Exit Strategy or Essentially Endless?


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

This world in arms is not spending money alone.  

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

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

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

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

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

~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WAR is a racket. It always has been.

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

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

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

~ by Two-Time Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient

Major General Smedley D. Butler, USMC Retired

References for a Military Industrial Complex reality  . . .

We Can’t Afford to Wait

We Can’t Afford to Wait

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Only today Cable News Network aired a report that suggests most of those who want a public option health care plan are African Americans,  Persons in this population are more likely to be uninsured.  Statistics show dark skinned individuals also seem  predisposed to poor health.  News broadcaster Kyra Phillips continues.  Black people, when surveyed, say they think Mister Obama has performed well in office.  In contrast, far fewer white Americans approve of what the Obama Administration has done on the job.  Subtly, Ms Phillips reminds the audience, the current President of the United States is the nation’s first Black Commander-In-Chief.  The implication is obvious.

Yet, the tale is not necessarily as told.  Witness the stories shared in a MoveOn.org video, study the faces, and consider the situation of those who say they cannot afford to wait for health care reform,  Mostly white faces fill the screen.  

Of course, someone may surmise, this presentation was staged.  It was not.  Days ago, this author received a request to do as these individuals have done.  An electronic message was sent to millions of Americans.  The appeal was, Please share your story on a sign.  Hold the poster up and photograph yourself for all to see.  Send the snapshoot to MoveOn.org, and our organization will compile what we collect.  

Common everyday citizens responded en mass.  The people, informed of the intent saw this venture as an avenue to further their personal cause.  Each considered what was a potential presentation, perhaps the most powerful means to give voice to their message.

Here they are; real persons who openly say they cannot afford to wait for a public health care coverage option.  Be they affluent, ill, an average American, or the strong who fear for family, the plea is palpable.

Caucasian small business propitiators offer the words, “We cannot wait for affordable medical insurance coverage.”

Pink persons who had policies that were canceled once they were diagnosed with a life threatening illness tell us as a country, we have delayed a public option plan for far too long.  

Fair-haired families, forced to spend a large portion of their income on medical insurance say the nation cannot continue to over any real choice.  Coverage too costly does no one any good.  Inevitably, someone pays for the burden others bear.  Only insurance offered at a reasonable rate or free access to treatment for those who , for a time, have no funds will benefit Americans from all walks of life.

Certainly, people of every color need adequate and affordable medical treatment plans.  Americans yearn for policies that do not bar people with a pre-existing condition.  Citizens, no matter the race crave for a program that will not be canceled if they find themselves in poor health. People of all creeds cannot postpone access to pragmatically priced medical coverage.

Please pass this message on.  Send the video and the text to any Anglo who believes only the poor or brownish purplish persons burden the “phenomenal,” private, American health care system.

Read the references . . .

Myths Move On

Special Election Briefing: 5 Things You Should Know

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

MoveOn.org presents this production with a desire to seek donations.  This self-proclaimed “Progressive” organization hopes to advance the Democratic candidate, and look for dollars to do so.  In essence, MoveOn would wish the public to think that if we advocate for Barack Obama then the Party platform will be fulfilled.  As one who does not necessarily see these two entities as equivalent, I offer this audio-visual presentation more as a tool to inform than a request for a contribution.  

Might we muse of misinformation, misinterpretations, misapprehension, and misalliances.  The video mentions many.  However, the perspective is understandably skewed.  Please ponder; Democrats are not divine.  Republicans are not devoid of principles.  People, myself included, protect the points of view they trust to be true.  Frequently, this means, intentionally, humans will focus on the differences.  I am no exception.  Hence, I offer what may be my divergent views.

As one who believes war is not an option, I do not think a shift in troop deployment will bring an end to combat.  Soldiers will not be sent home if a Commander-In-Chief intends to fight a feud in Afghanistan.  I propose the public ponder; potential President Barack Obama posits, more troops are needed in yet another volatile territory.  The Illinois Senator says, American forces should have been in Afghanistan all along.  

The Illinois Senator trusts, terrorists lie in wait in Afghanistan, and America must act.  Just as John McCain asserts, Barack Obama affirms, he “will not hesitate to use military force.”  For the Democratic Presidential candidate, there is a “war we need to win.”  Sadly, his statement does not refer to a nonviolent assault on poverty.  Nor does he genuinely mean to address Universal Health Care.

MoveOn.org encourages Americans to donate to the cause.  They promise, if we work to elect Barack Obama, four years from now, all Americans will have quality Health Care.  What this group of political activists does not speak to is a stark reality for near forty-seven million.  Those who cannot afford adequate coverage now, under the Obama plan, will likely still not be able to pay for an insurance plan.  Nonetheless, MoveOn.org avows, if we are able to place Barack Obama in the Oval office, in less than 1500 days, everyone in our family, and each of our friends, could have [valuable and adequate] medical services.  The operative word is could.  

Please peruse the Health Care proposal Barack Obama puts forth.  Observe, the option to offer universal coverage is absent.  With Barack Obama in the White House, tens of millions of Americans will remain personally responsible for their medical bills.  Without funds to pay for necessary treatment, most will go without.

A clean energy economy will not be created as long as Americans are fed pabulum or petroleum.  We cannot cure an addiction to oil if “leaders” endorse policies that continue to provide the fossil fuels that have destroyed the environment.  A Presidential hopeful intent on compromise does not invite change we can believe in.  An openness to offshore drilling delays an authentic investment in renewable sources for propulsion.  

