Thursday, August 14, 2008

I Hate The War

This afternoon Jess spoke with Junue Millan who's part of the team working at Ralph Nader's just opened Denver office. The office's primary focus is the Super Nader Rally in Denver (August 27th, 7:oo pm) at the Magness Arena and they are very excited planning for a huge rally that they are expecting 5,000 to 7,000 people to turn out for. A rally of that sixe is not easy to plan and organize in such a short time and they need volunteers. If you're in the Denver area (or plan to be) and would like to volunteer the office is at 1155 Sherman Street, Suite 111. Walk-ins are fine. You can also call the office (303) 832-2509 or e-mail

This is the first Nader Super Rally and will take place while the Democratic Party is holding their national convention in Denver as well. [ September 4th, a Nader Super Rally will be held at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, during the GOP convention.] Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez will be at the Super Rally in Denver and there will also be guest speakers. The plan is to release the names of the guest speakers as the event approaches and the first name released is artist, activist and rocker Jello Biafra.

The point of both Nader Supper Rallies is to let the people put the issues on the table. Noting corporte crime, the Iraq War, singel-payer universal health care and other very real issues, Ralph Nader explained to Neal Conan yesterday on NPR's Talk of the Nation, "That's what we're saying to the American people: If you don't take it over, if you don't win your government back, if you don't vote for people you believe in who have a record of accomplishment and a good platform, which you can see on, what's left for you to decide? I mean, these two parties don't represent you in area after area. Their drum is beaten by the big corporations." It's about putting the real issues on the table and confronting the two-party duopoloy which is attempting to limit the debate -- both in terms of candidates (just the Republican nominee and the Democratic nominee) and in terms of what can be discussed. You're not going to get issues with the debates being limited to two candidates. You're going to get safe blah-blah and every now and then someone will shake it up, like John Edwards in 2004 raising the issue of sex in the vice presidential debate. (And acting as if Dick Cheney's stance on gay Americans was so hideous -- the same John Edwards who declared in the YouTube/CNN Democratic presidential candidate debates this go-round that his high morals and Bible meant he couldn't support same-sex marriage. But in 2004, he was trying to play Mr. Englightened.) That's what you'll get with the two main parties. Blah-blah and easy attempts at hits and smears.

On Talk of the Nation, Ralph asked the very apt question, "Why do we want to ration the debates?" And we don't. America doesn't want to. The two major parties want to and they will get away with it until enough people start objecting. They will shut out Ralph and Bob Barr and Cynthia McKinney. They will use America's presidential debate as an informercial for the Republican and Democratic parties and cheapen the discourse. The best we'll be able to hope for -- as in 2004 -- is bloggers who fact check because the candidates aren't going to bother. That's why Dick Cheney could (and did) claim in the 2004 debate that he'd never met John Edwards before. John Edwards didn't correct him. It was the bloggers who questioned him, it was the bloggers who hunted down photos and posted them. If there's a better example of just how for-show the debates are when the Dems and Repubes limit who is invited, think of it. But if John Edwards isn't smart enough to know whether or not he's met Dick Cheney before, this idea that two major political parties are so wise and so informed flies right out the window.

As Ralph pointed out to Neil Conan about John McCain and Barack Obama, "And they really don't have a plan to get out of Iraq and they want to expand the Afghanistan War. " They don't. But how are people supposed to grasp that when actual presidential candidates (Bob, Cynthia and Ralph) calling for an end to the illegal war aren't allowed on stage? Oh sure, we'll have hacks like Katrina vanden Heuvel insist John McCain is the root of all evil while Barack pees rainbows, that we have to 'trust' our 'hearts' and just know that, despite what Barack's actually saying, if he's elected there will be some miracle transformation that will make Barack want to end the illegal war. Yeah, and maybe that miracle will spread and Katrina will be gifted with a functioning brain? I wouldn't advise that you bet money on either option.

What we'll have is Blah-Blah and, the day after, the likes of Katrina will show up to insist something amazing took place. They'll spin. The hideous Rachel Maddow will spin like crazy. John Edwards clearly lost the debate with Dick Cheney in 2004. The day after, Mike Papantonio noted that reality, noted how disappointing Edwards was, pointed out that the v.p. candidates are always supposed to hit hard, that Edwards was a lawyer and didn't hit hard. And Rachel had an on air tear-fest and began badgering Papantonio to change his opinion. At the end he was offering a very weak okay-okay.

Outside of his own family, it's doubtful anyone's rooted for Dick Cheney in many, many years. But if the reality is that Edwards lost to the Black Hole, that's the reality. Maddow couldn't handle it. War Hawk Maddow (she spent years on Air America Radio arguing against withdrawal and offering the false analogy of the Pottery Barn -- even after it was known to be false -- as her 'reasoning') is now being cheered by The Nation (Hillary Hatred pays off!). That's your indication of the 'level' of discourse 'alternative' media is going to be serving up.

