Did you like the ideas the President proposed for our economy during the address?

copyright © 2012 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  BeThink.org

Dearest Representative . . .

My answer to your survey question, “Did you like the ideas the President proposed for our economy during the address?” is No.  In truth, for me it is not that simple.   I know from our conversations and abundant experiences, the query is not meant to close doors; nor will you draw erroneous conclusions from the “data” collected.  I understand that you wish to hear from your constituency.  Therefore, I write.  I will present support for my opinion.  The Economic Policy Institute, CaRDI, a Multidisciplinary Social Sciences Institute of Cornell University, and Michael Winerip, Education Journalist for the New York Times will serve as my surrogates. I understand that the immediate opinion polls show broad support for the President’s speech.  However, I suspect a more nuanced look may reveal that more feel as I do.  Perhaps, my words will also speak for the people who merely marked “Yes,” “No,” or “I do not have an opinion” on your and other surveys.  I can only hope that you might take a moment to ponder.

The President proposed many ideas that I believe relate to our economic health.    He spoke of taxes, the energy policy that has taxed our nation.  As a father, he addressed what I know concerns you too, education.  Indeed, I thank you once again Congressman for your active support of public education.   Enrolling your children in our local community schools speak volumes.  I believe to be one with the people is to live amongst us.  Sadly, few in Congress chose the life of the common man.  

In regards to health care, which Mister Obama also touched on in the State of the Union speech, last evening, the Congress’s separation from society-at-large is evident in policies passed and again in the President’s speech.  Possibly, he too has forgotten how the real people live.  

The President did propose one plan I endorse I think The Buffet Rule enacted would be beautiful.  I believe this might help to more fully embody an actual Democratic Progressive tax structure.

Indeed, I actually think an increased tax rate for all is the ultimate in wisdom.  Even Conservatives such as Commentator-Columnist Ben Stein and former Reagan Economic Advisor, David Stockman are in favor of this more realistic plan. President Eisenhower too would applaud this way of doing taxes.  You likely recall under Ike, the tax rate for wealthiest Americans was ninety-one percent.  Republicans are not alone in their support of a Buffet Rule.  Progressive policy wonks, such as Robert Reich, advocate for higher taxes over all.  Right, Left, and Middle, we might have a consensus.  I sincerely endorse such mutual sagacity.  

Many Economists regardless of political affiliation see the correlation…Services require salaries, supplies, and a tax structure that supports all that are needed to sustain the health of a nation.

However, this aspect of the State of the Union speech was, for the most part, the only point I applauded.  The Buffet Rule aside, overall the ways in which the President proposes we build a nation, for me, only furthers the folly.

I have long been troubled by the belief that we can eat cake endlessly; yet never buy the ingredients to make it let alone bake it.  Some may ask, “Where is the beef?” I yearn to learn where are the eggs needed to bring the cake into being.  For that matter, do we have any butter, flour, or milk?  As the President does, I ponder what is spilled.   It seems all our society thinks it takes to make batter, is sugar.

We want gas to power our cars.  However, we want the price to be low.  I loathe the idea that we might invest in more fossil fuels!  The process is quick for it is familiar.  Nevertheless, it is extremely dirty.  Quick and dirty is not as I desire.  Mother Nature tells us daily that she believes as I do.  Climate change costs us dearly; still, the President’s energy related positions push for more oil and gas.  Please allow me to offer a portion of a comprehensive Cornell University study.

The Economic Consequences of Shale Gas Extraction

The Boom-Bust Cycle of Shale Gas Extraction Economies. The extraction of non-renewable natural resources such as natural gas is characterized by a “boom-bust” cycle, in which a rapid increase in economic activity is followed by a rapid decrease. The rapid increase occurs when drilling crews and other gas-related businesses move into a region to extract the resource. During this period, the local population grows and jobs in construction, retail and services increase, though because the natural gas extraction industry is capital rather than labor intensive, drilling activity itself will produce relatively few jobs for locals. Costs to communities also rise significantly, for everything from road maintenance and public safety to schools. When drilling ceases because the commercially recoverable resource is depleted, there is an economic “bust” — population and jobs depart the region, and fewer people are left to support the boomtown infrastructure.

Congressman, as I listened to and read the State of the Union text, I cringed.  George W. Bush was all I saw and heard.  Mister Obama spoke of our energy policy and how investments in “clean power” would improve our economy.  I believe our continued investment in fossil fuels, foreign and/or domestic hurts us.  Be it income distribution, equal access to goods and services, or more importantly to me, the harm done to the planet, our continued commitments to natural gas, petroleum, “Clean coal,” and nuclear energy are anathema, as is the President’s education agenda.  

As energy does, education relates to the economy.  You may recall this an issue near and dear to me.  For as long as he has been in office, in respect to schools and learning Barack Obama baffles me.  He speaks of the need for creativity and curiosity in the classroom, and then quashes the possibility!  Often, Mister Obama refers to how teaching to the test is counterproductive to learning.  Yet, all that he and the DOE put in place are Race to the Top and Waivers. Programs.  Each encourages more and more examinations and commercialization!  

While the public is led to belief that the President understands why programs established under President Bush failed, it seems, in deed, this Head of State has only furthered the stress felt in schools.

In truth, I never understood why President Obama appointed Arne Duncan, a man whose work the business community and the Grand Old Party admired.  Again I think of George W. Bush and Jeb!  Economically we move further away from a Democratic Progressive system and closer to the regressive realities of privatization.  Public Schools are closed in favor of “Choice” Learning Centers.  Charters, while labeled public, more often drain dollars from the more egalitarian school system.  These institutions rarely provide the performance statistics promised.  Many, in reality, are privately run management firms.   Education is not their mission; earnings are!

We need only look at who is invited to the White House Education Round Tables.  Pedagogues are not welcome.  Their voices are intentionally absent from the conversation.  Influential “investors” sit with the President and his Secretary of Education.  These same persons now occupy our public schools.  Thus, economically speaking, education is now a growth industry!  

The President said in his speech, “For less than 1 percent of what our nation spends on education each year, we’ve convinced nearly every state in the country to raise their standards for teaching and learning, the first time that’s happened in a generation.”  I inquire Congressman, how do we evaluate the minimal cost to the federal government and the so-called rise?   Hmm?

In Obama’s Race to the Top, Work and Expense Lie With States:

By adding just one-third of one percent to state coffers, the feds get to implement their version of education reform.

That includes rating teachers and principals by their students’ scores on state tests; using those ratings to dismiss teachers with low scores and to pay bonuses to high scorers; and reducing local control of education.

Second, the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, and his education scientists do not have to do the dirty work. For teachers in subject areas and grades that do not have state tests (music, art, technology, kindergarten through third grade) or do not have enough state tests to measure growth (every high school subject), it is the state’s responsibility to create a system of alternative ratings.