I believe, if Americans or Presidential aspirants, do not close one door, they will not likely be desperate enough to open another.  

Therefore, as I assess the plans of each of the candidates, I see few distinctions.  I do not perceive that anyone who invests in what is will solve the energy crisis.  Presidential hopeful John McCain, and Senator Obama are willing to sell an anxious public short-range solutions, ones that will ultimately cause greater harm to the planet.  Politicians on the Left and Right pander to an easily appeased populace.  The shared commitment is to the status quo.  This is not change I can believe in.

Perchance, if MoveOn.org did not advance the prescribed media message or secure the myths, I would be willing to support the activist alliance.  At present, I feel frustrated.  I was once hopeful.  There was a time when I believed.  Now, I am mired in misgivings.  

I cannot contribute to what will not bring change.  I will not call myself Progressive in name only.  

When Progressives again prefer global peace, I will return to the Party.  When the presumptive Democratic nominee proclaims an end to perpetual wars I will donate to his or her campaign.  When Universal Single Payer Not for Profit Health Care is endorsed by the political platform that was once mine, I will support the strategy.  When the Left launches policies that preserve the planet, and does not endanger species, MoveOn, I will add my name to your list.  Until Liberals chose to cause no harm to man or beast, I prefer to pour my time and money into a movement that is truly “on” point.  

For now, I perceive the Progressive agenda as one that promotes Party propaganda.  I will not advance the rhetoric.  Nor will I commit to such an unsavory campaign.  The relationship was nice while it lasted.  Now, that your organization asks funds to sponsor a myth, I must move on.

References to Move On . . .

Boca Peace Corner Participants Cultivate Harmony

MoveOn Iraq War and Recession Report Release – Boca Raton, Florida

© copyright 2008 Betsy L. Angert

“The heights by great men reached and kept

Were not attained by sudden flight,

But they, while their companions slept,

Toiled ever upward through the night.”

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Peace comes upon us without much fanfare.  Most await an announcement or seek a moment of resolve.  However, the message never comes.  In this country, in our local communities, and perchance planet wide, a small number of people acknowledge goodwill is not created in an instant.  It grows.  The transition from warfare to common welfare is invisible.  Tranquility enters; and no one stands triumphantly.  Buglers do not blow their horns.  Twenty-one guns do not salute.  Serenity is a state of being.  This is true for individuals and for the world as a whole.  Harmony, once achieved will be but a hush.   Peace grows as a tree does, from the roots up.

Those who stand at the Boca Peace Corner are among those who understand this.  They experience an evolution every Saturday between noon and one.  That is the time these devoted “gardeners” dedicate to growing an end to war.

The persons who espouse peace at the crossroads of Saint Andrews Boulevard and Glades Road are aware that the process is slow; the progression slower.  They appreciate a shift may not be seen, but it is nevertheless palpable.  Stories from grassroots activists in the Boca Raton area affirm calmness quietly creeps into existence.

The weekly South Florida vigil began with a Mom, or perhaps two.  The shared stories of Cindy Sheehan and Susan Caruso offer insight into how unity evolves.  Each of these mothers can attest to the fact, an intangible such as love [or harmony with our fellow humans] is felt.  The bond between a parent and a child, Casey and Cindy or Susan and her sons, is as imperceptible as growth.

For local Mom, Susan Caruso, in August 2005 she decided to take an active stand against the war in Iraq.  With the stroke of her hand and the click of a mouse, Ms Caruso planted the seed that gave birth to the Boca Peace Corner.  The afternoon was no different than most others.  Susan had read and heard of Cindy Sheehan and the soldier’s Mom’s cries.  Sheehan, an average American mother, was much like Susan.  Each had sons.  Ms Caruso has two male children.  At the time, they were ages 20 and 24.  Cindy Sheehan had a grown child named Casey.  He was 24 years old when he departed from this Earth.  Casey Sheehan passed two weeks after he arrived in Iraq.  The young Army specialist was killed in battle in 2004.

By 2005, Ms Sheehan was frustrated.  Cindy Sheehan read the belatedly released Intelligence reports.  She learned that perhaps, her son did not need to die.  The fallen enlistee’s parent felt a need to speak to the man she believed most responsible for her loss.  Yet, George W. Bush, the Commander-In-Chief, was not willing to meet with this mournful Mom.  Apparently, it mattered not that Casey Sheehan sacrificed his life for his country, for the homeland the Chief Officer also inhabits.  George W. Bush was busy.

After many attempts to arrange a meeting, Casey’s Mom decided she would campout at the President’s ranch in Crawford Texas and wait for him to come to her, or perhaps invite her in.  Mister Bush did neither.

It seemed the nation’s most Senior Officer could not be bothered with niceties while on holiday.  As news of such a circumstance spread throughout the country, Americans began to question the President and his priorities.  MoveOn.org did more than inquire; they requested that common people from every region stand in support of a Casey’s Mom.  

Susan Caruso decided she must do so.  The empathy she felt for Cindy Sheehan was great.  The antipathy for the war may not have been greater; nevertheless, it was intense.  Susan Caruso signed up to sponsor a peace vigil at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on Saint Andrews Boulevard.

Ms Caruso expected perhaps thirty people would register for the event.  Instead, some two hundred and fifty individuals appeared for the action.  Cindy Sheehan may have been the invisible hand that nurtured what had been dormant within Susan.

The thoughtful actions of one Mom advanced the desire for peace in another.  The enthusiasm of a local parent provoked others.  Apparently, in Boca Raton, Florida scores of people felt it was time to speak out against the Iraq War.  Perchance, Susan Caruso’s actions were as fertilizer.  Her sponsorship helped to grow what would later be known as the Boca Peace Corner.

