MSNBC Debate; Clinton, Edwards, Obama. Theatre of the Absurd.

MSNBC Democratic Debate in Las Vegas Jan. 15, 2008 Pt. 7

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

The night was young, and yet, the messages were old.  The top-tier Democratic hopefuls huddled together around a round table.  The stage was prepared and the performance would be unparalleled.  Each character in this play reveled in an accepted reality.  Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, or Barack Obama, are “right” for the country.  No one else could compare to this cast of characters.  In truth, the three were one.  The dramatic debate was cordial and quaint.  The candidates were polite, prim, and extremely proper.  The production was well-managed.  No one was scolded.  Regrets were expressed.  Geniality grew as the hopefuls promised to do no harm to the others.  

It was easy to be calm.  The setting was comfortable.  Candidates were able to comfortably sit in chairs.  The dialogue was intended to seem spontaneous.  There was no rehearsal, supposedly.  As the Presidential aspirants interacted amicably, spoke, the audience wondered; would they join hands and hum kumbaya.

The only possible opposition to the message of unified-status-quo was strategically eliminated from the panel.  Corps and the Courts barred the only voice-of-change from what MSNBC billed as a Democratic Candidate Debate.  General Electric owned and operated, MSNBC refused to allow Presidential aspirant Dennis Kucinich to participate in this televised assemblage.  Apparently, according to Donald Campbell, a Las Vegas lawyer who represented NBC Universal, “The Federal Communication Commission [FCC] broadcast rules do not apply to cable TV networks.”

Given this statement, unexpectedly, Americans have an answer to what has long been a source of confusion.  The cable news channels need not broadcast in the interest of the people.  An audience, the source for sales, is captive.  For producers, favoritism is fine.  Viewers, who have long claimed the candidate they will cast a ballot for, are absent from the air, now, we know why.  Only those, the writers considered crucial were part of the plot.  Extras, or unelectables, as defined by the network Directors, need not apply.

Attorney Donald Campbell proclaimed, to force MSNBC to include the people’s entrant, Dennis Kucinich, or not air the debate if the Congressman from Ohio did not appear, would amount to “prior restraint.”  Legal legend, Campbell declared to allow Presidential aspirant Kucinich to take the stage would be a tantamount to a “clear and unequivocal” violation of the First Amendment. Campbell pleaded with the Justices, and requested they consider the right to a free press.  The Nevada Supreme Court Jurors conferred and concluded Campbell was correct.  

Individual liberties, and the ‘public’s right to know’ may be legally abridged if cable corporate Chief Executives needs are involved.  in 2008, exceptions and exclusions dominate the Democratic debates as does obfuscation.

Americans might have heard in the past, on the few occasions when they were afforded an opportunity, Congressman Kucinich is committed to bring the all the troops home from Iraq months after he enters the Oval Office.  Not only will President Kucinich establish a policy of truth and reconciliation, Commander-In-chief Kucinich will lead with a refined resolution.

The US announces it will end the occupation, close military bases and withdraw.  The insurgency has been fueled by the occupation and the prospect of a long-term presence as indicated by the building of permanent bases.  A US declaration of an intention to withdraw troops and close bases will help dampen the insurgency which has been inspired to resist colonization and fight invaders and those who have supported US policy.  Furthermore this will provide an opening where parties within Iraq and in the region can set the stage for negotiations towards peaceful settlement.

Our future President Dennis Kucinich, believes we must recognize the plight of the people of Iraq.  Americans cannot ignore the truth; we went to war on false premises.  This fact alone affects the battle.  For too long citizens of this “free” democratic homeland deny the realities on the ground.  Circumstances ensure there is no hope of a military resolution.  As occupiers, we provoke more discord than bring peace.  A President Kucinich avows the United States must own its responsibility, and accept our actions caused the chaos.  A diplomatic process, adherence to international law will achieve stability in Iraq.  When Americans work towards a reverent resolution in Iraq, our troops will be able to return home with dignity.

This philosophy and plan contrasts with the Three-Are-One Plan.  What Americans heard was, as Fact Check characterized it, “Iraqi Theatre,” absurd, and lackluster.  Nonetheless, this, we are told is want Americans want, regardless of the polls that state the general public wants out of this futile war.

Once again, the candidates all made sweeping claims about their plans to withdraw troops from Iraq.  Obama and Edwards promised to “get our troops out” by the end of 2009, while Clinton promised to begin withdrawing troops within 60 days and promised to have “nearly all the troops out” by the end of 2009.  But under questioning, all three conceded that troops could be in Iraq for years:

Obama: I will end the war as we understand it in combat missions.  But that we are going to have to protect our embassy.  We’re going to have to protect our civilians.  We’re engaged in humanitarian activity there.  We are going to have to have some presence that allows us to strike if al Qaeda is creating bases inside of Iraq.

Clinton: Well, I think that what Barack is what John and I also meant at that same time, because, obviously, we have to be responsible, we have to protect our embassy, we do need to make sure that, you know, our strategic interests are taken care of.

Edwards: I just want to say, it is dishonest to suggest that you’re not going to have troops there to protect the embassy.  That’s just not the truth.  It may be great political theater and political rhetoric, but it’s not the truth.

As far as we can tell, there isn’t much daylight between the Iraq policies of Clinton, Edwards and Obama.  The biggest difference we noticed: Edwards would station some combat troops in Kuwait and bring them into Iraq whenever they were needed to counter terrorist activity.  Clinton and Obama would keep about the same number of troops for precisely the same mission, but they would station those troops in Iraq.  We leave it to our readers to determine how significant that difference is.

There is a distinction between combat troops and embassy guards.  But the candidates drew this distinction only when pressed.  The fact is all of them would have Americans in uniform stationed in Iraq indefinitely, and all of them leave open the possibility that U.S. combat troops will be fighting limited engagements in Iraq for years, whether they are stationed in Iraq or Kuwait.  That leaves us agreeing with Edwards: There was definitely some political theater going on.

After this performance, the actors did not stand; nor did they take their bows.  These artistes are professional entertainers.  Clinton, Edwards, and Obama need no props.  They can deliver a monologue without a script.  These three are truly practiced.  They know their craft.

Cater to the corporate sponsors.  Cackle in a charming manner.  Be charismatic.  Present a commanding presence.  Remember, the public likes it when you are cute.  Cry, if you must, but be cautious.  True emotions can distract or create distance between you and the audience.  Strut your stuff, but whatever you do, do not subscribe to the “extreme” positions, mainstream candidate Congressman Kucinich does.  

“Exit Iraq?”  That idea is preposterous.  There is money to be had from war.  The truer Weapon of Mass Destruction is Dennis Kucinich.

Speaking of arsenals, MSNBC Correspondents, and employees of parent company General Electric turn to the topic of guns.  The Presidential players sing the song conventionally Conservative, Constitutional constructionist wish to hear.  Guns?  Grab me by the barrel and I am yours.

Russert: We arrived in Nevada, the headline in Nevada Appeal newspaper: Nevada leads in gun deaths.

Russert: The leading cause for death among young black men is guns — death, homicide.  Mayor Bloomberg of New York, you all know him, he and 250 mayors have started the campaign, Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Senator Clinton, when you ran for the Senate in 2000, you said that everyone who wishes to purchase a gun should have a license, and that every handgun sale or transfer should be registered in a national registry.  Will you try to implement such a plan?

Clinton: Well, I am against illegal guns, and illegal guns are the cause of so much death and injury in our country.  I also am a political realist and I understand that the political winds are very powerful against doing enough to try to get guns off the street, get them out of the hands of young people.

The law in New York was as you state, and the law in New York has worked to a great extent.

Clinton: I don’t want the federal government preempting states and cities like New York that have very specific problems.

So here’s what I would do.  We need to have a registry that really works with good information about people who are felons, people who have been committed to mental institutions like the man in Virginia Tech who caused so much death and havoc.  We need to make sure that that information is in a timely manner, both collected and presented.

