Saturday, October 11, 2008

No News

A WP article about declining press coverage and presence in Iraq contains the proof of American "success" in that country. One line stands out:
U.S. military officials acknowledge that they are not eager to showcase American military-led combat operations at a time when the Iraqi government is calling for a more limited role for U.S. troops and pushing for firm withdrawal timelines.

Imagine that. Iraqis making demands of the United States. Demands that this country must take seriously. I call that a nation a-borning. Or at least groping its way toward a national voice. Many Iraqi legislators have long expressed the same sentiment. "America Out" (or at least way the fuck down) sounds like one of the few things Iraqis can agree on.

Looking at the mission objectives (misleadingly declared "accomplished" in 2003), I see that Iraqi WMD's are no longer a threat. They never were but certainly not now. Brutal dictatorship? Gone. Replaced with a violent and destructive competition among competing ethnic and sectarian groups, leavened with America's lethal and overwhelming force. Stable democracy? Democratic forms perhaps but most authority exercised by relatively few in the absence of any national consensus. Ally in the war on terror? All of the Iraqi factions have some reason to ally with America--our forces and money are a valuable asset in their three-way competition--but America's interests are not theirs. Otherwise, far too many Iraqis have good reason to hate America for the losses they've suffered. But that may be tolerable as long as we don't put Americans directly in their sights.

If this sounds at all like I am shilling for the "victory" crowd, I'm not. Whatever "success" America has achieved in Iraq is AT BEST a meager return on a high cost investment. CheneyBush was perversely right in 2003 with that "Mission Accomplished" bullshit--he had done all he knew how or cared to do. Ever since, this nation, Iraq and the world have been trying to rebuild what America destroyed. Picking up the pieces and trying to contain the damage. Except that the use of military force has destroyed even more in the years since as CheneyBush continued to pour lives, money and our national honor in a desperate effort to avoid blame for a catastrophic mistake.

Five and a half years. Many Hundreds of thousand lives lost. A financial drain now approaching a trillion dollars. Victory will gain the right to station forces in a hostile and volatile area with every expectation that these expeditionary costs will stretch into the future even as our economy collapses around us.

Some victory.


Friday, October 10, 2008

The Unspoken Word

America is "at war" we are constantly told. John McPain says this nation is locked in the struggle that defines generations. For all the rhetoric though, we don't act like we're at war. Unless you are a family member of a service member or live in a small town adjacent to a large Army or Marine base, it's hardly visible. More importantly, the nation has not been asked to sacrifice anything for this all so very important national mission.

That's why I wanted to scream at both candidates during Tuesday night's "debate". Each talked about plans and investments for energy independence--drilling offshore, nuclear power and alternative sources--but never once used the word conservation. I was appalled. Conservation is the most readily available source of energy available. Had an intelligent leader after September 11, 2001 included conservation as a one weapon against those petro states that candidates now excoriate as financiers of terrorism, Americans would have embraced the idea wholeheartedly. Instead we were told to "go shopping".

Conservation is hardly in the American ethic, certainly not for a people that grew fat and happy on the abundance of an entire continent for the taking. There's always been enough and leaders who ask the public to conserve seem so limited, so...unAmerican. But these days, the prospect of dramatically reducing our expenditures for oil has a great deal of merit.

Too bad that idea is not part of the national discussion.



Thursday, October 09, 2008

Not Forgotten

Today marks one year since my wonderful companion, Prince, died. His passing hasn't affected me the way I thought it would. I miss him but except for times like this when I think about it, I'm rarely sad about losing him. It's a natural fact of any life and Prince sure had a good one and I sure valued his companionship in so many ways.

Maybe it was just coincidence but the Washington Post ran a story about old dogs this past Sunday. Coming so close to this anniversary, I recognized the special joy that comes with sharing a home with an aging dog. Yeah, it's a pain at times but what else can you do? Most of all, the story reminded me that Prince, like most old dogs, knew when it was time to go. All I had to do was pay attention.


Honor and Duty

On display here. Not by our national "leaders".

