Exit Strategy or Essentially Endless?



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Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.  

This world in arms is not spending money alone.  

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.  

This is not a way of life at all in any true sense.  

Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.


~ Dwight D. Eisenhower, speech, American Society of Newspaper Editors, 16 April 1953

I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.

~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

The United States Military Industrial Complex has might.  General and former President Eisenhower understood this.  He warned Americans.  Abundant might does not make right; it only advances the notion of righteousness.  Patriotism is promoted through militarism.  His words fell on deaf ears.  The sound was hollow in contrast to the drone of drumbeats.  At the time, Americans were as they are today; dedicated to the customs we think characterize democracy.

We see this in many a war and peace policy.  Questions are asked of the government and the people. Testimony is taken.  Think tanks assess Foreign Policy. Conclusions are drawn and decisions made.  Still, in 2010, a few within the electorate wonder as General Eisenhower had.. With Al-Qaida Fading, Why Expand the Afghan War?

Nationalists take up arms in the name of the greater good.  Compatriots will do anything to defend and protect the principles that guide the American way of life.  Patriots wave the flag and pledge allegiance to this country.  Loyalists are looked upon as heroes.  Soldiers voluntarily sign up for service.  Troops are sent to foreign shores.  Combatants fight for what citizens know is correct.  Few suspect that their tax dollars pay to fund allies who are what has been defined as enemies of democracy.  Headlines herald; Pakistan Aids Insurgency in Afghanistan, Reports Assert.  The business of endless battles goes on as usual.

Perchance, countless citizens surmise, only Presidents past and present, know the secrets that necessitate endless engagements.  Confidential papers might provide clues to the American practice; today’s US-armed ally will be tomorrow’s enemy., A few question group-faith.  Individuals inquire, why might this war or that be deemed “absolutely essential.”  Most are satisfied with each Administrations answers. Indeed, Americans accept as General Eisenhower espoused. Money moves us to war.

Millions more are spent by and on mercenaries.  Billions are paid to private industries that produce weaponry.  Worldwide, economies whirl on with thanks to the war machine.  Whistleblowers are silenced.  When documents are leaked, the persons who snitched are sought out.  Presumably, dissent will be punished by the law.  Prosperity and profits, people’s livelihoods are dependent on the illusion the Military Industrial Complex has created.  

So, strike up the band.  March on and march forward.  Follow in lockstep, or follow the leaders history has left behind.  Ponder a time, when the marketplace will not dictate doctrines and military deeds, a democratic system not defined by deliverance, liberation, or occupations. Think to pursue a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, and provide for the common defense. Henceforth, let us promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.  Endless engagements need not be recognized as ideal.  

So please. Pursue peace.  Promote peaceful negotiations. Develop the power of diplomacy.   Move On. Progress.  Speak out as President Eisenhower did!  Do not allow your voice to be muffled!!  En masse, the people can be the absolute power!

Please ponder this petition or its origin, and the reason for its revival.  Reflect upon prose penned by Major General Smedley D. Butler.  If you choose pen your signature .

WAR is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war, a few people make huge fortunes.

For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out.

~ by Two-Time Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient

Major General Smedley D. Butler, USMC Retired

References for a Military Industrial Complex reality  . . .

Moms Speak Out: End This Brutal War





By ReThink Afgahnistan and ReThink Afghanistan on facebook

Dear BeThink Reader,

Mom hated war. Hated it. In fact, that’s why she invented Mother’s Day — to denounce the death and destruction brought by war.

By “Mom,” I mean Julia Ward Howe, considered by many to be the “mother” of the Mother’s Day tradition in the U.S.

In a tribute to Howe’s vision, for Mother’s Day, we created a new video that puts the focus back where it belongs: On ending a war.

In 1870, Howe wrote a Mother’s Day Proclamation that said, in part:

“Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn

All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.”

Mom would have hated the Afghanistan war, too. Let’s give her what she wants this Mother’s Day. If you’re on Facebook, share this video with your friends. Or, email it to your friends.

(You may wish to follow  Rethink Afghanistan on Twitter.)

Help us get the word out about this costly, brutal war.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Yours,

Robert Greenwald, Derrick Crowe

and the Brave New Foundation team

Rethinking Afghanistan; The Terror Tax



Rethink Afghanistan (Part 3): Cost of War

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Tax time is reason enough to reflect on our budgets, personal and national.  How realistic are our expenditures?  Do we spend more than we earn?  Does our income allow for a few irrational indulgences?  Do discretionary dollars exist?  Might we consider our ample debt.  Does this represent a temporary deficit, easily resolved, or an obligation that cannot be paid promptly.  We may wish to rethink our reality.  At home, families have taken scissors to credit cards.  More than the minimum payment is made.  The intention is to lessen liabilities and increase savings.  In the month of April, after we pay Uncle Sam, most of us concluded, it is time to clean our own fiscal house.  Next, we move to the nation’s ledger.  

Expenses

The largest share of our moneys go to military operations.  The terror tax has become a tremendous burden of American household and communities.  Yet, few wish to rethink this “duty.”

Much to the chagrin of those who do not favor debt, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were paid for on credit.  Taxes were not increased to pay for the two wars.  Indeed, President Bush cut tariff obligations for the American people while he increased the number of dollars devoted to military operations.  

The cash spent on what most would agree were and are protracted conflicts was not placed on the official ledger.  Nor did it exist in American coffers.  What were classified as “emergency supplemental” expenses were made available on loan.  Other countries, rich in resources, furnished the dollars the United States desired.  The currency would need to be re-paid, with interest!  That concept alone could be considered a tax on terror, or an attack on Americans who disfavor debt.

