Face of the Enemy

Faces of the Enemy

copyright © 2011 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

Today, Americans walk it back, Belatedly, and too late to bring home American and Allied troops who died in battle, government officials released recordings.  The media distributes and discusses these en masse.  Those prominent in the Press and Public Office say “the people have the right to know,” exactly what the tale that could have been told decades ago.  Osama Bin Laden was never more than human, a tragic hero, a comical character, just as you or me.

He had a home, a family. Osama sat around and watched television.  This man, like any of us might, searched for recognition. He sought attention in ways that made sense to him.  Osama Bin Laden had beliefs. He expressed these.  Gratified, when an audience showered him with praise he did more of what yielded greater acceptance.  

Bin Laden came to understand that when he spoke, people listened.  Many appreciated his message.  For good or bad people looked for the hidden meaning.  Countries made deciphering his every word their mission.  Americans and Allies invested trillions of dollars in troops, tanks, and translations all to quell the force of the man known as Osama Bin Laden.

“We did it!” Americans clamored. Some say we “captured” the man we slaughtered.  People poured out onto the streets to celebrate the “mission accomplished.”  We, the Americans are “victorious.” Caught off-guard while with his family, this man was assassinated, Americas rejoiced.

“Ding dong the witch is dead.”  Which “witch” will be next?  Might it be another average guy with ill-intent, or will powerful persons declare it is you or me?  You might say that would never be, but.  .

A week after the massacre, it is now revealed that the real Osama Bin Laden is but a sad and sheltered figure. Past the time when it might have helped save the lives of millions of innocent Iraqi and Afghani people, those displaced, dismembered or just dead, United States Leaders show the people that Osama bin Laden was never more than a mere mortal.  We are now allowed to see that the “enemy” who the world sought and feared, is but a man.  Bin Laden, scruffy in appearance, today, is cast as a megalomaniac.  Americans are told he had an inflated ego. What human would not think him self significant having been given center stage?

When three Presidents, each of whom represents the most “powerful nation” on the planet, formally declares you as “Enemy Number One” might you not consider your forcefulness grand?  To know these Heads of State publicly express the need to have you in their sights how can you not think that you, as an individual must be truly important?  Indeed, anyone with that much command must be a force to be reckoned with.  Given the floor, by those who later would execute him, Osama Bin Laden took it!

Early on, like a character in a book, Bin Laden was assigned a role.  Later, when his performance was recognized a brilliant Osama became more prominent.  The Actor was elevated to the stage.  Broadway beware.  This man mesmerizes. His skills as a speaker, a preacher, a Teacher allowed audiences’ world wide to suspend disbelief.  People forgot that a man has no power beyond what we give him . . .  and oh how we did.  Osama Bin Laden, with our assistance became the “face of the enemy.”

He became larger than life. Feared. Jeered.  “Wanted” “Dead or alive.”  Osama Bin Laden was designated the enemy.  Thus, this human became a faceless monster, an inhuman demon.  Artists, Authors, or perchance more accurately, Administrations painted his picture for us.  “He is a barbarian, an aggressor, a liar, madman, a vile animal that can be exterminated without regret.  Before we make war, even before we make weapons, we make an idea of the enemy.  Every society has its official image of the enemy.”  For Americans and Allies it was Osama Bin Laden.  Tomorrow might it be you?

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Keep America Safe

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Obama: We Will Do Everything Possible to Keep America Safe

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Do you know one?  Perchance your mother, father, brother, or sister is a person you would characterize as lovingly protective.  He or she maybe an individual who works to shield loved ones from harm.  This fine fellow or femme plots and plans in an attempt to prevent any crisis.  People come to depend on caring souls such as he or she.  Indeed, you may be the cautious crier who actively expresses concern for the health and welfare of those you treasure.  It is a tough task, but you, or someone in your life may have assumed responsibility for the well-being of another.  Surely, someone must keep us safe and sane.  One never knows who might lurk or linger in the halls, bathroom stalls, on a plane, boat or train.  Credentials must be checked.  If family and friends cannot safeguard us from the crazies and fanatics certainly, our sweet Uncle Sam will.  

Article II of the Constitution and the American people provide the Commander-In-Chief the authority to protect and defend at all costs, or currently, it would seem so.  Checks and balance be damned, when the consensus within the country is, “We are at war!”

In a time such as this, few reflect upon the parallels in their everyday lives.  Quietly, each of us recalls when we, personally, were at war.  The conflict was covert.  Rarely were we even conscious of what occurred.  Thus, just as we are as children, in adulthood, we oblige.  When asked to remove our shoes in an airport, American citizens, and visitors to this country, do so.  “Put your sweater in the tray.”  Happy, with the prospect that we might avoid a full body search, we smile, and act in accordance with the command.

This is after we handed the Transportation Security Administrators our boarding pass and photograph identification card.  Indeed, as we shuffle off to Buffalo, New York, Billings, Montana, or Bakersfield, California, we succumb to the many demands put before us. The public is now, for the most part, willing to submit to a body scan. Seventy-eight percent of the Americans polled support the use of technology that in the past, would have been considered a physical invasion of privacy.

Although fifty-one percent of the American people who were asked favor racial and ethnic profiling, this action, in truth, is thought politically incorrect.  Nonetheless, archetypal classifications are “acceptable” to more than half the populace.  People prefer to feel protected.  Most trust they will never be subject to unwarranted seizure.  Nor will the use of these X-rays affect their health.  Certainly, Uncle Sam is scrupulous and will not use the images in an unethical manner.  Others are the adversaries.  Authority figures are as Mom and Dad.  They do as they do in our best interest.  

As humans, we long for love, and interpret protective practice as an expression of this caring, or do we?  Might we muse Americans have become inured to the fragility factor. Constantly, especially in this decade, citizens have been told there is reason to fear.  Hence, Americans have become extremely apprehensive.  Paradoxically, the Office of Homeland Security concludes that much of our trepidation is of our own making.

It begins in childhood.  In the last score or so, fearful parents proclaimed, “Do not talk to strangers.”  The neighborhood is on watch.  Playtime must be supervised.  “The world,” Moms and Dads declare, “is not a safe place.”  Indeed, it is impossible to escape the hazards.  Scary people are everywhere.  Nonetheless, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts and of course Uncle Sam will help. Rest assured; “we are doing everything in our power to keep you and your family safe and secure.”

Children were, perchance, comforted.  Today, mothers and fathers ponder their growing pains.  Many reason it is better to cloister a little one.  Thus, parents plan every activity.  From birth forward, it is more than 18 Years in the Making. Cash is stashed for college.  Schools and careers are chosen and charted before a child takes his or her first steps.  Tikes are trained and tested to ensure that they will achieve. Once the standards are set, early in life, our government takes over.  Officials watch our every move and we are comfortable with this.

Americans, compassionately teach their children to be on guard However, as an adolescent medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, Doctor Elizabeth Alderman observes, overprotective parents have left their children with few real-world coping competencies. ”If you don’t have these skills, then it’s very normal to become anxious.”

Diane knows this well. She learned her lessons long before the current trend in parenting.  Darling Diane was but a lass when she discovered that she was not safe.  Decades ago, years before people hid behind locked doors and windows, Diane realized that everywhere she went there was danger.  

In the 1950s the little tike understood, when she walked to school, she did not travel alone.  Her mother marched with her.  Mrs McMahon did not stroll at the young girl’s side.  Nor did the elder woman sweetly saunter just out of sight.  Madame McMahon hung over Diane’s head.  She haunted her darling daughter, and was always in the youngster’s thoughts.

For Diane, it was as it is today for a young patient of Doctor David Anderegg, a Child Psychologist in Lenox, Massachusetts.  As the adolescent spoke with the Professor of Psychology at Bennington College, she said “I wish my parents had some hobby other than me.” Experts appear to agree; being the subject of intense scrutiny can cause a child, of any age, to be anxious.

Diane McMahon concurs.  Whatever she did, Diane could not shake the angst.  Her protective parent influenced her every action; however, not in ways that would benefit the girl or her relationship with her Mom.  

If Diane thought to be with peers, Mom was always in the background of her mind.  When her friends stole makeup from Walgreen’s Pharmacy, Diane did too.  The “culprit” knew she could not keep the cosmetics, at least not at home.  She arranged for a friend of hers, whose Mom and Dad did not go through her drawers, to take the foundation, powder, eye shadow, and mascara.  Each evening these, along with the lipstick and perfume would go home with an acquaintance.  In the morning, on the way to school, all would be returned to Diane.

When classmates said smoking is cool, Diane tried it.  Warnings from her mother, while heard, and alive, loudly in Diane’s head, did not persuade the teen to do what Mom wanted her to do.

She never openly crossed her mother; nor did the girl question Mrs McMahon’s wisdom.  Diane merely hid her heart, the stolen makeup, the cigarettes, and her life.  The mother lived blissfully, ignorant of who her daughter was, and what she did daily.  The two had a good relationship, and seemingly, to this day they do.  However, the hurts, just as the haunts, remain unseen.  

In Diane’s family secrets prevail.  Just as a rebellious child, a sibling, a spouse, or a terrorist, people do what they desire to do.  No one, not even a firm Mrs McMahon, Mister Obama, Mister Bush, you, or I can control what will come.  Indeed, we create it.

When people are presumed to be in need of protection, ultimately, they guard themselves from the protector.  Those alleged guilty persons, often prove not to be as they appear to be. Diane enjoyed her hours at home with her parents.  She cherished the time they spent together away as well.  Yet, there was always unexpressed tension.

Hothouse parenting undermines children in other ways, too, says Anderegg. Being examined all the time makes children extremely self-conscious. As a result they get less communicative; scrutiny teaches them to bury their real feelings deeply. And most of all, self-consciousness removes the safety to be experimental and playful. “If every drawing is going to end up on your parents’ refrigerator, you’re not free to fool around, to goof up or make mistakes,” says Anderegg.

Parental hovering is why so many teenagers are so ironic, he notes. It’s a kind of detachment, “a way of hiding in plain sight. They just don’t want to be exposed to any more scrutiny.”

