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Archive for August, 2007

Old George and his minions have been trying to re-educate us for years. Even with his approval ratings in the basement–right under the sump pump– we shouldn’t be jumping to conclusions about what a disaster the Bush years at the helm have been. After all, he tells us, “The jury’s still out on George Washington.” And he ought to know. He’s reading a book. So, he’s sort of like George Washington. Really. A couple of hundred years from now folks’ll read a book about Dubya. Under neocon leadership the Iraq War ought to be winding down about then and everyone will see how wise the 43rd president truly was.

 And they tell us he’s just like Abraham Lincoln, too. Misunderstood. Greatness is too often unappreciated by the masses. In the midst of a bloody Civil War nobody much liked Abe, either.

After nearly five years of taking offense at any comparison between his Iraq War and Vietnam (“What distortion of the war on the ground?” “What quagmire?”), Dubya has penned a new page in the GOP Official U.S. History Book. In a lengthy, didactic History-Lesson-for-Dummies speech before the VFW, after linking his war (and his leadership) to every honorable, justifiable U.S. engagement, he invoked Vietnam:

“…there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War [This sounds about right.] and how we left. There’s no debate in my mind that the veterans fron Vietnam deserve the high praise of the United States of America [If you’re so proud now, where were you, Cheney and the rest of your defermentloving warmongers then? Those troops you admiremy husband among themsure could have used some help.] Whatever your position is on that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America’s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens…

“There was another price…we can hear it in the words of the enemy we face in today’s struggle…those who came to our soil and killed thousands of citizens on September the 11th, 2001… [In Iraq Dubya still insists it’s all Al Qaeda, all the time.].”

W. goes on to make his point clear: We only lost the Vietnam War because we quit–and that cut-and-run policy gives aid and comfort to our enemies today. Once again, victory is ours for the taking. Unless we quit.

There are some similarities between Vietnam and Iraq. In both cases the declaration of war was based on lies. The two Gulf of Tonkin “incidents” were were suspect in one case, disproved altogether in the other. The Saddam-Al Qaeda-9/11 connection was false, there were no WMD. In both wars our military bore/bears the brunt of the battle while a reluctant and/or duplicitous Vietnamese/Iraqi military stood down. In both wars we propped up inept, corrupt governments. In both wars millions of innocent civilians were killed, maimed and displaced. In both wars the official U.S. government spin trumped the facts on the ground. We were/are winning. The successful end– total victory with honor– was/is right around the next bend… And, at the end of the day, the Vietnamese didn’t like us, the world’s opinion of us plummeted and we were at each others’ throats here at home.

And there was one significant difference: Corrupt or not, the government of South Vietnam asked for U.S. aid and intervention. We did not make a unilateral pre-emptive strike against a sovereign nation who never asked us to invade their homeland.

When all else fails, George W. Bush brings the Almighty into matters of policy as he sees them. His VFW Neo-history lesson speech was no exception:

“The greatest weapon in the arsenal of democracy is the desire for liberty written into the human heart by our Creator.”

You can’t argue with God. And, in the Bush version of U.S. History, it is the POTUS who must define what God meant by “liberty.” In the present case, it seems to mean a right-wing version of democracy at gunpoint, a docile pro-American regime in power and the Hydrocarbon Act benchmark to seal the deal.

Iraq is like Vietnam–only better. This time, if the pro-war Right has its way, we can’t lose because we won’t quit. We may never leave at all. Occupation and control of Iraqi oil fields. That’s the new, improved definition of liberty. Believe it. It’s in Dubya’s new, improved history book. 

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There’s nothing I love better than a smart, strong woman. Well, maybe one thing: A smart, strong woman whose heart is fully engaged. A woman whose depth and character and passion for positive change shine through the gloom of fear and mistrust like a beacon, lighting the way to safe harbor. When the time comes to stand up and be counted, she’s unafraid. I spent some time watching, listening to such a woman, last night.

