Sunday, December 28, 2008

What Goes Around

Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor
(originally published by OpEdNews)

In keeping with my virtual national newspaper tour, to be processed in alphabetical order, naturally, I began reading letters written to The Baltimore Sun. I have to say this about people who write to The Sun. They are certainly a progressive bunch. I read letters published over the duration of a few days and I found only one for which I could express a more or less opposing opinion. Even that letter, which was entitled “Extravagant praise for untested liberal”, wasn’t concerned with subject matter that impassions me. It was about Caroline Kennedy’s bid to become a senator from the great state of New York. I was going to write that the author was wasting his time complaining about liberals and keeping the liberal vs. conservative wedge alive, just the way I’ve believed for years The Corporacracy likes it.

I wrote a bit then took a break. I like to write a bit and come back a while later to see if what I’d written still sounds right to me. During my break, I began reading my local newspaper, The Contra Costa Times. I never returned to the letter in The Sun.

A gentleman wrote a letter to The Times blaming the state of the economy on “entitlements”. As I’ve previously written, voice intonation and facial expressions cannot be ascertained by a letter to the editor. However, there were a couple of statements in the letter that seemed to send a message.

According to the letter writer, “Remove entitlements and you reduce government waste.”

He goes on to state that this “reduces government spending, which leads to balanced budgets, which leads to reduced taxes, which leads to people keeping more of their money and investing and spending it the way they want, not the way the government dictates.” (emphasis mine)

Before getting to the emphasized phrase, let’s start at the beginning. According to this fine and, obviously, presently financially secure gentleman, “doling out” entitlements is a waste of the government’s time.

The letter writer tells us that entitlements have been “brewing for 40 years” and have “come home to roost.” This gentleman could possibly stand to read more than a cursory sentence about American history or do more than listen to O’Reilly or Limbaugh. Franklin Delano Roosevelt appeared to have compassion for the 25% of the workers who were unemployed when he took office and implemented many entitlements. That was 76 years ago, not 40 years ago.

Taking care of those who do not work is but one entitlement which it seems the writer of this letter would “remove”. We’ve all heard the argument that those who do not work do not work because they do not wish to work. They’re called lazy and are accused of “living off the state”.

This has been used many times as one example of how this probably isn’t the case. Those who read this column are, by now, tired of following the link and reading about the epiphany that struck me when I hired workers for a Fortune 500 multinational corporation. Maybe someone can share a similar experience that can be interchanged with the above experience. Just the same, that experience opened my eyes to why some people hadn’t worked for many years and how it had nothing at all to do with laziness.

The writer has a point, though, when he implies that taking away an entitlement such as unemployment insurance or removing regulations that prevent employers from turning down perspective candidates for employment simply because those employers are racist or sexist will save money. The unemployed, who may not be hired without the strength of government “interference” and who would be destitute because government shouldn’t bail people out simply because they “screw up” could potentially be strewn along the highways and byways of America, starving to death or even dead. Does the letter writer consider it government’s job to see to it that these “lazy” dead bodies are removed from the emerald paved streets of his America? After all, one shouldn’t have to see such despair while one is “keeping more of” one’s “money and investing and spending it the way” one wants to invest it and spend it.

Now for the emphasized phrase.

Do you get the old argument about republican government in The U.S. when you begin to speak about democracy? Inevitably, when one person says that we live in a democracy, another person who leans a bit to the right reminds us that we don’t live in a democracy, we live in a republic.

If our form of governance worked the way that the text books taught us it works, we, ultimately, live in a democracy. Granted there are no national referenda and the loathsome Electoral College is one huge unnecessary obstacle to real democracy. Nonetheless, with the exception of voting for the president, we were taught and many of us believe that we elect those who represent us and we do it in a democratic fashion. People run for national office and the candidate who receives the most votes is entrusted to represent her or his constituency. In a perfect world, or in a perfect United States, democracy fuels the republic. I have doubts about how legitimate that national view is, but, for the sake of this article, let’s assume things are what they seem.

We elect the people who represent us, so during any given election a majority of those of us who vote shoulder the responsibility for how our government operates. Consequently, we are the government. We are the institution which wastes its time on entitlements. Ironically, many of us are the very same people who accept entitlements. Those of us who accept entitlements need those entitlements.