Infinite inspections, eternal examinations, possible detection did not necessarily stop Diane from engaging in the behaviors her mother feared.  Nor would a prohibition or possible penalty inhibit the lass .  Threats have no power.  As a toddler Dine realized the notion Scott Stewart, Vice President of Tactical Intelligence at the global foundation, Stratfor acknowledges.  The security expert advises; regardless of what type of technology is used at airports, or which techniques are employed by “protective parents, creative terrorists, just as tots, teens, and those at any age, will always find ways to get around it.

When asked if airport body scanners can stop terrorist attacks, he said, “Look at prison systems, where searches are far more invasive – they still can’t stop contraband from being smuggled into the system,”  Mister Stewart continues and cautions. Americans tend to rely on technology, “instead of human intelligence,”  

We might extrapolate.  Protective parents depend upon their ability to provide safety and security.  Rather than teach self-reliance, nervous caregivers coddle, cosset, and lavish “love” on their little ones.  Mothers and fathers create a culture cocooned from harm and believe this is good parenting.

John Portmann, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia has observed, many students, such as Diane,  “There is a ritual every university administrator has come to fear.” He explains.  “Every fall, parents drop off their well-groomed freshmen and within two or three days many have consumed a dangerous amount of alcohol and placed themselves in harm’s way. These kids have been controlled for so long, they just go crazy.”

Professor Portmann feels the effects of overprotection are even more pernicious.  He suggests the whole fabric of society is feeble and fallible when we place our faith in our mother, father, or the Federal government. Portmann is very familiar with what he sees each semester.  Young people and their parents become weaker, “more responsive to the herd, too eager to fit in-less assertive  . . , unwilling to disagree with their peers, afraid to question authority, more willing to conform to the expectations of those on the next rung of power above them.”  

That is, perhaps, the greater threat to the persons who reside on this planet.  Most forfeit their personal power.  People presuppose someone will know what is best.  We trust the crowd or the Commander-In-chief.  Most think as the group does.  “Evil is everywhere.”  “There are enemies all about.”  “Terrorists want to kill us.”  These are considered conventional wisdoms or accepted assumptions.  However, the paradox is, presumptions become projections.  Self-fulfilling prophecies survive.  Frequently, these conjectures thrive, while, just as in all other wars, citizens die.

In counterterrorism circles, the standard response to questions about the possibility of future attacks is the terse one-liner: “Not if, but when.” This mantra supposedly conveys a realistic approach to the problem, but, as Joseba Zulaika argues in Terrorism, it functions as a self-fulfilling prophecy. By distorting reality to fit their own worldview, the architects of the War on Terror prompt the behavior they seek to prevent-a twisted logic that has already played out horrifically in Iraq. In short, Zulaika contends, counterterrorism has become pivotal in promoting terrorism.

Diane, her deeds, Mrs McMahon sense of doom, and the destructive practice of a protective philosophy affirm what scores of Americans dismiss in the abstract.  What we fear most has power.  As is oft-stated, what we conceive, and truly believe, will be achieved.  Ample research asserts, whether what we imagine is for good or the source of our grief, our conviction can be a cause and an effect.  Often we are too close to a situation to see what others easily discern.

To the countless who contemplate traumas such as terrorism and ask, “What next?” There are many possible prospects.  We can choose to cultivate a culture that cares rather than works to control or we can continue to rely on a reality that has never been.  Americans can have faith that the Commander-In-Chief  “Will Do Everything” or we can accept that, alas, the demon is our own dependency.

References for the reality of resentment, revolt, or insurgent rebels . . .

Infamous Anniversary of Attack

Global Greens 2008 – Bruce Gagnon (Maine, USA)

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

March 19, 2009, is a day that lives in infamy.  There were others in the past.  However, on this date six years ago, the United States launched what has come to be accepted as unwarranted attacks on Iraq.  Although, from the first, there were protests even in high places such as the Senate floor, unilaterally, Americans bombed an innocent people.  This time, for near two years prior, pretense was presented as truth.

The American people were told by their President how dangerous the Iraqi Al Qaida terrorists were.  George W. Bush assured anxious Americans, he would protect us.  Congress was warned of what would occur if the United States did not react to the Middle Eastern threat.  Commander Bush sent a letter on March 18, 2003.  Even as his eight-year term ended, he worked to establish in the minds of historians and the electorate who had experienced all that occurred, Mister Bush kept us safe.  

As recently as December 2008, the now former President proclaimed, a newly acquired nuance to the saga he has long recounted on the war in Iraq.  “It is true, as I have said many times, that Saddam Hussein was not connected to the 9/11 attacks.  But the decision to remove Saddam from power cannot be viewed in isolation from 9/11.”  Yet, he retained and repeated his ever-strident commitment to the combat.  “It was clear to me, to members of both political parties, and to many leaders around the world that after 9/11, this was a risk we could not afford to take.”

Americans, many of whom are content the Bush era has passed, refer to the 9/11 Commission Report to invalidate the claims of a President who no longer resides in the White House.  Currently, countless citizens take comfort; Barack Obama presides over the Oval Office.  The just elected Commander-In-Chief has already begun to take steps to remove beleaguered troops from the embattled frontlines.  

Since Mister Obama took office, citizens are less concerned with the war in Iraq.  Many have faith the President will do what is best for military men and women.  Some are encouraged by reports that the Commander-In-Chief will send combat soldiers stationed in Iraq home safely, or perhaps, individuals are focused on more personal realities.  Anxiety over a potential, probable, or actual job loss consumes countless Americans, more so than combat abroad does.  A pension-plan gone bust, a lack of health care coverage, and a possible home foreclosure take precedence for millions more than war.  Few of the common folk feel as troubled by occurrences in the Middle East.  Most merely hope Mister Obama will do what is best.  

Occasional outspoken exception can be heard.  On March 12, 2009, former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleisher stated, “[A]fter September 11th, having been hit once, how could we take a chance that Saddam Hussein might not strike again?  We got a report saying al Qaeda is determined to attack the United States.”  Nonetheless, even Conservatives such as John McCain endorse President Obama’s plan for withdrawal.

Overall, opinions on Iraq, the war and the withdrawal are mixed, even among foreign policy experts.

Then there are the few who fear further folly in the Persian Gulf.  Progressives, be they political figures or peace activists amongst the public, think the Obama agenda to end the conflict in Iraq is too little and too late.  Official dissent is often stated diplomatically.  Personal pleas may be more moving.  

A week before the sixth anniversary of America’s Second Gulf War, regardless of the President’s intended withdrawal everyday people stood out in the streets, just as they had done throughout the war.  ‘Iraq is a symptom of a foreign policy and priorities” that the peaceful felt and feel they cannot sanction.

At local vigils nationwide attendees talked of their observation, verified in the news.  Americans support the President’s proposed Afghan buildup.   ”Enough!  Bring the Troops Home Now!” was the oft-heard cry from those who crave global harmony.  Most asked as they had during the fateful Bush years.  “What Do We Do Now?”

Bruce K. Gagnon, Coordinator of Global Network Against Weapons offers his perspective.  In an article published on June 14, 2007, the recipient of the Doctor Benjamin Spock’s Peacemaker Award presents his ten-point plan.

I often hear from people asking me, “What should we do about all this?  How can we stop Bush?”

I would first say that we must move beyond blaming Bush.  The fact of U.S. empire is bigger than Bush.  Hopefully by now, all of us are more clear how the Democrats have been, and are now, involved in enabling the whole U.S. military empire-building plan.  It is about corporate domination.  Bush is just the front man for the big money.

So to me that is step #1 .

Step #2  is to openly acknowledge that as a nation, and we as citizens, benefit from this U.S. military and economic empire.  By keeping our collective military boot on the necks of the people of the world we get control of a higher percentage of the world’s resources.  We, 5% of the global population in the U.S., use 25% of the global resource base.  This reality creates serious moral questions that cannot be ignored.

Step #3  is to recognize that we are addicted to war and to violence.  The very weaving together of our nation was predicated on violence when we began the extermination of the Native populations and introduced the institution of slavery.  A veteran of George Washington’s Army, in 1779, said, “I really felt guilty as I applied the torch to huts that were homes of content until we ravagers came spreading desolation everywhere..  Our mission here is ostensibly to destroy but may it not transpire, that we pillagers are carelessly sowing the seed of Empire.”  The soldier wrote this as Washington’s Army set out to remove the Iroquois civilization from New York state so that the U.S. government could expand its borders westward toward the Mississippi River.  The creation of the American empire was underway.

Our history since then has been endless war.  Two-Time Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Major General Smedley D. Butler, U.S. Marine Corps, told the story in his book War is a Racket.  Butler recalls in his book, “I spent 33 years and 4 months in active military service….And during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers.  In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism….Thus I helped make Mexico and especially

Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914.  I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in.  I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street….I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912.  I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916.  I helped make Honduras right for American fruit companies in 1903.  In China in 1927, I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested.”

Step # 4  We have to begin to change how we think about our country.  We have to learn to understand what oligarchy means.  I’ll save you the trouble of having to look up the definition – A government in which power is in the hands of a few.  When you have lost your democracy then what do the citizens do?  They must fight (non-violently) to take it back.  This of course means direct action and sometimes civil disobedience.  Virtually everything good in our nation (abolition of slavery movement, women’s suffrage, civil rights movement, anti-war movements, etc) have come from people stepping up when they were needed.  Calling for impeachment by the Congress becomes imperative today.  Are you in or out?

Step #5  Forget the “every man for himself” mythology.  We are all brainwashed in this country to believe in the rugged individualism story.  But movement for change can only happen in community – working with others.  So forget the egocentric notion that “one great man” is going to come save us.  It’s going to take a village – in fact all the villages.  Just like an addict goes to a group to seek help for addiction, knowing they can’t do it themselves, so we must form community to work for the needed change if we are to protect our children’s future.