The vigil was scheduled to begin at dusk on August 13, 2005.  South Florida residents filled a large field outside the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship building and then, in a desire to be seen by more, they moved to the corner of Saint Andrews Boulevard and Glades Road.

The Liberto family was there that first night.  After, Scott Liberto and his spouse Jill made more than dozen signs.  They packed these into a bag and brought the collection with them each week.  The thought was, if others walked by and wanted to join the political action, they too would have a banner to hold.  The energy and enthusiasm grew as did a movement towards peace.

The foundation for an ever-expansive evolution began on an August evening in 2005, and continues every Saturday in this little local enclave.  

The growth is virtually unseen to those who quickly travel down the street.   However, the grassroots expansion is evident to the early organizers and frequent participants.  In less than three years, more than four hundred electronic mail addresses were collected from fervent persons who, at one time or another, participated in a vigil at the Boca Peace Corner.

Mike Budd and his wife Suzanne, each of whom was present on the first night, continue to attend.  The two occupy the pavement across the street from the larger cluster.  When asked why the couple does not join the crowd, Professor Budd offered, “We are more visible” Mike spoke of how from their place on the opposite corner, they are better able to make eye contact with the people who pass.  Doctor Budd, a Vietnam veteran often adorned in attire that identifies his past combat experience, states that when he and his wife engage the drivers, the interaction is more persuasive.  The pair does not converse with each other while at the intersection.  They focus on the individuals who pass them by in automobiles or on foot.

Mike Budd notes as many of those who have stood on the Boca Peace Corner frequently do, “There has been a change in the responses over time.”  The prospect for peace although not discernible from a distance, is obvious to those who nurture the growth.

Today demonstrators observe people are more tolerant.  Those very few who voice a disagreement with the dissenters wish to know if the individuals who stand in vigil truly support the troops.  Susan Caruso, the first to propose the peace action in Boca Raton definitely does.  Shortly after she gave birth to the local movement her youngest son, Steven enlisted in the Army.  Steven thought it important that he make a sacrifice as other, often less fortunate Americans, do.

For well over a year, Debra Leisten has stood in homage to the soldier she loves.  “My nephew is in the Air Force.  Presently he’s on his 2nd tour in the Middle East.  After he returned from his first tour, he was very disillusioned with the purpose of our military role in Iraq.”  However, Ms Leisten articulates, her nephew, being in the Armed Forces feels he is not “able to voice [his] dissent to the War.”  

Leisten offers, “I wanted to honor our military and provide my nephew with a voice so I went to the Vigil.”  She regretted that she had not known of the enduring event earlier.  Nonetheless, once she discovered the Peace Corner she chose to actively participate each week.

Ms Leisten expressed as all those at the Peace Corner might, “I am so thankful for the opportunity to meet with like-minded people and exercise my constitutional right to free-speech and peaceable assembly.”  Those who attend the Saturday vigils are as Debra expounds, grateful to grow peace.  

Jerry Rabinowitz and Nancy Pawlowski, regular participants at the Peace Corner, realize the power people have when they work in unison to cultivate a movement.  The two were deeply touched by the same seed that spurred Susan Caruso on.  During the Thanksgiving holiday, in 2004, almost a year before the Boca Peace Corner became a reality; the couple was encouraged by their experience at Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas.  

Nevertheless, Nancy had, and at times still has reservations that she, or people in any protest, can make a difference.  It is hard to imagine that a few can fertilize true change.  As Nancy reflects on the vigils she states, “I do not think we are personally stopping the war.”

Nancy acknowledges what a little bit of encouragement and information can produce.  Ms Pawlowski “was never politically active until two or three years ago.”  She was inspired to act when she realized how extreme man’s inhumanity to his fellow man might be.  Ms Pawlowski explains, the atrocities at Abu Ghraib prison “really struck me.”  The woman who would not have identified herself as an activist prior to the 2004 revelations apologetically admits, “I did not really do anything about it [my distress].”  More accurately, Nancy did not conspicuously act on her angst.  However, she did as people always do before they move; she ruminated.

As Ms Pawlowski pondered, just as she was mulling over the mayhem done in her name, she received a message from the organization that harvests the seeds of peace, MoveOn.org.  Like Susan Caruso and Debra Leisten, Nancy hesitantly decided she must at least try to make a difference.  Upon reflection, Nancy realized, when she took part in a peaceful demonstration all those years ago, she felt her soul was nourished.

Today, she smiles, and states, much to her surprise, “The people at the Corner affect me.  They keep me coming back.”  Now, when she stands street side she is aware of the fact, there are “some really good people” in this world.  She believes, perchance it is possible to grow peace.

The tale of the Boca Peace Corner is as the lovely legendry allegory of the Chinese Bamboo Tree.  The Chinese Bamboo Tree when planted, watered, and nurtured for an entire growing season does not appear to grow as much as an inch.  During the second year of the seedling’s life, the gardener may again carefully water, fertilize, and nurture what he hopes will become a beautiful bamboo tree.  Yet, the cane plant still does not sprout.  

For four long years, the sun rises, and sets.  The moon enters and exits its standard phases.  The gardener and his family have nothing tangible to show for all of their labor.  Love does not help the sapling along.  No matter the nourishment bestowed upon the kernel meant to give birth to a Chinese bamboo tree, the pip appears dormant.  The gardener fears the seed may have died.  Yet, his hope does not waiver.  He continues to attend to the possible plant.

