President Obama: On anniversary of ending of Iraq War, a pledge to heal the wounded

September 1, 2012

President Barack Obama spoke at Fort Bliss, Texas, On August 31, 2012:

Description from the White House:

On the two-year anniversary of the end of our combat mission in Iraq, the President speak to troops at Fort Bliss, and discusses that part of ending wars responsibly demands standing by those who have served. August 31, 2012.

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Lessons of Vietnam: Honor the people who serve

July 5, 2012

Years ago I feared that many of us learned the wrong lessons from Vietnam, or if we learned the right ones, we weren’t applying what we’d learned.  This was a bit more important in the earlier days of our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.  So I wrote about one of the lessons we needed to improve on:  Honoring the people who serve, regardless our view on the entire engagement.

Someday, perhaps when I’m wiser, I’ll get back to that series on the lessons of Vietnam.

A lot of water flowed under the bridge since then.  A lot of blood flowed, too.

We did better with our two latest engagements, as a nation, in honoring soldiers.  For just one example, DFW Airport set up a special lounge for soldiers returning stateside, and dozens of organizations set up programs to get people out to welcome the soldiers from Iraq with an indoor parade of sorts — Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, groups of retired veterans and other citizens, school social studies classes, and many more.

That still leaves us with the scab of our treatment of veterans from Vietnam.  It’s been good to see cities and organizations make serious efforts to remember them specifically, as well as veterans of Korea-“The-Forgotten-War,” with soldiers and veterans of the modern conflicts.  There is more we need to do, I’m sure.

I ran into this short video from Moments.org.  I don’t know about the rest of that organization’s ministries, but this video got it right:

So, Wes, McClain, Kevin, Ben, Brenda, Steve, Pat, Al, Ken, Ray, David, Jeff and Jon, and all the rest of you who served, especially in or during Vietnam, consider this as one for you.

Tip of the old scrub brush to cmblake6, who probably won’t ever get another one here.  Happily surprised to find something right over there.

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Gunning against UN peacekeeping

January 30, 2011

Chicago Boyz fancy themselves as hard-nosed, free-enterprise economics sorts of guys (as opposed to capitalists — but let’s not let Texas education politics muddy the waters).  It seems to me, too often people who self-label themselves as skeptics are not, and those who label themselves as “just give me the facts” sorts of people don’t really want to look at the facts at all.

A recent Chicago Boyz post expresses excitement about Republican investigations into corruption, which would indeed be news were it directed at corruption among Republicans in Congress, and good news at that.  Despite the hopeful ambiguity of the statement, I gather the author favors investigations into corruption in the UN, as if that were one of the top problems we face in the world today.

Corruption is not pretty.  Corruption should be prosecuted.  Corruption is not the target of the Chicago Boyz and their fellow travelers, however — the UN itself is.

Do they know what they’re talking about?  I have my doubts.  James Rummel complains about UN corruption in humanitarian missions after 9/11.  Um, don’t look now, boyz, but you’re confusing things.  The UN is located in New York, but didn’t carry out humanitarian missions there after 9/11.  Of course, that’s not what they meant to imply — Rummel was complaining about the Oil for Food program in Iraq, which was set up in 1996 to allow Iraq’s people to get needed food and medicines from foreign suppliers, food and medicine that had been cut off as a result of Gulf War I, putting Iraqi citizens in dire straits.  (The mention of 9/11 was just gratuitous red meat to the conservatives, probably.)

Ultimately the program was found to be riddled with fraud.  The UN shouldered blame, but a careful reading of the Volcker Report on the incident shows facts we should consider:  The fraud was contrary to UN guidelines — that is, not caused by the UN — and the UN could not monitor the program adequately because it was underfunded.  Why was the UN program underfunded?  In 1996, all UN programs were underfunded because North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms successfully cut U.S. funding because of his allegations of fraud and waste — allegations that didn’t bear out.  In addition, political considerations pushed operations to high-cost contractors.  In particular, the U.S. didn’t want Swiss banks to be in on the operation at all.

So, the last time the Republicans went after the UN  for fraud and abuse, the Republicans’ actions caused fraud and abuse. And if we look to pin blame for the problems, fingers point to the U.S.

Oy.

I don’t think a new investigation and cutting funding to the UN makes a lot of sense, now.

Rummel also complains that UN sanctions didn’t seem to affect Saddam Hussein after 9/11.  This is astonishingly selective memory.  All evidence we have now indicates that there were no weapons of mass destruction — and, consequently, the judgment must be that the UN sanctions worked, and worked well.  This is a continuing embarrassment to the United States, and while we wish it were ancient history and could be forgotten, we do so at great peril as we deal with every other nation on Earth who well remembers that the U.S. invaded Iraq to stop the spread of “weapons of mass destruction,” only to find there were none.  Don’t embarrass the U.S. further by looking dotty in foreign relations.  (Were I feeling snarkier, I’d put in a link to Bush’s “humorous” show at one of the Washington correspondents association dinners, where he feigned searching for WMDs in the Oval Office, under White House beds, etc.)