Step # 6  What about my job?  Another smothering myth in America is success.  Keep your nose clean and don’t rock the boat.  Don’t get involved in politics, especially calling for a revolution of values (like Martin Luther King Jr. did) or you will get labeled and then you can forget about owning that castle on the hill you’ve always dreamed of.  In a way we become controlled by our own subservience to the success mythology.  We keep ourselves in line because success and upward mobility become more important than protecting free speech, clean water, clean air, and ending an out of control government bent on world domination.  Free our minds, free our bodies and we free the nation.

Step #7  Learn to work well with others.  Sure we all want to be stars.  But in the end we have to learn to set aside our egos if we want to be able to work with others to bring about the needed changes.  Cindy Sheehan should not be hammered just for telling the truth about the Democrats playing footsie with Bush on the war.

Step # 8  It’s the money.  How can I do this peace work when I have to work full-time just to pay the mortgage?  I’d like to help but I’ve got bills to pay!  Maybe we can begin to look at the consumerist life we lead and see that our addiction to the rat race keeps us from being fully engaged in the most important issue of our time – which is protecting the future generations.  How can we begin to explore cooperative living arrangements, by building community, that free us up economically to be able to get more involved?

Step # 9  Learn to read again.  Many of us don’t read enough.  We spend our time in front of the TV, which is a primary tool that the power structure uses to brainwash us.  We’ve got to become independent thinkers again and teach our kids to think for themselves.  Reading and talking to others is a key.  Read more history.  All the answers and lessons can be found there.

Step #10 Learn to trust again and have fun.  Some of the nicest people in the world are doing political work.  Meet them and become friends with them and your life will change for the better.

Mister Gagnon professes wars will be forever perpetual if we the people continue to consider our brethren an enemy.  If dominion is our preference, diplomacy will never be more than a mere word.  The public cannot blame George W. Bush or Barack Obama for its addiction to might and material goods.  Nor can we, the people expect an oligarchy to have the best interests of common folks at heart.  If consumption and competition are the principles that guide our population, battles will endure.  If peace is to ever come, as citizens, as a country, on every continent, the people must act in accordance with the principles most claim they hold dear.  Consistency, in thought and deed, can eliminate combat.

“Love thy neighbor” cannot be said only on Sundays, on the Sabbath, or in houses of worship.  Indeed, Bruce Gagnon might avow, as other peaceful persons do, March 19, 2009 is not the sixth anniversary of a war.  It is another date that lives in infamy, as has been every day in centuries of battles fought.

References for the reality of war . . .  

Whitehouse: As We Look Forward We Must Also Look Back

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Millions in America were focused on the future.  Billions, worldwide, anxiously awaited change.  On January 20, 2009, the Presidential Inauguration was broadcast hither and yon.  Barely a television, radio, computer monitor, or big screen was turned off.  Most all tuned in to see Barack Obama take the Oath of Office.  Nary a one were as moved as they were on that occasion.  

Even several Republicans said they were excited.  For countless, it seemed a light was turned on.  Finally, the American people, our allies, and those who are often characterized as adversaries, had hope.  We, collectively, believe it was possible to walk through the din that had been our doom and envision an Earth united.

The world was wowed with thoughts of what would be, as were many Constitutional scholars, concerned citizens, and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.  Yet, there remained a persistent thought; our potential would not be fully realized.  Several understood, as Senator Whitehouse so solemnly expressed in a speech presented on the Senate floor, a day after the festivities,  As We Look Forward We Must Also Look Back.  Few had an opportunity to see or hear an oration that was perhaps as honest and historic as the Presidents.

Sheldon Whitehouse too saw the glimmer of light.  He spoke to, as Barack Obama did in his address the day before, a democratic republic, deeply scarred, cannot heal without a shared commitment to the principles that guide our country.  The Rhode Island representative, reflected on the notion, just as the Chief Executive had hours earlier, what was sanctioned in the past would not be wiped away by a more hopeful and ethical Administration.  He noted, no series of endeavors would expunge past misdeeds.  Nor could a solitary earthly being erase the clouds that now covered the Constitution.

The Rhode Island Legislator succinctly and eloquently expressed the concern others had hoped to communicate.  He said,  As the President looks forward and charts a new course, must someone not also look back, to take an accounting of where we are, what was done, and what must now be repaired.

For Senator Whitehouse, as for many legal scholars, Conservatives, such as Bruce Fein, and Journalist, Author, John Nichols, it seemed too clear; Americans, in Congress, and on the streets in every community have yet to learn from history.  Even the newly elected President, Barack Obama, did not wish to tread on traditions that obfuscate the thread, the United States Constitution, that for centuries has allowed America to prosper.  

The President, the Obama Administration, and most of America, has expressed a desire to bury the past.  Yet, there is reason to reflect if we are to see “that brighter day; forward to what Winston Churchill in Britain’s dark days called those “broad and sunlit uplands.”  To ponder the past does not mean to punish others for misdeeds.  A penalty cannot be the priority.  Reprimands will not realize a nation’s rebirth.

Indeed, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse reflects, “Our new Attorney-General designate has said, we should not criminalize policy differences.  I agree.”  The Rhode Island representative continues, “I hope we can all agree that summoning young sacrificial lambs to prosecute, as we did after the Abu Ghraib disaster, would be reprehensible.”  Sheldon Whitehouse asks only that “We hold this unique gift in trust for the future and the world.”

Please peruse the prose that might move us to provide a little bright, healthy sunshine and fresh air, to citizens of the world.  The children of today, and those who will survive Seven Generations from now need us to strengthen our democracy.  If we are to be, an educated population, empathetic to those who inherit the Earth we must, as Sheldon Whitehouse avowed, “show where the tunnels were bored, when the truth was subordinated; what institutions were subverted; how our democracy was compromised; so this grim history is not condemned to repeat itself; so a knowing public in the clarity of day can say, “Never, never, never, again,”

I thank you Sheldon Whitehouse for the wisdom and the words that break through the silence, and secure a brighter day.

Whitehouse: As We Look Forward We Must Also Look Back

January 21, 2009

I rise as we celebrate a new President, a new administration, a new mode of governing, and a new future for America.

Even in the gloom of our present predicaments, Americans’ hearts are strong and confident because we see a brighter future ahead.

President Obama looks to that future. Given the depth and severity of those predicaments, we need all his energy to look forward to lead us to that brighter day; forward to what Winston Churchill in Britain’s dark days called those “broad and sunlit uplands.”

But, as we steer toward this broad and sunlit future, what about the past? As the President looks forward and charts a new course, must someone not also look back, to take an accounting of where we are, what was done, and what must now be repaired.

Our new President has said, “America needs to look forward.” I agree.

Our new Attorney General designate has said, we should not criminalize policy differences. I agree.

And I hope we can all agree that summoning young sacrificial lambs to prosecute, as we did after the Abu Ghraib disaster, would be reprehensible.

But consider the pervasive, deliberate, and systematic damage the Bush Administration did to America, to her finest traditions and institutions, to her reputation and integrity.

I evaluate that damage in history’s light. Although I’m no historian, here is what I believe:

The story of humankind on this Earth has been a long and halting march from the darkness of barbarism and the principle that to the victor go the spoils, to the light of organized civilization and freedom. During that long and halting march, this light of progress has burned, sometimes brightly and sometimes softly, in different places at different times around the world.

The light shone in Athens, when that first Senate made democracy a living experiment; and again in the softer but broader glow of the Roman Empire and Senate.

That light burned brightly, incandescently, in Jerusalem, when Jesus of Nazareth cast his lot with the weak and the powerless.

The light burned in Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo and Cordoba, when the Arab world kept science, mathematics, art, and logic alive, as Europe descended into Dark Ages of plague and violence.

The light flashed from the fields of Runnymede when English nobles forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, and glowed steadily from that island kingdom as England developed Parliament and the common law, and was the first to stand against slavery.

It rekindled in Europe at the time of the Reformation, with a bright flash in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his edicts to the Wittenberg cathedral doors, and faced with excommunication, stated “Here I stand. I can do no other.”

Over the years across the globe, that light, and the darkness of tyranny and cruelty, have ebbed and flowed.

But for the duration of our Republic, even though our Republic is admittedly imperfect, that light has shone more brightly and more steadily here in this Republic than in any place on earth: as we adopted the Constitution, the greatest achievement yet in human freedom; as boys and men bled out of shattered bodies into sodden fields at Antietam and Chicamagua, Shiloh and Gettysburg to expiate the sin of slavery; as we rebuilt shattered enemies, now friends, overseas and came home after winning world wars; and as we threw off bit by bit ancient shackles of race and gender to make this a more perfect union for all of us.

What made this bright and steady glow possible? What made it possible is not that we are better people, I believe, but that our system of government is government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Why else does our President take his oath to defend a Constitution of the United States of America? Our unique form of self-government is a blessing, and we hold it in trust; not just for us, but for our children and grandchildren down through history; not just for us, but as an example out through the world.

That is why our Statue of Liberty raises a lamp to other nations still engloomed in tyranny.

That is why we stand as a beacon in this world, beckoning to all who seek a kinder, freer, brighter future.

We hold this unique gift in trust for the future and the world. Each generation assumes responsibility for this Republic and its government, and each generation takes on a special obligation when they do. Our new President closed his Inaugural Address by setting forth the challenge against which future generations will test us: whether “with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generation.” There are no guarantees that we will – this is a continuing experiment we are embarked upon – and a lot is at stake; indeed, the most precious thing of man’s creation on the face of the Earth is at stake. That is what I believe.

So from that perspective, what about the past? No one can deny that in the last eight years America’s bright light has dimmed and flickered, darkening our country and darkening the world.

The price of that is incalculable. There are nearly 7 billion human souls on this world. Every morning, the sun rises anew over their villages and hamlets and barrios, and every day they can choose where to invest their hopes, their confidence, and their dreams.

I submit that when America’s light shines brightly, when honesty, freedom, justice and compassion glow from our institutions, it attracts those hopes, those dreams; and the force of those 7 billion hopes and dreams, the confidence of those 7 billion souls in our lively experiment, is, I believe, the strongest power in our national arsenal – stronger than atom bombs. We risk it at our peril.

And of course, when our own faith is diminished at home, this vital light only dims further, again at incalculable cost.