Then, in the fifth year a miracle occurs.  The Chinese Bamboo Tree seed finally sprouts and the perennial woody plant grows up to eighty feet in just one growing season, or so it would seem.  The roots, just as grassroots efforts in South Florida were reaching out all along.  A firm foundation was born out of sight.

One of the Boca Peace Corner participants understands this to her core.  Betsy L. Angert does as the Budd’s do.  When at the vigil she works to make eye contact with those who pass her.  For more than a year, each Saturday, a well-groomed gentleman, perhaps, in his thirties drives by.  His hair is a little long.  His attire and automobile are as one might think, typical of Progressive.  Betsy believes, from appearances, this man might show his support.  However, after more than a year she accepted he may never acknowledge her presence.  

This quiet man had not extended his digits in a sign of peace.  Nor had he honked his horn.  He rarely, if ever even offered a smile.  Then, three weeks ago, he waved in delight as he turned the corner and once again saw Betsy.  Perchance, that was a sign; if those at the Boca Peace Corner cultivate global harmony, a tranquility tree will grow.

Recession and the Iraq War; A Soldier’s Story

A soldier’s story is our story.  On this April afternoon, I attended a memorial.  Americans in my local community, as well as those in every other region of the country, mourned the recession. People pondered the reality; this war affects our daily lives and our fiscal stability.  In my neighborhood, Michael Prysner, an Iraq War veteran offered his theory on the theme, Recession and the Iraq War; A Soldier’s Story.  I share an introduction to his tale and an invitation.  Please peruse the musings of Michael Prysner.

Twas the day before any other day in the lives of average Americans.  It was April 24, 2008.  Countless people traveled about in late model luxury automobiles.  A few could not afford such finery.  Still, those of lesser means were able to retain a vehicle of sorts.  In the United States, a motorized metal chariot is considered a must.  In many nations, car ownership is thought lavish.  Certainly, those with money enough to drive from place to place have not a care in the world.  Yet, here most individuals in carriages are stressed.  

In every neighborhood, numerous persons are now out on the street.  Some only have a car to count on.  They do not have the money to purchase the petroleum needed to run the vehicle.  The price of fuel is high and steadily climbing.  Rates of unemployment have increased.  Job security decreased.  The value of homes has dropped.  However, few citizens can afford to remain in what was once their shelter.  Foreclosures are frequent.  Mortgage brokers and a lack of reasonable banking regulations have helped to create a meltdown within the marketplace.

In America, there is an economic crisis.  The government cannot assist the common folk.  All available funds are spent on wars in the Middle East.  Residents in the richest country in the world are worried.  Will they survive?

This was the question asked at vigils throughout the nation.  In conjunction with MoveOn.org people in this country spoke of how the Persian Gulf wars have affected the economy.  Recession and the Iraq War were the themes.  In Boca Raton, Florida Mike Prysner, an Iraq war veteran spoke of his experience in country and how those relate to the fiscal calamity Americans face.

May I introduce Michael Prysner and his Winter Soldier testimony.  With permission from the informed, informative, and inspirational author, it is my great honor to present  . . .

Winter Soldier Mike Prysner testimony, Pt1

A soldier’s story?

© copyright 2008 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

Originally published on Friday, March 21, 2008

Michael Prysner’s Winter Soldier testimony

The following statement was delivered at the Winter Soldier event, organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War, and held in Washington, D.C. from March 13 through March 16. The event featured the testimony of numerous Iraq war veterans about their personal experiences. The author is an Iraq war veteran and the Party for Socialism and Liberation’s congressional candidate in Florida’s 22nd District.

When I first joined the army, we were told that racism no longer existed in the military. A legacy of inequality and discrimination was suddenly washed away by something called “Equal Opportunity.” We would sit through mandatory classes, ensuring us that racism had been eliminated from the ranks, and every unit had its own EO representative to ensure no elements of racism could resurface. The Army seemed firmly dedicated to smashing any hint of racism.

And then Sept. 11 happened. I began to hear new words like “towel head,” “camel jockey” and-the most disturbing-“sand n*gg*r.” These words did not initially come from my fellow soldiers, but from my superiors-my platoon sergeant, my company first sergeant, my battalion commander. All the way up the chain of command, viciously racist terms were suddenly acceptable.

I noticed that the most overt racism came from veterans of the first Gulf War. Those were the words they used when they were incinerating civilian convoys. Those were the words they used when this government deliberately targeted the civilian infrastructure, bombing water supplies knowing that it would kill hundreds of thousands of children. Those were the words the American people used when they allowed this government to sanction Iraq-and this is something many people forget. We’ve just learned that we’ve killed over 1 million Iraqis since the invasion; we had already killed a million Iraqis before the invasion throughout the 90s through bombings and sanctions.

‘Haji’ was the enemy

When I got to Iraq in 2003, I learned a new word-“Haji.” Haji was the enemy. Haji was every Iraqi. He was not a person, or a father, or a teacher, or a worker. But where does this word come from? Every Muslim strives to take a pilgrimage to Mecca, called a Haj. A Muslim who has completed that pilgrimage is a Haji. It is something that, in traditional Islam, is the highest calling in the religion-essentially, the best thing for a Muslim made into the worst thing.

But history did not start with us. Since the creation of this country, racism has been used to justify expansion and oppression. The Native Americans were called savages. The Africans were called all sorts of things to excuse slavery. A multitude of names were used during Vietnam to justify that imperialist war.