Michelle Obama. “Be Not Afraid.” Before reading further, take this opportunity: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNuqLsOiZ5o –experience the power of a smart woman for yourself.

There’s no way to refine that message, no more eloquent argument to be made for positive change in this country. Without a script, without a pre-packaged, hackneyed spiel spiced with empty sound-bites, Michelle Obama lays out the single best argument for a Barack Obama presidency.

Freedom from fear.

Fear is not a sound basis for choosing a leader. Fear is not a sound basis for foreign policy. Fear is not a sound basis for any public policy. Fear clouds our judgment, narrows our options. Fear has become a tool used by the powerful to manipulate the public, to appeal to our basest instincts. We give our power away out of fear. We compromise our liberty and our values out of fear. We become stunted, suspicious and selfish. We are led to hatred and intolerance through fear. We are led to violence through fear. It’s US against THEM. It’s “America– love it or leave it.” It’s “You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists!” It’s “Ask the wrong questions or disagree with my war and you’re unpatriotic! You don’t support our troops!” It’s “Elect me unless you want another 9/11!”

It smacks of a new brand of fascism. The old “Might Makes Right” credo. We’ve had enough. Fear has gotten us nothing but an endless, bloody occupation in Iraq, spiralling debt, a divided nation and the fear and loathing of the rest of the world. We have few friends left. We don’t even like ourselves.

Fear works. They’re using it again. Muslims are scary. Iraq–if we aren’t occupying it–is scary. Any nation who doesn’t think the way we do, live the way we do, is scary. Immigrants are scary, especially if they’re non-white. Gays and lesbians are scary. New faces on the political horizon are scary. Negotiation is scary. New approaches to old problems are scary–they’re naive, they’re irresponsible. The dearth of D.C. insider experience is scary. Liberals are both scared and scary. Stay the course and we’ll be safe. The fear factor begins to infect liberals, too. It wins elections. We stoop to conquer.

There is no safety in an environment of fear. There is no honor. We lose our better selves. We let the purveyors of fear-for-power think for us, act for us. They rob us of our common sense and our decency and we let them because it’s scary to think for ourselves. The price we’ve paid for a sense of false security is far too high.

“I’m tired of being afraid,” Michelle Obama tells us. But she has the courage to offer up her husband and her family life for a presidency that will change the face, the soul, of this nation. On the day Barack Obama is elected, she says, we will change the way the world sees us. That’s straight talk from a smart woman.

I suspect there will be another profound change afoot on day one of an Obama presidency: The way we see ourselves will change, too. No more cowering in fear; we’re better than this. Fear had made us lose our way. We’ll come out into the light with the courage to begin anew.

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Bear with me, folks. I’m apt to ramble a bit here. And I’m more than a little angry at the war games that threaten to reduce the Democratic race to the primaries to, well, a pile of nuclear rubble. The last man standing may well have contracted such a case of radiation poisoning from the fall-out that we’re all in trouble. Or the last woman standing, in this case. Hillary seems to be the primary instigator here. Pardon the pun.

First terrorist strike in the Clinton war on Obama: His obvious (and dangerous) lack of experience, especially in the area of foreign policy. Only a dumb novice would think a policy of open negotiation is a good idea. “It’s the experience, stupid!”

Governor Bill Clinton, running for the presidency:

“I believe experience counts, but it’s not everything. Values, judgment and [your] record…also should count for something…we have to change this country…insanity [is] just doing the same old thing over and over again and expecting a different result…We need a new approach. The same old experience is not relevant…And you can have the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience…”

 Senator Clinton, what’s good for the goose… You can’t have it both ways for the sake of political expedience.