So when an administration rigs the intelligence process and produces false evidence to send our country to war;

When an administration descends to interrogation techniques of the Inquisition, of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge – descends to techniques that we have prosecuted as crimes in military tribunals and federal courts;

When institutions as noble as the Department of Justice and as vital as the Environmental Protection Agency are systematically and deliberately twisted from their missions by odious means of institutional sabotage;

When the integrity of our markets and the fiscal security of our budget are opened wide to the frenzied greed of corporations, speculators and contractors;

When the integrity of public officials; the warnings of science; the honesty of government procedures; and the careful historic balance of our separated powers of government, are all seen as obstacles to be overcome and not attributes to be celebrated;

When taxpayers are cheated, and the forces of government ride to the rescue of the cheaters and punish the whistleblowers;

When a government turns the guns of official secrecy against its own people to mislead, confuse and propagandize them;

When government ceases to even try to understand the complex topography of the difficult problems it is our very purpose and duty to solve, and instead cares only for these points where it intersects with the party ideology, so that the purpose of government becomes no longer to solve problems, but only to work them for political advantage;

In short, when you have pervasive infiltration into all the halls of government – judicial, legislative, and executive – of the most ignoble forms of influence; when you see systematic dismantling of historic processes and traditions of government that are the safeguards of our democracy; and when you have a bodyguard of lies, jargon, and propaganda emitted to fool and beguile the American people…

Well, something very serious in the history of our republic has gone wrong, something that dims the light of progress for all humanity.

As we look forward, as we begin the task of rebuilding this nation, we have an abiding duty to determine how great the damage is. I say this in no spirit of vindictiveness or revenge. I say it because the thing that was sullied is so, so precious; and I say it because the past bears upon the future. If people have been planted in government in violation of our civil service laws to serve their party and their ideology instead of serving the public, the past will bear upon the future. If procedures and institutions of government have been corrupted and are not put right, that past will assuredly bear on the future. In an ongoing enterprise like government, the door cannot be so conveniently closed on the closets of the past. The past always bears on the future.

Moreover, a democracy is not just a static institution, it is a living education – an ongoing education in freedom of a people. As Harry Truman said addressing a joint session of Congress back in 1947, “One of the chief virtues of a democracy is that its defects are always visible, and under democratic processes can be pointed out and corrected.”

Entirely apart from tentacles of the past that may reach into the future, are the lessons we as a people have to learn from this past carnival of folly, greed, lies, and sabotage, so that it can, under democratic processes, be pointed out and corrected.

If we blind ourselves to this history, if we pull an invisibility cloak over it, we will deny ourselves its lessons. Those lessons came at too painful a cost to ignore. Those lessons merit discovery, disclosure and discussion. Indeed, disclosure and discussion is the difference between a valuable lesson for the bright upward forces of our democracy, and a blueprint for darker forces to return and do it all over again.

A little bright, healthy sunshine and fresh air, so that an educated population knows what was done and how, can show where the tunnels were bored, when the truth was subordinated; what institutions were subverted; how our democracy was compromised; so this grim history is not condemned to repeat itself; so a knowing public in the clarity of day can say, “Never, never, never, again;” so we can keep that light – that light that is at once America’s greatest gift and greatest strength – brightly shining. To do this, I submit, we must look back.

I yield the floor.

The Qualified Quest for Justice

Jews, Christians and Muslims Unite Against Evildoers

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Just days ago, throughout the globe, people celebrated religious holidays.  Peace on Earth and good will to all men was the palpable feeling that filled the air.  Everywhere anyone turned expressions of fondness for our fellow beings could be heard.  People were filled with glee.  Then, suddenly, the sound that is the silent hum of joyous laughter was broken.  Everything changed.  Yet, indeed nothing did.  The cycle of violence that has perpetually existed on this planet began again.  The qualified quest for justice was once more the people’s agenda.  In Israel and Gaza, bombs blasted.  Bullets whizzed by the heads of frantic, frightened people who sought shelter from another Mediterranean storm.  Some died.  Hamas was blamed for the initial attacks, this time.  As had occurred on other occasions, Israel, in the name of self-defense, fought back.  The roles might have been reversed and have been.

Each believes the other is at fault.  One force characterizes the antagonist as an occupier.  Late in 2008, the people who are said to have been the provocateurs are tagged as terrorists.  The monikers are interchangeable and have been for centuries.

This recent barrage of words and weapons was not the first on sacred terrain.  No one expects it will be the last.  Apparently, today, as has been true for eons, people have accepted peace as a temporal occurrence.  It is always followed by war.  

Pious people only pretend to honor the hallowed Commandment found in every faith, “Thou shalt not kill.”  In truth, on some principle not evident in scriptures, the Bible, the Qur’an, or other religious teaching, humans conclude all men and Not created equal.

For the wise, the worthy, the wondrous creatures who believe all beings are created equally, and in G-d’s image, the concept of fairness and empathy for all others are only ones of convenience.  These can be, and by all means should be, ignored, when a country, clan, chap, or cute daughter of Eve feels there is reason for self-defense.  When the quest for conquest is greater than the desire for tranquility, justice is found in a series of deadly explosions!

Rational persons become self-righteous when they feel attacked or wish to assault another.  Whatever excuses an ethical individual, or a respectable region, can find to intellectualize war will serve a being who wishes to be brutal.  One need only reflect upon the writings of a few to understand why warfare never ends.

In what would become a foundation for America, within the Declaration of Independence, the words of Thomas Jefferson appear, “All me are created equal.”  This thought was meant to remind citizens of this country of a tenet adopted in ancient times, by not just one, but by many religions.  

A Jewish theologian, Torah scholar, Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld reflects on a historical reality rarely honored by modern man.  “(A)ll men are created equal” (women too for that matter), and, as eloquently as Thomas Jefferson put it, this comes directly from our own Torah.  Maimonides (Mishne Torah, Hil’ Teshuva 5:2) writes that unlike the belief of foolish Gentiles and unlearned Jews that each person is predestined to good or evil, it is within the ability of each person to determine his or her own fate.”

Rabbi Rosenfeld then further elucidates each of us can be virtuous or iniquitous.  As individuals, apart from our intellectual measure, personal milieu, history, monetary means, or influence we have the capacity to choose what we wish to do and who we yearn to be.

The scholar and teacher of Torah, Dovid Rosenfeld shares the observations of another, devout academician, Dean of Aish HaTorah International, Rabbi Noach Weinberg (www.aish.com), “We are certainly not equal when it comes to talents, predilections, or natural abilities.  But in this one regard we are all equal: we all possess souls.  We have the potential to develop ourselves, whether in goodness or wickedness, and we possess the free will to determine which path we will follow.  Goodness and closeness to G-d are not reserved for the intellectual, the scholarly, or the well-pedigreed.  It is the inherent right of all mankind and the simple fact of our humanity.”

While many amongst the Jewish faithful quote the wisdom of each of these devout devotees of the Almighty, the significance of the statements is void in action.  The same is true in Islamic tradition.  Several fervent followers find solace in the scriptures; indeed, “The Glorious Qur’an mentions, with commendation, Prophet Jesus (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as it does to Prophet Moses (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him),” others who purport to believe in teachings of Islam, Hamas amid these, ignore the splendor found in the religious text.

Islam aims at eliminating all aspects of racism and dislikes prejudiced-oriented party gatherings.  Islam, equally, disapproves all acts leading to disputes, fights, among individuals and peoples.  Islam requires its followers to believe in the Divine Messages and Scriptures of all previous nations [community] in order to eliminate any hatred or biased feelings.  Islam considers such an act as one of the essential tenants of faith.

While the most boisterous today, and for centuries, have beat the battle drums, murdered, caused mayhem, massacred, and engaged in the most dire deeds, all in the name of justice, a very few participate in another, more harmonic quest.  

These individuals believe in sacrosanct traditions too.  The truly peaceful propose actions must reflect religious and rational reason.  Those who work towards universal serenity walk with the Lord on holy days and during the most mundane of times.  Advocates of amicable exchanges and equality for all, aspire to a stable serenity, as is referenced in theological text.  

“Pacifists,”, do not adopt the vicious edicts of those who think war will bring about peace, albeit, the warriors admit, provisionally.  The tranquil people have faith that all men, women, and children can choose how they wish to respond to conflict.  People are free to engage in good or evil.

Those on a quest for nonviolent justice, one without qualifiers that restrict the significance of religious commandments, talk without the accompaniment of a big stick.  They walk with a sincere sense of awe for kindnesses.  They also type articles that advocate for empathy and avoid the argument of self-defense.

Thus, on November 10, 2000, Deborah Ducrocq, then Managing Editor of the Kansas City Jewish Chronicle, a devout Jew in her own right, published an article, she received.  The missive penned by another Judaic faithful, Judith Stone, is titled, “The Quest for Justice.” The tone and transcript were considered controversial by the clannish amongst the American Jews.  Indeed, after the missive appeared, the Ms Ducrocq was promptly dismissed by her ?superiors.

Yet, as much as the words offended the Jewish employers, for persons who struggle with a spiritual history, Jew, Gentile, and Islamist who yearn for authentic and lasting global harmony, the wisdom Judith Stone inscribed, and Deborah Ducrocq delivered, resonates.

While some might say this early essay is no longer politically pertinent, others trust, the sentiment expressed is as valid today as it was then, and will be tomorrow.  

“Quest for Justice”

By Judith Stone

I am a Jew.  I was a participant in the Rally for the Right of Return to Palestine.  It was the right thing to do.  I’ve heard about the European holocaust against the Jews since I was a small child.  I’ve visited the memorials in Washington, DC and Jerusalem dedicated to Jewish lives lost and I’ve cried at the recognition to what level of atrocity mankind is capable of sinking.

Where are the Jews of conscience?  No righteous malice can be held against the survivors of Hitler’s holocaust.  These fragments of humanity were in no position to make choices beyond that of personal survival.  We must not forget that being a survivor or a co-religionist of the victims of the European Holocaust does not grant dispensation from abiding by the rules of humanity.

