Saturday, March 17, 2007

Losing the War on Terrorism

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

Six months ago, 100 of America's top foreign-policy professionals told Foreign Policy magazine that the United States was losing the war on terrorism. Six months later, the prognosis is even worse:
...surveyed again today, this bipartisan group sees a world that continues to grow more dangerous and a U.S. national security strategy that is failing on several fronts.

Foreign Policy

Some highlights from the report: 80 percent disagree with Bush that the US is winning the "war on terrorism". Some 47 percent see nuclear prolileration to be the greater threat. Eighty-six percent believe the world has become a more dangerous place. Seventy-one percent of those calling themselves "conservative", likewise, believe that the US is losing the war on terrorism.

Just one month after 9/11, FP reports, 4 percent of Americans told an ABC News/Washington Post poll that "...they approved of how the fight against terrorism was being handled." How things have changed! That was before the US invaded Afghanistan, long before the US attacked and invaded Iraq. It's all gone to hell since. Clearly -war was not and is not the solution. War has solved nothing and made things worse.

Foreign Policy published a laundry list of disasters, all of which sour the public mood.

...a bloody war between Israel and Hezbollah, a plot in Britain to explode liquid bombs aboard airliners bound for the United States, North Korea’s nuclear test, a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, and Iraq’s downward slide into deadly sectarian strife.
Why are Democrats afraid to take on Bush on the "support the troops" issue? Democrats are still trying to walk a thin, narrow line, triangulating a center that has clearly moved to the left.

Nothing is gained by staying in Iraq. It imperils the troops. It does not support them. Troops are best supported by taking them out of the killing fields and, in the process, ending those policies that have created terrorism and opposition where none had been before.

Bush may be but another ideological terrorist but he's a more dangerous one. The militant Ayatollahs, Bin Laden, and numerous anonymous bombers are not so different from Bush, nor he, them. On all sides, "combatants" eschew doubt, when it fact, it should be cultivated. Certitude is the first refuge of idiots.

Monsters from the id are very real. Bush cannot escape the consequences of his ill-conceived policies. Nor can we. Terrorism gets worse by the minute and, by the minute, the American occupation bogs down. Terrorism is said to have increased some seven fold since the conflict on the ground began. [See: The Iraq Effect: War Has Increased Terrorism Sevenfold Worldwide.]

Enough is enough.

Democrats must seize the moral high ground. Democrats must cut off funding for additional troops and additional campaigns. Tacking "social spending" onto the latest funding bill is all fine and good but more must be done. Democrats must tax our way out of the war with a "Victory Over Terror" tax levied on incomes of $5 million a year or more. Levied on all income, it would include stock options, jet plane rides, company-paid-for health and life insurance, retirement programs, golden parachutes, the use of apartments in Paris, cars and drivers.

In the meantime, we all continue to pay a high price for the Bush/Blair follies. Terrorists, we are still told, just hate freedom and, should they win, will rob us of those freedoms. But we are losing those freedoms anyway. To Bush, Blair and similar ilk. Consider the following from George Galloway's web site.
The BBC have banned the hit single 'War', which features a Tony Blair lookalike in the accompanying video, over fears that its pro-peace message will offend the government .

It is bad enough to lose freedom of speech during a real war! But a phony one? I remember when Britain was free. If you doubt the extent to which Blair has subverted Britain's proud heritage, consider yet another item from the Galloway site:
Cable TV Screens go blank as Murdoch and Branson battle for pay-TV market
An excerpt:
While insisting there is "mutual respect" between him and Rupert Murdoch, Sir Richard has made clear his views about the media mogul's role in British public life. Pointing out Mr Murdoch's ownership of four national newspapers and controlling stake in Sky, Sir Richard Branson said: "If you tag on ITV to that as well, basically you've got rid of democracy in this country and we might as well just let Murdoch decide who is going to be our prime minister."
How surreal the recent global market crash seemed --especially its choreographed appearance. We are reminded of the true nature of both globalization and global fascism. Here's a timely excerpt from Mike Whitney`s The Great Dollar Crash of '07: "
The so-called ‘global economic system’ has nothing to do with competition, free markets or private enterprise; that’s just public relations gobbledygook. In practice, it is the world’s biggest extortion racket, wherein, the “Godfather”-- Uncle Sam-- holds a gun to the heads of his subjects and forces them to use our fiat-paper to purchase the oil that lubricates their economies."
I refuse to believe, meanwhile, that Western Civilization will succumb to the new barbarian within, namely Bush and his fascist, global corporate sponsors. That Bush pays only lip service to the Constitution belies his true allegiance: the idea of the global corporation. It is the corporation which has allied itself with older cultures distinctly anti-Western in tone and spirit. Some have called it corporate feudalism. But, for my part, the word fascism does quite nicely. It was Mussolini who defined fascism as corporatism and he did so in both word and deed.