We do need to crack down on illegal gun dealers.  This is something that I would like to see more of.

And we need to enforce the laws that we have on the books.  I would also work to reinstate the assault weapons ban.  We now have, once again, police deaths going up around the country, and in large measure because bad guys now have assault weapons again.  We stopped it for awhile.  Now they’re back on the streets.

So there are steps we need to take that we should do together.  You know, I believe in the Second Amendment.  People have a right to bear arms.  But I also believe that we can common-sensically approach this.

Russert: But you’ve backed off a national licensing registration plan?

Clinton: Yes.

Ahhh, the audience applauds.  We witness one of those moments of regret.  A subdued Clinton, in character shows her inner strength.  She is strong enough to admit she was [once] wrong, or at least, did not act in accordance with what the producers or the public relations persons say the people prefer.  The moderator, the narrator, or the demigod for political dialogue then turns his attention to another in the cast.

Russert: Senator Obama, when you were in the state senate, you talked about licensing and registering gun owners.  Would you do that as president?

Obama: I don’t think that we can get that done.  But what I do think we can do is to provide just some common-sense enforcement.  One good example — this is consistently blocked — the efforts by law enforcement to obtain the information required to trace back guns that have been used in crimes to unscrupulous gun dealers.

That’s not something that the NRA has allowed to get through Congress.  And, as president, I intend to make it happen.

But here’s the broader context that I think is important for us to remember.  We essentially have two realities, when it comes to guns, in this country.  You’ve got the tradition of lawful gun ownership, that all of us saw, as we travel around rural parts of the country.

And it is very important for many Americans to be able to hunt, fish, take their kids out, teach them how to shoot.

And then you’ve got the reality of 34 Chicago public school students who get shot down on the streets of Chicago.

We can reconcile those two realities by making sure the Second Amendment is respected and that people are able to lawfully own guns, but that we also start cracking down on the kinds of abuses of firearms that we see on the streets.

We began this performance with the notion of Amendments.  It seems apt that we return to the discussion of Rights.  On stage, the actors address issues of public interest, while they work to avoid any offer of information in the interest of the common good.  

Russert: Senator Edwards, Democrats used to be out front for registration and licensing of guns.  It now appears that there’s a recognition that it’s hard to win a national election with that position.  Is that fair?

Edwards: I think that’s fair, but I haven’t changed my position on this.  I’m against it.  Having grown up where I did in the rural South, everyone around me had guns, everyone hunted.  And I think it is enormously important to protect people’s Second Amendment rights.

I don’t believe that means you need an AK-47 to hunt.  And I think the assault weapons ban, which Hillary spoke about just a minute ago, as president of the United States, I’ll do everything in my power to reinstate it.  But I do think we need a president who understands the sportsmen, hunters who use their guns for lawful purposes have a right to have their Second Amendment rights looked after.

Might we again ask of Rights, the Bill of Rights, Constitutional Amendments, and how the Courts apply these to weapons-maker General Electric, the owner, and operator of Microsoft-NBC.  Could we consider the courts determination and how the same rules affect the outcome as it relates to citizen, Congressman, and Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich.  The words freedom and justice for all come to mind.  In a country where all men are created equal, perchance, the interest of Corporate Chiefs supersedes those of the common folk.

Were we to review Act I, Scenes II, II, or IV we would see how similar the cast of characters are on issues such as Energy, Health Care, Immigration and more.  However, this Playbill is just as the Producers prefer, concise.  After all, conventional wisdom, which is all the network wishes to present, is American audiences have short attention spans.  This too, maybe by design.

As the public reviews the reality of the program, they need not know that General Electric offers a panoply of products and services all affected by the President of the United Sates and his or her Administration.  Personal interests, and certainly, not public needs, may have prompted the parent company of MSNBC to do as they did.  This conglomerate produces or provides engines for planes, petroleum, energy, and entertainment.  Health Care, Business, and Consumer Credit are integral parts of the General Electric portfolio.  This major Producer/Director does much more than light the auditorium, or offer well choreographed “enlightenment.”

Perchance, critics might pose the better question.  Why are Americans willing to accept theatre of the absurd?  Citizens tune in and channel the “advisable” perceptions.  The “majority” of people consider Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards as separate candidates, the super stars, amongst the dramatis personae.  Audience members focus on placement and how a Presidential hopeful moves across the stage.  Intonations inspire.  Cadence counts.  Most Americans ignore that there is little variance in the actors’ script.  Personalities may not be identical.  However, essentially, the three are one.  

As Americans look at the Presidential aspirants declared viable, we laugh, we clap, we cheer, and we jeer.  Once we choose the candidate-of-change, and place that person in the Oval Office, might we realize as we could have during this “debate,” there is little difference?  Will citizens ask for a refund?  This premiere performance might help us to understand, the price of this ticket may be far too costly.

MSNBC Democratic Debate in Las Vegas Jan. 15, 2008 Pt. 11

Scenes, Sources, The Stage . . .

Peace Protester Meets Military Men; Perceptions or Promise

This morning, as I approached the peace corner, two of my fellow demonstrators made mention of the soldiers across the street.  Weekly, a throng of Iraq war dissenters stands and pickets on the south side of the street.  I position myself on the North end of the avenue.  I stand alone.  On this afternoon, two young men dressed in Army fatigues, soldiers, situated themselves on the median, yards from where I position myself.  They carried plastic bins; patriotic banners were pasted onto these containers.  American flags and pamphlets graced their station.  The military men collected money from passers-by.  They distributed literature.  They did their work from the same side of the street I favor.

My comrades in peace and protest were concerned.  Perhaps I would not wish to cross over into the abyss of possible confrontations or conflict of interest.  I glanced over at the diligent warrior and decided they were as I, people that long for peace.  I quickly gathered my sign, pressed the button on the traffic pole, and waited until it was safe to enter the intersection.  Cars are my enemy.  These fast moving vehicles are, in my mind Weapons of Mass Destruction.  People, no matter their attire or philosophical views are not my foes.

Minutes after I took my characteristic stance, held up my sign “Love, Not War” and extended my forefinger and central digit to form the symbol universally acknowledged as “peace” one of the soldiers smiled at me.  He faced me and flashed the same sign.  Yes, we were on the same side of the street and the issue.  Neither of us wants war.  We work to bring harmony to a world wrought with distress.  The serviceman and I each yearn for global calm.

Throughout the afternoon, I pondered what people might think a dichotomy.  I wondered why other picketers thought there might be a problem with my being so near these troops.  I reflected; what might those in their automobiles think.  Was it likely those in cars would think to wave in appreciation of me was to defy the intent of the military volunteers, or might the travelers consider each of us, soldiers and myself, as joined forces.  I observed various notions.  I also accepted that some voyagers would see only what they wished to believe, or perhaps we all do.

We may walk down different philosophical paths; yet, I cannot help but believe we are one.  We stroll in synch on the same side of a single street.

Days ago, Americans honored our war veterans.  On that hallowed occasion, I wept as I thought of all the soldiers that passed.  I mourned for those who would die on the battlefields abroad.  Grief consumes me as I contemplate those who will take their last breath in transit.  I feel such sorrow when I gaze upon a soldier some think fortunate enough to survive.  I understand that many have lost the will to live.  Those that made the trek and stand strong often tell tales.  The war is alive and well within them, frequently for years, even if they appear settled, safe, and secure.

I might muse as many do, “I support the soldiers.”  However, I understand how trite, contrite, contrived such a claim might sounds, particularly to those that put their lives in on the line, the front line, in the face of great peril as they fight for America’s freedoms. 

I have infinite faith that each man or woman alive believes in the ethics of their actions, or on the rare occasion that any of us is reactive and engages in the unthinkable, we work to rationalize what we did.  Sadly, frequently, we cannot.  I have met many a soldier that speaks of how the mission was not what he or she thought it might be.  I am familiar with numerous others that, long after, they return home from battle, still believe the cause was just.  As I watch these two men collect funds for the fight, for families of the fallen, I wonder; what was and is their experience.