The current Commander-In-Chief promised he would not engage in such tactics.  The Obama Administration would be transparent.  What would be spent on war would be visible in formal, administrative, concrete calculations.  To that end, in February 2009, perhaps before most Americans filed a return, President Obama submitted his budget.  Headlines screamed, Obama’s budget is the end of an era.

Cash and Change On Hand

Change had come.  Obama re-thought Bush policies.  More money would be officially allocated to military operations.  The Pentagon Does Well with Obama Budget. The financial planned commitment to the Pentagon is an abundant $533.7 billion.   This amount represents a 4 percent increase over the previous 2009 allocation. This total excludes money for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The budget includes an additional $75 billion in 2009 for “overseas contingency operations,” a reference to the battles still ablaze in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locales.  Come 2010, $130 billion more will be available for combat.

Insufficient Funds

Cautions presented six months ago, on October 15, 2008, by the Congressional Research Service apparently were not heeded by the new Administration.  Citizens also did not realize, cash for these conflicts is not countless.  It never was.  Calculations were offered.  However, then, as now, the numbers were ignored.  Perhaps, all aspects of the ostensibly perpetual wars were not rethought.

Economic Cost of War in Afghanistan

The War in Afghanistan has cost U.S. Tax payers $172 billion to date, with a request for roughly $13.4 billion to fund the war through the remainder of Fiscal year 2009 expected in March or April.  This brings the total cost through FY 2009 to $185.1 billion.

This figures reflect the budgetary cost alone.  Projected costs over the long term are likely to total more than half a trillion dollars when future occupation and veteran’s benefits are taken into account.  Interest payments could add another $200 billion to that figure. (1) All told, this is more than the size of the recent bailout of Wall Street, and rivals the historic economic stimulus bill just passed by Congress.

Countries outside the United States have spent additional billions on the War in Afghanistan, with the UK contributing roughly £4.5billion (2) and the cost to Canada totaling $7.7 billion to $10.5 billion in Canadian dollars through 2008. (3).

Thus far, you and I, the American taxpayer, borrowed one hundred and eighty five billion dollars, or more,  to fight a war thought futile in Afghanistan.  In Iraq the dollars devoted to deploy each troop, one individual, was $500,000.  That is five hundred thousand dollars!  The money spent on a single soldier sent to Afghanistan is expected to be eight-hundred thousand greenbacks.

Financial Future in Doubt

Many Progressives may wish to wail, “George W. Bush is to blame.”  However, people from the political Party that takes pride in the actions of this President might rethink that truth.  

Days before American tax payments were due, Mister Obama asked Congress for an additional eighty three and four tenths billion dollars ($83.4) to fund the war just through the end of the year!  After Mister Obama assured Americans supplemental expenditures to pay for wars would not be requested, the President rescinded the pledge.  Excuses were made.  Explanations given.  Citizens were told the additional allotment would be the first and the last made by President Obama.

It seems circumstances caused the Chief Executive to rethink his stance on spending and Afghanistan.  Perhaps, citizens will also rethink their position.  In truth, only the people have the power to insist, it is time to cut the funds for war.

Rethinking Afghanistan Realities . . .

Footnote References . . .

1.  The $3 Trillion War. By Linda Bilmes  and Joseph Stiglitz.  Vanity Fair. April 2008

2.  Cost of war in Afghanistan soars to £2.5bn, By Richard Norton-Taylor.  The Guardian. Friday 13, 2009

3.  Economic Cost of War in Afghanistan.

References  and Resources . . .

Wars; Endless Wars. The Want for More

Wars

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

It is March, again.  Just as I have been for years, in this month I am haunted by the hate we, humans, propagate.  March 19th is the sixth anniversary of “unnecessary wars”.  The phrase is not mine alone.  Public servants,  Ambassadors, and former Presidents have proclaimed as I have.  Foreign Secretaries and domestic Diplomats deem the war was a mistake.  Then there are the people.  

Those embroiled abroad cannot be happy with a hapless combat that destroys homes, the lives of families, and fractures communities.  The American public also grapples with great pain, albeit for those safely ensconced in the States, the pain is less physical or psychological than a soldier’s stationed abroad might be.  

When polled five long years ago, people in this country stated the war was a mistake.  At the time, fifty-six percent of the United States population rejected further battle.  Americans decisively declared, the “war is not worth fighting.”  Seventy (70) percent of Americans thought any slight gains in security had come at an “unacceptable” cost in military casualties.  That was then.

Today, as the economic crisis looms larger in the minds of many United States citizens, less pay attention to the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Americans hope only for change, spare dollars, and cents.  Indeed, the American people want jobs.  The public craves the cash they need to put food on the table.  People are more focused how they personally might pay for the roof over their heads.  The only wars that cause them worry are “trade” battles.  All is not well on the Western Front.

On the home front, Americans are anxious.  To worry about the conflict abroad seems a waste.  Many families face foreclosure.  Businesses fail.  Jobs are lost.  Ours is a generation who will not prosper as their parents’ had.  A few, although not few enough in the minds of those affected, fear the future for sons, daughters, husbands, and wives who are called to combat.  Perhaps a lesser number are apprehensive when they ponder the fate of a loved one who will volunteer for service in Iraq and Afghanistan.  My sister, brother-in-law, and I are amongst these.

This weekend, on his father’s birth date, I learned my nephew has considered his options, his career, and the choices he has.  Jason is a Marine.  He enlisted near a year ago.  He enjoyed boot-camp.  The not yet twenty one-year-young man did as he has always done; he endeavored to do his best.  Months ago Jason was promoted to Lance Corporal.  It was quite an honor He is proud and happy to serve his country.  Perhaps, he will overseas.  Jason has not decided conclusively.  Yet, it seems a stay in Afghanistan is his plan.

