Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Waging Peace

I'm sitting here preparing for departure, on my way to Washington DC to participate in the national demonstration on January 27th, and to support Veterans for Peace in our Support and Defend the Constitution event on the 25th - tomorrow. I wasn't able to watch the President's address last night because I was attending the executive board meeting of our local chapter of Veteras for Peace.

To be honest, I don't think I had the stomach for it anyway. The tired repetition of the same bullshit that we've been putting up with for the last 6 years, mixed with the latest lies and spin that Monkey-Boy continues to pile on, just gives me a headache. I did read the speech, after the fact, and I must say, the President met my expectations.

Then I read the response by Jim Webb.

Now that was a hell of a speech. I didn't agree with every word that came out of his mouth, but so what. Honest, direct, intelligent, concise, and realistic. He reportedly was handed a speech by the Democratic leadership, which he promptly roundfiled and then wrote a new one himself. Not a speechwriter attempting to cover all the political points, but an actual politician speaking his own words.

Damn that's refreshing.

Just a short post, I'm waiting for my ride to the airport, then I when I get to DC it's time to pick up a plowshare.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Reading of the Names

San Diego Veterans for Peace put on a protest event today along the waterfront in San Diego. We started in the grassy area on the street facing the USS Midway, which is a decommissioned aircraft carrier that is now a museum.

A group of thirty people read simultaneously the names of all of the members of our armed forces who have died in the Iraq war. We walked along the waterfront, and stopped and repeated the reading five or six times, then ended back at the Midway. Our memorial and protest was followed by a meditation for the Iraqi war dead by an interfaith peace activist group.

This is a very powerful event, and though I have participated in reading the names of our fallen many times in the course of my involvement in the peace movement, I cannot help but be moved every time. The human cost of this war, not just of our own casualties, but of all of the fallen in this war, for me cuts through the politics and the B.S.

What always gets me is the human connection, and understanding that each name is a life, a family, with all the precious mundane details that go with that. Each of these names was person who was an avid churchgoer, or a baseball player, or a knitting enthusiast, or someone's big brother. Each person is mourned by many, and matters, and is deserving of remembrance.

In this spirit, I list only a few names here, but with some details to help connect to the real human cost of this war.

Pfc. Amy A. Duerksen, died in Baghdad, Iraq, on March 11, 2006. I did a little research on this, apparently she died of a gunshot wound that she received three days previously from a non-hostile weapons discharge. The army has not provided any further details.

She was from Maryland, she loved her family and her God, and she was 19 years old.

Barbara Heald, 60, of Stamford, Conn., died January 29, 2005, in Baghdad, Iraq, when the Republic National Palace was hit by a mortar round.

She was a retired Air Force Captain, and volunteered to work in Iraq as a civilian in support of our armed forces there. She was a "ferocious knitter", and posed in front of this famous statue in Iraq with a copy of Knitter's Magazine.

Sgt. Cheyenne Willey, 36. Sgt. Willey grew up in Macomb, Illinois. He had a paper route as a young boy, that his little sister Stacy used to help him with. After high school, he moved with his family to Fremont, California, then enlisted in the army in 1995. He was very highly respected in his unit and by civilian contractors in Iraq, and was considered a key member of his reconstruction battalion. He has been recommended for a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

Cheyenne was killed December 23rd, 2005 by a roadside bomb.

Lance Cpl. Saeed "J.R." Jafarkhani-Torshizi Jr., 24. He was a baseball player, loved to go to the movies, and loved being in the Marine Corps.

J.R. was killed in a helicopter crash on January 27, 2005.

There are 3,052 stories like this, as of this morning, just for Americans. There are over 600,000 stories like this for Iraqis.

How many have to die?


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Deceit on the Rocks

When President Bush was interviewed by Jim Lehrer on the Lehrer Newshour on January 16th, I missed it. There has been so much controversy and commentary about it that I finally looked it up and watched online. Some things occurred to me as I watched and re-read the transcript, and I decided to analyze it in a slightly different way from some comments that I have seen. You may want to click on the above link first and read the interview, or watch it, before reading this post, I do get a bit detailed about some parts of it.

First, during the speech, Bush actually defined what he means by success in Iraq. I list his criteria here, for future reference. According to President Bush, success in Iraq would be measured by these benchmarks of success:
  1. A government that functions, meaning:
    1. It provides security for its people
    2. It takes steps to share the oil wealth
    3. It deals with the de-Baathification law
    4. It encourages local elections

  2. A Baghdad that is less violent

  3. Reconstruction projects in place that employ Iraqis

  4. Iraqi troops chasing down killers

  5. al-Qaeda prevented from getting a foothold in Iraq
I find it interesting that he mentions sharing the oil wealth, but does not specify who it would be shared with.

