magniloquence against war

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No Corners Left In Sight
Monday, February 28, 2005
First we were told that America had turned a corner in Iraq with "the end of major combat operations". Then, a couple months later, we were told that the insurgent attacks were a sign of desperation, and that America had turned a corner in Iraq by staying put and showing resolve. Then, months later, Saddam Hussein was captured, and we were told that America had turned a corner in Iraq because surely the insurgency would dissolve without the ultra evil Saddam to inspire it. Six months after that, the Bush Administration told us that America had turned a corner in Iraq because a new puppet government with pseudosovereignty had been created. A month ago, we were told that that America had turned a corner in Iraq because of relatively peaceful elections.

Since that time, rebel attacks have increased, not decreased. American soldiers are still fighting, killing and dying. Big suicide bombings are taking place almost every day. Yesterday, rebels destroyed a major oil pipeline in Iraq. This morning in Iraq, a suicide bomber killed 106 people, mostly members of the Iraqi National Guard, and gravely wounded many more. The death toll is sure to rise sharply throughout the day. The Bush Administration has reacted to the news by saying that it will work to reconfigure the Iraqi National Guard, bone by bone...

Life in Iraq continues to become more dangerous, and more impoverished, the longer the American occupation continues. And now that the elections have failed to produce peace, the Bush Administration doesn't have any more ideas about new corners that America might be able to turn in Iraq to make it all better.

And still, the Republicans say that it was worth all this growing suffering to start the war.

Posted by J. Clifford at 8:40 AM. # (permalink)  
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Operation A Rocky Freedom Goes International
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
operation iraqi freedomToday, some British soldiers were convicted of torturing Iraqi prisoners. One of the convicted soldiers is the fellow wearing camouflage in this photograph. In a white prison hall where the floors are designed so that bodily fluids can be easily cleaned up after an "interrogation", does camouflage keep you well hidden from enemy eyes, or does it just give you permission to treat another human being with extreme cruelty?

It's been a remarkable thing, how both American soldiers and British soldiers have been tormenting prisoners in very similar ways, in places as far away from each other as Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq. I suppose that George W. Bush really meant it when he promised to increase his efforts at international cooperation. It's a shame that Bush can't gain international cooperation for uplifting humanity instead of finding new ways to undermine the law and inflict pain.

By the way, if you're looking for the Iraqi freedom that has been provided by Operation Iraqi Freedom, you can see it right in the photograph above. What, you couldn't find it? Oh, the Iraqi Freedom is lying cowering in that net, helpless, waiting to get another beating. A lot of people just can't see how we've turned a corner in Iraq. Do you think the fellow on the floor will turn a corner soon too?

Posted by J. Clifford at 5:48 PM. # (permalink)  
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Failing the Duty of National Defense
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
George W. Bush is always saying that his presidency ought to be evaluated according to how well he provides for the national defense. In almost every speech he gives, Bush goes on and on about how the primary duty of the President of the United States is to keep the American people safe.

Of course, Bush is dead wrong when he makes such claims. The Oath of Office that presidents take centers around the promise to defend the Constitution of the United States, not to enact a security state.

But, this morning, I'm feeling a little bit generous. So, for the moment, I'll assume that Bush is right, and that his primary duty as President of the United States is to defend the American people. On that level, how is Bush doing? Lousy.

This morning, we get news about one of George W. Bush's favorite defense projects: Implementing a national missile defense system, which is supposed to protect the United States against nuclear missiles. Ever since the 1980s, the Pentagon has been pushing its scientists to come up with a missile defense system that actually, you know, works. Ever since the 1980s, the Pentagon has failed to come up with any system that comes close to working.

A few years back, George W. Bush got tired of all the failed tests of missile defense prototypes. So what did he do? He ordered the system to be built now, and for the research to come up with a way to make it work to go on in the meantime.

Think about this for a second - President Bush has been spending billions of taxpayer dollars every year to build a system to defend America against nuclear missiles, in spite of the fact that no such system has yet been invented. President Bush might as well order the federal government to spend billions of dollars to build a time machine, and then ask scientists to invent one while it is being built. Could we throw in a personal teleportation device along with it?

This morning's news is about a new test of a new attempt by the Pentagon to invent some kind of device that might have a chance of stopping an incoming nuclear missile before it destroys an entire American city. In the past, the Pentagon tried super laser ray guns, but that didn't work, so now they're trying to invent super defense missiles that can intercept incoming nuclear missiles and blow them up so that, um, a cloud of radioactive debris can descend upon the American landscape, and... um...

Anyway, this new test was supposed to prove that, 20 years after spending hundreds of billions of dollars to invent it, it is theoretically possible to build a system of interceptor missiles that can meet incoming nuclear missiles in the air and destroy them. Sadly, things didn't go quite as the Pentagon leaders had hopes. You see, they couldn't even get the interceptor missile to leave the ground.

