?

It is time for Democrats to remember that it was their party that brought America its most disastrous overseas adventure and to act forthrightly to pull their chosen president back from the abyss before it is too late.

2009 Creators.Com E-mail Robert Scheer at rscheer@truthdig.com.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/09/02/EDE419HPL5.DTL#ixzz0Q20jWnL8

Nader Was Right: Liberals Are Going Nowhere With Obama

August 11, 2009

Truthdig.com, Aug 10, 2009

By Chris Hedges

The American empire has not altered under Barack Obama. It kills as brutally and indiscriminately in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as it did under George W. Bush. It steals from the U.S. treasury to enrich the corporate elite as rapaciously. It will not give us universal health care, abolish the Bush secrecy laws, end torture or “extraordinary rendition,” restore habeas corpus or halt the warrantless wiretapping and monitoring of citizens. It will not push through significant environmental reform, regulate Wall Street or end our relationship with private contractors that provide mercenary armies to fight our imperial wars and produce useless and costly weapons systems.

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Democrats demand inquiry into Cheney ‘cover-up’

July 14, 2009

The Times/UK, July 14, 2009

Dick Cheney

(NganMandel/AFP/Getty Images)

Some believe the order Dick Cheney, the former Vice-President, made that one CIA programme begun after September 11, 2001, be kept secret from Congress, was illegal

Catherine Philp in Washington

President Obama is under pressure to start an investigation into the Bush Administration’s torture and antiterrorism programmes after fresh revelations about a cover-up.

Mr Obama has been reluctant to pursue any such inquiry and is concerned that it would open political divisions and endanger his urgent domestic agenda of economic rescue, healthcare reform and dealing with climate change.

A slew of revelations about previously unknown intelligence programmes and the involvement of the Bush Administration in concealing them has brought mounting calls from the Democratic Party for an inquiry.

On Saturday The New York Times reported that Dick Cheney, the former Vice-President, had ordered that one CIA programme begun after September 11, 2001, be kept secret from Congress. It was a decision that some believe was illegal.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the programme involved proposals to provide US intelligence agencies with the capability to capture or kill al-Qaeda operatives as authorised by a presidential pronouncement.

Several sources said that the programme was in the planning stages and never crossed the agency’s threshold for reporting to congressional overseers. The involvement of Mr Cheney has raised questions about the role of politics in such decision making.

The Democratic chairmen of the Senate’s judicial and intelligence committee called separately for investigations into the programme and its concealment. Others called for any inquiry that is held to include all Bush-era intelligence activities of questionable legality.

Eric Holder, the Attorney-General, is considering whether to appoint a prosecutor to carry out a criminal inquiry into brutal interrogation techniques and the issuing of legal justifications.

Dianne Feinstein, a senator and the chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, told Fox News Sunday that Mr Cheney’s concealment of the programme from her committee was “a big problem, because the law is very clear”.

She was not aware of the programme until last month when Leon Panetta, the incoming CIA chief, told the committee what he had discovered after taking up the job.

“I think if the intelligence committees had been briefed they could have watched the programme, they could have asked for reports on the programme, they could have made judgments about the programme as it went along,” Mrs Feinstein said.

Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that he would favour an investigation because of the level of mystery still surrounding the programmes.

President Obama has previously resisted Democratic pressure for an inquiry into Bush-era anti-terrorist programmes, saying that the nation should be “looking forward and not backwards”.

He is also wary of Republican accusations that he is soft on national security even from those opposed to the Bush-era’s harsh methods.

Shame: The ‘Anti-War’ Democrats Who Sold Out

June 18, 2009

By Jeremy Scahill, AlterNet. Posted June 17, 2009.

In a historic vote, only 30 of 256 Democrats stood against $100 billion for more war.

In a vote that should go down in recent histories as a day of shame for the Democrats, on Tuesday the House voted to approve another $106 billion dollars for the bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and increasingly Pakistan). To put a fine point on the interconnection of the iron fist of U.S. militarism and the hidden hand of free market neoliberal economics, the bill included a massive initiative to give the International Monetary Fund billions more in U.S. taxpayer funds.

What once Democrats could argue was “Bush’s war,” they now officially own. In fact, only five Republicans voted for the supplemental (though overwhelmingly not on the issue of the war funding). Ron Paul, who made clear he was voting against the war, was a notable exception.