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Minus 30 Days and Counting

Now that America is into the final month for this episode of the never-ending election cycle, the time is more than appropriate for speculating about candidate’s capability and the policies of my nation in the coming years. All that’s gone on for the past two years is irrelevant, which is why I have limited my exposure to the whole affair for sanity's sake. With just over four weeks to the general election, the time is right to seriously deliberate. Fewer candidates for president demand our attention and support. It all comes down to a decision about country and future based on the promises and personalities of four individuals and the establishments that support them. That makes slim pickings. Disappointingly so. Still the choices are far from unclear to me.

That’s why I in no way want to see a President John McCain, a Cold Warrior who is still trying to win the Vietnam war. Even worse is a Vice-President Sarah Palin—George Bush in lipstick—who knows nothing but can sell ideas as convincingly as Ronald Reagan. Note that I wrote ”Vice-President Palin”. With some coaching by Cheney, Sarah Barracuda could do quite well in the administration of an aging president with no executive experience. John McCain and Sarah Palin are simply more of the same disaster America and the world has suffered these past eight years: reckless international aggression and intervention, militarized domestic security (take a look at local police when fully armed and massed), continuing loss of economic opportunity, polarized wealth and a determined hostility to science and objective thought. Nothing the national Republican ticket offers will make a better America.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden I can live with, even knowing that they offer only a marginally different version of the current or future Republican regimes. Probably a bit more than marginal but certainly no fundamental change. I know I am asking a lot from America’s degraded democracy but that democracy is all I have to count on to govern my country and the planet that supports life. Case in point: during the VP debate neither candidate mentioned “de-legitimizing” nuclear weapons as a policy to prevent nuclear proliferation. As long as Great Powers build and maintain nuclear weapons, any other nation seeking prestige as an important power and/or defense against other powers will follow suit. Of course, the first steps toward de-legitimizing would be for nations with nuclear arsenals to declare no first use and a willingness to fully disarm those arsenals. With its vast and superior military forces (if we don’t waste them in Iraq and Afghanistan), the United States risks little by renouncing nuclear weapons. I respect any national leader, American or otherwise, willing to speak out in favor of radically different approaches to such difficult and dangerous problems.

Instead of real change, the Democratic ticket promises continued war, but a much better managed war. This is the same promise John Kerry made four years ago. Like so many Democrats since George McGovern, Obama and Biden are full members of the National Security State that keeps America ever on hair-trigger alert and fighting. They will pursue “robust policies” of “forward engagement” and “projected power” to secure America’s interests. About the best I can say of Obama and Biden is that I expect they will be less reckless than the current incumbent. Listening to Biden the other night I heard a candidate I think capable of representing America favorably in the coming years. His explanation of his vice-presidential role sounded to me like a mix of Lyndon Johnson (get things done in the Senate) and Dick Cheney (without secrecy and arrogance). It could work.

So I’m voting for the possibilities this year and that means Obama-Biden. Real change will require a very different political culture than America has experienced in the past decade and that will not come easy or fast. Not just presidential politics; Congress, too, is well enmeshed with America’s military-industrial economy and will not easily recognize alternate economic models that will promote economic justice and sustained opportunity for all Americans. Perhaps the greatest possibility in 2008 is the economic wake up call—the sudden fissures in the security of capitalism as we’ve known it. America has endured 30 years of anti-government, free-market deregulation mania that has left far too many Americans at severe financial disadvantage while simultaneously enriching a small elite (including John McCain’s addiction-peddling wife).

If I think optimistically, I see the economic collapse as an October Surprise that, for once, helps the Democratic ticket. Unlike some other October Surprises, this one is not staged--neither party seems particularly competent in dealing with the current meltdown; I can’t imagine anyone actually lighting the fuse on this one. Politicians are scared shitless about public anger even as they know they need to do something but don’t really know what will work. I’ve read articles and heard discussions. It's clear to me that long-term reform is not among the solutions being offered. Instead we have The Bailout. That’s our plan, our backstop, something to stop the bleeding until we can come up with a better (or at least another) “fix”. Maybe the next few weeks will bring some serious debate about our economy and society.

Mostly McCain-Palin will go completely negative. They got nuthin' else.