His family, mine, understands at any moment the decision will not be made by him.  The Marines might move him to the Middle East.  While change came in American policy, it appears an end to armed conflicts is no longer the priority.

Nonetheless, as one who has stood vigil for peace since before the first American bombs blasted over Afghanistan, as the sixth anniversary of the more often observed Iraq War draws near, I invited many of my fellow activists to commemorate the day.  I sent an electronic mail to the many who have joined the local Peace Corner congregation each week.

My message was delivered on the same day the stock market slipped to a record low.  An acquaintance, one who organized our local community in support of then Senator, Barack Obama, answered.  She stated she could not participate in an hour-long peace vigil on March 19th, regardless of what time it was held.  

Jesse wrote of her commitment to Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package.  Her advocacy, she said, would prevent her attendance.  However, she revealed, in truth, she felt she could not sanction the remembrance.

Jesse penned, “I may not love all aspects of the President’s plan regarding Iraq but trust that he knows much better then I how to get out without bloodbath.  With regard to “Afghanistan,” she wrote; “until there is a strong diplomatic effort going in that region, which wasn’t done under the Bush regime, we owe it to soldiers there to give them the support they need to protect themselves while they are trying to destroy our enemy.”

I wondered what I might say.  Frequently I spoke of my belief; I wish to support our servicemen and woman actively.  That is the reason I want them safe and sane.  I thought of my conversation with my sister.  Linda feels certain Jason will offer to serve abroad.  She wishes not only for his safe return, she prays for his sanity.  Too many, Linda bemoaned, come home, and mentally, emotionally, the troops who travel afar, and saw a world of woe, are never the same.

As I reflected on my siblings reality, I read more of what Jesse avowed. “Our enemy is there – and despite what you and I have discussed in the past Betsy, this is NOT a people you can negotiate with and you can’t change their mind set.  They are out to destroy us so we have to try to destroy them first.”  As I considered her words, I reflected on an article presented three days after the Twin Towers fell, long before America wrecked greater havoc on a country bombed back to the Stone Age before the US sent more artillery.  Tamim Ansary penned, An Afghan-American Speaks.  In the reflection, published in Salon the author offers a thoughtful analogy, one I observed to be true, even as an outsider.

(T)he 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.”

I thought to share the source; yet, I feared Jesse might not be open to the comparison.  Although she has often heard of my belief in the principle, transformation is invisible.  We must talk endlessly if we are to build trust and a novel truth, the woman who advocates for diplomacy expressed what for me feels forever dismissive.  “We will just have to agree to disagree on this one,” Jesse typed.

“I wish all of you well in your efforts since I know you only want what you think is right and moral.  I wish the conflict had never started in Iraq and that we had completed what we started in Afghanistan . . . which was to find and capture Bin Laden and his followers, and bring them to justice.”  

In accordance to what Jesse thinks humanitarian relief, she stated her hope is America will “rebuild what we destroyed in the region, build schools and proper roads, lay down broadband to connect these backwoods people to the rest of the world so they can see what there is out there.”  

Jesse theorized; “Only by doing that can we offer them an alternative to what they have now.”  I wondered.  How might we accomplish any of what would be good in the Middle East as long as we came, and continue to come to Afghanistan with guns ablaze.  Had our failed policy in Iraq not been a lesson, or are we do believe as Jesse, and even George W. Bush might.  The only reason for regret in the past was a lack of intelligence.

Just before he left the Oval Office, the previous President, who Jesse blames for the battles that brew, ruminated.  “The biggest regret of all the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq,” a remorseful George W. Bush told ABC television in December 2008.  “I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess.”

Intelligence.  That is often the problem.  Intellectually adept as any of us might be, emotionally, each of us is handicapped by what we believe.  We forget, as I shared with my sister days earlier.  “No one can be inside of our heart, soul, being, or brain.”  I asked Linda to think of the two of us, our experience of our home life, our parents, and our shared history.  We do not perceive any given moment as our sibling does.  Nor do either of us relate to what others in our brood believe to be true.  Perchance, this lack of perspective, an empathetic point of view is the cause for endless wars.

As I pondered, Jesse apparently perused another article and sent the source on to me.  I trusted she knew as I frequently express, I never agree to disagree.  I believe, personal philosophies, peace, and profound inquiry, are each part of a never-ending process.  Agreements are not achieved in an instant.  Combat will not cease in a second, and conversations, if they are to be effective, must be ongoing.

With a link to the essay, Jesse included a statement, “Knew you would want to see this.  I’m so conflicted – wish I knew the right thing to do.”  I clicked on the link and smiled when I saw the New York Times Columnist Bob Herbert treatise appear.  A man I personally admire, one I think phenomenal, in his March 3, 2009 editorial addressed the issue of Wars, Endless Wars .

The article begins . . .

The singer Edwin Starr, who died in 2003, had a big hit in 1970 called “War” in which he asked again and again: “War, what is it good for?”

The U.S. economy is in free fall, the banking system is in a state of complete collapse, and Americans all across the country are downsizing their standards of living.  The nation as we’ve known it is fading before our very eyes, but we’re still pouring billions of dollars into wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with missions we are still unable to define.

I read the article in its entirety and responded.  “Dearest Jesse,” I enthusiastically noted.  “I am past partial.  I love Bob Herbert!”  Herbert’s reference to a favorite tune and musician of mine, prompted an impulsive applause.  When I saw he had connected the wars to the economy, I became more enthralled with his every word.  