Bertrand Russell stated that Western Civilization was essentially Greek civilization, writing:
"There is no civilization but the Greek in which a philosophic movement goes hand in hand with a scientific tradition. It is this that gives the Greek enterprise its peculiar scope; it is this dual tradition that has shaped the civilization of the West."
Fast fowarding through my own rather lengthy take on this, I have come to the conclusion that there is a certain introspective reflection shot-through the Western tradition. Clearly there is no such self-consciousness in either Christianity or Islam. Significantly, the origin of both religions are both geographically and philosophically outside the "Western" tradition and the civilization of which Russell speaks. The fly in the ointment is the global corporation playing both sides against an amoral middle. It must be pointed out that while Christianity is practiced in the west, its origins are middle eastern. Fundies who demonize the Middle East have apparently forgotten that.

The Greece of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Phidias, Solon, Aristophanes, Sophocles was secular. From time to time in Western society, the fault lines will appear. When Salman Rushdie published his "Satanic Verses", he became the object of a fatwa. Later, when a cartoonist lampooned the "Prophet", the millions who supported the Greek ideal found themselves ill-equipped to defend it against an entire civilization which is outside their own tradition, a tradition so well described by Thomas Jefferson who wrote: "We hold these truths to be self-evident..." I leave it to a detail oriented scholar to trace Jefferson back to Locke, indeed, to Greece. Nor can we conclude that because Socrates lost his battle with the *religious right" that Greece was just another state. The point, rather, is that it was the Greek ideal of free inquiry that survived to shape the west -not the authoritarian, "Eastern" tradition that persecuted Socrates as surely as the Church in Rome would burn Giordano Bruno.

Meanwhile, a new motion picture, 300, has drawn fire from Iran for depicting a hand full of brave Greeks holding off a vast Persian army. I see another analogy. I see a handful of guerrillas holding off what had been the most powerful nation on earth. I see George Washington holding out long enough for the French to win the American "Revolution". I see Gen. Sam Houston attack with but a handful of scrappy "settlers" to defeat a vast Mexican army lead by Gen. Santa Anna of Mexico. (See:' Alamo' touches raw nerve in Mexico; The Battle Of San Jacinto ) In five years, ten years, a generation -what will be said of the US defeat in Iraq?

Some additional resources:
Lie by Lie: The Mother Jones Iraq War Timeline
Bush Has Lost the War on Terrorism
Bush lost the war on terrorism because he dare not win it



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Friday, March 16, 2007

It's Official: The Hottest Winter on Record

A recent television news report may have summed up the sense of malaise and disgust in America today. A video clip depicted a rural family watching George W. Bush on the family television set. When Bush got to the topic of Iraq, the man seized the remote, clicked it off, and declared loudly: "I am sick of this guy!" This is interesting because there is a very real possibility that the man may have voted for Bush.

Enough is written of his numerous war crimes and torture -all pulled off under the cover of war on Iraq. But what of the war he wages daily on Americans?

At home, Bush has waged war on the environment -a fact brought home by the news today that this past winter has been the hottest since record keeping began some 125 years ago. Is it a fluke- as the GOP would have you believe -or is it global warming as a result of greenhouse gas emissions?

Until Al Gore took climate change on the road, Bush's abrogation of the Kyoto treaty had been all but forgotten. (see: An Inconvenient Truth) But a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change changed all that. Signed by some 2,500 scientists from 130 nations, it paints a stark picture. It's hard to sum up this vision of apocalypse, so here are just a few highlights.

Greenhouse gases - from industry, transportation and agriculture -are most certainly to blame for global warming. This so called Greenhouse effect is the label given the increase in such gases over time. Primary sources of greenhouse gases are clearly due to human activity and include:
  • deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels leading to higher carbon dioxide concentrations;
  • landfill emissions leading to higher methane atmospheric concentrations. Newer fully vented septic systems have become a major source of methane;
  • the use of fertilizers in various agriculture lead to higher concentrations of nitrous oxide.
The best source for information on emission can be found in the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios The following excerpt is related to the graphic that accompanies this article.
Figure 1-2: Energy-related and industrial global CO2 emissions for scenarios reviewed in the IPCC Report Climate Change 1994 (Alcamo et al., 1995). The shaded area indicates coverage of IS92 scenarios while the "spaghetti-like" curves indicate other energy-related emissions scenarios found by the IPCC review to be representative of the scenarios available in the open literature at that time. (Individual scenarios are listed in the Appendix of Alcamo et al., 1995.)