To have a real discussion about the Iraq War or any other issue, we need to have all the presidential candidates up on stage.

As Ron Jacobs (Dissident Voice) points out, "Good thing there’s an election coming up. Once Bush is gone, the world will get better. Won’t it? At least one of the candidates has to be against all this war and threats of war, right? Maybe Obama is just playing the game when he promises fealty to Tel Aviv. Maybe he doesn’t mean it when he sounds like Bush in regards to Iran. Maybe he’ll listen to the American people (and not the generals) after he gets elected and bring the troops back from Iraq by the end of 2009." That's the candidate who's going to represent the 'anti-war' position on stage?

No. And that's insane. The American people turned on the illegal war in 2005. The majority is still agains the illegal war. In American democracy we are supposed to recognize and foster the minority viewpoints. But we are not supposed to render majority opinion invisible. That's what's going to happen if the duopoly is not broken in the upcoming debates. The majority of Americans will be rendered voiceless.

As a sidebar, Ron brings up the payment issue in his article. The puppet government should be paying and no reperations need to be made to it. It is not a government of the people. Nouri al-Maliki is the DC puppet. He's installed. He sits on millions of Iraqi monies and refuses to spend it to help the Iraqi people. Making him pay is what should happen right now because his government is illegitimate. He wants to be a puppet, let him pay. It's not taking money from the Iraqi people because he's not spending it on them. While he can't use the funds for reconstruction or improving the people's lives, he can (and did last month) go on a huge weapons shopping spree. Joe Biden pointed out reality in April: The US is spending a ton of money to prop up a government that is not legitimate in the eyes of the Iraqi people and we're supporting their war on the Iraqi people.

Reperations need to be made by the US government. No question. But to a real government, a legitimate one that represents the Iraqi people, not the interests of the White House. The US needs to withdraw from Iraq immediately. But neither presumed candidate John McCain or Barack Obama supports that. As long as the installed puppet is kept in power, the puppet should have to pay for it. It's not taking money that would be spent on the Iraqi people because al-Maliki's refusal to spend that money did not start this year. It's been characteristic of his entire term.

Robert Fisk gets right to the point in "New actor on the same old stage" (Independent of London):

But this dreary old stage play doesn't end there. No one follows the narrative any more because it is so repetitive. Take Nouri al-Maliki, the PMIGZ -- Prime Minister of the Iraqi Green Zone -- who's suddenly gone from being the Democrats' favourite target to being their election buddy-buddy, as Max Boot sagely noted in The Washington Post. Maliki suggested to Obama that Iraq will be ready to assume responsibility for its own security by 2010. Bingo. This chimes in perfectly with Obama's promises.
But wait a minute. In May, 2006, Maliki announced that "our forces are capable of taking over the security in all Iraqi provinces within a year and a half". Five months later, the PMIGZ said that it would be "only a matter of months" before Iraqi security forces "take over the security portfolio entirely and keep some (sic) multinational forces only in a supporting role". Then in January, 2007, Maliki boasted that "within three to six months our need for the American troops will dramatically go down".
Four months later, he was at it again, claiming that Iraqi forces would control all security "in every province" within eight months. Quite apart from the idea that there is a security "portfolio" in Iraq, his own military chums don't agree with any of this bumph. The PMIGZ's own defence minister claims his forces can't assume responsibility until 2012, while the Iraqi commander in Basra wants US troops to stay until 2020!
Even if we ignore all this drivel, what does Obama want to do with his soldiers once he withdraws them from Iraq? He's going to send the poor devils back to Afghanistan, that graveyard of foreign armies where the Taliban were so utterly defeated in 2001 that they are now stronger than ever. I would recommend that Obama glance through Appendix XXIV of the official British account of the 1878-80 Second Afghan War where he will find the British announcing victory over a massed Afghan force which included a fierce group of fighters known as "talibs". These men would choose a particular soldier in the British ranks and make a suicidal attack to seize him and cut his throat in front of his comrades.

Now maybe if Robert Fisk was moderating the debates, some light of truth could shine in. But he's not moderating. And if we all we have is McCain and Obama, we don't have much of a debate. (Though Barack will no doubt continue his stammering and fumbling uh-uh-uh speech pattern.) America deserves better and democracy deserves better. The people have a right to see all the candidates up on stage, to hear what they stand for and what they don't. The people have a right to make an informed decision. Hype doesn't end the illegal war.

It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)

Last Thursday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4134. Tonight? 4141. That's seven more and, yes, M-NF only released four death announcements (they let DoD 'make the announcements' for the others). Just Foreign Policy lists 1,252,595 as the number of Iraqis killed up from 1,251,944 last week.