I look over and once more, I am greeted with a smile, a wave, and an acknowledgement that the three of us yearn for world peace.  Ah, to be human is to love thy fellow man, and to fight?

Some say aggression is natural.  Man by his very nature is combative.  Others are certain confrontational behaviors are learned.  No matter what we believe, every individual has to grapple with the fact that we are creatures of the Earth, complex, and difficult to understand.  However, I believe no one truly wants war or wishes to kill another.  Some say they think mass slaughter is an option; however, faced with the possibility, none of us is left unscathed.

Perception, passion, human emotions frequently give rise to errors, crimes against man and nature.  People are easily persuaded, pushed, become fearful, and are filled with angst.  Each can cause individuals to act against their best judgment or interest.  I perpend the soldiers on the Boulevard and reflect.  What is their reality.  As we exchange glances and consistently acknowledge the other, I trust neither would have said . . .

“I came over here because I wanted to kill people.”
By Andrew Tilghman?
Washington Post.
Sunday, July 30, 2006; B01

” I came over here because I wanted to kill people.”

Over a mess-tent dinner of turkey cutlets, the bony-faced 21-year-old private from West Texas looked right at me as he talked about killing Iraqis with casual indifference.  It was February, and we were at his small patrol base about 20 miles south of Baghdad.  “The truth is, it wasn’t all I thought it was cracked up to be.  I mean, I thought killing somebody would be this life-changing experience.  And then I did it, and I was like, ‘All right, whatever.'”

He shrugged.

“I shot a guy who wouldn’t stop when we were out at a traffic checkpoint and it was like nothing,” he went on.  “Over here, killing people is like squashing an ant. I mean, you kill somebody and it’s like ‘All right, let’s go get some pizza.'”

As I read these words, I feel a palpable bravado.  The boldness expressed for me is that of a man that felt so deeply, he wanted to feel no more.  Months after Private Steven D. Green made this statement, he stood outside a federal courthouse in North Carolina.  There he pled ‘not guilty’ to charges of premeditated rape and murder. Private Green was accused of these crimes.  In Mahmudiyah, a fourteen-year-old Iraqi girl and her family fell victim to war and the emotions evoked by such a brutal practice.

Andrew Tilghman, embedded Journalist with the Washington Post wrote of his encounter with Steven D. Green and the tale the young serviceman told prior to his crime.  The account was harrowing.

Tilghman describes the circumstances and situation.  The correspondent explains he met Private Green in Mahmudiyah, on the edge of the zone known as “The Triangle of Death.”  It was there that the reporter realized the fear, foreboding of the frontlines.  Andrew Tilghman remembers the unrelenting knot death and destruction left in his stomach.  He recalls the low morale, the stories of fire, ambush, and the loss of innocence many soldiers and commanders expressed.

The columnist recounts a narrative.  The company commander in charge of Green’s unit said of himself, he “almost had a nervous breakdown.” This trained, experienced, hardened officer was confined to a hotel-style compound in Baghdad for three days of “freedom rest.”  Without this time away he could not resume his command.
Yet, the journalist notes, he experienced extraordinary camaraderie among the soldiers in Mahmudiyah.  Tilghman states, “They were among the friendliest troops I met in Iraq.”  These troops had been through much together.  Washington Post Andrew Tilghman inscribes . . .

When I met Green, I knew nothing about his background — his troubled youth and family life, his apparent problems with drugs and alcohol, his petty criminal record. I just saw and heard a blunt-talking kid.  Now that I know the charges against Green, his words take on an utterly different context for me.  But when I met him then, his comments didn’t seem nearly as chilling as they do now . . .

Green was one of several soldiers I sat down with in the chow hall one night not long after my arrival.  We talked over dinner served on cardboard trays.  I asked them how it was going out there, and to tell me about some of their most harrowing moments.  When they began talking about the December death of Sgt. Kenith Casica, my interview zeroed in on Green.

He described how after an attack on their traffic checkpoint, he and several others pushed one wounded man into the back seat of a Humvee and put Casica, who had a bullet wound in his throat, on the truck’s hood.  Green flung himself across Casica to keep the dying soldier from falling off as they sped back to the base.

“We were going, like, 55 miles an hour and I was hanging on to him.  I was like, ‘Sgt. Casica, Sgt. Casica.’ He just moved his eyes a little bit,” Green related with a breezy candor. “I was just laying on top of him, listening to him breathing, telling him he’s okay. I was rubbing his chest.  I was looking at the tattoo on his arm. He had his little girl’s name tattooed on his arm.

“I was just talking to him. Listening to his heartbeat.  It was weird — I drooled on him a little bit and I was, like, wiping it off. It’s weird that I was worried about stupid [expletive] like that.

“Then I heard him stop breathing,” Green said. “We got back and everyone was like, ‘Oh [expletive], get him off the truck.’  But I knew he was dead. You could look in his eyes and there wasn’t nothing in his eyes. I knew what was going on there.”

He paused and looked away.  “He was the nicest man I ever met,” he said. “I never saw him yell at anybody.  That was the worst time, that was my worst time since I’ve been in Iraq.”

At the time, Private green had served only four months of a one-year stint.  He was resigned to a life that recruiters do not speak of.  Servicemen and women intent on signing up young enlistees focus on the best of what we would all wish to believe.  The military will train enlistees to do a job.  The service will provide security.  There is money for college, ample adventures, and a well-disciplined community will help to establish leadership skills. 

All that may be true.  However, there is a price to pay.  The cost of engagement in a cold, cruel war, may be too high.  Five months before he brutally sexually assaulted a young woman and slaughtered her and her family Private Steven D. Green said . . .

“I gotta be here for a year and there ain’t [expletive] I can do about it,” he said.  “I just want to go home alive.  I don’t give a [expletive] about the whole Iraq thing.  I don’t care.

“See, this war is different from all the ones that our fathers and grandfathers fought.  Those wars were for something.  This war is for nothing.”

Private Green, the soldiers that stood across the street from me, and I may not agree completely.  We may differ on the broader construct of combat.  Nonetheless, it seems to me, those that served in Iraq, those that expect to ship out, military men and women that saw war firsthand in years past, and I each concede war is not wonderful.  It does not bring out the best in people.  To kill or be killed is not a quest anyone pursues with love or intent.

Private Steven D. Green reflects and expresses his frustration with the Army brass.  Green cries out as he contemplates the calls for caution.  He states, soldiers are ordered to be prudent, exercise vigilance, even in the most horrific, dreadful, and grave circumstances.  The Private ponders when your life is threatened you are commanded to remain calm.

“We’re out here getting attacked all the time and we’re in trouble when somebody accidentally gets shot?” he said, referring to infantrymen like himself throughout Iraq.  “We’re pawns for the [expletive] politicians, for people that don’t give a [expletive] about us and don’t know anything about what it’s like to be out here on the line.”

Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, in his book published in 1935 wrote,  “War is a racket.”  The two-time Medal of Honor winner continued, “It has always been.”  The General would find no fault with the assessment Green makes.

Wars are rarely fought for the reasons that are claimed.  Those reasons amount to nothing more than bogus excuses, ways to hoodwink the gullible public, and the vilest propaganda designed to incite people to sacrifice their children for a supposedly glorious cause.

The defense of freedom and democracy is one false claim that we often hear in this country.  This shameful claim could not be further from the truth.

No one ever bothers to explain how our freedom and democracy are at risk in some obscure little country halfway around the world.  That’s because the sad and dirty truth is that wars are fought for empire and the financial gain of the few.

I yearn for peace planet wide and I continue to do all that I might to ensure global harmony.  Each weekend, I take to the streets to protest the war, just as I did today.  The pilgrimage began years ago, before the first bomb struck the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Since then much to my chagrin, many innocents, soldier, and civilians have died, all in the name of terrorism.  Americans, allied forces, and citizens of the Middle East.  It is a challenge for me to understand; who is the fanatic, the foe, the revolutionary, or the rebel.  I know not who fights for freedom and democracy, who occupies, or who liberates.  For me, if we resort to killing we are as savages.  War and combat are incomprehensible to me.  Yet, I long to understand.

“Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”
~ Thomas Edison [Scientist, Inventor]

Soldiers on active duty and off, also struggle to grasp the greater significance.  Some warriors resent persons such as I, or what they believe to be my intention, my presumed purpose, or me.  Just as those at the peace protest thought the soldiers on the calm city street in America might approach me with resentment or judgment, some of the troops feel support expressed by dissenters is shallow. Five Iraq War veterans spoke of their return to American life to editors of The New York Times.

Q: Are we mature enough as a country to thank those who risk their lives on our behalf while voicing our outrage at the actions of the politicians who put them in harm’s way?

Michael Jernigan: To people who support the troops but not the war – that is your right. But remember there was someone holding a gun who fought so you can have that right. It is tough for me to smile when someone tells me that they support our troops but feel the war is wrong.  I stand there and smile and say, “Thank you for sharing your feelings.” I think people say that because it makes them feel better to say it, but they really mean, “Thank you for your service, but really you are an idiot for following that insane president.” It makes me feel belittled.  I do not want to hear it.  I was a corporal in the United States Marine Corps and I do not make policy so save it for your congressman.

Perception is the truest reality and I believe it is the reason we war.  I could have surmised that the soldiers were warmongers, fighters, aggressors, ready to attack and antagonize me.  However, that conclusion would be contrary to my basic belief: people are good.  I have faith, in the human form, we each error.  Emotions cannot be easily understood or controlled.  Often, what we feel, what we think true, rules us.  Then, later, with regret for what we have thought or done, we rationalize.

This week, as I listened to a National Public Radio interview A Soldier’s Journey from Iraq to Grad School, I realized again, the power of the mind, and the role it plays in peace.

Demond Mullins spent a year in Iraq with the National Guard.  When he came back, he felt alienated and angry at what he had seen and done in the war.  Now Mullins has found a degree of peace in higher learning.

“Academia … that’s where I’m at,” the City University of New York grad student says.  “Right now, school, books – Weber, Marx, Durkheim – that’s my medication.”

That’s his medication now.  But if it’s true that there are seven stages of grief, it’s fair to say that Mullins is going through several stages of adjusting to his new life.

Upon his return from Iraq, Mullins hoped to resume his life as it was.  Yet, he realized this was not possible.  He was no longer the same person; his views changed.  The way Demond Mullins saw the world and considered himself had been altered.

Before he enlisted and shipped out, Demond Mullins had been a clothing model.  This romantic gentleman once followed a girl to Las Vegas.  He had plans.  Ambitious and reflective, Mullins joined the National Guard to pay for college; he did not join the armed Services to fight.  Yet, that is what he did.

when he tried to resume it, Mullins’ old friends kept asking questions, like “What was it like when you shot someone?”

“I don’t know,” he says. “My experiences are not pornography for my friends or for anyone else. I use the word pornography because I feel like it is just the … exploitation of my personal experiences for someone else’s entertainment.”

Mullins says he either ignored the question “or I would just say, ‘You know, I don’t want to talk about things like that’ or just say, ‘I didn’t shoot anybody or whatever.'”

‘Stressed Out and on the Edge’
He says he’s not sure if he did shoot and kill anybody, though he knows exactly what he did at close range.

“I dehumanized people,” Mullins says.  “I don’t even know how many raids I did while I was there.  But during raids you’re throwing them up against the wall, you’re tying their hands behind their back, you’re dragging them out of the bed.  You’re dehumanizing them in front of their wives and their kids and, you know, the women are crying and the children are crying and you’re just like, whatever.  Put a bag over their head or blindfold, drag them into the Humvee.

“Certain exhibitions of violence on my part that were probably unnecessary – were definitely unnecessary.  But I was really stressed out and on edge at the time and I conducted myself . . .  like that.”

When he returned from Iraq, Mullins says he felt angry at himself. He broke up with his girlfriend.  He spent days in his apartment.

“Staring at the wall.  Not eating.  I lost about 15 to 20 pounds,” he says. “My friends still look at me and like, ‘What happened to you?'”

Mullins says he was depressed to the point of being suicidal.  Two of his friends have died since their return from Iraq, including one who shot himself in the face, Mullins says.

“To me, that would be the only way that I was capable of doing it because it was fast and it was a tool that I was very familiar with,” he says.

Mullins got counseling from the Department of Veterans Affairs.  He didn’t like it and didn’t want to take medication.

He managed to resume college, get a degree and move on to graduate school.

However, the path Demond Mullins took had many twists and turns.  Initially, he immersed himself in his anger.  Then dedicated to a cause, Demond took action and protested the war.  Mullins appeared in an anti-war documentary called The Ground Truth.

“When I first started anti-war activism, it was because I felt guilty,” Mullins says.  “Because I’d meet people, especially a lot of civilians on the street, and they say, ‘Oh, thank you for your service. Thank you for protecting America.’  Like, what are you talking about? I wasn’t protecting America.  I was protecting myself and my buddy, you know?”

After Mullins participated in the film, he felt less of a need to speak out.

And by this semester at graduate school, most of his fellow students and at least one of his professors had no idea of his background.

Demond Mullins is now more reflective, philosophical, and aware. He knows, to authentically assess America and this society, he must study.

Perhaps, the servicemen I watched stroll from car to car on this day, were on a similar journey.  Perchance, later, after we all finished our work we would speak, not as peace protestor and participants in war, but as people.  For now, they had a job to do as did I.  Interestingly, in the abstract we each were motivated by peace.

As I interacted with those in vehicles as they passed I continued to ponder.  I am close to numerous Veterans.  As friends and as fellow protestors against the current wars, I know many a Vietnam Veteran. 

One noble and honorably discharged soldier, whom I first met in cyberspace, again dedicates himself to his country.  Jerry Northington aspires to be the Congressional Representative from Delaware.  As one who fought in country, he understands the woes of warfare.

Family members engaged in battle during World War II.  A nephew is off about to depart for Basic Training.  Jason joined the Marines.  I cannot imagine what his future holds.  Will Jason be injured.  Will he return whole, if at all.  What will my nineteen year young nephew see, hear, and feel.  Will he be willing or able to discuss such an ordeal.  I am certain what I have been told by those once there on the frontlines is true.  War is not pretty.  A soldier cannot fully explain what he or she witness.  Combat is experienced.  It scars the spirit and deprives a man of his senses.

Soldier describes killing unarmed Iraqi
One of three members of sniper team accused of murder makes a tearful confession during testimony in the court-martial of a colleague.
By Ned Parker
Los Angeles Times
September 28, 2007

BAGHDAD – U.S. Army Sgt. Evan Vela spoke in a low voice Thursday at the court-martial for his fellow soldier.  Tears slid down the 23-year-old’s cheeks and the judge prompted him to talk louder.

On May 11, Vela’s sniper team had detained an Iraqi man near Jarf Sakhr, Vela testified.  Staff Sgt. Michael A. Hensley undid the ropes that had pinned the prisoner’s arms and asked Vela whether he was ready, he said.

The dark-haired Idaho native told the court he wasn’t sure what his superior meant at the time.  Vela said Hensley cradled the Iraqi’s head, straightened his headdress, then moved away from Vela, who gripped a 9-millimeter pistol.

“I heard the word ‘shoot.’ I don’t remember pulling the trigger.  I just came to and the guy was dead. It took me a second to realize the shot came from the pistol in my hand,” Vela said.

Vela is one of three soldiers from the same sniper team who are accused of premeditated murder in three shootings this spring.  Their cases have provided a picture of mentally exhausted troops and the role they allegedly played in a “baiting program,” in which snipers are believed to have planted fake weapons and bomb-making materials, then killed anyone who picked them up.

The alleged tactic was revealed in a hearing in July that eventually sent Hensley and Spc. Jorge G. Sandoval Jr. to face court-martial on murder charges.  The Pentagon refuses to speak publicly about baiting or other such tactics, but insists that military practices are within the law.