In New York, that will have to cover 79 percent of all teachers, a total of 175,000 people. The only state tests for assessing teachers are for English and math, from fourth grade to eighth.

Yet, the President and Arne Duncan have persuaded the public and policymakers that the invisibles, learning and the effect a mentor has on our offspring, can be measured in a day, an hour, or on one single assessment.   I know not of you; however, in my life, even when I scored well on a test, the results did not reflect my learning.  Guesstimates, short-term memory, the fluke that is a coincidence, these are not calculated in our high-stakes assessments.  However if it were possible to accurately evaluate these, then perhaps the reliance on test scores might make some sense, although still very little.

I am reminded of a statement President Obama made in his speech last evening that I do agree with. “Every person in this chamber can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives.” I think every individual outside the Hall can also point to a Professor or Academic who transformed what would be. Yet, we punish our mentors when their students do not perform on command.

I cry for the young and the old.  In truth, tears flow for every American.  The reason, in a society such as ours, there is no reverence for humanity, nay-human health.  Congressman, please indulge me as I reflect on health care coverage.  President Obama stated, “That’s why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a government program.”

Oh, my.  Once more regression is our nation’s reality.  May I present a bit to ponder…This quote is taken from an Economic Policy Institute Report.

Medicare Privatization: A Cautionary Tale

The private plans are only competitive because they play on a tilted playing field. When that is not enough, they resort to hard-sell tactics that take advantage of vulnerable seniors-practices that prompted an ongoing congressional investigation. They also create road blocks and traps that prevent seniors from being fully reimbursed for care.

Medicare privatizers spend a lot of taxpayer money lobbying Congress, and their story keeps changing. The original rationale for private plans was that competition would lower costs, so payments were capped at 95% of the average Medicare cost for each county. The plans still prospered by cherry-picking healthy seniors, a problem that was only partly abated through risk adjusting. Since it is now established that these plans are actually less efficient than the public one, the current claim is that they help minorities and other underserved groups, an argument that also has little merit, according to research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.”

Oh Representative, I lived in California when Proposition 13 and the “No New Taxes” hymn were born.  Today, I realize through President Obama’s speech, this tune grows louder.  The nation, and our democracy die.  Free Enterprise thrives.

Having read to the end, I hope you will understand.  All the information I offer in my missive to you and so much more influenced my answer to your survey question Congressman.  “Did you like the ideas the President proposed for our economy during the address?” No, I did not.  I wonder; did you?

I look forward to future conversations.  May we discuss what for me is the greatest dilemma; The State of the Union divides us as do the plans the President proposed.

Sincerely . . .

Betsy L. Angert

January 25, 2012

Why We Say Save Our Schools





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

I am but one who will stand strong to ensure an equal education for all.  All who do or plan to, will express themselves in various ways.  Some will March. Others will Rally or gather in Conference.  Several have, do, or expect to act locally.  Countless change what they can for children within the dynamics that define their family.  Nationwide, innumerable Americans join hands and embrace a common cause. Let us Save Our Schools.

Jointly, we wear our hearts on our sleeves so that our children, our communities, this country can see we care.  As our forefathers did before us, Americans invest in a shared future.  We trust that learned little ones, as well as those denied an adequate education must have a solid foundation on which to build.  Our offspring and we will suffer if, indeed, we do not work for the good of our young.  It seems our many decades long shortsighted education “solutions” have already had an adverse affect.  People from every political Party and point of view proclaim the need to teach the children well.  

The Left, “Right,” and middle muse; our education system needs reform. We must Save Our Schools.  The questions are how, which schools; charter, private or public institutions and why?  These queries lead to further reflection.  What might be preserved, reserved, reformed or left for ruin?  Would it be better to transform an arrangement that many agree fails our young?  The answers spur people to act.  It seems with little forethought, the process has already begun.  Indeed, change commenced decades ago.  

Headlines herald the news. Jonathan Mahler wrote in The Deadlocked Debate Over Education Reform. “The modern school-reform movement sprang to life in 1983, with the release of “A Nation at Risk,” an education report commissioned by the Reagan administration that boldly stated…that the United States had embarked upon a “unilateral educational disarmament…The Clinton administration’s emphasis on national standards… President George W. Bush’s declaiming of “the soft bigotry of low expectations”… ”

For some, the history is nothing in comparison to what we witness daily.  Children are being left behind.  The past was but prologue. It is now our present.  Education observer Mahler continues. “On to the current generation of reformers, with their embrace of charter schools and their attacks on the teachers union. The policies and rhetoric changed, often dramatically, but the underlying assumption remained the same: Our nation’s schools are in dire need of systemic reform.”  The debate as to how, why, when and where has become less about the little ones and more about rhetoric.  Messages are “framed” to ensure that a political agenda is maximized.

Today. Public Education has all but Perished.

The Frame; Change arrived in the form of “No Child Left Behind.” This law caused our children to languish further.  The One-Size-Fits-All tools adopted fit very few.  The state and the nation are pursuing policies that have not closed the achievement gap and have aggravated the situation for many students.  “Indeed, No Child Left Behind’s ‘get-tough’ approach to accountability has led to more students being left even further behind, thus feeding the dropout crisis and the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” ~ Bob Valiant. Kennewick School District. Education Matters. March 19, 2011

Political postures are effective, that is, for all but the young and their Moms, Dads, Grandparents and Guardians. These elders see the pain on their little loved ones faces.

Students Struggle to Survive…

Curriculums have been cut to the core.  Classes canceled. Test scores and statistics govern what occurs. “Thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the reading and math testing requirements laid out in No Child Left Behind, President Bush’s signature education law, by reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it.”  School Districts confronted with possible punishment, or the promise of financial rewards, dependent on student test scores, thought it wise to remove coursework that did not pertain to the subjects tested.  

Reading and math became the sole priorities. All other topics in a school’s curriculum, with the exception of Science, at minimum, were reduced in scope.  Some disciplines, such as the Arts, Social Science, and Literature were as the children, left further behind to the point of being lost.  For persons who care about our progeny, this point alone became the raison d’être for a Save Our Schools March, a Rally, a Conference, and a mass Movement.  The populace observed Students Stifled Will Not Sing or Soar. The pain became more and more palpable.

Students Stifled Will Not Sing or Soar.

Critical Thought, Creativity, and Curiosity are now null and void in our schools.  Public and private institutions wane.  Rather than a shared success among all students, today we have winners and losers.  Parents work to see that their children achieve.  The less financially fortunate will wait in enrollment lines for hours in hopes that by lottery, their young ones will triumph.  