For example, a person who “screws up” when he causes his back to slowly disintegrate may have a difficult time finding employment. In fact, if he “intentionally” persuades his back to become so decrepit that he’s unable to efficiently and effectively perform almost any task required by almost any job, he will more than likely remain unemployed. With no income and no medical care, his back may become but one link in a deteriorating chain which leads to his death. Lazy, yes, but what a lucky guy.

Another solution that people who believe that entitlements are generally not deserved nor needed is manifested in the form of a tabernacle. They point to churches as voluntary caretakers for the one or two Americans who just may be in need through no fault of their own.

First of all, will atheists be helped with as much enthusiasm as believers? Maybe or maybe not. If someone is an atheist, does he or she want to flip the coin just to see it come up “maybe not”?

Secondly, the baskets passed around on Sundays in most churches will need to be incredibly enlarged. After all, churches will be obligated to purchase medical imaging devices, medicine from the for profit pharmaceutical companies, medical supplies heretofore not considered theocratic tools and hospital beds.

They may not have to pay doctors and/or nurses as the good people who are trained in the field of medicine may do their work gratis. The only professionals who may want compensation would be, of course, the atheists.

A final irony can be found in the list of synonyms for the word “govern”, as found on the web site The Free Dictionary by Farlex. The list includes words like lead, control, command, manage, direct, guide, handle, conduct, order, reign over, administer, oversee, supervise, be in power over, call the shots, call the tune, hold sway over, superintend, rule, decide, guide, influence, underlie, sway, determine, control, check, contain, master, discipline, regulate, curb, inhibit, tame, subdue, get the better of, bridle, hold in check, keep a tight rein on and restrain. In fact these are the only synonyms on that site.

While some of us may have heartburn with words like control, inhibit and subdue, it becomes clear that governing is not meant to be a passive activity or, to put it another way, an inactivity.

Hard as it is to believe words such as ignore, neglect, disregard, shrug off, discount, dismiss, snub and the all important “enrich my friends beyond one’s wildest dreams” do not show up as synonyms for the word govern.

Reinforcing this internet definition of govern is an old standby called The Constitution of The United States of America. It’s obvious to the most casual of observers that the authors of that fine document didn’t intend for government to sit back and merely observe American Society. It, for sure, makes no reference to people in need as lazy, opportunist or stupid. It doesn’t even attempt to foresee a time when every American citizen becomes lazy, opportunist or stupid.

The author of this libertarian-like letter is either one of the very wealthy people in America or is a middle class worker whose been convinced that he is adorned with one of those “you can’t lay me off” shields. If that shield ever fails him, and let’s hope it never does, he will be entitled. Will his outlook on entitlements change? It may or he may think that, in his case, it’s different.

On the bright side, the writer leaves us with a prediction that, after America goes “through its self-imposed socialist cycle”, Americans will look back and say, “Remember when everyone thought they were entitled to everything? Wow, were we stupid.”
At least the gentleman has the clarity of thought and presence of mind to count himself among the “stupid”.

To friendship,

“Christmas reinforces the greed of the greedy and the need of the needy.” – Michael Bonanno

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

It’s OK to say “Merry Christmas”

Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor
(originally published by OpEdNews)

Let me say right up front that it is not my intention to marginalize and disparage any religious belief in this article.

I’m an atheist. Yet, I think it’s perfectly OK to say “Merry Christmas” during what’s become Christmas season in the US. In fact, out of respect for their celebratory feelings, I might just be inclined to respond with a “Merry Christmas” of my own. By doing this, I’m not recognizing the existence of any supreme being or the story of Jesus of Nazareth. I’m merely informing a Christian friend that I hope he or she has a merry Christmas.

I may do the same with a Jewish friend who wishes me a happy Hanukkah, although, as much as I don’t believe that the New Testament is an intellectual or historical narrative, I believe that the Old Testament or Torah is even less valid. But I will tell people that I hope that their respective seasons are happy and all that they anticipate they’d be. After all, I want people to respect my lack of belief.

I’ve never had the opportunity to say “Happy Ramadan” to any Muslim friends. I just so happen not to know any Muslims personally and I don’t even know that Muslims say “Happy Ramadan”.