“My client is no murderer.  He is a victim,” said James Culp, Vela’s civilian defense attorney, who suspects that baiting contributed to the slaying of the Iraqi man on May 11.

We are all victims of war and those that command young men and women to shoot another being.  Enemies, as nameless and faceless as we wish them to be are as we are.  They are humans, with hearts and souls.  Minds can be manipulated for a moment or for months.  People persuaded or unduly influenced to do as they would never have done may commit crimes.  Emotions can evoke feelings of fright that cause us to temporarily separate ourselves from our greater wisdom.  However, after any of us does the unthinkable, we are left with the memories.  Overtime, we reflect on the meaning.  Perhaps that is why those that fought in battles are often less likely to resort to combat.

There must be a lesson, a means to communicate the tragedy of war before we engage.  For now, I can only propose what I envisioned as a child.  As I reflect on the story, The Truce of Christmas, A Silent Night 1914, I understand the power of true knowledge.  When people stop and listen to the hearts of others, not the harangue of irrational “intellectualizations,” they learn to love.  When we see strangers as similar to us, we cannot kill.  Indeed, we connect to the commonality that is humankind. 

Hence, I believe, world leaders must face each other alone in a room for more than a moment.  The argumentative among us must eat and sleep with those they disagree with.  Perhaps, if the need to compete overwhelms those in power, they might arrange a chess tournament.  A “war game” played on a checkered board might relieve the angst some feel when they argue.  Thoughtful battles would do far less harm.  Physical and financial wounds would be less severe.  This is but a thought.  I trust there are infinite opportunities to connect that we might consider.  Unquestionably, there must be a better way to learn the lessons of war before a soldier loses a limb.

Jonathan Bartlett, one of 25,000 military persons injured during the Iraq war speaks of his trauma and trials.  When Bartlett was a 19-year-old Army Corporal his truck hit a bomb on a road near Fallujah.  That was three years ago.  The explosion blew off both of his legs.  Today, he appears in a Home Box Office [HBO] documentary titled Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq.  In an interview with Vanity Fair Columnist Austin Merrill, Jonathon shares the conflict within.  He explains how the battle has just begun, or perhaps Bartlett plainly states how the battle never ends.  Merrill inquires . . .

At one point in the film you say that you’d do it all over again. Then later you say that if given your legs back, you’d move on to do something else. 

[Jonathon Bartlett] replies] I would do it all over again if I went back to the age of 18 and they told me, you’re going to join the army.  I’d say yes.  But if they gave me new legs tomorrow, I wouldn’t go back.  I was 18 and idealistic and naïve and uninformed, and I didn’t know how the world works.  Now I’m 22 and idealistic and naïve, but I do know how the world works.  And I’m not going to go fight in a war that’s so badly run, that some people don’t give a [expletive] about.  There’s just so much bad [expletive] going on in this war.  I don’t want any part of it.

Yet, Bartlett goes on to clarify for him the problem with this war is not the warriors.  It is the leaders.  Jonathon Bartlett is angry with the Commander-In-Chief and his Cabinet.  This soldier believes the nation’s leaders did not have a plan.  The soldiers were well trained.  He was a good trooper.

I was good at being a soldier. I say that with no shame or no boasting. I was good at being a soldier.  Mostly because I enjoyed it.

What does being a good soldier mean, exactly?

I could shoot straight, I could ride true, and I could speak the truth.  I could fight, I could think.  I took care of my stuff.  I took care of my vehicles.  I looked the part all the time, which is very important.  I knew how to talk, which gets you in trouble.  I knew how to work the system. I knew how to acquire things.  I could take care of my buddies.

Bartlett believes the Bush Administration is at fault, not the soldiers.  On this, we would agree.  However, when asked of peace protesters and retired Generals that speak out against the conflict he offers a view that befuddles me.

How do you feel when you see people rallying for or protesting against the war?
I think all of them have a massive disrespect for the soldiers who are over there, because they do not understand.  They have no [expletive] clue.  We don’t have a choice.  As soon as you sign that paper and swear that oath, we do not have a choice.  We go wherever the hell the president and the generals tell us to.  People who say if you’re against this war you’re against the soldiers are displaying their ignorance.  Most people don’t understand.  They just don’t get it.  You know how many times I’ve been asked by some stupid person, some civilian, how many people did you kill?  You don’t ask a soldier that.  I was a trained killer.  That was my job, man.  Somebody has to do it.  Being a soldier is a job.

What do you think of the retired generals who have come out against the war?  Is that a betrayal??
No!  It’s good!  They should have been doing that [expletive] when they were still in. I don’t think it’s a betrayal.  These generals understand that they have soldiers on the line.  The best generals are those who know what it means to be a troopie.  A ground pounder.  A supply clerk.  This administration keeps throwing people at a problem and expecting it to fix it.  It’s not how things are done.  You have to give them a plan.  You have to lead them.  And these generals understand that.  The president does not.  The president doesn’t have a [expletive] clue.

The clue may be cryptic and not part of our conscious mind.  As I stood at the corner, I thought the soldiers were on a peaceful mission.  Fellow dissenters were certain there might be a confrontation.

Our view of others and ourselves provides, perspective.  Perceptions are profoundly altered.  Jonathon Bartlett has long believed military service was in his blood. His mother and father were each in the Navy.  Jonathon was trained to protect, defend, and kill, and to consider each of these options tantamount.  The young man trusts that Generals understand this.  Yet, Mister Bartlett believes there must be a strategy if a mass massacre is to be effective.

Perhaps, that is the paradox.  We coach our young to be combative.  As a culture, we do not expect world harmony.  We do not believe it can exist. 

We must acknowledge and accept, what each of us believes affects our idea of war, peace, perpetrators, and protestors.  An experience may cause us to blame, to frame friends and foes in a manner that does not make sense to others.

As I reflect on the words of Jonathon Bartlett, I am confused.  While critical of those that demonstrate in favor of global accord, Private Bartlett also believes the individuals that think protestors are against the soldiers are in error.  The Iraq war Veteran reasons, military leaders must speak out, stand strong, and stress ”we need a plan.  The dichotomy befuddles.  Perchance, another soldier explained the circumstances best.  Sandi Austin discussed her view of the peace protestors.

For the most part, I feel that the majority of anti-war activists focus on our political leaders and not the soldiers.  Driving by the anti-war protests I usually see signs the relay messages in support of the troops, but opposing the cause.  Perhaps if I still wore a uniform I would feel differently, I might get glares or comments, but because I too am a civilian, I haven’t faced any hostility or felt unappreciated on a regular basis.

I wonder.  When people go to war, do they flail at uniforms and forget that a person inhabits the clothing?  Might appearances motivate us to engage in battle?  As I reflect on the day, I realize, I could have reacted to the olive green and khaki camouflage fabric.  The shaved heads, the American flags, the military garb  . . . I might have been offended.  If I had done as advised, I would have kept a distance.  The servicemen might have concluded I did not understand.  They too could have chosen to do other than they did. War, on a small scale may have ensued.  Instead, each of us gave peace a chance.

Imagine if world leaders chose not to presume, assume, suppose or surmise, if soldiers were not sent off into battle, if we established a Department of Peace and left the Defense Department behind.  I can dream and act in accordance.

Perceptions; The Promise of Peace . . .