So Haji was the word we used on this mission. We’ve heard a lot about raids during Winter Soldier, kicking down people’s doors and ransacking their homes. But this mission was a different kind of raid. We never got any explanation for these orders, we were only told that this group of five or six houses were now property of the U.S. military. We had to go in and make those people leave those houses.

So we went to these houses and told the people that their homes were no longer their homes. We provided them no alternative, no place to go, no compensation. They were very confused and scared, and would not leave-so we had to remove them from their houses.

There was one family in particular that stands out: a woman with two young daughters, an elderly man who was bed-ridden and two middle-aged men. We dragged them from their houses and threw them onto the street. We arrested the men for not leaving and sent them to prison with the Iraqi police.

At that time I didn’t know what happened to Iraqis when we put a sandbag over their head and tied their hands behind their back; unfortunately, a couple months later, I had to find out. Our unit was short interrogators, so I was tasked to assist with interrogations.

A detainee’s ordeal

First, I’d like to point out that the vast majority of detainees I encountered had done nothing wrong. They were arrested for things as simple as being in the area when an IED went off, or living in a village where a suspected insurgent lived.

I witness and participated in many interrogations; one in particular I’d like to share. It was a moment for me that helped me realize the nature of our occupation.

This detainee who I was sent to interrogate was stripped down to his underwear, hands bound behind his back and a sandbag on his head-and I never actually saw his face. My job was to take a metal folding chair, and as he was standing face-first against the wall, I was to smash the chair next to his head every time he was asked a question. A fellow soldier would yell the same question over and over, and no matter what he answered, I would smash the chair next to his head.

We did this until we got tired, then I was told to make sure he stayed standing facing the wall. By this time he was in an extremely broken state-he was shaking uncontrollably, he was crying, and he was covered in his own urine.

I was guarding him, but something was wrong with his leg-he was injured and kept falling to the ground. My sergeant told me to make sure he stayed standing, so I would have to pick him up and slam him against the wall. He kept falling down so I’d have to keep picking him up and forcefully putting him against the wall.

My sergeant came by, and was upset that he was on the ground again, so he picked him up and slammed him against the wall several times-and when the man fell to the ground again I noticed blood pouring down from under the sandbag.

So I let him sit, and whenever my sergeant starting coming I would warn the man and tell him to stand. It was then that I realized that I was supposed to be guarding my unit from this detainee, but what I was doing was guarding this detainee from my unit.

I tried hard to be proud of my service. All I could feel was shame.

Face of occupation is laid bare

Racism could no longer mask the reality of the occupation. These were people. These were human beings. I have since been plagued by guilt-anytime I see an elderly man, like the one who couldn’t walk, who we rolled onto a stretcher and told the Iraqi police to take him away. I feel guilt anytime I see a mother with her children, like the one who cried hysterically, and screamed that we were worse than Saddam as we forced her from her home. I feel guilt anytime I see a young girl, like the one I grabbed by the arm and dragged into the street.

We were told we were fighting terrorists. The real terrorist was me. The real terrorism is this occupation.

Racism within the military has long been an important tool to justify the destruction and occupation of another country. It has long been used to justify the killing, subjugation, and torture of another people. Racism is a vital weapon employed by this government. It is a more important weapon that a rifle, or a tank, or a bomber, or a battleship. It is more destructive than an artillery shell, or a bunker buster, or a tomahawk missile.

While all those weapons are created and owned by this government, they are harmless without people willing to use them. Those who send us to war do not have to pull a trigger or lob a mortar round; they don’t have to fight the war, they merely have to sell us the war. They need a public who is willing to send their soldiers into harm’s way, and they need soldiers who are willing to kill and be killed, without question. They can spend millions on a single bomb-but that bomb only becomes a weapon when the ranks in the military are willing to follow the orders to use it. They can send every last soldier anywhere on earth, but there will only be a war if soldiers are willing to fight.

The ruling class-the billionaires who profit from human suffering, who care only about expanding their wealth and controlling the world economy-understand that their power lies only in their ability to convince us that war, oppression, and exploitation is in our interest. They understand that their wealth is dependent on their ability to convince the working class to die to control the market of another country. And convincing us to die and kill is based on their ability to make us think that we are somehow superior.

Soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen have nothing to gain from this war. The vast majority of people living in the United States have nothing to gain from this war. In fact, not only do soldiers and workers gain nothing from this occupation, but we suffer more because of it. We lose the limbs, endure the trauma, and give our lives. Our families have to watch flag-draped coffins lowered into the earth. Millions in this country without health care, jobs, or access to education must watch this government squander over $400 million a day on this war.

The real enemy is here

Poor and working people in this country are sent to kill poor and working people in another country, to make the rich richer. Without racism, soldiers would realize that they have more in common with the Iraqi people than they do with the billionaires who send us to war. I threw people onto the street in Iraq, only to come home and find families here thrown onto the street in this tragic and unnecessary foreclosure crisis that is already leaving hundreds of Iraq war veterans homeless.

We need to wake up and realize that our real enemies are not in some distant land; they’re not people whose names we don’t know and whose cultures we don’t understand. The enemy is people we know well and people we can identify-the enemy is the system that sends us to war when it’s profitable; the enemies are the CEOs who lay us off from our jobs when its profitable; they’re the insurance companies who deny us health care when it’s profitable; they’re the banks that take away our homes when it’s profitable.

Our enemies are not 5,000 miles away. They are right here at home, and if we organize and fight with our sisters and brothers we can stop this war, stop this government, and create a better world.