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Democrats and War Escalation

April 7, 2009

by Norman Solomon | CommonDreams.org, April 6, 2009

Top Democrats and many prominent supporters — with vocal agreement, tactical quibbles or total silence — are assisting the escalation of the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The predictable results will include much more killing and destruction. Back home, on the political front, the escalation will drive deep wedges into the Democratic Party.The party has a large anti-war base, and that base will grow wider and stronger among voters as the realities of the Obama war program become more evident. The current backing or acceptance of the escalation from liberal think tanks and some online activist groups will not be able to prevent the growth of opposition among key voting blocs.In their eagerness to help the Obama presidency, many of its prominent liberal supporters — whatever their private views on the escalation — are willing to function as enablers of the expanded warfare. Many assume that opposition would undermine the administration and play into the hands of Republicans. But in the long run, going along with the escalation is not helping Obama; by putting off the days of reckoning, the acceptance of the escalation may actually help Obama destroy his own presidency.

Ideally, in 2009, Democratic lawmakers would see as role models the senators who opposed the Vietnam War — first Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruening, and then (years later) others including Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy. Earlier and stronger opposition from elected officials could have saved countless lives. The dreams of the Great Society might not have been crushed. And Richard Nixon might never have become president.

Now, everyone has the potential to help challenge the escalation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan war — on a collision course with heightened disaster.

Over the weekend, the Sunday Times of London reported that U.S. drone attacks along the Afghan-Pakistani border on Saturday killed “foreign militants” and “women and children” — while Pakistani officials asserted that “American drone attacks on the border . . . are causing a massive humanitarian emergency.” The newspaper says that “as many as 1 million people have fled their homes in the Tribal Areas to escape attacks by the unmanned spy planes as well as bombings by the Pakistani army.”

This is standard catastrophic impact of a counterinsurgency war. In short, as former Kennedy administration official William Polk spells out in his recent book “Violent Politics,” the key elements are in place for the U.S. war in Afghanistan to fail on its own terms while heightening the death and misery on a large scale.

Citing UN poverty data, a recent essay by Tom Hayden points out that in Afghanistan and Pakistan “the levels of suffering are among the most extreme in the world, and from suffering, from having nothing to live for, comes the will to die for a cause.” While the Washington spin machine touts development aid, the humanitarian effort adds up to a few pennies for each dollar going to the U.S. war effort.

A report from the Carnegie Endowment began this year with the stark conclusion that “the only meaningful way to halt the insurgency’s momentum is to start withdrawing troops. The presence of foreign troops is the most important element driving the resurgence of the Taliban.” Hayden made the same point when he wrote that “military occupation, particularly a surge of U.S. troops into the Pashtun region in southern Afghanistan and Pakistan, is the surest way to inflame nationalist resistance and greater support for the Taliban.”

Over the weekend, in his pitch for more NATO support, President Obama tried to make the U.S. war goals seem circumscribed: “I want everybody to understand that our focus is to defeat Al Qaeda.” But there’s no evidence that Al Qaeda has a significant foothold in Afghanistan. That group long since decamped to Pakistan.

In any event, the claim that a massive war is necessary to fight terrorism is hardly new. Lest we forget: After George W. Bush could no longer cling to his claims about WMDs in Iraq, he settled on the anti-terrorist rationale for continuing the Iraq occupation.

Even among allies, the anti-terrorism rationale is not flying for a troop buildup in Afghanistan. After Obama’s latest appeal to the leaders of NATO countries, as the New York Times reported Sunday, “his calls for a more lasting European troop increase for Afghanistan were politely brushed aside.”

Europe will provide no more than 5,000 new troops, and most of them just for the Afghan pre-election period till late summer. In the words of the Times: “Mr. Obama is raising the number of American troops this year to about 68,000 from the current 38,000, which will significantly Americanize the war.”

For those already concerned about Obama’s re-election prospects, such war realities may seem faraway and relatively abstract. But escalation will fracture his base inside the Democratic Party. If the president insists on leading a party of war, then activists will educate, agitate and organize to transform it into a party for peace.

The mirage of wise counterinsurgency has been re-conjured by the Obama White House, echoing the “best and brightest” from Democratic administrations of the 1960s. But the party affiliation of the U.S. president will make no difference to people far away who mourn the loss of loved ones. And, whether in Afghanistan, Pakistan or the United States, the president will be held to the astute standard that Barack Obama laid out as he addressed unfriendly foreign leaders in his inaugural speech: “People will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.”

Norman Solomon is a journalist, historian, and progressive activist. His book “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” has been adapted into a documentary film of the same name. His most recent book is “Made Love, Got War.” He is a national co-chair of the Healthcare NOT Warfare campaign.

Endless War

March 5, 2009

by Margaret Kimberley | Black Agenda Report, March 4, 2009

Why are more Republicans happy with Obama’s policies on government secrecy, wiretapping, non-withdrawal from Iraq, unqualified support for Israel and a host of other policies than most of the Democratic party’s own base?