  • “I came over here because I wanted to kill people.” By Andrew Tilghman. Washington Post. Sunday, July 30, 2006; Page B01
  • pdf “I came over here because I wanted to kill people.” By Andrew Tilghman. Washington Post. Sunday, July 30, 2006; Page B01
  • Do You Know Enough to Enlist?  Youth and Militarism.
  • Home Fires. Questions and Answers: Views From Veterans.  The New York Times. November 10, 2007
  • Soldier describes killing unarmed Iraqi, By Ned Parker.  Los Angeles Times. September 28, 2007
  • pdf Soldier describes killing unarmed Iraqi, By Ned Parker.  Los Angeles Times. September 28, 2007
  • One Veteran’s Story, By Austin Merrill.  Vanity Fair. August 20, 2007
  • American Military Casualties in Iraq.
  • Military recruiters target schools strategically, By Charlie Savage.  Boston Globe. November 29, 2004
  • pdf Military recruiters target schools strategically, By Charlie Savage.  Boston Globe. November 29, 2004
  • A Soldier’s Journey from Iraq to Grad School, By Steve Inskeep.  All Things Considered.  National Public Broadcasting. November 14, 2007
  • pdf A Soldier’s Journey from Iraq to Grad School, By Steve Inskeep.  All Things Considered.  National Public Broadcasting. November 14, 2007
  • The Ground Truth.
  • Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq.  Home Box Office [HBO].
  • The Truce of Christmas, 1914. By Thomas Vinciguerra.  The New York Times. December 25, 2005
  • pdf The Truce of Christmas, 1914. By Thomas Vinciguerra.  The New York Times. December 25, 2005
  • Memorial Day. Honoring War and the Fallen? Not Peace and Life

    (The ceremonies and celebrations are over. The festivities are complete. We await the next holiday weekend. Perhaps, in the interim we might reflect. – promoted by Betsy L. Angert)

    Sam Keen on War

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Granted on this a day en memoriam we might discuss the military record of our Commander-In-Chief.  We could quibble about his service and his unwillingness to sacrifice his life for this nation.  We might speak of the Vice President and his own hesitancy to enlist.  Perhaps a focus on their folly would be wise; however futile.  These men did as they did and do as they do.  We will not change that through our rants.  Our rage will not alter the world.  Reflection on the topic of war might help begin a transformation.  However, perhaps, contemplation, a conversation, and a concentration on peace are best.

    I listen to those that speak in praise of the men and women that serve, defend, and protect this country in battle.  I wonder and inquire.  Are we honoring the fallen in these traditional ceremonies, or do we revere combat.  The President of the United States stands before a nation in mourning and states . . .

    Today we honor the warriors who fought our nation’s enemies, defended the cause of liberty, and gave their lives in the cause of freedom.  We offer our love and our heartfelt compassion to the families who mourn them.  We pray that our country may always prove worthy of the sacrifices they made.

    Earlier on the Memorial Day weekend, Vice President Cheney, while delivering a commencement address empathically declared.

    ?We?re fighting a war on terror because the enemy attacked us first, and hit us hard.?

    Our leaders make claims that we accept as valid.  Yet, as I ponder I think otherwise.  I muse.  One country, one community, or an individual cannot intimidate another and think peace will prosper.  Bullying does not eliminate bullying.  Nor can a person, political system, or an armed force enter an engagement, believing that the other is an adversary and expect love will grow, 

    In truth, I do not understand why we might consider another being our opponent.  The mere use of the term creates conflict.  Differences will forever exist between powers or persons.  We can learn from these or chose war.  If we choose to kill, those that disagree with us nothing will be resolved .

    A massacre, no matter the dimension will destroy any possibility of peace. Rationally, realistically combat does little to secure a nation or the globe.  Perhaps, temporarily, we have bathed in illusions of harmony.  Nevertheless, there has never been a Sea of Tranquility on Earth.  Oh, were there one, a permanent respite.

    However, man continues to become enraged and then violently engage.  The cycle is familiar and comfortable although quite contrary to the preferred conclusion.  We persist, then venerate the behavior. 

    Intellectually we accept, slaughter is terrifying regardless of who does the deed.  Murder is never correct, Assassination does not endear the killer to his, or her loved ones.  Nor will shooting help to spread or preserve a particular philosophy, even one declared democratic. 

    Freedom, fairness, and the prospect of equal participation in government evolve when people choose to live in concert.  These qualities cannot be forcefully imposed upon an anxious public. 

    Firing a missile at my home, scolding my family, or waving a gun at me will not demonstrate you have my best interests at heart.  These are characteristics of war; they do not promote, prompt, protect, or preserve the peace.  There is no tranquility when threats are made and acted on.  Can any of us truly claim, ‘Might makes right’ or two wrongs will cure all ills.

    Mister Cheney postures we must fight for we were attacked.  I inquire.  Does it matter who was the first to strike a blow.  I surmise that any show of aggression breeds another.  If there is an initial incursion, it will not be a last.  Violence begets violence.  Brutality builds on itself.  An inescapable energy is generated when we fuel the fire.

    At times, the catalyst does not cause death.  More often than not, an assault is the result of ample unrest.  Distress is deep when repeated reactive practices, policies, and procedures are ratified.  Without thoughtful attention, anxiety increases.  However, the person or people in power justify their prerogatives.  Rationalizations pass for reason.  The assailant believes they have grounds for a fight. 

    If, as you cogitate international events this principle is not apparent, then consider what occurs within your home, on the streets, and in your community.  If a family member brutally reprimands, or criticizes with great contempt the recipient of this rebuke rarely respond by saying, “You are correct.  What was I thinking?”  An individual walking down the street, when approached by another pedestrian yelling “Get out of my way you blankety-blank” does not usually happily stand aside.  Nor do they feel as though the request was polite.  Few if any are honored when, thankfully, or abruptly pushed aside. 

    Wars, combat, and conflict in the fields are as those elsewhere.  They frequently establish fissures too vast to fill. 

    Suppressed emotions, resentment ultimately rises to the surface.  The concealed is ultimately revealed.  A wounded animal, man, or beast will lash out, rather than allow another to control them.  Those that live outside a country cannot change regimes.  Soldiers armed with bayonets cannot calm a civilization destroyed by the bullets and bombs military men and women bear.  The emergence of war is inevitable when one entity tells another how to live.

    Characteristically, revenge, retribution, and retaliation are classified as a means towards peace; at least our Administration posits this myth.  We may fight our forebears as we did during the Revolution, our brother, or neighbor as we did in the Civil War, or we may war with our former friends.  Please name the battle of your choice.  Nonetheless, fighters and civilians alike are doomed to death when we war.

    For seven generations, we have carried our fallen to these fields.  Here rest some 360,000 Americans who died fighting to preserve the Union and end slavery. Here rest some 500,000 Americans who perished in two world wars to conquer tyrannies and build free nations from their ruins. Here rest some 90,000 Americans who gave their lives to confront Communist aggression in places such as Korea and Vietnam.

    An antagonist provokes, and then voices surprise or joy when the injured party fights back.  In some weird warped world, one or the other person committing a transgression truly thinks that violence will alleviate the anxiety.  Clearly, in a cloud of smoke, as the guns blaze, we trust that if we assert our position, all will be well.  Those that oppose us will say, “Certainly,  you are correct.”  Rarely if ever does that occur.  Everyone believes that they know best, especially for the other individual [or country.]

    Nonetheless, in an attempt to defend a self-righteous stance Vice President, Richard [Dick] Cheney asserts we must stay the course for

    ?Nobody can guarantee that we won?t be hit again.?

    Oh, Mister Cheney, do you not recognize, we will be battered if we continue to beat another down.  One blow creates a supposed need for the next.  Each hit will be worse than the last.

    For me, the foolishness is found in reckless rationalizations.  Might we cease talk of war for a moment and consider the concept of “enemy.” 

    I have no foes, no rivals, or adversaries.  I do not believe in the concept.  It is my assertion that those that wish to do us harm do so for they fear us, the unknown, as much as we are frightened by them.  As long as we presume one person is an alien, an opponent, or a stranger they will be.  Often apprehension is the catalyst for chaos. 

    At times, it is not angst that leads us into battle; it is arrogance.  If we haughtily proclaim our superiority, and proclaim with pride, ‘We have rights, or we are right’ while violating the civil liberties of others, then wrongs will be realized.  Reprisal is the consequence of such a declaration and decisive stance.

    Nonetheless, thinking we know and are best, we travel abroad, gather our guns, and spill the guts of young and old on battlefields in the name of freedom, democracy, and [“just us”] justice for all.  Then we allege we are brave.