I thanked Jess for her being open to further thought, and her willingness to share.  I expressed my own truth.  I observe “The war is tied to economics.”  Conflicts overseas have an effect on the environment, education at home, business, and whether we rebuild the infrastructure.  Questionable ethics, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and homicide, increase when a country is consumed with a waged conflict.  Homelessness, amongst veterans, or the displacement of those on foreign soil, is disregarded when we are embroiled in warfare.  I stated, “The list of effects is endless.”  

I also believe emotional intelligence is altered when we think war is a necessary evil.  We begin to engage in one battle, it seems enemies are everywhere.

Then, I told Jesse a tale, a true story that occurred seconds after I spoke with my sister.  

I entered the Recreation Center ready to swim.  I trusted thoughts of my nephew and the war would fill my mind while I was under water.  I entered the locker room to prepare for my exercise, and there I saw an acquaintance.  Sue, a Korean woman I often chat with, was gathering her gear.  She has lived in the States for near a decade.  Sue is young, beautiful, and does not speak in depth on most subjects.  When we see each other at the cement pond, the swim is often our priority.  

Brimming with beliefs, I blurted out, “I loathe war.”  Sue verbalized her venom for violence immediately.  She told me of how awful the North Koreans are and why combat is necessary.  I responded; the North Koreans are people.”  Sue spoke with knowledge.  She told me of the dictatorial government, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, and the people who will do whatever their government demands.  

In all the years we have known each other, we have chatted frequently.  Yet, I have never seen or heard Sue speak with such vigor.  Sue assured me the North Korean people will follow their leader.  I reminded her of Hitler, and the economic Depression, that helped catapult the Fuehrer to power.  Even long before my review of the aforementioned article, An Afghan-American speaks these comparison was so real for me.

As we discussed the dynamics of conflict, I introduced many more instances, on various continents.  “Much of what occurs worldwide illustrates why people are motivated to do as an autocrat deems they must,” I said.  I referred to the reality in Afghanistan, although not as eloquently as Author Tamim Ansary had.

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.

We spoke further of other circumstances in countless countries.  “Each,” I exclaimed,  “exemplifies the same truth.  War is an economic endeavor, always has been . . . even the Civil War is but an example.”

Sue listened; and then rationalized her beliefs.  I too paid attention; and then shared why I thought, why I think, as I do.  Finally, my sincerest belief rose to the surface.  Empathy is the best educator.  I invited Sue to imagine.  “If you had a relative who resided in North Korea, would that individual be evil?”  Would you wish to kill them . . . before they killed you?  Sue stood quietly.  She stopped speaking.  Reflected for a time.  Then she said, “I understand.”

Perhaps, if Jesse, the President of the United States, and the people, in each an every country contemplated our deeper connections, the sixth anniversary of the Iraq war, March 19th, would not need to be commemorated.  Nor would we prepare to pay tributes to those who have or will fall in Afghanistan.  If humans were to honor, no man, or matter is an island, perhaps, people would not need to fight for jobs, fiscal stability, food, shelter, power, or for principles that are contrary to a stated belief in peace.

References for a wartime, all-time reality . . .

Veterans Affairs

DyInf

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 . . .

America in Iraq; Bull in China Shop

BllChnShp

“Bull in China Shop” Art By Vic Roschkov [Canadian Editorial Cartoonist]

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Americans are five years into a battle gone awry.  Citizens of the United States cry out, “too much blood has been spilled, too many lives and limbs were lost,” we the people want to, “Bring the troops home.”  Hence, Congress holds hearings.  The inquiry is intended to help define the future.  For many it is time to exit Iraq and end a futile war.  The people have questions; when and how will we complete a failed mission.  On April 8, 2008, the Senior Commander of multinational forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, American envoy to Baghdad, spoke to United states Senators and attempted to address the public’s concerns.

General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker described an Iraq torn and in turmoil.  Each official spoke of the significant, although still-tenuous political progress.  The civil servants assured the United States Senators, Iraq is more stable and secure than it was a mere seven months earlier.  However, they state improvement is “uneven.”  

Senators, who supposedly speak on behalf of the people, proposed there must be a plan.  Several said America needs to make a correction.  A few pronounced the course must be stayed.  All agreed; Americans must have a strategy if Iraq is to ever be a successful, sovereign nation.  These thoughts have been expressed for years, and little truly changes.  A near million [or more] innocent Iraqis have lost their lives and many millions more have no home.  For refugees and residents, employment is but a vision from eras long passed.  Electricity and essentials are not part of daily life.  Nonetheless, reports are progress has been made.

The rhetoric rises high up into the halls of the Capitol.  As the world listens, people cannot help but be reminded of a bull in a china shoppe.

In a boutique, filled with fragile leaded crystal, porcelain wares of superior quality, sumptuous silver, fine figurines, and cherished collectibles, a beast, unfamiliar with the etiquette or elegance in this setting, enters and effectively destroys what once was beautiful.  

Initially, the bovine is attracted to the glimmers of light.  Refracted beams glow as the bull observes the glorious finery.  The shiny surfaces are hypnotic for the animal.  In a stupor, the bull moves towards what attracts him.

The bovine is as Americans.  Citizens of this country are drawn to the radiance of black gold.  Those who depend on petroleum products are mesmerized when they think of a place where the supply seems as endless as their demand.  People who  profit from the sale of fuel are also charmed.  Indeed, those who have the means are more enamored.  The oil-rich know that they can profit from the sale of the substance.  Two of these tycoons work in the White house.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are the biggest bulls man has seen for some time.  These leaders of the herd were spellbound as they gazed upon fields of oil.  Moneyed moguls who work within the Executive Branch of government led the herd into a crystal palace, or a nation State known as Iraq.  