“Never again” as a motto, rings hollow when it means “never again to us alone.”  My generation was raised being led to believe that the biblical land was a vast desert inhabited by a handful of impoverished Palestinians living with their camels and eking out a living in the sand.  The arrival of the Jews was touted as a tremendous benefit to these desert dwellers.  Golda Mier even assured us that there “is no Palestinian problem.”

We know now this picture wasn’t as it was painted.  Palestine was a land filled with people who called it home.  There were thriving towns and villages, schools and hospitals.  There were Jews, Christians, and Muslims.  In fact, prior to the occupation, Jews represented a mere 7 percent of the population and owned 3 percent of the land.

Taking the blinders off for a moment, I see a second atrocity perpetuated by the very people who should be exquisitely sensitive to the suffering of others.  These people knew what it felt like to be ordered out of your home at gun point and forced to march into the night to unknown destinations or face execution on the spot.  The people who displaced the Palestinians knew first hand what it means to watch your home in flames, to surrender everything dear to your heart at a moment’s notice.  Bulldozers leveled hundreds of villages, along with the remains of the village inhabitants, the old, and the young.  This was nothing new to the world.

Poland is a vast graveyard of the Jews of Europe.  Israel is the final resting place of the massacred Palestinian people.  A short distance from the memorial to the Jewish children lost to the holocaust in Europe there is a leveled parking lot.  Under this parking lot is what’s left of a once flourishing village and the bodies of men, women, and children whose only crime was taking up needed space and not leaving graciously.  This particular burial marker reads: “Public Parking.”

I’ve talked with Palestinians.  I have yet to meet a Palestinian who hasn’t lost a member of their family to the Israeli Shoah, nor a Palestinian who cannot name a relative or friend languishing under inhumane conditions in an Israeli prison.  Time and time again, Israel is cited for human rights violations to no avail.  On a recent trip to Israel, I visited the refugee camps inhabited by a people who have waited 52 years in these ‘temporary’ camps to go home.  Every Palestinian grandparent can tell you the name of their village, their street, and where the olive trees were planted.

Their grandchildren may never have been home, but they can tell you where their great-grandfather lies buried and where the village well stood.  The press has fostered the portrait of the Palestinian terrorist.  But, the victims who rose up against human indignity in the Warsaw Ghetto are called heroes.  Those who lost their lives are called martyrs.  The Palestinian who tosses a rock in desperation is a terrorist.

Two years ago I drove through Palestine and watched intricate sprinkler systems watering lush green lawns of Zionist settlers in their new condominium complexes, surrounded by armed guards and barbed wire in the midst of a Palestinian community where there was not adequate water to drink and the surrounding fields were sandy and dry.  University professor Moshe Zimmerman reported in the Jerusalem Post (April 30, 1995), “The [Jewish] children of Hebron are just like Hitler’s youth.”

We Jews are suing for restitution, lost wages, compensation for homes, land, slave labor and back wages in Europe.  Am I a traitor of a Jew for supporting the right of return of the Palestinian refugees to their birthplace and compensation for what was taken that cannot be returned?

The Jewish dead cannot be brought back to life and neither can the Palestinian massacred be resurrected.  David Ben Gurion said, “Let us not ignore the truth among ourselves… politically, we are the aggressors and they defend themselves…The country is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country…”

Palestine is a land that has been occupied and emptied of its people.  It’s cultural and physical landmarks have been obliterated and replaced by tidy Hebrew signs.  The history of a people was the first thing eradicated by the occupiers.  The history of the indigenous people has been all but eradicated as though they never existed.  And all this has been hailed by the world as a miraculous act of G-d.  We must recognize that Israel’s existence is not even a question of legality so much as it is an illegal fait accompli realized through the use of force while supported by the Western powers.  The UN missions directed at Israel in attempting to correct its violations of have thus far been futile.

In Hertzl’s “The Jewish State,” the father of Zionism said, “…We must investigate and take possession of the new Jewish country by means of every modern expedient.”  I guess I agree with Ehud Barak (3 June 1998) when he said, “If I were a Palestinian, I’d also join a terror group.”  I’d go a step further perhaps.  Rather than throwing little stones in desperation, I’d hurtle a boulder.

Hopefully, somewhere deep inside, every Jew of conscience knows that this was no war; that this was not G-d’s restitution of the holy land to it’s rightful owners.  We know that a human atrocity was and continues to be perpetuated against an innocent people who couldn’t come up with the arms and money to defend themselves against the western powers bent upon their demise as a people.

We cannot continue to say, “But what were we to do?”  Zionism is not synonymous with Judaism.  I wholly support the rally of the right of return of the Palestinian people.

Indeed, what is to be done amidst the bombs and bullets.  Those who have faith in talk, treatises that remain forever intact and tranquility can only bemoan the truth when they witness calm, compassionate, persons, who say they care for all mankind, become clannish when they chatter about political agendas in the Middle East.  

What can anyone do when people preach peace and practice violence in the name of the Lord, Allah, or the Almighty, or even atheist theories.   When the pious come to blows, fist to cuffs, as they fight for freedom and justice for all, or at least all who look or live as they do, what do the quieter “others” do?

The peace lover takes no comfort in the obvious; canons are practiced inconsistently.  Even the religious are ready to attack.  Excuses are made.  Each nation and its inhabitants offer validation for vicious, vindictive, imprudent assaults.  Nor does the antiwar wish to ask questions that are never truly answered.  Is it ethical, inevitable, eternal, and when, or how will it ever end.  Conscientious objector to combat acknowledge the mantra will likely be reactive.  Attack; inquire of ethics anon.

This is why peaceful persons might try not to actively engage in discussions of the affairs in the Mediterranean, ever.  They know.  While warriors wish to answer such inquiries with another, “What would you do if your home were blasted, would you retaliate?”  The peaceful can only ponder, what is this strange quest for justice?  Revenge?

“Don’t take vengeance and don’t bear a grudge against the members of your nation; love your neighbor as yourself”. (Leviticus 19:18.)

~ Torah

“Those who spend in ease as well as in adversity and those who restrain (their) anger and pardon men.”

~ Qur’an

Religious References . . .

Veterans Affairs


copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

I am uncertain when it began.  Nonetheless, I know that for me, the ache I feel has been with me for what feels as an eternity.  I could tell you the twinge was first experienced a moment ago, as I listened to another of President Elect Obama’s press conferences.  Indeed, a wave of woe that passed through me as I heard the newly selected Commander-In-Chief announce his appointment for Secretary of Veterans Affairs, General Eric Shinseki.  The soon-to-be inaugurated Chief Executive stated, “He [Shinseki] has agreed that he is willing to be part of this administration because both he and I share a reverence for those who serve.”  A mutual admiration, while wondrous, as stated seems incomplete, and perhaps omits the American construct, “all men are created equal.”

As I let the words of our next Administrator wash over me, I thought of those who do not wear a uniform; the individuals and families who endure more war than a military man or woman might.  Thoughts of innocents who cannot take leave, that is unless corporeally they pass, advance my sorrow.  I feel for all veterans.  My concern encompasses the affairs of every being embroiled in war.  I wish to venerate those who enter the fray willingly, and those who fight, only to sustain their own life.

Children, mothers, fathers, grandparents, the persons who do more than occupy a country, I believe, are the veterans rarely mentioned in official ceremonies such as the one I just observed.  These individuals, more numerous, and possibly more severely affected by the war they are forced to wallow in are nameless and faceless to persons who commit a country to combat.

While granted, the ordinary soldier is often thought to be little more than a name, rank, and serial number to those in “authority,” at least, a man or women who knowingly takes an oath to protect and defend a nation has some options, inadequate as these may be.  A civilian in a war-torn country has few to none.  On any given day, a military missile might pierce the wall of a home.  A youth, on the way to school, if it is open, might step on a land mine, or an improvised explosive device [IED] can detonate under the feet of a person who never caused another harm.

Hence, as I mused of what might be, more war and wounded, I felt the pain pound in my chest.  The throbbing was not new to me.  It might have begun weeks ago, during the Thanksgiving festivities.  I was challenged to express gratitude for the simple life, I as an American have, as I pondered fallen soldiers and civilians on foreign fields.

Perchance, the soreness commenced years ago, when bombs first blasted in the Middle East.  The question is which time, during which incursion, and why?  Now, as I suspect was true in centuries past, opinions are offered.  Reasons realized.  

The intent is to protect the people from tyrants and totalitarian  rule.  It is vital; ideologues must be subverted.  Democracy must be spread throughout the globe for the good of mankind.  Out of necessity, the threat of terrorism needs to be contained.   Those who hate us harbor Weapons of Mass Destruction [WMDs].  The presumed foe attacked “us” first.  Appraisals amass.  Empathy eludes citizens of a country intent on combat.

Robert Pape in “Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism,” found that most suicide bombers are members of communities that feel humiliated by genuine or perceived occupation. Almost every major suicide-terrorist campaign-over 95 percent-carried out attacks to drive out an occupying power. This was true in Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Chechnya and Kashmir, as well as Israel and the Palestinian territories. The large number of Saudis among the 9/11 hijackers appears to support this finding. . . .

We have had tens of thousands of troops stationed in the Middle East since 1990 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.  The presence of these troops is the main appeal, along with the abuse meted out to the Palestinians by Israel, of bin Laden and al-Qaida.  Terrorism, as Pape wrote, “is not a supply-limited phenomenon where there are just a few hundred around the world willing to do it because they are religious fanatics.  It is a demand-driven phenomenon.  That is, it is driven by the presence of foreign forces on the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland.  The operation in Iraq has stimulated suicide terrorism and has given suicide terrorism a new lease on life.”

I know not why Americans, or people from any nation, engage in murderous mêlées.  I am only certain that as the President Elect postures of a prosperous future, I fear.  The tenderness I experience does not fade as Barack Obama proclaims; “When I reflect on the sacrifices that have been made by our veterans and I think about how so many veterans around the country are struggling, even more than those who have not served – higher unemployment rates, higher homeless rates, higher substance abuse rates, medical care that is inadequate – it breaks my heart.”  