    Our nation is free because of brave Americans like these, who volunteer to confront our adversaries abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.

    I wonder whether we are emancipated or valiant.  The soldiers that serve and those fallen are indeed courageous.  For they accepted positions knowing these might sadly lead to their demise.  They trusted in higher powers.  Servicemen and women went beyond the call of duty in giving of their life, limbs, and vision.  Enlistees had faith that they were protecting their families; they were fighting for a just cause.  However, perhaps these premises are not valid.

    Are we truly liberated if we are bound by antediluvian beliefs.?  Might we consider that we cannot preach peace when we claim to have enemies.  The concepts are in conflict.

    In 2006, our President proclaimed . . .

    Our nation mourns the loss of our men and women in uniform; we will honor them by completing the mission for which they gave their lives — by defeating the terrorists, by advancing the cause of liberty, and by laying the foundation of peace for a generation of young Americans.

    The President received applause.  Yet, I know not why. 

    We can never complete a mission that requires military might.  We fought many wars to end all others; however, the fire never ceases.  For as long as we believe another is our foe, there will be conflict.  If we consider our neighbor a terrorist, and do not acknowledge that likewise, we threaten them, that the avenger and the prey are often one and the same, nothing will ever change.

    I invite each of us to grieve the corporeal losses while realizing these need never be again.  If we accept that our fellow global citizen could be as we are, that he or she might share our aspirations, frustrations, and concerns then this nameless, faceless, fiend could become a friend.  Were we merely to extend our hand, hold his, and look at her face we might see their soul shining through.

    Sadly, we do not.  On this Memorial Day, May 28, 2007, President George W. Bush proclaims as many before him have.

    Our duty is to ensure that its outcome justifies the sacrifices made by those who fought and died in it.  From their deaths must come a world where the cruel dreams of tyrants and terrorists are frustrated and foiled — where our nation is more secure from attack, and where the gift of liberty is secured for millions who have never known it.

    Once more I can only sigh and surrender as we honor war and not the warrior.  Might we remember there is no security to be found through murder, malice, and malevolence.  Massacre does not ensure safety.  Indeed, it threatens the possibility. 

    Each day we watch the death toll mount.  More and more Americans, allied forces, and innocent Iraqis fall.  The number of insurgents increases.  The violence intensifies and we are told failure is not an option.  It is not; it is the truth, a reality that need not be.

    Let us give rise to the reason for lives lost.  May we work towards authentic peace.  Might we recognize that as long as we believe in the notion of an enemy, we will have them.  If we think war an option, we will engage in battle.  The perception ‘Might makes right’ will breed wrong.  There is no equality, justice, or freedom for all when the strong set out to prove they are powerful.  As a nation, we often ask . . .

    May God Bless the Untied States of America.

    Perhaps we must concede that the Almighty commends only those that love all others equally.  Unless and until citizens of this country act honorably, we will be no more blessed than any of the other combative creature is.  We may request the support of a greater being; however, I believe appreciation will only be bestowed upon those that act lovingly.  Waging war will not bring peace; nor do I think G-d blesses this brutality.

    Rationalizing War and Peace.  Resources . . .

  • We were Soldiers Once? Bush War Record. Mother Jones.
  • Elizabeth Cheney, Deferment Baby, How Dick Cheney Dodged the Vietnam Draft.  By Timothy Noah.  Slate Magazine. Thursday, March 18, 2004
  • Vice President’s Remarks at the United States Military Academy Commencement.  West Point, New York.  Office of the Vice President.
  • Bush Pays Tribute to Fallen U.S. Troops, By Sheryl Gay Stolberg.  The New York Times. May 28, 2007
  • pdf Bush Pays Tribute to Fallen U.S. Troops, By Sheryl Gay Stolberg.  The New York Times. May 28, 2007
  • President Bush Honors Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery.  Office of the President.  May 29, 2006
  • President Bush Commemorates Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery.  Office of the President.  May 28, 2007
  • Dear Mister Bush, Strengthen Your Surge! ©

    Dear All . . .

    I apologize for my recent absence.  I was traveling.  I thought about flying to Iraq and personally participating in what President George W. Bush does not and has not.  I entertained the thought of fighting the Bush battle.  I considered doing what the Bush boy never has, taking a more active interest in our troops, the trauma of war, and the effects of violent engagement.  However, I am a person of peace.  I practice as I preach.  You will not find me in places where physical violence is considered the measure of the man or woman.

    Thus, my trip was a loving journey.  I was with family and friends in the United States.  Some are suffering; I needed to be here with them, touching them tenderly as only a human can.  I wish President George W. Bush had done and would do the same.  I sigh with deep sorrow as I ponder the possibility.

    When I returned home I discovered a letter in my mailbox.  Michael Moore wrote to the President of the United States. 

    My friend Michael thought I might enjoy his musings.  I do.  I too will write to the President if he travels afar and joins forces with those that support him.  For clearly, I will not be among them.  Mister Moore proposes President Bush send to those that believe in surge to Iraq.

    Dear Mr. President: Send Even MORE Troops (and you go, too!)

    Wednesday, January 10th, 2007?
    Dear Mr. President,

    Thanks for your address to the nation. It’s good to know you still want to talk to us after how we behaved in November.

    Listen, can I be frank? Sending in 20,000 more troops just ain’t gonna do the job. That will only bring the troop level back up to what it was last year. And we were losing the war last year! We’ve already had over a million troops serve some time in Iraq since 2003. Another few thousand is simply not enough to find those weapons of mass destruction! Er, I mean… bringing those responsible for 9/11 to justice! Um, scratch that. Try this — BRING DEMOCRACY TO THE MIDDLE EAST! YES!!!

    You’ve got to show some courage, dude! You’ve got to win this one! C’mon, you got Saddam! You hung ‘im high! I loved watching the video of that — just like the old wild west! The bad guy wore black! The hangmen were as crazy as the hangee! Lynch mobs rule!!!

    Look, I have to admit I feel very sorry for the predicament you’re in. As Ricky Bobby said, “If you’re not first, you’re last.” And you being humiliated in front of the whole world does NONE of us Americans any good.

    Sir, listen to me. You have to send in MILLIONS of troops to Iraq, not thousands! The only way to lick this thing now is to flood Iraq with millions of us! I know that you’re out of combat-ready soldiers — so you have to look elsewhere! The only way you are going to beat a nation of 27 million — Iraq — is to send in at least 28 million! Here’s how it would work:

    The first 27 million Americans go in and kill one Iraqi each. That will quickly take care of any insurgency. The other one million of us will stay and rebuild the country. Simple.

    Now, I know you’re saying, where will I find 28 million Americans to go to Iraq? Here are some suggestions:

    1. More than 62,000,000 Americans voted for you in the last election (the one that took place a year and half into a war we already knew we were losing). I am confident that at least a third of them would want to put their body where their vote was and sign up to volunteer. I know many of these people and, while we may disagree politically, I know that they don’t believe someone else should have to go and fight their fight for them — while they hide here in America.
    2. Start a “Kill an Iraqi” Meet-Up group in cities across the country. I know this idea is so early-21st century, but I once went to a Lou Dobbs Meet-Up and, I swear, some of the best ideas happen after the third mojito. I’m sure you’ll get another five million or so enlistees from this effort.

    3. Send over all members of the mainstream media. After all, they were your collaborators in bringing us this war — and many of them are already trained from having been “embedded!” If that doesn’t bring the total to 28 million, then draft all viewers of the FOX News channel.

    Mr. Bush, do not give up! Now is not the time to pull your punch! Don’t be a weenie by sending in a few over-tired troops. Get your people behind you and YOU lead them in like a true commander in chief! Leave no conservative behind! Full speed ahead!

    We promise to write. Go get ’em W!

    Michael Moore

    Perhaps we might initiate a writing campaign.  Let the President know that we stand behind him.  Surge Mister President, and do it boldly.  Blaze your saddles; hum those Hummers.  Hunt for Osama and please do not get hurt.  War is “tough,” but we will be pulling for you!