The two oilmen elected to office, bullies that they are, had smiled at the mere mention of Texas Tea in the fields of Iraq long before they ever claimed to have reason to invade the symbolic china shoppe.  The aggressive cattle, also known as the Bush Administration, may have appeared clumsy in their calculations.  However, these cows planned their entrance into the specialty store.  The tycoons expected to shock the shopkeepers, and awe their fellow Americans.  The bulls thought they would quickly clean up the mess they made.  Then, they would exit triumphantly with treasures in hand.  The bovine projected that they would accomplish their mission just as suddenly as they crossed the threshold.

However, the livestock did not understand; boutique proprietors and patrons might not welcome the destruction of valuable property.  

Raging bulls rarely contemplate how a perilous circumstance would effect any sane storeowner, shopper, or sovereign nation.  A charging bovine does not comprehend why the clientele within the walls of the shop, or civilians within the confines of a country’s borders does not greet the charging creature with rose petals and open arms.  

Again, we are reminded of an American Administration and the prospects the leaders of the herd envisioned as they proposed the United States and its allies attack Iraq.  

The bulls, President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and then Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice did not consider the culture, the civilization, or the fact that every being has the right to choose independence or his or her leaders.  Nor did the creatures who replaced a few of those in the corral.  Future leaders of the herd were as blinded by the light of power as the previous beefy bulls were.

The cattle now labeled the Cabinet, are no more conscious of what occurs when you purposely break the treasures of others than the earlier group of mammals was.

Hence, the axiom framed by the former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, cattle extraordinaire continues to guide Americans, “If you broke it, you must fix it.”

Indeed, the awkward, unaware animals busted the bone china, crushed the crystal, smashed the silverware, and flattened the figurines, and they continue to do so.  

Fortunately, these bulls have money; although admittedly they beg, borrow, steal, or print the dollars and cents used to fund a futile attempt to fix the country they fractured.  Regrettably, the beasts of burden do not realize they cannot repair what has never made sense to them.  The bulls cannot restore health to a shop that was not fashioned in a style they are familiar with.  Few of these creatures reflect on the wisdom of a physicist, the genius of a man who studied the scientific principles of matter, energy, force, and motion.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

~ Albert Einstein


What the bulls believe is best is send in the young.  Calves trained to act as the bigger beasts did and do, now crash into china shop doors and obliterate the fragile finery that is, or once was life in Iraq.  Generals and Ambassador, similar to the elders in a herd, gather the broken glass.  They collect the cattle in one locale or another.  The emissaries, just as the leaders in a pack, attempt to repair relations with proprietors and the public.  

However, these persons also approach those in the Persian Gulf as the Commander-In-Chief did and does.  To the people in Iraq a bull is a bull is a bull.

None of the livestock fully understand as long as they occupy the shop, more treasures  will be trampled.  The merchant wants no missionaries, or mammals to demolish what for him was his own.  Nor does the retailer appreciate a brutal beast in his shop or State.  The Iraqi citizens, just as customers in the shattered shoppe do not crave advise from cruel cattle.  “Correct” information from a bull who demolishes all creature comforts, seems contrary to those who have been terrorized by out of control cows for too long.

Information is not knowledge.

~ Albert Einstein

Money will not mend what was shattered and what will be razed as long as the bulls reside in country.  Yet, the bulls bellow that they cannot continue to finance the destruction they have done and do.  Cattle exclaim too much cash has gone to cracked crystal.  Senator Clinton, who aspires to be the Lead of the American beasts explains, “We simply cannot give the Iraqi government an endless blank check.  The question might be asked, why not.  

The cattle found the dollars to destroy as they desired.  Why might the Lead bulls and those who wish to have the title of Cattle Commander-In-Chief believe they have the resources to remain in the shoppe, with the promise to be less visible and destructive; yet, the bovine does not have greenbacks available for repair or recompense.

Might the bovines consider as long as Americans stay in the boutique and break the bone china, we owe the proprietor reparations.  We bulls cannot ever fully compensate for what we caused.  The only way we, “the American people,” can clean up the mess we allowed our herd to make is to leave now, with sincere sorrow, and issue a blank check as a meager attempt to pay for the horrors we have wrought.

We cannot turn back the clock; nor are we able to replace the antique vases, or extraordinary entities once titled Mom, Dad, son, daughter, friend, or family.  Bovine blunders and bungles will not provide property owners and patrons to live their lives free of fear and further folly.  Perchance the adage bulls might adopt is, “If you break it; you pay for it and then, please, immediately leave the premises.”

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

~ Albert Einstein

Sources and the Reality of Americans in Iraq; Bull in China Shop . . .

Human Cost of Occupation; 4000 American Soldiers Fall



4000 U.S Now Dead In Iraq

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Their names and faces are known.  Yet, these servicemen and women remain invisible for most Americans.  Their families suffer, and have for years.  When the troops were abroad, relatives worried.  Now that these four thousand are gone from Earth forever, the persons that love them still wish to bring them back.  Semper fidelis, always faithful and forlorn.

They were our soldiers, the American troops that served to protect us.  These military men and women took up arms to fight off terrorists.  They battled aggressors.  They [supposedly] kept us free from another attack.  Nevertheless, these persons were powerless against an Administration unbridled with absolute authority.  