I hate this, Hillary. Really I do. I love the notion of a lofty campaign, a battle of new ideas and ideals waged (fairly) by refreshingly intelligent candidates. No more good ole boy gaffes, no more Bush-Rovian tactics like the smearing of McCain in South Carolina when you can’t beat him any other way. But it appears the Bush-Rovian Method is afoot again and this time it’s one of our own taking the scorched earth nuclear option. I watched the AFL-CIO Forum the other night. The Bush-Rovian Method tainted it for me. I listened carefully to what you had to say. Here’s what I heard–and what I heard:

“I’m here because I think we need to change America. And it’s not to get in fights with Democrats [even when I twist their words, question their intelligence and intent and call them scary names like irresponsible, naive, inexperienced]. I want the Democrats to win [just not that Obama guy who keeps stealing my thunder and is the only real threat to my sure-thing nomination with all his anti-lobbyist, common sense, civility and negotiation hoo-hah]. And I want a united Democratic Party that will stand against the Republicans [sort of like I didn’t stand against Dubya and his cronies in the run-up to this disastrous war in Iraq, going along and authorizing the wrong war in the wrong country against the wrong people because, suddenly and inexplicably, I TRUSTED the President…not that I made a mistake, mind you…]. …So, if you want a winner who knows how to take them on [you’ll just have to trust me on this], I’m your girl.”

Then, Hillary, you took another shot at Senator Obama for his clarity on foreign policy and terrorism:

“So, you can think big, but remember you shouldn’t always say everything you think if you’re running for president [sort of like nobody knows what the hell I was thinking when I voted to authorize Dubya’s war or when I said ‘Yes, we really are safer now’ a few weeks ago or when I said ‘Lobbyists are people, too’ so I can take all that dirty, sexy money and still keep my virginity. Just trust me. I think big–but, like ole George W., I don’t have to tell you what I think. Or what I’ll do. I like to think of it as my pre-Executive Executive Privilege since we all know I’m the only candidate ready to lead from day one. It’s national security if I say it is, ya know].

I didn’t feel optimistic about the future during the Labor Forum. Hillary, you gave me nothing much to feel better about. And when Biden and Dodd piled on, doing your dirty work for you, I felt even worse. It looked suspiciously like the Old Guard, the establishment that bowed, again and again, to Dubya’s will, had become their own little cabal. It hurts when some uppity new guy like Obama comes along and has the unmitigated audacity to say your record on Iraq is clearly not such an admirable thing. Especially when he had the foresight to speak out against that war in 2002, very clearly predicting a bad situation going worse and our being stuck in the middle of it at an inconceivably high cost and with no way out. A bloody, costly quagmire. Pretty naive and irresponsible, eh? So, you pile on. You attack him for his willingness to negotiate, for his taking a tough stance on the real terrorist threat and for saying No to nukes against terrorist targets. It seems you want to both radicalize and marginalize him.

Senator Obama’s foreign policy plan is neither naive nor some radical new notion. It’s common sense. There is no country called “Terrorism.” It is not a single nation. It’s a criminal mindset; an intent. All terrorists are not of the same nationality. All terrorists do not live in, train in or operate from a single country. We all know–when we’re not being scared senseless–that there are terrorist cells everywhere. All over the Middle East, Asia, Africa, in Europe and right here. Do we nuke at will, everywhere? What’s the criteria when terrorists are the minority in every region? You must be both terrorists and dark-skinned? You must be terrorists sitting on land rich with oil–or some other natural resource we want so badly it’s worth dying for?

Terrorists are criminals, not vast, state-sponsored armies. We need the military equivalent to beefed-up SWAT teams on gang-controlled turf, not “mushroom clouds.” Obama would use the limited incursion, limited strikes, against identified, active cells which are a clear and present danger when the country in which they are operating cannot or will not do the job.  This is not irreseponsible. It’s been done before. Limited strikes mean limited casualties. Nuclear strikes are another thing altogether.

