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Thursday, May 20, 2004

You all should read Hendrik Hertzberg's Comment "Unconventional War" in the May 24 New Yorker.

What do you think?

About what?

Anything.

Anything?

Yeah.

Nothing.

Nothing?

Nothing in particular.

Anything in general?

Not really.

Nothing?

No, not nothing, just not anything in particular.

Really?

Really.

Bullshit.

What??

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Al Queda is at war precisely with liberalism, human rights, every value that progressives hold dear. They make the right wing look like a touchy feely peacenik commune singing ‘Kumbaya.’ They are killers, killers, killers. I would love to take on Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh about how much we on the left want Osama gone and al Queda destroyed, eliminated, dead.

What I get really peeved about is how this Administration thinks we’re too stupid to understand the difference between al Queda and every other bad guy they’d like to take on-- or every poor bastard living in a country we don’t like. War on Terror—right. Someone on a comedy channel recently declared a War on Error. Where do we sign up?

I’d love to see funding for our emergency preparedness in New York, I’d like to see three times the US troops in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, I’d like to see a truly serious effort to fund the rebuilding of Afghanistan. I’d like to see us get the Saudis to fork over all their intel on al Queda.

What do I get as an American citizen instead? I get endless justifications and spin on why their personal adventure in Iraq can’t be modified or further internationalized, despite every indication that in addition to being unjustified on the top two or three counts given the public beforehand, its SCREWING UP BIG TIME EVERY DAY on the ground. I get the Secretary of Defense saying its too big a pain in the ass for him to answer questions for ten days about the torture and humiliation of Iraqi civilians in Saddam’s biggest prison on his watch. I get my President backing a plan for continued war sponsored by the right wing Israeli PM that he can’t even sell to his own party, much less his own public.

In short, I get our leaders f*cking up. This pisses me off. We need leadership.

We hear a lot this week about the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education and it is a good time to celebrate Brown. It’s a good time to remember that segregation was outlawed in 1954. It’s worth remembering Brown II as well.

Brown II was the 1955 follow up decision in which the Supreme Court used the now familiar words, “with all deliberate speed” to address a lack of implementation of the Brown decision. Brown II was used as the code the South required to drag its feet on integration.

When we look at the residential segregation (North and South) in America today and the public schools in our cities that have resegregated, we need to be clear that Brown v. Board is the legal standard, but not yet the reality.

Fifty years later, America still has a long way to travel.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Lost sometimes in the day-to-day lurch from crisis to crisis is the big picture of formulating a new era in foreign policy. One dual theme I keep thinking about is that the US needs to be pushing forward the democratic and open model of the America (at our best) in multilateral diplomacy and by aiding human rights struggles around the world, while simultaneously focusing our preparedness and military forces on the most crucial lines of defense to protect our people and country. In this duality, it’s most important to face down the Bush Administration’s dangerous and simple-minded approach of late.

We’re now stuck making the Iraq disaster into something more workable. It will haunt us for a long while, but there’s no use denying we have a responsibility there now. What I think we can easily forget in the Iraq debate is the fact that there are other relationships that need critical attention as immediately as Iraq as well, even just within the realm of the “war on terror.”

Firstly, the war’s name is a misnomer. It should be a “war on a draconian brand of fundamentalism growing from a radical and evangelical Wahhabist movement.” We could call it a “War on al Queda” if we accept the general nature of all titles to be approximate. The problem is that the Bush neocons want to call America’s struggle a “war on Terror (Big T)” to encompass anyone they’d like to fight and to lump them all into a big bag, thereby muddying important distinctions between immediate threats, grumpy problems, nationalist movements, and folks we just can’t stand (like Saddam).

The boys of al Queda are out to kill us and are willing dedicate an enormous span of time and dedication to their task. They are job one in any war we fight. That is something this bunch at the White House has long since forgotten. While we concentrate more of our limited Arabic speaking intelligence and military personnel on the Iraq conflict, al Queda is regrouping in Afghanistan and Pakistan (and elsewhere). We are now spending very little on the promised effort to rebuild Afghanistan, where this group still has a primary, unpoliced residence. Stability and a lift out of poverty is the enemy of al Queda's influence there. We also send the Pakistanis tons of military aid, which is spent, in part, by al Queda sympathizers in the armed forces and intelligence power base there, while General Musharraf begs for economic aid that might help undermine the attraction of radical Islamic groups in this desperately poor NUCLEAR POWER neighbor to the Taliban remnants. We need to head off the possibility of a coup in Pakistan and a forever Balkanized Afghanistan, where al Queda will continue to grow and plot.