-Figure 1-2: Energy-related and industrial global CO2 emissions for scenarios
It is easy to get lost in the many numbers, many of which are meaningless to non-scientists. But here's an easy one: an average coal fired plant pumps about ten mllion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.

One of the most pernicious effects will be rising sea levels. That's easily visualized -having witnessed a tsunami and, later, Katrina. If nothing is done to correct the trend, if gas emission do not peak before 2030, it may be too late to do anything about it. But Bush's position on this issue has given cover to the world`s other great polluters --China and India. China is at least as dependent on coal as the US is addicted to oil and gas. What leverage will the US have on two nation's eager to out "US" the "US"? Aggravating the situation are the traditional tensions between China and India.

In the meantime, the numbers are in on what has turned out to have been the warmest winter since record keeping began in the US some 125 years ago. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says temperatures continue to rise by a fifth of a degree every decade. The 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1995. And while NOAA does not blame "global warming", weather experts predict that 2007 might very well be the hottest year on record. The IPCC report must be taken into consideration before these numbers can be blamed on El Nino.

Would things have been different if Bush had not thumbed his nose at Kyoto? Consider the fact that United States is among the world's leading producers of greenhouse gases.

-The Existentialist Cowboy


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bush Kills Off American Optimism

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

Bush has robbed Americans of that most American trait -optimism. In the worst of times, Americans shrugged off deprivations and hardships with both a complaint and a wisecrack.

Not quite the British "stiff upper lip", it nevertheless struck back at bad times with a smart ass remark amid faith that things would get better. World War I would make the world safe for Democracy. The Axis powers would be defeated. We would get rich.

At the height of the depression, the movies had a hit with a little ditty called "We're in the Money". It made Ginger Rogers a star.
"We're in the Money," lyrics by Al Dubin, music by Harry Warren (from the film Gold Diggers of 1933, 1933)

We're in the money, we're in the money;
We've got a lot of what it takes to get along!
We're in the money, that sky is sunny,
Old Man Depression you are through, you done us wrong.
We never see a headline about breadlines today.
And when we see the landlord we can look that guy right in the eye

We're in the money, come on, my honey,
Let's lend it, spend it, send it rolling along!

Oh, yes we're in the money, you bet we're in the money,
We've got a lot of what it takes to get along!
Let's go we're in the money, Look up the skies are sunny,
Old Man Depression you are through, you done us wrong.
We never see a headline about breadlines today.
And when we see the landlord we can look that guy right in the eye
We're in the money, come on, my honey,
Let's lend it, spend it, send it rolling along!
But if you might not get rich, an American might provide for his children a better education than he got. An American might indulge fantasies of equality, an education, a career. An American rarely feared that he would be locked up unfairly, beaten, deprived of his rights as an American.

Unless he was black.

But in those days, as E.L. Doctorow would say satirically in "Ragtime", "...there were no negroes."

An American might sleep soundly at night knowing that his government would not be reading his mail or conspiring to break into his home. He might never be accused of treason for supporting a Democratic candidate. He might even dare to join his local union shop.

Of course, even then, such optimism was often misplaced. Black people were lynched. Education was difficult to get. Many died in the dust bowl. Others starved. During the Great Depression, my own relatives lived on wild game in the "Big Thicket" of southeastern Texas. One of my own ancestors might have killed a game warden. I will never know the truth of it. Out of that national experience, another great song became emblematic:
"Brother, Can You Spare a Dime," lyrics by Yip Harburg, music by Jay Gorney (1931)

They used to tell me I was building a dream, and so I followed the mob,
When there was earth to plow, or guns to bear, I was always there right on the job. They used to tell me I was building a dream, with peace and glory ahead,
Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?

Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad; now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;
Once I built a tower, now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And I was the kid with the drum!

Say, don't you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.
Why don't you remember, I'm your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And I was the kid with the drum!

Say, don't you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time. Say, don't you remember, I'm your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?
The ghosts of the often tragic struggles for equality, civil liberties, the right to join a labor movement, still haunt America. The struggles were engaged because we believed the ideals might be achieved. Labor might achieve a living wage. Minorities might achieve equality. And, during the long Viet Nam debacle, we took to the streets in Chicago because we believed peace might break out. That was the real meaning of flowers placed in gun barrels.

During the administration of Bush Jr, it was difficult to be so optimistic. Bush did not merely eschew American ideals, he openly derides them. Most perniciously, he said "This would be a whole lot easier if this was a dictatorship...just as long as I'm the dictator." Thus Bush declared the anti-American nature of his regime at the outset and, true to form, he waged war on the U.S. Constitution.