Yet, few truly do.  In contrast to the much-touted claims, children who are accepted into these so-called “exceptional” charter schools are, in actuality, no better off than those who are rejected.  After a lengthy study, Senior Harvard University Lecturer Katherine K. Merseth observed, “No matter how they are measured, there are some amazing charter schools…At the same time, however, we know that there are many charters that are not successful. A further disappointment for me is that essentially given the freedom to create any form or structure of schooling, the vast majority of charter schools look just like the schools we’ve already got. ”

Religious schools fare no better.  Often seen as the savior for less than affluent parents, they also struggle with standards. Hard times push Catholic schools toward crisis.  Enrollment is down and the need to satisfy an insatiable American need for “accountability” is up.  Government sponsored voucher programs contributed to each of these truths.  Popular conventions are also the reason that Standardized Tests Taken by Nine Out of Ten Voucher Schools.

Even private schools have not fully escaped what often holds young learners back.  Standardization, in other words and ways, the testing craze is alive and well in exclusive schools.  These privileged institutions too have seen the errors of this way. Entrance exams are inaccurately evaluated. “Substantially equivalent” educations are as advertised.  Differences, in the end, are not realized,  Hence, as might be expected, most every curriculum in each locale has suffered, just as students have.  Again, as parents pour over test scores and the scours on little ones faces, in harmony, they chant “Please Save Our Schools!”

“Only two subjects [math and reading.] What a sadness,” said Thomas Sobol, an education professor at Columbia Teachers College and a former New York State education commissioner. “That’s like a violin student who’s only permitted to play scales, nothing else, day after day, scales, scales, scales. They’d lose their zest for music.”~ Sam Dillon The New York Times.  March 26, 2006

Students are at risk when punitive policies promote more scales, less music!

“Teach to the Tests.”

Proud Papa Barack Obama understands the problem and spoke to it in March 2011.  As the nation’s Chief Executive stood before students and parents at a town hall hosted by the Univision Spanish-language television network, at Bell Multicultural High School, in Washington, District of Columbia, the Professor turned President said, “Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools.  Yet, Administrations Mandate More Standards, Scores, Statistics, and School Closures.  Today, Performance is Reviewed Rigorously. “Race To The Top Requirements” rule.  Please peruse Race to the Top Program Executive Summary.  Department of Education. November 2009

While intellectually, Mister Obama understands the myriad hazards associated with “common core standards,” he and his Administration adopted these.  “Standardized-test scores can provide useful information about how students are doing  But as soon as the scores are tied to firing staff, giving bonuses, and closing schools, the measures become the goal of education, rather than an indicator.  Race to the Top went even beyond NCLB in its reliance on test scores as the ultimate measure of educational quality.” ~ Diane Ravitch. Historian and author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System.  Newsweek. March 20, 2011

Race To The Top Myths.

  • Teachers are to blame for the education crisis.
  • Business practices build solidly performing students and schools.
  • Rigor is “right.”
  • Teaching is a task anyone can do.

Race To The Top Truths.

“Race to the Top? National standards for math, science, and other school subjects?  The high-powered push to put them in place makes it clear that the politicians, business leaders, and wealthy philanthropists who’ve run America’s education show for the last two decades are as clueless about educating as they’ve always been.” ~ Marion Brady. veteran Teacher, Administrator, Curriculum Designer and Author. Washington Post

Administration after Administration administers standardized exams.  The scores reveal one truth consistently; our children are not standard.  Each is a Whole being, a child who yearns to learn more than memorize.  Indeed, to commit a fact, figure, or formula is not learning at all. Rote and regurgitate; this rhythm does not resonate in a mind, heart, body or soul.  Adults will tell you, in retrospect such an education is not an education at all.

Still policymakers are intent. Reinstatement. Rewrite. When will Legislators learn? The Race Leaves Children Further Behind. Please Save Our Schools!

National Standards. Low Expectations.

Countless concur. Standards and standardization in our schools has not helped advance humanity.  These are the cause of the stagnation we see in our schools.  Indeed, with the restrictions imposed, more students and Teachers dropout of an already diminished system.

More than five years ago, it was calculated that “Every Nine Seconds in America a Student Becomes a Dropout. Then and now we pay the cost for inadequate education structures.  

The number of Teachers who dropout of our schools in the first five years of their careers is far greater than that of students.   Studies show the most qualified Educators leave first.  Little support, poor conditions, and poverty play roles in what occurs.  Innumerable acknowledge; scarcity and the problems this puzzle presents within our society, specifically for our schools, is intolerable.  

Writer Kozol perhaps, speaks for the American people when he says,  “Good God, with all these gifts, useful energy, innocence, curiosity, why don’t we give [our children] everything we have?

This question is one every individual has asked at some time in their lives.  Even the childless are troubled by perceived injustices.  Teachers are troubled.  Parents perturbed.  A Professor ponders and shares her exploration. University of Berkeley Social Scientist Dacher Keltner reminds us of our roots.  Innately, humans hold dear the notion “survival of the kindest.” This truth is our strongest instinct. “Because of our very vulnerable offspring, the fundamental task for human survival and gene replication is to take care of others,” said Keltner.

Dacher Keltner’s research reveals that Political divides and partisanship disappears when compassion, particularly for the children, is the issue.  Possibly, this is the essence that energizes the masses to Rally, to March and to build a Movement.  The people are compelled to call for action.

Finally, as education worsens Moms and Dads put their habits and hubris aside.  Many have decided dollars can no longer dictate deeds as have been true in the past.  Compassion for the children can and must be our guide.  

Perhaps, that is the real reason people from every political Party will join hands. In Washington District of Columbia, in Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, California, in every State in the Union the public proclaims, we will not abandon our public schools.  This is why I will March, attend a Rally, Register for a Conference or two, and you? Will you?

References for Real and Rhetorical Education Reform . . .

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War in the Wind, Blast Buries New York City Building ©

9/11 Photograph, By Ted S. Warren, Associated Press.
WABC News. Photograph July 10, 2006.

A building in New York City is buried.  Fires are blazing.  It is highly possible people were killed or injured.  The public speculates.  Could it be a bomb blast, an act of terrorism, homegrown or international?  Might the cause be a gas leak or an electrical explosion?  Perhaps, it is a crime of vengeance.  Early on, suicide was not considered.  For me, while the cause is important, it pales in comparison to the fact.

War is in the air; it blows with the wind.  Acts of violence travel.  They cannot be isolated or contained to lands far from our shores.  If we accept war anywhere, we consent to it here.  Warfare is not a concept; it is concrete.  Combat comes easily to the minds of men or women in conflict.  Witness today, yesterday, and everyday.  We as a nation are at war.  While the struggle is far from our shores, it looms large in our collective psyche.