Next I will quote, out of order, the lengthy list of lies that Bush told during the interview:

(origin of violence in Iraq)
...some of these bombings are done by al-Qaeda and their affiliates.
This statement is, on the face of it, true. It implies, however, something that is not. Once again al-Qaeda is mentioned in conjunction with Iraq, in an obvious, tired, and repetitive way, as a continued attempt to link two unrelated issues in the minds of the American people.

(consequences of failure of the Iraq war)
This is a war; part of a broader war, and that if we fail in Iraq, there is a better likelihood that the enemy comes and hurts us here. would just really create a very dangerous situation for the American people in the longer run.
...if we fail in Iraq, it is likely there will be safe haven from which people will be able to launch attacks from America.

Three separate times during the interview, Bush claims that failure in Iraq specifically endangers America. This is more neo-con fear peddling, it is just not true. Failure in Iraq, which has already occurred, will have enormous short-term consequences for the Iraqis, and longer term consequences for the region. The idea that America would allow al-Qaeda safe-havens anywhere in the world, whether we are actively engaged in war or not, is just silly. The fact is, Bush created the situation that is drawing al-Qaeda to Iraq. They are there because we are there, and if we left, they would have no reason to stay.

It is likely there would be enormous clashes between radical Shia and radical Sunnis.
He implies that there are not already clashes in Iraq between these groups.

It is likely that moderate governments could be toppled, in which case, people could get a hold of oil resources.
Which moderate governments? The Saudis? The Kuwaitis? The Iranians? Who is he talking about? There is some truth here, clearly he is concerned about losing a controlling interest in world oil supplies.

(the Iraqi goverment)
...some of my decisions actually have worked, like getting rid of Saddam Hussein and helping the Iraqi government form a unity government that is based on a novel constitution for the Middle East.
There is no unity government in Iraq, it's a sectarian government.

(taking responsibility - without taking responsibility)
Bush: Part of the failure for our reaction was ourselves. I mean, we should have found troops and moved them. But part of it was that the Iraqis didn't move troops. And I take responsibility for us not moving our own troops into Baghdad -
Lehrer: Why didn't we move the troops, Mr. President?
Bush: Well, because I think the commanders there felt like it was important to make sure the Iraqis did first, or that the Iraqis made a focused, concerted effort. And they just didn't. There were supposedly six brigades committed and they sent two.

Throughout these responses, he appears to take responsibility without actually admitting mistakes of his own. He claims responsibility for not moving troops, then blames the Iraqis and his own commanders. I said in a previous blog, and I say it again: He seems to want be attempting to nobly take responsibility for the errors of others, without admitting his own mistakes. He seems to be pathologically incapable of saying that he was wrong. When directly asked by Lehrer if he felt a personal sense of failure in regards to the Iraq war, he distinctly shakes his head no.

(about General Casey)
he is also the general who felt like we needed more troops, and he's also the general that believes this is the best chance of working.
Casey has strongly recommended against more troops. Repeatedly. He reiterated those recommendations as recently as December 21st.

(about his options in Iraq)
Look, I had a choice to make, Jim, and that is - one - do what we're doing. And one could define that maybe a slow failure. Secondly, withdraw out of Baghdad and hope for the best. I would think that would be expedited failure. And thirdly is to help this Iraqi government with additional forces - help them do what they need to do, which is to provide security in Baghdad.
(then later)
One idea was just keep doing what you're doing; another idea was to pull out of Baghdad...the final option is secure the capital and at the same time chase al-Qaida into Anbar.
Bush presents these options as the only options. That is categorically false. He completely leaves unmentioned diplomatic solutions or involving neighboring countries in security solutions, or other options.

The question I'm now faced with is do I react to that (2006 being a lousy year) or do we just begin to leave, which is - some people - decent people on Capitol Hill think we ought to do. I made the decision, let's succeed; let's work for success not work for failure.

Forget what decent people on Capitol Hill think. What about what the American people think? How is looking at solutions other than military ones working for failure? He repeatedly hammers this point throughout the interview, without allowing for non-military considerations. Even the analysts of the interview seem to miss this point, granting him the basic framework of his argument, and picking it apart within that framework. The lie here comes from Bush framing this question, and its answers, in a way that leaves his solution as the apparent obvious and correct conclusion.

I've listened to the commanders.
Which ones have you listened to, Mr. President? Your actions seem to be directly contrary to the advice of your commanders.

All timetables do is embolden the enemy.
Whether timetables embolden the enemy or not, timetables would force the Iraqis to take more responsibility for their own security, or at least acknowledge that Americans were no longer going to.

I listened to a lot of folks, a lot of good, decent folks, and came up with this answer as the best way to succeed.
Which folks did you listen to, Mr. President? Who advised you that this was the best way to succeed? Dick Cheney? Condi Rice? Don Rumsfeld? Paul Wolfowitz? Or perhaps it was Lee Raymond, Heroen van der Veer and Lord Browne?