    Cindy’s Coalition Broadens; The Bush Brigade is Dissolving ©


    They buried their son on Monday August 15, 2005; they mourned for a day more.  Then, the parents of fallen soldier, Marine Lance Corporal Edward Schroeder II, spoke out.  They meet with the press, on Tuesday, August 16. Through the media, Paul Schroeder and his wife Rosemary Palmer pleaded with the President.  They said, Please “send more reinforcements to Iraq or withdraw U.S. troops altogether.”

    Ms. Palmer spoke tearfully.  Irritably she stated, Mr. President “We feel you either have to fight this war right or get out.”  The soldier’s father expressed his belief; his son and other Marines are “being misused as a stabilizing force in Iraq.”  Mr. Schroeder continued, “Our comments are not just those of grieving parents.  They are based on anger, Mr. President, not grief.

    Anger is an honest emotion when someone’s family has been violated.” His wife added accusingly the idea of “staying the course is” is rigid and not realistic.  The mother said the “war has gone bad.”  America’s young are dying.  She offered “Whether he leads them out by putting more troops on the ground or pulling them out – he can’t just let it continue.” Nevertheless, the President does.

    When asked of the Schroeder-Palmer remarks, the office of our Commander-and-Chief said he declines to comment.  The White House reminded the press and the public that the President addressed this issue last week.  Allen Abney, administration spokesman offered, Baby Bush stands by his earlier statements.  He will do as Rosemary Palmer declared he could not, he will carry on the war effort just as he has.

    For the Commander-and-Chief, the Schroeder’s be damned.  Cindy Sheehan, the mother of fallen soldier Casey Sheehan be cursed, all those that support a change in strategy, according to the President, know nothing.  Yet, these know nothings are growing in numbers.  They are building a broad coalition; the Bush alliance is disbanding.

    Since August 7, 2005, Mrs. Sheehan has been holding vigil.  She is waiting for the President to speak with her, not as he did in June 2004 when she was one of many, merely the “Mom” of a fallen soldier.  She wants a genuine meeting, a give and take; she is not interested in obligatory gestures.  She stands strong in protest, just outside the Bush Ranch in Crawford, Texas.  Support for Cindy Sheehan is growing.

    [Tonight, candlelight vigils are being held throughout the country for Cindy and Casey Sheehan.]

    In the recent media meet with Paul Schroeder and Rosemary Palmer, the couple spoke of Mrs. Sheehan.  They stated, “We consider her the Rosa Parks of the new movement opposing the Iraq war.”  Sheehan, the Schroeder-Palmer family, and other military families are uniting.  They are joining the activists and the peaceniks.  As casualties are mount as American boys and girls come home in body bags, a new coalition gains ground.  This one asks for peace, demands action, and does not promote greater aggression.

    Families such as the Schroeder and the Sheehan’s want the President and the Pentagon to present an exit strategy, to propose a new plan. For these families and for others, it is clear, the current policy is flawed; it is not working.  Daily deaths in Iraq are evidence of this.

    The parents of young Edward, young Casey, and the parents, wives, sons, and daughters of other American soldiers believe, the battle was bad; though it was not as awful as victory. The President declared the war a “success” in May 2003.  However, since that date, more soldiers have been killed.  The slaughter increases each and every day.

    Currently, there is greater rebellion, greater strife, and less unity in Iraq.  The elections did not bring democracy as the President proclaimed; they brought division.  Americans are beginning to realize this.  They see the war on their televisions; they read of the rebellion in their newspapers, and, most importantly, as the bodies of their beautiful babies arrive home in flag draped coffins, they know that this war was not worth the effort. The toll is too high.

    Citizens in the United States are waking up.  They accept reports that the administration lied. The public now believes that we entered the war on false pretenses.  There were no Weapons of Mass Destruction.  We the people of the United States were led to believe that Saddam Hussein attacked the World Trade Towers and that he was the enemy.  However, they learned.  He was not the man behind the attacks.  King George II knew this all along.  He lied.

    In recent months, polls show that US citizens wants out of this war. Nearly three-quarters of Americans think the number of casualties in Iraq is “unacceptable.”  Six in 10 say the war was not worth fighting. More than four in 10 believe the US presence in Iraq is becoming analogous to the experience in Vietnam. Perhaps most portentous for President Bush, 52 percent said war in Iraq has not contributed to the long-term security of this nation.  America is not safer.

    See The Washington Post Poll Finds Dimmer View of Iraq War, by Dana Milbank and Claudia Deane

    Not only are citizens in this country rejecting the war and expressing a desire to leave, those in other nations are as well.  In other nations, the people spoke out sooner and leaders heeded the calls.

    After the bombings is Madrid on March 11, 2004, the people of Spain protested loudly.  Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero took action.  The Spanish leader pulled troops out of Iraq in April 2004.

    On November 4, 2004, Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany made an announcement.  He too, declared withdraw.  All 300 Hungarian troops stationed in Iraq would exit by the end of March 2005.

    Poland announced several weeks earlier, it would start to reduce its 2,500-strong contingent in January 2005.  The Polish were considering a complete withdrawal by the end of year.

    On the same day that the Schroeder-Palmer family spoke of the need for an exit strategy, the main opposition party in Japan declared their own. The party leaders stated, should they win the upcoming election, they too will plan a pullout from Iraq.

    Italy has stated that they will withdraw from Iraq. The Italian government plans to begin removing troops in September 2005.  Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told Rai state television the pullout would take place “in agreement with our allies”.  Italian forces comprise the forth-largest foreign contingent in the US coalition.  They have 3,000 troops in this war-torn nation.

    There have long been rumors that the United Kingdom is considering an exit.  The majority of people in the UK have never supported the Iraq war.  Millions were protesting on the streets of London before Bush/Blair released the first bomb.

    In truth, the Broad Coalition that Bush spoke of never existed. Ivo H. Daalder, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Studies wrote of this in the Brookings Daily War Report, March 24, 2003.  In his exposé titled, The Coalition That Isn’t, Daalder, offered,

    Take the list coalition countries the White House is updating daily. Sure, there are some important allies aside from Britain?”notably Japan, South Korea, Spain, and Italy as well as number of “new” Europeans. Only three countries of these allies are actually contributing combat troops and capabilities (2,000 Australian troops, a Danish submarine and naval escort, and 200 Polish troops and refueling ship)?”all in all less than one percent of the total number of troops in the region. The rest of the list is a motley crew of supporters?”including such powerhouses as Afghanistan, Albania, Macedonia, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau.

    No, the big-bad-broad-coalition never was, and with time, the sham of it will no longer be.  Each day it becomes leaner, not meaner.  However, fortunately, the true coalition is building; it is growing behind parents such as Cindy Sheehan, Paul Schroeder, and his wife Rosemary Palmer.  May the coalition for peace be our guide and just as in the childhood rhyme, may the big “cheese” stand, alone.

    I refer you to an excellent resource.  The Global Policy Forum.

    Wikipedia, Multinational force in Iraq, is also a good source of information.

    US and Coalition Troops in Iraq, June 2005 offers an interesting story.

    Possibly the best resource is IRAQ INDEX, Tracking Reconstruction and Security, in Post-Saddam Iraq, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, The Booking Institute may be the best resource.  The following statistics are taken from this source.

    As of May 6 – June 15, 2005
    • US 150,000
    • United Kingdom 8,000
    • South Korea 3,600
    • Italy 3,000
    • Poland 1,700
    • Ukraine 1,650
    • Georgia 850
    • Romania 800
    • Japan 550
    • Denmark 530
    • Bulgaria 400
    • Australia 400
    • Remaining 17 coalition countries 1,520

    Update . . . You may wish to visit MaxSpeak. On Thursday, August 18, 2005, he wrote of another call for withdraws from Iraq.  Wisconsin Senator, Russ Feingold, made this request. Max muses; will this be the position of others in the 2008 election. Please read 08.