Our leaders reassure us, and on the surface, Americans accept the façade they present.  [Some] Americans love when Bush bellows and Cheney chants, “We will confront them overseas so we do not have to confront them here at home.”  Americans applaud this non-sequitur logic.  They surmise war can be isolated and they are insulated.  In 2004, that was the battle cry.  There were no terrorist attacks on American shores since September 11, 2001.  Therefore, the theory was proposed, President Bush and his hawkish policies protected us.  Many accepted this as true.

They then cast their ballots for this magnificent man.  They gave the Bush, Cheney team their mandate, or so that is how the Administration framed it.  Again, and again the Emperor exclaimed he had capital to spend and he spent it.  Thus, we have the cost of war.

Causalities abound; the numbers are climbing.  Iraqi civilians are raped, maimed, murdered; yet, they do not count.  They are merely collateral damage.  Citizens of the United States remain safe, sane, or so it appears.  Thus, we support our President and allow him to continue in office.

However, in our heart-of-hearts, we know; America is not out of harm’s way.  We recognize war is in the wind.  When a building explodes or implodes in New York City, we all panic with reason.  Citizens understand what they never wish to express.  As long as we accept war is an option, we are admitting that it can and will touch us, just as it affects our “enemies.”  No one is sheltered from the scars combat causes.

King George II cannot protect and defend America from farther feuds; nor can Cheney or Rumsfeld.  These lovelies created what comes closer.  With thanks to our beloved President and his Cabinet, the possibility of war within the United States is real.

For now, the prospect settles only in the recesses of our minds, and on drawing boards elsewhere.  Still, we all know the threat is valid.  Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice can rant and rage about States rights; yet, she too has no power to guard against the aggression she helped to promote.

Once the notion is placed on the table, the tremors will be felt throughout the globe.  No man is an island; nor can any of us ever be insulated or isolated.

After receiving many replies to this treatise, I realized that what might be so obvious to me, the writer, is not apparent, to many a dear reader.  Perchance I was not clear in my communication.

Possibly some are so offended by this Administration and the ample accusations; terrorists are everywhere, they missed my message.  Those persons, and admittedly, typically I am among these, distrust Bush and the Bunch so much, that they see any talk of terrorism as a means for distracting Americans from the real issues.

There are those that awoke hours after the initial blasts.  They already read and heard the theories.  These individuals knew the explosion was likely a suicide attempt.  Therefore, these bookworms thought I was telling tales.  I was stirring the National Security soup of the day.  For these persons, I was making an issue of what was nothing more than a “normal” event in the course of any day.

Numerous persons are concerned even consumed with an exit strategy.  They want us out of Iraq and Afghanistan.  An event in a single day is not their focus.  These individuals might not question the entrance into war per se.  They struggle with the constant loss this conflict brings.  They may think stuff happens; hostilities occur, related to Iraq or not.

I am repeatedly reminded, that as a whole, most people think war is an option, the one of last resort; however, the alternative is often considered acceptable.

Conceivably, that may be the challenge.  When I wrote this treatise, I was speaking of my truth.  For me, “War is not an option, not now or ever!”  I do not think terrorism is a reason for combat.  I believe slavery, genocide, homicide, rape, and racism were not the causes of wars in the past.  Economic power and the desire for supremacy are, in my mind, the rationale behind battles and bickering.

For me, the blast was a reminder of where we have been.  It is where we still are.  On this planet, war is in the wind!  It has been for centuries.

For those that rose hours after investigations began, they could again sink into the comfort of complacency.  For the many that bash-Bush, more power to you.  I was not denying the validity of your beliefs.  I share these.  My only question was and is, why is war an option, ever?  I believe that if it is in the wind in the East, it will be in the air traveling westward.

We can sit in the comfort of our cushy chairs.  We can profess how terrible the terrorist are or how awful the insurgent Bush is.  However, as long as we, Americans, allow for and accept war as an option, on our shores or on those aboard, then we can never know with certainty where the next strike will hit.  I think this is why those on the streets at the time of the blast were shaken.

When I penned this missive, I was speaking to the stress exhibited by those there, near the building in New York City.  I was also addressing my own eternal anxiety.  Why is violent behavior ever an option?  Even now, believing the cause of the blast was an attempted suicide does not ease my mind.  Why do we aggressively strike out and hurt others or ourselves?

I hope this communiqué helps to clarify my intent.  Perhaps, those that felt confused will re-visit the message.

Please Peruse the Possibilities When War is in the Wind.

Four-Story Building Collapses on East Side of Manhattan, New York Times. The Associated Press. July 10, 2006
New York building collapses, burns, CNN News. July 10, 2006
At least 11 injured in Manhattan building collapse, By Wil Cruz, Lauren Johnston and Chick Benett. Newsday.com. July 10, 2006
UPDATE 2-Building collapses in New York City, Reuters. July 10, 2006. 9:59am ET
President Bush Discusses Progress in the War on Terror July 12, 2004
Policies in Focus. National Security Strategy, The White House.
Cost of War.
Causalities
Iraq Body Count.
Bush has a big agenda for 2005, By David Gregory, Chief White House correspondent. NBC News. December 30, 2004
President Holds Press Conference. “I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.” November 4, 2004
Iraq insurgency in ‘last throes,’ Cheney says, CNN News. Monday, June 20, 2005
Iraq: Collateral damage, By Ashok Mitra. Rediff.com India Limited. March 25, 2003
Bush Began to Plan War Three Months After 9/11. Book Says President Called Secrecy Vital. By William Hamilton. Washington Post. Saturday, April 17, 2004
How Many Dead Iraqis? Guessing about collateral damage. By Fred Kaplan. Slate.Tuesday, February 25, 2003
Strictly Confidential. Likely Humanitarian Scenarios. United Nations Document.  December 10, 2002
Collateral Damage or Civilian Massacre in Haditha?, By Tim McGirk, Baghdad. Time Magazine. March 19, 2006, PDF version
The Promise of Democratic Peace, Why Promoting Freedom Is the Only Realistic Path to Security. By Condoleezza Rice. The Washington Post. Sunday, December 11, 2005
Remarks at the American University in Cairo, By Secretary Condoleezza. Rice Cairo, Egypt. June 20, 2005
“America will not impose our style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, to attain their own freedom, and to make their own way.”
The Iran Plans,
Would President Bush go to war to stop Tehran from getting the bomb? By Seymour M. Hersh. The New Yorker. April 17, 2006
North Korea missles rattle European markets, El Financiero en línea. July 5, 2006

Assertion: To Defend America, We Must Attack Aggressively ©

Americans were under attack.  It was September 11, 2001.  Ultimately, this peace-loving country initiated all out war.  The United States sought a broad coalition; however, the President and others were willing to go it alone.  This nation, its leaders, and citizens concluded their safety and stability were being threatened.  Our countrymen thought enemies were everywhere and thus, the battles began.  Policies were adopted.  The idea of privacy was altered.  The Patriot Act was drawn and passed.  The National Security Strategy for the United States of America was accepted.