In this interview, Bush envisions the world if America does not "succeed in Iraq", as 20 years from now being a "cauldron of radicalism and extremism." He sees radical Shia & Sunni competing for power, with oil falling in the hands of radicals, which could then be used to blackmail Western Governments. He predicts the use of nucyular weapons of mass destruction. The truth is, Bush envisions the power of oil corporations extending into the indefinite future, an unlimited supply of treasure buried beneath the sands of the Middle East.

This next lie is a complex one, and it has been missed by those analyses that I have seen. Bush was criticized strongly by many about his initial response to Lehrer's question:

Why have you not, as president of the United States, asked more Americans and more American interests to sacrifice something?

As has been remarked on many times in other forums, he came back with a nonsensical comment about Americans sacrificing by watching the war on TV. This statement is only another Bushism, that once again puts his bumbling folksiness under the microscope. What bothers me more is the rest of his answer.

He goes on to say that he feels he should not raise taxes, that people should feel like their life's moving on, and puts an image in our minds of regular folks working hard to feed their kids and send them to college. This leads to his most disturbing point: this is like saying why don't you make sacrifices in the Cold War? I mean, Iraq is only a part of a larger ideological struggle. But it's a totally different kind of war, than ones we're used to.

This is his most important point. This is the big lie that the Bush administration has hoped from the beginning to get us to buy into. It's the same old neo-con fear baiting. Like the cliche of the snake-oil salesman, he just slips it in casually, again and again. It's taken for granted that we fight an ongoing war, decades in length. An "ideological struggle", that we must be prepared to fight for years. We are expected to slip on the familiar, comfortable Cold War shoes, falling into the habit of fear that some of us lived with from the time we were children doing duck and cover drills under our desks at school. If we just hang tough, and rely on good old American values, they and God will carry us through.

This Straussian bullshit has got to be exposed. The same old story about an implacable enemy dedicated to conquering our Christian values and our American ideals and our Democratic principles, an enemy dedicated to non-Christian and anti-Democratic evil that hates America. The Athiestic Communist Threat must be stopped! Umm.. Er.. The Fanatical Muslim Terrorist Threat must be stopped! I think and hope that finally people are waking up this, and maybe the neocons can be thrown out for good.

The neocons have a lot of the money, and the corporations of America back them. It's going to take a lot of work, and we have to do it one piece at a time. Today we work to stop the escalation of the war, and bring our troops home. Tomorrow we demand investigations and make the case for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. Then we take on Big Oil, Big Media, and the Carlyle Group.

President Bush truly cares about all Americans


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Teeth or No Teeth

The Democrats plan to implement a no-teeth resolution expressing their disapproval of Bush's escalation of the war. This resolution is expected to pass easily in the House, but a possible filibuster may block a vote in the Senate. Seven Republican Senators have so far agreed to vote with the Democrats on their "Non-binding Resolution" against the President's plan to increase troop levels on the ground so far: Gordon Smith(R-OR), Susan Collins(R-ME), Norm Coleman(R-MN), Chuck Hagel(R-NE), Olympia Snowe(R-ME), Sam Brownback(R-KS), and George Voinovich(R-OH). Now, assuming that the only defection would be Joe Lieberman(I-CT), that's 48 Dems. Add in the 7 Republicans above, and that gets 55 votes, needing 5 more to block a filibuster. Harry Reid(D-NV), the majority leader in the Senate, expects to get 4 or 5 more Republicans to break ranks, so it's going to be close.

But so what?

There are several ways to look at this, including the idea of using the resolution to force Bush into a political corner, but let's face it: Bush is doing a good enough job of that on his own. The Dems need to stand up and force the withdrawal of troops. Screw politics. Show some spine and take the risk of forcing the issue. I have no problem with the resolution per se, but I am having difficulty understanding why there is a reluctance to take real action. This war has to be stopped.

The escalation of the Iraq war began yesterday, regardless of any actions by the U.S. Congress. Troops began rolling into Iraq from Kuwait, starting with the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. The breakdown is as follows:

  • The 2nd BDE, 82nd Airborne Division, and assigned as the call forward force in Kuwait, will move into Iraq and assume a security mission there.
  • The 1st BDE, 34th Infantry Division, Minnesota ARNG, will be extended in its mission for up to 125 days and will redeploy not later than August 2007.
  • The 4th BDE, 1st Infantry Division, will deploy in February 2007 as previously announced.
  • Three other Army combat brigades will deploy as follows:
    • The 3rd BDE, 3rd Infantry Division, will deploy in March 2007.
    • The 4th Stryker BDE, 2nd Infantry Division, will deploy in April 2007.
    • The 2nd BDE, 3rd Infantry Division, will deploy in May 2007.

  • The Marine Corps will extend two reinforced infantry battalions for approximately 60 days.
  • The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) will remain in Iraq for approximately 45 additional days.
  • Finally, the USS Stennis Carrier Strike Group and the 3rd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Regiment will deploy to the region to bolster security.