But then, in comments, the truth starts to get smoked out in comments at Chicago Boyz.  One commenter complains about all the socialist nations sitting on the human rights commission, including the U.S.    One commenter complains about how ineffective  the UN has been in making peace in Korea, Vietnam, and Israel.

Oversimplifying, but no more so than Chicago Boyz, we should note that the truce in Korea has held for more than 57 years, even without a formal end to hostilities.  That sounds rather successful, to me.  And Israel’s existence since 1948 seems to have caught hold, even if to the chagrin of major Arabic groups in the region.  Israel is generally considered the great power in the area.  Not exactly a failed enterprise on the UN’s part, on that score.

Vietnam?  That was never a UN project. Much as it pains me to point it out, it was the U.S. who stopped elections in Vietnam in the 1950s (1956?), and it was the South Vietnamese government whose corruption so often derailed attempts to make a lasting peace that would have kept any part of Vietnam noncommunist.  (Investigations into corruption, anyone?)

So, of the three so-called “failed” UN peacekeeping projects, two really were very successful, and the third had nothing to do with the UN.  Is this the accuracy and level of analysis that calls for an investigation of the UN now?

A complete set of facts might be useful before going off half-cocked.  Since 1948 the UN was called in for 64 peacekeeping operations — the UN has no troops, and so cannot wage war nor force war-waging nations to stop.  If we conceded the two operations, Israel and Korea, as failures, that would leave 62 other operations unstudied.  Most of those missions ended years ago, and without making an actual count, I’ll wager most of them ended successfully.  We don’t regard Guatemala anymore as a hotbed of unrest and civil war, for example.  Angola isn’t perfect, but neither is there a civil war there fueled by Cuban assistance, for another example.

One commenter complaints about a “fantasy world” about the UN that the left occupies:

One of the big differences between the Left and Right is that the Left is more controlled by fantasy narratives and can’t separate the real world organization from the one that Leftists would like to have. In other words, they can’t separate the real world U.N. from the noble goals it is supposed to achieve.

Quite the opposite, it’s the right who occupy a hallucinogenic world with regard to the UN, unable to count accurately even the peace operations of the UN, and unable to accurately state the history of operations they wish to criticize.  Fantasy narratives in this case reside almost completely on the right.  Rightists can’t separate the real world UN from the ignoble beast they wish to crucify.

They hope to take the UN hostage to begin the crucifixion, soon.

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What about the crazy, militant Christians?

September 9, 2010

Pastor Joe Leavell, recently a frequent bather in Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, reports on the crazy — it doesn’t involve burning anybody’s scripture, but it’s pretty offensive.

Not sure if you heard about the first army chaplain to have been killed since the 70s, but he was killed on Aug. 30th in Afghanistan. Several pastors I know knew him as a personal dear friend – a true American hero who loved God, loved the troops he served, and gave his life going above and beyond to be with them.

Guess who will be there protesting his funeral? Westboro Baptist Church – protesting the funeral of a Baptist chaplain! The only way it ties in to this discussion is the “should factor”, but I’m sorry – I just had to voice that this sort of stuff is so disgraceful and makes me so upset – especially when our soldiers are dying to give them the freedom to protest at their funerals! :-( For shame!

Here’s the news article:
kktv.com/military/headlines/102406419.html

At KKTV’s site the story is very short; here it is the complete article:

Posted: 9:54 PM Sep 7, 2010
Reporter: KKTV News
Email Address: news@kktv.com

A controversial Baptist Church group from Kansas says they’ll be in Southern Colorado to protest at a funeral for an army chaplain who was killed in Afghanistan.

Captain Dale Goetz died August 30 in Afghanistan. He’s the first army chaplain to die in combat since 1970.

A funeral has been set for Thursday at Fort Carson, and that’s where the Westboro Baptist Church says they’ll be as well to protest.

Members of the church have repeatedly protested the acceptance of homosexuals by picketing at the funerals of fallen soldiers.

It’s very controversial move.

11 News is asking what do you think about the planned demonstration? We’d like to hear from you. Just comment on this story on the 11 news Facebook page or here on kktv.com.

Time Magazine’s blog carries more details of Pastor Goetz’s life and an interesting tribute to the value of military chaplains in war.