This is the second test of an interceptor missile in which the missile didn't even succeed in lifting off the ground, much less destroying its target. So, what has the reaction of the Bush Administration been to the complete failure of these interceptor missiles been? Why, George W. Bush has bought a whole bunch of the interceptor missiles, and has already installed eight of them in missile silos in secret locations around the country. Showing some fiscal restraint, however, Bush declined to order any intergalactic hyperdrives to go along with the missile defense system.

Eight interceptor missiles that aren't even capable of leaving the ground are President Bush's idea of national defense against the threat of nuclear war involving hundreds, if not thousands, of nuclear missiles from Russia and China. George W. Bush says that we ought to judge him on how well he provides for the defense of the United States. So far, it looks like Mr. Bush has been a pathetic, wasteful failure. The only defense that these Star Wars toys provide is financial cover for the executives of big defense contracting corporations - executives who have given handsomely to George W. Bush's political campaigns.

Bush's brand of defense is the sort of thing that America is better off without. Those hundreds of billions of dollars spent on imaginary machines would have been much better spent on foreign aid, helping to repair America's tarnished reputation in the world.

The sad truth is that the only missile defense that works is for there to be no missiles. If America put half the work into global nuclear disarmarment that we put into programs to manufacture military gizmos that never work, we could soon live in a world where we didn't have to worry about nuclear weapons raining down out of the sky at any moment, with nothing to protect us but a handful of broken model rockets put together by big boys playing in the garage.

Posted by J. Clifford at 10:02 AM. # (permalink)  
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Alberto Gonzales: the Republican Dream for America
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
The best way to understand what the agenda of the Republican federal government for the second term of George W. Bush is to pay attention to who the Bush Administration's top supporters praise, and how they do it.

These days, an immense amount of praise is coming from Republicans, both in Congress and in the White House, for Alberto Gonzales, the White House chief counsel and the man that President Bush has picked to become the next Attorney General of the United States. It is the constitutional duty of the United States Senate to review presidential appointments for cabinet-level positions such as Attorney General, and to deny those appointments if the nominees are found to be professionally or ethically wanting. So, while a few senators have been directing their staffs to investigate the career of Alberto Gonzales, the majority of Republican senators seem to have focused their efforts on finding reasons to praise Mr. Gonzales, and defend him from any possible criticism.

As a result of their defensive efforts, senate Republicans seem to have come up with a battery of standard talking points that they are intent upon repeating, over and over, until the public accepts them as irrefutable facts. Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, for example, declared that the achievements of Alberto Gonzales are the "manifestation of the American dream". Then on the same day, several other Republican members of Congress repeated these exact words, each declaring that the work of Alberto Gonzales for President Bush has been the "manifestation of the American dream".

Well, what exactly do we know about the work of Alberto Gonzales in the Bush White House that could make him a manifestation of the American dream? Well, the truth is that as White House counsel to George W. Bush, Alberto Gonzales has earned the nickname "Mr. Torture". You see, it was Alberto Gonzales who wrote a memo advising the President of the United States that treating prisoners humanely according to the Geneva Conventions was a "quaint" and "outdated" idea. It was Alberto Gonzales who advised George W. Bush that he had the power to overrule American laws that make torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners illegal, whenever Mr. Bush made the decision that torture and cruel treatment of prisoners would be in the national interest. It was Alberto Gonzales who signed off on another memo that made up a new, alternative legal definition of torture so narrow that it would purposefully exclude many methods of torture being planned for use in American prisons by George W. Bush.

So, when Republicans like Senator Bill Frist declare that the work of Alberto Gonzales is the "manifestation of the American dream", what they're really saying is that it is the American dream to torture prisoners. The Republicans are saying that it is the American dream to give the President the power to single-handedly override American and international law. The Republicans are saying that it is the American dream to commit war crimes. This version of the American dream that Republican politicians find manifested in the work of Alberto Gonzales is a nightmare.

So, given the Republican praise for Alberto Gonzales, and their determination to push Gonzales into the position of Attorney General of the United States despite the fact that not one Democrat in the Senate Judiciary Committee saw fit to recommend him for the position, what can we expect during the next four years?

It appears that we can expect the Bush Administration to continue to place itself above the law, especially in matters of war. We can expect the Bush Administration to continue to commit war crimes in the name of the American people. We can expect more torture. We can expect more secret wars, unapproved by the U.S. Congress and unreported by the major television networks, who will be unable to get any pretty pictures of explosions from the Pentagon. We can expect the Bush Administration to conduct more illegal imprisonments, outside of the system of civilized law that dates back all the way to the Magna Carta.

We can expect the Bush Administration to drag the United States of America back into the legal abyss of the Dark Ages, when might made right and nobody dared to question the divine authority of kings.