Michael Winship's latest essay is entitled "America and the World" (Bill Moyers Journal):

In a letter written in 1648, the Swedish statesman, Axel Oxenstierna, chancellor to both King Gustavus Adolphus and Queen Christina, counseled, "Know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed."
The fighting between Russia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia is an unnerving reminder of that, and of how quickly the balance of global power can be tilted from unexpected directions with barely a warning.
Some hawks and neo-cons called for NATO intervention or even suggested we send in Stinger missiles or the 82nd Airborne as a peacekeeping force. President Bush warned, "Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people. Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century."
Perhaps, but the reality of the early 21st century is that, in the short run, at least, the president’s words ring hollow. In spite of past promises of support to Georgia, Russia is key to our efforts in the Middle East and our European allies are dependent on Russia for energy. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have both our military strength and our international credibility stretched perilously thin at a time when oil-rich Russia is reemerging as a superpower. We’ve boxed ourselves in.
It was in that light that I came upon the Oxenstierna quote the other night, while re-reading the late historian Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly, a knowing compendium, from ancient Troy to Vietnam, of the ways in which, given half a chance, those in power will steer their ships of state straight into the rocks. In the first chapter, she also quotes American President John Adams: "While all other sciences have advanced" -- you can almost hear him sighing -- "government is at a stand; little better practiced now than three or four thousand years ago."
Andrew J. Bacevich probably would agree with all of the above. The retired Army colonel, a West Point graduate, teaches history and international relations at Boston University. His latest book, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, explores our nation’s current predicament, not just on the world stage but here at home as well. He spoke with my colleague Bill Moyers on this week's edition of the PBS series Bill Moyers Journal.
Bacevich speaks truth to power, no matter who's in power, which may be why those of both the left and right are eager to hear his views. Perhaps it's also because when he challenges American myths and illusions, he does so from a genuine patriotism forged in the fire of his experiences as a soldier in Vietnam and the death a year ago of his son, an Army lieutenant in Iraq. The Limits of Power is dedicated to the young man but the senior Bacevich, a man of quiet, solid gravitas, holds his grief privately between himself and his family.
"Our foreign policy is something that is concocted in Washington, D.C., but it reflects the perceptions of our political elite about what we the people want," he told Moyers. "And what we want, by and large is... this continuing flow of very cheap consumer goods. We want to be able to pump gas into our cars regardless of how big they may happen to be... And we want to be able to do these things without having to think about whether or not the books are balanced at the end of the month, or the end of the fiscal year."
To that end, he says, "One of the ways we avoid confronting our refusal to balance the books is to rely increasingly on the projection of American military power around the world to try to maintain this dysfunctional system or set of arrangements that have evolved over the last 30 or 40 years."
"... I think historians a hundred years from now will puzzle over how it could be that the United States of America, the most powerful nation in the world, as far back as the early 1970’s came to recognize that dependence on foreign oil was a problem, posed a threat, compromised our freedom of action. How every president from Richard Nixon down... declared, 'We’re going to fix the problem.' [But] none of them did."
He continued, "The clearest statement of what I value is found in the Preamble to the Constitution. There is nothing in the Preamble to the Constitution which defines the purpose of the United States of America as remaking the world in our image, which I view as a fool's errand... I believe that the framers of the Constitution were primarily concerned with focusing on the way we live here, the way we order our affairs. To try to ensure that as individuals, we can have an opportunity to pursue our, perhaps, differing definitions of freedom, but also so that, as a community, we could live together in some kind of harmony. And that future generations would also be able to share in those same opportunities... With the current crisis in American foreign policy, unless we do change our ways, the likelihood that our children, our grandchildren, the next generation is going to enjoy the opportunities that we've had is very slight because we're squandering our power. We are squandering our wealth."
Bacevich believes, "The Congress, especially with regard to matters related to national security policy, has thrust power and authority to the executive branch. We have created an imperial presidency. The Congress no longer is able to articulate a vision of what is the common good. The Congress exists primarily to ensure the reelection of members of Congress."
That imperial presidency, he says, "has made our democracy a false one. We're going through the motions of a democratic political system. But the fabric of democracy, I think, really has worn very thin."
Iraq, Bacevich concludes, "was a fundamental mistake. It never should have been undertaken. And we're never going to do this kind of thing again." This might, he thinks, "be the moment when we look ourselves in the mirror [and]... see what we have become. And perhaps undertake an effort to make those changes in the American way of life that will enable us to preserve for future generations that which we value most about the American way of life."
Andrew Bacevich's words should echo down the corridors of Congress and the halls of the White House, no matter who becomes our next President.

Friday (in most markets, check local listings), Bill Moyers sits down with Andrew Bacevich to discuss the imperial impresidency. And I think Billie's local station is no longer in pledge drive mode but somewhere some PBS may be. If it is, you can always stream video or audio or read transcripts (or podcast) at Bill Moyers Journal online.

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