People throughout America were ready to protect themselves no matter what the cost.  Aggressive reactions were booming.  Americans declared loudly, “You are either with us or against us.”  If you choose to terrorize me or mine then you will be taken, “Dead or alive!”  Thus, the cycle begins again.  America believes, we must aggressively attack.

Post-September 11, 2001, America went to war.  This was not the first time; nor do I think it will be the last.  Americans seem to accept a cycle of conflicts.  Some say it is the nature of man to war.  Others offer evolution as the rationale.  After all, man is descended from beasts; therefore, we as humans fight for our survival.  When Americans felt threatened, we brawl, batter, and beat our adversaries vehemently!  Enemies might be terrorist, Tories, or any persons or groups that tempts or taunts them.  However, none is a foe unless they pressure us [the people of the USA] personally.  On balance, we are people of peace; we believe in diplomacy.  We are a democratic nation.  Our history demonstrates this or does it.

We work towards peace whenever possible.  We intentionally avoid conflict.  Confrontation must come to us before we engage.  The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 during what was the Second World War to stop all wars.  Battles had been raging for two long years in Europe; Hitler and Mussolini were on the rise for years prior to the war.  While Chamberlain tried to quell the aggressive advances of these comrades, his own passivity, policy of appeasement, gave them strength.  The drum beats of warfare heightened.  However, the United States stayed distant.  Until, this country believed itself vulnerable they thought it was none of their business.  Americans wish to wound no one, unless provoked.

We, the people of the United States loathe war, or so we say.  In truth, citizens of this nation love fighting. Repeatedly, our countrymen accept violence and reject harmony.  They claim this acceptance is reluctant; however, there is ample evidence that affirms the contrary.

Frequently, I find myself saying “War is never an option,” to those advocating the effort.  I receive in retort this reply, “Brutality is justified when it is an act of self-defense.”  From my perspective, fighting is never an act; it is what we do when we react.  Actions are loving, they are giving they demonstrate care and concern.  When we take action, we are productive.  We yield growth.  Actions are lively and full of vigor.  When we react, we destroy!  A reaction is elicited when we fear for our families, our familiars, or for ourselves.  Pain causes a fight or flight response.

Intellectually, Americans state, “War is the option of last resort”; however, this country, it leaders and citizens choose it often, more often than not.  We fight conflict after conflict.  We clash here and abroad.  We win battles; some say we win wars.  Yet, we never achieve peace.  The reasons for this are plentiful.  Among these is “Might does not make right.”

The numbers may be on our side; however, success is much more than a tangible strength.  The United States often has more servicemen and women than its enemies.  Our artillery is ample.  The tools this nation produces are quite superior.  Still, our will at times is less strong than that of our adversaries.  On these occasions, victory is not ours.  In truth, I think when aggression is involved no one triumphs.  Everyone suffers a loss when we wage war, except perhaps the businesses that produce our weaponry and supplies.

In case the citizenry ever forget that this nation was founded on war, our leaders remind us.  Their words are written into our policy.  Most recently, our glorious king, George II etched his wisdom into our doctrine.  Bush and his Bunch drafted the National Security Strategy for the United States of America in 2002.  Our Eternal Emperor, the man chosen to speak for God, and selected to serve by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, President George W. Bush is quoted throughout the document.  He offers,

“Our Nation’s cause has always been larger than our Nation’s defense.
We fight, as we always fight, for a just peace?”a peace that favors liberty.
We will defend the peace against the threats from terrorists and tyrants.”
– President Bush.  West Point, New York.  June 1, 2002

The President sounds so eloquent, so astute, and so contrary.  I wonder; how does one defend peace as they fight.  Is liberty achieved when we exert our will on others?  History proves it is not.

People may pretend to circumvent their truer desires.  They may appear to be abiding by the laws set by those deemed superior.  However, they plot, plan, and pursue their personal philosophies, no matter what or who tries to control them.  Consider Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and yes, even the early American colonists.

Nevertheless, we pursue.  We Americans conclude we must protect, defend, and preserve our safe space.  If anyone or any group threatens us, we must act aggressively.  “To achieve these goals, the United States will: Prevent our enemies from threatening our allies, our friends, and us with weapons of mass destruction.”

These weapons may be in the form of arsenal or they might be mere articulations.  No matter what their shape or appearance, any action taken against this State must be defended against.

We the people of the United States know how to form a more perfect union, a compassionate community, even if we have to do it through war; we will do it.  It is as our President postures,

“Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong.  I disagree.
Different circumstances require different methods, but not different moralities.”
– President Bush.  West Point, New York.  June 1, 2002

Thus, the President declares,

“War has been waged against us by stealth, deceit, and murder.  This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger.  The conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others.  It will end in a way, and at an hour, of our choosing.”
– President Bush.  Washington, D.C. (The National Cathedral).  September 14, 2001

Yet, it does not.  It never has.  They start a conflict.  We commence the battle.  Each fights the war to end all wars, over, and over, and over again.

When wills this end?  It will conclude when we realize that “War is Not an Option!”  Aggression is never a solution.  We can be assertive; yet, not aggressive.  Wow, what a concept.  It might be an important one to consider before we engage in another war, or the next fight.  Yes, we have rights; however, so too do they.

Thus, I offer a discussion of aggression and assertiveness.  I hope this might broaden our perspective.  As you review the following information, I ask you to extrapolate.  Consider what we witness locally, in our daily lives.

I believe that what we do in our homes, in the workplace, and on our streets becomes our habit and our truth.  If we are snide, rude, crude, hostile, violent, or just plain aggressive with members of our family, with friends, or familiars we are likely to be so elsewhere.  If we believe belligerent behavior is justifiable in defense of ourselves, might we also be more willing to accept it as a strategy for our nation?  Sadly, I suspect we are.

Understanding Assertiveness, By Stuart Sorensen ?” RMN

What it will do is provide some information about the nature of assertiveness and how it differs from other methods of dealing with people.

Most people confuse assertiveness with aggression or “getting my own way.” True assertiveness, however, is much more than that.  Assertiveness considers the rights and needs of everybody.  It assumes that everyone is equal.  Because of this assertiveness can be thought of as a method of increasing choices for everyone.

When we are unhappy with a situation, we have at least four choices.  We can:
• Accept the situation
• Be aggressive
• Be passive
• Be Assertive

Most People Behave in Each of These Four Ways in Different Situations.
If we are happy to accept a given situation, then all is well and good.  If not then we must choose one of the other three options.  Let’s look at these more closely.

