Friday, September 15, 2006

Congress Exploiting 9-11

John Nichols has written a good article on The Nation about the Democrats being a rubber stamp for the Bush Administration. It's worth a read.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Iraq - Delaying the Inevitable

There will be a civil war in Iraq. Our leaders deny it, maybe they even believe their denials. They certainly exhibited their ignorance of the history and culture of the area when they decided to start the war. It is hard to believe they remain ignorant, but their recent remarks indicate they do.

The Sunni and Shi'ite sects have hated each other since shortly after the death of of Mohamed. They have fought amongst themselves off and on throughout their history. The stakes are much higher now. They now fight for dominance in the Middle East - and eventually the world.

Each of the sects in Iraq have radical elements who place their loyalty to their beliefs above that of any state, clan or family. Even above life itself. They are willing to fight for those beliefs - and to die for them. They are not interested in negotiating. They will not be rehabilitated.

Al Qaeda is as interested in attacking the Shi'ite as they are western infidels. Iran is rapidly emerging as the preeminent power in the Middle East. Iran is a Shi'ite Muslim country. The Shi'ite Muslims are the majority in Iraq. Al Quaeda very much doesn't want to see another Shi'ite theocracy arise in the Middle East, especially with potential power of Iraq. Combine with Iran, they would represent more power than all the other middle east states combined. Hamed Jumaa Al Saeedi, Al Qaeda's number 2 man, was responsible for the Askariya Mosque bombing in Samarra in February.

The Shi'tes have years of hatred built up against the Sunni Muslims for being oppressed by Suddam Husein. The more radical elements of the Shi'ite Muslims want revenge and want to rule Iraq. Their number grows every day. They are being supported by Iran with weapons, money and moral support. The Shi'ites have turned their backs on the moderate Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. They have turned to the radical cleric, al-Sadr. In March, al-Sistani declared "I will not be a political leader any more. I am only happy to receive questions about religious matters."

There is no doubt that Suddam Hussein was a despicable despot rating right up there with Hitler and Stalin. His sons did not deserve to be identified as humans. But anyone who had the slightest understanding of the history and culture of the area would have known there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Anyone interested listening to all parties instead of pursuing their own predetermined agenda would have known there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The U.S. is no longer involved in a conventional war such as Desert Storm. We are now involved in a guerrilla war much like Vietnam. Our leaders are becoming more firmly entrenched just as they did in the Vietnam era. They surround themselves with like thinking people and strongly discourage and dissenting views. They are calling their critics "unpatriotic" - something else the leaders of the Vietnam era did.

The U.S. actions have alienated moderate Muslims of both sects, marginalizing them within their own communities. Once again we are failing to win the hearts and minds of the people which is essential to the success of a guerrilla war. The U.S. are viewed as the cause of the problem, not the solution.

Our leaders either didn't know the history and culture of the reason or were so arrogant as to believe it didn't apply to them. Their ignorance would be hard to accept if it wasn't for President Bush expressing that he couldn't understand why the Iraqis didn't welcome us with open arms and embrace the concept of democracy. Even more amazing is that our press reported this so casually with no in depth analysis or historical perspective. But then they are complicit in this also. Little more than trained parrots who say what they are supposed to say, a mere shell of what journalists used to be in this country.

Evidently the U.S. Congress was just as ignorant as the Administration. They obviously knew nothing about the culture and history of the area and didn't bother to find out despite the whole entourage of aids each of them have.

The U.S. destabilized the country. We created the situation. If Iraq was some little country with little or no oil, little or no economic value, we could just up and leave as we did in Vietnam. But we can't. The threat to our economy is huge. The threat to stability in the middle east is huge. We have overextended our military forces. Rumsfeld says we haven't even as they call back to active duty thousands who had served. We have misused and abused the National Guard. Soon, there will only one recourse left - implementation of the draft.

President Bush has stated the majority of Iraqis want freedom. That is obvious. It should also be obvious that it doesn't take a majority of people to start or win a revolution. The communists in Russia did not have a majority. Castro did not in Cuba. Mao did not in China. The Taliban did not in Afghanistan. Suddam did not in Iraq. Even in the U.S. the majority of people were opposed to independence and the war when it started in 1776. It takes only a relatively few dedicated individuals to bring about revolution.

Who finally controls the power in Iraq will be decided by war. Our presence will only delay it, not prevent it. Many of our military leaders are now calling it a low grade civil war. Each of the revolutions mentioned above began slowly. In each case, they were dismissed as a few malcontents whose actions would amount to nothing. They were all low grade civil wars at one time.