None of those killed could stop the invasion into Iraq.  Upon entrance into the service, soldiers understood war was an option.  However, few could have imagined the reality or the risk.  Courageous lads and lasses sent to the Persian Gulf feared what could be a certain fate, death.  Yet,  they marched on.  Soldiers true to their country, had a mission.  They were intent on the hope of an accomplishment.

One in six were not old enough to legally buy a beer.  Nearly two dozen had lived long enough to qualify for an American Association of Retired Persons [AARP] card.  Eleven passed as the folks at home in the States sliced a turkey on Thanksgiving Day.  An identical number fell while the people celebrated the birth of Christ.  Five were  slain on the anniversary of their births.  The surname Smith belonged to one percent of the dead soldiers.

  • Ninety-eight percent were male (compared with 99.9% of those lost in Vietnam).  Three-quarters were non-Hispanic white (compared with 86% in Vietnam).  The most common age was 21 (20 in Vietnam).
  • Nine percent were officers, including 24 lieutenant colonels and six colonels.
  • More of the fallen were based at Fort Hood in Texas than at any other military installation.
  • New York City, which has lost 62 residents, had more deaths than any other hometown.
  • More than half of the nearly 4,000 (52%) were killed by bombs, 16% by enemy gunfire.  Five percent died in aircraft crashes.  Fifty-five people drowned, and 15 were electrocuted.  Almost one in five died from what the military terms “non-hostile” causes.
  • Since the war began in March 2003, the Pentagon has reported double-digit U.S. fatalities on 35 days.  The bloodiest was Jan. 26, 2005, when a Marine helicopter crashed in a sandstorm, killing all 31 aboard, and six other service members died in combat.  The bloodiest month was November 2004, when 137 died; the least bloody was February 2004, when 21 were lost.  On 460 days of the war, no service member died.

How many American soldiers were wounded?  Can we calculate the ones whose scars cannot be seen?  What of the families and friends affected?  One heart, mind, body, or soul tortured wounds more than a single individual.  Savage combat destroys a society.  

“Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”

~ Thomas Edison [Scientist, Inventor]

As of this evening, five years and four days after the first bomb blast, four thousand American troops have fallen in Iraq.  The carnage is incomprehensible.  Countless civilians were massacred.  War, or mass murder, was waged in the name of the American people, and yet, the people on terra firma sit idly by.

“It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”

~ Albert Einstein [Physicist]


For month’s United States citizens, cozy, and comfortable in America have allowed themselves to be distracted.  Combat seemed less crucial than an economic crisis.  Presidential politics has entertained the electorate.  The situation in Iraq is less sexy than a juicy scandal or a sensational sermon.  Tonight as the four thousandth soldier took a last breath might we contemplate the meaning of this milestone.

  • The wounded figure since March 19, 2003, is now well above 29,000.  It is far, far higher than the number killed, and often has a more lasting impact on those who sacrifice as a human tragedy and in terms of costs.  If one counts the number of men and women whose lives have been virtually destroyed by critical combat wounds and adds that total to the number killed, we reached 4,000 long ago.  Far too much media coverage focuses only on “killed.”  There needs to be balance in counting all of the wounded, and far more attention paid to the number of critical physical and psychological wounds and disability cases.  In many ways, news reporting on the “stats” of the fighting now covers only half the sacrifice of those who serve in uniform. . . .
  • No one can really predict at this time whether we will be able to sharply reduce the future rate of casualties during 2009-2010, and move to “strategic overwatch” and reliance on the ISF for almost all the fighting.  We could see a failure of political conciliation lead to more intense U.S. fighting and a new rise in casualty rates or even to U.S. withdrawal.  The odds of success in Iraq now seem higher than those of defeat, and events seem more likely to steadily reduce U.S. casualties, but there are no certainties.
  • As for the present, all the same data that show a major decline in U.S. and Iraqi casualties since last summer also show that the reduction of casualties has now plateaued and may be rising.  Al Qaeda and the extreme elements of the JAM have every incentive to find ways to raise the U.S. casualties between now and November, and will be seeking ways to use bombings to raise the rate and number.  These attacks may be far more important over the months to come than the 4,000 figure.
  • There is a great deal of talk about the ultimate future dollar cost of the war if we stay.  Much of this discussion somewhat unrealistically assumes that the dollar cost of fighting and aid remains relatively constant.  In practice, success in moving to strategic overwatch and shifting the burden to the ISF and Iraqi government expenditures would actually sharply reduce the out year dollar costs.  The same is true of the longer term trends in killing and wounded.
  • But, if we are in Iraq through the end of the next administration, the real benchmark may still be more than 5,000 killed and 15,000-20,000 more wounded before the costs in blood are over.

These numberrs represent only the Americans.  What of the innocent Iraqis now perished.  If we are to truly tally the losses, we must consider the millions of Iraqi civilians displaced,  A year ago, there were four [4] million refugees.

Could we count the Persians and Americans deeply disturbed.  As the instigators of battle we, the people of this “peaceful” nation must ponder the thousands, perhaps, millions mentally and emotionally impaired, adults, and the children who will never be the same.  The scars are deep; the sorrow deeper.  Will we, the American people allow the bloodshed to be our birthright.  Are ‘lives lost’ the legacy we wish to leave our children.

By the time this treatise is read, the totals will probably be incorrect, the data outdated  One more life will have been taken.  Another will soon depart.  Those who live and suffer will not be evaluated, and few will reflect on the sign hung in Albert Einstein’s Princeton office.

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”


May we stop for a moment, maybe more.  Might we bring the troops home now, before one more body falls.  Lets us all rest in peace before we are buried alive by the effects of a wasteful war.

Sources and Scars . . .