Secretary Rice and King Abdullah, January 16, 2007

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice paid public court to the Saudis today, meeting with King Abdullah, and pleading with Prince Saud al-Faisal for help with Iraq. Al-Faisal expressed doubt that the Iraqis would be willing or able to do what the United States has asked them to do, and dismissively stated that their fate was "in the hands of the Iraqis themselves." The Saudis and the Kuwaitis nevertheless both came out in support of the escalation, though seemingly reluctantly.

There is continuing controversy in the press over U.S. troops working with (or under?) Iraqi units, raising concerns about command and control. The infiltration of insurgents and "terrorists" into Iraqi forces leaves some uneasy about relinquishing the authority over U.S. troops to incompetent leaders or perhaps to those with an agenda. Outgoing General Casey reports that there is no conflict, and that American troops will remain under U.S. command and control. In the field, I'm not sure how that will play. The Iraqis are insisting that they will be taking the lead, but their track record in doing that has not been so good. As usual, the Bush administration has dismissed the objections of Congress and the American people.

Cully Stimson

Torture and illegal detention apparently aren't going away any time soon. Charles D. "Cully" Stimson, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs, said only last Wednesday in an interview on C-Span that Guantanamo remains a useful asset: “It’s important during a time of war to have a place where, number one, you can take people off the battlefield and not allow them to go back to the battlefield … but also, exploit intelligence that they may possess.”

Following that, on Saturday he suggested a boycott by corporations of those law firms representing detainees at Guantanamo. "I think, quite honestly, when corporate CEO’s see that those firms are representing the very terrorists who hit their bottom line back in 2001, those CEO’s are going to make those law firms choose between representing terrorists or representing reputable firms, and I think that is going to have major play in the next few weeks. And we want to watch that play out."

Thankfully the ABA came out with a statement responding to that with an appropriate sense of outrage. The Defense Department is also already distancing themselves from his statements about the law firms. Unfortunately, they still seem to support him with regards to his earlier statement. Ironically, Scooter Libby has one of those firms representing him in his perjury case.

The rapidly deteriorating situation with Iran adds several layers of complexity to this. The recent attack on the Iranian consulate has really made the Iranians angry, and with Bush having sent a carrier task force to the region, there's already enough tension to go around without the so-called surge. I was going to say that I have grave concerns that this is going to flame up bigger than it already is, but that statement doesn't cover it. If we encroach onto Iranian territory, overtly, I don't rule out Iran invading Iraq. Then what happens?

over 600,000 Iraqis in the Iraq War
at least 34,452 Iraqis in 2006
over 100 Iraqis today
3,024 American military personnel as of today
At least 377 contractors
At least 106 Journalists

How many have to die?


Sunday, January 14, 2007

I Have a Dream Speech

In honor of the greatest American of the Twentieth Century

Dr. Martin Luther King
August 28, 1963

National Conference on Media Reform

This last weekend, journalists and activists gathered at the National Conference on Media Reform. My friend Barbara emailed some of the details of this event to me, and I was able to watch part of it live. The most striking thing for me was this speech by Bill Moyers.

The internet is still free, and has yet to be completely dominated by Corporatism. The events of recent months have shown us how important the blogosphere is in getting out real information to the world. They have also shown us that it is impossible to rely on Big Media for accurate information, unfiltered by corporate or partisan interest. Facts are available, but not easy to find. We must fight to keep the corporations from monetizing the blogosphere, and keep the information flowing.

Information wants to be free!

Bill Moyers' address to the National Conference on Media Reform, Jan 12, 2007.

One of Two

Two of Two

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Responsibility versus Apathy

The escalation of the war initiated by Bush in his most recent speech is entirely unacceptable. The unrestrained arrogance of the Bush administration is clear to see. He acts now against the will of the American people, the Congress, the experts and generals, and the world. This was not always the case.

I have always been a liberal. I have always voted Democratic. I am a veteran of the United States Coast Guard, and as a military veteran, over most of my life my position on foreign policy issues often was more centrist than left. In college, I was a history major, and in my studies, the conclusions I drew were viewed through a narrow window based mostly on national interest.

I was deeply affected by the attacks of September 11, 2001. The unfocused rage I felt through the end of 2002 led to me being treated for depression, partly because I didn't know who to be angry at. In the late 1990's, I had read extensively on world religions, as a personal project, and though I don't subscribe to any particular religion, the facts that came through to me were that all religions, including Islam and Christianity, contain both universal truths, and fundamental flaws. I have never indulged myself in the intellectual sloppiness of bigotry, or prejudice, or religious intolerance, so after 9/11 I was disturbed, even through my own anger, by the reaction of hatred by many in America towards Arab-Americans or Muslims.