The same goes for Kwanzaa. I know quite a few African Americans, yet none has wished me a happy Kwanzaa. In fact, I’ve recently become aware that “Happy Kwanzaa” is not the official greeting of Kwanzaa, but the Swahili phrase “Habari gani?” is. Yes, it is expressed in the form of a question and, depending on which day the question is asked, the answer references one of the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa. With Kwanzaa, Africans reference spirituality, but Kwanzaa is not so much a religious holiday as it is a celebration of culture and family. It’s for certain that I don’t know enough about this celebration to greet Africans properly, but I hope that their season of celebration is every bit as satisfying as Christmas is to Christians, Hanukkah is to Jews and Ramadan is to Muslims. Why should I want any less for my brothers and sisters in the world? Why should I want to interfere with their religious celebrations?

So, with all due respect to Christians, why is it that they, like a writer to The Bangor Daily News, insist that everyone should be as enthusiastic about saying “Merry Christmas” as they are. Not everyone is Christian and, even if people like me respond with a “Merry Christmas”, some, many or most, far too many for my taste, become incensed if someone else responds with “Happy Holidays”.

“Merry Christmas. What does that mean to so many? Apparently nothing. Hence, “Happy Holidays.””.

This is the opening paragraph to the above mentioned letter. It’s really a non controversial paragraph as it is a statement of fact. I would bet that the writer from Caribou didn’t write the paragraph for educational purposes, however. The problem, of course, is that we can’t extract voice intonation from the written word. The phrase “apparently nothing” may be a giveaway that this woman is not writing the paragraph as merely a statement of fact. It “sounds” a bit offensive to me, as if “Merry Christmas” should mean more to me, an atheist, that it actually does.

If “apparently not” isn’t proof that the author means to express more of a message and not so much a statement of fact, what she follows the first paragraph with is, indeed, proof.

She bemoans the fact that, “Now I look around and there seem to be many stores or restaurants celebrating not Christmas, only holidays.”

Would the writer expect stores owned by Jewish-Americans, Muslim-Americans or African-Americans to heretically display “Merry Christmas” in their places of business? Would she expect businesses owned and run by atheists to disingenuously display “Merry Christmas”? It seems to me that she would.

In fact, because 78% of Americans consider themselves Christians, many Jewish, Asian non-Christians, Muslim, African-American and even atheist business owners do, indeed, display signs which read “Merry Christmas” and/or have Christmas displays in their places of business. Many businesses have Holiday Parties or Holiday Bashes for their employees, but many, even those owned and/or operated by non-Christians, have Christmas Parties for their employees.

In a land which had, until recently, encouraged other nations to:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

we have become quite selective about who we let through what has morphed from a “golden door” into a velvet rope. Only those who don’t make us uncomfortable need apply.

To say that non-Christians make the writer of the letter to the Bangor Daily News uncomfortable may be an understatement.

There are two books that most people have to prioritize. People have to weigh what the Torah, The Bible or The Quran say against what The Constitution of the United States says. That, in itself, shouldn’t be a problem. I am familiar with The Bible as well as The Constitution.

Even in The Bible, Jesus of Nazareth, if one was to believe he existed, was believed to have said, not once, but twice, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” – Matthew, 12:17, Matthew, 22:21

Was this man not saying that there is room for both secular government and religious belief?

If he wasn’t saying that, it’s for certain that the best and the brightest have said it throughout American history.

A hundred and fifty years before the American Revolution, Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, said, “The Church and State need not be…inextricably linked: 'A Pagan or Antichristian Pilot may be as skillful to carry the Ship to its desired Port, as any Christian Mariner or Pilot in the World, and may perform that work with as much safety and speed.”

Those who are disappointed that more Americans aren’t as enthused about Christmas and, ultimately, Christianity, may very well have familiarized themselves with only one of the two books mentioned above and more than likely it is the book from which they’ve gleaned their religious beliefs.

The other book, The Constitution of the United States, contains laws which people, no matter what religion they practice or even if they practice no religion at all, should be very familiar with if they want to be law abiding members of The American Society. Unfortunately, it seems that far too many people have familiarized themselves with their religious books in lieu of The Constitution and, consequently, use some of the laws contained in their religious books as laws that should be followed by everyone living in The United States.