What do they know that many of us don’t, or perhaps do not wish to know?
“There will still be American troops in Iraq, up to 50,000 of them.”

If John McCain and other Republicans are happy about an Obama administration initiative and Democrats are not, it is safe to say that something very bad is taking place. That something is Obama’s announcement that he will continue the occupation of Iraq indefinitely.

Of course, the president didn’t actually use any of those words. In a speech delivered at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, President Obama announced, “…by August 31, 2010 our combat mission in Iraq will end.”

As always, the president chose his words very carefully. The parsing was so clever that it fooled many people into celebrating when there is no reason for joy. There will still be American troops in Iraq, up to 50,000 of them. “As I have long said, we will retain a transitional force to carry out three distinct functions: training, equipping, and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq. Initially, this force will likely be made up of 35-50,000 U.S. troops.”

It isn’t clear how “conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions” will not be considered combat. Congressman Dennis Kucinich pointed out the obvious problem with the president’s words. “You cannot leave combat troops in a foreign country to conduct combat operations and call it the end of the war. You can’t be in and out at the same time.”

“Obama never expressed any intention of fully withdrawing from Iraq.”

Obama’s one time political rival, Republican senator John McCain, was extremely pleased with the president’s timetable and with the level of troop commitment. “I believe that the administration should aim to keep the full complement – 50,000, as briefed by Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen – and not succumb to pressures, political or otherwise, to make deeper or faster cuts in our force levels.” While McCain and other Republicans waxed enthusiastically, Congressional Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer, who are not known for progressive politics, expressed concern about the number of troops scheduled to remain in Iraq.

While Democrats openly questioned the president’s policy, Republicans were enthusiastic supporters. During the presidential campaign John McCain was excoriated by Democrats when he said the United States should continue its presence in Iraq for 100 years. It was easy to sneer at the hapless McCain, but the Obama plan could lead to an American presence that may not last 100 years, but for a very long time nonetheless. The snickering directed at McCain should also have been directed at Obama, who never expressed any intention of fully withdrawing from Iraq.

His statement at Camp Lejeune was a repetition of his words on the stump as a presidential candidate. He reminded his foolishly smitten yet now disappointed supporters that he was an anti-war candidate only in their dreams. “Well, what I would say that is that they maybe weren’t paying attention to what I said during the campaign.”

The damage done by the complete capitulation of many progressives to Obama is now bearing fruit. He is able to dismiss them and his own party without suffering any political damage. He said as much in a PBS interview with Jim Lehrer.

JIM LEHRER: You’re not the least bit uneasy over the fact as John McCain and John Boehner, the Republican leader of the House, have praised your plan while the Democrats are criticizing it?

BARACK OBAMA: You know, I don’t – I don’t make these decisions based on polls or popularity. I make the decisions based on what I think is best.

In other words, the Democrats can go to hell. He doesn’t care what they think. He doesn’t have to care what they think because they gave him carte blanche to say and do anything he wanted during the campaign. McCain and Boehner are now his cheerleaders and Democrats have to be happy with whatever their leader deems to be acceptable.
“Many more will die in the name of fighting terror.”

Dennis Kucinich, among those who can be ignored, made another important point about the Obama plan. “We must bring a conclusion to this sorry chapter in American history where war was waged under false pretense against an innocent people. Taking troops out of Iraq should not mean more troops available for deployment in other operations.”

The other operation is of course in Afghanistan, where an additional 17,000 troops are headed. Afghanistan is also under occupation, its civilian population is the target of U.S. military action that has killed thousands of human beings. Many more will die in the name of fighting terror, and to benefit the same corporations that will turn their country into another cash cow for war profiteers.

Barack Obama proves that there is only one political party in this country when foreign policy decisions are being made. George W. Bush may no longer be in the White House, but because of capitulation to the Obama administration, his grand plan for endless war will be a reality for a very long time to come.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.Com.

U.S., Iraqi Officials Question Terms of Draft Security Deal

October 18, 2008

At Issue: Legal Authority Over Troops

By Mary Beth Sheridan and Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writers, Saturday, October 18, 2008

BAGHDAD, Oct. 17 — A number of senior Iraqi and U.S. politicians expressed strong reservations Friday about the terms of a draft agreement that gives Iraq the “primary right” — subject to U.S. acquiescence — to try American soldiers accused of serious crimes committed during off-duty hours outside U.S. military bases here.