Aggression
The aim of aggression is to get our own way ?” to win whatever the cost to other people.  Aggression is not interested in the rights, wants or needs of others.  Aggression is usually destructive, either physically or psychologically.  It’s true that people who behave aggressively often get what they want but aggression has other results as well.
• Aggression often breeds aggression.  This means that once people start behaving aggressively with each other it can be very hard to stop.  People start looking for new ways to hurt each other and before you know it they’re lifelong enemies.
• Aggression can make us unpopular.  Once we get a reputation for being aggressive, people start avoiding us.  This may be because they’re frightened we might turn on them or because they think we’ll embarrass them by behaving aggressively to other people.  They may also be worried that they’ll lose friends or influence as people might assume that they are just as aggressive.  In the end, the only friends aggressive people have are people who are just as aggressive they or people who are frightened of them.  They lose out on a lot of friendships because of their hostility.
• Aggression discourages people from helping us in the future.  If we force people to do what we want by using aggression, they will probably feel bad about us.  This often means they refuse to help us when we really need them.
• Some people believe that behaving aggressively makes others respect us.  It doesn’t, it simply makes them fear us.  Frightened people only do what we want for as long as we are watching.  As soon as our backs are turned, they tend to do their own thing.  This makes our aggression a waste of time.
• Aggression can make us feel good for a short while but is it worth it?

Assertiveness
The aim of assertiveness is to find the best possible solution for all people.  It’s about finding ??win:win’ solutions.  [Here I need to assert my own belief.  I believe that if there is a win, there is also a loss!  I prefer the term “grow:grow.”]  Assertiveness sees everyone as equal with equal rights and equal responsibilities.

• Assertiveness increases the chances of our needs being met.  If we are able to tell people what we want without becoming aggressive, they will be more likely to help us.  Also, if they can’t help us and we are able to accept that without becoming aggressive they will remain friends.
• Assertiveness allows us to remain in control.  We can decide for ourselves what we want to do and then seek out opportunities to do it ?” or to do something similar.  It puts us back in the driving seat.
• Assertiveness brings greater self-confidence.  As we learn to take control and see what we can achieve our confidence increases.  This in turn increases our feelings of self worth and self esteem.  We begin to feel better ?” more effective.
• Assertiveness lets us have greater confidence in others.  This is because it also helps others to state their needs and wants.  By dealing honestly and fairly with them we encourage them to do the same with us.
• Assertive people have more friends.  As we begin to treat people more fairly they begin to trust us, to like us and to want to spend more time with us.  We make friends who truly respect us instead of walking all over us (passivity) or fearing us (aggression).
• Reduced stress.  The more in control we feel the less stressed we feel.  We don’t need to worry about doing things we’d rather not.  We don’t have to let other people control us.  Nor do we have to worry about trying to control other people.  We have the power to choose our own destiny.
Remember that there are many ways to interact with others.  We can inform, explain, discuss, or simply have a relaxed conversation.  It’s often useful to know in advance precisely, how you intend to interact.

The article continues.  I do not necessarily agree with the premises or phrasing in the latter portions of this presentation.  Therefore, I am choosing to assert myself.  I will offer one further aspect though I have chosen to alter one term.  The author speaks of “rights” and states the “right” we each have as individuals.  I might list those however, I experience that most people are very familiar with their rights.

Rarely do they acknowledge what social scientists term as “responsibilities.”  I struggle with that word for I, as many cringe when another person declares that we must be responsible.  Often the speaker of this dictum is not.  Therefore, I will replace the word responsibility with a phrase, “I can consciously choose.”

Dear reader, the choice is yours.  Please consider we will get what we give.  That we cannot control.

• I can consciously choose to treat others fairly, honestly and with respect for their dignity.
• I can consciously choose my own actions and their consequences.
• I can consciously choose to uphold the rights of others whenever I can.
• I can consciously choose my own decisions.
• I can consciously choose to be aware and acknowledge my role in my own life.
• I can consciously choose to accept, what happens to me is, generally, a result of my own decisions.
When we question the value of war, if we are honest with ourselves we will realize there is none.  Aggression need not be our habit, preference, or option, first or last.  We can assert ourselves.  We can and must acknowledge that we have rights and privileges; yet, we must remember that others have the same.  Theirs are equal to our own, no less worthy and no more.

Yes, speak up when you feel threatened; defend yourself assertively.  However, you need not do so aggressively.  Realize that if you choose conflict, you will get what you ask for.  The force with which your enemy engages will be equal and opposing.  I invite us as a nation and as individuals, to acknowledge peace is the greatest path.  When we truly pursue tranquility, we understand war is not an option, ever.  May peace be with you, everyone.

• On American Independence Day, July 4, 2006, this nation celebrates war or freedom, depending on your chosen perspective.  North Korea fires its test missiles.  Their mission is to exert their independence or to initiate war.  We choose; they will act in kind.  They have already.  We show our strength and our ability to engage in war.  They offer the same.  Assertiveness or Aggressive attacks, which cycle will be chose this time?

Please, sing it with me.  War, By Edwin Starr

Peruse if You Choose.  No Worries.  No War . . .
President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat, Office of the Press Secretary. October 7, 2002
Poll: Don’t Go It Alone On Iraq.  CBS News. September 7, 2002
The Patriot Act
National Security Strategy for the United States of America
• Casualties in Iraq, The Human Cost of Occupation, Antiwar.com
Economists say cost of war could top $2 trillion, By Bryan Bender. Boston Globe. January 8, 2006
Bush pledges to get bin Laden, dead or alive, USA Today. December 14, 2001
‘You are either with us or against us’, CNN News. November 6, 2001
  World War I and World War II By Jerrie S. Cheek. Educational Technology Center.
President Addresses the Nation. Office of the Press Secretary. September 7, 2003
The National Priorities Project
The 9/11 Commission Report, Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
War remains the option of first resort – not last, By Simon Tisdall. The Guardian. Thursday February 27, 2003
The Rise and Fall of Adolf Hitler, The History Place?
Neville Chamberlain Wikipedia.
Appeasement Spartacus.
War as Self-Defense, About.
Why America Goes to War, By Richard Corliss. Time. January 16, 2006. Vol.167, Iss. 3;  pg. 127
Not Just A Last Resort?
A Global Strike Plan, With a Nuclear Option,
By William Arkin. The Washington Post.  Sunday, May 15, 2005
National Security Strategy for the United States of America
President’s Remarks at National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, The National Cathedral. Office of the Press Secretary. September 14, 2001
President Bush Delivers Graduation Speech at West Point, George W. Bush. June 1, 2002
North Korea Test-Fires Several Missiles, By Maureen Dowd. The New York Times. July 4, 2006
War, By Edwin Starr

Porter Goss Respects Sovereignty ©

Porter Goss spoke and the nation listened.  The world heard this leader.  However, the question is, can we trust the words of this man?  Is he doing, as others in this administration do, presenting the propaganda of the day?