Even though there are Christians who want everyone in the US to believe that “…our Savior was born and that makes (Christmas) a time of true celebration for us” or “God already has blessed each of us with his most precious gift: his son. His gift is yours for the receiving”, there are many Biblical laws that these very same people may not want Americans to follow or would not follow themselves.

For example, people who follow the following laws should be investigated by The Children’s Bureau of the Department of Health and Human Services:

“He that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.” -- Exodus 21:17

“The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.” -- Proverbs 30:17

To repeat, it is not my intention to mock anyone’s religious book and religious belief. However, if one wants to force those Americans who, by law, are free not to be Christians or Jews, to become enthused about the religious implications of Christmas, it would almost seem that they would want the rest of us to become enthused about whatever else is written in their Holy Book. I know that I’m not the least bit enthused with the two passages above. Furthermore, in reading the passages, I’m happy that the Founding Fathers reassured Muslims in the very early days of this nation that there would be no religious test for conducting commerce by stating that “…the government of The United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion…” Can you imagine the laws of The United States, based upon the laws of Christianity and/or Judaism, enforcing what the above passages suggest?

When George H. W. Bush stated on August 27, 1987 that, “No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God”, he was directly contradicting Article VI of The Constitution of the United States of America. Article VI states that “…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” The Constitution was talking mostly about US Representatives, US Senators, The President, The Vice President and the members of The Supreme Court. However, it’s obvious that The Constitution includes all “office(s) or public trust(s) under the United States”.

Surely if the authors of The Constitution specified that “no religious test” would be administered for those wishing to serve in high public office, they would have extended the freedom from such a test to those wanting to become citizens of The United States.

When Bush made that statement, he, I’m sure inadvertently and unknowingly, added the words “as long as they’re believers” to the inscription on The Statue of Liberty.

Bush buried himself in the deepest hole in trying to define patriotism. Patriotism is a personal characteristic, a personal belief. The word and the concept are stretched almost to their breaking points during times of war.

Some say it’s patriotic to unquestioningly engage in warfare because “your government says it’s necessary”. This is patriotism through protecting your country by fighting a war.

Some say it is patriotic to at least question the government’s reasoning before engaging in warfare. This is patriotism through certainty and the genuine elimination of alternative approaches.

Some say it’s patriotic to oppose a war that the government says is necessary if it becomes clear that it, indeed, is not. This is patriotism by truly protecting your country and all who inhabit it.

Some people are pacifists who say that love of one’s fellow man or woman is enough reason to avoid a war, no matter if it’s considered patriotic or not.

Attempting to paint a segment of the population unpatriotic because of their belief toward religion flies in the face of Article VI and the inscription on The Statue of Liberty.

The last paragraph of the Caribou woman’s letter, in its entirety, is, “God already has blessed each of us with his most precious gift: his son. His gift is yours for the receiving. But it is your choice. I pray you choose wisely. Merry Christmas.”

Although I hope that she has a very Merry Christmas, I also hope that, when Christmas has come and gone, this woman searches the internet for a copy of The Constitution of The United States and I hope that she, consequently, “choose(s) wisely” before publishing another un-American, unpatriotic, exclusionary letter.

To friendship,

“Skepticism, like chastity, should not be relinquished too readily.” - George Santayana

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Stupid Criminal Auditions

Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor
(originally published by OpEdNews)

A letter to the editor of The Town Talk decried the theft of the author’s grandmother’s new generator. Grandma had recently become a widow and, considering the likelihood of Louisiana being hit by a hurricane, obviously thought it a good idea and quite comforting to know she would have a plan B for when she lost her electricity. I think it’s a great idea, too.

Unfortunately, “low down sorry thieves” stole the elderly woman’s “peace of mind and measure of safety”.

An obvious fatalist at heart and a supporter of full disclosure, the “concerned” granddaughter wrote that the burglar “needs to come back and get the wheels”. She even announced that she would leave the wheels “inside…the gate where Maybelle the dog is”.

It’s unrealistic to think that this ploy would work, isn’t it? What kind of criminal would go back to the scene of a crime to steal the rest of the booty?

Not so fast, pal. Don’t be fooled by the title of this article. This is not about auditions that are so unfair they should be called “criminal”.