Campaign wars are a nasty business when we choose the unfair fight. They are seldom fought by the rules or on the designated field of battle. They’re guerilla warfare. Sniper tactics, combined with lethal doses of propaganda–those dirty little under-the-table stink bombs designed to foul up the room so reasonable people won’t hear what’s really being said or see what’s really going on. They’re outta there, fleeing from the stench.

When we don’t fight the primary wars with some level of honesty and sound judgment which serves the best interest of the country rather than personal ambition, then we won’t do any better job of waging the “war on terrorism” than the debacle we’re mired down in now. And that really stinks.

All we can do, in defense of reason over rabid rhetoric, is hold our noses and stay in the fight until common sense–and common decency–win the day.

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Clever, those ancient Greeks. They gave us art, literature, philosophy and the notion of a more perfect form of government. They gave us a language ripe for the picking. Greek prefixes, Greek root-words: “demos” (people), “kratos” (power).  Power to the people. What a word! What a concept! What’s not to like?

They also gave us the hystera/hystero prefix– which means uterus. Hysterectomy. Problems with a pesky womb? If it offends you, cut it out. Not a bad thing. But there’s also hysteria. You know, that hollering and screaming thing. Tantrums. Panic attacks. General emotional mayhem.  And, for too many lo-o-o-ong centuries, the female’s uterus was the definitive root of all disorganized behavior and thought. The womb made us a tad too flaky to be trusted to do more than have babies, cook and clean. Uterine mood swings and all. It’s been a man’s world.

Hysteria has become an equal opportunity malady in modern times. These days men can be hysterical, too. And those Bad Boys–the ones with all the power and big guns– can whip up a climate of hysteria any time they really need one. Dubya and his cronies have mastered the art. Saddam. Al-Qaeda  and Saddam.  WMD from Basra to Tikrit and the imminent threat of mushroom clouds poisoning every peace-loving U.S. citizen if we didn’t invade ASAP, overthrow that madman with his fat finger on the nuke button and create a shiny, new America-loving Iraq. Quick-like. No time to think. Or ask any questions. They’ve kept us in line every step of the way by scaring us to death. Hysteria works.

The Clinton campaign seems to be sinking into hysteria mode lately. When Barack Obama said Bush’s “zero-diplomacy unless I really like you” policy is a poor approach, that he would be willing to begin talking to foreign heads of state, good guys or bad, within the first year of an Obama presidency, Clintonistas went ballistic. Manic. Menopausal. Suddenly the very idea of diplomacy, of open negotiation, is akin to hopping into bed with a harlot after strangling your wife. Clearly, Obama is too stupid to be president. Naive. Irresponsible. You’d think he must have voted to authorize a dumb, rash war… 

Within days the “Obama will even talk to HOLOCAUST DENIERS!” panic pill was being dosed out like methadone at a drug rehab facility. It’s hysterical.

And it’s sad. I’ve always liked Hillary. She’s smart, she’s tough, she’s capable. But I’m mad at her for using the same old Bush-Rovian smear-and-fear tactics when she’s  scared she might lose a little ground. She should be ashamed of herself. She should be as sick as most women are of the hystera/hystero prefix and its use as a tool to deny us our rightful places in the world of “rational” men. This PMS-style over-reaction, this deliberate distortion of a rival candidate’s intelligence and his intent are nothing more than the same peddling of hysteria we’ve suffered for the last 6 1/2 years; it’s Dubya’s “We have to fight them over there so we won’t have to fight them here!” nonsense in make-up and high heels.

It is unworthy of a candidate who says she represents real change. It is especially unworthy of a smart woman who has had to weather the Women’s Rights Wars. The marketing of hysteria for expedience, for ambition, is beneath a strong candidate for the highest office in the land. It smacks of the same old dirty politics-as-usual.

Senator Obama has said–more than once–“We [Americans] are better than this.” That sentiment should surely apply to Hillary Clinton, a powerful woman who is in a position to further the cause for women’s capabilities trumping their wombs once and for all.

Ms. Clinton, the hysteria mode offends us. Cut it out.

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