Winter Soldier Mike Prysner testimony, Pt2

The Center For American Progress Asks, Are You A Progressive?

America At Its Best: That’s Progressive

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

What does it mean to be a Progressive?  A long time ago, those in America who thought it best to work for the greater good, defined themselves as Liberals.  However, in the late 1980s that term was given a negative connotation.  Liberals lost their way.  Then, they [we] progressed.  The tem Liberal went through a metamorphosis.  Now, those who actively express their concern for society as a whole identify themselves as Progressive.  

Progressives are part of a Party.  They advocate social, economic, or political reform gradually.  The conventional wisdom is, unlike the Liberal, generous, freethinking, broadminded persons, a Progressive will not pursue change solely for change sake.  A Progressive will plot and plan and perhaps, not move much at all.  Indeed, may Americans now believe those on the Left are identical to those on the right.  The pendulum no longer swings; nor are we left standing at the pinnacle as a Buddhist might muse.  We, no matter our political, social, or economic bent we stand still and stagnate.  One merely needs to look at the newer Congress to realize Americans are unsure what it means to be a Progressive.

The distortions, degradation of the term, and the traits, have a history.  To Progress we must understand.

Liberal a bad word?

In the French sense, it became so

Michael Munger

Special to the News & Observer

I did a Google search on “liberal” and “dirty word.” They occur together more than 220,000 times.

So is liberalism a politically viable viewpoint in the United States today?

Origins tell us something. The oldest sense is “liberal arts,” intellectual pursuits without practical purpose, suited for free citizens with free minds. The first uses of “liberal” in English described someone who was generous in bestowing wealth or gifts. Nothing dirty so far, right?

It was with the twin revolutions at the end of the 18th century in America and France that the word developed two senses, and they were often in tension.

In Britain and America, to be liberal meant to be tolerant of other points of view, to be free from prejudice. The clearest exponent of this view, still a hero of the libertarian right, was John Stuart Mill.

The French liberal, however, implied not forbearance but action. For proponents, liberal simply meant an advocate for freedom and democracy, including economic equality. But to many American conservatives, liberal meant a pursuit of lawlessness, a French-inspired disrespect for tradition and a desire for radical leveling of wealth and status.

By the end of the 19th century in the United States, the meanings of liberal and liberal had been absorbed by a powerful political force: progressivism. Progressives believed in the evolution of human affairs. They advocated women’s suffrage, the temperance movement, anti-trust regulation and the creation of a professional Civil Service.

But embracing these progressive ideas got liberals into trouble and changed what they stood for.

The turning point in ideas about government was the onset of the Great Depression in 1929. It changed our character, it ended for many people the sense of optimistic self-sufficiency they had been brought up with and it turned us back from progressivism toward liberalism. Liberalism came to mean that concern for the poor is not just a sentiment, but a motivation for policy. Liberals fought for reforms that built a wall of government resources around those who were least well-off, a dam holding back a tide of poverty, ignorance, starvation and disease.

Imagine to stave off callowness, hunger, and sickness might be a bad thing. How could that be?

Currently, Conservatives wish to explain they are compassionate.  They claim Conventionalists can care for people, money, and attend to policy cautiously. Hence, we might extrapolate; tradition and thoughtfulness can co-exist within one Party or a single person.

More recently, however, liberalism has stopped working. Many of the core beliefs of liberals are still present in American thought and culture, but for a politician to call herself a “liberal” is suicide in most jurisdictions. The reason is that the French sense won the war of meaning, and Americans rejected that view of political life. Doctrinaire ideologues, insisting on a particular conception of equality at the expense of liberty and on a narrow secular interpretation of the rhetorical space of public discourse, hijacked liberalism.

It was a Pyrrhic victory: In winning control of the Democratic party, they lost the confidence of voters. Liberalism was reduced to an interest group code phrase: “Vote for me, and I’ll give you other people’s money.”

It doesn’t have to be that way. Thousands of Americans are struggling to return liberal ideas to our public discourse. These views may seem rusty and in need of some oil. But their essential power is unchanged, and their appeal is timeless. A celebration of individual liberties, a tolerance for all points of view, an openness to change and a fundamental belief in the promise of human cooperation live still at the core of American liberalism.

Today, those on the Left are still forward thinking, open-minded, and tolerant.  However, they may be guarded to their detriment.  Liberals, uncertain of how to describe their beliefs search for a way to communicate what it means to be a modern-day Progressive, one who does not act with reckless disregard, is aware, and observant of consequences.  Liberals, Progressives are attentive and wish to make their intentions known.

The Center For American Progress invites our assistance.  They request that together, we tell our story and illustrate what America means to us.  Progressives, those that lean Left, and are Liberal must make known what we stand for, not just what we stand against.

Four videos are presented for your review.  Please view each and vote for the one that you believe best communicates what it means to be a Progressive.  I offer two of these productions for your pleasure.

The Center for American Progress is a progressive think-tank dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through ideas and action.

We are creating a long-term, progressive vision for America-a vision that policy makers, thought-leaders and activists can use to shape the national debate and pass laws that make a difference.

As progressives, we believe that America should be a country of boundless opportunity-where all people can better themselves through education, hard work, and the freedom to pursue their dreams.  We believe this will only be achieved with an open and effective government that champions the common good over narrow self-interest, harnesses the strength of our diversity, and secures the rights and safety of its people.

Hmmmm?  What do you think?  For me, the decision was not an easy one.  I thought the compilation placed in the introduction of this treatise was well done.  I also enjoyed another creation.  Please consider another audio-visual opus.  Interesting?