Some political leaders in Baghdad, who got their first look at the controversial agreement to extend the U.S. military presence in Iraq beyond 2008, said it did not go far enough in guaranteeing Iraqi sovereignty. The bilateral accord was presented Friday to the Political Council for National Security, an advisory body including political, legislative and judicial leaders, whose support is necessary before it can be submitted to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki‘s cabinet and then to parliament for final approval. After an initial review, the council said it would continue discussions next week.

In Washington, congressional Democrats questioned ceding any authority over U.S. troops to Iraq. “I am very concerned about reports that U.S. service personnel may not have full immunity under Iraqi law,” said Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), the House Armed Services Committee chairman. The Bush administration allowed a small group of senior congressional aides to read the document at a White House briefing this morning but did not allow copies to be made.

A provision in the draft would give the United States “primary” jurisdiction over military personnel and Defense Department employees who are on bases or engaged in authorized military operations.

Iraq, it says, would have the “primary right to exercise judicial jurisdiction” over “premeditated and gross felonies . . . committed outside the agreed facilities and areas and when not on a mission.” Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Friday that any disagreement would be resolved by a joint committee. “If the crime is very grave or serious, the U.S. may waive its jurisdiction,” he said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters at a Pentagon briefing that “there is not a reason to be concerned.” He said top U.S. military officials “are all satisfied that our men and women in uniform serving in Iraq are well protected.” U.S. officials have emphasized that off-duty American troops in Iraq rarely, if ever, venture outside their bases, and said that they consider language in the document vague enough to ensure absolute U.S. control in all circumstances.

Administration officials also said they are confident that withdrawal dates in the document — June 30, 2009, for U.S. forces in Iraqi cities and Dec. 31, 2011, from all of Iraq — contain sufficient caveats to address any future downturn in the security situation. Before the final deadline, the draft says, “on the basis of Iraq’s assessment of conditions on the ground,” the Iraqi government could ask for U.S. troops to remain for “training purposes” or to “support Iraqi security forces.”

The accord also would prohibit U.S. forces from detaining any Iraqi citizen without an Iraqi warrant, and says any detainee would have to be handed over to government custody within 24 hours. All Iraqis in U.S. custody as of Jan. 1 — when the agreement would go into effect upon expiration of the current U.N. mandate authorizing foreign troops here — would have to be turned over to the Iraqi government. Home and property searches also would require an Iraqi warrant, except during certain combat situations.

U.S. and Iraqi officials confirmed the wording of the document, portions of which were widely circulated in both capitals Friday.

The sensitivity of the draft agreement, which has been under negotiation since March, was illustrated when Maliki lashed out at the top American commander here for saying that U.S. intelligence indicated Iran was trying to bribe Iraqi lawmakers to reject the pact.

“The American commander has risked his position when he spoke in this tone and has complicated relations in a deplorable way,” Maliki told a group of Kuwaiti journalists in an interview broadcast by Iraqi state television Friday. Maliki expressed astonishment at the remarks from U.S. Gen. Ray Odierno, whom he described as a “kind and good man.” Iraqi members of parliament, he said, had not accepted any bribes.

Maliki was reacting to a Monday article in The Washington Post in which Odierno said Iran was conducting a “full-court press” with its Iraqi contacts to sabotage the pact, including “coming in to pay off people to vote against it.” A U.S. military spokesman later said there was no confirmation that bribes had been accepted by lawmakers.

A number of Iraq’s leading political leaders spent years in exile in Iran during the presidency of Saddam Hussein and maintain warm relations with the Tehran government. Several expressed sharp offense at Odierno’s comments.

Jalal al-Deen al-Saghir, a top lawmaker from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Maliki’s main political partner, said in an interview that he saw “serious problems” in the proposed accord, “especially after Odierno’s statements.”

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Friday that there was a misunderstanding about Odierno’s comments. “I don’t think General Odierno was implying that there are crooked Iraqi politicians, but rather that there are Iranian agents who, in their attempt to derail the [agreement], are trying to bribe Iraqi politicians,” he said.

In Najaf, the religious capital of Iraq’s Shiite majority, a leading cleric blasted the idea of giving U.S. forces any immunity from Iraqi law. “We consider this a basic point because it represents sovereignty,” Sadir Addin al-Qobanchi said in a sermon at the city’s grand mosque. “If someone commits a hostile act against your house and family, and you say it is fine and don’t hold him responsible, it means that you don’t have dignity or sovereignty.”

U.S. military and political officials have expressed concern that the agreement may not make it through Iraq’s slow-moving political process by year’s end. An extension of the U.N. mandate, the most likely option if a final agreement is not reached, poses political and legal complications for both sides.

Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish lawmaker, said the agreement could gain the approval of the political council and the cabinet. But in parliament, supporters of the agreement “will face opposition,” he said. The accord, which must win a majority in the 275-seat parliament, is strongly supported by the Kurdish bloc, the second-biggest with 54 seats. Various Sunni and independent parties representing scores of seats have also indicated their approval.

But Othman said the backing of some politicians was not solid.

“They tell the Americans, ‘We are okay, we’ll sign it.’ Then they tell their people in parliament not to vote for it,” he said.

The U.S. Congress does not have similar veto power over the agreement, which requires only a presidential signature. But senior Democrats, and a number of Republicans, have questioned its terms. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) said in a statement Friday that complete American jurisdiction over U.S. service members was “critical” and that they could not be “subject to criminal prosecution in an Iraqi judicial system that does not meet due process standards.” Levin said he would “reserve judgment” on the draft until he was given an opportunity for a “complete review” of its terms.

DeYoung reported from Washington. Staff writer Ann Scott Tyson in Washington and special correspondent Qais Mizher in Baghdad contributed to this report.

Stars, Stripes, War and Shame

August 31, 2008

By MISSY COMLEY BEATTIE | Counterpunch, August 30 / 31, 2008

The Pentagon says “only” five civilians were killed Friday, a week ago, by US aerial bombardment. According to Afghan officials and a United Nations report, 90 Afghan civilians died, 60 of whom were children.

Just days after this carnage, the Democrats, so many dressed in red, white, and blue, opened their convention in Denver. In the wake of the barbarity in Afghanistan and the continued suicide bombings in Iraq, the revelry and flag waving in Colorado seemed inappropriate. Sure, I understand that hope was and is in the air, but I reached for the remote and powered off.

Thursday night, I tuned in to hear a sweet, young voice, pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States of American. “With freedom and justice for all.”

Freedom and justice are concepts we can no longer take for granted. They aren’t guaranteed by stars, stripes, and platitudes. The truth is that George and Dick have sucked the life out of our Constitution, aided by Congressional Republicans and Democrats as well as too many among the electorate who are guilty by reason of fear or complacency.

The events of 9/11 sent masses rushing to either purchase or dust off their Bibles and reference scripture for guidance and to to justify “an eye for an eye.” Never mind that we leveled a country with no link to those who used our commercial airplanes as weapons. The attack on our soil provided the neocons the excuse they needed to implement their plan for domination of Earth’s bounties. Add to this the groupies convinced that George Bush was chosen by God to be president at this particular time of crisis. That Bush himself believed this should have been a red-flag warming that the path he demanded we follow would lead us, not to an Eden of security and prosperity but, to a miasma of endless conflict and contempt from most of the world.

The warmongers forgot the song learned in childhood:

“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

The lyrics crawl through my consciousness as war rages on and candidates for the highest office in our land spar in their own war of words for the power prize, which is the authority to declare war. To John Bomb Bomb McCain, war is something about which to joke, promote, and accelerate. He reminds us repeatedly of his years as a tortured prisoner of war. Yet he never mentions the targets whose eyes he didn’t see–all those Vietnamese peasants, men, women, and children, whose bodies he melted. For Barack Obama who opposed the invasion of Iraq but, without fail, has voted to fund it, the prudent foreign policy strategy is to send more troops to the “right” hotspot, Afghanistan. Russia must love this.

Monday is the beginning of the Republican version of Denver. When McCain, who seems to have a “thing” for beauty queens, speaks, we’ll probably hear about that trip he’s going to take to the “gates of hell.” Also, he’ll offer the usual “we’re fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here,” and “if we leave too soon, they’ll follow us home,” and that we “must achieve victory.”

But no one is defining victory, so allow me: Victory is pledging allegiance to peace.

Imagine if we had a candidate who said:

So much of the history of our country has been sanitized. The truth is that we have battled unnecessarily, illegally, immorally. We have sent our sons and daughters to die, to return maimed, to sustain traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder while destroying the lives of those we call the enemy, the other. We have invaded for resources that we call our “interests” and for superior positioning. Just to show we can. Just to show our might. Not to defend ourselves. I say no more. Not on my watch. As your president, I pledge allegiance to the people. I pledge allegiance to peace.

Actually, we do have aspirants who have said as much. Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney certainly are transformational choices. Bob Barr, the Libertarian, gets it, too, when he says that war “should be the last rather than the first resort.” But our corporate media give them little credibility and even less airtime.

So, we wait. Some wave their flags and hope while others feel despair and shame at what continues to be done in our names.

Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She’s written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she’s a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,’05, she has been writing political articles. She can be reached at: Missybeat@aol.com


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