The thing is though, when the Iraq war started, I supported it. I bought the lies, like so many others, and my anger about the attacks on September 11th 2001 contributed to my inability to think clearly about what was happening. As time passed it became clear to me that I was being deceived, and was helped in that deception by my emotional reaction to the attack. More was revealed about the actions, and inactions, of the Bush administration, and I was forced to take a look at myself. I came to the conclusion that not only had I erred in my judgement about the right thing to do, but that my gut emotional reaction contributed to the problem. My acceptance without question of the statements of the Bush administration, through most of 2003, went along with the tacit acceptance of most Americans. That acceptance, rather than the illegal and immoral actions of Bush, is what has led to this war and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

It is our fault. It is my fault.

We know now, of course, that Iraq and Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. We know that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Looking back at what was published, and the information that was available to me at the time, I should have known that. This war has been used not as a weapon only against Iraqis, and at least in name if not in fact, against terrorists, but against Americans. The bludgeon of the war is being used even now against our most basic civil liberties. It is being used to justify atrocities, perversely being perpetrated in the name of liberty. The use of torture by the United States in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and elsewhere, and the defense of that use of torture by the Bush Administration, is what made me first feel shame as an American.

This is not a new phenomenon, it has happened throughout our history. Civil liberties have been under threat many times in American history, by individual presidents, by corporate interests, and by our own prejudices. The difference this time is the sustained systematic pounding away by a group of men determined to destroy the principles that our nation was founded on for their own gain.

The erosion of our civil liberties in the USA Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act, and most recently Bush's signing statement for the Postal Reform Act, should make us all gravely concerned. In addition, the president's statements and history make it clear to me that other areas of freedom and privacy have been violated, and most likely will continue to be.

The war is a symptom, it is not the problem. The destruction of Iraq, and the deaths of so many, is what has been caused by the underlying problem of apathy in America. The easy acceptance of materialism (the American Way of More Stuff) and the arrogance of Americans about the superiority of our culture, has made it easy for those interested in consolidating their hold on power to do so. The fear peddled by the Corporate media, fears of terrorism, of crime, of immigrants, and recently of our own government not only restrains us, but reinforces our apathy. More of us are waking up all the time, but many of us are still childishly averting our eyes and ears just as I did. A lot of Americans don't see why they need to get upset about a war, because they don't see it affecting them. That's why I'm in favor of bringing back the draft, at least in some form.

The time has come for bold action. The peace movement has moved up to the next level, which to me, is being accepted as a credible and important influence in American politics. The first sign of that was Harry Reid changing his position on Bush's escalation of the war after being contacted by a large number of us opposed to his original statement. The next sign may be blocking the escalation of the war by forcing Congress to acknowlege their mandate, and investigate what happened, and stop the war. If we are to achieve this kind of progress, we must push Congress hard. Letters, emails, phone calls, and continued peaceful demonstrations are essential to keep up the pressure.

We are making progress. We have momentum, and we need to push even harder because of that. This war must end. Our civil liberties must be restored. Sitting at home getting mad at the TV stopped working for me, and I had to get involved. My only regret with doing that is that I didn't do it sooner. I have so much respect for those that saw immediately what was happening, and had enough courage to get involved in protesting this thing from the start. For me, I crossed over something a while ago, and I can't go back. Corporatism (as Mussolini used to call it) is not going away any time soon. Even once we get the war stopped (which we will), and restore our civil liberties (ditto), so much work remains to be done that I for one will continue to work for peace and justice in America.

110th Congress:

1. End the war.
2. Stop the torture.
3. Protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Anything less is a deal breaker.


Saturday, January 6, 2007

The Military Industrial Complex

I've been doing some thinking over the last day or so, and decided to do some research. I had seen Eisenhower's farewell address fairly recently, but it is rare that you get to see the entire thing, and found this copy of it. If you have time, it's worth a look. Thanks to Barbara for her video as well (shown first), that's what put me onto this.

The more I learn about the way the corporate heirarchy in the United States interacts with the military, and with congress and the administration, the more saddened I become.

Barbara Cummings: Comment On The Upcoming 110th Congress - video powered by Metacafe

Below the video is the full text of the speech, including the introduction. The speech itself is 20 to 25 minutes. The entire video concludes with about 20 minutes of commentary, with various talking heads discussing, re-summarizing, and analyzing Eisenhower's speech. I include it because I can't find a copy of the entire speech without it. Most shorter videos are clips only, excerpting what various editors find to be important and leaving out what they don't. I feel that it's important to see the entire speech, without taking bits out of context, so here it is:

Farewell Radio and Television Address to the American People
by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 17, 1961.

Eisenhower farewell to the nation

Add to My Profile | More Videos

Full text of Eisenhower's Address, excluding the talking heads, follows here:

Good evening, my fellow Americans.

First, I should like to express my gratitude to the radio and television networks for the opportunities they have given me, over the years to bring reports and messages to our nation. My special thanks go to them for the opportunity of addressing you, this evening.