If you’re like me and you watch Keith Olbermann’s “Countdown” on MSNBC, you realize that the women may have a fair to midland chance of catching the criminal.

One of the regular segments on “Countdown” is what Olbermann calls “Best Persons”, but don’t let that fool you, either. This particular segment is not necessarily about people with admirable traits. In fact, it’s often not about people who execute an act better than anyone else. Much of the time, it’s about the most amazing screw up that Olbermann or his staff read about or otherwise know about. In other words, it could be considered the best of the worst. I believe Olbermann mostly wants to expose the funniest of the worst. At any rate, this segment of “Countdown” should give hope to the woman whose generator was pilfered.

For example, in one “Best Person’s” segment, Olbermann talks about a man from the UK who, after waving and smiling at a road side speed camera several days in a row while actually speeding, was caught. He told the authorities that he thought he couldn’t be arrested. What was his special circumstance? The car technically wasn’t his because he had registered it in his thirteen year old daughter’s name.

In another segment, Keith tells us about a tow truck driver who came to the rescue of a police officer who had been hit from behind by a first tow truck. Both tow truck drivers were DUI and both worked for the same towing company.

Then there’s the bank robber who waved down a cab and attempted to use it as a getaway car. Although a number of other circumstances would have blown this Willie Sutton wannabe’s cover, the fact that the cab driver went directly to the police and told them the thief’s whereabouts was all that was really needed.

Naturally, however, the English motorist, the two tow truck operators and the bandit are small potatoes compared to Rod Blagojevich, the soon to be former governor of Illinois. If the other stupid criminals don’t give the elderly Louisiana woman hope, Blagojevich’s imbecility should. As most of us know by now, the governor attempted to sell the senate seat recently vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Apparently, Governor Blagojevich thought he had more friends than was actually the case. Either that or he thought that he wielded so much power that everyone whose arms he tried to twist, including the arms of The Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Cubs, would fear the consequences of turning him down.

One or more of the governor’s targets did not fear him and/or did not consider himself, herself or themselves friends of Blagojevich. One or more of the governor’s targets told United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of the governor’s plans and Fitzgerald had Blagojevich’s phone tapped.

Let’s hope that the Louisiana women involved in the case of the missing wheel-less generator read OpEdNews or any other reputable news outlet (or even some news outlets that aren’t so reputable or just about any news outlet in the nation) or have otherwise heard of Governor Rod Blagojevich’s dumb move. The move and especially the apprehension of the reckless governor will give anyone waiting for good news about justice a reason to feel optimistic.

To friendship,

“Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise.” - Bertrand Russell

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Obama Will Revive FDR’s “Failed” Policies

Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor
(originally published by OpEdNews)

Oh, my, what have we done?

If one was to ask several people who’ve written to The Contra Costa Times, we’ve elected a “Marxist” the likes of which this nation hasn’t seen since the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Furthermore, the policies which our new commie president has promised will worsen our economic crisis, will turn it into a depression and will only be able to be righted by starting a world war.

When FDR took office in 1933, 10,000 banks had collapsed, 25% of American workers were unemployed and people were fighting over scraps of food. No matter how much people want to blame The Depression on FDR’s “hackneyed policies”, it’s obvious that The Depression had a pretty good start before he took office.

In October of 2008, three months before Barack Obama is to take office, Americans lost 240,000 jobs and in November, just two months before the inauguration, Americans lost over 500,000 jobs. If “the inevitability of disaster permeates Obama’s administration,” those 740,000 jobs create a good prelude to that disaster.

When the Stock Market crashed in 1929, stock prices were set based upon the fact that they’d been rising. Since they were rising, investors thought that they’d keep rising and, according to the laws of supply and demand, demand for the stocks rose and so did the prices.

This sounds crazy and like a risky business, doesn’t it? What if something happened to make the stocks worth less? Those hopeful investors would be investing in air. What happened to make the stocks worth less and, eventually, worthless, is that the investors suddenly noticed that nothing was backing up the stocks save for their illusory worth. As one would imagine, this brought on a landslide of selling and the industries to which the stocks were linked began to fail.

This may be an oversimplified explanation of The Great Depression, a very complex issue. Yet, believe or not, Barack Obama is inheriting an economic crisis caused in part by a similar fantasy engaged in by wealthy Wall Street traders. This fantasy is called “derivatives”. What are derivatives?