As it pains mine, Mister President Elect.  As I stated, I do not recall when the grief began.  It has been with me for so long.  As does Barack Obama, I too ruminate on the ruin war fashions.  Thoughts of troops’ trials and tribulation cause me to feel faint, flushed, and forlorn.   I applaud the sentiment that we must care for the ill and injured who served in the Armed Forces.  Yet, my distress is not diminished by words that might advance awareness for those Americans physically maimed or emotionally scarred in military maneuvers.  

I remain haunted by the unanswered question, the topic not discussed, and the truth that is not set free by this selection.  Deep within, where my sense of doom lives large I inquire, who are the veterans, those most affected by battles abroad.  As President Elect Obama and his Cabinet propose a continuation, an escalation of the feud fought on Afghani soil I think the query must be addressed.

I (Tamim Ansary, an Afghan who has lived in America for near four decades) speak as one who hates the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. There is no doubt in my mind that these people were responsible for the atrocity in New York. I agree that something must be done about those monsters.

But the Taliban and bin Laden are not Afghanistan. They’re not even the government of Afghanistan. The Taliban are a cult of ignorant psychotics who took over Afghanistan in 1997. Bin Laden is a political criminal with a plan. When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think “the people of Afghanistan,” think “the Jews in the concentration camps.”  It’s not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity. They were the first victims of the perpetrators. They would exult if someone would come in there, take out the Taliban, and clear out the rats’ nest of international thugs holed up in their country.

Some say, why don’t the Afghans rise up and overthrow the Taliban? The answer is, they’re starved, exhausted, hurt, incapacitated, suffering. A few years ago, the United Nations estimated that there are 500,000 disabled orphans in Afghanistan — a country with no economy, no food. There are millions of widows. And the Taliban has been burying these widows alive in mass graves. The soil is littered with land mines, the farms were all destroyed by the Soviets. These are a few of the reasons why the Afghan people have not overthrown the Taliban.

For so long, the Afghanis, just as the Iraqis, experience despair I, as an American cannot fathom.  As bullets and bombs whiz past their heads, daily, the veterans that cannot dream of a quiet homeland to which they might return, search for family, sustenance, a sense of normalcy.  Some do not recall when their grief began.  Nor do most have time to think of what now has become trivial, probably a moot point.

The foreign “veterans,” the presumed foes of persons who reside in civilized Western States, are not paid to endure conflict.  Innocent inhabitants in the Middle East, receive no recompense.  These civilian veterans of combat are offered no promise of ongoing medical care.  No one attends to the Post-Traumatic Syndrome [PTSD] of parents or the children born into bloody circumstances.  Reductions in never-ending reprisals are the only reward the truest war veterans believe they can expect.  

For these victims, these survivors, hostilities give rise to a heartache so great, they cannot clearly recall a beginning.  Nor can they comprehend a conclusion.  Afghanis and Iraqis immersed in warfare do not have the time to consider as Americans might.

I observe; citizens in this country are also busy.  Perchance too assiduous to attend to what causes my anguish.  It is the holiday season.  Many bustle about.  Several shop.  Others stress.  Financial concerns consume the newly unemployed.  They have no time or desire to fret of what occurs on distant shores.  Yet, I cannot forget.

I am left to live with the pain that penetrates my being.  Where does it hurt; a doctor may ask.  It gnaws at my core.  The wound that causes my woe grows larger as it weighs heavy on my heart.  

Only yesterday, during a discussion, as I spoke of the need to love thy neighbor and work for peace, a man said, “Tell that to them.”  Oh, that I thought there was reason to speak to those who wish to be  cherished as fellow creatures, or that they could communicate to Americans of what it means to treasure life.

The gent’s words were as the knife that turned at a time of commemoration.  On Veterans Day, I mourned those who passed.  I found it difficult to celebrate the physical survival of warriors who fought in wars that never cease.  I know too many troops, all of whom suffer.  Most of the injuries that impair them are invisible to the human eye.  Yet, they are seen through the spirit.  Battles, just as the throes I feel seem to have no beginning.  Surely, they have no conclusion.

My heart grapples with wonder, as I contemplate the President and his appointment, the individual who will likely head the Department of Veterans Affairs.  If only anyone at the press conference had inquired as I might have; how does a warrior, and one who proposes battle, demonstrate veneration for the veterans of combat?

Stunned by a deeper affliction, I realize the burden of apathy.  Egocentric as Americans can be, Correspondents ask nothing of the nomination.  Nor do the Journalist concern themselves with victims of war, plans to advance the combative progress into Afghanistan.  The media is mesmerized, as the nation is, with issue number one, the economy.

Question after question speaks to money, the movement towards bailouts, mortgage securities, or the overall mess of this fiscal malaise.  

On the anniversary of perhaps the worst of too many days to live in infamy, December 7, Pearl Harbor Day, a passing mention by the President Elect does not move the press to think of what the Americans and our allies have wrought.  Barack Obama refers to this historic occasion.  However, the symbolism, the history of horrific hurts, and the repetition of patriotic rampages seem lost on the reporters in the room.  

Perchance, perpetual war has numbed the collective consciousness.  Our country has come to accept there will always be another battle.  On what was once Armistice Day, Americans acknowledged the First World War was not the conflict to end all other clashes.  It seems for most, the excuse of self-defense serves to excuse massive slaughters of innocent.  If only that rationalization satisfied my soul.  It does not.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when viewed from the receiving end, are state-sponsored acts of terrorism. These wars defy every ethical and legal code that seek to determine when a nation can wage war, from Just War Theory to the statutes of international law largely put into place by the United States after World War II. These wars are criminal wars of aggression. They have left hundreds of thousands of people, who never took up arms against us, dead and seen millions driven from their homes. We have no right as a nation to debate the terms of these occupations. And an Afghan villager, burying members of his family’s wedding party after an American airstrike, understands in a way we often do not that terrorist attacks can also be unleashed from the arsenals of an imperial power.

I believe I too understand as an Afghan rural dweller, or an Iraq city feller does; war is war.  Terrorism cannot reasonably be defined as a righteous fight for freedom, and also as intimidation.  A Commander cannot conclude that aggression is the correct course of action if they truly wish to bring about peace.  Yet, that is what Americans have often done, and what Barack Obama, who plans to escalate attacks in Afghanistan, thinks to do.  

This paradigm is the source of my agony and apprehension.  

My fear is furthered when a Secretary of Veterans Affairs is announced, and those in the vanguard do not discuss civilian veteran casualties.

Possibly, others do not experience the ache as I do.  They may have accepted physical distance as an emotional, intellectual separation.  Certainly, Americans and I cannot touch the tragedy that fills the lives of those who are the truest veterans of war.  I can only empathize and recount.  My desire is that some day, the dull ache that began, I know not when, will pass from within me.  All citizens in the Middle East, West, North, and South will experience no more war.  

Whilst I may be ignorant of whenst war, and the ache it causes, came, I yearn for the day each ends.

Sources of sorrow; soldier and civilian suffering . . .

Who is he?

Obama takes on McCain’s jabs about Ayers

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

The tale is true.  Names were changed to protect the innocent.

Last evening Mister Gregory had a chance to speak to Mister Fairbanks of the issue.  “Who is Barack Obama?”  Barry thought he might introduce the topic delicately.  The two men were in a car together.  They had traveled across the country to meet with school Principals, Superintendents, and other professional educators.  The hour was late, and dinner was on the agenda.

As the gents drove to the restaurant, Barry began the conversation; “Just as Barack Obama might not have known Bill Ayers background, who would think someone in this car was a member of SDS, Students for a Democratic Society?”  Sean smiled and quickly replied, “I would.”  He then revealed that he was in fact a member of the largest and most influential radical student organization of the 1960s.  The devout Republican, a man who might represent the Corporate Class belonged to an organization, which was “initially concerned with equality, economic justice, peace, and participatory democracy.”  Sean recounted stories.  He told tales of his participation in anti-war protests.  Mister Fairbanks helped to close his college.  Sean showed “determined resistance,” he was a radical, a rebel.  He could be considered a less visible, and less violent, Bill Ayers.

Barry was aghast.  When he posed the question, he never imagined such a response from Sean.  Barry Gregory, an extremely reserved, shy, and quiet man meant to reveal his own history.  When he was in his twenties, two score ago, the now Vice President of a prestigious company, was active in the same Student organization.  More than a thousand miles away from where Sean incited revolution, Mister Gregory did his rebellious “thing.”

Senator John McCain asks Americans to ponder; “Who is Barack Obama?”  Sean wonders, as he has for quite some time.  The President of a large multi-million dollar-company does not think he can trust this man of color.  Nor, does Mister Fairbanks favor a Democratic President.  Sean Michael Fairbanks is among the more than seventy (70) percent of Chief Executive Officers who fear an Obama presidency will be a disaster.  This tycoon intends to vote as he long has, just as all Americans have and do.  Sean will cast a ballot in his own perceived interest.  As a businessman, Sean believes he will benefit more if he commits to the Grand Old Party.  Mister Fairbanks will vote Republican.  Senator McCain and Governor Palin are his candidates of choice.  Sean knows who John Sidney McCain and Sarah Louise Heath Palin are.  He does however wonder of Barack Obama.

Sean Michael Fairbanks frequently expressed his preference to his protégé, and Vice President of the corporation, Barry Gregory.  Barry and Sean are about the same age.  Each experienced rites of passage in the 1960s.  While the men work very well together and have for near a decade and one half, the fine fellows differ politically.  Mister Gregory considers himself a peacenik.  Each week, he stands in vigil on a street corner.  He protests for peace.  As naive as some may think him to be, Barry Gregory humbly holds up a banner, which invites passer-bys to ponder impeachment.  Dennis Kucinich was his original choice for President of the United States.  Now, this Vice President of a major firm, endorses Barack Obama.

Sean and Barry do not argue the divergent dynamics.  Political debates are not prominent discussions when they are together.  However, these are not avoided.  The two share a mission, a vision, as it relates to the business at hand.  Granted, personal revelations are realized.  The chaps are more closely connected because they speak of their individual interests and issues.  Each is empathetic.  They understand the other believes as he does.  