Three days from now, after half a century in the service of our country, I shall lay down the responsibilities of office as, in traditional and solemn ceremony, the authority of the Presidency is vested in my successor.

This evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell, and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen.

Like every other citizen, I wish the new President, and all who will labor with him, Godspeed. I pray that the coming years will be blessed with peace and prosperity for all.

Our people expect their President and the Congress to find essential agreement on issues of great moment, the wise resolution of which will better shape the future of the Nation.

My own relations with the Congress, which began on a remote and tenuous basis when, long ago, a member of the Senate appointed me to West Point, have since ranged to the intimate during the war and immediate post-war period, and, finally, to the mutually interdependent during these past eight years.

In this final relationship, the Congress and the Administration have, on most vital issues, cooperated well, to serve the national good rather than mere partisanship, and so have assured that the business of the Nation should go forward. So, my official relationship with the Congress ends in a feeling, on my part, of gratitude that we have been able to do so much together.

We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major wars among great nations. Three of these involved our own country. Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most influential and most productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this pre-eminence, we yet realize that America's leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material progress, riches and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of world peace and human betterment.

Throughout America's adventure in free government, our basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among peoples and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people. Any failure traceable to arrogance, or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us grievous hurt both at home and abroad.

Progress toward these noble goals is persistently threatened by the conflict now engulfing the world. It commands our whole attention, absorbs our very beings. We face a hostile ideology - global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose, and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is called for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle - with liberty at stake. Only thus shall we remain, despite every provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment.

Crises there will continue to be. In meeting them, whether foreign or domestic, great or small, there is a recurring temptation to feel that some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties. A huge increase in newer elements of our defense; development of unrealistic programs to cure every ill in agriculture; a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research - these and many other possibilities, each possibly promising in itself, may be suggested as the only way to the road we wish to travel.

But each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs - balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantages, balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable, balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between action of the moment and the national welfare of the future. Good judgment seeks balance and progress; lack of it eventually finds imbalance and frustration.

The record of many decades stands as proof that our people and their government have, in the main, understood these truths and have responded to them well, in the face of stress and threat. But threats, new in kind or degree, constantly arise. Of these, I mention two only.

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.

Our military organization today bears little relation to that known of any of my predecessors in peace time, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all United States corporations.

Now, this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence - economic, political, even spiritual - is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system - ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society's future, we - you and I, and our government - must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.

Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.

Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose difference, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war - as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years - I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.

Happily, I can say that war has been avoided. Steady progress toward our ultimate goal has been made. But, so much remains to be done. As a private citizen, I shall never cease to do what little I can to help the world advance along that road.

So, in this my last good night to you as your President, I thank you for the many opportunities you have given me for public service in war and peace. I trust that in that service you find somethings worthy; as for the rest of it, I know you will find ways to improve performance in the future.

You and I - my fellow citizens - need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nation's great goals.

To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America's prayerful and continuing aspiration:

We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.

Now on Friday noon I am to become a private citizen. I am proud to do so, I look forward to it. Thank you, and goodnight.

Letter from Duncan Hunter

I received a rather interesting letter today, from my congressional representative, Duncan Hunter (R-CA, 52nd District). This was (I believe) in response to my electronic signature on a petition to impeach President Bush. It came on very nice stationary, with U.S. House of Representatives letterhead, and was addressed to me personally. It was actually signed by Mr. Hunter himself, in pen, rather than with a stamp or other facsimile signature.

The text of the letter, dated December 20, 2006, exactly and in full, leaving off my address information, is as follows:

Dear David:

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns. I was interested to learn of your support for impeachment of President Bush. While I appreciate your position on this issue, I am confident that behind the leadership of President Bush, we have remained on the offensive in the Global War on Terrorism targeting suspected terrorist organizations at home and abroad and working to better protect our homeland and providing law enforcement and intelligence officials with the tools they need.

As Chairman of the House Armed Services, I believe victory in Iraq remains critical to our overall success in the Global War on Terrorism and the withdrawal of U.S. troops should only begin once Iraq's security and military forces achieve the necessary level of self-sufficiency. American led efforts to promote democracy in Iraq are responsible for the removal and adjudication of Saddam Hussein, the liberation of approximately 30 million people and an unprecedented series of free and fair elections. However, prematurely withdrawing U.S. military personnel from Iraq before security and military forces are capable of protecting the Iraqi people and their interest would concede victory to our adversaries and bring greater insecurity to the Middle East and the American people.

In regards to your thoughts concerning the treatment of terrorists captured and detained by the U.S, I agree with you that we need to provide basic fairness in our prosecutions. However I strongly believe it is necessary for Congress to develop a judicial process that will allow for the effective prosecution of captured terrorists and will ensure American troops and citizens are protected from harm. It is for this reason I introduced H.R. 6166, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 which creates a fair judicial process that pays special attention to the rules of evidence and includes procedures used in previous military commissions and will allow the government to prosecute its case fully without compromising intelligence sources. H.R. 6166 passed the House with my support on September 27, 2006 by a vote of 253-163 and passed the Senate on September 28, 2006. It was signed into law by President Bush on October 17, 2006.