In Vietnam we lost 58,226. That's the number of deaths. Tens of thousands more were wounded and maimed. Thousands more scarred for life. How many thousands are we prepared to see die in Iraq? How many wounded, maimed and scarred? How many Iraqi civilians are we prepared to see killed? We must ask ourselves this - and we must clearly understand the implications of pulling out. This is a difficult decision and shouldn't be made lightly or by reacting to the passion of the moment.

There is one more thing we MUST do. Come November, we must hold our leaders accountable for their actions.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Democracy Isn't A Gift

Democracy is not a gift. You can't "give" democracy to someone. It must be earned. Even here in the oldest, most successful democracy the world has known we are still working to get it right.

The American Revolution wasn't supported by the majority of Americans when we declared our independence. After we won it took us a few years to figure out what to do with the new freedom, to come up with a new Constitution. And that wasn't right. We immediately had to amend it. We have continued to do so over the years as we strive to figure just what democracy is.

We have shed our tears and blood for this thing called democracy. We have fought each other and the tyrants of the world that would deprive us of our democratic freedoms.

We frequently loose sight of the fact that America was created for the Individual. We have not fulled learned to respect the view points of others who do not agree with us. We haven't learned to fully appreciate the great diversity of thoughts and ideas generated by our democracy. We vilefy, curse, spit on and even kill those who look different, think different or act different.

But we keep plugging away and getting better at it - sort of. Democracy is hard work. One must listen to the view points of others who have a different opinion, to respect them and even to fight for their right to have them. One must be informed to formulate knowledgeable opinions and vote intelligently. One must exersize restraint.

Ask anyone if they want to be free and the answer will always be yes. The problem comes in the interpretation and application of that word freedom.

To the Shi'ite Muslim in Iraq, freedom means being able to rule the country according to their interpretation of Islam - and to oppress all who do not agree with them.

To the Sunni Muslim, freedom means means being able to rule the country according to their interpretation of Islam - and to oppress all who do not agree with them.

To the Kurds in Iraq, freedom means being able to have their own culture, their own leaders.

That is the problem with President Bush's "Freedom Initiative", also known as nation building. Like so many Americans, President Bush can not understand the entire world doesn't value freedom and democracy as Americans do. He is the typical "Ugly American" in many ways.

The lesson has been learned before - and the cost has been high. In Vietnam, the average person didn't care who won the war. They had no concept of "democracy". They only knew the South Vietnamese would come through and take rice for taxes. Then the Viet Cong would come through and take their rice for taxes. Then the North Vietnamese would come through and take their rice for taxes. Their friends and family were killed in the war - by both sides. In the end, the people supported the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese and we left, 55, 178 lives poorer than when we started.

The average person in Iraq wants their electricity to work, the water to work. They want to be able to walk the streets safely, have health care and education for their children. The leaders of the various sects want their sect to have the power to rule.

This nothing knew. The Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims have hated each other since shortly after the death of Mohamed. They have fought each other for over a thousand years. This method of resolving conflict even predates Mohamed. Islam didn't create it. It existed as part of the culture long before Mohamed arrived on the scene.

Saddam Hussein was one of the most dispicable rulers in the history of the world. His atrocities rank right up there with Adolph Hitler and Idi Ammin. He needed to be removed from authority, but not at this time and not my us - and certainly not with the expectation that the people of Iraq would magically become freedom loving proponents of Democracy. This wasn't France being liberated from the Nazis. Our leaders foolishly expected just such a result. They ignored the long history of the region.

President Bush made the critical mistake that other leaders have made. He surrounded himself with advisors of like philosophies, limited vision, and their own agendas to fulfill. He isolated himself, with their help. Any alternative view point was not allowed. Hence, the loss of Colin Powell - the one voice of reason in this administration. They have become increasingly arrogant - and they started at a pretty high point. And now we see a President baffled by a situation.

There will be civil war in Iraq. There is nothing anyone can do to prevent that. There are too many old scores to settle. Their god has sanctioned the killing of all those who do not believe as they do - and there are a number of gods involved. If there is to be civil war, then let it come. Let the people determine their own destiny just as we did. And maybe, just maybe, somewhere along the way they will learn one of important lessons of democracy just as we did.

No, democracy isn't a gift that you can give. It will be rejected and with a terrible price to pay - the price will be paid once again in the lives of our youth.

But democracy is a precious possesion which can be whittled away at and lost. I can hear the knife now cutting away, taking out small bits and pieces.