In a recent interview with a Time magazine reporter, Timothy J. Burger, Porter J. Goss was asked of the hunt for Bin Laden.  Is there any progress?  Does American intelligence know where this terrorist is?  Goss responded: “I have an excellent idea where he is.”  Mr. Goss added, however, “when you go to the very difficult question of dealing with sanctuaries in sovereign states, you’re dealing with a problem of our sense of international obligation, fair play.”

Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Goss is suggesting that America acknowledges and honors the sovereignty of other states.  He indicates that we are doing what is necessary to respect the dominion of foreign nations.  Goss is even implying that America will not violate the sanctuaries of sects that differ from our own.  These words would lead one to believe that the United States is allowing other nations to think for themselves and to act independently of our wants.  One might even suppose that the desires of the neoconservatives are not our dictum.  Is “change a regime” no longer our mission?  Possibly, US policy has been modified.  Could this be?

Goss continues, “We have to find a way to work in a conventional world in unconventional ways.”  Now the truth is told.

We as a nation are practicing the policy of “unconventional” wisdom.  We will find a way to do as we desire; however, we may need to do it in a manner that is unexpected, and we have thus far.

America, our President and the Pentagon, chose to unilaterally attack countries in the name of “spreading democracy!”  This is not as convention would dictate.

Our Commander-in-Chief announced his intent.  He stated, “You are either with us or against us!”  This might be considered other than the normal course.  Even Daddy chose to build a true, large, and lasting coalition.

The Whitehouse manipulates information, they “fix facts” in an attempt to gain greater support from allies.  Is this powerfully avant-garde or standard practice?

When the Downey Street memorandum is discovered, the administration denies that they ever did anything other than what they know to be “right,” correct, or ethical.  Denial is the custom of Bush 43 and his Band.  Well, we cannot always perform in an unusual manner.

We have our traditions.  The people of the United States trust in God.  We inscribe the words on our coins and print these on our currency.  Americans know God is on their side.  Our President tells us so.  George W. Bush claims to be a disciple of God.  He states publicly and proudly God told him it is his mission to lead the people of the United States of America.  Bush proclaims, “I trust God speaks through me.  Without that, I couldn’t do my job.”

Knowing that the all-mighty supports our President, we follow him.  We venture forth.  As a country, we impose our beliefs on others.  We do so forcibly. America dictates democracy, occupies, and calls it liberation.  This nation is respectful in these unconventional ways.  Through these acts, we exhibit “our sense of international obligation, fair play”; or so Porter Goss would have us believe.

Desecrate The Qurán. Was Newsweek Ever In Error? ©

It was late on a Friday evening. On the east coast, network nightly newscasts had already aired.  The calm and stillness of the weekend was setting in.  Some were readying for bed, others for a night on the town.  It was time to leave the hustle and bustle of the workweek behind; it was time to enjoy the weekend.

What better time for the Whitehouse to release a story that might bring controversy?  Customarily, people leave thoughts of global chaos for the weekdays.  Saturdays and Sundays are considered days of rest.  The media respects this time-honored tradition.  Therefore, if details of a story could be damaging, if they might defeat an intended Bush plan, this administration reveals them in the quiet of a Friday night, and so it was with this story.

On Friday night, June 3, 2005, the true story of the Qurán [Koran] was made public.  Newsweek did not report the story; they were beaten, battered, and badly bruised.  They could take no more chances, no more criticism.  The Whitehouse had won their battle with this periodical.  Newsweek editors partially retracted their earlier report “GUANTANAMO, A Scandal Spreads.”

On May 9, 2005, Newsweek had published a piece stating, American interrogators had flushed a Qurán down the toilet.  Unheard of, not possible, or so the Whitehouse claimed.  American servicemen and women would never do such a thing.  Remember Abu Ghair.

In the days immediately following the May 9th missive, Spokesman Scott McClellan berated the magazine, its reporters, editors, and their policies.  Speaking on behalf of the President, Mr. McClellan questioned the use of an anonymous source.  A tale such as this is “too important” and warrants more scrutiny before it is placed in print.  He stated Newsweek has done “irreparable damage” to the reputation of the United States.

Later, the President and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld chimed in.  Each claimed Newsweek was the cause for riots and bedlam; their carelessness caused fifteen deaths.  Ultimately and sheepishly, Newsweek correspondents Michael Isikoff and John Barry affirmed, they had only one source, and that source was unwilling to speak on the record.  Newsweek editors were embarrassed.  Reluctantly they admitted they were in error; the statement should not have been published.  It would be a while before this magazine was ready for another skirmish.  Yet, the results of another investigation on the mistreatment of the Qurán were revealed on this Friday, June 3.

Amnesty International did not disclose these details, though this organization had also revealed disturbing tales of woe and derision.  In the Amnesty report, there were many discussions of abuse.  There was talk of the misuse of executive powers.  Violations of the Geneva Convention were voiced.  Then there were the anecdotes; American interrogators and guards were indeed defacing sacred texts at Guantanamo.  Amnesty International titled their account “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:  a human rights scandal.”  Unlike the Newsweek report, these accounts sited many sources.  A Kentucky guardsman was quoted.  FBI investigators were as well.  Officials from the American Red Cross also voiced concerns for the abusive treatment of internees and of their holy scriptures.

With the advent of the Amnesty review, the administration articulated more harsh regards.  President Bush stated the newer document is “absurd.”  Vice President Cheney followed, “Frankly, I was offended by it.  For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don’t take them seriously.’  Speaking on the issue, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said, I find the report “reprehensible, it cannot be excused.”  Amnesty International did not back down; they stand firm.  However, this latest revelation of abuse was not theirs.

This recent release was that of the American military.  A Department of Defense inquiry affirms that guards and interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba kicked, stepped on, and splashed urine on the Quáran.  Nineteen incidents were documented; only five are considered certain.  Admittedly, say the officials, many of these were intentional, others accidental.

The Pentagon asserts the “splashing of urine was unintentional.”  It is said to have occurred when a guard urinated near an air vent.  The wind blew his urine through the vent, into the prisoners cell, and onto the detainee’s clothing and holy book.  One might wonder.  Clearly there are toilets at Guantánamo Bay; there was never a denial of that.  Yet, a guard feels a need to urinate in public.  Why?

Nonetheless, the military report claims that he did.  They state the detainee was given a clean uniform and a new Qurán.  The sentry was reprimanded; he was assigned permanent guard duty for the duration of his stay.  At this locale, he could not and would not be able to associate with internees again.  Once more, there is reason to contemplate.