For Misters Fairbanks and Gregory distinctions are fine.  Few friends and fewer acquaintances agree no matter the issue.  Sean and Barry accept the differences and enjoy the relationship that has evolved between them.  The well-established professionals on occasion, delve more deeply as they did after the most recent Presidential debate.  

Sean Fairbanks, the more senior in the company, says of the McCain/Palin ticket, “The two mavericks are known entities.  He says, “Barack Obama is an unfamiliar to the people.  The Illinois Senator is untested, inexperienced, and perchance, he is not as innocent as he appears to be.”  Barry Gregory muses of the Democratic candidates record.  He reasons as he shares his own sensibility.  Barry says to Sean, “Barack Obama has a record.”  Mister Gregory refers to past performance that is respectable, not criminal in nature as Sarah Palin and John McCain would want Americans to believe.  

Statistics: Barack Obama has sponsored 121 bills since Jan 24, 2005, of which 115 haven’t made it out of committee and 2 were successfully enacted. Obama has co-sponsored 504 bills during the same time period. (Starting Sept 17, 2008, these numbers do not include resolutions.)

Some of Obama’s most recently sponsored bills include . . .

Passed Senate

Sep 22, 2008 S.Con.Res. 96: A concurrent resolution commemorating Irena Sendler, a woman whose bravery saved the lives of thousands during the Holocaust and remembering her legacy of courage, selflessness, and hope.

Passed Senate

Jun 26, 2007 S.Con.Res. 25: A concurrent resolution condemning the recent violent actions of the Government of Zimbabwe against peaceful opposition party activists and members of civil society.

Passed Senate

Jun 24, 2008 S.Res. 600: A resolution commemorating the 44th anniversary of the deaths of civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner in Philadelphia, Mississippi, while working in the name of American democracy to register voters and secure civil rights during the summer of 1964, which has become known as “Freedom Summer”. . .


Sep 17, 2008

S. 3506: A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to increase the credit for purchase of vehicles fueled by natural gas or liquefied natural gas and to amend the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users to reauthorize the Clean School Bus Program of the Environmental Protection Agency. . .


Jun 3, 2008

S. 3077: Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008


May 21, 2008

S. 3047: Enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Act of 2008 . . .


Oct 18, 2007

S. 2202:  Renewable Fuel Standard Extension Act of 2007 . . .


Sep 18, 2007

S. 2066: Back to School: Improving Standards for Nutrition and Physical Education in Schools Act of 2007 . . .


Jul 26, 2007

S. 1885: Military Family Job Protection Act

In a discussion with Sean, Barry offers, it seems Barack Obama, holds dear American values.  He wishes to pay homage to those who saved lives during the Holocaust.  Senator Obama rejects violence against a citizenry here and abroad.  The Illinois Legislator understands the importance of Civil Rights and democracy in action.  He also reveres the role of church and clergy in American lives.  Mostly, as evident through his proposed policies, Barack Obama cares about the quality of life for average Americans.  

Presidential hopeful Obama wishes to amend Internal Revenue policies that punish the poor and Middle Class.  The lawmaker from Illinois hopes to strengthen laws that mandate transparency in government spending.  Senator Obama supports alternative, renewable sources of energy.  Surely, proposals that reduce a reliance on petroleum will end our dependency on oil.  Military families will be better provided for if Barack Obama’s Bill passes.  Perhaps, most prominent among the laws Barack Obama introduced are those that relate to children.  Barack Obama believes in education.  

Fascinatingly, so too does Sean Michael Fairbanks.  Indeed, the business Sean founded facilitates the acquisition of knowledge for students of all ages.  Mister Fairbanks profits from policies that address improving learning, especially for the little ones.  Still, Sean is not convinced that Barack Obama is any less scary than Sarah Palin says he is.

Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin speaks to a truth that those such as Sean embrace.  She does not inquire as to who Senator Obama might be.  She is sure she knows.  Recently, at a well-attended rally, the former small-town Mayor of Wasilla, Palin answered the question that haunts people such as Mister Fairbanks, “Who is Barack Obama?”  

The “sensational Sarah,” as Sean calls her, says, according to The New York Times, Presidential hopeful Obama is “our opponent, (he) is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who target their own country.”  Sean Michael Fairbanks agrees.  As a registered Republican who admires the Alaskan Governor Palin, Mister Fairbanks does not inquire further.  He does not read the actual article, Obama and ’60s Bomber: A Look Into Crossed Paths.  Had he, perchance, he would not have been swayed.  For Mister Fairbanks, the query is unnecessary.  Sean trusts that a man with a name such as Barack Obama cannot be “one of us.”

However, while the wise and wondrous Sarah Palin and Sean Fairbanks may believe as they do, another reader of the article might see the statement, “Since 2002, there is little public evidence of their relationship,” and conclude that the two are not chums.  Nor do the infamous Bill Ayers, founder of the radical Weathermen, and the much younger Barack Obama have a close relationship.  Indeed, once Barack Obama learned of the historical link to illegal and destructive activities by a man who twenty-six years later is an Education Professor, he expressed antipathy for the radical views and actions of Mister Ayers.

Presidential hopeful Obama proclaimed, Bill Ayers is “somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8.”  The Senator had not known that the person who served with him on a board that oversaw the distribution of education grants in Chicago was part of a group that, had he been old enough or prominent to voice a public opinion, Barack Obama would have condemned.

Senator Obama, at the time, was only certain that the Chicago Annenberg Project, which bestowed money to networks of schools from 1995 to 2000,  was a worthy cause.  As Chairman, it made sense to Barack Obama that an Education Professor, Bill Ayers, a man active in the community would care about the quality of instruction in his home city.  Barack Obama was concerned about children and their education, then and now.  Mister Fairbanks is as well.  Barry wondered; is that not why Sean began his business.  

Sean Michael Fairbanks built his life and career on instruction.  He hoped and helped to ensure the younger generation would have quality schools in their neighborhoods. Edification is his priority, just as, in recent decades it has become Bill Ayers main concern.  Yet, there he is; Sean the critic of a person who could have been considered his cohort.  

Each had a history of radical activism.  Sean could be considered as Bill Ayers is.  A Republican, an entrepreneur, and a John McCain/Sarah Palin supporter who is a detractor of an esteemed educator who has a background similar to his own.  Barry was stunned.  He pondered; who might the President of his company, Sean Fairbanks be?  For so long Mister Gregory had an impression of the man who sat in corporate office.  Sean was a mogul, his mentor, and the man who taught him of the business world.  He never imagined that Sean was once liberal or liable to be among a radical group of antiwar protestors.  An association with the Weather Underground?  Sean’s may be stronger than Barack Obama’s ever was.

As the two corporate cronies talked, they realized the question might not be “Who is Barack Obama?”  Possibly, each might inquire, “Who is this man I thought I knew?”  Who is Sean Michael Fairbanks and who might Barry Gregory be?  Americans may wish to ask themselves, not the query Sarah Palin and John McCain scream at every opportunity.  Citizens of this country might wonder who are we all, and what might any of us have done in our past.

Perhaps we might ponder; long before Barack Obama ever thought he might actually pursue the presidency, he wrote an autobiography.  His openness was stark.  The publication was praised for its transparency.  What a wondrous world it might be if lucidity was the law.  Might the electorate recall among the Bills Barack Obama introduced was an initiative that would Strengthen Transparency and Accountability.  Might the people wonder who will vote for such a measure.  Will John McCain?  Does the American public authentically know who John Sidney McCain is?

Sources that reveal what was never a secret . . .

Strength Sought on September 11; Where is the Love

Black Eyed Peas – Where’s the love

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

On the eve of September 11, I was haunted by the heartache I have felt for seven very long years.  On the night, before the anniversary of the horrendous attacks, I was reminded of the people gone and not forgotten.  I also thought of those who survived.  Time has not healed the wound inflicted on that infamous day, now commonly called 9/11.  Indeed, with each passing minute and hour the hurt I feel intensifies.  

Minutes ago, as I prepared for the day of remembrance, I heard a broadcaster ask how to the loved ones of those who perished go on.  This Journalist wondered aloud, “Where do these people find the strength get up in the morning?”  The man on television screen touched me as he mused.  The newscaster tried to imagine what life must be like for the thousands who experience a greater sense of loss than those of us who did not have a friend, or a relative, in the region we now think of as Ground Zero.

Today, in memorial to the lives lost and in memory of those who survived, services were held.  The current Mayor of New York City, Michael R. Bloomberg said September 11, “began like any other [day] and ended like no other.”  Indeed, the attacks on the Twin Towers brought about a beginning and ending that was distinctive.  People, throughout America found strength.  The vigor realized did not materialize in a manner that is reminiscent of the Irish proverb Mayor Bloomberg went on to recite.  “Death leaves a heartache that nothing can heal.  Love leaves a memory that no one can steal.”

In the United States, thousands of fatalities did not serve to remind us that love lives on.  The horrific incident instead informed millions of what it means to hate.

Since the morning of the attack on the World Trade Center, it seems almost every American harbors a deep-seated detestation of strangers.  We do not much like those we know if they dare to differ from us.  A wrong word, an unseemly choice of wardrobe, the way one walks, or talks, all are sources of worry to a public now petrified of what might be.  The incidents that took place on September 11, 2001 gave birth to a fear so extreme, it seems as though the ability to love was stolen from Americans.

Today, and every evening after the World Trade Towers first fell, fear has flourished.  People ponder the persons they once thought of as friends and wonder.  Might the man or woman be a foe.  Countless in this country have faith only in self.  Collectively, United States citizens commit to Country First.  

Apprehension for any action thought un-American is expressed through abhorrence.  The stench of disdain is strong in this nation and has been for seven years.  

Perchance, the force of hatred endows Americans with the stamina needed to rise each morning.  A want for retribution may be the power that drives many residents in this, their homeland  Nationally, a  profound sense of patriotism can be persuasive.  Certainly, jingoism is pervasive in the United states today.  It has been for the last several years.  