Congress has demonstrated its commitment to protecting our nation's families and communities. Rest assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind as addressing the terrorist threat remains one of our greatest priorities. Again, thank you for contacting me. If you should have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to let me know.


Duncan Hunter

This is the text of the letter I will mail later today in response, dated January 6, 2007:

Dear Representative Hunter,

Thank you for your recent letter in response to my email. Your response was thorough, but I am afraid that we are in disagreement about most of the points covered in your letter. It is in fact the leadership of President Bush that is in question. In addition, I question the methods he has used, with the approval of Congress, in fighting terror and prosecuting terrorists and others.

As you are the former Chairman, and I assume are a current member, of the House Armed Services Committee, I have some difficulty in seeing how you are linking the war in Iraq to terrorism. I have studied this issue at some length. It is very clear that Saddam Hussein was an evil man, and a terrible dictator, responsible for many tens of thousands of deaths, even of his own people. Much like Hitler or Stalin, he maintained power through a tightly controlled totalitarian dictatorship, but he was at odds with fundamentalist extremists, such as the Islamic extremists that attacked our country on September 11th, 2001. Saddam Hussein, evil as he was, never threatened the security of the United States. While it is true that now there are Islamic extremists in Iraq, they are operating there because the actions of the United States gave them the opportunity to do so.

You contradict yourself when you say, in the same paragraph, that "withdrawal of U.S. troops should only begin once Iraq's security and military forces achieve the necessary level of self-sufficiency", and that "American led efforts to promote democracy in Iraq are responsible for the removal and adjudication of Saddam Hussein, the liberation of approximately 30 million people and an unprecedented series of free and fair elections."

If the Iraqi people have been liberated, and have had free and fair elections, why do they need U.S. troops to achieve self-sufficiency? If they are not self-sufficient, have they truly been liberated, or are they suffering under the occupation of a foreign power, and caught up in a civil war unleashed by that occupation?

Withdrawing our troops would remove a destabilizing factor in Iraq. I have no illusions that our exit from Iraq will be pretty. I am a veteran myself, though I served in peacetime, and I understand that when we leave, the immediate impact will be harsh, and difficult. This will be the case if we leave now, or if we wait. As long as we are there our troops will be a target for insurgents, and the Iraqis will remain reluctant to take full control of securing their nation. I know that you served in Vietnam, and your son has served in Iraq, and I honor that service, as I honor the service of all of the members of our armed forces. It is concern for them that is my chief motivation in contacting you.

You also mention H.R. 6166, the Military Commissions Act of 2006. I am familiar with this piece of legislation as well. I have strong concerns about the constitutionality of many of the provisions of the document. The suspension of Habeas Corpus, in some circumstances, is a grave step, and while I am not a constitutional lawyer, it seems to me to exceed the authority granted to Congress by the Constitution. I have read the Commissions Act in detail, and I realize that only aliens are subject to most of the provisions of the act. The provision of that act, however, that grants the President or Secretary of Defense, or their appointees, to declare anyone, even an American Citizen, an unlawful enemy combatant I find disturbing.

While I am as concerned as anyone with preventing further terrorist attacks, I feel very strongly that the prosecution of any criminals, even terrorists, is best conducted in civilian courts. Our national security is a vital thing to secure, within the limits of the Constitution and the law. As Benjamin Franklin said: "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security."

I am including the full text of your letter to me, and this response, on my blog:

Thank you for your attention in this matter.


David L. Wiley
Formerly RM2 Wiley, USCG

That's all for now, just thought that I would share that with everyone...


3,006 today. How many have to die?

Friday, January 5, 2007

110 and rolling

Ok 110th Congress, are you ready for the big time?
Semper Conruptus

I am encouraged on a couple of levels, and discouraged on others. The House of Representatives is clearly moving and doing quite a bit of work, early. I am glad that two things have already passed quickly:

House Resolution 35 - Oversight at last
This should enable the congress to pursue oversight of the administration, which is in my view one of their primary jobs.

House Resolution 6 - Bye Bye K Street (and a summary)
This brings long overdue transparency and disclosure to the lobbyist issue, and imposes sharp limitations on gifts and travel. Interestingly there is an exemption for travel to colleges and universities. We'll see how long it takes the lobbyists to start providing monetary incentives to colleges and universities so that members of congress traveling there will have perks to take advantage of.

There are several objectives including the two above which the Democrats have pledged to address in the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress: Lobbyist reform, 9/11 Commission recommendations, the minimum wage, allowing negotiated lower prices for drugs, stem cell research, college loan interest cut, oil industry subsidy cuts, social security.