Bush is not content to crush American optimism. He seeks to replace it with fear and despair, powerful negative emotions that he and his party eagerly embrace and exploit. Dick Cheney's infamous "snarl" is but a symptom.

By contrast, Franklin Delano Roosevelt -at the height of the depression -said: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Bush, by contrast, seems to be the physical manifestation of the American anxieties that he exploits. He is nothing without the phantom menaces that he summons. His very image is enough to trigger a shot of adrenalin, a "fight or flight" reaction that goes right to the gut.

It is no wonder than his recent trip throughout Latin America was notable for the violent demonstrations that it inspired. And, in Europe, you will find graffiti stating "Bush is Satan".

It does not matter that Bush is or is not Satan. What matters is that millions of otherwise intelligent people believe that he is. In fact, he is more loathed than Satan.
The really bad news for Bush? When the same pollsters asked Americans to name a "famous person" as their "biggest villain of the year," 25 percent of them volunteered the president's name. That put Bush way out in front on the biggest-villain list. Rounding out the most villainous five: Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong Il, who combined couldn't match Bush's 25 percent level..
--Tim Grieve, War Room, More popular than Jesus, more hated than Satan,
Bush is thought by billions to be a most powerful force for evil. Clearly, he inspires fear at home and terrorism abroad,. He has made of America, an un-American state. Bush himself summed up his agenda:
We will export death and destruction to the four corners of the earth.
-George W. Bush
It just keeps getting harder to remain optimistic.-The Existentialist Cowboy

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

How the GOP Made the World a More Dangerous Place

Bush has repeatedly compared what he calls his war against "Islamic extremists" to previous struggles against Nazism and Communism.


The GOP has never forgiven FDR for having prevailed in World War II. Recently, the GOP would conspire with conversative media conglomerates to perpetuate a counter-myth: it was Ronald Reagan who prevailed in a cold war against "communism".

More nonsense.

This simplistic, jingoistic view ignores a remarkable leader by the name of Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev who waged quiet revolutions at home and abroad. At Rekjavik, it was Gorbachev -not Reagan -who proposed "...a total elimination of Soviet and American intermediate-range missiles in Europe, and strict compliance with (and non-withdrawal from) the ABM Treaty for not less than ten years." (See: The Eighties Club) It was a nuclear showdown but not the type that we had prepared for since the 50's.

We had been threatened with peace --and were frightened by the prospect.

At the end of the Rekjavik sessions, it was a "...a tight-lipped Reagan" who escorted Gorbachev to the limousine. Gorbachev is reported to have said "I don't know what more I could have done."

"You could have said yes," Reagan replied, having already rejected the Soviet leaders proposals. It was Reagan -fearing the loss of his arch conservative base -who blinked. It was Reagan who left Rekjavik bearing the responsibility for having left a long and dangerous cold war intact.

It is true that the Soviet Union possessed considerable nuclear capabilities. In the event of a missile exchange, it might have destroyed the U.S. in the course of an hour. But, as we have said, it was Gorbachev who put that very capability on the table. It was Gorbachev who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990. It was a Republican, Ronald Reagan, who blinked.

Consider the many Bush lies and exaggerations. Bush, like his GOP forebears, would like to compare his quagmire in Iraq to the war Roosevelt waged against the Axis powers. The truth of the matter is the Nazis had launched a world war with an awesome military machine -the most powerful military force that the world had yet seen. Nazis slaughtered millions of civilians in support of Hitler's quest for world domination and Russian oil. To liken Bush's many follies to WWII, to the world wide effort to crush the the very real threat of Nazism, is just absurd. Rather, Bush, by exploiting the extremist acts of of tiny minority, has empowered and legitimized their struggle. Bush has not only made terrorism worse, he has given it a megaphone.

Now we find ourselves bogged down in what may prove to be this nation's worst catastrophe. In the Middle East, Bush wages a brutal war crime against a civilian population and he does so upon a pack of malicious lies and transparent pretexts. Opposition to US aims in the Middle East cannot be compared to either WWII or the Cold War. If there are analogies to be made, they are Bush to Hitler, Halliburton to stormtroopers.

There is hope that the many throughout the Middle East who sincerely seek a positive change will find a voice. Only a united regional effort can expel the "crusader". If Bush is concerned about his legacy, he should keep this in mind: he will be remembered as the western crusader who re-united the disparate peoples who make up the region. He will have united "enemies" against us. He will have given them common cause to wage Jihad. Like Reagan who blinked at Rekjavik, Bush will have made the world a very, very, dangerous place, indeed'

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