Why would the military feel it necessary to ensure that this guard has no contact with captives if he had not intentionally urinated in a manner that would defile a person and his scriptures?  One can assume that a prisoner carrying a Qurán is a prayerful person.  Would not a prayerful person understand and accept a sincere apology?  Was one offered?  We can only wonder.

Investigations into the ample allegations reveal other mishandlings of the Qurán.  Wet Quárans were found.  Night guards were throwing water balloons into cellblocks.  Why?  Our government has repeatedly assured us that American troops, interrogators, and guards are treating prisoners with respect, regardless of charges by Amnesty International.  Yet, again, we can only speculate. Is the throwing of water balloons reverential?

Then there is the two-word obscenity written in English, on the inside cover of an English-language-version Quáran.  The Department of Defense maintains that it is impossible to know whether a guard or a detainee wrote these words.  Yet, one can ask.  Why would a believer in the scripture violate his own text?

In February 2002, a captive complained that during an interrogation his Quáran was kicked.  According to the New York Times, in July 2003, a contract interrogator apologized to a detainee for stepping on his Quáran.  This same interrogator was eventually terminated.  Officials declared that he had “a pattern of unacceptable behavior, an inability to follow direct guidance and poor leadership.”  Are we expected to believe that he is the exception not the rule?

United States officials promise us, captives are given the best of treatment.  They are given Quárans, clean clothes, and three meals a day.  Their life is good.  Yet, if conditions in this camp were first-rate, why would all or any of this occur?  We cannot know with certainty, however, we can know that the release of this story was timed in an attempt to lessen the speculation.  Timing is everything.

Speaking of which, it might also be interesting to note that the Whitehouse in its infinite wisdom, certain that the Newsweek story was in error, did not begin this inquiry until three weeks after the May 9, 2005 accounting was released.  Were and are Quárans being desecrated and was Newsweek ever in error?  What do you think?

Please indulge.  There are other thoughts. Steve Soto of The Left Coaster offers Bush Waits Until Late Friday News Dump To Admit Some Koran “Mishandling”

At Alternet.org, Amy Goodman is  Debating Guantanamo

Puppet, President of Afghan, or Psychology Student? ©

On May 23, 2005, Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with United States President George W. Bush.  They walked together, talked together, and shared a podium.  They held a joint press conference.  Afghani Leader, Karzai was brilliant.  He played the American President, performed for the press, and did nothing to upset American citizens.  He was apologetic, understanding, empathetic, and endearing.

Mr. Bush glowed as he publicly presented the Middle Eastern president to the press and the American viewing audience.  Bush has long held a strong desire to spread democracy throughout the lands; he considers this his mission.  He regards Mr. Karzai as a symbol of his own success.  As the two presidents stood together in front of the cameras and the nation, United States President Bush proudly proclaimed Hamid Karzai as the first democratically elected leader in Afghanistan’s 5000-year history.

The two presidents appeared in harmony.  They exhibited unity.  They massaged their messages and assuaged any concerns of conflict between them.  They each attempted to smother talk of sore points that had existed.  However, President Karzai did this much better than Mr. Bush did.

Karzai expressed admiration for America and Americans.  He stated, “The people of the United States are very kind people.”  He continued.  “It is only one or two individuals who are bad and such individuals are found in any military in any society everywhere, including Afghanistan.”  President Bush acknowledged these words with appreciation.

Mr. Bush smiled warmly.  He spoke of his “faith in the future of Afghanistan,” his “faith in the ability of democracy to provide hope,” and his “faith” in this Afghani leader.  George W. Bush stated that Karzai “showed tremendous courage in the face of difficult odds.”  He pointed to Afghanistan as “a shining example of what is possible in the Middle East.”

The mutual admiration progressed; forgiveness blossomed.  The President of Afghanistan dismissed any notion of blame.  When asked specifically of the 2002 incident at Bagram Prison, he assured the audience that he did not fault the United States for atrocities inflicted by American soldiers.  Recently, it was reported that Afghan detainees held at this US military outpost were badly beaten by American soldiers; two lives were lost.  Karzai responded, “The prisoner abuse thing is not at all a thing we attribute to anybody else but those individuals.  The Afghan people are grateful, very, very much to the American people, and recognize that individual acts do not reflect either on governments or on societies.  These things happen everywhere.”  Mr. Bush was pleased.

George W. Bush was swollen with pride as the conference continued.  He was glad to be part of this historic event.  Today, the two presidents signed a “strategic partnership.”  The objective was to present a unified front, an alliance, and to demonstrate how democracy delivers us from evil.  To this end, the Whitehouse invited 900 members of the now free, Afghan press corp.  Officials were hoping to feature an Afghani press sitting alongside its American contingent.  However, this did not happen.

Only one newspaper reported traveled from Afghanistan to the United States; 900 Afghani journalists were left behind.  Their voyage was prohibited.  President Karzai feared that once in the United States these correspondents would wish to stay, they would not return to their homeland.  He dreaded embarrassment, and thus, the truth unfolds.  Finally, the reality of this exchange was exposed.  All is not well; nor is it democratic.

The Afghan President and the United States President have their differences.  Days prior to this public display, President Karzai addressed to his own people.  He told the Afghani community that he would press the President of the United States; he would strongly state his case.  He would ask Mr. Bush to turn over Afghan prisoners.  He would propose that American authorities consult with Afghan officials before they raid Afghan dwellings and villages.  Karzai intent was to plea, it is not proper to enter our homes or cities without permission.  Karzai proposed to express his concern; searches for insurgents need not be so disruptive and dismissive of the Afghan people and their rights.  He would declare that in a democracy forced entry was not the norm and if Afghan were to truly symbolize a democracy then it must stand up for democratic principles.

Though Karzai was elegant, eloquent, diplomatic, and persuasive, President Bush was as he is; he was summarily dismissive, demeaning, and deleterious.  Mr. Bush stated that American troops would stay and execute as they had.  Bush alluded to his empathic stance.  He said that the Afghans lacked resources to detain some prisoners.  Bush claimed that the United States policy was “to consult,” to speak with Afghan officials of their “mutual goals.”  However, for Mr. Bush “consultation” connotes “conquer.”

Nonetheless, President Karzai continues to play, to be the puppet to this American President.  He waits, he wishes, and he is patient.  If Karzai is indeed, as he appeared to be today, a student of psychology, if he is a diplomat, and if he can persevere, then perhaps, he will no longer be a pawn.  Possibly, he will be able to serve as the sole President of Afghanistan.

You may wish to read, New York Times, Afghan President Declines to Blame U.S. for Abuse By Timothy William.