Posted by J. Clifford at 6:25 PM. # (permalink)  
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No more Arafat to Blame Anymore
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
For years now, the Bush Administration has blamed the whole mess with Israel and Palestine on one man: Yasser Arafat. Even as violence escalated between Israelis and Palestinians, George W. Bush sat by with his hands neatly folded in his lap, refusing to lift a finger to stop it. His excuse was that as long as Yasser Arafat is around, there is no hope for peace.

Well, now, Yasser Arafat is gone, and his successor has been elected, and guess what's happening? The same damn thing as before. The Israelis refuse to talk to the Palestinians because the new leadership too has been deemed too bad for negotiation. Palestinians are raining gunfire and rockets into Israeli neighborhoods. Israeli tanks are attacking Palestinian neighborhoods. There is no more peace now than there was before.

The stupidly simple analysis of George W. Bush has always been that single evil leaders are responsible for the bad things that happen in the world. Bush seems to believe that once those bad bad people are removed from power, everything will suddenly get all nice again.

In Iraq, and now in Palestine, Bush's childish theory has been soundly disproved.

It is time that American foreign policy in the Middle East be driven by a more grown-up understanding of conflict. When it comes to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the Palestinians and the Israelis both are to blame.

What is most terrifying of all is that Bush seems to accept the same twisted logic that continues to propel the Israeli-Palestinian bloodbath year after year after year: The idea that the only way to get peace is to completely subdue one's opponents through military force. The Israelis and Palestinians both have been propelled forward in a cycle of death and despair by this idea for generations.

The only way that the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is for courageous people on both side to demand that their leaders step back from the fighting. Unfortunately, the continued inaction of the Bush Administration, combined with Bush's encouragement of unrestrained military attacks on the part of the Israelis, makes such principled restraint all the more difficult.

Posted by J. Clifford at 8:22 AM. # (permalink)  
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Remember Martin Luther King Jr. - And Read!
Monday, January 17, 2005
In the creation of the Martin Luther King National Holiday, initial direct resistance from Republicans has been transformed into a radical reduction of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In the new, politically sanitized version of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life, we are supposed to believe that he:

1. Was a really good public speaker
2. Wanted black and white people to get along
3. Shouldn't have been shot

Everything else about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life gets all smudged out in a weekend's repetition of the out of context phrase, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, I'm free at last!"

The life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was too complex to be reduced to such little clips, and I won't pretend to do justice to him here in one small article. However, I will mention three things that are commonly cleaned away from his life:

1. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a strong opponent of war
2. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood up for the principle of freedom and dignity of all people, not just the residents of some "homeland"
3. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. worked to make the government accountable to all the people

On all three counts, we have great cause in 2005 to regard the Martin Luther King National Holiday as a wake up call to the American people. The narrowly-won second presidency of George W. Bush is showing strong signs of continuing the anti-peace, anti-freedom, and anti-accountability agenda that marked the first four years.

A good way to celebrate this holiday, and a good way to spark a movement of nonviolent, principled resistance of the sort that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have admired, is to read a shocking article that was published this very morning.

The article is by Seymour Hersch, the journalist who exposed the torture taking place in the Abu Ghraib prison. Now, Seymour Hersch has discovered what appears to be a plot within the Bush Administration to circumvent the power of Congress and begin a new military campaign against Iran and other nations in secret from the American people.

We'll discuss the implications of this article in greater depth in the days to come. For now, remember the broader character of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and read.

Posted by J. Clifford at 4:15 PM. # (permalink)  
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Freedom Isn't Free, but what's the price?
Sunday, December 05, 2004
Since the War on Terror began, we have been besieged with the pro-war slogan: Freedom isn't free!

Well, okay. Freedom is not free. Isn't it funny, though, that the Freedom Isn't Free Crowd never bothers to mention the price that they're asking us to pay?

The pro-war crowd wants us to believe that the inevitable price we all must pay for freedom is war. Well, bull.

freedom isn't free bumper sticker

No, freedom is not free, but you can't buy it with buckets of blood. Bomb all you want, and it won't make you any more free than if no bombs were dropped. Bullets don't buy freedom, and neither do bayonets.

Freedom is bought with the hard work of peaceful people who struggle to establish a society that values liberty and fairness. For Americans, freedom is established by the U.S. Constitution, not on the battlefield. The Revolution came and went, and yet the Bill of Rights was not yet created. It took the peaceful political process of a new Constitutional Congress to bring true freedom to the former colonies.

Throughout history, war has threatened freedom as much as it has protected it. We will not retain our freedom if we keep on falling back to a default assumption that every war is fought in the defense of freedom.

Buyer beware. Freedom is already ours, if we will protect it from the corrupt politicians who seek to remove it from our society in the cause of fear. No, freedom is not free, but we do not have to pay the price that the pro-war zealots insist upon.

Posted by J. Clifford at 1:14 PM. # (permalink)  
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