Meanwhile, a real state sponsor of terrorism, Iran (no, not Iraq), works on gaining nuclear capacity while our administration still spends all it's effort shoring up old arguments about aging WMD canisters in Iraq. Bush’s foreign policy lacks the creativity needed to subtly back forces in Iran that might take the reins away from really frightening religious zealots there in Tehran.

Full circle to Iraq-- The Iraq adventure may now be the biggest breeding ground for future terrorists, both in that country and throughout the Arab world that could ever have been imagined by the religious desperados we need to face down. This fact is one of the biggest reasons to quickly internationalize the struggle there and let go of some of the compulsive need to run every bit of detail there that this Administration requires. While we're at it, let's not keep exposing American soldiers to attack daily by imposing the limits Rumsfeld wants on troop numbers to prove he can do it on the cheap. We need international help fast and meanwhile, our soldiers need Pentagon reinforcement support. Lots of it. Bush should be begging in back channels for international help and be willing to accept some Arab or European or UN decision-makers in a peacekeeping force at the request of a real Iraqi transition government.

Unfortunately, there is no backtracking from the fact that we’ll be digging out of the mess the neocons have created in the Middle East for the foreseeable future. It would help some if we could begin digging out instead of in.


Here’s an excerpt from a pretty center right source that should give pause to the neocons:

“Crafting a foreign policy for a new era is hard. The last time this had to be done was in the time of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman more than half a century ago. The institutions they established and the values they upheld were the foundation of the successful US foreign policy of the postwar era. Now, a task even more complex has fallen on this president. He is not up to the job. This is not a moral judgment, but a practical one. The world is too complex and dangerous for the pious simplicities and arrogant unilateralism of George W. Bush.”
-Martin Wolfe
Financial Times May 12, 2004



Monday, May 17, 2004

OK, it gets tiring reading about this Administration's folly day after day. Maybe I'll give you a rest. But not today.

Not on a day when I wake up to find that with a HUGE budget deficit, HUGE problems in our economy, big big bills to pay for a war in Iraq that the Bush Administration won't even include in an election year budget, and lots of children and families out there without health care-- this bunch is sending a $10 Billion appropriation up to the Senate for Star Wars!

No not today.

If we should be spending money on some kind of shield for our cities, it ought to be one that addresses the problem of terrorist suitcase bombs, not the nonexistent Cold War threat. These guys won't adaquately fund first responders in our cities to deal with emergencies that may occur in quite concievable terror threats, but thay have money for this. This waste of money is just so eighties...

If it were operational in the next ten years (and it won't be), it might help address the North Korea problem that this Administration won't address now diplomatically. For free.

Who benefits? Let's ask that question. I'm sure the answers will be interesting...

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Apparently, a memorandum on terror prisoners from White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales written in Jan. 25, 2002 has now been expanded to cover detainees in Iraq.

Gonzales wrote, "In my judgment, this new paradigm (of terrorism) renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions"

This may make some sense when applied to high level al Queda prisoners, particularly if they are involved in an imminent or ongoing attack on US citizens. It is telling that Secretary Rumsfeld has seemingly allowed this attitude to infiltrate the prisons of Iraq, where (by many accounts) up to 70 percent of detainees have been grabbed by mistake and where, until recent months, no serious connection to al Queda existed.

General Antonio Taguba, whose recent report on Iraqi prisoner abuse has earned him a transfer out of the line of power in the Pentagon, took on this policy, citing it as one factor in the abuse taking place there. While the Pentagon and NSC head Rice are busy denying that Defense and the Army Chief of Staff had approved any methods that could have resulted in the current abuse scandal, it's hard to deny that new, more inhumane standards of prisoner treatment were used and expanded beyond the original narrow demographic of al Queda leadership.

This is what will, of course, filter down from an Administration that sees the entire world through the lens of "you're either with us or against us." Ordinary soldiers get the message. Only now, they're the ones being left out alone to take the blame when the world finds the results repugnant.

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