Progress is American – The Center for American Progress

This composition connects us with a classic presentation.  That may be its appeal or perhaps the reason you personally do not relate.  I know not.  I share the creators’ statement for your consideration.

The Center for American Progress, in conjunction with the Glaser Progress Foundation, recently launched a multiyear effort to increase public understanding of what it means to be a progressive given our nation’s history and the challenges we face today.

Which of these public announcements helps you to understand what it means to be a Progressive?  Perchance the two not shown would be more to your liking.  Please explore, vote, and contribute, if you choose.  Tell those lost in the space of ten, thirty, and sixty-second sound bites what it really means to be Left, Liberal, and in pursuit of shared liberty.

References, Resources, Progress . . .

  • The Center for American Progress,
  • Liberal a bad word? In the French sense, it became so..  By Michael Munger.  Special to the News & Observer.
  • Four videos
  • Congress; “Support our troops. Bring them home!”

    VideoVets TV Ad

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Tell Congress to “Support our troops.  Bring them home!”

    MoveOn.org and soldiers far from American shores are asking for your assistance.  Families here in the States hope that you will help. We, the public understand the hurts these persons experience.  We feel them too.  Americans long for a return to calm.  Iraqis do as well.  There is much evidence that this battle did not need to be.  I invite you to speak your mind, talk from the heart, and do whatever you can to help our troops and to free the citizens of Iraq.

    Most Iraqis Want US to Leave Now.  Iraqis do not wish to live in an occupied nation.  They never requested regime change.  Replacing one autocrat with another did not and does not make sense to them.  The common folk, those that do not profit from an American presence in the Middle East want United States troops to leave.  Might we help them accomplish their mission.

    Help get John Bruhns’ story out there

    George Bush keeps saying that he’s the one who supports the troops and those of us who want to end the war don’t. Someone has to take him on for that. And former Sergeant John Bruhns–who served in Iraq–is the man to do it. He’s the subject of a new ad by Oliver Stone. Your contribution will help us spread his story–and those of the other VideoVets participants–far and wide through a big TV and online advertising campaign. Can you contribute? Complete the form below to contribute.

    Bequeath what you wish.  Your cash will help many.  If we are able to maintain the message change could come.  Perchance Congress will act if the images and words are cemented in their minds. 

    Your calls are welcome.  Representatives and Senators need to know how serious you [we] are.  We, the people want our children back from Iraq.  Letters urging Congress to cut the funds are helpful.

    Conversations within your community benefit American boys and girls. Afghani and Iraqi children will gain too.  None of the young wish to die needlessly or in battle.  Might we give our youth worldwide the life they were born to live.

    On behalf of the troops, their brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers, I thank you.  If I could speak more profoundly for those whose lives are torn asunder by the ravages of war, I would.  I feel certain they to want to feel safe on their soil.  Soldiers do not secure a town, a city, a country, a life, or a heart.  Please help.  Do whatever you might to ensure a global peace.  I offer my gratitude and best wishes to you, to us all.

  • Military Families Speak Out
  • Iraq Veterans Against the War
  • Most Iraqis Want US to Leave Now.  By Amit R. Paley.  Washington Post. Wednesday, September 27, 2006; A22
  • pdf Most Iraqis Want US to Leave Now.  By Amit R. Paley.  Washington Post. Wednesday, September 27, 2006; A22
  • Is lying about the reason for a war an impeachable offense? By John Dean.  Cable News Network. Find Law. Friday, June 6, 2003
  • A War The Public Will End, By David S. Broder.  Washington Post. Sunday, May 6, 2007; Page B07
  • pdf A War The Public Will End, By David S. Broder.  Washington Post. Sunday, May 6, 2007; Page B07
  • The Infinite War: How Middle Eastern Instability is in the Best Interests of Corporate America, By Marc Train.  Iraq Veterans Against the War April 26, 2007
  • Ohio Opportunity. Call For Change ©

    This weekend I had the opportunity to touch Ohio.  I volunteered.  With thanks to MoveOn.org, I “called for change.”  I shared my support for Democratic Senate, candidate Sherrod Brown.  Phew, what a relief this was, interesting, inspiring, and sadly, disillusioning.  Nevertheless, I was, I am elated.

    After decades of political activism, unexpectedly I participated no more.  The decision was not mine; circumstances led me down a path I did not relish.  I moved from Southern California, a place where activism was and is a constant, to Southern Florida. 

    Here participation seems sparse.  Each time I endeavor to become involved, I find that all the events are at least thirty miles away from my home.  I loathe driving.  Therefore, I do not travel far.  In the last many months, since living south of numerous borders, I have not actively contributed to the political process.

    I was feeling very frustrated.  Uncharacteristically I have been living a life that does not fit my basic need.  I am not apathetic; I care for this country and want to do all I can to improve this nation.  I believe in civic activism.  In recent years, I feel this construct is more essential.  I crave a citizenry that knows to their core, government is of, by, and for the people.  As I stated earlier, I am an authentic activist.

    As I observed this new world around me, I contemplated what was evident and wondered of what was not.  I knew nothing with certainty.  I asked; is protesting less prevalent in this southeastern state?  Do few question the “powers that be?”  Each was a stark possibility.  Now, I not only live in Bush country, I reside in a region dominated by another Baby Bush.

    However, each person I chatted with in my first eleven months in Florida was and is extremely out-spoken.  This state seems to be filled with liberals.  How could this be?  The state seems so very conservative. 