Iraqi Christians, Orphans, and Her Son; Why Cathy Supports Barack Obama



Persecution of Iraqi Christians

A mail entered my electronic inbox.  The title was “Five years later in Iraq.”  As the anniversary of American led attacks in the Middle East approached, and passed, many messages referenced the subject.  The correspondence from Cathy struck me.  This communication was a personal plea.  As the mother of a former American soldier, Cathy shared her sorrow.  She spoke of hope, and told readers of her son.  Cathy, Mom, also mentioned why she would support Barack Obama in 2008.

The young man Cathy raised to adulthood, had served his time in Iraq.  Twenty-four months ago, her child, now a man, was stationed in Iraq.  Although his tour of duty expired, his commitment to the inhabitants of this war torn territory had not.  Cathy’s son decided to remain in country.  

This compassionate and generous gentle-man could not leave the people he had learned to love behind.  Cathy’s son, no longer a lad, felt a need to help the orphaned children he saw daily.  While the mother of a former soldier resides in the United States, her heart lives in Iraq.  Cathy offers her tale.  The tapestry that ties us together is revealed on Easter Sunday.

I wanted to share with you why I am voting for Senator Obama.  

My son is in Iraq working to provide through the very few Christian churches left in Baghdad, the necessities of life that our Administration destroyed via this war.  He is putting his life on the line every day going in to the worst sections to bring clothing, food, water, bedding and most importantly health care.  

Our Administration is not speaking to these issues.  Our Administration is not helping the Iraqi people with these necessities.  

Orphaned children are living on the streets in the garbage dumps.  There is no health care there is little medicines.

The churches left in Baghdad are trying to provide shelter.  It is difficult and hard to turn anyone away.  The need is enormous.  

My son has coordinated help from his hometown church here in the US.  They are providing some medicines and money to buy food and necessities.  He has found people to help by wanting to build an orphanage in Baghdad.  This will take a long time.  

The churches in Baghdad are secretly working with my son, who just two years ago was a soldier in the US Army.  I am so proud of my son and I fear daily for his life.  

Tomorrow he will be attending a service for Easter with the Reverend Canon Andrew White in Baghdad.  The Iraqi Christians are so excited for this visit.  My son has become one of their beloved.  I have forwarded an email below that I received back in November 2007.  [The correspondence] shares a little of what has happened in Iraq.  

I wish I could share with you more at this time, but the safety of these people are at stake and I must be careful with what I print.  I believe that Senator Obama can help these people that our Administration has grossly neglected.  I pray he will.  God Bless you this Easter.  

Cathy

—–Original Message—–

From: Canon Andrew P B White; On Behalf Of Canon Andrew P B White

Sent: Thursday, November 29, 2007 4:41 PM

(CBS) — An Anglican clergyman in Baghdad, who has seen his flock murdered and forced into exile by Muslim extremists, says Christians there are worse off now than under Saddam’s rule and are probably suffering more than any time in history.

The Rev. Canon Andrew White, an Anglican priest known as the “Vicar of Baghdad,” speaks to 60 Minutes’ Scott Pelley for a segment on the persecution of Christians in Iraq to be broadcast this Sunday, Dec. 2, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

“There’s no comparison between Iraq now and [under Saddam],” says White.  “Things are the most difficult they have ever been for Christians – probably ever in history,” he tells Pelley, referring to the nearly 2,000 years of Christian history in the area.  That’s because White estimates that 90 percent of Iraq’s Christians, once thought to number over a million, have either fled or have been murdered by Islamic extremists during the religious civil war.

That includes his own church leaders and most of the men of his parish.  “They are mainly killed.  Some are kidnapped,” says White.  “Here in this church, all of my leadership were originally taken and killed.”  Their bodies were never recovered.  “This is one of the problems.  I regularly do funerals here, but it’s not easy to get the bodies,” White tells Pelley.

White invited 60 Minutes cameras to an underground Baghdad service for what’s left of his congregation, mostly the old, the ill, and those who cannot afford to flee.  The purge is almost complete in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad, once a Christian stronghold, and the recent surge of American troops also has stemmed some of the violence.  “I don’t see a lot of [Christian murder victims] anymore,” says Army Col. Rick Gibbs.  “But when we first arrived, we saw lots of that.  It would not surprise my soldiers to walk down a street on patrol and see three or four bodies laying in the street with a bullet behind their head,” says Gibbs.

At the height of the violence, churches were bombed and the Army did not guard them, Gibbs says.  “[Christians] feel that if we are overtly protecting the churches, that someone underground covertly will come in and murder the Christians because they are collaborating with the U.S. forces,” Gibbs tells Pelley.

It all started after the invasion, says a young Christian who did not want to be identified.  “[Muslim extremists] were telling us that Christians were against Islam, that we’re infidels, that women shouldn’t drive and that a woman who doesn’t wear a head scarf should get her head cut off,” he says.  “I thought, ‘What are we, going back to the Middle Ages?'”

It’s all happening because religion can go wrong, says White.  “When religion goes wrong, it kills others.  [Islam] has [gone wrong] and in the past, Christianity has gone wrong,” he says.

On this the most important of all Christian Holy Days,  and every day, let us take a moment to reflect on what is real for the innocent Iraqi civilians.  Let us not forget the children, born in a war torn Middle Eastern country, or here in the States.  May we acknowledge, that all our offspring are precious.  As parents, or as part of a world community, we are proud. We wish to provide the young with the best.  A world filled with harmony would be wondrous.

May we bequeath our brood with the gift of peace and understanding.