These are all good things, but something seems to be missing. Hmm... Somehow there seems to have been a large issue that has been overlooked, or at least it's not in this 100 hour list.


There is no proposal to cut funding for the war in Iraq. There is no proposal to mandate troop withdrawal from Iraq. There are no hearings scheduled to get on record the things that happened that got us stuck in Iraq.

Fuck!! (sorry - I get worked up)

At least Pelosi and Reid had the spine to send this letter objecting to the increase of troop levels that Monkey-boy is planning:

January 5, 2007

President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

The start of the new Congress brings us opportunities to work together on the critical issues confronting our country. No issue is more important than finding an end to the war in Iraq. December was the deadliest month of the war in over two years, pushing U.S. fatality figures over the 3,000 mark.

The American people demonstrated in the November elections that they don’t believe your current Iraq policy will lead to success and that we need a change in direction for the sake of our troops and the Iraqi people. We understand that you are completing your post-election consultations on Iraq and are preparing to make a major address on your Iraq strategy to the American people next week.

Clearly this address presents you with another opportunity to make a long overdue course correction. Despite the fact that our troops have been pushed to the breaking point and, in many cases, have already served multiple tours in Iraq, news reports suggest that you believe the solution to the civil war in Iraq is to require additional sacrifices from our troops and are therefore prepared to proceed with a substantial U.S. troop increase.

Surging forces is a strategy that you have already tried and that has already failed. Like many current and former military leaders, we believe that trying again would be a serious mistake. They, like us, believe there is no purely military solution in Iraq. There is only a political solution. Adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans and stretch our military to the breaking point for no strategic gain. And it would undermine our efforts to get the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future. We are well past the point of more troops for Iraq.

In a recent appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General John Abizaid, our top commander for Iraq and the region, said the following when asked about whether he thought more troops would contribute to our chances for success in Iraq:

“I met with every divisional commander, General Casey, the Corps commander, General Dempsey. We all talked together. And I said, in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq? And they all said no. And the reason is, because we want the Iraqis to do more. It's easy for the Iraqis to rely upon to us do this work. I believe that more American forces prevent the Iraqis from doing more, from taking more responsibility for their own future.”

Rather than deploy additional forces to Iraq, we believe the way forward is to begin the phased redeployment of our forces in the next four to six months, while shifting the principal mission of our forces there from combat to training, logistics, force protection and counter-terror. A renewed diplomatic strategy, both within the region and beyond, is also required to help the Iraqis agree to a sustainable political settlement . . In short, it is time to begin to move our forces out of Iraq and make the Iraqi political leadership aware that our commitment is not open ended, that we cannot resolve their sectarian problems, and that only they can find the political resolution required to stabilize Iraq.

Our troops and the American people have already sacrificed a great deal for the future of Iraq. After nearly four years of combat, tens of thousands of U.S. casualties, and over $300 billion dollars, it is time to bring the war to a close. We, therefore, strongly encourage you to reject any plans that call for our getting our troops any deeper into Iraq. We want to do everything we can to help Iraq succeed in the future but, like many of our senior military leaders, we do not believe that adding more U.S. combat troops contributes to success.

We appreciate you taking these views into consideration.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Speaker Nancy Pelosi

It just infuriates me that none of these... people have any real guts. Financial reform and ethical reform and oversight are all important. These undoubtedly contributed to the Democratic victory in November. The congressional leadership, however, does not seem to understand that the overriding concern of the American people at this point is getting the hell out of Iraq.

Now, I admit I am biased. I'm a peace activist. So let's look at some poll numbers.

A recent CBS poll shows that of those polled, 72% of adult Americans disapprove of the way Bush is handling the war. The same poll shows that 76% believe that Bush has no clear plan to deal with Iraq, and that 82% believe that the Democrats don't either.

71% of Iraqis want us to leave, based on a poll in September 2006.

Finally, The Military Times did a poll of active duty military last month, and published the numbers on December 29th. 35% (a little over 1/3) approves of Bush's handling of the war. 42% disapprove. In 2004, 83% of active duty personnel thought that success in Iraq is likely. That figure has dropped to 50%.

That's a pretty wide selection. The first and third of those, clearly shows what the will of the people is.

Georgie's skating on some thin ice. He's shuffling his personnel again, trying to show that he's doing something, and getting rid of the folks that disagree with him and putting in yes-men, like he always does.

Representative Maxine Waters said that "The proposed changes in personnel are, in effect, like rearranging the chairs on the Titanic."

I think that for the most part I agree with her, but I wonder what else he's hiding.

In closing, here the entire speech that Pelosi gave when she was formally elected Speaker the other day. It is historic, as she is the first woman Speaker in U.S. History, and the speech is a positive one. I myself am less hopeful, but am very willing to be proved wrong.


Part the first

Part the second

Part the third

Part the last

Thursday, January 4, 2007