He [Goetz] acknowledged that Muslim concerns over what they perceive as a degenerate Western culture can drive some Muslims toward terror. “As Americans we repudiate the practice of the terrorist,” he said. “Though I disagree with their practice, I do understand their complaints against western society.” Goetz wondered if Americans are devoted to something so much that they would willingly die for it. “Our love for freedom is worth dying for,” he concluded, “and many have gone before us to preserve this freedom.”

Read more: http://swampland.blogs.time.com/2010/09/03/army-chaplain-dale-goetz-rip/#ixzz0z25p1eqN

(South Dakota will fly flags at half-staff today, September 9,  in Goetz’s honor. See also the post at Urban Grounds.)

Early in the U.S. involvement in World War II Americans had to put up with those factions who had argued that the U.S. should intervene on Germany’s side in Europe.  But I don’t recall that the pro-Germany groups kept up their protests much after Germany declared war on the U.S.  In the long arc of the history of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, America’s longest-ever wars, does a sense of history and honor smack the crazies in Christian pulpits in the head to make them think?

Our Constitution’s strength proves itself over and over, as courts have ruled that Westboro Baptist has the right to make these protests.  Their continued exercise of that right is a testament against the lack of a national education system and against the virtue of religion in the failure of common decency of the tiny band of protesters.  Al Queada draws strength from the protests of the Westboro crew, and al Quaeda draws recruits from the actions of the Florida band who plans to burn scriptures.

Walt Kelly’s Pogo observed, “We has met the enemy, and he is us.”

Update: You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried:  The Westboro Baptist group is angry that their burning of a Qur’an many months ago didn’t get them more attention.  I am reminded that James Earl Ray and Timothy McVeigh both expressed disappointment that their work didn’t get more attention and sympathetic action, too.


Reagan years: A contrarian’s view

June 4, 2009

California abandoned the memory of the guy who worked tirelessly to keep California in the Union during the Civil War, Unitarian Universalist preacher Starr King, replacing his statue in the U.S. Capitol’s pantheon of state heroes (two to a state) with a statue of Ronald Reagan.  June 4 marks the fifth anniversary of Reagan’s passing.

Statute of Thomas Starr King of California, then in National Statuary Hall (U.S. Capitol)

Statute of Thomas Starr King of California, then in National Statuary Hall (U.S. Capitol)

Older son Kenny sent a note today, saying he now understands why I was so troubled by the Reagan years.  Some guy at The Free Speech Zone added it up — it has what AP history classes call a “point of view,” but calculate the serious factual error to fact ratio:

1) Treason: As a private citizen, and BEFORE the election, in contravention of both law and tradition, Reagan’s minions and handlers illegally negotiated with the Iranians to induce them hold the American Embassy hostages until after the elections,to embarrass President Carer and to prevent his successful negotiation of an “October Surprise.” Sent future VP George Bush, Sr., and future CIA chief William Casey to Paris to negotiate the deal.

2) Sent arms, including chemical weapons, to both Iraq and Iran during the decade-long Iran-Iraq war, making those two countries the two biggest US arms trading partners at precisely the time when it was illegal to trade with either due to both US and UN laws.

3) Iran/Contra: Used drug traffickers to transport illegal arms to Nicaragua, ignoring the contraband which was brought back on the return trip, creating  a massive and immediate increase in cocaine trade in urban California. Illegally used the CIA to mine harbors and ferry Contra troops in Nicaragua. Eventually, several administration staffers were convicted of crimes ranging from lying to Congress to conspiracy  to defraud the U.S. The scandal involved the administration selling arms  to  Iran and using proceeds from the sales to fund a guerrilla insurgent group in Nicaragua

4) Created alQaeda in Afghanistan to oppose the Soviet puppet/occupation there

5) Sponsored right-wing, State terrorism in El Salvador,  Honduras, Haiti, and Guatemala against indigenous insurgents who were fighting the dictatorial, hereditary regimes there. Illegally invaded  and occupied Grenada, overthrowing the democratically elected President

6) Lied about ALL of this activity before Congress, and suborned his Secretary of Defense to perjury, as well.

7) Rescinded Carter policy that all US international financial support be based upon valid human rights records.

8) Took the world to the brink of nuclear war, putting nuclear weapons into Europe, violating the very provision that was the settlement to the Cuban missile crisis.

9) Instituted the so-called “Mexico City” doctrine, effectively barring recipients of U.S. foreign aid from promoting abortion as a  method of family planning.

10) Instigated trickle-down/voodoo economics, which was the beginning of what has recently culminated in the crash of the bubbles. Here is a subset of his regime’s economic sins:

a) Within the first year of the policy, we were in a depression caused in large measure by the policy. The “historic” 27% tax-cut was skewed two to one in favor of those making over $200,000 per year, in percentages, and far more in real dollars. By the end of the second year, increases in state and local taxes more than replaced the cuts for the middle class. b) Wages throughout Reagan/Bush remained stagnant in real dollars for the next 12 years, the longest and worst growth performance in middle class wages in US history. Average national growth was the lowest since the early 30s.

c) Conspired with corpoRat and congressional allies to sustain spending by loosening credit, to replace the wages they were  not going to increase.

d) Named Ayn Rand acolyte and free-market apostle Alan Greenspan as Chief of the Federal Reserve.