Today, whether you are religious, or merely devout in your devotion to humanity, may you join hands with your neighbor, and hope for a peace too long delayed.  Cathy, we are honored for this homage to your son, and to the children here and abroad.  We are grateful for those who care, Christians, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, atheist, and agnostics.  If only our current Administration helped us to believe that indeed, they were compassionate conservatives.

May peace be with you, with your sons and daughters, the orphans, Reverend Canon Andrew White, and all of us, everyone.

  • Vicar: Dire Times For Iraq’s Christians Assyrian International News Agency. November 29, 2007
  • What It Means To Support Our Troops



    Dr Drew Westen on How Democrats should frame their Positions

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Weeks ago, as I stood my post in support of peace, our soldiers, and all civilians worldwide, a young fellow stopped and asked me how could I do as I did.  The fellow declared my actions treasonous, disrespectful of the troops.  I replied.  I have family who served, and one about to enter the fray.  The man, visibly irritated, yelled as he pointed to other protesters. “What about them?” he said.   I began to explain how one of the women has a son stationed in Iraq, another . . . my voice trailed off as he waved in disgust.  Then, the inquisitive chap left.

    It seems that many who advocate global harmony know not what to say when they are told to protest against the war is to dishonor those that serve our country.  Peace people could explain as Drew Westen, Psychology Professor, at Emery University has.  Doctor Westen offers, when George W. Bush declares we must continue to fight, and fund a futile battle built on false assumptions, Americans who care must respond . . .

    Mr. President, do you want to know what it means to support our troops?

    1. Don’t make the families take up a collection for their body armor.

    2. Armor their Humvees so they don’t lose their lives or their limbs when they don’t need to.

    3. Don’t send them into someone else’s civil war.

    4. Don’t send them to war unless you would send your own children.

    5. When they come home damaged  . . .when they come home with their bodies frayed from that war, don’t you dare warehouse them with cockroaches in Walter Reed Hospital.

    6. When they come back to the shores that they will never see again after having given their life for this country, don’t wisk their bodies in the middle of the night because it’s good PR for people not to see their bodies. You proudly display their flag-draped coffins like every American president has done in American history before you.

    7. Don’t you ever, ever write a letter to their parents, to their spouses, to their children — when they lost their lives for this country — with a mechanical pen. You write it your own hand so you feel what it means when they lost their lives for this country.

    Do you really want to know what it feels like to support our troops?

    Bring them home.

    ~ Drew Westen, Professor, Emory University, November 7, 2007

    I thank you for the thought, for the guidance, for the wisdom you share, Professor Westen.  I hope all Americans will embrace the essence of your words.  It is time we truly show our support for soldiers, for the principles we hold dear.  Stop the killing. End the madness.  Exit Iraq; not possibly in the next five years, if then, but now.

    2007 Is Deadliest Year for US in Iraq

    Apparently, the “Surge” is successful.  In 2007, the number of fallen American soldiers “surged.”  Iraqi civilian deaths do not dwindle.  Close to a million people, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, friends, individuals that were and are loved even after their passing lost their life as the battles surged.  The Administration wishes to focus on the reduced number of fallen allied forces in October, and perhaps, citizens will celebrate that circumstance.  The drop might be considered a slip, a slide, or the result of an American “Surge.”  However, others might realize that overall, the increased troop strength allows soldiers to enter areas formerly considered inaccessible.  Hence, with more American men and women in country, inevitably there will be increased losses. 

    On this date, the American public does not know whether to cry or stay the course.  Perchance, Party affiliation will determine how you read this news.  Most of us realize, protest as we might, we have no choice but to follow our presumed “leader.”

    2007 Is Deadliest Year for US in Iraq
    By Lauren Frayer

    Baghdad (AP) – The U.S. military on Tuesday announced the deaths of five more soldiers, making 2007 the deadliest year for U.S. troops despite a recent downturn, according to an Associated Press count.

    At least 852 American military personnel have died in Iraq so far this year – the highest annual toll since the war began in March 2003, according to AP figures.

    The grim milestone passed despite a sharp drop in U.S. and Iraqi deaths here in recent months, after a 30,000-strong U.S. force buildup. There were 39 deaths in October, compared to 65 in September and 84 in August.

    Five U.S. soldiers were killed Monday in two separate roadside bomb attacks, said Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, director of the Multi-National Force-Iraq’s communications division.

    “We lost five soldiers yesterday in two unfortunate incidents, both involving IEDs,” Smith told reporters in Baghdad’s heavily-guarded Green Zone. Later, the military said four of the soldiers died after an explosion near their vehicle in Kirkuk province, and one was killed in Anbar.

    With nearly two months left in the year, the U.S. toll has already surpassed that of 2004, when 850 troops died – mostly in larger, more conventional battles like the campaign to cleanse Fallujah of Sunni militants in November, and U.S. clashes with Shiite militiamen in the sect’s holy city of Najaf in August.

    But the American military in Iraq reached its highest troop levels in Iraq this year – 165,000. Moreover, the military’s decision to send soldiers out of large bases and into Iraqi communities means more troops have seen more “contact with enemy forces” than ever before, said Maj. Winfield Danielson, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.

    “It’s due to the troop surge, which allowed us to go into areas that were previously safe havens for insurgents,” Danielson told the AP on Sunday. “Having more soldiers, and having them out in the communities, certainly contributes to our casualties.”

    I can only bow my head and say aloud, “May we all rest in peace.”  Even those less personally affected by the war cannot help but reflect on the pain the battles in the Middle East breed.  Violence begets violence.  As American expand the attack, we reap the rewards aggression delivers.  Death tolls fill our coffers, coffins.