Perhaps, the deep desire for revenge motivates many to make it through the day.  Surely, love has not survived.

Few trust their neighbors as they once did.  The population loathes a person of Islamic descent or anyone who looks as though they might be of such a heritage.  The depth of disdain is far greater than it had been.  Perchance, only those born on foreign soil cause extreme trepidation.  A person whose complexion is dark is suspected of being a terrorist, a Muslim, or a radical Jihadist.  Even those everyday average American citizens who peacefully practice this tranquil religion are thought to be evil.  Surely, “their” scripture are not as “ours,” so says the Christian community.

Some argue, the poor are a problem.  If the impoverished are unhappy, they might rebel.  Conventional wisdom calls upon Americans to beware; insurgent cells are easily born out of strife.  

Those identified as less than loyal are truly a concern.  If these individuals are  citizens, certainly they are not good Americans.  People ponder; why does he not wear a flag on his lapel.  Why does she not stand in support of a war.  From the time of the first attack, Americans have been on a rampage.  Almost all have found a reason for contempt.  

Whatever the rational may be, for numerous throughout the nation odium for the “other” has become the raison d’être, the purpose for living.  Love in modern America seems unattainable.  

Was the ability to have affection for all of mankind stolen on September 11, 2001?  Fondness does not seem to give Americans the strength to awaken or stay true to what once was the course of compassion.

As of the afternoon of September 11, 2001, the demoralized feel more sure the affluent have taken advantage of the average American.  People on the political Left, do not trust any individuals on the Right.  Those in Congress can no longer compromise; they can barely speak to each other.  Individuals in local communities cannot come together and create stable neighborhoods.  On the street it is each man, woman, or child for him or herself.

Worldwide the controversies play out.  People in one country do not appreciate those elsewhere.  World leaders tell us, there is an axis of adversaries.  The presumption is, these people or those do not like the United States.  Any from outside of America are fanatics.  None are “our” allies.  Inhabitants of the United States  have become extremely suspicious.  We are wary, leery, chary, and cautiously on guard, always.

The accepted wisdom is that an unknown force awaits in the shadows.  This antagonist will do us harm.  “Such an enemy cannot be deterred, contained, appeased, or negotiated with.  It can only be destroyed, and that’s the business at hand.”

Since that September morning, in 2001 Americans have been on edge, engaged in war, physically and emotionally.  It is “us” against “them.”  Allied forces and adversaries are easily identified, dependent on your views, and everyone has an opinion.  As of 9/11, people are ready, willing, and able to fight for what they believe.  The operative word is “fight.”

It seems wherever we turn today, a battle ensues.  People are on edge.  All are ready to pounce.  Given the slightest provocation, people will engage in a war of words, or one with weapons.  Justifications are explained as self-defense.  Reprehensions rule.  

People intent on resentment will find rationale for umbrage.  There is always an us and a them to be found.

Throughout this era I read articles that spoke to conspiracy theories.  Last evening, in yet one more missive, I read the planes did not crash into the Twin Towers.  Missiles completed a mission.  The latter essay stated that some believe the aircraft that supposedly crashed into buildings still fly today.  

Last evening, as I contemplated the possibility of a sinister plot, I could not help but think of the people who perished, the men, women, and children who choked on fumes as they fell from the sky.  I wonder; where are they now.  Where is the love that once existed in America.  Was fondness indeed stolen or was it replaced with fear expressed as revulsion?  I know not the answer.  I am only aware of what is and has been for so many years now.

Oh, how I had hoped that on the morning of September 11, 2008, when I awoke, the strength to love would again be observed in America.  However, as I opened the newspaper I realized hours did not heal wounds so deep.  Scars did not disappear in the night.  

I scanned the pages of a prominent periodical and saw  Bush Said to Give Orders Allowing Raids in yet another foreign nation.  The Border Fence while delayed will be built.  Reflections on terrorism affirmed that people still believed others were the enemy.  

Yes, morning has broken.  Sadly, my spirit still is not strong.  Love may have been stolen from many Americans hearts.  However, sincere affection for my fellow man is secure within me.  My hope is that some day will begin and end with love.  I yearn for mornings and evenings without the hate realized on September 11, 2001.  My desire is for the strength of fondness.  May we each find peace, serenity, and brotherly love in every moment.

September 11 Sources . . .

The Faith; Legal Torture Need Not Be “Reasonable”

The Word – Honest Belief

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Of this, I believe.  I believe in honesty and empathy.  I trust in reports that reveal in 2002, the Department of Justice assured the Central Intelligence Agency interrogators who violated anti-torture laws they would be safe from prosecution. Emissaries only need a sincere “faith they caused no “prolonged mental harm.”  I believe that neither branch of government cares for what I hold dear.

I trust that official organizations, allow for what are so innocently referred to as “Enhanced Techniques.”  Reasons for my view was revealed very recently.  On July 24, 2008, Americans were presented with papers that affirm suspected terrorists are treated with disdain.  Methods for inquisition are less than humane.  Now, with certainty, I avow a belief, that for the United states government torture need not be “reasonable” to be ratified.  Indeed, documentation verifies what I think to be true.  

An inquisitionist cannot be charged with a crime if  he, or she, is confident that they did not intentionally inflict pain on a detainee.  Convinced that waterboarding is righteous, a representative of the Government can employ such a ‘superior  standard’ to obtain information from alleged radical activists.

In an eighteen (18)-page document, ten pages of which are redacted, American Civil Liberties lawyers learned that American Intelligence agents were authorized to torment prisoners in custody.  The August 1, 2002 memorandum just as the other papers delivered under duress to the American Civil Liberties Union, revealed “The Justice Department twisted the law, and in some cases ignored it altogether, in order to permit interrogators to use barbaric methods that the U.S. once prosecuted as war crimes,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project.  

The 2002 communiqué, written by then Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee offers some insight into the “principles” that guided the Intelligence Agency.

Bybee outlined the definition of torture in Section 2340A of the United States code, focusing in part on its caveat that an act be “specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering.”  Elaborating on his definition of the “specific intent” provision, Bybee narrows the definition to the point where it become functionally meaningless.

All that is required to avoid prosecution is a CIA agent’s “good faith belief” that his actions will not cause torturous pain and suffering.  Such a belief “need not be reasonable,” Bybee writes.

Other files may offer greater perspective.  A specific discussion of waterboarding was perhaps, scrubbed from the 2002 correspondence.  Clues are void.  On most every page, paragraphs appear as opaque black boxes.  Nonetheless, a hint of light affirms a long held belief.  Torture was not only to be tolerated amongst agents.  The authorities endorsed it.  Through the Freedom of Information Act the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was able to acquire a 2004 memo from the CIA.  This more recent record refers to  . . .

The “classified August 2002 Department of Justice (DoJ) opinion stating that [redacted] interrogation techniques including the waterboard, do not violate the Torture Statute.”

Oh joy, oh bliss; my beliefs are verified.  Inhumane violence of any sort is sanctioned by government agencies meant to represent me.  Of this, I believe.  There is no Justice in the Justice Department and no Intelligence in the Central Intelligence agency.  I have faith that fairness and astuteness are reflected in honesty and empathy.

Much to my sorrow, my country, presumed candid and compassionate, cares not for the rules of the Geneva Convention.  Contrary to my most basic beliefs, cruelty is condoned in a country that prides itself on the principle that “all men are created equal,” that is of course unless the man, woman, or child can be classified as an enemy combatant.  Of this, I believe.  There is reason for greater concern.  

In another file, a 2003 communication  from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to the Justice Department, offers further clarification.  In this letter, my conviction is yet again confirmed.  “Enhanced Techniques” are acceptable according to CIA headquarters.  The memorandum speaks to the possibility of “even more coercive techniques.” Apparently, less “timid” methods for torment could be “approved by Headquarters.”  While nigh on, all of the four-page dispatch is redacted, a reader can discover a touch of concern, although not for the detainee left to languish at the hands of an overly avid and aggressive interrogator.  The angst expressed is for documentation.  Regulations require that when Enhanced Techniques are employed . . .

“a contemporaneous record shall be created setting forth the nature and duration of each technique employed.”

Although the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), all but a year earlier, destroyed at least two videotapes of enhanced interrogations the Justice Department has begun to take measures.  An investigation, a criminal inquiry into the destruction of informative audiovisual accounts is underway.  Yet, my belief in the depth and sincerity of the probe is tested.  As I ponder the past and acknowledge, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) first requested the papers released on Thursday, July 24, 2008 in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed in 2004 my belief in the system wanes.

While the documents provide some more evidence of torture during George W. Bush’s presidency, the ACLU says his administration continues to do all it can to avoid full scrutiny.

“While the documents released today do provide more information about the development and implementation of the Bush administration’s torture policies, even a cursory glance at the documents shows that the administration continues to use ‘national security’ as a shield to protect government officials from embarrassment, criticism and possible criminal prosecution,” Jaffer (Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project) said. “Far too much information is still being withheld.”

Of this, I believe.  Honesty and a love for humanity are not evident in the documentation the Central Intelligence Agency provided.  Nor are compassionate qualities realized in Enhanced Techniques.  The country, whose Constitution claims to honor the construct of equality exemplifies the contrary.  ,I believe  truthfulness and empathy must be embraced in more than papers if mankind is ever to achieve peace.  

As I assess the recent disclosures, my faith in a shared desire for global tranquility becomes more fragile.  Belief becomes hope.  I hope that in a supposed inclusive society, Americans will not accept a belief in brutality.  I yearn for a day when I can again state, “I believe in honesty and empathy,” and trust that my government does too.

Torturous Terms  . . .

Somebody’s watching

To view the original art, please travel to Somebody’s Watching

copyright © 2008.  Andrew Wahl.  Off The Wahl Perspective.

In his mad dash to the middle, Barack Obama joins John McCain and George W. Bush as a trampler of American privacy rights.  It looks like “The Further Adventures of Big Brother Sam” (Archive No. 0826a and 0826b) will continue, regardless of who takes the White House.

Back in seven . . .