    Laws here leave much to be desired.  Companies and counties have exceptionally restrictive policies.  The regulations in this land are not compassionate.  Poor people are punished for their station.  The middle, the masses fare no better.  In Florida, the affluent do extremely well; the rest of us seem to merely serve and support their needs.  I am aware of this.  However, still, with a sigh, I “march” on.  I continue to search for a means; I long to participate.

    Finally, days ago, in one of my regular electronic mailings from MoveOn.org, I discovered an opportunity, right here in my fair city.  I verified the information for I fear it is “too good to be true.” 

    I have come to realize that I live in a city of extremes.  The population is split; some are exceedingly wealthy, many are remarkably impoverished.  The variance is great.  The middle class here is barely surviving.  Perhaps that is why there are so few political events.  Those that might care are struggling.  They chase their dreams, work to make ends meet, and have little time to seek sovereignty.  Many have shared with me; they are resigned to accept what is.

    Nevertheless, despite what I have witnessed and experienced, the possibility was real.  I could volunteer in my home community.  I could again consider myself a genuine activist.  Thankfully, it has not been a full year since I last stretched my dovish wings.  If I had been caged for that long, I do not know how I would do or feel.  Once certain that this possibility was real I began to sing.  “Free at least; thank G-d Almighty, I am free at last.”

    Until the actual moment I wondered, would this dream come true?  I did not have the exact address.  MovOn.org telephoned me to thank me for volunteering.  They asked if I was willing to do more than the one telephone banking.  I had hoped they were calling with directions for I had written an electronic communiqué requesting such.  However, the woman on the call had none.  She heard of the event I registered for, and yet, she had no details.

    Finally, they arrived.  The directions, an exact address, a telephone number, and the name of the host came later in a mail.  With this more specific information, my excitement grew.  I could barely believe that this was occurring.  I would again connect to my rebel roots.

    In years past, phone polling was never done in the privacy of a home.  Cell telephones were not requested.  Calls I made were placed from Democratic Headquarters, a Union Hall, or the privacy of my home.  This novel approach added to my apprehension.  What was I to expect.  A new city, a new state, and now, a new-fangled method for reaching out and touching potential voters; I was feeling anxious.

    I telephoned the host of the “Call for Change” party.  I requested further directions, and planned my drive.  The conversation was quite pleasant.  The property was not far.  The instructions were excellent.  I arrived safely.  My interest was peaked.

    As I drove past the guard gate and into the neighborhood, I saw houses that I never imagined.  They were neatly tucked away, beyond the major thoroughfares.  These dwellings were just shy of estates.  They were huge.  The lawns were manicured.  Trees lined the avenue.  To think, I would telephone from such a place.  This was certainly a contrast.  As I stated, in the past, participation was public and in a facility that was not necessarily well cared for.  Union Halls and Democratic headquarters are often stark, and somewhat sterile.

    I marveled as I approached the house.  I rang the front-door bell and within minutes, a lovely and genteel lady opened the portal.  She led me in and directed me to her husband.  He had organized the event.  I handed him the two dollars MoveOn mentioned; it was meant to cover the cost of copying papers.  The host seemed horrified.  Why would I give him money?  I explained.  He said he wanted no dollars or cents.  This was his pleasure.  Apparently, I was the first to offer currency, though I was not the first to arrive.

    There were many callers throughout this stately abode.  I was gratified.  For two and one half hours, I dialed and delivered my less than canned speech to Ohio voters.  This was the focus group. 

    I addressed many an answering machine.  I spoke with some individuals.  Numerous individuals abruptly ended the conversation after a few short words.  Reassuring them that I was not fundraising worked well; however, mention of the Tuesday election seemed to turn numerous respondents off. 

    Some mentioned they had not only made up their minds, they voted weeks earlier.  One man was so disillusioned he was considering not casting a ballot.  We conversed for many minutes.  He was a wise man.  I recommended he run for office.  I assured him, he would have my vote.

    Another resident was happy to share her situation.  We spoke endlessly.  She told me of her community, of the religious right that governs.  This extremely well informed individual shared stories that would curl your hair.  Oh, what goes on in a public library, the place of her last employ?  Yes, church and state were one.

    Ms. Doe told tales of bigotry and xenophobia even among those that appear alike.  Apparently, in her small town, if your family did not go back for generations, if headstones in the local graveyard did not bare your family name, then you were indeed a stranger, an alien on your own property.  It mattered not, that through marriage surnames were changed.  As this woman spoke of her experiences in Middle America, she expressed disgust.  I too was distressed.

    However, I was “Calling for Change.”  I had an opportunity to speak with citizens in Ohio; fortunately, I found a friend, an ally, and another woman calling for a transformation.  We each discussed our peaceful manner and beliefs.  We want a revolution, though a quiet, caring one.  We want Americans to vote!  Jane Doe did cast her ballot four weeks ago.

    My hope is that if you have not yet done as she did, you will.  Tuesday, November 7, 2006 is another day; yet, it is a date like no other.  Please vote.

    References and Reflections . . .
    Sherrod Brown.
    Call For Change: It’s Too Close NOT to Call
    Ohio Elections
    Final Ohio Poll has Dems winning governor, Senate races.
    Call for Change, By Kos. DailyKos. Wednesday, October 18, 2006
    Call For Change, By Chris Bowers, MyDD. Wednesday, October 18, 2006

    For voter information, nationwide, please review . . .
    1-866-My-Vote-1 Help for Voters
    Project Vote Smart
    League of Women Voters