Derivatives are financial instruments which bet on the success of other financial instruments.

For example, the bank wagers on the ability of a person to pay his mortgage. Traders then come along and bet that the bet placed by the bank will be successful. Traders then come along once again and place a bet on the bet placed by the first traders who, of course, bet on the success of the bank loan.

Ultimately, traders are betting on “air”. There’s really nothing to back up their “bets”. Sound familiar?

One source of proof that the traders are betting on “air” comes from The Bank of International Settlements. The BIS reported that the total of the outstanding “bets” or derivatives is $516 trillion. To put this in perspective, the Gross Domestic Product for all of the nations in the world, combined, is $50 trillion. In other words, there’s not even enough money in the world at present to back up the total of the derivatives waiting for a “payoff”. Obviously, since there’s really not enough money or worth in the entire world for every bet that’s out there to be a successful bet, something will have to give.

Yet, the writers of the letters that I’ve referred to want to preemptively blame the present financial crisis on the “bungling and corruption of the Democrat (sic) Congress” which was elected in 2006, the “64 million groupies” who voted for Obama and on “Messiah Obama” himself and his “socialist agenda”.

As mentioned, the cause of The Great Depression and what got us out of it is far too complex to be sufficiently explained in a brief column like this one and by a person such yours truly, a person who is far from being an economic expert. However, as was the case before and at the time FDR took office, the economic situation is set up for failure as Barack Obama and his administration are set to take office.

This failure was caused by a government who believes that government should not govern. The Regime, and this goes back to Reagan and includes H. W. Bush and, yes, Clinton, believes that government should not regulate the “free market”. As with most Libertarians, The Regime believes that the “free market” will regulate itself.

Although the “free market” has the power to regulate itself, we must never forget that the “free market” is predominantly controlled by people who are like kids in a candy store knocking each other over to get the most candy, even though they know they’ll never be able to eat it all. And who suffers for this greed? The middle and lower classes of Americans suffer.

I’m also very cynical about the one party, two division political system we have in the US. However, Obama and his administration are all we have and I’m willing to sit back and see if I’m wrong about The Corporacracy in general or even if I’m wrong about the relationship that Barack Obama will have with The Corporacracy.

I am a die-hard Progressive and a 9/11 Truther. However, I didn’t join those ranks until 2004. In September of 2001, I was willing to follow George W. Bush anywhere logical to pursue those who had caused that tragedy. I was duped, of course, but I at least gave him a chance to screw up.

Unfortunately, there are people who are not as fair with Barack Obama as I was with Bush and can predict the future and know that Obama will fail. More unfortunate than that are the people, and I believe that some of the writers to The Times fit into this category, who are absolutely hoping that Obama fails.

I find hoping that one’s government will fail before it’s even inaugurated among the most despicable and unpatriotic stands an American can take.

To friendship,

“We live in a Newtonian world of Einsteinian physics ruled by Frankenstein logic.” - David Russell

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Failure of an American Triumph

Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor
(originally published by OpEdNews)

A writer to the Chicago Tribune is very upset with an editorial by The Tribune which states, “If Iraq turns out to be a force for freedom and moderation in that crucial but troubled region, as now seems likely, it will mark an American foreign policy triumph that rivals the rebuilding of Japan and Germany after World War II.”

I don’t blame the letter writer for being upset with the Tribune. I am, however, amazed at what upsets the writer.

To call our involvement in Iraq a “triumph” of any kind is to insult any and all people who were injured on account of the unwarranted and illegal US invasion. Anyone who received a paper cut because of the US invasion to those hundreds of thousands of people who died due to the invasion were not wounded because of some morally defensible action by The US. All of the people who exited their homeland did not leave because Americans landed in Iraq to free them and rebuild their nation. The billions of dollars worth of damage to Iraq’s infrastructure and architecture didn’t happen while Americans were busy “rebuilding” the country. How could anything that The US “accomplished” in Iraq be a triumph?

It’s unconscionable to pat ourselves on the back because we helped in getting Iraq’s electricity up and running again or because we helped to rebuild bridges or roads or schools if we were the ones who destroyed it all in the first place. That we should help rebuild Iraq goes without saying.