11) The HUD/DoI Scandals: Samuel Pierce and his associates were found to have rewarded wealthy  contributors to the administration’s campaign with funding for low  income housing development without the customary background checks, and lobbyists, such as former Secretary of the Interior James G. Watt, were rewarded with huge lobbying  fees for assisting campaign contributors with receiving government loans and  guarantees. Sixteen  convictions were eventually handed down, including several members of the Reagan  administration.

12) Appointed some of the “worst” Federalist Society/strict constructionists to the federal bench, including Scalia, Kennedy, and O’Connor, ALL of whose votes were crucial in (illegally) installing GW Bush in the presidency in 2000, and named Rehnquist Chief Justice.

13) Ordered the revocation of the FCC regulation called “the Fairness Doctrine,” and opened up the Press to the rash of consolidations which has led, now, to a compromised, toothless, stenographic, lap-dog “Fourth Estate.”

14) Initiated the attack on labor unions by attacking PATCO, the Air Traffic Controllers union, creating a crisis in airport control towers nation-wide, and importantly, started the slow erosion of US worker wages and benefits.

15) Through the appointment of James Watt, who claimed that the environment was “expendable” since the “second coming of Christ was at hand,”, Reagan reduced clean water and air standards, reduced labor, mine, and industrial safety standards,and cut funding to supervisory and regulatory agencies charged with monitoring those industries.

16) Increased the defense budget to 240% previous levels.

17)  Systematically ignored the beginning of the AIDS/HIV epidemic, blaming the victims publically.

18)The S&L collapse: Reagan’s “elimination of loopholes” in the tax code included the elimination of  the “passive loss” provisions that subsidized rental housing. Because this was  removed retroactively, it bankrupted many real estate developments made with  this tax break as a premise. This with some other “deregulation” policies  ultimately led to the largest political and financial scandal in U.S. history:  The  Savings and Loan crisis. The ultimate cost of the crisis is estimated to have totaled around USD $150 billion, about $125 billion of which was consequently and directly subsidized by the U.S.  government, which contributed to the large  budget deficits of the  early 1990s.

19) Called ketchup a vegetable for the purposes of school-lunch funding and reduced early education and head-start funding.

20) Symbolically ripped the solar panels, installed by Pres. Carter, from the White House,and blamed trees for causing air pollution.

I had thought the savings and loan crisis more the result of Senate Banking Committee Chairman Jake Garn’s doing, but the dates are right.  Nobel Economics Memorial Prize winner Paul Krugman offered some insight there, don’t miss Krugman’s column on our current economic woes.

He didn’t mention the killing of the program to wipe out measles, in the 1981 Budget Reconciliation.  Paltry program cost $3 million a year, should have been done by 1985.  Savings of about $12 million.  Without the program, measles roared back.  I could come up with a half dozen similar stories.

History teachers, got enough for a POV question on Reagan?

Scared yet?


Bush didn’t bother to catch Osama bin Laden

October 25, 2008

Can this be accurate?

Gareth Porter argues in Asia Times that the Bush administration never had any plans to get Osama bin Laden they were too busy planning an attack on Iraq to have time to get the man who led the attacks against us.  So Osama bin Laden went free, free to attack the U.S. again and again.

New evidence from former United States officials reveals that Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders were able to skip Afghanistan for Pakistan unimpeded in the first weeks after September 11, 2001, as the George W Bush administration failed to plan to block their retreat.

Top administration officials instead gave priority to planning for war with Iraq, leaving the United States with not nearly enough troops or strategic airlift capacity to close the large number of possible exit routes through the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area where Bin Laden escaped in late 2001.

Because it had not been directed to plan for that contingency, the US military was also forced to turn down an offer from then Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf in late November 2001 to send 60,000 troops to intercept the al-Qaeda leaders.

Nuts.  Who could ever have guessed that incompetence in the White House could so cripple our military, and ultimately, so cripple our nation?

Can we move inauguration day up to December 1?  Please?


Voting matters, in Iraq, in Texas

October 21, 2008

Rick Noriega is a rising star, a good man who has served his nation and state well, in Iraq, in the Texas legislature, and now — he hopes —  in the U.S. Senate.

Early voting opened this morning in Texas. Record turnouts reported from Dallas County.  It’s an important election, and not too late to donate to the candidate of your choice and/or volunteer to canvass.


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