Bob Woodward told 60 Minutes that he references Colin Powell’s “Pottery Barn Rule” in his book Plan Of Attack. According to Woodward, Powell had previously warned Bush, who, as we know now, probably learned about the invasion of Iraq on the night he was to announce it to the American people, that “if you break it, you own it”. The only reason why The US has to rebuild Iraq is because the US broke it with its illegal invasion.

The possibility that any kind of American triumph can be extracted from our involvement in Iraq ended at the moment that The Regime started floating rumors that we may invade Iraq. A great many of us knew that the rumors were being floated by The Regime and those rumors, along with the stories of possible Iraqi offensives against The US, which may come “in the form of a mushroom cloud”, were outright silly. Hans Blitz and Scott Ritter, two men who had actually spent time in Iraq inspecting the country with the intention of determining if Iraq was engaging in illegal activities as described by UN resolutions, had already concluded that Saddam Hussein had not made any headway in advancing major offensive systems which may have been a threat to, not only The US, but its neighbors.

Of course, this is not what The Regime wanted to hear and it certainly was not what The Regime was about to tell the American people.

The writer, as mentioned, isn’t angry that The Tribune’s editorial refers to our involvement in Iraq as possibly one of the great US triumphs. What the writer of the letter is miffed at is the fact that, as wrongheaded as The Tribune’s conclusion is, it didn’t go far enough in praising George W. Bush and noting that, “in hindsight (Bush) now turns out to be a visionary.”

The Regime took advantage of what happened on September 11, 2001 to convince Americans, blinded by hate toward the Arab world, that 9/11=Arab=anyone who lives in The Middle East=Iraq=Saddam Hussein. At the time, making that hate induced connection wasn’t difficult. After all, if you commit a crime against Americans, especially if your skin isn’t the color of most Americans or if your language uses another alphabet, America will declare war upon people with whom Americans can link you. Get that? Granted, the people with whom criminals can be linked may have nothing to do with the criminals or their crimes. Yet, Americans have no problem making the convenient connection and going from there.

Where Americans go may be wrong or immoral or baseless or unjustifiable, but don’t tell them. After all, Americans don’t make mistakes and, even if they do, the people about whom they were mistaken needed the mistake. Even though Americans made a colossal mistake which killed many civilians and destroyed much of a nation, they can find a silver lining.

Sure there were no weapons of mass destruction. Nonetheless, America freed Iraqis from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. There would be no more Hussein run torture chambers. They would be replaced by torture chambers run by the American military.

America also “gave” Iraq democracy, as if democracy was something that could be wrapped up and placed under the Christmas tree. I submit that people have to yearn for democracy and be willing to die so that those they leave behind can live in a democratic society. I submit that’s the only way that any nation can move from tyranny to democracy. The people have to want it; the people have to initiate the change; the people have to implement it. Democracy cannot be given to anyone and it certainly can’t be forced upon anyone from the barrel of a gun.

Cheney said that Iraq was in cahoots with Al Qaeda in planning and carrying out 9/11. I believe that Cheney knew who planned and carried out 9/11. That being as it may, Cheney was right. There was a connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq. The connection was that the people who supposedly carried out 9/11 and the citizens of Iraq are, in general, Arabs, Middle Easterners and Muslims. Those were the only connections between Al Qaeda and Iraq.

Meeting in Prague be damned, the fact that they could all be referred to as Arabs was all the connection the vast majority of Americans needed. They carried out 9/11. Arabs, seen one; seen ‘em all. Hate 19 of ‘em; hate ‘em all. Kill one for vengeance; kill ‘em all for vengeance.

What The Tribune forgot in its editorial and what the writer of the letter forgets in spades is that intentionally killing the wrong people cannot result in triumph. There is not now, nor could there ever be anything triumphant about what we’ve done in and to Iraq and what we’ve done to the Iraqis.

It’s up to us to continue to dampen every attempt to give The Regime credit for doing anything positive in Iraq. What we’ve done there must never be glorified. We must never let anyone, government official or blind hubristic American “patriot”, get away with saying that anything we did in Iraq, based upon what happened on September 11, 2001 or based upon the lies that were told in support of those actions, was honorable or even necessary. It most certainly was not triumphant.

To friendship,

“We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over.” - Aneurin Bevan

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